Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Tallahassee, FL
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I have done a cross country tour, but not the southern tier. So I have relevant experience but not with that specific route.
Regardless of how lightweight you will be traveling, backpacks sound like a bad idea to me. In addition to general discomfort of the backpack, I can imagine chafing, discomfort, and heat rash being a big issues. Do your self a favor and carry your stuff on the bike.
If they go where you are going the Adventure Cycling maps are well worth the money. They list all of the available services for each town and reduce planning to nil. They only cover the exact route and very little of the surrounding area. That said improvising is easy enough to do by picking up state maps as you go. It is nice to know where the places to camp (free or otherwise), motels, libraries, bike shops, hospitals, post offices and stores are. It is also handy to have their phone numbers listed. It is easy to follow their maps and or turn by turn directions. They also list general info about the area you will be passing through. My advice would be to use the AC maps and improvise on sections where you have a reason to leave their route.