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  1. #1
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    Two possible cross-USA trips - give your route input!

    Edit: Left the original post below, but plans have changed...currently, it's looking more like I'll be able to do this trip in 2014, not 2013, unfortunately. Anyway, the current plan would be to start in April sometime and then proceed, east to west, along the route shown here:
    http://goo.gl/maps/Lg7bn
    (roughly, of course)
    All the other details about how I want to do the trip, and so forth, still applies. But I'm wondering what people think about weather issues and so on. This route would hopefully have me out of the southwestern deserts by the end of June, thus avoiding too much extreme heat, but in terms of time of the year, are there any plans I might need to adjust for that kind of issue? Also, I hear that along the Pacific Coast, strong winds come from the north all summer, so I'm a bit leery about heading north along the west - but I'm more interested in the mountains and inland areas than the coast anyway, and I'm not sure if the prevailing winds are still the same away from the coast.

    Anyway, looking for thoughts and input.


    Long post - I've tried to generously use paragraph breaks to ease the reading.

    This coming summer it may become possible for me to do the cross-country bike ride I've been dreaming of for a while. That's yet to be determined, but it hasn't stopped me planning. I want a large part/majority of the trip to be on dirt roads or even singletrack, and if I go I'll have just quit my job, so it'll be fairly open-ended in terms of route and time. I'm focused on seeing the great outdoors and spectacular scenery and wild camping as much as possible, but I of course want to see historical and cultural sites and meet all kinds of people as well.

    I have two possible, general routes I've been thinking about. The first would be a southern route; this is probably what I'd do if I were to leave earlier (say, mid-spring rather than summer). The second would be a northern route, which I'd probably do if the trip were in summer or late summer into fall.

    Here are Google Maps links to very rough ideas of where each trip might go. Both east-to-west, cause I'm from the east and want the scenery to get more epic as I go, not to mention constantly be getting into new territory along the way.

    Southern Route: http://goo.gl/maps/tQczl
    (The fork at the end is because from Utah, I could either head toward Seattle or LA. Or somewhere else - but I have relatives in both of those areas. If I'm feeling ambitious and have money left, I could bike down the coast or Sierras/Cascades, too)

    Northern Route: http://goo.gl/maps/Tl0vO

    Both routes heavily emphasize Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, as those are areas I'm especially interested in seeing a lot of. Other than that, advantages of the southern route include that it has less midwest riding, and that the timeframe means I'd be more likely to avoid intense heat, whereas the northern route would have me in the Southwest in July and August. The northern route takes me through some more scenic places, like the Badlands, Black Hills, and Tetons, though I'm also interested in riding across Texas. But having driven through much of that region this past summer, it seems kind of painful to ride through Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, etc. etc.

    There's a bit of a list already of places I want the trip to incorporate.

    On the northern route, I definitely want to go through the South Dakota Badlands, the Black Hills (after driving through them this past summer, I have to go back), the Bighorn Mountains, and possibly a section of the GDMBR.

    On the southern route, I'd want to get to New Orleans, Austin, and Big Bend Nat'l/State park in Texas.

    On both routes, I'm sure to include Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, as many national parks in Utah as I can, Moab, Salt Lake City, possibly Yosemite and Seqouia NPs, and as much great mountain biking as I can incorporate, including long-distance routes like the Kokopelli Trail, parts of the Arizona Trail, etc. And I want to see historical sites, especially Native American ruins and Old West frontier-y stuff.

    On top of all that, I'd love to hear everyone's suggestions on routes, changes you might make, other places or areas that I don't want to miss, advice on desert riding and on best times to year to be in certain places, what weather conditions to expect, and anything else. From anyone who has done off-road/dirt-road touring, how do you find the best routes? I'm assuming that in the east and midwest, I'll probably have to stick to pavement more, and then get into the off-roading for real once I hit the Great Plains and the west - anybody done off-road tours back east?

    I'm more or less equipped for the trip and I'm young and in pretty good shape. I've got a good bit of backpacking experience, though no long-haul bike trips yet. I'm riding a Surly Troll which will probably have Ortlieb rear panniers, a frame bag, and handlebar roll; hopefully that should allow me enough space to pack food and water for remote/desert riding. Which reminds me - any tire recommendations for on-and-off pavement use?

    I'm eager to hear what everyone thinks on this topic!
    Last edited by jbphilly; 02-13-13 at 07:43 PM.

  2. #2
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    Can't comment on the routes, sounds like fun either way. If you take the southern route, I can find you somewhere to stay in Lafayette, LA and maybe Austin, TX. Good luck!!!

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    I am in favor of selecting routes that put you in the right place at the right time, so I would warn you away from riding in NM, AZ, and UT in summer. Those states are best in spring/fall. Springtime in the desert is amazing - cactus flowers! You could probably make it work, but being off road in the desert in summer... you would have to take the heat/water situation seriously.

