Author Topic: Traditional Trans America group tour  (Read 5277 times)

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Offline canalligators

Traditional Trans America group tour
« on: November 08, 2023, 11:35:57 am »
I’ve just received the Adventure Cycling 2024 Tours catalog.  I see that the TransAm Express group tour is offered, but the traditional Trans America Trail is not.

I have my issues with the original route.  It’s too long and indirect, especially in the northwest.  It takes undesirable roads in places, mostly due to intolerant drivers and no lane space - and there are no other roads.  Virginia’s steep hills really beat me up.  And the group tour passes through Kansas during grain harvest, a formula for friction.

On the other hand, it is a beautiful route with great diversity.  I respect the tradition.  And it was the last self-supported epic tour.  I’m glad I did it, but I wouldn’t do it again.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2023, 12:00:13 pm »
Different strokes I guess.  It was/is my favorite route.  Granted, I did it solo back in 1982 when traffic was much quieter and nicer.  I loved the route's diversity, i.e. every 7-10 days something new and different.  I do concur about the wheat harvest.  Not much joy in hundreds of miles of wheat stubble.

Offline canalligators

Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2023, 01:18:03 pm »
The problem with the harvest is, the crop has to come in 7-10 days, period.  If it doesn’t, people starve or go bankrupt.  Therefore, truckers are absolutely intolerant of any delay.  We just left the road when truckers approached.  Otherwise, I loved Kansas.

Offline misterflask

Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2023, 07:34:26 am »
Since I'm an easterner, everything after Illinois on the (W>E) TA seemed vaguely familiar.  I was delighted to meander around the Northwest where everything was new.

I rode through Kansas around the third week in September.  On the weekend practically every town had a fall harvest festival, so post grain-truck threat apparently.

I was not aware of the Express trail, but incorporating the C&O-GAP trail in a crossing was surely inevitable.  When I rode it I thought that it surely had to be the easiest way to cross the appalachians.  For those not familiar, the C&O is an old canal trail.  It is dead flat for 180mi except for a 6ft hump at 70 or so locks.  The GAP trail is railbed and you get over the ridge with 20mi of 2% grade and ease into Pittsburg with about 80 mi of .5% downgrade.

But what is this thing AC has with trails that go from sea to shining, uh, brackish backwater?  We have an ocean and beaches over here, too.  I skipped Yorktown and rode to Kittyhawk, which makes more sense to people when they ask about your route.

Offline jamawani

Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2023, 07:56:42 am »
I wonder whether self-contained touring is a thing of the past - -
like rotary phones or print newspapers.

I remember a time when you could tell metro regions by the newspapers for sale.
Through much of Nebraska you'd see the Omaha World Herald on newspaper boxes,
but when you got to panhandle the boxes switched to the Denver Post.

Speaking of which - I've always found Nebraska more scenic and more pleasant to cross than Kansas.
ACA still doesn't have an E-W route across Nebraska. They should.

<<<>>>

There is a big difference between van-supported and self-contained touring.
I would think that ACA - fka Bikecentennial - would see the importance of maintaining a self-contained Trans-Am.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2023, 09:04:47 am »
On the other hand, it is a beautiful route with great diversity.  I respect the tradition.  And it was the last self-supported epic tour.  I’m glad I did it, but I wouldn’t do it again.
I still consider it the premier route, but I am an old fogey.

Offline LouMelini

Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2023, 10:13:48 pm »
Given the history, the TransAm is the premier route to quote staehpj1. I am glad I did the route with Julie (2018) but once is enough. However, the 500 miles of car-free riding noted in the TransAm Express route would have been enticing had we know about the route. It is van-supported. We would prefer a self-contained ACA tour.  Jamawani presents and interesting thought of self-contained touring is a thing of the past; all the ACA tours in 2024 over 15 days are van-supported. Julie and I have signed up for the Denali self-contained tour in 2024, our first ACA sponsored tour.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2023, 06:29:25 am »
Jamawani presents and interesting thought of self-contained touring is a thing of the past; all the ACA tours in 2024 over 15 days are van-supported.
Maybe most of the folks going that far self contained are going unguided so there isn't enough demand for the ACA to schedule them.

