Originally Posted by BigPitz
Finally, I have two concerns that maybe you could help me out with:
One is that I can't scrounge up a riding partner. I don't mind traveling alone (I even look forward to the independence) but I know I'm bound to get into some sticky situations where it would be nice to have another person around.
The other concern is riding on streets with cars. A few weeks ago I took a ride from Cincinnati to Columbus, OH. Most of it was on a bike trail but as I approached C-bus and had to ride roads through farmland. It was unsettling with scattered traffic flying by at high speed.
Any help about the route, gear, etc. would be greatly appreciated. Feel free to send me e-mail or PM.
My first response is to your concern about riding on streets with cars. In my experience, you can't avoid it on a long tour. I try to pick routes where the roads at least have a wide enough shoulder for me to feel comfortable, if not an actual bike lane, but there are always sections with no shoulders at all, with no room to bail out, lots of blind corners, and lots of logging trucks. (Okay, they're not always logging trucks, but there are trucks, motorhomes, etc. to deal with.) One simple strategy is to get a rearview mirror. When I'm in a dangerous stretch of road, it's a little reassuring to be able to watch what's coming up behind me, and get ready to bail if I need to. If you don't have a mirror, I suggest you get one.
Another technique, which I've referred to, is "bailing out". On one tour I was on a section of narrow road with no shoulder and lots of truck traffic (logging trucks, of course.) When a truck came up behind me and couldn't pass (which was pretty much always, because the road was so curvy), I'd find the next wide spot on the right, pull over, and let the truck by. One time I was waiting for a good spot with a truck behind me. After a few seconds, the trucker got impatient and pulled out to pass. He was about halfway by when a car came around a corner from the other direction. To avoid hitting the car head-on, the truck veered back into the lane where I was. I guess he figured it would be better to wipe out a bike tourer (which wouldn't hurt his truck at all) than to get in a head-on with a car (which could dent his truck, and be more likely to spoil his day). I had no choice but to bail into the ditch. (Luckily, there was a ditch; on many sections of that road there was nothing but a high bank or rock wall on the right.) I bounced along, and managed to come to a stop without injury to myself, although I broke two spokes, but it scared the beeJeezus out of me! After that, when I would hear a truck approaching in a bad spot, I'd instantly get off the road and wait for it to pass. It really slowed my progress, but I wanted to stay alive! Now I'm always willing to stop and assess the situation, rather than continue riding and look for a place to pull over.
My other response has to do with traveling alone. It can be a hazard if you're injured, or get sick, and there's no one to help. However, there's almost always someone around, or someone driving past who you can flag down. The other hazard has to do with loneliness. I've been an avid camper all my life, but I went camping for the first time when I was about 22. I had plans to stay for a week, but after about 2 days I went home because it was too weird to be myself and have no one to talk to for that long. And I had 2 dogs with me! Since then I've done lots of solo travelling - backpacking, car camping, and bike touring - and it doesn't bother me so much anymore, although I still have bouts of loneliness.
If you go on a popular route, you'll end up meeting so many people you won't have to be alone. I've ridden the Pacific coast route twice. Both times I started alone, and both times I ended up with traveling companions after a couple of days.
I'm not sure how popular some of the other routes are, and whether that would happen. I'm riding the Northern Tier this summer. I wrote a post asking if anyone else was going to be on it around the same time, so I could look for them. I haven't received any responses.