Author Topic: Oregon/WA to New York/NJ starting in April. First timer seeking assistance  (Read 2741 times)

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Offline differener

Hello everyone,

I've been reading this forum the past few weeks and really appreciate the knowledge and experience here. I'm seeking some advice from those with experience and am grateful for any assistance provided. I'm especially looking for help in how to make it through the Rockies at this early time in the season...

I'm intending to bicycle from the Pacific Ocean in Oregon or Washington to the Atlantic Ocean in New York or New Jersey.
I live in Portland, OR and am finishing in NY/NJ for two reasons. First and foremost, I'll be flying from NYC to Sweden in June. Ideally flying on or before June 18th but am okay with that date pushing out a week or two if needed. Secondly, my grandparents live in NJ and I intend to interview them about their life stories while they are still healthy.

I'm starting sometime in April in order to arrive by mid June in NY/NJ. I know this isn't the best season to do this trip, but it's the time I have so I'm going to make it work.

My main concern is crossing the Rocky Mountains. I plan to camp whenever possible but am open to staying in cheap hotels when needed (like if a snow storm hits while I'm crossing the mountains). The three main factors I've been thinking about when choosing a route are weather/altitude (especially since I'll be biking in late spring rather than summer), how direct is the route?, and how scenic?

For crossing the Rockies:
I've looked at a few routes including the ones that are listed for the Northern Tier and Lewis & Clark routes. In addition to that I've been looking at going North of the L&C route in Idaho by passing through Plummer, Cataldo, Thompson Pass, and then from Plains, Idaho to Missoula, Montana and on through Flesher Pass, Montana. This route was introduced to me by an experienced and active member of this forum and suggested because it generally skirts the higher mountains.


The last route I've been thinking about, also introduced to me via this forum, is going from Central Oregon, and Souther Idaho towards Yellowstone. From there I've thought of three options: 1) cut North on the West side of Yellowstone and continue through Montana and the Dakotas. 2) Stay South of Yellowstone and continue through Wyoming. Or 3) Bike through the small section of NW Yellowstone park that is open to Bicyclists in April/May before they allow cars in. Then probably exit the park into Montana and continue East.


If you've read this far, thank you. I'm open to any advice or suggestions and specifically am wanting to pin down my route with the understanding that, if the weather gets impassable, I may just have to toss my bike in the back of someone's pickup truck and hitch for a day until getting through the worst of it.

Thanks very much for the assistance.

Offline John Nettles

Hello,

I have read this and the previous post where you interacted with John/Jamawani.  A couple of thoughts you may or may not have considered.

1) The climate in mid-April to mid-May in the northern USA is on the cool/cold side.  Highs AVERAGE low 60s or less on May 1st.  The average low temps are typically at or near freezing.  If you are camping, implied, cold weather camping takes longer to setup/break camp, especially if you are cooking.  Plus if it is raining, it sucks to get be wet and cold.

2) A lot of services will not be open yet, after all, not many people camp in campgrounds in freezing weather.  This includes restaurants in resort/touristy areas.  This means more "stealth" camping (no showers or bathrooms) and possibly more cooking.  Takes time.

3) You have a max 60 days to cross the country, doable but not much time for sightseeing and/or rest/weather days.  I don't know if the 60 days include days off for the Grandparents, "Hi Grandma, I've got 3 hours to see you but gotta go after that."

4) Are you taking the bike to Sweden?  If so, you will need a day to box the bike (find & collect the box, then pack it).  Also, be sure to factor in the bike shipping charge when choosing the airline.

5) Previously, you implied you are a "coast to coast" guy, yet here you indicate you are willing to hitch hike if needed, thus defeating the C>C.

6) This seems to be your first major bike tour, maybe first ever.  While doing your own route is definitely possible, it takes up more time doing research while riding thus shortening your riding time.

7) You do not have that much daylight to ride in the spring.