Personally I think I might find it hard to be on someone else's schedule day in and day out for a trip much more than 2 weeks.  It can be a little challenging to keep 2 or 3 people together and on good terms day in and day out.  I'd think a larger group would be harder.  I've never done a guided tour though so I don't speak from experience on that.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2023, 01:27:48 pm »

There is a big difference between van-supported and self-contained touring.
I would think that ACA - fka Bikecentennial - would see the importance of maintaining a self-contained Trans-Am.
I got my start on ACA's self-contained Northern Tier group trip in '99.  It was a game changer for me, especially since I had never toured self-contained or camped a night in my life.

I suspect demand was the main driver of the decision. As a NFP, it's tough to run a trip that loses money because of a lack of demand.

Assuming a drop in demand is correct, what is the cause?

Aging demographic?

Upfront investment in touring specific gear? That 4P tent someone has in their garage isn't going to be useful for a self-contained tour.

Time constraints for those in the workforce.  We work longer hours with less time off.

General financial conditions of potential participants? When I did my trip, only 2 of us were in our 30s.  Everyone else was 55 or older (6 people, and only one of them was in their 50s and still in the workforce.  The other 5 were 60 or older and retired.)  or 25 or younger (4 people).  With cutthroat competition the way it is, how many recent grads have the time and money to take off a summer to ride bikes.  As for retirees, the average American has relatively little saved for retirement, and pensions are rarer and rarer these days. A three-month, self-contained tour is not cheap, especially with what some places are charging for camping.  I forget exactly how much I paid in '99, but I am sure it was over $2,000 way back then.  Might have even been close to $3,000.  And I had to buy an appropriate bike and all my sleeping gear and foul weather riding clothes.  (ACA supplied the cooking gear.)  I also had to get myself from the east coast out to Seattle.  (I rode home from ME after the tour ended.)

The proliferation of e-bikes pushing some towards the paths of least resistance? (E.g., The Katy Trail on an e-bike sounds like a lot more fun than pedaling up mountains.

Interestingly, this year was Cyle Oregon's final week-long event. (Fully supported camping) I believe it was their 36th year. (I did the 25th edition in 2012, among others.)  There were lots of reasons, but I believe demand and the ability to earn a decent ROI were two of them.  I think the plan is to have shorter duration events.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2023, 03:45:24 pm »
Self-contained touring is not a thing of the past, it's just evolved. There are plenty of young'uns doing it, though they usually call it bikepacking. Those same young'uns are less likely to spend the cash for an organized tour, ACA or not. So it looks like ACA is changing its approach for their tours, aiming at the demographics who have the cash, but want something a tad more luxurious than four-panniers-and-a-handlebar-bag and sleeping on the ground in the tent. Those who have been doing self-contained touring for decades are more likely to do it solo anyway so they don't have to deal with imposed itineraries and folks they don't know.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2023, 04:34:39 pm »
I think PDX pretty much nailed it.  However, I have hope that these "young'uns" might want to start doing "traditional" loaded touring as they get "older".  I wonder why is cyclotouring somewhat common in Europe but not elsewhere?  Probably because of decades of the car mystic, Route 66 (which is ridden by mostly international riders based on who uses us for WarmShowers), shorter vacation periods, and of course, we are lazier and fatter than most Europeans so biking is too hard for most regular folk. 

Tailwinds, John

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2023, 04:42:22 pm »
I think PDX pretty much nailed it.  However, I have hope that these "young'uns" might want to start doing "traditional" loaded touring as they get "older".  I wonder why is cyclotouring somewhat common in Europe but not elsewhere?  Probably because of decades of the car mystic, Route 66 (which is ridden by mostly international riders based on who uses us for WarmShowers), shorter vacation periods, and of course, we are lazier and fatter than most Europeans so biking is too hard for most regular folk. 

