Author Topic: First Time Cross Country Trek  (Read 1674 times)

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Offline SteveBrokaw

First Time Cross Country Trek
« on: January 01, 2019, 01:15:32 am »
First, I'm a newbie to the forums, so I apologize if my questions have been answered elsewhere. I did a search and found only a few answers.

I'm taking the Southern Tier (E to W) starting at the end of February in 2019. I've trained long distance for all of 2018. However, I have a few easy questions for the experienced long distance trekkers. Would appreciate any input.

1) I am taking a tent & sleeping bag for most nights. Is it fairly easy to find places to camp out (legit or stealth camping)?
2) I am using my iPhone and either Strava or Runtastic to track my information. I also have a set of ACA ST maps. Do others suggest a better way to stay on course & track your mileage, altitude, speed, etc?
3) Is there a website or app that experienced bikers use to find couch surfing locations?
4) What's the biggest piece of advice I should know.

This is a bucket list item for me. I've been biking most of my life but NEVER done anything like this so even though I've done tons of research I have more questions than answers....Thanks,

Offline jamawani

Re: First Time Cross Country Trek
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2019, 09:52:02 am »
Camping opportunities vary across the country.

The Northeast has limited camping because of urban development, but still has some state parks and mostly private, expensive camping.
The Pacific Coast is developed, but has excellent state parks with designated hiker.biker camping.
The Intermountain West has nearly limitless federal lands with campgrounds and dispersed free camping
The Great Plains and Upper Midwest have limited federal lands, but lots of city and county parks with camping.
The Southeast has fewer federal, state, and local facilities, but moderate access to camping.
Texas has the least of all.

And the Southern Tier has 1000 miles in Texas.
The ACA maps have lots of camping places listed, but Texas is more challenging - requiring planning.
I would not stealth camp in Texas or the rest of Dixie - guns & "stand your ground" laws.
Also, in today's immigration climate, stealth camping near the border may be risky.
And, absolutely, do not stealth camp on Indian reservations.

Here is an interactive map of U.S. public lands.
https://blm-egis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=6f0da4c7931440a8a80bfe20eddd7550

Take the time to learn what lands allow what. Generally:

National Forest Service (USFS) - anywhere
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) - anywhere
National Park Service (NPS) - designated sites only
National Wildlife Refuges (USFWS) - very few sites offer any camping
Bureau of Reclamation (BuRec) - designated reservoir sites
Army Corps of Engineers (COE) - designated reservoir sites
State public lands - varies by state, limited
State wildlife areas - varies by state, some camping i.e. Texas

Have a great trip.


Offline John Nettles

Re: First Time Cross Country Trek
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2019, 11:17:24 am »
1) I am taking a tent & sleeping bag for most nights. Is it fairly easy to find places to camp out (legit or stealth camping)?Use the ACA maps to determine camping locations.  As Jama said, Texas is probably the hardest to find actual campgrounds.  It should be noted that a lot of the hotels are not that much more than a campground, i.e. a commerical CG might run $35 (yikes) but a cheapo hotel is about $42.  Texans are typically friendly IF you ask permission and you are respectable, i.e. don't look like a hobo or serial killer.
2) I am using my iPhone and either Strava or Runtastic to track my information. I also have a set of ACA ST maps. Do others suggest a better way to stay on course & track your mileage, altitude, speed, etc?Two things.  Consider getting their app for the route. Second, be sure to carry a spare power bank as you may have a few times where you must go a couple of days without power to recharge your phone.  I would suggest you get a basic bike computer in case the phone runs out and/or craps out.  Then again, west of Austin, the road choices dwindle rapidly so just keep an eye out for the next turn.
3) Is there a website or app that experienced bikers use to find couch surfing locations?Look into WarmShowers.  It is ONLY for touring cyclists but you are expected to offer to host also, just not use.  You are not required to host, just offer. Depending on where you live, you may never get a request to host someone.
4) What's the biggest piece of advice I should know.Relax and enjoy the ride. It also helps to train a little. I (and Jama also) have been doing this for close to 40 years each.  You actually can do too much research and lose the aspect of "discovering" something which to me is one of the greatest joys of touring.  I have planned a bazillion routes for people over the years and it sort of sucks to know exactly what is coming up all the time when I go on one of my routes.  ACA does a wonderful map (check the addendum before you leave).  Just use it and trust it and you will be fine.
Hope this helps and I wish you a wonderful trip.

