Thousands of cyclists have pedaled the 4,253-mile TransAmerica Bicycle Trail and will tell you that they captured a lifetime’s worth of memories along their tour. For many traveling cyclists who haven’t yet experienced the TransAm, it remains the holy grail of American bicycle tours.
From Virginia’s Historic Triangle, the “birthplace of America,” you’ll pedal westward through rolling hills into the steeper climbs of Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri. After the windswept plains of Kansas, and eastern Colorado, the remainder of the journey is primarily through the ranges of the Rocky Mountains and the broad valleys separating them.
You and your fellow group members will decide how far to ride each day, where to pitch your tents, and what to fix for dinner. Daily tasks, including shopping and camp cooking, are also shared on a revolving basis. Each day, you’ll be free to ride at your own pace, shoot photos, chat with locals, and search out the best swimming hole in every state.
|Start Date:||May 03, 2014||End Date:||Aug 03, 2014|
|Start Location:||Williamsburg, VA||End Location:||Florence, OR|
|Total Days:||93||Riding Days:||78|
|Average Daily Mileage:||54.5||Surface:||Paved|
|Riders:||14||Elevation Alert:||high point: 11,500'|
|Airport:||Richmond, VA (RIC); Eugene, OR (EUG)||Tour Leader:||David Lynch|
|Type:||Self Contained||Technical Difficulty:||Moderate|
|Physical Difficulty:||Advanced||Level of Support:||Self Contained|
From Yorktown, Virginia, we'll ride through the welcoming terrain of the Tidewater region, a rolling plain that rises gradually to meet the Virginia Piedmont and its somewhat steeper hills. A layover day in Charlottesville will give us time to tour the University of Virginia’s magnificent campus, designed by Thomas Jefferson. Outside of town, we can also visit Jefferson's Monticello, with its resplendent gardens and hilltop location providing long-range views of the surrounding countryside.
In Afton, we'll ride by the Bike House, the longtime home of June Curry, the world-famous "Cookie Lady," who hosted more than 14,000 touring cyclists from 1976 until her death in 2012. From there, we'll inch our way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and bicycle along that legendary roadway until beginning the four-mile descent into the town of Vesuvius. From here to Christiansburg, the route closely parallels the Natchez Trace, an ancient Native American trail at the base of the Blue Ridge, along which Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson marched troops during the Civil War.
We’ll cross into Kentucky at Breaks Interstate Park, one of only two parks in the nation shared by two states. The 4,500-acre preserve holds an enchanting expanse of forested mountains, as well as the “Grand Canyon of the South,” created by the erosive action of the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River. Prior to crossing the state line, we can sign the "Across State Ride" book that Virginia officials are using to compile statistics they hope will one day result in improvements to U.S. Bike Route 76, established in 1982 and now part of the growing U.S. Bicycle Route System. Ahead lie the hilly, winding, and often densely vegetated roadways of the eastern Kentucky Appalachians. We'll ride just south of the Tug River Valley, which separates West Virginia and Kentucky, and where the long-running McCoy-Hatfield Feud erupted at the end of the Civil War. We’ll take a layover day in Berea to learn more about the feud and mountain culture in general at the Appalachian Museum and nearby Berea College.
Leaving the challenging Appalachians behind, the Bluegrass region of central Kentucky will greet us with its verdant pastures and postcard-worthy horse farms delineated by neat white fences. After continuing through western Kentucky and the communities of Bardstown, Utica, and Marion, we'll cross the wide Ohio River into southern Illinois, where we'll camp at Dixon Springs State Park. The ridges and valleys of the small mountain range known as the Little Ozarks will show us the way to Carbondale, home to Southern Illinois University and another perfect place for a layover day.
In Chester, Illinois, we'll cross the mighty Mississippi on the Chester Bridge, a truss bridge that appeared in the opening scene of the 1967 movie, In the Heat of the Night. We'll then begin tackling the notoriously steep and seemingly never-ending hills of the Missouri Ozarks. Camping for a night at Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, we'll explore the narrow gorges carved by streams into 1.5-billion-year-old igneous rhyolite. In Eminence, we might set our bicycles aside for the morning in order to enjoy a mellow canoe float down the crystal waters of the spring-fed Current River, a component of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
We’ll spend our first night in Kansas, the Jayhawk State, in Pittsburg, which was named after Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1876. We’ll curse and praise the ever-present Kansas wind, depending upon whether it’s blowing at our backs or in our faces as we pedal amidst endless fields of grain and sunflowers. When we're still miles from Eureka, Newton, and a host of smaller towns, we'll spot the communities’ tall grain elevators standing like sentinels above the endless plains.
As we make our way through central and western Kansas, we’ll leave the humidity behind, entering the arid West. The town of Larned is a living history lesson, with its hand-laid brick streets and museum dedicated to the Santa Fe Trail. You may be surprised that the mountains don't jut into the sky immediately after we cross into Colorado — in fact, there's quite a long piece of Kansas-like terrain separating the interstate border and the Rockies.