Perhaps the youth will embrace trad touring in their older age. I agree about Europeans getting more vacation time leading to more touring time. As for the "lazy and fat American" trope that gets trotted out: Perhaps we are lazier because we've designed our lives around car use in a way that Europe or much of Asia hasn't, and since we don't get the copious time off that other countries do, we have less energy for physical activities. As for "fatter", well, as a Clydesdale Cyclist myself, body type does not always equate with touring ability.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2023, 05:02:59 pm »
I think PDX pretty much nailed it.  However, I have hope that these "young'uns" might want to start doing "traditional" loaded touring as they get "older".  I wonder why is cyclotouring somewhat common in Europe but not elsewhere?  Probably because of decades of the car mystic, Route 66 (which is ridden by mostly international riders based on who uses us for WarmShowers), shorter vacation periods, and of course, we are lazier and fatter than most Europeans so biking is too hard for most regular folk. 
As for "fatter", well, as a Clydesdale Cyclist myself, body type does not always equate with touring ability.
I agree that being a Clydesdale does equate with the ability to tour and I apologize if it came across that way.  However, I do believe the average American (who is definitely heavier than the average European IMO) is less likely to do outdoor strenuous activities than the average European.  How often do we see some American driving their car (or golf cart or lawn tractor) to the mailbox a few hundred yards from their house out in the countryside or city folk driving to the convenience store that is 0.5 miles away (for which I am guilty).  While I am a proud American, I do think as a whole, we are heavier and lazier than most Europeans for whatever reason.

Regardless, I do hope more and more people become touring cyclists.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2023, 12:26:26 am »
Certainly, there have been thoughts about doing the Trans Am. Thinking is as far as I will go. That does not mean anything is lost. I bicycle-camped five tours from Florida to coastal California. Did that twice from FL to El Paso, TX. Add 2600 miles of the northern tier, west to east. How about the Atlantic coast four times. The Pacific coast route 1 1/2. Many other places internationally. When it comes to routes, you have your maps and electronics. You might do just as well googling for a bike route as you go along.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Traditional Trans America group tour
« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2023, 01:30:46 pm »
Self-contained touring is not a thing of the past, it's just evolved. There are plenty of young'uns doing it, though they usually call it bikepacking. Those same young'uns are less likely to spend the cash for an organized tour, ACA or not. So it looks like ACA is changing its approach for their tours, aiming at the demographics who have the cash, but want something a tad more luxurious than four-panniers-and-a-handlebar-bag and sleeping on the ground in the tent. Those who have been doing self-contained touring for decades are more likely to do it solo anyway so they don't have to deal with imposed itineraries and folks they don't know.
Well put.

And that last sentence resonates with me.  As I noted above, my first tour was a group tour.  While I had some great times with most of the other participants, there were a couple of participants that were pretty much universally "not liked." The forced itinerary/majority rule was another issue.  We had a relatively high maintenance group in the sense that most people preferred camping with more amenities like showers and flush toilets.  While that was all good and fine much of the time, there were times when we had the opportunity to camp in more primitive places in more "back to nature" settings.  Those options were voted down by the majority.

After the tour ended and I started riding home solo, I felt some relief.  Not only was I away from the people I didn't want to be around almost from the beginning of the tour.  I could set my own schedule.  I could do short days or not ride at all if I felt like it.  I remember staying an extra day in a Maine beach town so I could hang out on the beach.  I took Labor Day off in MA to avoid traffic. Went off the Atlantic Coast route in CT to visit a friend who was attending Yale.  In NY, I rode only about 4 miles in the early hours of a hurricane to take refuge in a motel.  While I did need to reach home in time to continue the final leg of the journey by participating in a charity event that I had been doing for over 5 consecutive years, I built in enough time so that I never felt rushed.

I have never done a second, unsupported tour and have only done unsupported tours with one person who was close to me.