Author Topic: Transamerica help - May 2022 start  (Read 1345 times)

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Offline Tcorbishley1

Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« on: March 04, 2022, 03:54:25 pm »
Hello there.

Looking for some help or pointers if possible.  My partner and I are planning to cycle the Transamerica route starting in May this year.  Based on the info I have already found on this forum (really helpful by the way, so thank you in advance), we are planning E>W. 

We live in the UK so the intention is to fly to the East coast and make our way to the start point in Yorktown.  Question 1, Looking at a map, Washington looks like a good arrival airport, has anyone done this before?  Is easy to get to the start by train or indeed bike?

Secondly, we are entering the US under the 90 day visa waiver so when (hopefully not if!) we reach the west coast, we will likely be a little short on time.  A vague plan that I have been formulating so as not to overstay our welcome is to head over the border to Canada.  I can see from the overview maps that there is some overlap between the TA and the Lewis and Clark at the western end of the routes.  My question is, would we be missing out (a relative question I appreciate) if we took the L&C to Portland and from there onto Seattle and Vancouver?

I appreciate any pointers anyone can offer.

Offline jamawani

Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2022, 04:46:02 pm »
Welcome Tcor -

Lots of people fly into DC and start in Yorktown.
Dulles is the inernational airport in DC.
The Silver Line Metro should be finished before May.
So, you can take the Metro straight from Dulles to Union Station.
(If there is a delay they will still be running Silver Line busses.)

From Union Station take Amtrak to Williamsburg, VA. (3.5 to 4 hours)
Right now there are two trains per day - morning and afternoon.
Probably easiest to roll bike on both the Metro and Amtrak bike car.
It's VERY tricky when you add all the gear you have to handle.
Plus, you may need to get a hotel in DC depending on your arrival time.
Give yourself a few days to travel and get set up so you aren't nuts when you start.

<<<>>>

For the end of your trip I would suggest the Northern Tier.
It ends in Anacortes. You can jump the ferry to the San Juan Islands.
Then continue on the ferry to Victoria and ferry back to Vancouver.
Quite the lovely ending, no?

There are a couple of ways to connect with the TransAm.
From Yelowstone you can basically follow US 89 north to Great Falls and Glacier N.P.
Plus you get the most incredible ride in the U.S. - Going to the Sun Road.
The Northern Tier will be pleasantly cool in late summer, too.


Or you can ride the TransAm to Missoula -
Then continue on Hwy 200 to Sandpoit and connect there.
My vote is for Glacier N.P.

Pic - Going to the Sun Road

The Lewis & Clark westbound in Washington/Oregon is super hot in August.
Plus you have killer headwinds. Trust me - been there.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2022, 06:45:05 am »
Another option you may want to consider based on two bit of information that is you provided is the TransAm Eastern Express Route (which the ACA uses for it's van-supported TransAM tour). https://www.easternexpressroute.com/.

This newer route starts in Washington D.C. and takes advantage of the Rail-to-Trail routes that have opened since the development of the original TransAM Route. It saves someone on a 90-Day Visa about 14 days of pedaling, while cutting out the worst hills (not height but steep grades) on the original TransAM and uses almost 600 miles of rail trails to provide a safer route.

ACA has just taken over the support of this route. Although no "official" ACA maps are available at this point everything you need, including maps, documentation, and GPS files can be downloaded from the website link above. This is the route we are using starting this May, 2022
« Last Edit: March 05, 2022, 06:47:50 am by HikeBikeCook »
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Offline Tcorbishley1

Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2022, 04:27:10 pm »
First off, a massive thank you to you both for taking the time to reply to me, your forums have been a treasure trove of information and have really sold an extended bike tour in the USA to me. 

