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Old 05-01-11, 01:26 AM   #1
chickonbike
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Advice for New Route Across the States during Summer?

Hi everyone,
Since deciding to cycle across America I've had to rethink many times for various reasons. My original plan to leave late August/early September is no longer ideal and I hope to set off by mid-July already. This means that I also need to rethink my route. I'm choosing between crossing on a northern path - Seattle to New York or Boston, via Montana, N or S Dakota, Minnesota, etc, or heading out from San Francisco (to same final destination) in a slight arch, via Nevada, (Utah), Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, etc.

Do any of you have any advice for me on which way you think would be better and why? I've checked average highs for the portions of Nevada that I might cross and they don't seem to go much higher than the 90's, but I wonder if that's correct... Meanwhile, the northern states are beautiful, but this is my first proper long distance trip and I wonder if all those hills will be overachieving.
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Old 05-01-11, 02:17 AM   #2
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Are you serious? You wanted to cross the US starting in late August/early September? You must like cycling in snow! Mid-July is probably a better choice ... how long do you think your trip will take?

And .... what hills across the northern states are you referring to? Most of the northern states are prairie land ... flat, flat, flat.
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Old 05-01-11, 06:26 AM   #3
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I have 100,000 touring miles and my first X-USA trip started on September 1.
So it can be done.

I would NOT suggest riding across Nevada or southern Idaho is July/August.
It can be done, but it will be brutally hot - so why not opt for something better?
Starting out in the Northwest to Montana will give you stunning mountain scenery and pleasant temps.

If you want to start in July - the ideal place to start is in the San Juan Islands of Washington.
The Northern Tier route begins in Anacortes - but you simply MUST spend at least one day out on the islands.

Quick list:
San Juan - Friday Harbor party town, great campsite with sunset views on west side of island.
Orcas - Orcas Town is very artsy, but camping way far away and way uphill.
Lopes - My fave, nice village, great quiet riding, two camping options.
Shaw - Tiny, small campground, no commercial services.

Depending on how fast you ride, your mileage, and how often you take days off to smell the roses -
You should get to the east coast around early October - no problem.
Remember - by September the days are getting much shorter.

My suggestion would be Northern Tier or something close to Glacier National Park.
Then US 89 down to Yellowstone/Grand Teton National Parks.
Then across Wyoming - couple of options - to the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Then roughly on the SD/Neb and Minn/Iowa borders heading east.
Then you can roughly follow the Northern Tier across the Midwest -
Or you can plot our your own route - ending in the Boston/New York area.
(I would not follow th Northern Tier in northern New England out to Bar Harbor, Maine.)

If you start out in the San Juan Islands, I would suggest islands on the east coast for a finish.
Possibilities - Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard off Massachusetts coast. (with hostels)
Block Island, RI (only motels) or Montauk, NY. (camping, hostel)
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Old 05-01-11, 06:28 AM   #4
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Hot.

http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/northerntier.cfm

Which is not the route I would want to take.

If you are stuck in that time frame, you might want to consider a tour of the Pac NW or New England.

Or... the pacific coast ride
http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/pacificcoast.cfm

I agree with Jamawani about not doing the Northern route in New England.
It misses most of the places I like.

How you do it depends on how much time you have. Routing across New England is a bit awkward.
If you had the time... ride up to Burlington Vt. Then over to the Kancamangus Highway. At that point
you can cut across Maine towards Bar Harbor, or do a partial tour ending in Portland Maine, or head down
to Boston.

You travel to see what a place has to offer. But on an epic trip like this, the traveling eats up
most of the time. So you balance the touristy time against the epic travel time.

Which is inevitably a personal choice.