    Have you considered the great divide mtb route? http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/greatdivide.cfm I think they have a lot of info about which direction/when to do it.

    There's no reason a long bike tour has to start and end on the coasts. You didn't say anything positive about the eastern riding -- so, you know, you don't have to do it.

    There's a colorado trail to, I think it's called, uh, the Colorado Trail. I'm biased, I like Colorado. And the West. West is Best.
    ...

  4. #4
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Welcome to BF. Stay in touch as your ambitious plans mature. Check out www.crazyguyonabike.com.

    As long as you're at higher elevations in NM, AZ, CO, temps should not be a major problem. The low humidity in the west feels much better than the high of the east, but also draws more water from the body, so fluid maintenance becomes a critical issue. You'll need capacity for 6-10 liters of water, and purification equipment. Assuming you're on remote trails.

    If you run the southern route, do explore the Big Bend area. Querky and scenic. With a Troll, you could handle BB State Park. Overnight at La Loma del Chivo in Marathon for a unique experience.
    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

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    I am in favor of selecting routes that put you in the right place at the right time, so I would warn you away from riding in NM, AZ, and UT in summer. Those states are best in spring/fall. Springtime in the desert is amazing - cactus flowers! You could probably make it work, but being off road in the desert in summer... you would have to take the heat/water situation seriously.
    I'm definitely thinking about the temperature situation...I think the northern route might necessitate me starting in late summer so that I'd end up in the southwest during October or so. Similarly for a southern route...I'd want to be done by June or something.

    I am definitely aware of the GDMBR and it's on my bucket list! Looks like a fantastic ride. But right now I'm still focused on a cross country, sea-to-sea bike ride, even though like you said, there's no reason that has to be the way it's done...for some reason, I just want to do it. I am hoping that the midwestern sections can turn out to be more interesting than the scenery driving through there...

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum
    As long as you're at higher elevations in NM, AZ, CO, temps should not be a major problem. The low humidity in the west feels much better than the high of the east, but also draws more water from the body, so fluid maintenance becomes a critical issue. You'll need capacity for 6-10 liters of water, and purification equipment. Assuming you're on remote trails.


    I'd definitely have up to 10 liters of water capacity, and I probably want to take a water filter, though trying to figure out the differences between the different models is a bit of a headache. But having used Aquamira drops and then going on a trip where someone else had the filter, I think the filter is worth the weight.

    I'm curious about groundwater availability in the desert. Do you have much experience in desert environments, and how rare is it to find water you can filter?

    Thanks for the location recommendations!
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  6. #6
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    I like your northern route. I would dip slightly south and take Highway 20 across Nebraska.

    (good 10ft shoulder the whole way across, here's some video, skip to timestamp 13:30 for good view of the riding conditions, camera mounted on Bob Trailer)

    Almost all the small towns have free camping in the city parks (on Highway 20), most of which have public swimming pools with showers. When I went across I did not have a planned route... I just kinda made it up as I went along. I used google to find camping by typing in the word "campgrounds" on google maps and scaled the map to about 200 miles. Its amazing how many campgrounds show up. I also used a website called FreeCampSites.net to find camping.

    On the southern tier I had no problems stealth camping, but in the heartland, most of the land is plowed with crops. Once you get to Wyoming, (and the entire west) stealth camping is feasible again. And remember, you can (with few exceptions) camp in any National Forest doing what is called "Dispersed Camping" for free.

    Carry more water than you think you will need.
    Last edited by Boondock; 11-17-12 at 06:28 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbphilly View Post
    Do you have much experience in desert environments, and how rare is it to find water you can filter?
    !
    Enough to know to carry more water than I think I'll need, learned the hard way, and hope for a stock tank(beware of the bull)or flash flood for a refill. Water in the desert is, of course, always a crap shoot. Otherwise, it wouldn't be a desert.

    In dry desert heat, figure on a liter/hour to stay properly hydrated when pedaling.
    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

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boondock View Post
    I also used a website called FreeCampSites.net to find camping.
    That'll be really useful, thanks!

    Anybody have other sightseeing suggestions for along the way? Things that might make Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa more interesting?
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  9. #9
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    So time and money constraints (i.e. I have to work at least through summer to have what I consider a satisfactory amount of savings) dictate that it's going to be the northern route. I'm thinking about heading up through Michigan and down the UP before going south again to cross South Dakota.

    One big question right now (since it affects when I leave my job) is temperature in various places. I'm aware that July and August in much of the US is going to be miserable, no matter what I do...I'm prepared for that. I'm also thinking that the best time to be in Utah and other high-desert areas is September, with October being ideal for lower-altitude deserts. Is that accurate? Even if not, some other work/travel plans may mean that I'd be winding up the trip by the end of October no matter what.

