Author Topic: Brit riding across the US  (Read 1919 times)

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Offline Oscar's dad

Brit riding across the US
« on: November 15, 2021, 12:37:41 pm »
Just an idle enquiry at the moment...

I'm a Brit thinking of riding across America, perhaps in 2023.  I fancy Route 66 from west to east then Adventure Cycling's Chicago to New York route .

The provisional, very loose plan is that I'd take 4 months starting in May and my wife would fly out a couple of times to meet me so in total I'd probably have 4 weeks off the bike during the 4 months.  As I said, the plan is very loose at the moment.

Does anyone have any thoughts, experience, ideas, suggestions?  Thanks in advance  :-*

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2021, 01:18:46 pm »
I am sure others who have ridden that route will provide more information, but from everything I have read the RT 66 route has pretty limited services in spots. If you are riding alone you will be a lot more "alone" than riding something like the TransAm Route.

Have you looked at journals on Crazy Guy on a Bike? https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/search/?main_type=all&query=Route+66
« Last Edit: November 16, 2021, 06:01:25 am by HikeBikeCook »
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline jamawani

Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2021, 08:29:37 pm »
OD -

One of the challenges of Bike Route 66 is the Mojave Desert.
Not only are there practically zero services between Barstow and Needles, California,
but the average May temperature is already 95F/35C.
Which for a Brit is pretty darn hot. (Birmingham is 61F/ 16C.)

You also have a good deal of urban riding:
Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City,
Tulsa, Springfield, MO, St. Louis, Springfield, IL & Chicago.

Finally, US 66 doesn't exist any more.
There are a few excellent, remote sections in California & Arizona,
But the vast majority of the route has been overlaid by Interstate highways.
Particularly in the West, right on top of the old road -
so you must ride on a busy Interstate. (On the paved shoulder)
Other places you are on a service road right next to the Interstate.

There are more scenic, less trafficked options out there.

« Last Edit: November 15, 2021, 09:28:28 pm by jamawani »

Offline John Nelson

Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2021, 08:34:16 pm »
RT 66 route has pretty limited services in spots. If you are riding alone you will be a lot more "alone" than riding something like the TransAm Route.

Yes, Route 66 has limited services in spots, but so does every other route, including the TransAm. I wouldn’t let this be the deciding factor.

Route 66 does have the additional challenge of the Mojave Desert. I personally enjoyed that challenge, but you will want to be careful about what time of year you do it, especially if you don’t tolerate extreme heat well.

If you fancy enjoying the company of other cyclists, nothing beats the TransAm. I’m a huge fan of the TransAm, especially for first timers, but I know that many Europeans love the romance of Route 66. Most people doing Route 66, whether on a bike or in a car, are not Americans. Many Europeans are fascinated by the American Southwest.

Route 66 offers an interesting collection of vintage motels, bridges, gas stations and general weirdness. TransAm offers the best of the charm of small town America and the kindness of strangers. And the TransAm gives you Yellowstone National Park.

Offline jsc

Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2021, 11:33:47 pm »
My brother and I are also talking seriously about a west-to-east coast-to-coast ride in spiring/summer of 2023, the year I turn 70.   I've started calling it the Friends and Family Tour, since the original thought was to string together parts of several different ACA routes to go from southern California to the coast of Maine, taking some days off at stops in Mesa (AZ), Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Joplin, St. Louis, Chicago, Fremont (OH), Fredonia (NY), Camden (ME), and other places where I have children, cousins, friends, wife, aunts, and the like.  I've gone so far as to buy a stack of maps from ACA and start creating the route in Ride With GPS. Exact timing at this point is uncertain (I don't want too much cold at the start, but I also want to miss the heat as summer comes on farther east), as is the starting point (if Santa Monica then so long Mesa), but I'm psyched about it. I'm not too concerned about spotty services in places. I often take long rides on my road bike in the hot Oklahoma summer (60-80 miles with maybe one stop to top off the water supply.  If I have to I'll strap on a 3-liter Camelbak until civilization starts to get a little denser farther east. I'd be happy to share ideas with you, Oscars dad.

Offline Oscar's dad

Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2021, 01:53:19 am »
My brother and I are also talking seriously about a west-to-east coast-to-coast ride in spiring/summer of 2023, the year I turn 70.   I've started calling it the Friends and Family Tour, since the original thought was to string together parts of several different ACA routes to go from southern California to the coast of Maine, taking some days off at stops in Mesa (AZ), Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Joplin, St. Louis, Chicago, Fremont (OH), Fredonia (NY), Camden (ME), and other places where I have children, cousins, friends, wife, aunts, and the like.  I've gone so far as to buy a stack of maps from ACA and start creating the route in Ride With GPS. Exact timing at this point is uncertain (I don't want too much cold at the start, but I also want to miss the heat as summer comes on farther east), as is the starting point (if Santa Monica then so long Mesa), but I'm psyched about it. I'm not too concerned about spotty services in places. I often take long rides on my road bike in the hot Oklahoma summer (60-80 miles with maybe one stop to top off the water supply.  If I have to I'll strap on a 3-liter Camelbak until civilization starts to get a little denser farther east. I'd be happy to share ideas with you, Oscars dad.

