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  1. #1
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    Opinions/Advice on New X-Country Route for chickonbike?! :)

    Hello everyone,
    I have been planning and re-planning, aiming for the best possible route for my wishes and needs as I head out on the biggest adventure of my life. For a while I was thinking of leaving earlier and cycling the northern tier (more or less), but am now back to the original starting date of late August (27th) in San Francisco. The first plan was to pedal down the coast to San Diego, and then follow the southern tier with a few changes, but the more I've done my research, and the more I've considered the places I want to visit, this is the route I have finally set my mind on: San Francisco - LA (along the coast), then onwards to Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Chicago, Toledo, Pittsburgh, and finishing in New York.

    Here are maps:







    I've based the route on the one outlined in the book Cycling Across North America by Lou and Shannon Christian; a retired couple who, during three months, cycled it in the mid 90's. They averaged 50 miles/day and stayed only in motels or with friends. I intend to cycle longer than that, and won't mind camping some too, but I like the idea of having the motel option throughout my journey. Of course, a lot may have happened during the ten years that passed since the Christians pedaled the route, so if you have any advice on places that should be avoided or should not be missed along the way, please let me know?

    Thanks!

    Anna
    Last edited by chickonbike; 06-05-11 at 03:38 AM.

  2. #2
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    Can you post links to the maps so we can see the details?
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  3. #3
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    Anna, Here is some info about using some of our highways, in particular the Interstate system:
    http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/...d/freeways.htm

    I like the route east of Chicago, but if I were planning a trip for me I'd start heading north via Las Vegas through Utah and Colorado for the most sensory overload.

    Brad

  4. #4
    Je pose, donc je suis.
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    Is Chicago a destination of interest for you? Do you want to see the cities, or scenery, or history, or what?

    An alternative would be to head east from St. Louis, go up the Ohio River Valley, over West Virginia and either up the Shenandoah Valley or along Skyline Drive, or Western Maryland, or whatever, then back to York/Lancaster PA, Philly and onward.

  5. #5
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    From LA to Chicago is basically the old Route 66. That has some of the least interesting scenery imaginable across the western US. The route across northern Indiana and Ohio isn't very scenic, either.

  6. #6
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    The League of Illinois Cyclists has some good information on riding Route 66 in their state. They also have cycling maps for every section of their state.

    http://www.bikelib.org/

    Other states have similar maps.

  7. #7
    Senior Member boomhauer's Avatar
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    you should avoid cities.
    Not sure what your thinking is here.
    You will regret the trafiic and the lack of places to camp.

  8. #8
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    The maps are too high level to assess the route in detail. For example, I cannot tell how you plan to get into NYC. (It also looks like you are riding on some Interstate Highways where bicycles are almost certainly not allowed.) There is only one way in via bicycle from the west, and that's the George Washington Bridge. But there are several ferry options from New Jersey.

    As for cites, visit them if you think that's what you would like to do. Nothing absoultely wrong with that. I live and ride in Philadelphia and ride to NYC every year. But understand that places like CHI, Philly and NYC and their surrounding areas will have extremely heavy traffic. You should avoid large cities if you are not comfortable riding in that type of traffic.

    Also understand that in the northeast, October can be hit or miss weather-wise. It could be quite nice or it could be cold and damp.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dellphinus View Post
    Can you post links to the maps so we can see the details?
    http://www.chickonbike.com/p/route.html

    If you click on the pics there, they'll be bigger.

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    You still have the seasonality wrong. Crossing the Mojave desert in late August/early September = way too hot. Riding in Pennsylvania, New York in late November = too cold. Reverse it, or start in the northwest and head southeast.
    ...

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    I think everything about this route is wrong. The timing is wrong, as valygrl explained. The route has very little scenic value. It avoids nearly all of the gorgeous scenery in the west. It lengthen the less interesting crossing of the Great Plains and Midwest. Toward the end is a killer route across Pennsylvania which even manages to avoid Amish country. And it ends by riding through the industrial wasteland of northeastern New Jersey. Plus it goes through many cities which will involve riding through lots of awful suburban sprawl.

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    Look, just make it simple for yourself. Start on the Lewis and Clark. Take that to Missoula. Get on the TransAm, stay on it until Yorktown.

    I can see the appeal of building your own route, but you are not from around here, you don't know enough about even the large-scale conditions to choose well, let alone the details. And in bike touring the details are what is important. It doesn't matter if you tick off certain destinations, because you are spending 90% of your time riding on the road, not being at destinations, so you want to maximize your on-road happiness. That means selecting the right road, in the right season.