Jamawani, I really appreciate the detail you have given for the start of the route, I'm also open to the 'Express route' that HBC mentioned although I think I will need to give some serious consideration to whether I want to miss out the Appalachian mountains.  This trip is (maybe) a once in lifetime opportunity to really see the USA at the kind of pace and level that a cycle tour can offer, rather than just a quick dip in and out type holiday.  The Appalachians have been on my bucket list since I read 'A Walk in the Woods' years ago although I appreciate I'm probably not going to get the full experience on a bike.  A difficult and highly subjective question, but in your experience, does the Express route offer the same 'wow' factor, or put another way, might I feel as though I have missed out by not taking the original route?  I've probably answered my own question there in fairness. 

The ending you have suggested looks fantastic, I knew nothing off The Going to the Sun Road but it looks bloody brilliant! I have kind of been thinking of the ACA routes as an exhaustive list of options, just because its all new to me, but you have opened up my eyes to the possibilities off and around the routes. 

If we do decide to take the 'Express' route it might give us time to complete the ACA and make it to Canada but its going to be a tough choice between that and your suggestion to meet up with the Northern Tier! 

thanks again.
TC

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2022, 04:51:07 pm »
I have not biked the traditional TransAm route, but I have biked around Damascus, VA and also hiked the Appalachian Trail from end-to-end. I have also biked the first 340 miles of the Eastern Express. The hills in the Damascus area are pretty brutal, but the scenery there and also on the Blue Ridge is quite spectacular, however there is also traffic to contend with. You are trading one thing for another.

With the Eastern Express you ride out along the C&O canal, which parallels the Potomac, and the area is drenched in history. Our first President actually ran a company to transport goods on the Potomac and is said to have blasted areas of ledge to let his river boats run certain rapids. There are also a number of Civil War battlefields on the C&O. It is shocking how close Confederate troops were to the nation's capital. As you transition to the GAP you get into more remote areas that are quite beautiful and again more history with Pre American Revolution battle sites when Washington was an officer in the British Army. America was expanded along water ways in the beginning. The Eastern Express also runs along parts of the Lewis & Clark Trail. We are also leaving the TransAM in Missoula and heading North then West to finish in Seattle.

I would look at Crazy Guy on a Bike for some trip logs of the different routes. It really depends on what you want to accomplish on your trek. You only have about 75 days to plan!! BTW - Bryson never really hiked much of the AT. Check out Trailjournals.com for real hiker journals. :)
« Last Edit: March 06, 2022, 06:18:03 am by HikeBikeCook »
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Offline jamawani

Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2022, 06:34:17 pm »
It depends.
It always depends.

What kind of bikes are y'all riding?
How much touring experience do you have?
Do you plan on camping mostly or motels?

The Eastern Express out of DC follows the C&O mule path and can be pretty muddy in May,
the GAP portion has hard-pack limestone which is more manageable on a touring bike.
It's totally car-free with lots of hiker/biker campsites. But you are down at river level.
Of course, there's the convenience of starting right in DC.

The Trans Am offers beautiful riding on the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains.
But, then again, they is mountains which means extra effort.
You will encounter far more riders and have more cyclist services on the TransAm.

<<<>>

Middle America -

I'm not convinced about the Eastern Express - there are better road options with less traffic.
It does utilize much of the Katy Trail across Missouri, but US 40 in Illinois? US 36 in Kansas??
There are much quieter and scenic roads out there.

The TransAm crosses Kentucky, Missouri, and Kansas. And it can get pretty hot & humid.
And dogs - - there's a long-standing debate on where dogs are worse - - Kentucky or Missouri.
But the roads have been carefully selected for lower traffic and reasonable services along the way.

Bear in mind - every route will have some sections, however short, that are less than ideal.

Don't know if you've purchased the TransAm maps already.
Or how tethered you are to designated routes.

At present, there is no designated route across Iowa & Nebraska.
Which is a shame, because Iowa has bike trails and lovely county parks with camping.
And Nebraska has the Sandhills - a huge expanse of the Great Plains that remains unplowed.
(Kansas is hundreds of miles of cornfields, then hundreds of miles of wheat fields.)
To see a Great Plains ecosystem is hard to come by and - I think - magnificent.

