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  1. #1
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    northern tier or transamerica?

    Which is better?

    Which has the best scenery, least amount of traffic, best roads (shoulder, pavement, hills,etc.), most campgrounds, cheapest stores and bike shops, weather conditions, etc.?

    I plan on doing one or the other in late spring/early summer depending on weather and finances, but haven't decided which yet. I'll be buying a map from adventure cycling for whichever route I ride. I use a crappy old hybrid with rear panniers and a backpack, but I'll probably get some front panniers too.

    I'll be riding west to east. Wind, traffic, and cheap campgrounds are my biggest concerns. I've seen most of the good scenery (west of the mississippi) on both of these routes by car already, and I think most of america east of the rockies is ugly and boring anyhow, so that's not a big factor. I'll be camping the whole time and eating ramen noodles because I'm broke as a joke, so I'll probably take the route with the most campgrounds or public lands spread 60-120 miles apart, and cheap stores to buy food and supplies.

    I'm extremely slow, so I'm a little worried about some of the climbing on both of these routes. I rode 101 from oregon to tijuanna, and I've did the rim at crater lake. Both of those challenged me at times but I still made it alright. How much tougher are the climbs I will encounter on the north.tier or transam?

    Are there any stretches where I might have to worry about running out of water or food before I get to the next town? Are bike shops or hardware stores that carry tubes and stuff spread reasonably far apart? Anything else I should be concerned about?

    The sleeping bag I'll be taking is rated to 25 degrees, but it only keeps me comfortable down to about 35, should that be warm enough?

    Also, about how much should I expect to spend a day. I spent $15 to $20 a day on my last tour. I should have between $2500 and $3000 by the time I leave, but I'm hoping to have some left when I finish. Is that enough?

  2. #2
    Hooked on Touring
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    My Dear CD -

    If you plan a cheap tour, I'm afraid you are likely to get a cheap tour. And if you don't expect to see anything interesting east of the Rockies, I doubt you will. That said - why would you want to ride coast to coast?

    There is a big difference between an inexpensive tour and a cheap tour. I've seen people heading across the country on 3-speeds, so I'm guessing that your bike - although not a carbon-frame Trek or similar breed - is perfectly adequate with an overhaul.

    Your money should be enough - certainly $20 per day will do if you avoid motels, restaurants, and bars - especially the latter which can blow an entire week's budget. In fact, if you plan to stop between towns rather than in towns as most people do on the TransAm, you will find yourself spending less.

    You can camp for free on most USFS and BLM lands inthe interior West. You just need to know where they are. Usually creek valleys are private land - so you may have to go off road a bit. Plus there is free camping all over the country in state forests and game lands.

    Go to Crazyguyonabike.com and look at the journals for both routes. There are lots of them. You can also save a chunk by skipping the AdventureCycling maps and doing your own planning. Perhaps consider going off the AC routes.

    There are many parts of the east that are gorgeous - you simply have to look. Most people love riding in central Kentucky and western Virginia on the TransAm. If you choose to go off route - the C&O Canal trail is one of the nicest routes in the east - emptying out on the Mall right by the Lincoln Memorial in DC. You have no cars for hundreds of miles, little towns nearby for supplies, free camping, and a route that winds along the Potomac River thru the Allegheny Mountains.

    Your sleeping bag should be fine - maybe you'll need to wear an extra layer on a few cold nights in the Rockies early on. You do know that adding a Polarfleece earband really warms you up - plus wool socks. I always carry one pair of Smartwool socks along with the cotton ones.

    It really ain't that bad.
    Best - J

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Uhhhh........ Oh hell, ride 'em both. I doubt either route scores tops in all categories.

    You're gonna start in Oregon? You've got the perfect situation. Ride the TransAmerica to Missoula; stop in at Adventure Cycling and buy all the maps you need. It's cheaper to buy 'em in the store, if you're not a member!!! I've done this a couple times (I truly owe them a membership but I'm broke, too). From Missoula, you can continue on the TA or jog up to the NorthernTier. This might be your best choice, 'cuz the NT is indeed long and lonely between the Cascades and Glacier Park, and you'd skip this part.

    I've ridden both of them (mostly) from the West Coast to Montana, and the only criteria on your list that stands out is that the NT feels more remote (fewer towns/stores) in northern WA and ID. When it comes right down to it, I'd hate to have to choose between Glacier Nat'l Park and Yellowstone. Hell, ride 'em both!

    OR/WA to Montana, towns/shops/hardware stores can be spread out, you're lucky if you can find bike parts every 120 miles. On either route. But it's not tough or expensive to carry basic parts -- tube, cables, spokes. Start out with a well-overhauled bike.

    Beyond Montana, I'd go by jamawani's suggestion (he knows of what he speaks) and read up on Crazyguyonabike.com . I'd think the TA has more bicycle traffic, it certainly has been around longer, so towns/shops/people would know you're coming (I mean, bike shops, regular camp sites, etc.)

    Hwy 101 south to Mexico is pretty good training. Crater Lake, too, especially if you'd ridden UP to it. Don't worry about the climbs, the first week of a cross-country ride is more than enough to get in shape. Slow is OK. So is being exhausted at the end of the day. Only two things about your timeframe to worry about: yes, there are some stretches where you might have to carry extra water (say 2 extra liters) -- this is where maps help, even state highway maps. The second is to be prepared for cold in the Rockies -- gloves, cap, sweater, etc. It's just good planning; it might not snow in July, but it's not unheard of.

    This past summer, I was surprised how much camping fees had gone up -- Nat'l Forests, Nat'l Parks, State Parks (except Oregon, thankfully). If you make use of (free) public lands, you can save a bundle. Or splurge on a peanut butter sandwich

    You're bound to run into some of us on the trail, so you'll be part of the flow!

    -- Mark

  4. #4
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    (quote: Jamawani)
    If you plan a cheap tour, I'm afraid you are likely to get a cheap tour. And if you don't expect to see anything interesting east of the Rockies, I doubt you will. That said - why would you want to ride coast to coast?

    Riding coast to coast is my bicycling goal for this year. I didn't say everything east of the rockies is uninteresting, just a good portion of it. But, I live in Oregon so I'm biased, and not to mention spoiled as well. Places that I don't enjoy driving through are usually more enjoyable by bike however. The only states I've drove through on the east coast so far are GA, NC and SC, so I still have some travelling to do there.

    The C&O Canal trail sounds like a good option, so I will do some more research on it.

    (quote: EmmCeeBee)
    Only two things about your timeframe to worry about: yes, there are some stretches where you might have to carry extra water (say 2 extra liters) -- this is where maps help, even state highway maps.

    I can carry as much as 1.5 gallons of water at a time, but I'll be buying a water purifier for some hiking/camping trips I plan on doing late in the summer and may take it on tour too. Bottled water is just so much more convenient though.

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