Author Topic: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.  (Read 1401 times)

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Offline Tom66

USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« on: April 22, 2022, 02:08:35 pm »
Hi all, I'm from the UK and I'll be cycling the TAT West-East starting July. My logistics and planning is largely sorted.

I do, however, need advice relating to personal safety, which is harder to find. This means what to watch out for in terms of wildlife and potential dangerous animals, camping, food prep/storage, and (sadly) bike/personal safety against thieves and scumbags. I imagine it will vary state to state and may change seasonally.

Any other tips from experienced USA citizens and travellers welcome too!

TIA! I will add any advice to my notes :)

Offline John Nettles

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Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2022, 02:24:56 pm »
You most likely won't have any trouble.  The big thing is food management in camp.  Never ever put food or eat in in your tent.  Rodents to racoons to bears may try to get into the tent.  If bear lockers are available, use them otherwise you will probably not see a bear.  Chipmonks and racoons can chew through anything panniers, tents, etc. 

I carry a "opportunity" lock to prevent thefts when in larger towns or cities.  The lightweight lock is a 1/8" vinyl coated wire with loops on the end.  I use a very small lock.  It is about 12 feet long so I can wrap around anything and include the pannier handle loops too.  Again, it is to prevent a theft where someone walks by and sees and opportunity.  A pro (which we luckily do not have much of in America, especially on the TA) can get any bike.

Note than on Sundays it is not uncommon that grocery stores, restaurants, etc. are closed in middle USA.  Always carry an emergency supply of food.  Doesn't have to be much, just a couple of granola bars or the ever present peanut butter and tortillas.

Weather should be fine.  Just get a weather app that has a radar.  I use WeatherBug.  Do what the locals do, especially during a tornado watch.  A watch can cover a very wide area and the nearest "possible" tornado can be 50+ miles away going away from you.  However, if the sky gets greenish, look for cover as that means a lot of hail is nearby.  If it is a hot day, the hail can be the size of a golf ball or more.  Not fun at all.

Other than that, enjoy the trip. Tailwinds, John

Offline Tom66

Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2022, 02:34:36 pm »
John, thank you, once again your advice is top notch. All noted.
I agree with the 'opportunist lock', i carry one with me all the time here in the UK, where bicycle theft is commonplace, unfortunately. The most advice I get is the food/tent/raccoon situation. I'll be sure to do my best to follow that! (hang panniers containing food on a cord if possible???)

Gold ball sized-hail does not sound fun. I've never seen a green sky here but we do occasionally get marble-sized hail.

I guess with the TAT being generally less remote, it means bears will be less prolific. Sound dramatic, but are snakes anything to worry about? We have next to non here!

Are there particular states with more/less to be concerned about?

Offline Tom66

Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2022, 02:39:20 pm »
I've seen that camping in city parks etc is normal while biketouring in the USA. In the UK I would not dream of this, your bike and gear would almost certainly be stolen overnight in any city or town.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2022, 02:43:16 pm »
Oh there are snakes out there but the only ones you will probably see are the dead ones on the road.  If doing a hike, be sure to take a pretty good step past a fallen log so if a snake is on the other side and you just put your foot down the snake won't get startled and try to defend itself by biting you.  Again, pretty unlikely but it is an easy preventative measure.

Just keep your tent zipped up at night and keep your shoes inside.  It is a good idea to bang your shoe against the ground in the morning before putting them on that that anything in them like scorpions will be shaken out. 

Once you get past Pueblo, all the serious animal stuff is past (except the !@#$%& raccoons). 

The camping in city parks is by permission or by historical permission (cyclists have been permitted to do it in the past).  If you try it on a non-ACA route, I would definitely check in with someone official (police, fire, city hall, Library, etc.) to verify it is OK.  Remember to verify if they have restrooms and/or showers available.  If not, the local swiming pool does when they are open.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2022, 02:45:42 pm by John Nettles »

Offline Tom66

Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2022, 02:03:06 pm »
Thanks John

Offline hikerjer

Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2022, 07:03:54 pm »
Good tips but I would add a few comments. City park camping is widely available but it's usually in smaller towns, especially in the Midwest. I've always found churchyards a good place to camp. Always ask permission first, but sometimes it's hard to find someone to ask.  Also, when looking for a place to camp, small town baseball dugouts can be ideal. They are pretty common and have a roof and are fairly private, so you often don't ever have to set up a tent. I usually try to sneak in after dark and leave early.

As far as bike safety, I carry a basic cable lock, which deters any thefts of opportunity.  Never had a problem, but you have to be aware of the area you're in. Large cities, maybe not such a good idea.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2022, 09:56:33 pm by hikerjer »

Offline Westinghouse

Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2022, 08:11:21 pm »
Things happen crime-wise nation wide. Of all the journals I have read, quite a few, and videos, nobody on the TAT fell victim to any of it. I had unfriendly experiences but not on the TAT. A hard looking scruffy woman threw a can of beer at me. It missed. That turned out to be Aileen Wuornos, a deranged serial killer of 7 men in Florida. A similar attack happened in Walker, Louisiana.