Yes I'd love to share your ideas - thank you!

And thanks to everyone else for their input so far.  I will check out the TransAm - thanks jamawani and John Nelson.

I'm loving your forum.  For many years I have been a member of Yet Another Cycle Forum (www.yacf.co.uk) which is also based on Simple Machines so this place is very familiar!  I'm Oscar's dad there too (Oscar was a bike I once had, not a son!)

Offline HobbesOnTour

Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2021, 10:15:06 am »
As a fellow European who has done some riding in the States here's a few thoughts....

Distances can be big! By that I mean the distances between places to get a drink or food.

"Proper" food is rare and expensive.

I found ACA routes often unpleasant. (Atlantic coast in particular)

Dogs can be an issue.

The most dangerous traffic I have encountered is in the U.S.

Weather can be scary and much more extreme than what we are used to.

Camping can be very expensive

Bridges can be terrifying!

I think it's interesting that we tend to focus on a route eg coast to coast. I've had more success with thinking about places I'd like to visit and linking them together. cycle.travel was my default planner when I needed to do this or when the ACA route was not good.

With four months and a willing wife you really have your pick of things. (You'll need a visa for more than 3 months).

I've listed the negatives but I really enjoyed my time in the US.

Best of luck!

Offline dfege

Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2021, 12:01:48 am »
I bicycled Route 66 from Chicago to Oklahoma City this past summer.  Although I didn't bike the last part of the trip to Santa Monica, I am very familiar with that stretch.  I also have bicycle toured many times in Europe, including three times in Britain.

Many of the commenters are correct.  Distances between service are much longer in the U.S. than in Britain.  But these can be planned for.  However, on the Route 66 trip, there is one stretch between Ludlow, CA and Needles, CA where there are practically no services (over 100 miles).  There is a gas station/convenience store in Fenner, CA and the owner will generally let you camp, although it's not a real camp ground and that's about it.  Since it is the desert, you can usually "wild camp", but I never like to do that.  Also this stretch can get VERY hot, and it is best cycled in February, March, or early April or in the late summer/fall.

Nobody mentioned that the trip has a lot of climbing, which isn't that big a deal if you climbed before with gear on your bike or are in good shape.  The trip tops out at 7000 feet in around Flagstaff, Arizona.  The climbs are long but not steep.
Most of the climbs in California, Arizona, and New Mexico are in the 5%-8% range. Traffic can be a problem in the U.
S., especially on some of the two-lane roads.  I ALWAYS ride with a mirror in the U.S., it really helps to know what's behind you. 

Once you get past Oklahoma City, distances between services are not a problem.  You can usually find a gas station with a convenience store at least every 25 miles or less.

Best to you.  Let me know if you need any other information.

Offline Oscar's dad

Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2021, 06:25:04 am »
I bicycled Route 66 from Chicago to Oklahoma City this past summer.  Although I didn't bike the last part of the trip to Santa Monica, I am very familiar with that stretch.  I also have bicycle toured many times in Europe, including three times in Britain.

Many of the commenters are correct.  Distances between service are much longer in the U.S. than in Britain.  But these can be planned for.  However, on the Route 66 trip, there is one stretch between Ludlow, CA and Needles, CA where there are practically no services (over 100 miles).  There is a gas station/convenience store in Fenner, CA and the owner will generally let you camp, although it's not a real camp ground and that's about it.  Since it is the desert, you can usually "wild camp", but I never like to do that.  Also this stretch can get VERY hot, and it is best cycled in February, March, or early April or in the late summer/fall.

Nobody mentioned that the trip has a lot of climbing, which isn't that big a deal if you climbed before with gear on your bike or are in good shape.  The trip tops out at 7000 feet in around Flagstaff, Arizona.  The climbs are long but not steep.
Most of the climbs in California, Arizona, and New Mexico are in the 5%-8% range. Traffic can be a problem in the U.
S., especially on some of the two-lane roads.  I ALWAYS ride with a mirror in the U.S., it really helps to know what's behind you. 

Once you get past Oklahoma City, distances between services are not a problem.  You can usually find a gas station with a convenience store at least every 25 miles or less.