Last edited by late; 05-01-11 at 06:38 AM.
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Old 05-01-11, 07:07 AM   #5
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Stay out of Nevada and Utah in the summer. Sevices are sparse and even if you can carry enough water, it will be unbearably hot to drink. The northern route, OTOH, will be much cooler and very pretty in a forested rather than desert kind of way. The (boring?) flat prairie will be encountered either way. Also, IMHO, the grades encountered eastbound on the ACA Northern Tier are nowhere as debilitating as the grades eastbound on the ACA Western Express.
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Old 05-01-11, 07:20 AM   #6
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I think your new plan sounds good. I did a supported cross-country tour three years ago, and we started out from Seattle in late June, ending in Washington DC in early August. The weather was mostly good, and there are some hills and mountain passes, but nothing you can't handle. Also, the prairie states we passed through didn't have mountains, but they were far from flat, flat, flat!

Have a great trip!
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Old 05-01-11, 07:24 AM   #7
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Depends how far north you go. If you go through Colorado and Kansas, you'll get hills, but the northern part of North Dakota and even into Minnesota is flat like Manitoba. We ran our 400K randonnees and one of our 600K randonnees down there when I lived and cycled in Manitoba.
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Old 05-01-11, 07:49 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by chickonbike View Post
Hi everyone,
Since deciding to cycle across America I've had to rethink many times for various reasons. My original plan to leave late August/early September is no longer ideal and I hope to set off by mid-July already. This means that I also need to rethink my route. I'm choosing between crossing on a northern path - Seattle to New York or Boston, via Montana, N or S Dakota, Minnesota, etc, or heading out from San Francisco (to same final destination) in a slight arch, via Nevada, (Utah), Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, etc.

Do any of you have any advice for me on which way you think would be better and why? I've checked average highs for the portions of Nevada that I might cross and they don't seem to go much higher than the 90's, but I wonder if that's correct... Meanwhile, the northern states are beautiful, but this is my first proper long distance trip and I wonder if all those hills will be overachieving.
I would advise considering one of the ACA routes. I think that the Trans America, the Lewis and Clark to the Trans America, or the Northern tier would all be good choices for a mid July start in the West. Personally I think the TA is pretty hard to beat if you want a good sampling of what the US has to offer.
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Old 05-01-11, 04:23 PM   #9
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I would take Jamawani's advice, also Lewis & Clark is awesome. I also would NOT choose the Western Express (NEvada, utah) in order to avoid hills, because it's not flat.
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Old 05-01-11, 04:55 PM   #10
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If you want to hit the islands off Mass = let me know and I can assist with a shuttle if necessary. You can camp on out property, we are within cycling distance of the fast ferry to Martha's Vinyard out of New Bedford, MA. I used to go there every year, have not bee there in a while, but I am going this year.

John
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Old 05-02-11, 12:43 AM   #11
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Are you serious? You wanted to cross the US starting in late August/early September? You must like cycling in snow! Mid-July is probably a better choice ... how long do you think your trip will take?

And .... what hills across the northern states are you referring to? Most of the northern states are prairie land ... flat, flat, flat.
Well, I was originally planning to cycle the Southern states, so late August/early September would have been pretty good actually.

According to the ACA, the first two thirds (West to East) on the Northern route consists of rolling scenery quite a few major climbs:

"There are four major passes in the first 300 miles, and Sherman Pass is the highest at 5,575 feet. It then becomes rolling, the route following river valleys until you reach Glacier National Park. Logan Pass, on Going-to-the-Sun Road, is the last major climb. There's a series of roller-coaster hills heading into Canada. Once you get about 20 miles east of the Rocky Mountains, you're truly in Big Sky country with moderately hilly plains. The plains roll out through Montana and become hilly in western North Dakota, and then the route flattens out in eastern North Dakota [...] As you enter Iowa, you may think that the terrain is going to flatten out, but the hills continue after leaving the river [...]

I've got three months to do this trip, so time won't really be an issue.
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Old 05-02-11, 12:53 AM   #12
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Thanx everyone! I really appreciate reading your thoughts.
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Old 05-02-11, 05:51 AM   #13
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Once you get about 20 miles east of the Rocky Mountains, you're truly in Big Sky country with moderately hilly plains. The plains roll out through Montana and become hilly in western North Dakota, and then the route flattens out in eastern North Dakota.
Umm - one of the issues some have with the Northern Tier Route is that the Plains go on forever.
By cutting south from Glacier to Yellowstone you get more of the West - plus the Black Hills of South Dakota.

