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Old 10-01-06, 06:28 AM   #1
seanpmurray
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Shortest Route Across America (starting from NY/NJ)?

Suggestions for a short route across America starting in NJ or NY? I won't have much time this summer.
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Old 10-01-06, 08:14 AM   #2
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At the risk of being branded a smarta~~, does "across America" require getting to the Pacific ocean? Assuming that's true and given the shape of the Earth, I'd guess a route to Oregon that's far north of Missouri, but you'd enjoy the 220 ile KATY trail from St. Charles (western suburb of St. Louis) to Clinton in far western Missouri.

Regardless of your goal, go buy a copy of Delorme Street Atlas USA. It has its rivals, but as a commuter mapping product which integrates well to a gps, it's hard to beat and a good value. You can order it online from many vendors, but can probably buy it at your nearest CompUSA, or the like. It let's you do routing in so many flexible ways that I'm certain it will suit you. It can print AAA triptik style custom travel maps. You can up/download your maps to your gps unit. If I were doing this, I'd get a lightweight gps with a color display and downloadable maps. I might even look for a handlebar mountable unit, although at bicycle speed, the junctions tend not to sneak up on you. Still, very handy for knowing where is the nearest hospital, police station, atm, etc.
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Old 10-01-06, 09:20 AM   #3
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My experiece with 'across' is that it's a great thing to *say* but not such a great thing to *do*. Depends on what you want. That said, google earth is free online, and a paper map of the USA is free or almost free.

I went from Astoria OR to Seabright NJ in 2003, my route was fairly direct. It was 3700 milles, and took 9.5 weeks, which included a one week haitus in Wyoming, a 5 day haitus in Wisconsin, a 250 mile car ride across a bit of SD and MN, and the one day off every 6-10 days. I averaged 60 miles/day.

I rode the Adv. Cycling Lewis and CLarck from Astoria to Bozeman, then made my own way the rest of my way, hitting Yellowstone, Devils Tower, across SD, MN, up the wisconsin river to Milwaukee, cross Lake Michigan on a ferry, down through the middle of Mich. to Indiana, across Ohio (around hwy 224, I think, I was winging it), into PA at Sharon, south to Pittsburgh, across PA on the PA bike Route S to Philly, then a straight shot across jersey to the shore.

Looking at google earth, that route runs a little north of a great-circle route, so it's just slightly longer than it would have to be if you were going to take the absolute shortest way.
Hope that helps.
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Old 10-01-06, 10:08 AM   #4
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US 6 to Ely Nevada, then US 50 to "shaky town" via the ACA western express route
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Old 10-01-06, 10:35 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seanpmurray
Suggestions for a short route across America starting in NJ or NY? I won't have much time this summer.
I have no answer, but I suggest you replace "shortest with "fastest" or "easiest". You need to find a route that combines short distance with minimal hills and best wind avoidance.
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Old 10-01-06, 11:15 AM   #6
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The fastest way to cross the country is to travel from west to east, regardless of the route you take. If you start from the west you will have the wind at your back more often than not, which is a crucial factor when riding in the open plains. Going in the right direction can add many miles to your daily average and shave days off your trip.

If you were intending to travel from NY to the west coast and to take a train back home at the end of your tour, I would suggest moving the train ride to the start of the trip so you can travel from west to east.

In terms of the route you should take, I don't know. I would be more concerned about riding through places that you would find interesting and let the time factor take care of itself. If the shortest route would be from central Oregon to NY, but you would find the ride from Northern Washingto to NY to be more interesting, I would go for the latter option. Just spend an extra hour in the saddle each day to make up the extra time.
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Old 10-01-06, 12:48 PM   #7
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Stretch a string on a globe from NYC and you'll find the shortest crow-flying distance to the west coast would end either around San Diego or at the mouth of the Columbia River on the OR/WA border. I took the latter from here in NY state beginning in late April and it was delightful. I liked the east-to-west, sun-at-my-back riding during the mornings, as well as the fact that I was in really good shape by the time I reached the Rockies. The headwinds were but a minor irritant except in the Columbia River gorge where they were indeed fierce at times. Starting late May/early June would make sense riding eastward from the coast, though you'd catch heat and insects in the eastern half.

I'd think mid-August to Labor Day would be a nice time to strike out for San Diego from NYC. I'm not sure what an optimal starting date would be if riding eastward from SD.
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Old 10-01-06, 02:50 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brotherdan
The fastest way to cross the country is to travel from west to east, regardless of the route you take. If you start from the west you will have the wind at your back more often than not, which is a crucial factor when riding in the open plains. Going in the right direction can add many miles to your daily average and shave days off your trip.

If you were intending to travel from NY to the west coast and to take a train back home at the end of your tour, I would suggest moving the train ride to the start of the trip so you can travel from west to east.

