Author Topic: Addition for ACA maps?  (Read 3805 times)

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Offline JonathanW

Addition for ACA maps?
« on: January 25, 2018, 09:54:19 am »
Hi Guys,

Newbie first poster from Frankfurt, Germany here. I am looking forward to have fun here and find some answers to my numerous questions I will have over the year :)

I am planning on doing a Cross-country ride in in Spring 2019. I'd love to start in the New England area and end up in San Francisco. I just received a set of ACA maps for the Northern Tier, that would cover up my route until around the Chicago area. I red so many great stuff about the ACA maps and I like the idea of being independent from a GPS device and avoid the constant need for power...

But here is my problem: in 1999/2000 I spent a year in Butte, Nebraska (close to the SD border) and I definitely need to pass by there. This makes a HUGE hole into the area which are covered by the ACA maps, if I want to end up in San Franciso and if I want to avoid to many detours in order to save 100s of miles.

Do you have any recommendations for alternative maps which I can (A) use to plan the route here in Germany and which are (B) as handy as the ACA maps on the road? I think I would need something to cover up Iowa, Nebraska and parts of Colorado until I am back on a track which is covered by ACA maps.

Any helps, tips, tricks and comments would greatly be appreciated! I am pretty sure this wont be my last post here cause I am only starting the detailed planning for my tour :)


« Last Edit: January 26, 2018, 06:47:40 am by JonathanW »

Offline John Nettles

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  • I ride for smiles, not miles.
Re: Addition for ACA maps?
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2018, 11:08:24 am »
Do a google search on "(State) bicycle map" and also another search on "(State) Traffic Count Map". For instance, "Nebraska Bicycle Map". Most states have a state bicycle map and also a map showing the daily traffic count on state highways and/or county roads.

Then you can plan your route accordingly.  Note that when you get to Nebraska, you have a lot of choices as there there is not much traffic.  Most any road with less than 2,000 vehicals per day is acceptable but definitely shoot for sub-1000 to get nice quiet roads.

Since Butte is so far north, you should consider another route to reconnect to the TransAm (TA).  Consider going to the area around Custer State Park in South Dakota then over toward Buffalo, WY via Devil's Tower National Monument (movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind filmed here) and then take US-14 & US-16 toward Worland, WY via Buffalo, WY.  After Worland, you could enter Yellowstone from the South or North.  I personally would go via the South if you have the time. It is prettier and would connect to the TA quicker.

Best, John

Online jamawani

Re: Addition for ACA maps?
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2018, 11:43:07 am »
Hi Jonathan -

I've cycled across Nebraska many times - most recently in 2016.
I know Butte - not quite as large as Frankfurt or San Francisco - but lovely all the same.
And, yes, I think it's a shame that ACA doesn't have a Nebraska route.

I hope you are not leaving too early in the spring since the Northern Tier is in northern New England.
Also, not sure how long you have for the trip, your cycling experience, and preferences.

If you are planning on anything before May, you many need to adjust southwards at the start.
The Northern Tier bypasses Chicago - Do you plan to visit the Windy City?

From Chicago there are a number of nice options across Iowa - create your own.
Here are Iowa and Nebraska bike maps -

Iowa has a number of excellent.paved bike trails - but they tend to be north-south.
Iowa county roads have light traffic, but few state and national highways have shoulders.
In Nebraska, you would probably want to use Hwy 12 and US 20.
Hwy 12 heads west from South Sioux City to Butte - light traffic, few shoulders.
US 20 west of Valentine has fairly light traffic AND great shoulders thru the Sandhills.
(Be sure to get out on the high railroad bridge near Valentine.)

You can look at some of the sections of my 2016 trip in the middle of the country.

Depending on your wishes, time, and plans - -
N) You can either head west via Wyoming, Idaho, and southern Oregon before heading to S.F.
S) Or you can cut down towards Colorado, thru Utah, and connect with the Western Express in Nevada.

If you have 90 days and are starting around May 1 - then I would suggest the more northerly option.
If you can fill me in with more details, I can give you better information.

