Author Topic: Short TransAm on the Northern Tier?  (Read 5954 times)

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Offline MrBent

Short TransAm on the Northern Tier?
« on: August 26, 2004, 03:24:02 am »
I'm just doing some dreaming, wondering about a TransAm. What is the shortest but still pleasant way across the northern section of the US? If I recall, the Adventure Cycling N. Tier route is something like 4,400 miles--probably too long for us. Would it be possible to put together a route that is more like 3,500 miles? I'm thinking if we take the AC N. Tier route, take ferries across the Great Lakes, if available, then pretty much bee-line it to the East Coast, we could shorten the route considerably. Any thoughts? We'd have about 12 to 13 weeks for the crossing and would like/need one rest day a week.

Thanks for any insights.



Offline Peaks

Short TransAm on the Northern Tier?
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2004, 11:34:31 pm »
Is there a shorter Northern Tier route?

Well, get out the maps and lay them out.

First, if you take the Little Falls Alternate in Minnesota, that cuts out about 120 miles.  

Next, the Maris alternate around Glacier National Park cuts out about 90 miles.  An alternate on this alternate would be to go from St. Mary to East Glacier and cut out about 80 miles.  This second alternative would still allow you to do Going to Sun Road and Logan Pass, but cuts out going into Alberta.

I haven't figured out the mileage difference, but a more direct route from mid-America to New York is though Ontario via the Late Erie Connector.  

Likewise, the North Lakes are shorter than going Illinois and Indiana.  But, I haven't figured out the mileage difference on this either.  

Next, where do you want to end up?  The Northern Tier goes all the way to Bar Harbor Maine.  We reach the coast at Rockport, 90 from Bar Harbor.  

If you want to reduce the distance even further, then I suggest looking at some off route routes.  For example, find a more direct route across Minnesota and Wisconsin (and possibly Michigan).  

Or, make a beeline for the Atlantic coast some place other than Maine.  For example, you might continue on the Erie Canal tow path all the way to Albany, then follow Route 20 through Massachusetts.  

Or, outside Pittsburg PA, pick up the bike route that goes to Washington DC, and then continue on to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, or to the Virginia Tidewater.  

Finally, I wouldn't assume that 4400 miles isn't doable in 12 weeks.  The Adventure Cycling tours seem to be based on 60 miles per day.  Now, groups always more slower than individuals or couples.  Plus, their nightly options may be limited if they are trying to minimize costs by camping out every night.  If you are willing to go to a hotel at least on occasion, then there are additional options available to you.  

Meanwhile, I'll try to figure out what the distance might be using a ferry across Lake Michigan.  

Offline MrBent

Short TransAm on the Northern Tier?
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2004, 11:51:36 pm »
Thanks for the reply.  I guess we just need to get a good USA road atlas and have at it.  I figure if we start in Astoria first we could, perhaps, make better time.  Going to the north of the Great Lakes and/or taking ferries would seem to cut out a lot.  The tow path along the canal sounds fantastic.  The main issue is that we'll be going with our dog, and that cuts down on the possible miles per day--on the hilly/mountainous terrain anyway. If we take a direct route to the coast after negotiating the Great Lakes, it looks like we could really cut down on the miles. I guess we can use Adventure Cycling maps for some of our route, but we'll have to wing it on our own for the rest--not a bad thing.  Adventure is the point, after all.



Offline George

Short TransAm on the Northern Tier?
« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2004, 02:19:48 am »
When I did a transcon (many years ago), I did US2 across the west, starting in Seattle, took the Manitowoc-Luddington ferry across the great lakes, and then US20 in the east.

Coincidentally, US2 crosses the Rockies at the lowest point, if I recall correctly.

Offline Peaks

Short TransAm on the Northern Tier?
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2004, 12:21:16 pm »
I pulled out my maps and tried to do some calculations.

If the full 11 map Northern Tier is 4300 +/- miles, then:

1)  You can eliminate 75 miles if you go "off route" at St. Mary MT and go to Browning and pick up the Marias Alternate into Cut Bank.  The eliminates going to Waterton Park and Alberta.

2)  You can eliminate 125 miles if you take the Little Falls Alternate in Minnesota.

3)  You can eliminate 200 miles if you take the Manitowoc Alternatate on the Great Lakes Route, take the ferry across Lake Michigan, and continue on with the Lake Erie Connector through Ontario.

4)  If you choose to end at Rockport or Camden Maine instead of Bar Harbor, then it eliminates 90 miles.

5)  If you go "off route" at Fryeburg Maine and follow Route 302 to Portland, it eliminates 80 more miles instead of following the AC route to Rockport or Camden.

6)  If you go "off route" at Palmyra New York and follow the Erie Canal Towpath to Albany and then continue on to Boston Mass, you will cut out another 130 miles.  However, this also cuts out the Adirondacks, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  It adds the Berkshire Hills instead.  

That should make it about 3600 miles coast to coast.  

One thing about the last 3 is that you don't really need to make a decision until you get there.  You can see how your progress is at that time.