If you want "Wow!" then you really should definitely head north from Yellowstone to Glacier.
The Northern Tier from Glacier west to Anacortes is simply stunning.

<<<>>>

* I've ridden X-USA 6 times, I think. (You lose track after a while.)
And a bunch of "half crossings". Bad habit.
Plus I am always driving back roads rather than the expressways scouting out new possibilities.


« Last Edit: March 05, 2022, 06:47:00 pm by jamawani »

Offline DanE

Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2022, 07:11:40 pm »
Since you expressed a desire to ride the Appalachian mountains, I am going to suggest a different start. Rather than travel to Yorktown, just start in Washington. You can use the Washington & Old Dominion Trail to travel from Washington to its end at Purcellville, VA. From there it is less than forty miles to Front Royal, VA and the northern end of the Skyline Drive. You will need to find your own route for this, but there are plenty of tracks where others have done this on sites such as ridewithgps.com. This is one for example: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/16466154.

The Skyline Drive runs from Front Royal south through the Shenandoah National Park for about 105 miles. At the southern end of the Skyline Drive it connects with the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Afton, VA which is where the Trans Am route arrives from the east to connect to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It would take you a day to take the train to Williamsburg before you even started the bike ride. You could ride from Washington and certainly be in Front Royal or on the Skyline Drive by day two. Two or three days on the Skyline Drive and you would connect to the Trans Am route and would be there in about the same time or perhaps a day ahead of when you would arrive there if you started in Yorktown.

The Skyline Drive will also let you ride the best of the Appalachian mountains.

Besides, as a Brit why go to Yorktown where your army was defeated when you could start in Washington and know that your army burned that city.

Offline Nyimbo

Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2022, 01:18:31 pm »
I rode the TA from Oregon to the middle of Kansas where I ran out of available riding time and stopped.  The following summer I finished my cross country ride and started in Denver and picked up the Eastern Express Route and rode to Washington D.C.  I don't have a direct comparison since I didn't finish on the eastern half of the TA but I am just commenting here that my favorite parts of the second half of the adventure for me were riding the Katy Trail and riding the GAP and the C&O trails.  I didn't run into very many other cycle tourist between St Louis and Pittsburg but there were many riders on the three trails and I made some good friends and rode with them on all three trail sections of the Eastern Express. 

Offline Tcorbishley1

Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2022, 05:30:11 pm »
Once again, thanks all for your invaluable information, I really appreciate it. 

After having a good look through all the suggestions and options and mulling things over a little, I'm swaying towards starting on the Eastern Express.  All the other suggestions do sound fantastic, and as I've expressed already I would love to see the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park, but I think for us, it ultimately comes down to time and simplicity.  From reading all your comments, and a few of the other threads, it sounds as though we will still have a fantastic time using the Eastern Express, I mean ultimately all of this is all new to us and I will be happy just to be on the bike seeing a new country.  I can use not seeing the Appalachians as an excuse to visit again!

Forgive me for not giving the best background about the trip in my first post.  My partner have managed to agreed a year long sabbatical at work and have decided to see the world a little before we look at settling down.  We are both early 30's, originally from a Mountain Biking background, nothing seriously technical but I would say we are fairly decent cross country mountain bikers and we have done quite a bit of multi day bike-packing in the UK.  Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, we have slowly transitioned to more light touring etc (mainly out of necessity) and found we really enjoy it.  America will be our first major tour though, you gotta start somewhere, right! So why not go for it.

At the minute, I would say we were reasonably fit, we haven't done as much cycling as we would like this winter but we aren't in terrible shape either (or so we think!).  We both have touring bikes now, I have a Dawes Galaxy I bought and restored/refitted from Ebay and my partner has a very beautiful Kona Sutra.  I have 700x35 tires, she is running 700x40, so hopefully we can tackle most terrains.  While this will be our first tour, we have done plenty of other Hiking, biking etc so we aren't totally ignorant to the challenges although doubtless we have a lot to learn!

