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Suggestions for Coast to Coast route

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Suggestions for Coast to Coast route

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Old 03-22-08, 07:21 PM
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grantman18
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Suggestions for Coast to Coast route

A friend and I are starting to plan our cross-country bike trip for July and August of 2009 (it can't hurt to start planning early). I know his is probably the hottest two months to do the ride, but it's the only time that we know we'll have 8-9 weeks to dedicate to the trip. We aren't really sure what route we're going to take, but we do know that we'll be leaving from Boston, MA. Ideally we'd end up in southern california somewhere, but that is flexible.

Has anyone else completed an east to west trip around July and August? I ride/race about 5000 miles a year, and my friend rides a decent amount, and stays in pretty good shape otherwise. When we leave for the trip we'll both be 23 years of age with properly outfitted bikes so I anticipate us being able to log pretty long days if we have to. Our limit for the trip is about 60 days. Given that, can anyone suggest full or partial routes for us to take? I guess the northern tier would be the best route judging by average temperature, but It would be nice to not take such a roundabout way to california. Would it be absolutely brutal to be riding 50-100 miles a day through Nevada and California in August? Any suggestions/advice are appreciated.

Thanks,
Andrew
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Old 03-23-08, 12:33 AM
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jamawani 
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60 days?
July and August?
Hmmmm.

First, sixty days is not a long time. You say 50 to 100 miles, but there is a big difference between those two numbers. Also, even though the Rand McNally atlas says that it's 3100 miles from Boston to Portland, Oregon - that is via the Interstate. Backroads add a lot of miles - say 15% at least. So you are looking at 3600 miles on a straight shot from Boston west. That's 450 miles per week or 75 miles per day for six days - leaving one day off per week.

Second, one day off?? Yes, You really need to build in leeway in case you have mechanical problems, you get a case of the trots, the weather is really bad, etc. Not having leeway days is a recipe for disaster. You get behind and you are always playing catch-up - - hardly a way to enjoy your cross-country ride. Your body will like you more, too, if you take a half-day or full day off every now and then.

Third, if you get to the Pacific just in time, you can take Amtrak to California. If you have extra time you can ride part or all the way down the coast with prevailing tailwinds - again, catching Amtrak to get to southern Calilf. Actually, I think you can do a straight shot west from Boston to Florence, Oregon and then down to San Fran in 60 days. Plus, you have the additional option of cutting off from Ontario, Oregon thru Burns, to Alturas Calif and then to San Fran if you are running behind.

Speaking of wind, a northeast to southwest route is the worst possible for encountering headwinds. From Kansas to California you would, most likely, have constant headwinds.

Here's a general route -
Across northern Mass to North Adams -
The Erie Canal trail across New York state -
Connectiog to the Northern Tier to Ohio -
Old Lincoln Highway to Joliet, Illinois -
I&M Canal Trail across Illinois -
Davenport to Sioux City, Iowa -
Across South Dakota to the Black Hills -
Across northern Wyoming from Devils Tower to Yellowstone -
Across Idaho thru Stanley to Payette -
From Ontario Oregon to the TransAm route to Florence -
Florence down to San Fran.

Take a look in an atlas.
You don't see the big picture as well on line.

Feel free to ask me about anything - esp.the West

J

PS - Nevada and southern Calif are dangerously hot in August.
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Old 03-23-08, 06:17 AM
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I would forget getting to California and just do the NT. No way I would cross Nevada that time of year, we had lots of 100+ F days on the TA, so I hate to think what something like the WE would be like.

The NT in 60 days would require something like 71.5 miles per day average. That is quite possible. We only averaged 60 miles per day on our TA, but we took lots of long breaks most days, were fairly heavily loaded, and trained as we went doing short days in the beginning. We met a fair number of folks averaging 75-80 miles per day.

I personally like to have a 10 day or more cushion. I hate to be bound by a schedule and for that reason also prefer to do the air travel in the beginning of the trip.

