Author Topic: Bike Tour across America in june/july 2021  (Read 2565 times)

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Offline copprhawk

Bike Tour across America in june/july 2021
« on: July 11, 2020, 04:17:47 pm »
Hi everyone! My name is Prisha and I am a 17 year old Indian girl living in NJ. I am an avid biker and I love long bike rides! Next summer, I want to embark on a bike tour across america. I want to visit Cleveland, chicago, yellowstone, salt lake city, grand canyon, death valley, las Vegas, lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and finally San Francisco.

Where can I find other kids or adults to go on the trip with me?

How should I start making a route that lets me bike around 60 miles a day?

How do I know which towns in the Mid West are safe for people like me because I've heard of secret sundown towns that are dangerous for POC and although I am not African American, I am Indian and i'm scared of racially charged ecounters I may have in the mid west?

Is two and a half months a realistic time frame for around 4000 miles if I wont be doing much sightseeing for 1,500 miles between chicago and Yellowstone?

Could anyone please mentor me through the organization of this trip through email?

I would also appreciate it if I could schedule a call with someone so my parents and I could ease our concerns! Please help me out cause I dont know many bikers and I dont know where I could find bike clubs for people as committed as me.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 07:53:31 pm by copprhawk »

Offline John Nelson

Re: Bike Tour across America in june/july 2021
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2020, 06:12:44 pm »
There are a number of guided tours, but you would be on a set route and schedule. It doesn’t sound like this is what you have in mind.

Your chances of finding someone (that you don’t know) to go with you on your schedule and route are small.

I would recommend that you join a local bike club where you can get to know other avid cyclists. And read as much as you can on this site. All of your questions are answered here somewhere.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Bike Tour across America in june/july 2021
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2020, 06:44:38 pm »

First welcome to the ACA forums! 

I too crossed the country on ACA's TransAm (TA)  route when I was 17 during the summer between my Junior and Senior year in High School.  It was a fantastic experience and I learned a lot about our country. It was, and still is, easily one of my top 3 major tours after 40+ years of touring (I started when I was 14). It was truly a life defining time for me.  I learned the country is not as bad as the media made it out to be.  I saw abject poverty, I saw great wealth.  I learned in a way that you rarely succeed (get the day's ride done) except through planning and persistence and that no matter how bad things go (cold rained for day and the only grocery store on that day's ride was closed so went without food for a day), that bad things tend to pass.  Biggest lesson was that generally speaking, people just want to have a job, care for their family, and be safe. I have found this to be true in all my travels throughout the world.  I learned that America has an incredibly diverse topography.  I learned as a 17 boy from Oklahoma used to summers with 100* temperatures that it can actually snow in places in the lower 48 in July!  Until that time, I would have not believed it.

Your route is not a bad route with the possible exception of Death Valley and Vegas.  This is primarily due to the heat which I am guessing would be late July or early August.  The highs can get way up there and it is no place to by cycling as a relative novice in the summer.  For instance, today in mid-July, the temperature is 118* in Death Valley.  Two out of the next thee days the temp is expected to top 125*.  Las Vegas is about 115*.  Not an ideal time of year to ride there.  You can always do Vegas and Death Valley later when the weather is more conducive.

There are some groups out there that cater to teens and early 20s, or at least there used to be.  Most do it in some combination with service projects, i.e. they ride across the country and stop in towns and help build a home for Habitat for Humanity.  I don't know the names of any off the top of my head but others will probably chime in.  They tend to be more expensive overall for some reason but then if it is what you are looking for, it may be worth it to you and/or your parents. ACA also has group rides though they tend to go on very specific routes, i.e. only the TA.  If you decide to do this, I would check to see what the demographics are.  While I had not issues at all riding with those "old" people over 30, you may not want to.  Also, I would guess a lot of ACA tours may be frequented by that age just because the cost is prohibitive for many young people. 

As far as your 60 miles per day goes, that is an average amount to ride.  However, remember that is an overall overage so if you ride  a few 45 mile days because of the way services (lodging, food, etc.) is laid out, you will have to do just as many 75+ mile days to average out to 60.  Factor in a rest or short day due to sight-seeing, mechanical issue, rest, parents fly out to see their daughter, etc., once every 7-10 days the miles go even higher. In your 4000 miles in 75 day outline, you don't say how many riding days you will have. 

While you can do more than 60 miles per day, I would encourage you to try to keep 60-62 miles per day as your upper overall average with no more than 70 as your riding average (only count the days you ride).  I have done as few as 33 and as much as 69 and can say that after 40 years and tens of thousands of miles of touring that, for me, the sweet spot is around 52-57 overall or about 60-65 riding.  Obviously, others are happy to crank out 80+ miles so everyone is a bit different.  I bet if you did a poll of people who crossed the country without too much time constraints, their preferred averages would be pretty close to mine.