The vibrant city of Pueblo marks both the approximate halfway point of our cross-country adventure and the start of the Rockies. We’ll relish a layover day outside Cañon City at Royal Gorge, the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas. The river is spanned by the world’s highest suspension bridge over water. From there we'll make our way through the spectacular wide-open countryside of South Park, before climbing to the apex of the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, 11,542-foot-high Hoosier Pass. You’ll remember this climb and the descent that follows! At the base of the downhill lies Breckenridge and greater Summit County, one of Colorado’s recreation hot spots for both summer and winter sports.
Just north of Walden, we'll ride into windy Wyoming, and overnight in the fun mountain town of Saratoga. There we can soak our weary bones in the free, community-owned Hobo Hot Pool. Afterwards, we'll begin the high and dry ride through the sagebrush- and pronghorn-filled Great Divide Basin. From Lander to Dubois, where we’ll stop for a visit to the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center, we'll alternate between big mountains and broad valleys. After climbing up and over Togwotee Pass, we'll free-fall into world-famous Jackson Hole, and spin through spectacular Grand Teton National Park.
We’ll mosey around the western town of Jackson, checking out the elk-antler arches that mark the four corners of the Town Square, and straddle leather saddle stools in the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. From the quaint community of Wilson, we'll climb out of Jackson Hole over the unforgettably steep Teton Pass and descend into Teton Valley, Idaho. After enjoying the eight-mile-long rail-trail connecting Victor and Driggs, we'll proceed north through undulating potato and barley country to Ashton, "Seed Potato Capital of the World." If your tires and spirit are up to it, you can ride the 40 miles separating Tetonia and Ashton on the gravel-surfaced Tetonia-Ashton Rail-Trail. From there, it’s on to West Yellowstone, Montana.
After a layover day in West Yellowstone and an optional side trip into Yellowstone National Park, we'll ride alongside the trout-rich waters of the Madison River to Ennis. From there, we'll climb into Virginia City, an evocatively renovated Victorian frontier town that was the site of a major 1860s gold strike and, for a short time, the capital of the Montana Territory. From there we’ll push on to the high lonesome of the Big Hole Valley, over Chief Joseph and Lost Trail passes, and then into the bustling Bitterroot Valley. We’ll enjoy a well-deserved layover day in Adventure Cycling's hometown of Missoula, an oasis of culture and entertainment.
Tracing the tracks of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery, we'll cross Lolo Pass and re-enter Idaho, riding beside the Lochsa River as it cuts through an immense wilderness expanse. The cool little town of Riggins will provide us with the option of splashing our way on a half-day rafting trip through the whitewater rapids of the Salmon River's main fork. We’ll cross the Snake River into Oregon near Hell's Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America.
We'll take a layover day in Baker City, rich with gold-mining lore. The town was named after U.S. Senator Edward D. Baker, the only sitting senator to be killed in a military engagement. He died in 1861 while leading a charge of Union soldiers at Ball’s Bluff, Virginia, during the Civil War. After crossing a series of relatively minor mountain ranges and visiting towns like Prairie City, Prineville, and Sisters, we'll have the thrill of crossing the Cascade Range through volcanic McKenzie Pass. We’re getting close to the Pacific Ocean and the end of our three-month-long continent crossing.
The final three days of our grand tour by velocipede consist of a beautiful route from Coburg to the coast, by way of the covered bridges of the Alsea River Valley. We'll dip our wheels in the Pacific at Beachside State Park. After riding south down the coast to Florence, we'll enjoy a bittersweet celebration dinner. The following morning we'll return to Eugene for a formal wrap-up and farewells before heading back to the real world.
"I chose this tour because I wanted to cycle across the country and camp. I considered making the trip alone, but then decided to join Adventure Cycling's trip, because I like the organization, the route direction, and the group size."
2007 Tour Participant
"...you should know, the trip was wonderful."
2009 Tour Participant
"I can't say enough or as many times as necessary to get the point across that for me, this was a trip of a lifetime...There will be other trips but I don't think they will be able to top this one. I think I also echo my fellow riders feelings on that fact. I had some question when we started whether I could physically do it but those feelings quickly evaporated once we got into our routine.
If you have a sense of adventure and are thinking of doing this ride someday, don't wait! There are too many convenient excuses...Life is too short to let work get the way or say, I'll wait until retirement.... [Our touring group] formed our own family as we traveled across the US. And what a time we had! What great experiences we shared."
"The TransAm, while very challenging, has such great scenery that one forgets the hills. Every day is a new adventure.” “The group remained reasonably cohesive and the quality of the route, particularly in the latter states made the ride enjoyable as well as a challenge. At the end I did not want the ride to stop."
2011 Tour Participant