I always include all rest days and half days in the count when figuring average mileage, so if you take rest days they have to be compensated for on other days. Personally I am not big on rest days. We took only two on the TA, one to go rafting , and one after one of us crashed and was injured (I wound up riding more than half day mileage that day, but wound up -4 miles in actual progress) .

Instead of rest days I like to take easy days once in a while. Just take a 30-40 mile day, hang out reading or swimming in the afternoon, and consider it a half day. I really don't have the desire to stay in one place for a whole day.
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Old 03-24-08, 11:29 AM
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Thanks for the input. I'm not too worried about the daily mileage/rest days. I have a couple friends that have done a similar ride with similar fitness and they were fine w/ only 2-3 rest days over the 8-9 weeks. Since Central to Southern California might be out of the question as far as ending the trips goes, can you recommend another place on the west coast that would be fun/scenic to dip our wheels in to?
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Old 03-24-08, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by grantman18 View Post
Thanks for the input. I'm not too worried about the daily mileage/rest days. I have a couple friends that have done a similar ride with similar fitness and they were fine w/ only 2-3 rest days over the 8-9 weeks. Since Central to Southern California might be out of the question as far as ending the trips goes, can you recommend another place on the west coast that would be fun/scenic to dip our wheels in to?
Depending on your route Florence Oregon or Astoria Oregon might be good choices. If you have some time spend at least one day riding a bit of the Oregon Coast.
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Old 03-24-08, 02:43 PM
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Well, for what it's worth, our daughter and I biked the Northern Tier in 56 days. But, that's much faster than most. We didn't take days off, which is contrary to the way most people do it. So, it's possible to do coast to coast in 60 days.

We were pleased with ACA maps. You might check them out. They have done the research to keep you off busy roads, and provide touring information.

If I was starting in Boston, there's gotta be a better way to get to Albany than over the Mohawk Trail and Taconic Trail (Route 2). I'd look for some alternatives here.
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Old 03-24-08, 04:10 PM
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Well. In theory you can cross the US on a bicycle in about 9 days. Not sure I'd recommend it though.

I can sense that you're in a bit of a rush. However, if you're riding that much you should already know that rest is a critical part of building strength, endurance and fitness. Plus, it will help you avoid burnout.

As to routes, check the aforementioned Adventure Cycling. You can probably put together a few routes, e.g. TransAmerica + Grand Canyon Connector + Southern Tier and end up in LA. Or, TransAmerica + Western Express and end up in San Francisco. If time really is at a premium, and the route looks good, just take a bus or the train down to VA.

San Francisco is a blast, by the way. Marin County is awesome, although the hills -- scratch that, mountains -- are not for the faint of heart.
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Old 03-24-08, 04:24 PM
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True, you can take Amtrak down to SoCal once you reach the coast, but it sure would suck to bust your ass for two months riding across North Dakota only to take the train along the most beautiful coastline in the world...
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Old 03-24-08, 07:37 PM
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Yes, the Pacific Coast is glorious.
But the original poster had two operative phrases -
"Cross-country" and "sixty days".

I think that if they did a straight shot from Boston west
then they would have just enough time to ride down to San Francisco.
(with Amtrak as a back-up if their plane tickets were out of SFO)