Best - Juan

Offline Nyimbo

Re: Addition for ACA maps?
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2018, 02:10:37 pm »
Since you mentioned Colorado in the question I will share the link from the end of the Eastern Express Route currently being developed.  I don’t know if the section through SW Nebraska and into N Colorado is helpful or not.  But it won’t hurt to add it to the list here.

Offline JonathanW

Re: Addition for ACA maps?
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2018, 03:29:36 pm »
Hi guys, thank you so much for your answers so far. This all sounds like some really great tips.

@John: Searching for state specific bicycle maps was a good hint. I already found some promising maps. The downside of those (compared to the ACA maps) is of course they do not have turn by turn directions. But I guess no other maps have this. I think I'll try to plan with routes that are covered by ACA as much as possible.

@Juan: Never in my life I would have thought I meet somebody who is not from Butte who knows this. When I lived there the pop was 453 (incl. me); thats a little less than Frankfurt, yes :)
Thanks for the hint regarding the month of depature. I have the luck to work with a big firm that offers to take sabbaticals, so I'd guess I am flexible on when l take off. I will definitely take a look on your page as well!

Regardign the trip: I was even thinking about applying for a Visa, just to be on the safe side. But I think 90 days should be feasible as well.
To be honest, I am not an experienced biker at all. The thought of doing a cross country trip in the US struck me when I stumbeled across a video in Youtube and I could never let go of the thought since. This was 10 months ago. A couple of weeks ago I realized I want to do it.
I made an 8 days ride last summer and did 570km (ca. 356miles) without any kind of problems. I will do lots of trips this years to test my physicle and mental strength :)

I also already bought a tent (Big Agnes Copper Spur) and plan on slowly building up on the equipement side throughout the year.

Thanks again for all your help guys!

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Addition for ACA maps?
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2018, 03:45:53 pm »
Don't worry about the turn by turn directions out west.  There really aren't that many paved roads so if you are the least bit observant and pay attention to your miles since the last turn, it really is hard to get lost.  Granted, in a city it can be a pain somewhat but then there really are no BIG cities you are going to west of the Mississippi until you reconnect with the ACA route.

Also, if through Colorado, there is a bike path most of the way between Dillon, CO to near Grand Junction.  The suggestion to go from Fort Collins to Walden is great.  Then over to Steamboat Springs, CO.  Very scenic.  Head south to Wolcott then west on the bike paths.  Or you can continue west at Steamboat Springs toward Utah.  Again, do not worry about the turn by turns as there are probably only a handful between Fort Collins and Utah.

If you go get near the Four Corners (AZ, NM, CO, UT borders meet), seriously consider going to Monument Valley between Mexican Hat, UT and Kayenta, AZ.  Monument Valley has serious "western movies" look.  You can always double back and take the really neat UT-261 (some gravel) and then be sure to hit Zion and Bryce National Parks via the must ride due to scenery UT-12.  Include a few days for hiking around there.

Enjoy your tour!  John

Online jamawani

Re: Addition for ACA maps?
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2018, 07:28:16 pm »
Hey J -

You said spring of 2018 up top, but mentioned collecting gear all year down below.
Were you actually planning on 2019??

If 2018 - then you have a steep learning curve.
Start slow with very moderate mileages - maybe 40 miles per day for the first week - then build up.
Even if it's 2019, I would do light mileage the first couple of days to get the kinks out.

Since you have not done major tours - I would not do anything outrageous - esp. in the West.
I would also - very strongly - suggest a more northerly route after Butte.
I would avoid the Western Express (Nevada & Calif) - at least for this trip.
Distances between services - even water - and heat in mid summer.
Plenty of spectacular scenery in Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon.


Offline JonathanW

Re: Addition for ACA maps?
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2018, 03:11:25 am »
Sorry for the confusion, I was indeed talking about making the tour in 2019 :) I corrected it above.

I defnitely don't want to kill myself at the beginning. I already read some stuff the hell weeks (first 1-2 weeks of the long distance trip). And I will also try to plan in 1-2 rest days a week, at least for the beginning.

@Juan: Why do you think a more northern route would be better for me? Only because of the distance between services, or also because of elevations? I guess this also means to plan with a different arrival than San Francisco, right? I think I could live with that, as ending up on the Golden Gate bridge was only a fix idea. Looking at the ACA coverage you are essentially suggesting continuning on the Louis&Clark Trail after Nebraska, right?

