Author Topic: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?  (Read 7356 times)

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Offline jamawani

Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #15 on: July 02, 2022, 10:23:15 am »
Lynn -

I'm not a big fan of the Eastern Express.
There are much better ways to cross the Great Plains.
The Eastern Express has you on a very busy, high speed US 36 in northern Kansas.

Here is one suggestion -
https://ridewithgps.com/routes/40039048

You head east from Walden via Cameron Pass thru Fort Collins to Sterling.
At Sterling you switch to US 138 to Julesburg then to US 30 into Ogallala.
Hwy 61 north takes you into the heart of the Sandhills.
Then Hwy 92 east is simply gorgeous - but remote.
From Arthur to Arnold there isn't much, but you can camp in little town parks.
Plus there is a bar or cafe in each of the county seats.

I have you continuing east to Broken Bow and Columbus.
(The county roads via Calloway are a bit longer but much quieter and more scenic.)
If you plan to return to the Eastern Express, you will need to work your way south.
I would cross Nebraska entirely - then head south on the Lewis & Clark Route to reconnect.

Best - Jama
There are a number of choices.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #16 on: July 02, 2022, 10:41:56 am »
Thoughts on the Eastern Express. I had planned as cross-country ride this summer and put together a group through ACA Companions Wanted. I wound up not finishing even though I had mapped out the entire route with RWGPS and had created a consolidated set of maps with services more like the ACA maps then the current Eastern Express maps.

The group did not stick together mostly because of differences in pace and travel styles but I am still in contact with the remaining riders and assisting with detour routing etc. There is one common theme - loneliness. Once you clear the GAP going West you just do not see other riders like on the Traditional TransAm. After the first few weeks of any long-distance trek (hiking or biking) the physical challenges tend to fall in line and the mental challenges begin. Riding the long, lonely roads of the central US without other riders around can wear you down worse than a headwind.

I would not ride the Eastern Express alone, and I would not put together a group to ride with without having ridden with them extensively beforehand. If I was going to ride the TransAM again I would start solo and follow the traditional route and hopefully fall in with a group of riders traveling at my pace.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline lkowalski

Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #17 on: July 03, 2022, 04:39:24 pm »
Thanks so much for these suggestions.  Yes we want to return to the Eastern Express to ride the Katy Trail across Missouri.  Any thoughts about a nice route South to the Katy Trail?
We are also looking to modify the Eastern Express route across Indiana to include the "Covered Bridges" route I have read folks posting about.  Trying to get some links to that area as well.
Ultimately we need to make our way to Pittsburgh, which was the original reason we modified the traditional TransAm route to begin with.

Offline Johnny10000

Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #18 on: July 23, 2022, 11:15:36 am »
Lkowalski, let us know how the Eastern Express portion of your trip is going for you.  I am considering doing the Eastern Express from DC and using the Midwest Connector from the Katy Trail to Eureka, KS and joining up with the TA the rest of the way.

I’d love to hear if it has adequate things for bicyclists (food, camping availability, etc.) and if it’s as “lonely” as some have described.   Are there more and more people riding the EE?   Would love to hear about your experiences.

Thanks,
John

Offline zzzz

Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #19 on: July 24, 2022, 07:34:52 pm »
I will to comment about loneliness on tour. This is extraordinarily per the individual. I am not antisocial but I always tour alone and I have never felt lonely on tour. Since I generally tour in September I see many fewer riders than most even on mapped ACA routes. When I rode from Banff to Fairbanks I saw 2 riders over 21 days.

When I’m on tour I’m in my happy place, soaking in the scenery, thinking about what the rest of the day holds, what I’ve seen so far, big climbs coming up….anything and everything. It is a mind cleanse!

And when I stop for breakfast, lunch, or dinner I’ve had some of the most interesting conversations with the local folks. How I understand my fellow Americans (and Canadians!) has undergone a sea change over my 6 long tours. I may still hold views completely different from them but I see their humanity fully. You mostly do not have these conversations when riding with other people.

I just wanted to encourage anyone who’s concerned about being lonely, you may find you love being alone!
« Last Edit: July 24, 2022, 07:57:09 pm by zzzz »

Offline lkowalski

Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #20 on: July 24, 2022, 10:53:58 pm »
Yes we will definitely keep you posted.  We are doing the trip in sections year by year since we can only take 3 weeks off work at a time.
This year, we resume in Dillon, MT and will veer off the traditional TransAm route in Walden, CO, ending in Fort Collins.  Next year we're planning to modify the Eastern Express route from Fort Collins to Platte City, KS. 
I am traveling with my partner Stephanie, but we often ride at different paces.  I enjoy the peace and quiet of cycling alone, but knowing she's not far behind is comforting. I agree with the comment about the "mind cleanse."  Well said.
Lynn

Offline DonKahn1

Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #21 on: July 25, 2022, 09:54:36 am »
I am also planning on the Eastern Express next year traveling eastward.  For convenience sake I am starting in D.C. so thought the Eastern Express would work out well, and then plan on joining the normal TransAm west of Ft. Collins and continuing westward.  I am also interested in peoples impressions who have ridden the Eastern Express

Offline DonKahn1

Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #22 on: July 25, 2022, 09:56:07 am »
Actually I meant to say that I will be traveling westward on the Eastern Express!

