Too Late for a Cross-Country Trip?
I have all the time in the world and a few thousand dollars in the bank, and can get more money fairly easily anywhere I can find a 'net connection. I'm going to make the transition from years of freelancing, where I work maybe two months total out of the year, to a few years at a full-time position (which I'll find when I get to SF or whatever city I really like along the way) where I can hope for maybe two weeks of vacation a year.
Since I have to relocate to the west coast, I'm really up for the idea of biking myself from the east coast (Northeast PA) to the west coast (probably passing through Portland).
The closest I've ever been to bike touring is six months in a flat city with no car. I got very good at packing my bike with entire cartloads of groceries (sometimes ~50lbs of canned goods) and biking them home without too much of a problem, as well as improvising when things happened like panniers breaking mid-trip.
As far as my fitness level goes, I haven't been biking in quite some time, but I do exercise twice a day, so I'm not completely out of shape.
I'm afraid it's probably a little late in the year to be doing this, but by next summer, I'll be in a cubicle, and I'd really like to seize the opportunity while I can. It doesn't matter to me personally if the trip takes two months or eight months, but I'm afraid the weather might be a problem, unless there are routes I can take to mitigate such issues. In fact, I have enough time/money where I can take some extended downtime in a few cities if they seem interesting.
I'm also female, and not sure if there are any safety implications. I've done contracts in random cities on my own, and never had any problems staying in cheap hotels or taking the Greyhound, which seems to be about the same "danger" level ("danger" in quotes because it wasn't very dangerous at all).
It'd be great if I can find a biking buddy, but if not, I have no problems going solo. In fact, I'm wondering if I might just meet some travel companions along the way if I start out solo on a well-traveled bike route.
Right now my main question is whether or not this plan is feasible, or if I should just go camping for a weekend and then use the free plane ticket I have to get to the west coast...
It is probably a little too late for a TransAmerica or even a TransAmerica / Western Express combo this year. You could probably go as far as Pueblo Colorado or thereabouts and then go farther south, maybe hitting the Southern Tier. You would most likely need to improvise some of the route.
Another option might be to take the TA and use either the Great Rivers Route or the Underground Railroad Route to join the Southern Tier.
Another option might be to just do the whole Southern Tier either starting in Florida or riding the Atlantic Coast route to get there.
Check out Adventure Cycling for details on those routes. Their maps are a huge help and you can use those routes with no route planning beyond buying the appropriate maps. They list all of the services that you might need and contain turn by turn directions.
If you don't want to use an established route then all kinds of variations would be possible.
On the fitness level... You will be happier if you have some saddle time in, but it is quite possible to train as you go. Just don't push too hard in the beginning and in a week or 10 days you will be doing fine. The key is not overdoing too soon. My companions on the TA had very few miles in when they started and did great.
Don't sweat the female thing lots of women have done a coast to coast tour.
Meeting people along the way might be harder with such a late start, except maybe on the Southern Tier which is typically ridden later in the year.
Last edited by staehpj1; 08-29-08 at 07:34 AM.
I have done two fall cross-country trips - including my first x-usa.
However, both were west to east.
And, I had a moderate amount of touring experience before my first trip.
It's possible to do one east to west starting Sept 1.
But you will have to cut deep into the Southwest to avoid the Rockies.
Also - you never say where you will start and where you need to end.
But then again - there's Amtrak - which is pretty easy for touring cyclists -
Given all the hassles and costs of flying.
One more thing -
An east to west trip in the fall is likely to have a good deal of headwinds.
Rough itinerary -
DC - Blue Ridge Parkway - Cross Tennessee & Arkansas -
Ozark Mtns - Oklahoma - Santa Fe - Grand Canyon -
Sedona - Parker - Joshua Tree - Ventura
8 1/2 weeks - 400 miles per week?? -
66 miles per day with 1 day off for weather, repairs, relaxing, etc.
And don't forget - after Sept 21, the days are less than 12 hours.
Can you do that?
Best - J
Here's a website to give you western temps and precip:
A direct ride from Scranton to Portland, Oregon is really risky.
I live in Wyoming. I have lived here since 1990.
I have ridden in the winter - but with extreme care.
Wyoming is not to be trifled with in October.
