Author Topic: Eastern Express Bike Route  (Read 7497 times)

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Offline HikeBikeCook

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Eastern Express Bike Route
« on: December 12, 2020, 12:54:41 pm »
Has anyone ridden the TransAm Eastern Express Bike route from DC to Walden, CO? From everything I have read this provides with a better starting point, utilizes about 600 miles of bike trails, saves around 10 days and avoids some harder climbs.

Interested in any feed back you may have?
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Offline John Nettles

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Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2020, 01:08:29 pm »
I have ridden parts of it in scattered places, probably about 50%-60% overall.  It is generally a nice well thought out route.  Not as varied as the TA but I would definitely consider it, especially if crunched for time.  The part I do not like the most is in Indiana.  It basically uses a somewhat busy highway when there are county roads nearby that are much quieter.  I have created an alternate route in this area that also does a loop in the covered bridge section of Indiana. 

The highlights are the GAP, (Indiana covered bridge loop alternate), the Katy Trail, and the Poudre River in Colorado.  It is substantially less hilly I would guess since you use rail trails in the Appalachians and the Ozarks. 

The negatives are rail trails, to me, get a bit boring after 100 miles.  Also, you have a somewhat rough trail on the C&O at places.  You miss some nice sections of VA, MO, & CO.

If I were going to do this route and wanted to do a Coast to Coast, I would start on the Atlantic and use the ferry near Smith Island to cross the Chesapeake and then use the ACA Potomoc Tidelands(?) route to get to Washington, DC.

Tailwinds, John

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2020, 01:28:58 pm »
Thanks John, we would probably start from DC, since the Potomac there is a tidal estuary just like Yorktown. While dipping your wheel in the ocean is a tradition, I am not super excited about the ride from the Maryland coast - open, flat farm lands. My wife and I talked about it, and a ride across the US for us does not need to be specifically coast to coast. I hiked the AT and made sure that I passed every blaze in order while carrying my pack. Hundreds of other people slack packed, hitch hiked, took shuttles up mountains, etc, and still claimed through hiker status. In the end I figure what you have accomplished only has to satisfy you. :)

We have also done sections of the C&O and GAP multiple times so we know exactly what to expect starting out. My wife hates traffic so that start would give her 350~ miles of quiet trail to get into touring mode before dealing with cars. While the C&O can be muddy, the Western Maryland Rail trail gives you a 28 mile section of paved alternative. We love the woods and don't mind the quiet hours with nothing but the deer and birds.

I would love to hear about your alternative route in Indiana. I am laying out our itinerary now and then was planning on "Google Driving" the road sections looking for problems.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2020, 08:22:52 am by HikeBikeCook »
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Offline John Nettles

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Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2020, 02:10:29 pm »
I am not super excited about the ride from the Maryland coast - open, flat farm lands.
In the end I figure what you have accomplished only has to satisfy you.
My wife hates traffic.
You would only have about 60 miles of flat farm lands as you go from Pocomoke to Chincoteague and then to Crisfield, MD.  The peninsula SE of DC is somewhat rolling.  However, as you say, and I 100% agree, is that you only need to satisfy yourself (and the Mrs.).

Since the wife hates traffic, I think the Eastern TransAm would be better for you.  Additionally, you won't have quite as much "flat farm land" as Nebraska is a bit more rolling than Kansas.

I will email you the GPS route later today.

Tailwinds, John

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2020, 02:13:34 pm »
Thank you John.
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Offline Nyimbo

Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2020, 08:35:07 pm »
I rode the Eastern Express as it was being developed.  I believe I was the first one to use the route traveling W-E.  I rode the TA in 2016 but ran out of time in the middle of Kansas.  As I was planning to finish my cross country trip I discovered the Eastern Express route that was just being completed.  I also had interest in riding the Katy Trail and the GAP and C&O, and in addition I wanted to visit some family in the Cincinnati area so this route fit perfectly for me.  By the way, I also finished in Washington DC and was quite happy feeling I had accomplished my goal to ride across country.  I started on the Pacific in Oregon and was satisfied ending in DC. 


I live in California, so to finish my cross country in 2017 I took the train from Sacramento to Denver and started my ride there.  I rode from Denver to McCook Nebraska which is where I picked up the actual Eastern Express Route. I wanted to take the train to McCook and start riding there but McCook didn't have a bicycle unloading option so I started in Denver. 