All that said, I would suggest you stick with ACA maps for your first major tour.  Reason is most of the research is already done.  Need a campground, its listed.  Does the town have a grocery store, it is listed.  Etc.  Due to all the above things mentioned, I would suggest you take BR66 to Chicago then the Chicago to NYC route.  About 3700 miles total.  Over 60 days, it is an AVERAGE of 62 miles a day, an average on the higher side.  If you take a rest/weather day every 10 days, the average jumps to 68 miles.  Doesn't sound like much but it is an extra 30+ minutes of riding during shortened daylight hours.  To do more than 65 miles a day average, at that time of year, while camping basically means very few breaks.

A big benefits to the BR66/Chicago>NYC routing are that 1) it much warmer (averages are 10-20 degrees warmer); 2) It will be much greener/spring-like compared to the brown winter look; 3) A little flatter; 4) Amtrak is in the area for much of the route so easy to bail if need be.

The big cons are 1) extra travel expense (may be offset by less hotel expenses in the cold temps); 2) Less variety in scenery; 3) Springtime (mid-April to early June) can have some major storms in the central plains.  While you realistically do not have to worry about tornados, hail is a concern.  However, the weather forecasters are actually pretty good in our part of the country and are really accurate during events actually taking place, i.e. a tornado on the ground, i.e. can spot it within a half-mile (more than a 1/4 mile from the edge and you are fine except for possibly your shorts).  Of these, the storms is the biggest con.  However, if you are observant and ask the locals about the weather, you will be fine.  Maybe wet (and warmer than ND in May), but fine.

If you are stuck with the northern part of the country, I would suggest Lewis & Clark (parts of route in ID may be closed in April/May as shown on the Forums under Temporary Route Closures) to North Dakota and connect to the Northern Tier to around Cleveland where you wing it over to the Chicago to NYC. 

As John has indicated, the snow pack this year is high so you very well may be forced to hitch hike.  Additionally, I personally would MUCH rather deal with a Oklahoma spring rain storm compared to a western Montana spring snow storm.  An unexpected heavy, wet snow can collapse a tent when you need it most.

That said, which ever route you choose, it can, and has been, done.  It just boils down to how much crap you want to put up with on each route.

Whatever you choose, hope you have an enjoyable tour.  John

Offline RussSeaton

Based on your plans to fly to Sweden in mid June, I am going to assume you are from Sweden.  I have never been to the northern European countries up on the Baltic Sea.  But I do know that Sweden has winter.  So I am going to assume you know what winter is.  Snow and ice and freezing temperatures.  I think the northern US and the US/Canada border do not have winters quite as bad as Sweden.  But I think maybe the Rocky Mountains are much higher than anything you have in Sweden so maybe winter is comparable.  Imagine if someone asked you about riding in Sweden in April.  What would you tell them?  Would you say its great riding in Sweden in April.  Except for the snow and ice and freezing rain and bitter cold temperatures.  Its a biking paradise if you overlook all the misery.

I'd suggest you start in Salt Lake City maybe.  Ride to New Jersey from there.  You can still tell people you rode across the USA.  So you didn't start on the coast.  Nobody will care.

Offline jamawani

Diff -

I believe that you are cutting it thin in multiple areas:
1. Weather
2. Choice of route
3. Sufficient time
4. Experience touring

With any one, of even two, of these - you could wing it.
But with all combined, they are a recipe for a miserable or aborted tour.
Why? Why set yourself up for failure?

No tour is going to be day after day perfection - but day after brutal day is another thing.
I have enough experience to speak frankly. And I urge you to rethink.
No, you are not likely to die of hypothermia, but you put yourself at risk.
New tourers who are having a totally nasty experience usually bag it.
Heck, even old tourers having a nasty time sometimes bag it.

<<<>>>

So, here's the deal -
a. You are new to this.
b. You have a somewhat fixed time frame.
c. You don't have a great deal of time to do this in.
d. You want to go coast to coast.

Why not pick a route that offers a greater chance of enjoyment and success?
Mid April is only a month from now - and spring is almost certain to come late to the N. Rockies.