When it comes to keeping food out of the tent in some places, I say take that advice to heart. Animals will claw through the fabric to get at it. I know two people whose tents were ruined that way.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2022, 10:09:23 pm by Westinghouse »

Offline canalligators

Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2022, 09:37:20 pm »
Food (and other smellables) kept out of tent is an absolute requirement.  The next most important rule is to put your food storage, campground and cooking areas at the points of a triangle, a good distance apart - say 200' or more.

Offline hikerjer

Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2022, 08:40:06 pm »
I suspect the greatest danger you'll encounter when camping is insufferable raccoons. Do not underestimate them. They are smart, persistent and nasty.  Ditto for any ravens that come across you

Offline Tom66

Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2022, 04:24:15 am »
So, if I encounter aggressive raccoons, what the best way to deal with them?!
Also, are they most prolific in urban areas where there is more food waste, or are they in both rural and urban areas?

Offline staehpj1

Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2022, 07:17:07 am »
So, if I encounter aggressive raccoons, what the best way to deal with them?!
Also, are they most prolific in urban areas where there is more food waste, or are they in both rural and urban areas?
Raccoons are found anywhere, but I have not had issues with them in urban areas on tour.  That may be because I don't camp in urban areas too much and am generally pretty careful where ever i am.

Precautions include no food in tents, always use food lockers when available, and hang food where necessary.  Oh, and other scented products (toiletries, etc.) go with the food.

You can somewhat gauge how the critter problem is or isn't by what kind of dumpsters and trash cans there are and how they are managed.  Open dumpsters and cans with loose lids probably mean no bear or raccoon problem, but asking around in camp or asking a ranger or camp host is never a bad idea.  Sometimes there will be signage even where there is no problem.  I recall staying where there were signs cautioning about bears all over the place.  When I asked the camp host how bad the problem was, he said that campers left food out routinely and no one had reported seeing a bear in the area in 10 years.

I don't use them on tour, but a bear canister or Ursack is a possible option.  The Ursack model for smaller critters might make sense, but you still need to take other precautions in bear country.  Most advise using the scent proof bags as a liner with the Ursack.

Offline mathieu

Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2022, 02:48:06 pm »
For the TransAm, I recommend to carry a Dazer (an ultrasound emitting dog deterrent) for the stages in eastern Kentucky. Some people say that dazers don't work, but in my experience they are very effective. Moreover, having a dazer at arms reach boosts your confidence, which is a good thing because dogs seem to smell fear. A dazer could well dispel raccoons and other critters too. Their audible range is more extended than that of humans. According to a study done by National Wildlife Research Center and the United States Department of Agriculture in 1995, the effects of ultrasonic repellents tend to wear off a few days after exposure as the pests get accustomed to the noise. But as a passer-by, you are mainly interested in the first effect and less in a possible wear off.

Theft is rare, but a Dutch compatriot who cycled the TransAm east-west a week ahead of me had his bike stolen in Florence (Oregon) on the last-but-one stage. The bike is probably your most valuable posession on the route, so try always to keep an eye on it or park it in a very prominent place. Sometimes you have go shopping. In Walmarts I usually look for a person who is collecting the shopping carts. If you give him/her a tip and promise to be back within a hour, he/she might show you a safe corner to park the bike. 
« Last Edit: April 27, 2022, 05:26:05 pm by mathieu »

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2022, 03:55:16 pm »
After UI finished ACA's group Northern Tier tour I started riding home.  Had to buy a new teen in Maine after my zipper crapped out. Took a rest day near Hyde Park, NY, and went to take a tour of the Vanderbilt Mansion.  Stupidly left a loaf of bread in the tent.   When I returned a few hour later my new tent had a hole chewed in the side by something that then feasted on my loaf.  As others have said:  Don't leave food in your tent.

Another thing I sometimes do if there are no bear lockers is store my food and attractants, including my stove, in the restroom.  Did that in northwest Pennsylvania one time and woke to find that a bear had raided the campground dumpsters.  Figured he had split but got to meet said bear as I was preparing to put on my helmet and turn on my headlight.  We looked at each other from about 25' away.  He was probably a good 600 lbs.  It was September so he was fattening up for the coming winter.  Fortunately for him, the situation ended peacefully.  ;D

Offline rwinot25

Re: USA Specific Safety Tips, ie Wildlife, Crime etc.
« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2022, 10:15:02 pm »
I was surprised when I rode the TA east to west in 2019, once into Eastern Colorado, was how often I was told to watch out for the meth-heads. One scared me so badly in the Newton Kansas town park, I packed up camp and moved to a very remote hidden corner where he would never find me If he tried.

As a side note... don't camp in the park in Newton if you want a good night sleep. The railroad yard is just around the corner and the noise never ends!