Offline Buddy_Hall

Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #23 on: August 19, 2022, 12:49:27 pm »
I'm not as experienced as many others who have replied, but I have ridden 3 of the ACA routes; the Transam, Northern Tier, and Western Express.  While not a cross-country route in it's own regard, the WE is often combined with the TA to make a cross country route.  Of these options, as others have already said, the Transam is the winner.  Following are a few points of note, in no particular order of importance;

1.) the TA is actually harder than the Northern Tier - there's more overall climbing, and nothing along the Northern Tier really compares with the steep grades found in the Appalachians.
2.) the infrastructure support is much greater on the TA - I recently counted some 21 hostels where you can stay for free or for a small donation.  You get Rock Star treatment at restaurants and other places where they ask you to sign their guest register of cyclists.
3.) you will meet many other cycle tourists on the TA, and often you may find yourself teaming up with others and riding/camping together for a few days.
4.) you will meet cyclists from other countries on the TA
5.) when you ride the TA, you become part of a fraternity of others who have done it - it is challenging enough that you instantly relate to others who have also completed the journey
6.) you will experience small-town America along the TA.  You experience it somewhat on other routes as well, but the TA was designed to avoid the bigger cities as much as possible.  It can be an eye-opener and a bit of a cultural shock, but the people are all very kind. 
7.) as John Nettles said, you experience an ever-changing climate and geography along the TA.  On the Northern Tier, it seems like you are in the High Plains forever - on the TA it's just another ecosystem that you pass through. 

FWIW, IMHO, if you can only ride 1 cross-country route, the TA should be your choice.   I don't think I want to repeat my journeys on the Northern Tier or Western Express (they were good experiences but I see no reason to do them again), but if I live long enough, I will ride the TA again.  I think that says it all.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #24 on: August 19, 2022, 12:58:09 pm »
I'm not as experienced as many others who have replied, but I have ridden 3 of the ACA routes; the Transam, Northern Tier, and Western Express.
That is pretty dang experienced!  Tailwinds, John

Offline canalligators

Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #25 on: August 29, 2022, 10:47:08 pm »
I've ridden the NT (by sections completed 2007) and the TA (with AC, this year).  I'll respond to Buddy's points.

1. Absolutely agree, TA is a lot harder than the NT.  I hated Virginia and Kentucky, and was miserable until I reached Kansas.
2. There are more hostels on the TA, but there are also more long gaps with no support on the TA, such as eastern Oregon, parts of Idaho and Montana.  This forced long riding days.
3. I saw a number of other tourists on the TA, but had few conversations.  That's probably because I was with a group having high daily mileages (which sucked) and I didn't stop to chat.
4. I did see more foreign tourists on the TA, largely because a lot of Dutch seem drawn to it.
5. Yes, I'm part of an exclusive fraternity having ridden the TA.  But I'm sour on the route for other reasons, so big deal, I rode the TA.
6. You see small town USA from any of these routes.  The only cities on the NT are Cleveland, and it skirts Buffalo. 
7. I agree that the TA is very different in different regions, and I appreciated this.

My big complaints on the TA are the extra 800 miles because it wanders all over the northwest, and the previous remark on Virginia.  Why do we have to go to Missoula, it's not bloody Mecca.  Why do we have to zigzag south then north then south to traverse Hell's Canyon?  Then there's the three added days because groups are prohibited from entering Yellowstone south entrance. 

As for VA and KY (and somewhat the Ozarks), I am not a super strong rider, though I have good endurance.  I don't mind being last to camp, but I didn't like being late, especially when I was on cooking that night, and others had to cover for me.  I had to walk a lot of the hills.  I had no discretionary time in the evenings until we hit Kansas, so I had trouble journaling (to keep contact with family) and sometimes didn't have time to fix my bike.  There were half a dozen times that I was actually dozing off riding and had to stop for a power nap - despite getting 8 hours of sleep most nights.  Bottom line: if you're not a very strong rider, take a different route or don't go with a group that has a fixed agenda.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #26 on: August 29, 2022, 11:18:38 pm »
I've ridden the NT (by sections completed 2007) and the TA (with AC, this year).  I'll respond to Buddy's points.