My suggestion is:
> Take Amtrak overnight from Portland to San Luis Obispo, California.
It is easy and cheap to ship a bike on Amtrak and Amtrak allows lots of bags.
April is the most beautiful time of year in central California, esp. with recent rains.
> Cut overland via the Antelope Valley to Historic Route 66. Might even be hot.
Follow the three best sections of Old Route 66 to Grand Canyon.
> Then take Hwys 64, US 160, and US 163 thru spectacular Monument Valley.
Continue on back roads to Cortez and reconnect with US 160 to Mesa Verde National Park.
Run US 160 in S. Colo. to Great Sand Dunes N.P. then Hwy 10 to Ordway.
> At Ordway you are on the TransAm across most of Kansas - probably few riders still.
In east Kansas take the connector to the Katy Trail to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
> From St. Louis you can large follow USBikeRoute 50 to Wash DC.
USBR 50 is not fully signed, but there are multiple options across Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
> When you hit West Virginia you can take a series of rail trails eastwards.
The Panhandle Trail, the Montour, the Great Allegheny Passage, the C&O Trail may be sloppy.
> Near Antietam, Maryland you may wish to cut northeast thru southeast Penna
Not sure where in New Jersey you plan to end your trip.

<<<>>>

This route provides awe-inspiring scenery, serious history, urban landscapes.
And is likely to be more doable and pleasant in your time frame.

Plus, the fact that you are so insistent on a northern route in April underscores your inexperience.

'Cause I'd like to see you have a nice trip.







Offline differener

Thanks Jamawanai and John Nettles.

I've adjusted to the idea of taking the route starting from the LA area. I realize that one of the main reasons I really wanted to stay in the North was to experience more of Pacific NW by bicycle. If I like this trip farther South then I'll just plan one in the summer up in the PNW for the future...

Curious about the pros and cons of taking the tried and true BR66 > Chicago to NYC routes vs something like the one jamawani suggested in the last post...

What I can see:

BR66 > Chicago to NYC:
Pros: Maps available from adventure cycling with lots of good info, route has been designed to reduce high traffic roads as much as possible, route is used often and probably has locals that cater to touring bicyclists.
Cons: Doesn't look very interesting to me. I'm not particularly interested in old route 66 or the history of it. I'd much rather see more beautiful nature.

jamawani's suggestion:
Pros: looks to be a really beautiful route
Cons: I'd have to spend more time navigating, possibility of more roads with poor biking conditions, possibly less facilities available, etc.


Any major ones I missed?

Curious what yall's thoughts are on this.

P.S. I will not be taking my bike to Sweden. It will stay in NJ with my grandparents. The date of desired arrival in NY/NJ is a few days before I intend to fly to Sweden to allow time to spend with my grandparents and rest a bit :D

Offline John Nettles

I totally agree the PNW is a very scenic area to ride.  Much more so than BR66. 

Jamawanai's suggestion is definitely a more scenic route (and I live on BR66 too).  However, depending on your speed, you need to remember that Colorado's higher elevations (US-160) will still have cold lows and definitely a chance of snow even in mid-June.  Granted only a day or three of riding this elevation but at least be aware of this.  And some services will still be closed in May.

Other than that, you pretty much got the pros and cons right.

Have a great trip whatever you decide!

PS  You can rest on the plane.

Offline jamawani

Diff -

Where in New Jersey?
I know NJ ain't a big state, but it can change things.

Also, here are the Amtrak schedules for:

Coast Starlight - Portland to Los Angeles
https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/projects/dotcom/english/public/documents/timetables/Coast-Starlight-Schedule-010818.pdf

Southwest Chief - Los Angeles to Chicago
https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/projects/dotcom/english/public/documents/timetables/Southwest-Chief-Schedule-031118.pdf

Capitol Limited - Chicago to Washington
https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/projects/dotcom/english/public/documents/timetables/Capitol-Limited-Schedule-010818.pdf

The Southwest Chief runs close to you bike route in the West.
The Capitol Limited runs close to your bike route in the East.
So if you are behind you can catch the train for a couple of hundred miles.

You don't even have to box you bike - just roll it on board.
The $20 fee is way less than airline fees, and you can take all your gear, too.