    As for July/August, I know the Plains are going to be harsh, so maybe a later start (beginning of August rather than beginning of July) might be better? But I also don't want to be crossing the Rockies too late. I'd be doing that in Wyoming around the Grand Teton Area, I think, or maybe a bit south - at what time of the year do I have to start worrying about overly cold temperatures and snow?
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Boondock
    I like your northern route. I would dip slightly south and take Highway 20 across Nebraska.

    +1

    My wife and I rode from Newport, OR to Boston MA primarily on Highway 20. It is the only contiguous highway across the country. Nebraska was a great state to cycle in! I'll take the mid west any day over Texas.

    I don't think that temperatures are that much of an issue. We started near the end of June and finished in early September. The highest temperature we hit was 109 F within the second week of our tour. While hot, it was manageable. Low humidity makes the heat tolerable.

    On the other hand, we did a loop around Michigan in late September and Early October. We experienced morning temperatures in the low 30's. Our original plan was to continue up through the UP into Ontario, and then follow Lake Huron south. We changed our plans because of the weather to the north and east of us, and decided to head west from Mackinaw City and follow Lake Michigan in a southerly direction.
    Last edited by Doug64; 12-06-12 at 09:22 PM.

  11. #11
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    I am thinking about a cross country ride on a road bike. Probably in the spring and from East to West. I am considering a combination of hotels, camping, staying with friends/acquaintances. I am 65 and fit enough to do this. I am not afraid to do this alone, or with one or more like-minded riders. I am researching touring companies. Listed here are some important considerations: 1) Pack as little stuff as possible. 2) Select roads that are safe and with low traffic volume. 3) Learn from others' experiences. I have been reading this thread with interest, and perhaps some of you out there would be so kind to share recommendations, leads, and/or experiences. Thank you.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aarchie View Post
    I am thinking about a cross country ride on a road bike. Probably in the spring and from East to West. I am considering a combination of hotels, camping, staying with friends/acquaintances. I am 65 and fit enough to do this. I am not afraid to do this alone, or with one or more like-minded riders. I am researching touring companies. Listed here are some important considerations: 1) Pack as little stuff as possible. 2) Select roads that are safe and with low traffic volume. 3) Learn from others' experiences. I have been reading this thread with interest, and perhaps some of you out there would be so kind to share recommendations, leads, and/or experiences. Thank you.
    Confused. Do you want to do a supported ride, where your gear is carried for you, or an unsupported ride?

    Adventure Cycling Association is the only organization that I know of that offers commercial, organized, unsupported x-country tours. They also have one van-supported x-country tour. America by Bike also offers supported x-country tours. If you want to go solo, unsupported, you can chose from several ACA routes and modify them as you desire. Following their popular Trans Am route makes it like that you will ecnounter others on the road.

  13. #13
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    I see your interested in riding across Texas.....Texas is a great place,nice people and all,it's something you'll only want to do once in your life.....when people say Texas is big,THEY MEAN IT!... 1/3 of your ride will be across Texas....

    If you go anywhere near Ft Worth,go to Billy Bob's little place.......have a beer at each bar and try to find the front door.....Great Fun.

    Looks like a great ride.Have fun!
    Last edited by Booger1; 12-14-12 at 10:09 AM.
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  14. #14
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    OP, you could do this one in reverse.

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?...c_id=4767&v=FI
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGukLuXzH1E

    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jfcWEkSrI

  15. #15
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    Although it was decommissioned in the 1990s, US80 was about the only true coast2coast highway that the US has had. Georgia to California. Except in the "modern" towns of Dallas through to Fort Worth, most of 80 that I have driven or cycled is still marked as "80". Should you chose 80 as the route, there is also another caveat near DFW that involves a bit of history. On the pavement and the map, 80 (today) is partially on controlled access as part of (ex) I-20 (which was moved further south). With googlemaps, you can find the original 80 and avoid the current controlled access 80.
    Just out side of Vicksburg, there is a place where you can photograph the original (pre-1934) 80, the post 1934 80, and the current (post 1980) controlled access 80 (I-20). Oh, on that one, you would be crossing the Mississippi on controlled access (I-20) as the US80 bridge has been closed for a few decades.
    I'm about to write and ask if they would let bicycles across it. I have a goal to cycle 80 from Vicksburg to home (DFW).
    IF you were to try 80, I could potentially assist with information, place to stay, etc.