Offline judyrans

Short TransAm on the Northern Tier?
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2004, 06:32:05 am »
Scott (MrBent) wrote:

“I'm just doing some dreaming, wondering about a TransAm. What is the shortest but still pleasant way across the northern section of the US?”

Last summer we did our version of the “Northern Tier.” We had a sag driver. We took a total of 57 days. We took off 8 Sundays and an extra day in the Buffalo/Niagra Fall area. We could have finished on Saturday rather than Monday, but were waiting for a friend to get home. We totalled about 3500 miles. Without a sag it would take longer, or you would work a lot harder.

Our route: From hotel row in downtown Anacortes, WA we dipped our wheels in Fidalgo Bay, with an oil tanker in the background. We stuck to Highway 20 all the way across Washington State saving us 50 miles (that’s a day) over the ACA route.

At the Idaho border we followed US 2 through Sandpoint, then took the ACA route to Eureka, MT. Leaving Eureka we followed the ACA route and hated the very rough pavement and hills. Other cyclists who took US 93 said the shoulder was narrow in places, but just fine. On the other hand, between Whitefish and Columbia Falls some of us found the wide shoulders of US 93 and US2 to be full of gravel and rocks, while another found the ACA back roads to be quite nice. Since we had a support vehicle we drove from Columbia Falls to West Glacier via the ACA route and returned via US 2. We chose to pedal the ACA route despite 3 miles of gravel, rather than climb the steep hill and inconsistent shoulder and sidepath around Hungry Horse.

To save time and avoid having to meet the Road to the Sun time limits, we took Marias Pass. It poured rain that day. Another cyclist took Logan Pass. With a French Canadian accent, she said, “I could see that if I could have seen anything, it would have been beautiful.”

We then continued on US 2 to the Wisconsin/Michigan border. In ND, ACA takes you “away from the traffic and boredom of US 2,” but we enjoyed the many miles of wildlife habitat along US 2. We could have gotten along without some of the rumble strips.

Instead of continuing across NW Michigan on US 2, A friend living in Florence, WI advised us to turn south on US 51, then west on SR 70, SR 139, and SR 70 to Florence.

From Florence, we followed mostly US 2 to its end at the Mackinac Bridge. From there we took MI 23 to Cheboygan, then MI 27, and then MI 33 to Alger, where, I think we picked up an I-75 frontage road to Standish, then followed MI 13 to Bay City where we picked up the Adventure Cycling Lake Erie Connector route.

That route took us across southern Ontario to Fort Erie, ON. At US Customs we met a Buffalo area cyclist who lead us to a downtown bike shop, then onto NY 5 to Amherst. We continued across NY mostly on NY 5.

Utica, where NY 5 joined NY 8 and 12 and I-790 to join/cross I-90 was not for the faint of heart. We didn’t see any signs saying cyclists weren’t supposed to be there, or cyclists go this way, so we continued on. We may have been too busy watching traffic and other directional signs to see cyclist signs. (This part of the route wasn’t planned before we left home.)

A conversation with a bike shop employee ended up in an alternative route out of Schenctady when NY 7 said “bikes prohibited.” At Latham we joined NY 7 and followed it to the NY/VT border. We followed VT 9 to Brattleboro, VT jogged north on US 5 then followed NH 9 to near Keene, NH. We followed 101 to Milford, then 101A to Nashua, 111 to Canobie Lake. We finished at Plum Island, MA.

Originally, we planned to camp out during the week and motel it on weekends. However, one member of our group had sleep apnea. His nightime breathing apparatus required both electricity and a reasonably consistent temperature. As a result, he and his daughter (the sag driver) stayed in motels all but a few nights, while the rest of us generally camped. We stayed in a youth hostel in East Glacier. During the week we went across NY, VT, NH, the men’s wives showed up and we stayed in motels. Campgrounds would have been hard to find anyway.


Offline JayH

Short TransAm on the Northern Tier?
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2004, 11:47:01 am »
My random suggestions too. If you do cross NY State, you can always take a ferry across Lake Champlain to get to Vermont, they have three ferries at various latitudes of the lake that you can find out info on.

I know that NH and Maine have bicycle maps that can tell you shoulder width, traffic density, etc. that you can request for free from each state's respective DOT. (Just use google), I have them for NH and Maine (and RI, and Mass and CT, for that matter).  I'm sure VT has them too but as yet, I haven't needed it other than the website for the Lake Champlain Bikeways organization.  

So, you could easily figure out shorter routes in various places and getting to Bar Harbor quickly.

I would be very afraid to take the coastal route in Maine (I've been there) because I would be very tempted to simply stay in Camden or any of the towns in Mid-Coast maine and never leave!!!! That would mess up your 12 weeks for sure :D


Offline MrBent

Short TransAm on the Northern Tier?
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2004, 04:26:49 pm »
Boy, thanks for all the REALLY thoughtful replies.  It certainly seems possible to trim a northern TransAm to about 3.5K miles.  We'll put all your advice to good use.  TransAm won't happen this next summer, though.  Got a nephew getting married smack dab in the middle of the summer, something like July 2.  Ugh.  Happy for him, of course.  Oh, well.