    What would you tell me if I said I wanted to come tour Sweden and I could only do it in February, so I'm just going to do it anyway, I mean, how bad can it be, I have a rain coat?
    ...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    Look, just make it simple for yourself. Start on the Lewis and Clark. Take that to Missoula. Get on the TransAm, stay on it until Yorktown.

    I can see the appeal of building your own route, but you are not from around here, you don't know enough about even the large-scale conditions to choose well, let alone the details. And in bike touring the details are what is important. It doesn't matter if you tick off certain destinations, because you are spending 90% of your time riding on the road, not being at destinations, so you want to maximize your on-road happiness. That means selecting the right road, in the right season.

    What would you tell me if I said I wanted to come tour Sweden and I could only do it in February, so I'm just going to do it anyway, I mean, how bad can it be, I have a rain coat?
    Haha, fair point. It just seems the more I research (and get given advice) the harder it becomes to plan the route. I totally get that I shouldn't base the route so much on destinations I'd like to visit, but rather the roads that will take me there... so maybe the original plan was better then - Frisco to San Diego and (more or less) following the Southern Tier... Or, like you suggested, reversing the route.

    How about starting in New York or Boston in late August and cycling south-west?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by chickonbike View Post
    How about starting in New York or Boston in late August and cycling south-west?
    Climate-wise, that makes more sense. But it's still a boring un-scenic route. valygrl's route suggestion would be much better. Or, start in Seattle and bike down the Pacific coast and stop in LA or San Diego. Forget about following the old Route 66, regardless of the direction or time of year.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chickonbike View Post
    Haha, fair point. It just seems the more I research (and get given advice) the harder it becomes to plan the route. I totally get that I shouldn't base the route so much on destinations I'd like to visit, but rather the roads that will take me there... so maybe the original plan was better then - Frisco to San Diego and (more or less) following the Southern Tier... Or, like you suggested, reversing the route.

    How about starting in New York or Boston in late August and cycling south-west?
    ^^ Isn't that just reversing the route? I think that is better than using that route east bound, weather-wise, and I totally agree with axolotl that you've optimized your route for not-good-scenery and way too much city. My opinion is, in the USA (and this might be TOTALLY different in Europe) on a bike you want to avoid cities. If you are interested in city-based tourism, then rent a car or take a bus tour. Our cities are mostly pretty hard to use on bike, especially if you don't have very specific local information. You can make it work, but you'll spend a lot of time either doing research on routes, or riding on roads with too many cars and not enough bike lane.

    Your original route (Pac Coast to ST) is better than starting your diagonal route on the east coast -- in that the Pacific Coast is fantastic, and time of year is appropriate -- but you might be turning onto the Southern Tier too early for the weather conditions - probably don't want to be riding there until mid-October.

    edit = and I stand by my Lewis & Clark to TransAm suggestion as better than any of those.
    ...

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    It doesn't matter if you tick off certain destinations, because you are spending 90% of your time riding on the road, not being at destinations, so you want to maximize your on-road happiness.
    I sort of agree here, but this gets back to your point later about touring in Europe. Touring in Europe, at least for me, _is_ destination based. Pick the cities or cathedrals or sights you want to see and then find the best roads between them. There is no reason you can't do the same in the US, except that much of what there is to see in the US is wilderness and scenery. Whereas Stockholm has much to offer the tourist, even the Swedish tourist, St. Louis has -- well -- an arch (calm down St. Louisians, it's hyperbole).

    valygrl's route has a nice combination of scenery and history; Epic scenery out west. Good scenery in the Appalachians. Virginia has as much history as any other place in the US (you'll go right through Charlottesville, Williamsburg and Yorktown).

    On the other hand, if you really want to see Chicago, Philly and New York (regardless of your reasons), then we can help with that kind of planning.

    God rejse, i hvert fald...

  17. #17
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    Thank you everyone for helping out! I think I'm gonna stick with my original plan after all (down the Pacific coast, then across the southern states). I'm not too worried about the heat in mid-September. If it's mega hot I'll ride early mornings and drink lots of water. In the end, I can always change my route once I'm there and have a better feel for the terrain and my own capacity in the climate. Maybe I'll bump into someone who'll be willing to join me for a bit, or maybe I'll join them. After all, it's an adventure!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by chickonbike View Post
    Thank you everyone for helping out! I think I'm gonna stick with my original plan after all (down the Pacific coast, then across the southern states). I'm not too worried about the heat in mid-September. If it's mega hot I'll ride early mornings and drink lots of water. In the end, I can always change my route once I'm there and have a better feel for the terrain and my own capacity in the climate. Maybe I'll bump into someone who'll be willing to join me for a bit, or maybe I'll join them. After all, it's an adventure!
    If you change your mind "igen igen" and come through Virginia, I'll be happy to hear your stories. I'll take you to see the Cookie Lady.