In terms of the route you should take, I don't know. I would be more concerned about riding through places that you would find interesting and let the time factor take care of itself. If the shortest route would be from central Oregon to NY, but you would find the ride from Northern Washingto to NY to be more interesting, I would go for the latter option. Just spend an extra hour in the saddle each day to make up the extra time.
Untill you get to KS and then you have a headwind whatever way you are going! It's common for two cyclists going in opposite directions to meet, each riding a 35 mph + headwind!
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Old 10-01-06, 09:49 PM   #9
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Looking at satellite photos it looks like there's more flatland along the northern route (for example between Detroit and Billings Montana), and fewer mountain ranges to cross, and more mountains along the southern route (eg between Phoenix and LA, but I could be wrong.
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Old 10-01-06, 10:46 PM   #10
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Really? You didn't consider wind to be much of a factor on an east-west tour? My experience was exactly the opposite. From eastern Minnesota to central Montana, the wind played a huge role in my east-west tour. Daily headwinds of 10 to 20 mph slowed me down a great deal and were incredibly frustrating.

My ride became a breeze when I hit the pacific coast in northern Washington and headed south, on my way to LA. Despite the fact that much of the coastal terrain is downright bumpy, my daily average increased by ten or fifteen miles a day on the pacific coast. That's a difference that I attribute partially to being in better shape, but mostly to the fact that I didn't have to fight the winds anymore. I'll take difficult mountainous terrain over a head wind any day.
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Old 10-04-06, 08:27 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Stormcrowe
Untill you get to KS and then you have a headwind whatever way you are going! It's common for two cyclists going in opposite directions to meet, each riding a 35 mph + headwind!
I'll agree with that statement! While riding the Northern Tier in 2003 we met some bikers coming the other way on the Lewis and Clark route. We were going east, and thought that we had a lot of headwinds, Yet the group on the L&C complained about headwinds going west.

It seems that no matter which direction you go, it's always a headwind.
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Old 10-04-06, 11:01 AM   #12
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Headwinds in the Great Plains - -

During the summer months, prevailing winds in the Great Plains are southerly. That's why there are so many afternoon storms since the air circulation is bring up the entire Gulf of Mexico. Anyone who has been sweating in the heat and humidity of a July day in Kansas can attest to that. So whether you go east or west, you are likely to be fighting a strong sidewind. And sidewinds can be tiring.

This said, there are some variations. In the western Plains the winds tend to be southwesterly - brutal if you are riding towards Pueblo from the east. In the eastern plains the winds tend to be southeasterly - no fun if you're riding towards Fargo from the west. Usually, but not always, the winds are lighter in the morning and pick up in the afternoon. Thus, for reasons of both heat and wind, it is a good idea to start at sunrise in mid-summer.

So it really is possible for groups heading in both direction to meet in central Kansas and both complain about headwinds.
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Old 10-04-06, 11:28 AM   #13
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PS -
Speaking of short - what do you mean by short?
How long do you plan to ride?
Mountain bike or touring bike?
Ocean to ocean - or is a bay okay?
You know - the shortest distance may not be the fastest - esp. on a bike.
Also there's the issue of weather.
Lots of rain and/or 115 degree days can may for longer tours on shorter routes.
Plus mountains.
Four ranges a day in the Great Basin or six Allegheny ridges a day can cut your mileage.

If you plan on leaving after Memorial Day, I'd recommend west to east as some other have done.
Then you have the issue of getting out to your starting point.

My suggestion -
Anacortes, WA; Glacier, MT; Miles City MT; Rapid City, SD - or
Aberdeen, WA; Lewiston, ID; Helena, MT; Rapid City, SD - or
Astoria, OR; Lewiston, ID; Helena, MT; Rapid City, SD - or
Newport, OR; Payette, ID; Yellowstone, WY; Chadron, NE
From there -
Cut across southern SD or northern NE and central IA
Then bike across northern IL, IN & OH - use the Illinois and Michigan Trail
http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/Landmgt/PARKS/i&m/main.htm
I'd take the ATA Trail from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD
Then the C & O Trail to Williamsport.
From there you can follow the Great Valley thru Harrisburg to Washington's Crossing
Then the Delaware & Raritan to New Brunswick and over to Atlantic Highlands
Finally you can finish on the catamaran ferry to Manhattan
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Old 10-04-06, 12:49 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by jamawani
Headwinds in the Great Plains - -

Usually, but not always, the winds are lighter in the morning and pick up in the afternoon. Thus, for reasons of both heat and wind, it is a good idea to start at sunrise in mid-summer.
+ 1 - as a southern Coastal Plains cyclist, I'll attest to the dawn to 11 a.m. time as the best without much more than a breeze from any direction.

Although if a front is blowing through, it won't matter which direction you're riding, the wind will come around and smack you in the face...
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