....  This forced long riding days.
....  That's probably because I was with a group having high daily mileages (which sucked) and I didn't stop to chat
..... take a different route or don't go with a group that has a fixed agenda.
For comparison sake, what to you is a "high mileage day"?  Just wondering since for some it is anything over 30 miles and others it is over 120 miles. I would have guessed ACA did around 47 miles OVERALL per day (4200 miles / 90 days).  Or did they have a lot of rest/sight-seeing days causing the riding average to jump?  As I age, 50-55 miles is my current preferred daily mileage and over 70 is starting to push it.  Use to be 60ish and over 85 when I was a young pup. No more centuries now unless a lot of tailwinds and good road conditions.

I too hate a fixed agenda and if I have a set return date (which I really try to avoid) I almost always include a "buffer" day (or two) for every 2 weeks of riding to cover my self so I can either slow down, take an unexpected rest/weather day, etc.

Tailwinds, John

Offline canalligators

Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #27 on: August 29, 2022, 11:46:28 pm »
Your average includes rest days.  We had a rest day every 4-8 days.  I consider any day over 70 miles a long day.  The majority of riding days were 60-70 miles.  There were quite a few over 70 and a couple over 80. My preference, at age 70, is 50 miles, less if it’s hilly.

Their difficulty description is pretty accurate.  My error was relying on my endurance. Endurance got me to the Pacific, but being slow made for a lot of long, grumpy days.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2022, 11:52:04 pm by canalligators »

Offline staehpj1

Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #28 on: August 30, 2022, 07:23:57 am »
That is the problem with riding with a group.  Flexibility is really a big plus and even a fixed end date is a big negative to my way of thinking.  Not that they can always be avoided, but having a flexible schedule is such a nice thing.  the same goes for budget, by the way.  In both cases the flexibility is a plus whether you wind up needing it or not.  Just knowing that you have it is nice.

By the way another way to avoid a fixed end date is to get air travel out of the way up front if you live near one end of the route.  That way you don't have a flight home that you have to make it to.

Offline Buddy_Hall

Re: What is Your Favorite Cross Country Route and Why?
« Reply #29 on: August 30, 2022, 02:39:42 pm »
Replying to canalligators - you said; "3. I saw a number of other tourists on the TA, but had few conversations.  That's probably because I was with a group having high daily mileages (which sucked) and I didn't stop to chat."

I leapfrogged an ACA group for a few days in KY, camped at the church in Booneville with them, so I had opportunity to interact with them a bit.  Of the 11 folks in the ACA group, at least 3 of them wished they had undertaken the journey on their own as I did - I know this because they told me so.  Their main complaint was not having the individual freedom to decide where to stay each night, how far to ride that day, etc.  They had signed up for a group tour because they thought that an inexperienced tour leader was necessary for such a long trip - but after a week of travel (and meeting others like me who were riding solo) they realized that they could have done it on their own.   Also, they realized that the fee they paid to be part of the group could have been used to buy some more hotel nights, and that's a big deal.   Group riding is fine for some folks, but it does mean you have to abide by the wishes of the majority. 

Particularly on the Transam, it's easy to meet others and form your own small "group" of folks who are riding about the same distance as you each day.  I commenced the Transam solo and didn't expect to meet many other cyclists.  But I did, and that was a highlight of the trip.  I rode with an English fellow and a young man from Colorado for parts of my trip from VA to CO - I met them along the way in VA - we camped together and split the cost of motels a few times, and I enjoyed the unanticipated camaraderie.   OTOH, I met folks who had started out with a riding partner but split up because they had different paces or goals for the tour.   It sounds like your negative experience can be attributed at least partially to riding with a group that had different goals than you. 

Regarding the "800 extra miles" of the Transam due to it going NW from CO instead of continuing westbound, one can transition to the Western Express route in Pueblo and ride west to San Francisco.  However, I should caution you that the Western Express is not an easy route.  A Transam traveler that I met and rode with a bit in VA and KY did take the Western Express from Pueblo, got himself in serious trouble in the desert and had to call for rescue.  I'm just saying that the option to continue on due westward may be harder than you realize.  The Transam from Pueblo to the end in Oregon is plenty challenging, but it's not as difficult as the Western Express.  The difference in the 2 routes is 400 - 500 miles (depending on how you complete the Transam on the OR coast). 

It isn't necessary to visit Missoula when you ride the Transam.  Doing so adds about 11 miles (22 miles round trip) from Lolo.  I wanted to do so just to visit the ACA headquarters, but one could just avoid the 22 mile there-and-back jaunt to Missoula and continue onward.   Of course, you would miss the free ice cream...