  19. #19
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Looks like you are headed through Pittsburgh?

    If you need advice, a place to crash or even a riding partner for a few miles, just let me know. Do you know about the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal?

    It terminates in DC not Philie butyou can get to Philie pretty easily from there. The trail is about the easiest way to go. Our Pennsylvania mountains are not that high but they are some of the steepest in the whole country.

    If you think you want to take this trail then let me know and I can give you options to get there. One of which is the Montour Trail which starts just a few minutes bike ride from my house or there is a new trail that just opened in the city that takes you to the GAP.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by chickonbike View Post
    Thank you everyone for helping out! I think I'm gonna stick with my original plan after all (down the Pacific coast, then across the southern states). I'm not too worried about the heat in mid-September. If it's mega hot I'll ride early mornings and drink lots of water. In the end, I can always change my route once I'm there and have a better feel for the terrain and my own capacity in the climate. Maybe I'll bump into someone who'll be willing to join me for a bit, or maybe I'll join them. After all, it's an adventure!
    Oops! I see you changed your mind back to the southern route. Well if you change your mind back to the northern route just see the post above.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
    Oops! I see you changed your mind back to the southern route. Well if you change your mind back to the northern route just see the post above.
    Thank you Spinnaker!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pedaleur View Post
    If you change your mind "igen igen" and come through Virginia, I'll be happy to hear your stories. I'll take you to see the Cookie Lady.
    Ooh, cookie lady! So sweet

  23. #23
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    If you pass through Baltimore MD look us up. We will feed you and offer a room for the night if you want.

    Just a suggestion, but...

    I understand that everyone's preferences are different, but I have to say that your route looks decidedly unappealing to me. You seem determined to ride through less desirable areas in what is likely to be miserable weather. I would expect something like the Trans America, the Lewis and Clark into the Trans America (as Valygrl suggested), or a self designed route through that part of the country would be much nicer.

    When it comes to weather, do not discount how miserable it can be in the Summer in parts of the American south west. I know that last June in the Sierras, I found that bicycling in 115F temps just isn't much fun. I vowed that while I might go back in October, I would never ride in the Mojave in the Summer again. Also Oregon, Montana, and Wyoming are places that I would not want to miss on a coast to coast tour.

  24. #24
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    Maybe your plans are already set, but if you're asking me, any cross-America tour should definitely include the Shenandoah Valley, Washington DC, Philly, and New York. Chicago is also definitely worth a visit, but in your case it seems to mean an extra-lot of time riding in places like Oklahoma, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio - NOT my idea of enjoyable bike territory, though of course YMMV. And I can't talk about the West much, but Utah and Colorado seem a lot more interesting than Arizona and New Mexico in my mind. Wyoming (or at least the Yellowstone/Grand Teton area) is also fantastic and could be worth a look. Still, even if you keep that route the same with crossing the southwest, I'd instead cross Kentucky, then head up through the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia to take you through the big East Coast cities. DC and Philly are quite OK to bike in; New York I've heard the same thing about, so don't pay so much attention to people warning you against cities. Try Couchsurfing.com for finding places to stay; you'll have much more interesting experiences than staying in hotels. Our hostel scene is not like what you have in Europe I'm afraid.

    I'm hoping to do several cross-America tours throughout my lifetime, but if it's your first time visiting and/or you don't know the country well, those would be my suggestions. Of course I'm biased toward the Shenandoah/Blue Ridge mts. area, some might not think it's worth changing the route for. But DC is worth going to, it's one of my favorite cities, and of course Philly is the best place on earth.

  25. #25
    Senior Lurker, mostly. DW99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jude View Post
    Maybe your plans are already set, but if you're asking me, any cross-America tour should definitely include the Shenandoah Valley, Washington DC, Philly, and New York. Chicago is also definitely worth a visit, but in your case it seems to mean an extra-lot of time riding in places like Oklahoma, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio - NOT my idea of enjoyable bike territory, though of course YMMV. And I can't talk about the West much, but Utah and Colorado seem a lot more interesting than Arizona and New Mexico in my mind.
    Wow,,, Ok. ?
    Last edited by DW99; 06-09-11 at 03:49 PM.
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