Hunters in the mountains die every year due to exposure.
Given your experience level -
I would rec a southwest route and Amtrak -
Or a nice long weekend camping out.
OK, based on your comment about "eight months," I'm assuming you plan to be in SF and either officially looking for work, or have a job lined up already, starting on May 1st.
If I was in your position, this is what I'd do:
- fly to SF
- in SF, put my worldly possessions into storage
- fly to Vancouver
- bicycle tour from Vancouver to LA (about 6 weeks)
-- start slow, in order to avoid overuse injuries
- using the Adventure Cycling routes: cycle out to the Grand Canyon, then if the weather allows, up to the Western Express and back to SF (about 7-8 weeks)
One possible option of this route is that you could wait until you get to Vancouver to buy a good-quality touring bike, so you don't have to lug it all over the place. Just make sure to get a tune-up after about 200 miles.
Out of curiosity, what line of work were you in that allows you to only need 2 months of gainful employment per year?
Long Distance Cyclist
How long do you estimate the cross country tour would take you? If you're aiming to arrive in the Pacific Northwest any later than the end of September, start thinking about frost and even snow as you cross the mountains.
OP: to clarify some of the posts above - they are referring to the Adventure Cycling Assocation which has mapped a number of bike routes across the country.
You can find the association, their routes, and more info at:
I started the TransAm last year on Sept. 15th, so if you leave right now it's not too late. I did get a lot hail, freezing cold nights, and snow but survived and had a great time. Was also very lucky that none of the roads I went on were closed yet due to snow. Also the campgrounds start closing after Sept. 1st so even though you may know of a campground up ahead, it may already be closed for the year. Much better idea to do the Pacific Coast route or Southern Tier.
It looks from the dates on your pics like you went west to east. If so that makes a BIG difference. Starting in the east you hit the high passes much later in the trip, so for the OP it probably is too late to prudently do the TA.
Originally Posted by gz_
From your pics it looks like you went over McKenzie Pass (a very cool part of the trip). I thought it was closed then. Am I wrong, about that or did you sneak through. We hit it when it was closed, but it was the weekend so we figured the road crew wouldn't be working and snuck through. That was the first of several times we ignored road closed signs including a huge one in Kansas that said "Closed to Bicyclists"
Yes I went West to East, I really don't think anyone could get through any of those passes had they been going the other way. I did go through McKenzie Pass which was pretty early in the trip so it was still warm and there was no snow or anything there. It was still open and the view of the Sisters was amazing so I'm glad I took that over the alternate route.
Originally Posted by staehpj1
I grew up in the New England so I'm used to snow, but really had no idea that the West got so much and so early. It was also a surprise to me to learn that they actually close roads for Winter and start getting snow in August. The areas I had trouble (and got really lucky that I was still able to get through) was Lolo Pass from Idaho to Montana, the Southern exit from Yellowstone will close if there is too much snow, just outside this there is Towogotee Pass (sp?) going into Dubois which also closes during the winter (and had a lot of road work.) I'm not sure if Hoosier Pass closes, but I got a foot of snow the night before and it was a bit slippery getting over but the pass was still open. I believe the other popular road through the Rockies (Trail Ridge Road?) closes Oct 15th.
Anyways, to the OP, had I had the same window of opportunity, I would have taken the Pacific Coast route or Southern Tier.
Thanks for all the advice, guys!
Yeah, I guess it's too late for TransAm, bummer. Not sure if I want to do Southwest. If I decided on Southwest, what would be the cutoff point to when that route is doable?
Maybe I'll just do some solo camping/local trips to gear up for next summer, or wait until I relocate to the west coast and do a north to south tour.
Good that you got to ride McKenzie. It is a really nice ride. I didn't think it was supposed to open to auto traffic at all in 07. They opened to bikes for a few weeks in the spring and then started road repairs that they told us would keep it closed for the year. I guess they were done by the time you got there.
Originally Posted by gz_
Anyway I always highly recommend that route rather than Santiam pass if possible. The Lava field and the views of the Sisters were great. With a June start in the west it is likely to be the only place that you will still see some snow on the ground in spots where you are actually there rather than just looking up at snowcapped peaks, at least it was for us in 07.