USA BicycleTouring Route
10,147 kilometers, June - November 2009
New York » New Jersey » Pennsylvania » Maryland » Virginia » West Virginia » Kentucky » Illinois » Missouri » Kansas » Colorado » Utah » Idaho» Montana » Idaho » Washington » Oregon » California » Arizona » New Mexico » Texas
June 11th, 2009 we rolled out of JFK and pedaled towards Brooklyn to begin our US tour. The eastern seaboard is one of the most heavily populated parts of the country and we were ill-prepared to navigate the thick network of twisted interstates and super-highways. Spend some time carefully planning your route around New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC and avoid getting caught in heavy traffic as we did. Riding the backroads of Maryland, with its rolling hills and farms, was much more pleasant than getting a tour of housing projects in Newark.
Starting in Virginia, we biked across America roughly following Adventure Cycling's TransAmerica route until we reached Colorado, where we continued into Utah before turning north into Idaho and Montana. The Adventure Cycling route takes you from Colorado into Wyoming and then into Montana.
The toughest cycling was tackling the mighty Appalachians of Virginia and West Virginia. Steep climbs and lots of ups and downs on narrow windy roads were par for the course. In Missouri, we plotted a course slightly north of the Ozarks hoping to avoid the unrelenting hills, but still spent plenty of time grinding up short steep climbs. Kansas was flat, hot and boring. But thankfully home to some of the friendliest folks in the country. Pitching the tent in local parks, complete with a free shower at the adjacent pool was the norm.
Sparsely populated Eastern Colorado has more in common with Kansas than the rest of the state, but once past Pueblo we caught sight of the Rockies rising in the distance and started in on some serious climbing. Surprisingly, pedaling through the Rockies was far easier than taking on the Appalachians. The Rockies are characterized by long, gentle climbs followed by lazy rides through lush river valleys. Fantastic vistas, varying landscapes and picturesque Wild West towns tucked away in the mountains make Colorado a top spot for cycling. At over 11,700 feet, Hoosier Pass was the highest point of the trip and it wasn't all downhill from there. Plenty of passes followed.
After Colorado, we continued cycling into Utah. The deserts of Utah rank high on our list of favorite US touring locations. Surreal landscapes, jaw-dropping sunrises, and wide open roads make the land of Brigham Young well worth a visit. Utah, where the license plates boast of 'the best snow on earth,' rivals Colorado for mountain landscapes, so don't neglect this western gem when planning your bike tour across America.
Idaho's motto 'famous potatoes' doesn't do much to draw tourists, which means fewer RVs plying the roads in this beautiful state. Stark wilderness, fast-flowing rivers, and pastoral farmland, as well as 80 mountain ranges can all be found within Idaho's boundaries.
One last push over Lost Trail Pass and we said good-bye to Idaho and free-wheeled it down the mountain into Montana's Bitterroot Valley. Then it was on to my hometown, Missoula, and a month of rest. Missoula is home of the Adventure Cycling Association where passing cyclists can drop by for free ice cream and sodas. Don't miss it. Check out Missoula's Saturday market if you're in town on the weekend, have a stroll down Higgins Avenue, pop into one of the many coffee shops and enjoy a cold beer on the terrace of the local micro-brewery.
A combination of Mom's home cooking and a stationary lifestyle meant we put on a few pounds (good for Eric, less so for me) and it was time to hit the road again in mid-September. A short trek through Western Montana and over Lolo Pass brought us back to Idaho and a glorious ride through some of America's remotest terrain as we followed in the tracks of Lewis and Clark.
Heavily-wooded forests eventually gave way to desertic Eastern Washington and Oregon as we snaked our way towards the Pacific Northwest. The wind howled, but we pushed on into the thick forests surrounding the Columbia Gorge which carves its way through the Cascade Mountains. Surrounded by dramatic scenery of waterfalls spilling down over sheer rock faces and panoramic views over the gorge, we sped into Portland for a rest in one of America's premier cycling cities.
From Portland, we headed to the Oregon Coast and biked south into the stunning Redwood forests of Northern California. Scenic Highway snakes its way along the coast and offers some of the best biking in the country. Coupled with the convenience of the many hiker-biker campgrounds dotting the coast, this is perfect cycling country.
South of San Luis Obispo begins the snarl of Southern California, so we headed inland through California's agricultural heartland, the Central Valley. We were back to wide open spaces and simple farming towns. From Bakersfield, we continued into the Mojave Desert where temperatures soared and the wind howled. The wacky landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park soon gave way to the flat and featureless desert of Arizona.
After a long, hot slog to Phoenix, we gained altitude and cooled off in the mountains of New Mexico, stopping off in Silver City as we biked through the stunning Gila Mountains. Back on the flat lands, we headed for Las Cruces and then onto El Paso. With all the talk of drug-related violence in El Paso, we postponed crossing the border into Mexico and continued on through the beautiful vast open spaces of West Texas, cycling through through the small communities of Alpine and Sanderson.