And, yes, the Northern Tier starts with some serious climbing pretty fast.
Not to mention that there is a hunk of miles between camping on either side of the first two passes.
But in July in the West - it will be the most pleasant - by far.
2nd choice - TransAm route for a July start.
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Old 05-02-11, 08:00 AM   #14
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I've had the same thoughts. I'd like to try riding all the way across the country someday, but which route. I'd lean towards either the Northern Tier or the Transamerica. I've done the Northern Tier from Anacortes to Glacier N. P. It was beautiful! It starts out with some serious climbs, however. The North Cascades Highway was a challenge. Loup-loup was also a challenge, though much shorter. Sherman and Wauconda passes also take some work. After that it was pretty great all the way to Glacier. There was a good climb out of Colville, but fairly short. I loved how green the route is through eastern Washington. Most of eastern Washington is brown and unforested, and quite hot during the summer.

I'd like to take the Transamerica because it would be new territory for me, and because I'd like to recreate the trip that all those crazy people did in 1976. However, it looks like it's not a very direct route, which would add a lot of days to the trip. Would it be worth it? I don't know. I didn't like Yellowstone the last time I was there (in a car.) Too much traffic, no shoulders, long distances between attractions. However, it's always better to visit someplace via bicycle, right?

I'm wondering if I might like taking the Northern Tier as far as North Dakota, then veer south - maybe to the RAGBRAI? But then I'd miss the Great Lakes. Hmmm.

I won't be able to really do something like this until I retire, which is still about 6 years away, so I've got plenty of time to cogitate.

Good luck!
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Old 05-02-11, 08:46 AM   #15
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Well, I was originally planning to cycle the Southern states, so late August/early September would have been pretty good actually.

According to the ACA, the first two thirds (West to East) on the Northern route consists of rolling scenery quite a few major climbs:

"There are four major passes in the first 300 miles, and Sherman Pass is the highest at 5,575 feet. It then becomes rolling, the route following river valleys until you reach Glacier National Park. Logan Pass, on Going-to-the-Sun Road, is the last major climb. There's a series of roller-coaster hills heading into Canada. Once you get about 20 miles east of the Rocky Mountains, you're truly in Big Sky country with moderately hilly plains. The plains roll out through Montana and become hilly in western North Dakota, and then the route flattens out in eastern North Dakota [...] As you enter Iowa, you may think that the terrain is going to flatten out, but the hills continue after leaving the river [...]

I've got three months to do this trip, so time won't really be an issue.
If you want to go this route, send me a private message if you would like more details. I have done the entire Northern Tier, the part from Anacortes to Glacier another time and another portion of it two yeas ago.
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Old 05-02-11, 04:57 PM   #16
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Back when you posted your original questions about riding to Jacksonville, I very nearly replied suggesting you change your dates and pick a more scenic route further north in the west. I'm glad that circumstances have forced that.

I think that Jamawani gave you some excellent suggestions and advice. Glacier National Park and Going-to-the-Sun road in the park are wonderful. However if you decide to go there, I would still head to Yellowstone. Or you could bike directly to Yellowstone going southeast across western Montana after crossing northern Idado. Yellowstone is a huge and amazing park, one of the most amazing places on earth. Yeah, there's traffic in the park, but it's not moving much faster than you! There is lots of nice scenery in the Black Hills, as well as some great nearby places you can pass though including Devils Tower in northeast Wyoming, and Badlands National Park a bit east of the Black Hills. As Jamawani noted, you will have a lot of the Great Plains to ride across. By heading toward the Black Hills, you'll get to see some great scenery which is very different from European landscapes, and you'll reduce the amount of less interesting scenery you'll need to cross as you head east.

