Coast to Coast - Cycling across the USofA

The grand tour; June/July 2003

Live diary from the road...... Words and pictures...... Statistics...... Kit list

For a long time now, I have wanted to try doing a long tour by myself. And the idea of riding across the United States had always appealed. Last year's solo ride to Italy led to the discovery that I like just riding on my own, although the language problem meant that I couldn't really speak to anyone for a week! So that was one good reason for choosing the US; and having lived on the East coast I was keen to get out and see more of the vast country.

So when I found myself out of full time employment in April, I thought it would be a good moment to take advantage of the spare time, although I actually only finally decided to to the ride about three weeks before I left! Fortunately there is a great resource for information - the Adventure Cycling Association. After studying their website for a while, I decided to do the Western Express route of the TransAmerica trail. The TransAm, first mapped in 1976, runs from Oregon to Virginia - the Western Express starts in San Francisco and joins up with the TransAm in Colorado. Having been to Oregon before, I wanted to ride across the desert in Nevada and through Utah, plus this route is 400 miles less, totalling 3800 coast to coast.

The Western Express The route can be ridden in either direction, the winds are supposed to be prevailing from West to East, but it doesn't make too much difference. I decided to start in San Francisco and head East - this meant that I would be heading in a homewards direction, plus I would be able to finish by meeting up with friends on the East coast.

I figured I should be able to average 100 miles a day, with the odd day off, so the crossing should take me about six weeks. But when booking flights I allowed seven to give me a bit of flexibility. I first flew into Boston, and spent ten days visiting a friend and relaxing there (didn't even ride my bike for several days!), before flying on to San Francisco - 6 hours to fly what would take me 6 weeks to ride! I was then due back in Boston 7 weeks later; the plan was to do the coast to coast and get to Washington DC, then I could either ride (if I was still keen) or get the bus up to Boston to fly home.

I ordered the set of maps from Adventure Cycling and then waited for them to arrive..... and waited.... until I had to leave for Boston and they still hadn't come! I think they got held up coming into the country, that happens sometimes. Fortunately the Adventure Cycling folk came to the rescue, sending me out a second set to Boston free of charge - I could then send the original, unused set back when I got home. The maps are incredible - every part of the route, on back roads as much as possible, with turn by turn directions and details of every campsite, bikeshop and available service along the way. They made life so easy, I only missed two turns on the whole route, and that was from my own inattention.

After finding it very comfortable and great with a load when touring last year, I decided to ride my Bike Friday again for this trip. Plus it is so much less hassle to fly, just fold it up into the suitcase and that's it. When I got to SF I had a friend mail the empty case back to Boston for me, still much cheaper than paying airlines excessive bicycle fees! I've got my touring kit down pretty well now, after doing enough to whittle down to the basics. Just two small panniers and a barbag, plus a trunk on the back for food. The loaded bags weighed in at 30lbs, not bad for being self sufficient. I just added a triple chainset to the bike for this trip - I got over the Alps last year with just a double, but thought I might need the extra gears for the Rockies!