I think ultimately we are going to follow something along the lines of HikeBikeCook's route although I am definitely up for the Glacier National Park so might detour at this point and follow the Northern Tier.  I have just managed to secure a set of maps for the TA from another forum member (2021 set) to use as a starting point but it may well be that we consider some of the other options, like the Sandhills in Nabraska for example rather than having our eyes fixed on following the TA to the letter. 

A lot to think about and not a lot of time! Thanks again for all your help, and the warm welcome.

Cheers
TC

 

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2022, 05:42:27 pm »
Just one final thought, the Appalachian Mountains are a series of mountain ranges https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalachian_Mountains so even riding the Eastern Express you are still going to see the Appalachians.
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Offline staehpj1

Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2022, 07:41:12 am »
The Eastern Express out of DC follows the C&O mule path and can be pretty muddy in May,
I have ridden on it in May quite a few decades ago when it was in horrible shape.  It would be miserable on a loaded touring bike in the conditions that I recall.  I have read reports of work improving the surface over the years.  Not sure if it is better able to handle wet weather these days or not.  There was a good website dedicated to the GAP and C&O that should have up to date info if they are still active.  It should be easy to find.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2022, 09:07:07 am »
There has been ongoing resurfacing and repair projects on the C&O for the last several years. https://www.canaltrust.org/support/our-funding-priorities/towpath-forever/towpath-resurfacing/ Phase 1 completed in 2019; Phase 2 completed in 2020; Phase 3 completed in 2021; Phase 4 planned for 2021 - could not find status of completion.

https://www.canaltrust.org/2019/05/canal-towpath-resurfacing-underway/

https://www.canaltrust.org/support/our-funding-priorities/towpath-forever/towpath-resurfacing/support-faq-towpath-resurfacing-project/


From a previous posts here:
West from WDC:MP 0-73 - Trail resurfaced
MP 70-113 - Quiet back roads available in Antietam & Williamsport areas
MP 113-142 - Western Maryland Trail - paved for about 30 miles.
MP 157-184 - Highway 51, light to moderate traffic

Typically, expect to see the muddiest conditions between Mile 25 thru 30 (now resurfaced) and Mile 124 thru 134. (WMRT - used by Eastern Express) Trail conditions are historically poor in the mile or two prior to the town of Point-of-Rocks, Maryland. Expect to navigate around many mud holes in this section. The rest of the path is typically in good shape.
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Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2022, 09:15:59 am »
Also, the trail North (West for our travel plans) of the Paw Paw Tunnel is closed due to a rock slide - the tunnel itself is open but you cannot exit. The detour is the grueling Tunnel (Hill) Bypass Trail - no picnic on a loaded touring bike or hauling a trailer. I have a gravel road detour routed with RWGPS which I am glad to share if you PM me.

https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/pawpaw-closure.htm

As of November 2020, the towpath North of the tunnel, near mile 155.1, has been closed and the Tunnel Bypass Trail detour activated. This closure is due to potentially unstable conditions observed in the rock mass during a recent site investigation. This detour is anticipated to remain in place until construction can be completed to mitigate the rock fall hazards. Construction began August 2021 and is anticipated to extend into summer of 2022. During this time, NPS anticipates that the Paw Paw Tunnel will remain open to visitors. However, through-access onto the towpath downstream of the tunnel will be closed until the rock fall hazards are addressed through construction of the awarded contract.

How long is the Tunnel Bypass Trail? How steep is it?
The Tunnel Bypass Trail is approximately a mile and a half in length with an elevation change of 375 feet. From the upstream (parking lot) end, the Tunnel Bypass Trail begins by crossing the canal prism and climbs 0.63 miles to the top (or about one foot of rise per nine feet of distance). On the downstream (construction) end, the bypass begins where the Tunnel Hill Trail meets the towpath near mile marker 155 and climbs 0.82 miles to the top (one foot of rise per 11.5 feet of distance).

