Initially, we planned to complete our 5,600 mile route with an average pace of 75 miles/day, but we quickly found that pace to be more aggressive than we hoped for. Since we had a fixed time frame, we eliminated TN, Northern CA and OR to allow us to slow down and be more flexible. It was hard to kick the thought of 75 miles/day, though. Fortunately there were so many exciting destinations that we didn’t want to miss, which helped us justify plenty of long days in the saddle. We will plan our next bike tour with 50-60 miles/day.
How our route came to be… We started off with a list of potential destinations scattered across the country, and then found the Adventure Cycling (“AC”) routes that ran nearest the majority of them. After eliminating enough destinations to form a route that could be completed in one summer, we selected 5 AC routes to follow, with some bushwhacking in between. Our bushwhacking mainly consisted of following Google Maps cycling directions, which was a hit-or-miss strategy. Touring off popular routes was fun because you are a novelty to locals, but the touring-focused amenities and ease of following mapped routes certainly has its value. The maps eliminate thinking /worrying about finding a decent route and allow you to focus on solely on enjoying the ride. The list below is a detailed description of the AC route sections we rode, and the in-between bushwhacking.
- AC Northern Tier Section 11: Durham, ME to Middlebury, VT
- AC Northern Tier Section 10: North Hudson, NY to Fulton, NY
- Bushwhacked through the finger lakes region before rejoining Northern Tier in Spencerport, NY.
- AC Northern Tier Section 10: Spencerport, NY to Buffalo, NY
- Bushwhacked along Lake Erie to Erie, PA.
- AC Underground RR Pittsburgh Spur (“UGRR-PS”)
- Bushwhacked between UGRR-PS and the TransAm. Narrow, busy side roads for 10-20 miles out of Pittsburgh, PA. In hindsight we should have taken the Great Allegheny Passage out of Pittsburgh, then turned towards our next destination – the extra mileage would have been worth it. After learning this lesson, we understood why touring cyclists typically avoid large cities.
- AC Trans America Sections 11 – 7: Wytheville, VA to Eads, CO including the optional Mammoth Cave National Park loop.
- Bushwhacked to Denver, but asked local bike shops in advance for route recommendations. We followed the Cherry Creek Trail for ~25 miles into Denver from the South. On the flip side followed a friend’s recommendation for between Denver and Dolores, CO. This was our favorite part of the trip :-).
- AC Western Express Section 3: Dolores, CO to Bryce Canyon NP
- Bushwhacked to Zion NP then through Las Vegas, NV to Lake Isabella, CA. We moved quickly and strategically (motel-hopping) through this section, mostly on the highway (I-15) due to lack of alternative options. To avoid the extreme heat we rode at night which made highway riding more tolerable (less traffic). We missed some scenery and at times felt rushed to finish our riding before 9 or 10am (mostly successful). It was fun in its own way and I believe we were happier as a result though.
- AC Sierra Cascades Sections 4: Lake Isabelle, CA to South Lake Tahoe, CA. This route was very difficult because you climb from the central valley up into the Sierra Nevada’s several times, as there aren’t any roads that run continuously North-South through the entire range.
- AC Western Express Section 1: South Lake Tahoe, CA to San Francisco, CA