I'm planning a solo tour across the USA next summer (before going back to uni) and I've been doing some basic planning over the past month or so. I've done silly amounts of research using google and these forums but I still have quite a few questions.
My plan is to follow the transamerica trail from west to east. I figure I have about 85 days when I consider time either side to sort out stuff back at home (in the UK). I'm young and I have all of this year to train so I reckon I might end up doing it a bit quicker and from looking at Yorktown, VA I don't think there's enough there to keep me amused for however many days i've got left. So my plan is to book my return flight from Miami, FL and, depending on how much time I have left and how I feel either:
1) Cycle the extra 700ish miles from Yorktown to Miami following the ACA Atlantic Coast route.
2) Catch the train (Amtrak) from Newport News, VA
Then relax in Miami until I have to leave!
Question 1: Is this a realistic plan?
I'm going to need to buy a new bike for this trip as the one I have at the moment is unsuitable (MTB) and is also falling apart. The bottom bracket makes some horrible horrible noises.
After reading up online I was set on buying a Trek 520 but i've found out they aren't that easy to get in the UK and i've seen some other bikes which look a bit nicer (better gearing etc.).
I'm very tempted by the Thorn Sherpa. I've seen a few good reviews on this site and others. I don't really have a clue what I'm doing when it comes to selecting parts, so I'm not sure if I should upgrade any of the components. The Thorn Sherpa Order Form lists lots of possible upgrades to the basic spec (listed in column 1 of page 2). I'm trying to avoid spending money unnecessarily because each pound I spend here means about a dollar less for motels and campgrounds in the USA.
Question 2: Are any of the upgrades worth the money for a 4500 mile plus tour? I don't want to have spokes break or anything like that when i'm halfway across.
I was completely set on buying Ortlieb to avoid having to worry about rain getting my gear wet but I later read some bad points on these forums:
1) Waterproofing means moisture won't escape and stuff gets mouldy and smelly
Question 3: Isn't is possible to leave the top of the Ortlieb panniers open when it's not raining to air them out?
2) They only have one big pocket
3) They only open from the top so if I have my tent strapped to the top of the rear rack it'll be a load of hassle to get into them.
I've looked at Arkels gt-54 panniers and I love the design. I would go for them if they weren't so expensive.
I'm also tempted to use Ortliebs on the front and another brand on the back.
Question 4: Other than the amazing but very expensive Arkels, what are some other well renowned rear panniers?
I'm seeing equipment costs etc. stacking up and I need to try to figure out roughly how much I need to budget for while over in the USA. I've seen so many different figures based on lots of different touring styles and I think what would help me would be:
1) Approximate campground and motel costs on the transam trail
I will adjust my ratio of camping to motelling based on how much I have available but I need to know rough figures.
2) Rough food costs
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Sorry for the long post... I want to have a great time and for me that means doing enough planning that I don't regret major decisions while on the tour.