So I have ridden the Eastern Express route from McCook NB to DC with a small detour to Cincinnati.  I enjoyed Eastern Colorado and southern Nebraska.  Kansas was terrific, I visited the center of the country site.  I forget the name of that small town.  When I hit Atchison, KS  I believe the EE route duplicates the Lewis and Clark across the state including the Katy Trail.  I loved it.  I made some good friends and rode with them the length of the Katy Trail - that was a nice treat. Illinois was my least favorite part of the ride.  On my first night in the state I got chased out of one town by a mean policeman who didn't like where I had camped after I had gotten permission from another policeman and the land owner to put up my tent.  I guess that gave me a bad taste for the state after such wonderful hospitality all the way from Denver to St Charles.  There was a section along hwy 40 that was a bit unpleasant heavy traffic and lots of trucks even though it paralleled the interstate, but if I remember correctly there was an adequate shoulder to ride in along that section.  Perhaps that is the section John mentioned in the post above.  I enjoyed Terre Haute and a very, very nice country campground on the edge of town.


Once into Ohio I enjoyed the route the rolling hills and the state parks.  Then after a brief ride through a corner in West Virginia it was onto Pennsylvania and Paw Paw trail, and then the GAP and C&O and DC.  I also made a friend on the C&O and rode with him to DC and second very nice treat.  I thought it was interesting that in all of my TA and EE ride across country the two times I found someone to actually ride with and develop a longer friendship was on two of the trail rides. 

Offline jamawani

Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2020, 09:12:33 pm »
Depends.

What time of year are you planning to do this?
April-May into June the C&O can be pretty muddy if it has been a wet spring - possible washouts.
Similarly, there have been a few years with significant segments of the Katy Trail in Missouri flooded.
I've ridden the roads parallel to the Katy before it was opened - killer hills nonstop.
Both of these trails are great when the weather cooperates, but can get ugly in bad weather
Also, weekends can be busy with amateurs and families putzing along.

Some road segments are busier than I like and busier than the TransAm.
US 36 in Kansas is has high speeds and significant truck traffic - - it does have fair to good shoulders.
In Illinois it generally follows Old US 40 - again, 2000-5000 AADT is a good deal when there is no shoulder.
East of the Mississippi, there is little reason to be on US or state highways rather than county roads.
Illinois has some great paved farm roads - granted macadam surface - with 200-300 cars per day.

The finest crossing of the Great Plains is via the Sandhills of Nebraska which is north of the Eastern Express.

https://www.ksdot.org/Assets/wwwksdotorg/bureaus/burTransPlan/maps/CountMaps/Districts/countmap2019.pdf
http://www.idot.illinois.gov/Assets/uploads/files/Transportation-System/Maps-&-Charts/2019%20Statewide%20AADT%20State%20Primary%20System.pdf

<<<>>>

About where to start -
You can take a cruise boat from downtown Washington to Mount Vernon with your bikes -
Then ride back to Washington on the Potomac Trail - car-free, but some busy roads to cross.


Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2020, 07:05:06 am »
We will most likely be starting the first week of June  (June 3, 2023 right now) with an early Sunday morning start. My daughter went to Georgetown, so we know the area and have ridden most of the C&O and all of the GAP. I am looking at Sunday since we have to ride the streets for a short bit to get from the hotel to the bike path. I know we will be plagued by runners on Sunday morning, but if we get an early start we should miss the families with the wobbly kids on bikes that look at you and unconsciously right straight at you.

Weather is anyone's guess right now with climate change. We live in the Boston area and have a big garden which we like to have in my mid May. The past 2 years have seen May be a cold, wet. monsoon-like month, jumping to 90 degrees and drought around the first of June.

I know the C&O can be a mess, so we have planned shorter days and will also use the Western Maryland bike route for 27 miles from Big Pool to Little Orleans.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2020, 07:12:18 am by HikeBikeCook »
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Offline staehpj1

Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2020, 08:08:35 am »
You would be avoiding what I found to be by far the hardest part of the TA (I was going the opposite direction, but still...).  I don't find riding the bike trail portions a plus, but for some they are a big plus.  You might not really get the true feel of the Appalachians or the Ozarks, but maybe that is a plus for some.  I'd imagine the route would be much easier based on my experience with the area.

Normally I'd consider June kind of a late start for starting in the east, but you would have a little better chance of avoiding a muddy mess.  Not sure if you'd be getting into a time when you'd have less company in the form of other riders.  I like having other riders in camp to hang out with and compare notes, but you may not so which way is a plus may vary.

