Author Topic: Help me choose my trip : pacific coast or transamerica :) and wich part ?  (Read 10315 times)

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Offline nasdak

Hello !
It's my first post here :)
I'm french and i am planning a bike trip to the US.
This site has a lot of wonderfull information, so great !!! but i'd like to have some advice :)
Here are the details of my trip :
We are a couple, with some experiment in bike trips (500miles in norway, 500 miles i sweden, moutain ride in the alps...)
we have 1 month to ride, in august 2019 - including flight time from france.
I think we can aim at about 50miles a day (if not too steep!)

So we have no time to do the full pacific coast or transamerica...
We like nature and remote areas. We really don't like riding with traffic. We like to camp and will carry all the equipement.

I spotted 2 roads : pacific coast and transamerica. 1 month is not enough for the whole road.
My question are : which road would you recommend, and wich part ?
Right now i think the West part of the transamerica might be better (more remote, no traffic). In 1 month i should be able to do about 3 sections.
So : wich part would you advise ? 1-2-3 ?  i would miss yellowstone and Grand Teton...  3-4-5 ? great divide does not seem so good and no airport at the end of section 5...
Another thing is we'd like to be able to have a backup solution (take a bus?) if the trip is too long... or maybe it's possible to get help from people on the road that would take us and our bikes in their big SUV?

As for the pacific coast : it seems great too... here again it's too long, wich part would you recommand, and how's the traffic in august ?

Well that's a lot of questions for you guys :) Please help us make that trip come true! Thanks !!!

Pierre from france :)

Offline jamawani

Bonjour Pierre -

Je vive en Wyoming - depuis de 1990.
J'ai fait plus de 100,000 miles (160,000 km) a mon velo - la plupart dans l'ouest.

Seulement un mois?? Quel dommage! On a besoin de trois mois, au minimum.
Mais on peut trouver plusiers vistas occidentales dans un mois.

La route "Pacific Coast" est plaisant, mais il y'a beaucoup de trafic a Route 101.
La route "Transamerica" a moins de trafic - particulairement a l'est des montagnes Cascades.
On peut la faire - avec un peu du cote aussi - jusqu'a Yellowstone & Grand Teton dans un mois.

Mais - Puis-je suggerer une autre possibilite?
Le mois de aout est assez chaud a l'interieure - l'est de Oregon.
C'est parfait pour faire la route "Northern Tier" des isles San Juans jusqu'au parc national Glacier.
Puis, on peut faire le chemin "Going to the Sun" - vraiment incroyable.
Apres, on peut faire la Route 89 entre Glacier et Yellowstone.

<<<>>>

Il y'a un service direct entre l'aeroport SeaTac et Anacortes.
Vous pouvez passer un jour a l'ile San Juan ou non.
Il'y'a - aussi - beaucoup des choix a l'aeroport de Jackson Hole a Grand Teton.
(Peut-etre - Jackson > Denver; Denver > Paris)

Quelques idees - - John

Photo - Going to the Sun Road a Glacier NP


Offline John Nelson

The TransAm offers you the best experience with small-town America. I always recommend the TransAm for first-timers (and I would still recommend it to you even though you are not a first-timer). Do the eastern half if you want to see the best people and the most charming small towns--and if you want frequent services. Do the western half if you want to see the beautiful vistas of the American west. Both halves will allow you to mingle with other touring cyclists (although August is a bit past prime time; many TransAm cyclists are done by August).

The Pacific Coast has the most jaw-dropping scenery, but probably fewer encounters with the locals (there aren't that many locals). It also limits you to just one area of the country, so there is less diversity. But you will say "wow!!" around every corner. There's no question about which half to do. Do the northern half (or maybe the northern two thirds). You could start in Seattle, or, for a more leisurely pace, start in Portland. Ride through San Francisco and through Big Sur (Big Sur is absolutely stunning). Stop in Santa Barbara (or before if you find transportation). South of Santa Barbara gets way too congested. The Pacific Coast is hilly, but a lot of the TransAm is too.

Both routes are great for camping.

Offline John Nettles

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  • I ride for smiles, not miles.
Hello Pierre,
Welcome to the ACA Forums!
I will stick to my native language since you seem so fluent in it.  Like Jamawani, I think August could be fairly hot depending on where you go.  Coming from France, you would suffer in the 30-35 celsius temps in parts of the western USA.
Additionally, while a month sounds like a long time, in reality, you have a maximum of 26 days being able to ride due to flying and/or pre/post flight bike assembly/disassembly.  Additionally, if you factor in a few sight seeing days and/or bad weather days, you could easily get down to 21 days of riding.  Assuming your 50 mile/80km per day, you could ride a max of 1,000 miles or 1600km.