Offline fastrog

Re: First Time Cross Country Trek
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2019, 03:23:57 am »
first off: trust the ACA data, and stay in touch with them. i think stealth camping is dangerous anywhere, and maybe moreso in the south. it usually means trespassing, and even friendly landowners look down on that. i think if you keep a good attitude and ask for permission, you will have far better luck. might even get a meal or a shower out of it. it never hurts to go to city hall, the sheriff or police or fire station and, looking really hot and tired, ask if they know a place you could camp. same thing for small neighborhood stores.  also: if you're riding along near the end of the day and you see somebody working in their garden or sitting on their porch, give  a big wave  and shout a hello. if they respond nicely, stop and ask for some water. never been turned down. most will ask where you are from and where you are going.  chat. after a little while, ask if they know where you might camp.  you will get some offers for their front yard. in february, you may find developed  campgrounds that will give you a price break. just tell them you can only afford $10 and see what happens.

Offline hikerjer

Re: First Time Cross Country Trek
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2019, 08:14:34 pm »
Great advice in the above posts.  I'd make a few additional general comments.  First, I'd forget Couch Surfing if I could and stick to Warm Showers as it's specifically designed for bicycle tourists.  Generally, the hosts are cyclists and tourers themselves so they can appreciate the issues that other tourers face and will know what you need most. I've had nothing but good experiences with WS both as a guest and a host.  The only problem is that it is sometimes difficult to connect with a WS host in a timely manner but it's certainly worth trying.

Contact the local highway department of the states you're traveling through and ask for assistance. Many have  cycling specific road maps and other printed information that can be quite helpful. ACA maps give you a very narrow picture of the area you're traveling through - basically just the corridor of the highway you're on.  A road map of the state gives a wider and broader picture of the area. There may be a great spot just few miles off of your route that won't be shown on an ACA map but you'll see it on a road map. Not to say that the ACA maps aren't good - they are - but more information means more options and options are nice when you're traveling.  At least that's been my experience.

The next piece of advice is whatever you do, don't be locked into a set schedule or mileage goal. Nothing will suck the joy out of tour faster. Stay flexible so that if you come across something interesting that you'd like to further enjoy - a particularly scenic area, a cultural event i.e. concert or folk festival or a woman (be careful here), you can stay around and take advantage of the opportunity. No sense in missing it for a few more miles that day.  It took me a while to realize this and I regrettably missed some very worthwhile experiences and people just because I thought I had to move along to the next destination when I really didn't have to.

Next, don't quit on a bad day.  Tomorrow or the next day will inevitably be be better. The wind will stop, the rain will end and the hills all have summits you will reach eventually even if you have to stop frequently to rest or even walk up a bit.  Nothing wrong with that.

Next, if you can afford it, treat yourself to a few luxuries once in a while be it an ice cream cone, a beer at a local brewery, a nice dinner/lunch at a restaurant or a motel room. I have a tendency to be very cheap when traveling even when I don't have to and it detracts from the trip. Don't be too frugal if you can help it. You're out there to enjoy the experience not have a suffer fest.

If you find a good place to stay for the night, take advantage of it even if it means quiting early for the day. You never know what you might find down the road. It may be nothing and you'll regret passing up your former opportunity.


Finally, know how to fix a flat tire and and adjust your brakes.

Other than that, don't forget to have fun and enjoy yourself.  Best wishes for a wonderful adventure.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2019, 07:00:55 pm by hikerjer »

Offline Nyimbo

Re: First Time Cross Country Trek
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2019, 09:47:12 pm »
Nice post hikerjer

Offline TCS

Re: First Time Cross Country Trek
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2019, 10:46:17 pm »
Bikecentennial camped at lots of churches.  In 2019 we eschew churches and depend on government.

Anyway, every little town will have a Catholic and/or Protestant church.  Call 'em up - they will either let you use the church yard or set you up in somebody's backyard.
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline Malk

Re: First Time Cross Country Trek
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2019, 08:34:58 am »
Make sure you carry some anti dog spray. They come at you out of nowhere just as you are cycling along minding your own business and enjoying the view. It's like they think you are an antelope or some other type of prey😆😆 Other than that, heed all the advice you have already been given. Talk to locals and be friendly. I found a lot of small towns usually have a small park/playground and if you ask someone, it's usually OK,  and safe to camp there. Have a great trip. One of the best things I ever did and will do again.