FWIW, I started about a week later than that in the west.  I think if I were to do it again I might do the same.  I liked the W-E direction at that time.  Just a thought, but if you did that, had a time limit, and needed to finish quickly you could always decide to use the Eastern Express or not at the last minute in Walden.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2020, 08:21:04 am »
The Eastern start for us has a number of advantages.
1 - Easier to get to
2 - No risk losing gear or bikes before the trip
3 - We know the first 340 miles - ridden all at least once
4 - My wife's longest tour has been 8 days and she hates road riding compared to trails. This route eases her into the tour routine
5 - While I look for hills to train on and have tackled the Alpes, my wife would avoid any climbs possible
6 - With my wife back onboard for this trip not too worried about not being surrounded by other riders
7 - Might miss the Ozarks, but the GAP goes into the heart of the Appalachians and coal country - little towns that were boom towns once
8 - I hiked the AT from Georgia to Maine so I am okay missing some of that part
9 - The start is a bit late but want to miss the mud on the C&O, and 6/1 is a good date to retire and cash in some incentives
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Offline staehpj1

Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2020, 08:53:02 am »
Your point make sense and may indeed may be the best way to go for you.  My comments below are just to clarify where I am coming from.  I do not mean them to imply that your choices are bad ones.
The Eastern start for us has a number of advantages.
1 - Easier to get to
True
2 - No risk losing gear or bikes before the trip
True, but not something that folks don't generally deal with on most long tours.
3 - We know the first 340 miles - ridden all at least once
Is that a plus?  I considered it a plus to start in a strange city.  To be excited  to see new places and to be forced to really commit to the tour (no easy way to back out and go home from a distant coast).  The familiar part was nice and comforting at the end for me.
4 - My wife's longest tour has been 8 days and she hates road riding compared to trails. This route eases her into the tour routine
I can see that, but I can also see it being important for her to get committed to the trip early.
5 - While I look for hills to train on and have tackled the Alpes, my wife would avoid any climbs possible
For sure the steep climbs on the TA in the east are far steeper than anything on the TA in the west so you are on to something there.
6 - With my wife back onboard for this trip not too worried about not being surrounded by other riders
If that works for you guys that is great.  It does become a bigger deal as the trips get longer though.
7 - Might miss the Ozarks, but the GAP goes into the heart of the Appalachians and coal country - little towns that were boom towns once
Just me, but I spent a lot of time in Appalachia I never thought of the GAP as giving the same experience of Appalachia as the TA does in Kentucky.
8 - I hiked the AT from Georgia to Maine so I am okay missing some of that part
Makes sense.  Does your wife feel the same?
9 - The start is a bit late but want to miss the mud on the C&O, and 6/1 is a good date to retire and cash in some incentives
There are always compromises.  You pick and choose the ones that work for you.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2020, 11:14:32 am »
@ staehpj1

Thanks, all great observations.

Starting on familiar ground is a plus for us, especially for my wife. I know quitting will be easier, and we talked about it, and we are setting a midway point before quitting is considered an option, aside from serious injury. After 1,000 miles it is no longer a fitness challenge but more of a mental challenge. Rules when I hiked the AT were never quit when it is raining and never quit when you are alone.

I know when we bike tour or hike now we will always skip an occupied campsite if there is a chance to find an empty one further up the trail. We like our solitude. :)

I think this forum, and watching as many YouTube documentaries as I can find, has really helped motivate my wife. We are already route planning and reviewing our equipment (owned versus would love to own), etc. I would love to find more videos. The couple from Iceland had a good mix of reality and joy. Other videos are all the highlights and none of the hardship and some are all hardship and no highlights.

I am glad I finally started to use this forum. I used a similar forum preparing for my AT hike and "knew" other hikers before the start that I got to meet on the trail, sometimes after 1,500 miles. :) when I slowed down to smell the roses.

We have lived around the country and traveled extensively, so for me Iowa and Nebraska are two of the three states (Hawaii the third) that I have not been in. Keeping the route in a form that is "doable" is extremely important. Showing flexibility and finding routes around areas my wife feels nervous about has really helped get her onboard and hopefully keep her onboard. Adding things like the Katy trail, that has been on our list for years, but poses logistical challenges for such a short ride, also helped close the deal.
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Offline staehpj1

Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2020, 12:33:55 pm »
Sounds like you have the right attitude and are likely to have a great trip.

Offline jamawani

Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2020, 06:11:44 pm »
If your wife hates hills and likes bike trails -
And if both of you like quiet little places to camp -
And if you haven't toured Iowa & Nebraska -

Why not cross north central Ohio, Indiana and Illinois rather than south central?
Old stretches of the Lincoln Highway that have been bypassed by new four-lane roads.
The north central routing is much less hilly than south central.

Iowa has its share of hills, but western Missouri and eastern Kansas do, too.
All the counties in Iowa have county parks with camping - very nice and low-key.
Most towns in eastern and central Nebraska have town campgrounds.
Maybe the old mill with a pond and some big trees.

Pic - Old Trail Road in northern Indiana

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Eastern Express Bike Route
« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2020, 08:08:50 am »
Curious about the Indiana section. They have the ordinal section maps # 12 & 13 but they also have an optional 12B & 13B which is the route I was planning. Has anyone ridden the "B" version of Indiana?
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966