<<<>>>

I'm not a big believer in Bike Route 66 - even though there are some very nice sections.
Much of the bike route runs on service roads right next to the interstate - sometimes on the interstate on the shoulder.
That's not my idea of a pleasant cross-country bike trip.

The three best sections of Old Route 66 are Amboy, Oatman, and Peach Springs.
Then you might as well veer off and catch the Grand Canyon.

Some of the finest jewels of the Southwest are not on BR 66 -
Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, Taos Pueblo.

So you could do a chunk of BR 66 in Calif. and Ariz.
Catch the TransAm near LaJunta, Colo and across Kansas.
Link up to the Katy Trail which is part of the Lewis & Clark into St. Louis.
If you wanted, you could then do BR 66 again to just south of Chicago.

The ACA Chicago to New York route is VERY circuitous - and you have a time limit.
There is an excellent mapped route on the Old Lincoln Highway all the way into New Jersey.
You may want to consider the GAP and C&O Trails - although they can be very muddy early in the season.

I would be glad to provide you with more information.
1. A southwest-to-northeast route makes sense for the time of year you are going.
2. You need to keep the mileage moderate to get the whole trip in - and you can.

Best - Jama

Offline differener

Thanks John,

What do people usually do for maps when creating their own routes and not using the adventure cycling route maps?

Offline jamawani

Well, I have tens of thousands of miles in my noggin.
Yes, it is a serious illness for which there is no treatment.
Betty Ford, herself, told me so.

It's a combination of low traffic, scenery, services, with some use of gradient and shoulders when necessary.
For example - you really don't need shoulders if there are only 100 cars per day on a road.
Also, no one cares about the gradient when they ride Going to the Sun, but they hate all the Missouri goat hills.

I can do a couple of RideWithGPS maps for you for the connectors.
You can ask for specific segments of the ACA routes.
More and more people combine routes as the route map has expanded.
ACA is used to doing that for folks.

Question -

Do you want to start in L.A.? Or would you rather start in a less urban locale?
If you are planning to take Amtrak - Morro Bay, near San Luis Obispo is really sweet.
Amtrak gets in in mid afternoon so you have time to get settled.
Another option is to start in Ventura (Oxnard Station).
Amtrak gets in later, but there is a very gradual climb into the Antelope Valley.

<<<>>>

As for services - you will be o.k. throughout the Southwest.
(Death Valley N.P. actually closes campgrounds by April - although you won't be going that way.)

Southern Colorado / Northern New Mexico will be 10+ degrees warmer on average.
April/May is the driest time of the year in the monsoon cycle.
And the passes, although higher than in Montana, are relatively low by Colorado standards.

J

Pic - Monument Valley in 2001


Offline Patco

As to your question on what do people use when mapping a ride when not using ACA maps, I obtain, when available, bicycle maps from the states in which I intend to travel (most states still have a bicycle coordinator or someone similar in the related highway/traffic department, and there are maps that reflect shoulders, traffic volume and bicycle routes). I map out a ride and then I use Google Earth to check out elevations, shoulders, etc.

Offline differener

Diff -

Where in New Jersey?
I know NJ ain't a big state, but it can change things.

My grandparents live in Orange, NJ. So that'll be my general destination. However, I do wanna do the ceremonial dipping of the front tire in the Atlantic Ocean. So wherever I can do that closest to Orange, NJ seems like a good final destination.

I'm not a big believer in Bike Route 66 - even though there are some very nice sections.
Much of the bike route runs on service roads right next to the interstate - sometimes on the interstate on the shoulder.
That's not my idea of a pleasant cross-country bike trip.

The three best sections of Old Route 66 are Amboy, Oatman, and Peach Springs.
Then you might as well veer off and catch the Grand Canyon.

Some of the finest jewels of the Southwest are not on BR 66 -
Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, Taos Pueblo.

So you could do a chunk of BR 66 in Calif. and Ariz.
Catch the TransAm near LaJunta, Colo and across Kansas.
Link up to the Katy Trail which is part of the Lewis & Clark into St. Louis.
If you wanted, you could then do BR 66 again to just south of Chicago.