I'm not sure I agree with the San Juan islands suggestion however, even though I like the San Juans a lot (Lopez is my favorite, too). Perhaps take a ferry across Puget Sound from Seattle, then head to Port Townsend, then a ferry to Whidbey Island. Port Townsend and southern Whidbey island are very nice, and it's a good way to head north toward North Cascades National Park back on the mainland. If time is truly no problem, take the ferry to Lopez and spend a day riding around it, then take the ferry back to Anacortes.
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Old 05-03-11, 10:55 AM   #17
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I'm not sure I agree with the San Juan islands suggestion however, even though I like the San Juans a lot (Lopez is my favorite, too). Perhaps take a ferry across Puget Sound from Seattle, then head to Port Townsend, then a ferry to Whidbey Island. Port Townsend and southern Whidbey island are very nice, and it's a good way to head north toward North Cascades National Park back on the mainland. If time is truly no problem, take the ferry to Lopez and spend a day riding around it, then take the ferry back to Anacortes.
I left the TransAm in Missoula to go up to the NT at Glacier, and looking back I wish we had come down to Seattle via the San Juans. I think it makes a lot of sense to start a Northern Tier ride this way, as it gives you a few days to shake down and shape up before you hit the Cascades. (Of course, we all start all our bike tours in top shape and with completely tuned equipment, don't we?) If you start the NT at Anacortes, you've got less than one day to Burlington (last bike shop) and Sedro-Wooley, and that's pretty much the end of services for 2-3 days.
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Old 05-04-11, 08:00 AM   #18
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If you start the NT at Anacortes, you've got less than one day to Burlington (last bike shop) and Sedro-Wooley, and that's pretty much the end of services for 2-3 days.
These are some services in Concrete, Rexford, Marblemount and Newhalem (small grocery store). After Newhalem, you won't find anything other than camping until Mazama, which is about 55 miles and one LONG climb away.
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Old 05-06-11, 09:12 AM   #19
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These are some services in Concrete, Rexford, Marblemount and Newhalem (small grocery store). After Newhalem, you won't find anything other than camping until Mazama, which is about 55 miles and one LONG climb away.
OK, how about limited services? As I recall, it was mostly gas stations, a few small motels, and rental cabins. Maybe I'm forgetting something, but I don't recall a restaurant, grocery store, or bike shop in the Concrete to Newhalem stretch. Did I miss something?

Anyhow, the point I wanted to make is that if you need a few days to get your cycling legs going, and have a bike shop available if there was a problem after shipping the bike, going through the San Juans gives you that few days to work out any problems. Sedro-Wooley to Kettle Falls is 4-5 days of stiff climbing.
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Old 12-05-11, 06:33 PM   #20
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I have 100,000 touring miles and my first X-USA trip started on September 1.
I tried to send a personal message, but I don't have enough posts to be allowed to.

I'm planning no heading across the U.S. starting September 1st and was wondering what route you took and how far north I can go before I've gotta get studs and trudge through the white stuff. Thanks!
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Old 12-05-11, 07:41 PM   #21
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PN -

Depends on how fast you ride.
Regardless you will want to do a Northwest to Southeast vector.
(Northeast to Southwest is possible - but has much more headwinds.)
And I noticed that the days really got short by the beginning of November.

You can start as far north as you wish - -
The San Juan Islands or Astoria -
but you should be out of the Rockies by about Sept 22.
Maybe North Cascades via Idaho Panhandle or John Day via Sawtooth Mtns
To Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

If you were to end up around Fort Collins, CO -
You could head across southern Nebraska and northern Kansas -
Then take the Katy Trail along the Missouri into St. Louis.

From St. Louis, it makes sense to head really southeast.
I went thru Kentucky and western Va to the NC coast.
If I did it again, I would head via Land Between the Lakes -
then swing thru northern Ala and southwest of Atlanta
to the Sea Islands of the Georgia coast.
(Maximize daylight and warmth.)

Best - J
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