With that in mind, I would also suggest something outside your preferred routes.  Have you considered flying into Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, take a train or rent a car to Jasper and head south to Missoula, Montana, along the stunning Icefields Highway allowing you a leisurely with plenty of time for biking, sight-seeing, etc.  You would use the Great Parks North maps. Be sure to go on the east side of the loop through Waterton, Many Lakes, and Glacier National Parks.

You could take fly home from Missoula.  You could also take a train from Whitefish, Montana, near the end of route, to Spokane, Portland, or Minneapolis, or Chicago to potentially less expensive airfares.  Since you have more time, you could even take the train down to San Francisco or Los Angeles and get a non-stop flight home.  Warning, the trains are not nearly as on-time as they are in Europe.

If you prefer to stay in the USA, I would suggest you do a modified Spokane to Missoula to Yellowstone area.  You could fly out of West Yellowstone, MT, Jackson, WY, or Salt Lake City (take a shuttle there).  I could help with a route that does the Spokane to Missoula route along bicycle paths and along quiet riverside roads with a few miles of major roads.  One of the highlights would be the Route of the Hiawatha trail https://www.ridethehiawatha.com/

From Missoula, you would use TransAm Map #4 and you don't really need a map for the Yellowstone/Teton Parks.

A longer modified version of the first option would be to go from Jasper to Missoula to Spokane.
If you want to stick to one of your suggested routes, I would suggest flying into Portland and riding from Astoria, OR, to San Luis Obisbo, CA, as this a probably the best, at least in my opinion, part of the route.  The part between Monterrey, CA and San Simeon is a definite highlight.  Just do NOT ride on a weekend as it is crazy with motorcycles.

A final suggestion and one that many Europeans (and North Americans since we do not get as much vacation time) do is to ride the TransAm in segments, i.e. one month at a time over a number of years.  The TransAm really is a very good ride.

Since you do not say if you will depart France on August 1st or August 20th, that  could factor in somewhat to the recommendations given.
Here are links to the national (not federal) bus line:  https://www.greyhound.com/a regional bus line that shuttles bikes without boxing:  https://saltlakeexpress.com/Salt Lake Express will also take you to Salt Lake City Airport if that is easier but then getting a box may be a pain at the airport.
and nations train service:  https://www.amtrak.com/home
On the train service only certain stations allow bicycles and some only allow them if the bicycle is boxed.  AmTrak bicycle boxes are huge, just turn the handlebars, remove pedals, and lower the seat.
When boxing the bike, go to a local hardware store and buy some HVAC insulation tubing to protect the frame.  Very inexpensive protection.

Whatever you choose, I wish you a wonderful trip!  Tailwinds, John

Offline nasdak

Whaa!! Some many answers already! You guys are great!
I will look at all your alternative routes.
We will leave france on july 26th and fly back around august 24th.

Offline TCS

I like John's suggestions.

Also, look into Parts 1 & 2 of the Eastern Express from the national capital of Washington DC to the city of St. Louis in the state of Missouri, time permitting to include the Katy/Rock Island Trails across the state of Missouri and maybe even the state of Iowa's Wabash Trace as far as Omaha in the state of Nebraska.

https://www.easternexpressroute.com/
https://bikekatytrail.com/
https://www.wabashtrace.org/

With an eye to hot August weather, another suggestion would be Quebec, Canada's La Route verte:

https://www.routeverte.com/rouler/guide-officiel/

Hoping you have a wonderful journey!
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline nasdak

so much too look at... i'm lost :D
would transAm really be too hot ? even with the altitude ?
crazyguyonabike says northern tier is not so great...

Offline John Nettles

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Only you can decide if it is too hot for you.  A lot of west-bound cyclists are in the western USA in August but they have been riding for 2 months and are already acclimated to the temperatures. 

But to answer your question, I personally would be fine with the average temps in early August along the western US. But then I am used to hotter temps than you probably.

Checkout WeatherSpark.com to get an idea as the what the climate is like in August for parts of the world you are considering.

Tailwinds, john

Offline John Nelson

I strongly prefer the TransAm to the Northern Tier, but everybody is different. The crown jewel of the Northern Tier is Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

Everybody has different heat tolerances. I personally am not much bothered by August heat, but others are. The Northern Tier is theoretically not as hot as the TransAm, but part of it seemed plenty hot when I did it. But I had a good time anyway.

Offline nasdak

Only you can decide if it is too hot for you.  A lot of west-bound cyclists are in the western USA in August but they have been riding for 2 months and are already acclimated to the temperatures. 

But to answer your question, I personally would be fine with the average temps in early August along the western US. But then I am used to hotter temps than you probably.

Checkout WeatherSpark.com to get an idea as the what the climate is like in August for parts of the world you are considering.