The ACA Chicago to New York route is VERY circuitous - and you have a time limit.
There is an excellent mapped route on the Old Lincoln Highway all the way into New Jersey.
You may want to consider the GAP and C&O Trails - although they can be very muddy early in the season.

Below is a link to a rough route I made on google maps using suggestions you made in a previous post on this thread.
I'm currently thinking of following something like this route until Clinton, Missouri. Then taking the Katy Trail through St. Louis, MO and on to Richmond, Indiana.

From Richmond I was thinking to link in with the Chicago > NYC route and take it the rest of the way. But you say it's a very circuitous route. I can see that but haven't quite seen a great alternative yet. It's been confusing trying to look up the Old Lincoln Highway or th GAP and C&O Trails. Could you possibly show what you're referring to here by making a quick map of it?

Thanks again for all your help.

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Ventura,+CA/Barstow,+CA/Amboy,+CA/Truxton,+AZ/Monument+Valley/Cortez,+CO/Great+Sand+Dunes+National+Park+and+Preserve/Ordway,+CO+81063/Clinton,+Missouri/@34.8755588,-118.567121,8z/data=!4m61!4m60!1m5!1m1!1s0x80e9ad155097394d:0x24eff57c367aeae8!2m2!1d-119.2945199!2d34.2804923!1m5!1m1!1s0x80c470434c549455:0x1b412c332aefe277!2m2!1d-117.0172826!2d34.8957957!1m5!1m1!1s0x80c556b80a4fc23b:0xa6263ddc31e53b95!2m2!1d-115.7444411!2d34.5577721!1m10!1m1!1s0x80cdae1841fc3e17:0x91cfc0de46abf4fc!2m2!1d-113.562778!2d35.485!3m4!1m2!1d-111.8372603!2d36.0376419!3s0x8733a9dd4d48a9f7:0x53fd3736e3286482!1m5!1m1!1s0x87373183ffa168fd:0xcd9f911704a64b6e!2m2!1d-110.0984574!2d36.9980285!1m5!1m1!1s0x87396f97719cc121:0x5ab0790925832f47!2m2!1d-108.5859265!2d37.3488827!1m5!1m1!1s0x87142fe61dd9cbc7:0x33d7918ad00f83d9!2m2!1d-105.5943276!2d37.7915959!1m5!1m1!1s0x87126da12f8e1faf:0x23300a1bc382d29!2m2!1d-103.7560606!2d38.2180608!1m5!1m1!1s0x87c41d77e2661955:0xf6da8d53b17283e6!2m2!1d-93.7782689!2d38.3686324!3e1

I can do a couple of RideWithGPS maps for you for the connectors.
You can ask for specific segments of the ACA routes.
More and more people combine routes as the route map has expanded.
ACA is used to doing that for folks.

That's a very kind offer. I would greatly appreciate some help with a few RideWithGPS maps from you. Check out the link I posted just above to see what I'm thinking so far...

Question -

Do you want to start in L.A.? Or would you rather start in a less urban locale?
If you are planning to take Amtrak - Morro Bay, near San Luis Obispo is really sweet.
Amtrak gets in in mid afternoon so you have time to get settled.
Another option is to start in Ventura (Oxnard Station).
Amtrak gets in later, but there is a very gradual climb into the Antelope Valley.

I think starting in Ventura would be awesome. It avoids a lot of the traffic and city riding of starting in Santa Monica but doesn't add so many miles to the trip like starting in San Luis Obispo would.

Offline jamawani

Diff -

VERY, VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:
Google Maps is NOT your friend - esp. in the West.
It has you going on nonexistant roads or barely tracked in northern Arizona.
Not to mention reservation lands which are off limits to non-tribal members.

Two questions -
1. You have the route in central Kansas north of the TransAm -
I have suggested a slightly longer route below that keeps you on the TransAm longer.
It's nice to have the TransAm experience for a few days.
2. What bike will you be riding? Are you willing to do some dirt?
Dirt riding loaded down takes anywhere from 25% to 33% more energy - I know, I've done lots of it.
But short to moderate dirt segments open up additional route possibilities.