Honestly, if I were you and/or your father, I would strongly encourage you to piece together any of the ACA routes you like to create your own route.  The routes have maps and GPS data that are created by and for bicyclists.  They are researched with safety, cultural, scenic, and service aspects.  They are really good maps, especially for someone getting started out in touring. Each Route is made up of segments.  You can purchase only the segments you want to create a customized route.

As far as racially charged encounters go you obviously can have stuff happen to you anywhere you are at any time.  That said, I honestly think that the further you get west, the better it will get if stay away from the south eastern USA.  It is generally agreed upon in the cycling community that Kansas is the friendlies followed by Indiana with the upper central plains states close behind.  The more difficult states are in the southeast and metro northeast. Of course, people can be friendly or unfriendly in any state.  Out west, people rely on each other much more than they do in the heavily populated eastern portions.  While you may be different, as long as you do go in trying to change them or their way of life, you should be fine.  By this I mean, even if you are an avid vegetarian, do not go into the ranching country and start saying how cruel, mean, uncaring, etc. people who raise cattle to be slaughtered are.  You are just going to piss them off.  As far as being a POC, there are already a lot of POC working the fields in farming & ranching country. 

And by listening to them, you may come to appreciate different views.  If asked a question they may not like the answer to, just play dumb.  If the subjects of politics, religion, or other major divisive topics come up, be vague.  For instance, while I am a strong conservative, I avoid talking about politics in general but especially in the more liberal parts of the country I ride in.  If asked, I give a vague "I just try to do live my life and not bother others" or "I don't think about it that much" type of answer.  While I do not think I will probably be attacked, I just figure what get into a disagreement with someone I will only see for a few minutes and it just may leave a bad taste in their view toward cyclists.

As your parents have probably told you, you are female and too young.  While that is true to a certain extent, being young and female is a definite positive in some aspects.  For instance, when I was younger (or my kids who do bike touring by themselves), people would be more willing to help than now that I am in my 50s.  People generally are willing to help those that are perceived as vulnerable as opposed to those that are not.  I regularly tour with others who are in their late 70s.  If we need to camp in a town that has no campgrounds, we send the eldest woman to ask.  We rarely are turned down with a 79 year old woman asks for help but if I ask, I get about a 50/50 chance since I am 55 (I "should" not need help.).  My 40s were the worst.

If I were your father, the biggest factor I would consider is how mature and responsible you are.  At 17, I was pretty responsible.  When my daughter did bike touring with a friend at 17, I was not "too" worried (as a parent, you will worry no matter what age you are) as she was/is quite mature and sensible.  When when she went backpacking in South America for 2 months by herself, I was not "too" nervous.  But when my son toured solo at age 21 from Edmonton to Cabo San Lucas, I was much more worried cause he did not have the common sense our daughter did.  Luckily he has matured and the solo bike trip actually helped greatly and actually travels the world frequently without too many mishaps.

Basically, if you were truly mature and fairly responsible and you followed the ACA routes, and you had a GPS tracker (so I could follow you at all times  :D in real time in case of emergency) I would not have too big of an issue with you going.  Yes, I would prefer you go with 120 other people with a police and ambulance escort on closed roads but you have to make choices in life.

As far as a mentor goes, ideally, you should try to find a woman who has years of experience riding who also started as a teenager.  You can also ask over on  CGOAB is probably bigger forums than here and there may be some woman who can assist you.  If you are unable to find someone and/or if your parents want to speak with me as someone who did ride across the country at 17 and has kids who did ride when they were young,  I am willing to assist in any way I can.  If you do, private message me.  BTW, you should probably remove your email as the spam bots can capture it and you will get a bunch of junk mail.  Once you private message people, you can exchange private emails.

As far as bike clubs, just type in your town and bike club into Google and see what pops up.  If you live in the countryside, search on the biggest towns.  Also, ask the bike shop for suggestions as they would probably know.

Regardless of what you end up doing, bicycle touring is a wonderful experience and can be an addictive hobby so be forewarned  :) .

Tailwinds, John
« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 06:46:40 pm by John Nettles »

Offline jwrushman

Re: Bike Tour across America in june/july 2021
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2020, 07:12:20 pm »
I suppose it could be done.  4000 miles / 60 miles per day = 67 days.  2 1/2 months = 75 days, so only 8 spare days.

Cleveland         1 day
Chicago           1 day
Yellowstone      1 day
Salt Lake City   1 day
Grand Canyon  1 day
Death Valley     1 day
Las Vegas         1 day
Lake Tahoe        1 day
Yosemite           1 day
San Francisco    1 day
========     ====
Total                10 days

It seems like you're trying to hit all the western highlights it one trip.  You may wish to simplify your plan.   

