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Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

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Old 11-27-04, 10:07 PM   #1
chieftwonuneez
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Hi,

Mostly it is a personal preference. I tend to start on the opposite side of the Continent I live on, so that when I'm done, I'm home.

There is a lot of talk about the jet steam and prevailing winds, but that affects jets and birds more than us ground huggers. I have been in Wyoming and the Dakotas several times , traveling both direction, all four actually) and have had headwinds either way.

I've met people going the wrong (other) way and they swear by or (at) the direction their using as being the best or the worst.

I do have a preference when on the East and West coast, as have done trips up and down both. I would not again go from South to North on the west coast of USA or from North to South on the East coast. WInds are a definite factor there. Going north along California and Oregon coast mixes hills and headwinds and you start dreaming of engines!

Self contained touring has the advantage of not having to slug out headwinds. You have your home with you, you are not required to get from point A to point B each day. If the wind is in your face, try a different direction and explore a new highway, wich brings me to planning. Dont carve any itenary in stone(except finding good pie each day), the more flexible you are in that regard, the more fun you will have and the more relaxing your trip!

Where are you planning to travel?

M
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Old 11-28-04, 06:16 AM   #2
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One possible advantage to riding westbound would be the historical connection. I rode the TransAm route a number of years ago. It was my first trip west of the Mississippi River. Riding west allowed me to recreate, in a sense, the westward movement of the pioneer times. I can still remember the thrill of crossing the great river and of having the seemingly endless midwestern plains laid out in front of me. And of course, that first sighting of the Rockies was incredible!

Flying out to Oregon and then cycling east would have felt anticlimactic...just a long ride home.

Scott
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Old 11-28-04, 08:14 AM   #3
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Well, I am planning to start in NH and follow a more Northerly route. I'm not a big fan of the Southern weather. So far, I've figured a decent route to get from Portsmouth, NH to Buffalo, NY. I heard there is a great bike trail along the Erie canal that goes for a few hundred miles.

Charlie
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Old 11-29-04, 02:35 AM   #4
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On my touring trips I found that touring from West to East was the better way to go. Of course I have never gone from East to West, but here are my reasons. Since I live on the East coast, it is easier to use public transportation, Amtrak railway, to get the the starting point and bike home. Because it is much easier to set up the logistics starting when you have friends and time to get you to the train station or airport. At the other end your bike is your transportation to the train or airport, which makes it more difficult making a scheduled train or flight. Not to mention the difficulty of biking to a major international airport, on schedule, especially if you have to wait several days for you trip home. So rule one is bike home, think Wizard of Oz, ET or any other adventure story.
I dont think the wind is a major issue. Maybe 60/40 in favor of West to East Transamerica. An exception is on the plains of Canada in the Fall. The only time the wind blows to the west is during storms. So you better be going East.
The other factor is safety. Everyone is tired in the late afternoon, you and the car/truck drivers. If you are going west, everyone has the Sun in their eyes and is drowsy after a long day. It is safer to have the Sun in your eyes early in the morning, everyone is more alert.
As to the historical 'Go West young man', everything has changed so much since pioneer days that it really doesn't matter.
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Old 11-29-04, 05:08 AM   #5
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Charlie,
I did Seatle to New York during the Summer of '96 and I would say that about 75% of the way we had a tailwind. I have no idea if that is typical or not.
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Josh
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Old 11-29-04, 05:31 AM   #6
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Here is my EtoW review from my cross country trip this summer (04) for what it is worth.
www.loa2004.crazyguyonabike.com

6. East to West vs West to East? IMHO E to W is far and away the best for the following reasons;
- The sun man, the sun. The sun is at your back every morning, lighting up the scenery. Going east it is in you eyes every day and you nor the speeding motorist behind you can see a thing.
- Did I mention the sun and the less sunburn you will get on your face.
- You get through the hot and humid states before it gets too hot and humid.
- The western states are a better climax to the tour than hot and sweaty Kentucky and Virginia.
- The only really bad winds I had were in Kansas and they were out of the South.
- Much less chance of getting snowed-in through the Rockies
- The sun man, the sun! This reason decides it all by itself.

Greg
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Old 11-29-04, 05:59 AM   #7
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>>As to the historical 'Go West young man', everything has changed so much since pioneer days that it really doesn't matter>>

American History may not *matter* to you, but others find it quite interesting.
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Old 11-29-04, 08:19 AM   #8
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I rode from east to west on my 2002 tour. I chose that direction so I could be headed toward the scenery that I prefer...
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Old 11-29-04, 11:43 AM   #9
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>>As to the historical 'Go West young man', everything has changed so much since pioneer days that it really doesn't matter>

