Planning a Cross-Country Bike Tour on the TransAm 2


For those who don’t know, I will be leading a cross-country bike tour for the Adventure Cycling Association in conjunction with their 40th Anniversary this year. This will be a van tour similar to my last year’s Pacific Coast North tour where I am responsible for planning and driving half of the time across the country. We will be using the TransAmerica (TransAm) Trail from Florence, Oregon to Williamsburg, Virginia. We will be traveling eastbound while most trips traditionally go westbound, like the settlers once did, but by horse-drawn carriage. This will be my big annual trip for 2016, so I just wanted to share with you some background information about the trip and how I am planning it.

The TransAm

In commemoration of America’s bicentennial Declaration of Independence, 4100 bicycle riders rode 4250 miles across America in 1976. The person responsible for this was none other than Adventure Cycling’s founder Greg Siple along with his wife June and another couple, Dan and Lys Burden. The four of them had met on a separate bike tour in 1972.

Can you imagine how bike traveling had been back in the early to mid-seventies?

The route is also known as U.S. Bicycle Route 76, which crosses 112 counties in 10 states. The route climbs across the Continental Divide on 9 separate locations in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. The highest point is over Hoosier Pass at 11,541 feet in Colorado; not to mention, the infamous Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian ridges. Most people get those out-of-the-way at the beginning of their ride going west, but we will be tackling them towards the end of our trip.

Highlights

There are redeeming qualities of this trip, other than the unlimited amount of climbing that will be expected. For one, we will be visiting America’s first National Park: Yellowstone. We will get the opportunity to visit the Grand Tetons National Park as well. For the history buffs, we will be riding to Williamsburg, one of America’s oldest towns. In addition to this, we will be passing through Missoula, Montana, the headquarters of Adventure Cycling Association.

Old Faithful - Yellowstone

Photo Credit: James St. John via Compfight cc

Logistics

As far as planning goes, we will be supplied a van with an attached trailer much like the Pacific Coast North tour. The trailer will have all types of cooking tools to prepare meals and support our riders. The van will carry up to 15 riders and their bikes on top of the roof.

My co-leader will be the legendary Art Brown, who has led tours for 20+ years. He is actually on his own solo adventure across Australia as I am writing this post. He will not be returning until June, so it is up to me to make arrangements for the first 4 months. Check out his blog here.

The trip will start on August 9th and end on October 30th. That’s 83 days on the road. We will all

congregate in Eugene, Oregon before being shuttled out to Florence to start the ride. I am to make accommodations arrangements for the first 10 days of the trip. The remaining days will have to be done while we are on the road. I also need to book accommodations when we are in Missoula, during any holidays (Labor Day), and when we are near the Breckenridge, Colorado area as that is a very popular summer vacation town. I had a jump in planning earlier this month and have accommodations taken care of for all but 4 locations, many of which don’t allow reservations until you’re 6 months out.

Planning next year's epic ride! @adventurecycling #cycletouring #bicycletouring #biketouring #adventurecycling

Challenges

With a trip like this, I can see several challenges that we will have to overcome. The first is the amount of climbing that is required. Riders are expected to be physically fit to ride the entire way. The van is not there to shuttle folks unless we are not allowed to ride in particular areas, such as Yellowstone, or if there are any safety concerns. I think managing people’s expectations and miles with the daily elevation profile will be a challenge in keeping people happy and not overwhelming them.

Even though we are traveling during the warmer time of the year, weather will play a big part in our trip. When I was working the Colorado Family Fun tour with Adventure Cycling last year, we had many days where the weather was questionable due to thunderstorms lingering in the area. Since our start date is around the time I was there last year, the chances of having similar weather will be high. Another concern would be the possibility of being in a tornado. But tornado season actually ends around July so we should be okay. I do know we are traveling through parts of Tornado Alley in Kansas and Colorado. Keeping my fingers crossed that we don’t even come close to one.

From an individual’s perspective, there will be encounters with dogs in states like Kentucky. I have read and heard of stories from so many people confirming that you will be chased by dogs or packs of dogs in the Western side of the state. This is something I am not looking forward to, but I have 7 months to figure out what to bring with me to deter a dog attack. Looking at the Dazer or even a doggie mace of some kind.
Half way up switchbacks

Next Steps

This is probably the most straight-forward trip as so many others have ridden it. Maps will be provided, so we don’t have to do further research on routes. Camping and accommodations shouldn’t be an issue as many places should be able to accommodate us, even if we max out at 15 riders. The last time I checked, we have about 7 riders confirmed. There is definitely time for us to get 6 more riders by August, so if you’re interested in joining or would like to tell other folks, here is the link for the trip.

Planning is still at its very early stages, so the updates are going to be few until we get closer to the date when I may decide to do weekly updates similar to what I did for my Trans Europe trip last year.

One last question, would one count this trip as biking across America even if I didn’t ride all of it? I’m thinking “no,” but would like to hear what you think. As a consolation prize, I can say I’ve traveled across the US after it is said and done!

Resources

Here are some books about the TransAm that you might want to check out.

<<This is not a mistake

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


About Johnny Lam

Johnny is an avid cyclist who enjoys bicycle touring as well as anything bicycle related. Johnny has traveled the entire Pacific Coast by bike from Vancouver to the border of California and Mexico. He's also toured through-out locations in Southern California. Johnny is also a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor (LCI) and also completed the Adventure Cycling Association's Leadership Training Course (LTC). He is an active member in Los Angeles bicycling community being involved in organizations like the Los Angeles County Bicycling Coalition (LACBC), C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange), and Bike San Gabriel Valley (Bike SGV) by taking part in ride marshaling, pedestrian & bike counts, and other volunteering opportunities.


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2 thoughts on “Planning a Cross-Country Bike Tour on the TransAm

  • Jason

    Hey Johnny,
    How did your TransAm ride go in 2016? I rode eastbound from Astoria, OR, to almost the Kansas state line but got stopped by the now infamous “heat dome”… it was 98F where I stopped and 109F at the Kansas state line. So, I bailed. Now, I’m planning on finishing starting eastbound from where I stopped. So, two parts to my ride. First in 2016 and then finishing in 2017 at Yorktown, Virginia.

    Any mishaps that you encountered that I might learn from? I’ve heard of the dogs in Kentucky. But I was way, way, way scared of the grizzly bears in Yellowstone. A ranger there was killed last year by a bear and another ranger was killed by a bear in Glacier Park, Montana, this year. The roadsigns in Yellowstone said, “Bears ahead. Remain inside your cars. Do not stop.” AND nothing for bike riders… so I carried bear spray. And rode in the center of the road!

    • Johnny Lam Post author

      Hey Jason,

      My Trans Am ride went very well. Thanks for asking. We got to visit Adventure Cycling headquarters to celebrate the 40th year since the Bikecentennial. I have a couple of blog post and videos about it here.

      The weather sounded terrible in Kansas. We had a crazy headwind in Wyoming and was actually cold near Yellowstone. Other than that, the weather was pretty good for us.

      As for bears, we didn’t encounter any. I’m sure they were busy with easy targets like car campers. I also saw those warning signs through Yellowstone and Grand Tetons telling to stay in your vehicles.

      Good luck on your continuation next year. I’ve got something planned on the self-supported front in March so it’s going to be a good year.