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  1. #1
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    TransAm, Northern Tier, a mix? Overthinking...

    I'm not sure there are answers to any of this, but I'll put it out there anyway. If for nothing else, just to see it all in black and white.

    What I know: I'll be biking cross country this summer, from east to west. My wife will be driving along the way. I can cover around 100 miles/day. We'll be doing a mix of camping and motels, but she needs to find internet access most days, to catch up on work.

    Route? It was originally going to be Trans-Am with a mid-May start. For a lot of boring reasons, it's now going to be a mid-July start. So now I'm thinking Northern Tier. NT pros: slightly cooler weather, maybe a bit less humidity and the fact that I prefer the northern part of the country. TA pros: 600 fewer driving miles to the start in Yorktown (vs. Bar Harbor), tons of info from previous TransAm riders, plus I love Oregon and like the idea of finishing there vs. Washington.

    (To that end, I've thought about doing the NT to Williston, ND, then the Lewis & Clark from Williston to Missoula, then the TA to Florence, OR. But that appears to add about 500 miles to the trip. Not sure if I can make that work.)

    Again, I'm not sure there's a question in all of that. But if someone sees something I'm missing, or thinks any of the above is just plain stupid, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Only thought I have is what's the reason for relying only on the ACA maps? You could start anywhere it was convenient and connect with an ACA route whereever it was convenient. Or not at all for that matter. The fact that this is sort of a sagged tour should make that easier seems like.

    Northern Tier to L&C will be a great ride if you can pull it off. But I'm biased. All tours for me are great rides.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  3. #3
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    @Cyclebum- one small nugget I left out is this is my first tour. Using the ACA maps will make this maiden voyage a bit less taxing, I think.

  4. #4
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    Northern Tier and partial TransAm (Missoula, MT to Fairplay, CO) veteran. New England can be very humid that time of year. IL and IN were brutally hot and humid when we were there. So was IA. MN and WI were often humid but coole at times. ND has been having some very hot summers lately. 100+ degree days in a lot of places. However, when I was there in '99, it was pretty decent temperature wise. I did a supprted event in ND in August of '07 and only one day was noticeably hot.

    By taking the L&C from Williston to Missoula you would miss CO, WY (including the Grand Ts and Yellowstone) and some pretty riding in MT. Personally, I didn't much care for the CO portion I did. A lot of traffic in places. Yellowstone was too Disney for me and had lots of traffic. On the other hand, if you were to stick to the NT all the way, you would have to cross the "Highline" in MT (the northern tier on U.S. 2). Some people find that sort of scenery (endless ranch land) boring.

    One "perk" of the NT is Glacier National Park. Going to the Sun Road is hard to match. I have ridden it several times. The ride from Waterton Village (a nice place for a rest day) to back across the boder into the U.S. is also terrific. Just did both again in '09. The final 26 shots are from the west side of Going to the Sun. The deer to the general store were taken in Waterton Village and on the road to St. Mary, MT, which is the west entrance to Glacier:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/davez20...7620763740044/


    The North Cascades Highway in WA is also very pretty. Heading west you have close to a 30 mile descent coming off Rainy Pass. Prior to that, you have the fantastic ride along Lake Kookanusa and the forested climb up Sherman Pass.

    Have you ever been to the parts of OR that the TA passes through? The '02 edition of Cycle Oregon crossed the state from Nyssa to Florence, following the TA in a lot of places. Most of the route from the ID border to Sisters was high desert. Crispy critter hot the second week of September with long stretches of nothing. McKenzie Pass made it all worth it though.

    Good luck with your choice. Whatever the ultimate route, you should have a great time.

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    @indyfabz- thanks for all this great information and great photos. You're right that I certainly won't be able to avoid the heat entirely by going NT, but I've got to think MN and WI will be easier to face than KS and MO. (And I say that as a Kansan.) Either way, though, it's gonna be hot.

    You make a strong case for seeing the NT all the way through. The only TA portion of Oregon that I've seen is what's west of Eugene. I guess I just have this vision of finishing the trip in Florence, which is one of my favorite areas in the world. Perhaps it's not worth missing the Glacier National Park, though.

  6. #6
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    And if you do the NT, you can walk across the Mississippi at Lake Itasca.

    Some people balk at Glacier because they think they have to do the part in Candada to get there. Not so. From Cut Bank, MT you can take U.S. 2 to Browning then Starr School Rd. to U.S. 89 north, which will take you to St. Mary and the west entrance to the park.

    The section between Cut Bank and Magrath, Alberta (home to a Hutterite community) is long and lonely 71 miles.

  7. #7
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    I did the TransAm west to Missoula, then went up to NT to the west coast. NT was pretty awesome, from Glacier through the four passes in Washington. (Of course, I don't know what I missed on the TransAm in Idaho and Oregon!)

    That said, have you considered reversing the direction of your trip? Start in the west, get through the Rockies (the cooler part of the trip) in July and early August (the warm time of the trip)? If you reversed my tracks, you'd still be hitting Kansas in late August, I'd guess, but it shouldn't be as bad as early July.

    Oh, we managed internet access almost every day. If a library doesn't have it, a motel almost certainly will.

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    @pdlamb- I have thought a bit about going west-to-east, but I like the idea of having the sun to my back in the morning. (And of motorists not having the sun in their eyes as they approach me.) Plus, on the drive back from the west coast, we can visit family in Colorado. What time of year did you start and finish your trip?

  9. #9
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    We did the east-west trip May - August.

    After a lot of discussion, the only real discriminator on which way to go that I find convincing is staying out of the sun's glare. I'm more concerned with a driver who can't see me, coming up behind me, so he can move into the other lane, than I am about the driver who'd have to come all the way across the road to hit me. Based on that, I'd say ride east if you'll start well after dawn, and perhaps ride into dusk; ride west if you'll get up and ride early, and be off the road well before dusk.

    As it turns out, we did the early ride -- too many 90-100 degree days in Kansas for me to ride late in the day.

  10. #10
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    @pdlamb- thanks again for the info. I'm definitely an early morning rider, so westbound riding will probably work out better for me.

    For now, I think I'm just going to leave it up in the air as to whether we finish in Oregon or Washington. I figure I can wait until as late as Whitefish, MT to decide. At that point, we can head south to Missoula and on to Oregon, or else stay on the NT to Washington.

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