  16. #16
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    i'm with valleygirl, why ride from sea to shining sea if you don't have that much
    interest in half the route? why waste time crossing ohio or kansas? but i also don't
    think you gotta ride from point A to point B. you can do a circuit starting and ending
    at the same spot. how bout...........starting/ending in seattle or LA?

    seatle to boise, then across wyoming to sioux city, down to denver, then through utah,
    down to the north rim, over to alburquerque, south to socorro, the west to tuscon,
    up to flagstaff and the south rim, then west to vegas then death valley, and on to LA.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
    i'm with valleygirl, why ride from sea to shining sea if you don't have that much
    interest in half the route? why waste time crossing ohio or kansas?
    Well, I am dead set on ocean to ocean, even if I don't have a "good" reason to want to. But here's my updated route. http://goo.gl/maps/44Z9o

    I'm looking at departing sometime in July. Not sure whether early or later in the month would be better. But this route avoids almost all parts that I think would be really boring - sure Ohio is flat, but I figure whatever route the ACA picked for the Northern Tier has to be decently interesting. And from Michigan on I can hopefully ride almost all dirt roads, too.

    The two spurs in the east are alternate routes - either I'd do on involving the C&O/GAP, or else cross northern PA. Then in Cali, depending on if it's too late in the year, I might try to head up to see Yosemite and some giant sequoias, or just go straight down to the coast.
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  18. #18
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    Geology : Columbia River Gorge cuts thru the mountains ,
    McKenzie river route, from Florence, Eugene, otoh,
    you have to climb over the Cascades, Or, starting from Seattle..
    likewise the Sierras, from California..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 12-16-12 at 10:09 AM.

  19. #19
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    Thanks for the info. I am considering a van supported ride, but I am leaning the other way. I have several friends along the Southern Tier route. Plan is to travel 50-100 miles a day (Charleston, SC to San Diego, CA) and stay in budget hotels the other nights. I am hoping my wife will follow me for the first part of the trip, but she will probably head home once we get out of Dixie. I am just a little worried about two things: 1) The weather if I leave Charleston in late February or early March, and 2) The long Texas leg.

  20. #20
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    Thank you, Salek. Good information. I have a place to stay for a couple of days in Tuscaloosa and also in the DFW area (Coppell). Plan is for budget hotels in between. What sort of bike lanes, traffic, etc. would I find along US80? What do you think about a trip starting from Charleston, SC in late Feb. or early March? I know that Daylight Savings begins on March 10. I am looking to get in 50-100 miles a day, but I am a little unsure about the weather I would experience leaving that early. I am retired and not locked into any dates, however my preference is to leave early. When are you planning the Vicksburg to DFW trip?

  21. #21
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Although it was decommissioned in the 1990s, US80 was about the only true coast2coast highway that the US has had. Georgia to California.
    Highway 20 is the only contiguous road left in the U. S. A., It connects Newport, OR, located on the Pacific Coast with Boston, MA. It is 3650 miles long. I think that qualifies as coast to coast.
    Last edited by Doug64; 12-16-12 at 08:36 PM.

  22. #22
    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    yup, US 20 is the only one remaining that's not an interstate.. I-80 and I-10 are also coast to coast but it's an interstate... US 50 comes real close, starting in Ocean City, MD but ending just short of the Pacific Ocean in Sacramento, CA.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Western Flyer's Avatar
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    Which route? Do both North and South, your young!

    Which tire? I have found Schwalbe Duremes excellent on dirt and gravel roads and for an all-around tire very comfortableygh and easy rolling on paved roads, but fall short in serious mud. It is only on single track and real mud that I take the time to put on my dirt tires.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Western Flyer View Post
    Which route? Do both North and South, your young!

    Which tire? I have found Schwalbe Duremes excellent on dirt and gravel roads and for an all-around tire very comfortableygh and easy rolling on paved roads, but fall short in serious mud. It is only on single track and real mud that I take the time to put on my dirt tires.
    Hah, I'd love to do both North and South...but I'll hopefully be able to do another trip in a few years, and do a southern route ending in the Pacific Northwest, maybe starting in late winter or something.

    I was thinking about Schwalbe Mondials or maybe Dureme/Extremes. It's pretty hard figuring out what's the most appropriate for what kind of riding. I want this trip to be off-road as much as possible, but parts will certainly be on pavement as well, so full-on knobby tires like what I run when mountain biking would be a hindrance instead of a help for those parts.
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  25. #25
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    Looks like your latest route has you coming through NE Indiana. I live in Ft. Wayne and I will admit that it is not the most interesting riding, but it has it's own appeal. There are quite a few small lakes in the area that you might try planning a route around. The lake areas tend to come with a little bit of elevation change, not much, but a least a couple small hills are better than nothing.

    You could also ride through amish country which will provide some interesting scenery. There are a few dirt roads left so you will be able to get off the pavement occassionally as well. Let me know if you have some specific route questions as you continue planning. I may be able to help a little.

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