What is your goal?  When I rode from NJ to Anacortes, I had two months to get back to work.  Every day I had to make my target.  I was not enjoying the trip.  When I realized I wasn't going to make it to Anacortes in 2 months, a weight was taken off my chest and I could enjoy the ride.  After I resigned from my job and no longer had the 2 month time-limit, I was even happier! 

So if your route and time constraints are fixed, unless you've done a lot of touring in the past, I think meeting both goals may be overly optimistic.  But if you plan on going as far as 2 1/2 months will take you, and that's only (for example) to Salt Lake City, and you're okay with that, you may be happier.

*** As I was typing this up, John Nettles posted his response.  Much more articulate!

Offline copprhawk

Re: Bike Tour across America in june/july 2021
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2020, 09:24:47 pm »
Your route is not a bad route with the possible exception of Death Valley and Vegas.  This is primarily due to the heat which I am guessing would be late July or early August.

Thanks for the warm welcome Mr. Nettles. I enjoyed reading your responses along with the other responses. I have reviewed the logistics of this tour with my parents. We have decided that while I would love to revisit the grand canyon, Death valley and Las Vegas, the temperatures are unsafe. I have also taken Cleveland off of my tour because I want to focus on places I would really enjoy visiting.

My tour begins in NJ to Chicago where I will sight see for a day or two and live with my cousin, this will be a great transition for me since I can decide if im really up for whats ahead.

From Chicago, I wanted to go straight to Yellowstone because my "eastcoast" brain thought there would be nothing to see in the mid west. However, I have realized that there is a lot to see and I will be taking the PPP trail by ACA. I need to figure out how to get from Chicago to Minneapolis but that should be relatively easy.

At Yellowstone, I will sight see and have fun for two days and then I will embark on a trip straight to lake Tahoe. I havent found a well traveled bike route for this section yet because the transAmerica trail goes straight up to washington while I want to go to Francisco in Cali.

After having fun at Lake Tahoe, Ill bike straight to Yosemite and have fun looking at giant trees there and then im heading straight to Francisco!!!!!!! Then Ill spend a day or two relax and then hop on a plane and head back home!!!!

I cut out a lot of things in terms of places to visit! Do you guys still think this is way to ambitious if I go in a group of three, one being an experienced adult? Im only taking more than one day at Chicago, Yellowstone, tahoe, yosemite and San Francisco. After my AP exams and Sat in May, I will start my tour and miss a month of school!!! yayayay!! That should be plenty of time for me to come back in august for College Apps and Marching Band!

Is there anyway I could get free version of the ACA trails cause although I work and make a little money from lifeguarding I dont understand what comes with the trail maps. Do they lay out campgrounds and safe routes and food stops or am I just going to be paying for and extra safe google maps?

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Bike Tour across America in june/july 2021
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2020, 10:35:12 pm »
First, call me John.  Mr. Nettles is my dad.

I have a route from Chicago to Milwaukee then to La Crosse, WI, where you can connect to the Northern Tier (NT) Route which will connect you to the PPP.  It uses primarily bike paths or bike routes (lanes) from Chicago to Madison and then very scenic (but hilly) back roads to La Crosse.  In fact, my wife and I are riding the La Crosse to Madison portion in August.

I also have a route that goes from La Crosse to Reliance, SD, where you can join the PPP which could save you a few days heading north and then back south.  Contact me privately for the routes.  It goes on low-traffic county and state roads for the vast majority of it.

In a lot of ways, the first week or so will be your hardest.  You will have the most traffic by far, the least helpful people, and your body will be rebelling at what you are putting it through.  After two weeks, your body has adjusted, you have learned to sleep on lumpy ground, and the traffic will subside considerably.

As a side thought, if you can have the parents take you to Washington, you might consider taking the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage as those are basically car free all the way to Pittsburgh.  Fewer services however. 

To get from Yellowstone to Lake Tahoe, I will defer to another gentleman who is very knowledgeable of the western USA.  Hopefully, he will chime in. 

If you mean by ambitious is it doable, sure.  The ride is surely ambitious in the adventurous sense.  Again, it boils down to what you want and are willing & able to do.  I would seriously consider planning a rest day every 10 days at least.  The body, even a young adult as yourself, gets tired from the day to day riding and occasionally say we are taking a break whether you like it or not.  I prefer to let me decide when to take a break and not my body.  Yes, I learned this when I was 17 and strong so please consider it.
That said, it sounds like you have enough time.  Other thought is when you get to Yellowstone, ride down to Jackson, WY.  It is well worth the ride.  From there, take a shuttle bus (Salt Lake Express) to Salt Lake and from there take the train to Reno where you can pick up the Western Express to Yosemite.  Yes, you miss "crossing the country" but as others have said it really does suck to be on a forced schedule.  It might be miserable weather in Yellowstone but the next day's forecast is for great weather but due to the schedule, you can't stay. However, until you get a firm route, it is a bit difficult to give a guaranteed answer.  Also, once you have a firm route, there may be some short cuts here and there that add up to a few days which could make a big difference. 