Best to you.  Let me know if you need any other information.

Someone who's actually ridden Route 66! Fantastic, thanks for your words of wisdom, much appreciated!

Up thread people mentioned TransAm which I take is THIS ROUTE.

Assuming I'm right I'd love a comparison, have you ridden some or all of TransAm as well as R66?

I initially focused on R66 as I'd heard of it (who hasn't?) and it seemed a great way to get a feel of the USA.  However, the TransAm route looks like it might be even better so I'd appreciate your view if you have one, plus feedback from anyone else reading this!
« Last Edit: November 19, 2021, 06:27:54 am by Oscar's dad »

Offline staehpj1

Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2021, 07:56:51 am »
I have not ridden Route 66, but I have crossed much of the general area that it covers.  I have ridden the Trans America and the Southern Tier.  I have also done a number of other ~1000 mile or more sections of the country, so I have some general notion of what much of the area is like.  In addition I have driven across the country a few times.  So my knowledge of the routes isn't perfect, but may be at least useful.

My general impression is that The TA is a wonderful sampling of what the rural US is like.  You will see "fly over land" and meet the folks who live there.  You will also see of the natural beauty that the country has to offer.  RT 66 offers a much more limited sampling.  My personal preference was to go W-E, but your proposed May start would require a E-W travel if doing the TA.  Nothing wrong with that though other than that the steepest climbing is in the east, despite the fact that the mountains are not that high.

Offline Oscar's dad

Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2021, 08:49:51 am »
@staehpj1 - many thanks, some great insights! 

From what I've read since starting this thread I thought this might be the case...

Quote
My general impression is that The TA is a wonderful sampling of what the rural US is like... RT 66 offers a much more limited sampling.

Therefore I'm now more drawn to the TransAm rather than R66 although I'm a long way from having to make a decision so much time still to ponder.

I'm intrigued, why do you say east to west would be better than west to east?  If I was to go west to east when should I start?

Offline staehpj1

Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2021, 09:14:36 am »
Going W-E you should consider when the snow and ice is out in the Cascades and the Rockies.  A good marker for that is when McKenzie Pass opens.  You can detour to Santiam Pass since they keep that open all winter, but riding McKenzie is worth doing and you really don't want to be in the mountains too early.  Snow and cold weather could be dangerous if there too early.

I'd suggest timeing the start to correspond with the opening date for McKenzie Pass to bikes.  It typically opens to bikes a couple weeks before it opens to cars and if you catch it then it is a great time to ride it.  The thing is opeing dates will vary year to year.  The year we rode the TA we started June 11th and hit McKenzie Pass on June 16th.  The pass was open and we had no cars yet that year on that date, but some years the pass may not be open yet on that date.

Snowpack and spring thawing will affect the date, so it is a moving target, but they do make some predictions as the date approaches.  Info is available at:
https://www.oregon.gov/odot/regions/pages/mckenzie-highway.aspx

As I said if you miss the date by a bit and the pass isn't open there is Santiam Pass, but don't try to go too early.  Spring snow and cold isn't unusual and it can be bad enough to be dangerous so don't fudge on the date and try to go W-E real early on the regular TA route.  I'd suggest early June at the earliest and I'd be inclined to push it back a bit if I knew I needed to in order to ride McKenzie Pass.

Offline Oscar's dad

Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2021, 09:45:16 am »
Got it!  Thanks, east to west it is if I settle on the TransAm. 

That could actually work quite well given the current idea is that my wife flies out to join me 2-3 times during my trip.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2021, 09:46:26 am »
If you are going East to West, thinking of the TransAm, and have 90 day visa issues to deal with, consider using the TransAm Eastern Express Route. We are using that for our May 2022 E=>W TransAm trip. It saves 600 miles, some difficult climbs, avoids areas with nasty dogs, and starts in Washington D.C. which has two major airports. The first week is an easy start on canal and rail trails with limited climbing.

We have done the first section with and without camping and it is a great way to get acclimated to riding a fully loaded touring bike without the worry of traffic. https://www.easternexpressroute.com/
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Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Brit riding across the US
« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2021, 09:47:17 am »

I'm intrigued, why do you say east to west would be better than west to east?  If I was to go west to east when should I start?

The later W-E start time to avoid snow out west could put you in the Midwest and east during July and August, which can be unbearably hot and humid.

I have spent several days riding a portion of the Trans Am route in Montana during June during three separate loop tours from/to Missoula.  The overwhelming number of people I have met started in the east in May.  One night there were probably 12 Trans Am riders camping in Jackson.  All but a couple had started in the west. One of them was participating in the race.  (He was in next to last place.)