What should I know about the Tunnel Bypass Trail?
Wear sturdy shoes that have good traction. Carry and drink lots of water during ascent and descent. Plan for the Tunnel Bypass Trail taking between one and a half to two and a half hours depending on your load, fitness level, and pace. Cyclists are reminded that they are required to dismount along the Tunnel Bypass Trail.
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Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2022, 12:09:13 pm »
There are some avid proponents of the eastern express route here.  When you get past the "much less climbing and shorter" points, I think some of their arguments have problems.  To be honest, some of the best years of my young life were lived in Damascus, VA -- unofficial halfway point of the Appalachian Trail and also on the Trans America bike route -- so I'm biased in the opposite direction.  Of course, at least one of the express advocates has hiked through there, so he's seen much of the scenery he's advocating you skip.

Look at the discussions online for the C&O trail.  Most of the cycling recommendations will tell you to ride it in September, in hopes of getting dry weather for better trail conditions.

George Washington thought a canal would be a good idea.  Decades after his death, it was abandoned.  On the other hand, the last battle of the American revolution was at the start of the Trans Am (Yorktown).  10 miles up the road was the colonial capital of Virginia (Williamsburg) where Patrick Henry made his famous fiery speech, and 10 miles further you come to the first "permanent" English settlement in the New World (Jamestown).  If you're interested in American history at all, Cold Harbor was some of the first long term trench warfare as the Confederates held off Union troops trying to advance on the Confederate capital, Richmond, for years -- 20 miles further on.

Why didn't the C&O canal flourish?  Railroads, like the line from Mineral to the tunnel over the Blue Ridge near Afton, both on the Trans Am, headed for the western Virginia and West Virginia coal fields.  (A few days later you'll pass the competing rail line outside Roanoke.)

Scenery?  You can look up at 1,500' ridges on the C&O/GAP, or ride over 3,000' ridges and look down at the "Valley of Virginia" on the Trans Am above Afton and up to 5,000' mountains closer to Damascus.  With a May start, you've got a good chance of catching Catawba rhododendron in full bloom (though that depends on the weather in the next couple months).  Tobacco fields are pretty much a thing of the past, but you'll still pass coal mines, Kentucky horse farms, and some of the oldest mountains in the Americas, the Ozarks, on the Trans Am.

Most Trans Am riders have no problem completing the ride in 90 days or less.  Like John (jamawami), I recommend going to see Glacier.  I took the Trans Am to Missoula, which involved riding a large scale W taking a day on each leg to get to Missoula from Yellowstone.  Taking U.S. 89 could easily save you a couple days, although (a) you'd miss Adventure Cycling's headquarters and free ice cream, and (b) the upper Bitterroot Valley was quite spectacular, as was the upper Bighole Valley.


Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Transamerica help - May 2022 start
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2022, 02:45:12 pm »
To be honest, some of the best years of my young life were lived in Damascus, VA -- unofficial halfway point of the Appalachian Trail …..
Sorry to disagree, but Damascus sits around mile marker 461 Northbound on the AT. Boiling Springs, PA is considered the unofficial half-way point sitting around mile marker 1,109 Northbound out of around 2,193 miles. The true halfway point changes every year with reroutes as does the actual length of the trail. When I started my thru hike the trail was 2,175 miles~ and when I finished it was a mile longer since there were reroutes over the summer. Hikers usually place stone markers on the trail each year at the 1,000 mile, halfway, and 2,000 mile points.

That said, I think discussing the benefits of each bike route is like discussing Apple versus Android. - Depends on where you live and who you hang out with. The more you become committed to a route the more willing you are to find ways to prove it is a better choice. :)
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