When I said that, I did not mean that I dont find American history interesting, I find it fasinating. Its just hard to imagine that I'm on the same journey that the 'Manifest Destiny' pioneers had in the middle 1800's. So I tend to view the landscape and people I tour through in a very localized way. Alot of people migrated from the west to the east, some from south to north. Sometimes on my tours I think about the native Americans and what the land was like before the Eruopean expansion across the continent. Theory has it that their expansion was in the other direction. My Great great grandparents (surname side) immigrated in 1840 directly to Ohio (boat/train?) from Prussia, but then I migrated eastward to RI. I guess the bottom line is that if you are lucky enough to bike tour, you can go slow enough to enjoy the landscape and people no matter which way they came from, or the direction you are going.
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Old 11-29-04, 11:57 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by denisegoldberg
I rode from east to west on my 2002 tour. I chose that direction so I could be headed toward the scenery that I prefer...
I've been thinking of riding across the continent as well. After more thinking I believe the best route would be South to North, Mexico to Canada. Why??? Because of what Denise said. The best scenery(at least to me). The ride would be tougher but just think of all the great views not to mention campsites. I don't now how the distance between stores and such would be. But you would always be in the Rockies. Charlie
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Old 11-29-04, 12:15 PM   #11
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Here are notes I took after my one-and-only crossing (east to west). Please forgive repetition of points others have already made....Lew

Reasons to go east-to-west

* sun at your back during "best" hours of the day (morning)

* 10 minutes more sunlight per day than riding eastward, since you recapture 5 minutes of the sun's progress every 60 miles of westward progress (approximated for latitude 42). [Yes, this is the equivalent of drilling your toothbrush handle to save weight. Not much, yet something.]

* you can begin much earlier in the year. By the time you reach the Rockies, they're passable. Also, less U.V. exposure (sun is lower, plus you can wear long clothes for a greater proportion of the (cooler) trip.

* starting on earlier date, you miss the hot summer & the mosquitoes

* (if you live in the east) things get progressively less familiar, and that's more fun. There's greater drama riding down your driveway into the beyond than there is in returning to your driveway. Also, if you must give up midway, the cost of transportation home may be less than if you began the trip with a coast-to-coast trip to the start point. Also, at the end of the "official" ride, you have another ride to public transportation--a cooldown ride--to help you ease out of your trip & back to the regular. A time to reflect. You still ride, but w/o the same pressure-of-goal; you still get to be alone for a while longer. Riding toward home, on the other hand, deposits you suddenly, jerks you from the self-sufficient existence, obligates you to an instant debriefing before you've debriefed to yourself at sufficient length.

* starting early a.m., you can quit mid-afternoon & have considerable daylight once encamped. Less risk of running out of light before reaching camp. Also, you can seek shelter midday & escape worst of the U.V.

* The western slopes of mountains get more rain & are "prettier". Better to coast down them & enjoy more fully than struggling up them.

* The great, east-to-west American movement is ingrained in many of us.

Advantages of west-to-east

* arguably, there are more tailwinds

* you can get up later (use p.m. more, sun at your back)

* starting later in the year, less cold-weather clothing is needed: lighter load

* Westerners bike into progressively unfamiliar territory (same argument as easterners' version above)
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Old 11-29-04, 02:39 PM   #12
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On the tailwinds comment...

When I rode from east to west back on 2002 I had 2 to 3 days of full power headwinds and 2 to 3 days of full power tailwinds. And I met a west to east cyclist early in my tour (which meant he was near the end of his tour), and his experience was the same as mine.

It's true that the jet-stream winds flow from west to east over the US - but that doesn't translate directly to wind direction at the level of a cyclist.
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Old 11-29-04, 04:10 PM   #13
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I know there are advantages to each way; but I would go west to east....

(1) You climb gradually to the highest passes and peaks in the rockies over the early weeks of your tour.

(2) The rockies are prettiest when they still are snow covered, even if the passes might be cold at that time of year. Later in the summer they are dry, brown, and dusty.

(3) The grades in the rockies are lower than those in the appalachians, so you have time to train and get ready for them.

(4) West to east you save the best for last: if you take the Adventure Cycling trail you finish in Virginia, easily our most historic state (with both revolutionary war and civil war cites everywhere) and perhpas its most beautiful as well.

(5) If you extend your tour into the autumn, like I did on my first tour (June 6th to October 6th) you will be able to catch the foliage if you head up to the northeast.

roughstuff
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Old 11-29-04, 07:55 PM   #14
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Hi Denise - my comment on headwinds was based mostly from what anecdotal stuff I've happened across. My own experience gave me only one great tailwind day westbound, with headwinds almost without exception for the remainder (across the states bordering Canada, plus southern Ontario), so that biases me overmuch. You're right, though--ground winds don't automatically obey the jet stream.

Roughstuff - the nice thing about going westward is that you can start early enough to miss all of the hot, dry summer. And regarding crossing the Appalachians, you don't have to cross them at all if you start in NYC and follow the Hudson River and the Erie Canal to Buffalo. Then your first real hill comes after 2500 miles and plenty of training.

It's good to see from the comments here how much personal opinion drives our decisions. The most important thing is to be happy with our choices. Practical advice and "logic" are only part of the equation. Don't ride someone else's dream--make it fit your own.

Lew
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