A word of advice on the riding partners.  Be sure to do some local overnighters and a few 3-4 day trips to ensure you are compatible.  When I started the TA back when I was 17, I started with two others.  The oldest, 26, "seemed" to be like me.  The other was 21.  Get up with the dawn, get to bed at dark (9pm or so in the summer), be done riding around 3pm to 4pm, take breaks occasionally, eat a variety of foods, stop and read the historical signs, etc.  In reality, he was a partier who like to stay up until 1am, not get ridding until noon, was a strict vegetarian, and never wanted to take a rest day and hardly stopped to rest during the day.  I lasted about 2 weeks before I called the parents to get permission to break off as I never rode with them anyway since our schedules were opposite almost.  Luckily, they said yes.  The 21yo called it quits in Colorado because he couldn't take it either but his parents made him come home.

By compatible, consider riding speed (are you riding within eye sight of each other or jsut camping together), distance per day, number of days off and when, food habits (assuming you cook in camp), when do you get up/go to bed, etc. This has nothing to do with age but preferences.  Again, I tour with about 5 others who are at least 22 years older than me just because we are so compatible (plus I am so fun to be with  ;) ). 

As far as cheap maps.  Consider buying them used on eBay.  The routes rarely change and when they do, an online addendum is available.  The eBay prices tend to be about 1/2 off but if you are an ACA Member, you can buy the maps for probably around 20% off (members price).  If you are a sentimental fool like me and want to keep the maps forever, then buy them used.  If you don't care about keeping them, buy them new and then sell them the following winter when everyone starts to plan for the summer. Then you are only paying a net of about 30%-40% of the retail price.

The maps provide location and contact info for all bicycle touring related services, i.e. the route and route narrative of course, campgrounds (including some that are for cyclists only), hotels, grocery stores, convenience stores, some restaurants, libraries (for wifi), bicycle shops, emergency services, cultural and historical info, etc.  They really are good maps.

However, since there are so many services over 4000 miles, they can not possibly list everything so using Google for services will help.  For instance, there are 2 restaurants, which one is higher rated.  What are the current hours of the grocery store.  Stuff like that, Google is way better than ACA but that is sort of expected.  One of the biggest reasons I like them is that they do a lot of the research for you.  For instance, a lot of RV parks do not accept tents.  Google may show 10 RV parks the next day but only 2 accept tents.  You would have to call them or try to "take pity on the young girl" approach at each one until one said yes.  The RV parks they list do accept tents so you don't waste 30-60 minutes daily doing the research or working on your pity act.  After a month spending 45 minutes a day doing research, you will really wish you had them.  No, I do not work for ACA nor get free stuff.  But if they want to give me something, I would be glad to take it  ;D .

BTW, Google Maps are great for the local area.  They suck at anything for routing over 15 miles by bike. 

A final suggestion is to read the journals over on CGOAB.  There are something like 10k journals.  Search on the route you want to take and read some journals to see what it is like.  This will also allow the parents to see what it is like so an easier sell for you  ;) . Caution:  The forums there can be a bit caustic at times but overall if you stay away from politics, you should be fine.  CGOAB is a tremendous wealth of information.

If you (or your parents) have other questions, feel free to ask or message me. 

Tailwinds, John

Offline BikePacker

Re: Bike Tour across America in june/july 2021
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2020, 09:11:34 am »
Hi everyone! My name is Prisha
Could anyone please mentor me through the organization of this trip through email?
Hello Prisha - Your 'researching first focus' is so wise because it will result in your fastest most direct enjoyment and accomplishment while being safe.
May I offer 2 thoughts?
1. The maximum comprehensive and ACCURATE information source for me was a couple of editions earlier version of this reference text available from ACA .... I studied it cover to cover and it precluded me from many otherwise self-inflicted mistakes : ).  From time to time I still page thru it to remind me of how much I can forget from Tour to Tour....
2. Please consider the value to you of crossing the country in segments, rather than all at once.


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Re: Bike Tour across America in june/july 2021
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2021, 04:24:34 am »
If you are going to take the store I'm wishing you good luck as I know it can be extremely hard. I did a big tour once in Japan with my bike and the scenery was just incredible.I think you'll have some amazing views as well.