@John: Thanks for your hint. You are absolutely right that in those areas not covered by ACA there are probably not many turns to take at all :) I did a West cost trip with my family like 20 years ago and I remember seeing the Monument Valley. This is definitely something I dont want to miss if I end up taking that route.

Thanks again for all your hints and tips!

Cheers from Frankfurt!
« Last Edit: January 26, 2018, 06:48:03 am by JonathanW »

Online jamawani

Re: Addition for ACA maps?
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2018, 08:58:45 am »
Jonathan -

If you have the flexibility -  then schedule your trip for the best possible window.
I might allocate 12 weeks - plenty of time - 3 extra days before and three days after.
If the ride goes a bit faster, I'm sure you can find something to do in San Francisco.
But having to crunch the last week or two of a big ride is a bummer.

Starting moderately is a good idea. 400 miles per week is not too much once you are in the groove.
Let's say you do 300 mi. each week, weeks 1 & 2 and 350 mi. each week, weeks 3 & 4.
That would be 600 mi. + 700 mi. + 3200 mi. = 4500 mi. Perfectly doable with flexibility.

It's also a good idea to start with a fixed route and deviate once you have the skills.
So, the first 1600 miles could be the Northern Tier to the Mississippi River.
I do not, especially, care for the ACA crossing of the Mississippi at Muscatine, Iowa.
The Mississippi is the mother river of the U.S. and has great meaning - the bridge is only so-so.
(The Rhine has similar meaning in Germany - but it is probably more like the Volga to Russia.)

That's why I suggest crossing at Rock Island on the Centennial Bridge.
The bridge is historic and visually stunning - plus, you have a long ride along the river before and after.
(Which is a pretty good trick considering the river runs north-south and you are riding east-west.)

There are a number of good possible routes across Iowa - from Davenport to Sioux City.
Then, as I mentioned before, Hwy 12 to Butte and then US 20 to Chadron.

4500 miles gives you some miles to wander - and I would use them in the West.
From western Nebraska, you can head north into the Black Hills.
If you were to start May 1, it would only be mid June and ideal.
Then you could take in Devils Tower in east Wyoming before heading towards the Rockies.

The nice thing about riding Old Highway 16 from Clearmont to Buffalo is the mountain view.
You get 30+ miles of stunning mountains looming larger and larger - and snow-capped, too, in June.
Then you have a killer climb - but the rewards are the finest wildflower meadows in the world.
Nothing in Switzerland or Austria compares - not even Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music".

Then you get a taste - just a small taste of high desert - before the Wapiti Valley leading to Yellowstone.
Yellowstone NP and Grand Teton NP are glorious - if you ride early, you can beat the traffic. Worth it.
The ride across eastern Idaho gives you another taste of high desert.
But then the Sawtooth Mountains and the long ride down the Payette River with hot springs is just "Wow!"

US 20 & US 395 in eastern Oregon is another and larger taste of high desert.
It will be hot in July, but not dangerously so as it would be in the Southwest deserts.
Also, services are more reasonably spaced - distances not so great.
Some lovely canyon riding along the Malheur River - then Lake Abert.
Lake Abert is an alkaline lake with 2500 foot (750 m) cliffs.
For a dramatic contrast, then head west to Crater Lake - a frigid, alpine caldera lake.
(Although the rim road should be open - there will still be lots of snow.)
Lake Abert and Crater Lake make an amazing contrast and epitomize the American West.

From there, you can finally head out to the Pacific Coast in northern California.
Here you can ride through the massive redwood forests in Redwoods NP.
Then there is the spectacular Highway 1 along the northern California coast.
Which allows you to end your trip crossing Golden Gate Bridge.


East - 1600 mi.; Plains - 900 mi.; WY & ID - 1000 mi.; Oregon - 500 mi.; N. Calif. - 400 mi. - - 4400 mi.

Just a possibility. Google a few of the places - like Crater Lake.
Photo - Bighorn Mountains Meadow - - J

« Last Edit: January 26, 2018, 09:14:58 am by jamawani »