Tailwinds, john
your jasper / missoula / spokane route seems great, i do have some questions of course ;)
-Is there a lot of traffic ? the jasper / missoula being along a higway ...
-is it easy to find food everyday and a place to camp ?
- what about mosquitos in the north ?
- camping ok ? bears ?

thanks !
« Last Edit: May 01, 2019, 03:16:30 pm by nasdak »

Offline EmilyG

There are so many options! My 2-cents: Having done a cross country trip last summer, with parts of several different routes, I highly recommend the eastern portion of the Northern Tier Route.    We did that part during the last weeks of July/first weeks of August.  The heavy forests made the heat less noticeable, and we had many days with light rain.   Every town has great ice cream...  Simply stunning geography, landscapes, and people.  The Adirondacks, through upstate NY, and Vermont, NH, and Maine.   Something to consider.
Good luck and hope you have an amazing trip. Please post an update when you finish your trip!
-Emily   

Offline John Nettles

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  • I ride for smiles, not miles.
Nasdak,

There definitely is some traffic along the Icefields Highway but it is reduced speed and has a shoulder.  I "think" commercial trucks are not allowed except for delivery.  If you use the ACA maps when available, you will be fine.  They definitely take traffic counts, shoulders, etc. into consideration when designing a route.

There is plenty of camping, some hostels, and very few hotels along the Icefield Hwy.  However, food is definitely more limited so you will need to take along some food (maybe two days at most).

The route from Missoula to Spokane does have traffic occasionally but nothing serious except for a few miles here and there.  Remember, there are not that many roads in the western part of the country.

Yes, lots of mosquitos. You will probably be wearing a light jacket or long sleeve shirt  at camp anyway so that is fine.  Part of the adventure. And bears. But if you follow safe camping practices you should be fine.  By safe camping practices I mean put your food in a bear box (a locking metal "closet" that is bear proof) if available or hang your food away from the tent.  Most camping areas will have bear boxes.  ABSOLUTELY do not eat food (even a little) in your tent.

NOTE:  Camping is very popular between Jasper and Banff so you should try to arrive in camp in the early afternoon.  You may have to ask other campers if you can share their space if they fill up.

Perhaps others more local to Alberta will chime in on the conditions.

If you have not discovered CrazyGuyonaBike.com, I would suggest you look there and do a search on "Jasper" or "Icefields" or similar to get an idea as to what the conditions are.  There are thousands of journals on CrazyGuy and you will find a lot on the Icefields Highway.

There are no camping issues between Missoula and Spokane but you would still need to practice safe camping.  When I did the route, I had to carry food for one night one of the nights.  Other than that, towns were readily available a few times a day to resupply and/or camp in.

Again, check out the journals over on CrazyGuy.

Tailwinds, John



Offline nasdak

So,
Here's where i am.
I'd better cope with high temps than mosquitos or traffic.
It's not easy to find flights that can cary your bike for an affordable price.
Going to western us is a long trip so i don't think we'll donit again in the coming years. So we want the more "americanish" trip :)

So that could be:
Flight to portland
Train to baker city (there's a train ?)
Bike the transam westbound as long as we can go, at least to yellowstone qnd grand teton (that's 1200km), enjoy yelloStone if we have time. It seems to be a great part ?
Then Fly back from Denver or Saltlake city

I'm about to buy the flights, price are getting crazy...
What do you think?

Offline Pat Lamb

If you're going to do the TransAm east from Oregon, you might want to aim for Jackson, WY, and see if you can fly out of there.  You'll get some outstanding scenery, Yellowstone (which you'll regret if you miss on your one trip near there), and generally quiet roads.  It's a good distance for the time you have available.  If you've got an extra day, and it's clear, do a run up to Togwotee Pass on the eastern side of Jackson Hole before you fly home.

IIRC, the major air carriers fly 757s in and out of Jackson.  That'll give you easy connections to Denver (United hub), Salt Lake City (Delta).  It's peak season, so prices will be what they will be.

One other option might be to fly into Seattle and ride the Northern Tier up to Glacier, backtrack a couple days and go south to Missoula, and pick up the TransAm there.  Disadvantage: four passes in four days in western Washington state.  Advantages: easy air access, Washington Pass is on Adventure Cycling's web page or magazine once a year, and Going to the Sun Road and the rest of Glacier National Park are magnificent.  (You can ride the shuttle if you camp at Apgar and take a rest day.)

Offline John Nelson

Flight to portland
Train to baker city (there's a train ?)
Bike the transam westbound as long as we can go, at least to yellowstone qnd grand teton (that's 1200km), enjoy yelloStone if we have time. It seems to be a great part ?
Then Fly back from Denver or Saltlake city

Did you mean "eastbound" when you said "westbound"?

As far as I can tell, there is a train from Portland to Baker City, but Baker City does not have checked baggage service, so you won't be able to unload your bike there.