<<<>>>

New Jersey -
The Henry Hudson Trail is really sweet and takes you out to Sandy Hook on the Atlantic.
Then you can head back to Matawan and take NJ Transit trains to Orange.
(Keyport is technically on salt water, but no waves, no ocean.)

http://co.monmouth.nj.us/documents/130/hht_jun17.pdf

CA - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27045703
AZ - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27044487
UT - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27044509
CO - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27044540
KS - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27044638
MO - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27045471

Which would be about 2125 miles -
5 weeks and 2 days - 400 miles per week; 66 miles per day x 6 days with 1 day off.
So that is very doable. There are always extra miles - heading back into town for supplies, Grand Canyon loops, etc.

Large sections of Bike Route 66, TransAm, and Lewis & Clark ACA routes.

From St. Louis, I would estimate another 1100 miles - just under 3 weeks.
More if you follow ACA routes, a little less if you do direct roads that have more traffic.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2018, 10:21:24 pm by jamawani »

Offline jamawani

PS -

You see that little dirt road segment in Arizona that cuts off from US 89 heading to Tuba City?
Usually hardpack clay - not too difficult when dry - but probably impossible in the rain.
Here's what it looks like:

Offline differener

Diff -

VERY, VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:
Google Maps is NOT your friend - esp. in the West.
It has you going on nonexistant roads or barely tracked in northern Arizona.
Not to mention reservation lands which are off limits to non-tribal members.

Thanks for that. I kinda figured as much. Just been using it to get general routes. Any suggestions on what to use to finalize my route maps if I want to make them myself and then print them out?

Two questions -
1. You have the route in central Kansas north of the TransAm -
I have suggested a slightly longer route below that keeps you on the TransAm longer.
It's nice to have the TransAm experience for a few days.
2. What bike will you be riding? Are you willing to do some dirt?
Dirt riding loaded down takes anywhere from 25% to 33% more energy - I know, I've done lots of it.
But short to moderate dirt segments open up additional route possibilities.

1. Staying on the TransAm in Kansas totally makes sense to me. Thanks for adjusting that.
2. I have a fuji touring series iii from 1984 when my father bought it new. It's since had a lot of miles ridden on it (I've ridden it nearly every day since 2008) and its proven very dependable for me.
http://www.classicfuji.com/TouringSeriesIII_Model_Years_Thumbs.htm


<<<>>>
New Jersey -
The Henry Hudson Trail is really sweet and takes you out to Sandy Hook on the Atlantic.
Then you can head back to Matawan and take NJ Transit trains to Orange.
(Keyport is technically on salt water, but no waves, no ocean.)

http://co.monmouth.nj.us/documents/130/hht_jun17.pdf

Turns out my grandparents have a "House on the shore" in Mantoloking. It's farther south than Sandy Hook and probably a shorter ride from where I'll be coming from. That seems like a good end point since their house really is right on the Atlantic.

CA - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27045703
AZ - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27044487
UT - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27044509
CO - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27044540
KS - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27044638
MO - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27045471

Which would be about 2125 miles -
5 weeks and 2 days - 400 miles per week; 66 miles per day x 6 days with 1 day off.
So that is very doable. There are always extra miles - heading back into town for supplies, Grand Canyon loops, etc.

Large sections of Bike Route 66, TransAm, and Lewis & Clark ACA routes.

From St. Louis, I would estimate another 1100 miles - just under 3 weeks.
More if you follow ACA routes, a little less if you do direct roads that have more traffic.

That is so very helpful. Thanks for putting all that time in to create those maps. I'm sure it's not trivial.
In the next couple days I'll explore the ridewithgps site more and see if I can use it to make and print my own maps + directions.

After St. Louis I don't want to follow the BR66 to Chicago. I'll opt in for more direct roads towards Mantoloking, NJ. Still need to do more research to determine this part of the route.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2018, 12:02:51 am by differener »

Offline differener

PS -

You see that little dirt road segment in Arizona that cuts off from US 89 heading to Tuba City?
Usually hardpack clay - not too difficult when dry - but probably impossible in the rain.
Here's what it looks like:

Sure looks like beautiful country. I hope it's not raining when I get close :D