Then again, I've only biked cross-country a half dozen times.
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Old 03-24-08, 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I would forget getting to California and just do the NT. No way I would cross Nevada that time of year, we had lots of 100+ F days on the TA, so I hate to think what something like the WE would be like.
It's totally doable as long as your well prepared and in good physical shape
I biked the Baja peninsula in July, which many people would say is suicide
I will admit that it was really damn hot, but it was doable
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Old 03-25-08, 06:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Muttsta View Post
It's totally doable as long as your well prepared and in good physical shape
I biked the Baja peninsula in July, which many people would say is suicide
I will admit that it was really damn hot, but it was doable
How hot does it typically get? The worst we had on the TA was 106F. I am not sure I would want to deal with much hotter, but OTOH we found that we adapted to it better than we would have imagined.
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Old 03-25-08, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
How hot does it typically get? The worst we had on the TA was 106F. I am not sure I would want to deal with much hotter, but OTOH we found that we adapted to it better than we would have imagined.
I didn't recall the exact temperatures so I had to look online for weather history reports
In the time I was there the average temperature was in the 90s and the maximum temperature hitting into the 110's
It was like that nearly every day, so it shouldn't be a surprise I was drinking over a gallon of water a day
Near the ocean it wasn't too bad thanks to the breezes
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Old 03-25-08, 06:14 PM
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I suggest that you fly out to the West Coast and do your trip in the opposite direction.

That favors you with more tailwinds and fewer headwinds, and lets you consider heading into less challenging weather at the beginning -- none of the wet furnace effect you'd face from Boston to the 100th Meridian or so. (August is typically a bit cooler than July, and you'll be in better shape to face the heat as you get near home. And yes, stay north of Nevada or so -- the Northern Tier route is a good suggestion.)

Also consider what terrain you'd be saddest to give up if your schedule proves too ambitious. If you guys are from Boston, Ohio and Pennsylvania probably don't hold the same allure as northern California and Oregon. Also, you wouldn't be rushing to be at a particular airport on a particular day -- you could slink home on a Greyhound from wherever you're forced to call it quits.

Last edited by Takara; 03-25-08 at 06:41 PM.
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Old 03-25-08, 06:52 PM
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Stay north, as jamawani suggests. Since you say your destination is flexible, consider ending up in Astoria OR or Ilwaco WA and riding back to Portland or Vancouver (WA) to catch the train back. I did that when I went east-west (May/June). I went farther north than jamawani's route, crossing southern Ontario (Buffalo to Port Huron MI) and taking the Ludington MI ferry to Manitowoc WI, crossing MN, northern SD, cutting across a corner of ND to MT to Lolo Pass and then onward. Hospitable all the way.
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Old 03-26-08, 04:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Takara View Post
I suggest that you fly out to the West Coast and do your trip in the opposite direction.

That favors you with more tailwinds and fewer headwinds, and lets you consider heading into less challenging weather at the beginning -- none of the wet furnace effect you'd face from Boston to the 100th Meridian or so. (August is typically a bit cooler than July, and you'll be in better shape to face the heat as you get near home. And yes, stay north of Nevada or so -- the Northern Tier route is a good suggestion.)

Also consider what terrain you'd be saddest to give up if your schedule proves too ambitious. If you guys are from Boston, Ohio and Pennsylvania probably don't hold the same allure as northern California and Oregon. Also, you wouldn't be rushing to be at a particular airport on a particular day -- you could slink home on a Greyhound from wherever you're forced to call it quits.
Good points except for the prevailing wind thing. I would doubt that one. I know that on the TA where wind mattered most in eastern Colorado and Kansas the surface winds were from the SE and I am told that is typical. I do not know about the NT in particular, but in general I would doubt the prevailing westerlies thing. Surfaces winds just don't tend to follow that pattern.

One other thing. I always found it to be a big advantage to have air travel out of the way first. You know when you will be at the start, you can never be sure about when you will be at the end. It is nice to have some flexibility about when you need to arrive at the end of the trip. Additionally it is nice if friends and family can meet you at the end.
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Old 03-26-08, 09:28 AM
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I am planning a similar trip but I leave May 1st, and am going from Central PA to Oregon or Washington. I am planning on it taking closer to 100 days. Averaging about 50 miles a day. There will obviously be good days and bad ranging from 100+ miles to 20 miles or so.
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Old 03-26-08, 12:44 PM
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You'll get plenty of headwinds no matter which way you travel, but if you're crossing North America at any latitude the average wind is going more east than west. The Earth spins counterclockwise, after all.
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