Southern Tier II - Van

Trip Dates:
Mar 16, 2014 -- May 12, 2014
San Diego, CA - St Augustine, FL
Booking Status:
Additional Departures:
Mar 09, 2014 - May 05, 2014

Prepare for a southern-style, cross-country ride on our shortest, most accessible transcontinental trip. To make this tour even better, we’ll enjoy the relative luxury of having the Adventure Cycling van tote our gear to and from each overnight location, as we pedal from the West Coast across deserts, over mountains, past prairies, beyond bayous, and through citrus groves, all the way to our eastern shore. You’ll also enjoy starting this epic tour in one of America’s best beach cities, San Diego, and ending it in St. Augustine, America’s oldest continuously occupied city settled by Europeans.

Notable stopovers along this route, each with a unique set of diversions, include Phoenix, Austin, and New Orleans. In between there are many other great sights, sounds, cuisines, and cultures to experience.

Start Date: Mar 16, 2014 End Date: May 12, 2014
Start Location: San Diego, CA End Location: St Augustine, FL
Total Days: 58 Riding Days: 47
Rest Days: 11 Miles: 3160
Average Daily Mileage: 67.2 Surface: Paved
Riders: 13 Elevation Alert: High point: 8228'
Airport: San Diego Intl., CA; Jacksonville Intl., FL Tour Leader: Barb Wade, Sue Davendonis
Meals: Shared cooking Accommodations: Camping/Indoor
Type: Supported Physical Difficulty: Intermediate+
Level of Support: Van Supported Cost: $5,499.00

Week 1

We’ll meet each other at the Point Loma Hostel, just a couple of miles from the San Diego coast. After dipping our rear tires in the Pacific Ocean, we'll begin a long, steady climb to the quiet Alpine and Pine Valleys, nestled in the foothills of the Laguna Mountains. We'll continue climbing through great pine and oak forests before a terrific descent to Ocotillo and other Imperial Valley towns in the Colorado Desert. We’ll ride through Blythe, where you can check out the Blythe Intaglios, 400- to 2,000-year-old giant human, animal, and geometric figures carved into the desert surface by Mohave and Quechen Indians. Finishing up our first week, we’ll cross the Colorado River and ride into the state of Arizona.

Week 2

After threading our way between the Harcuvar, Harquahala, and Vulture mountain ranges, we’ll roll into the old cowboy town of Wickenburg. Here you can try your luck at gold panning in the “Golden Triangle,” one of the best prospecting areas in Arizona. We’ll swoop through the big city of Phoenix and park our steeds next door in Tempe, home of Arizona State University. We’ll spend our first layover day here and have the opportunity to explore the Valley of the Sun. Next, we’ll exchange friendly waves with saguaro sentinels as we head east through the desert before climbing to the copper-mining towns of Superior, Miami, and Globe. After descending to San Carlos Lake, we’ll start a long, gradual ascent along the Gila River that will bring us, ultimately, to the state of New Mexico. We’ll cap off the week with a layover in Silver City, a funky hamlet ringed by mountains, and an old hangout for outlaws and renegades like Billy the Kid and Geronimo. From here you can set out on a hilly but rewarding side trip to the ruins at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, home of the Mogollon people who populated the region over 700 years ago. Or, you can simply relax, off-bike, and explore some of the fine diversions Silver City has to offer.

Week 3

Rested and raring to go, we will climb over the Continental Divide, zoom down into Mimbres, and then prepare for a long, scenic ascent of 8,228-foot Emory Pass, the high point of the Southern Tier Route. From there it’s smooth sailing to our campsite at Caballo Lake State Park. Then we’ll roll on through Hatch, the self-proclaimed “Chile Capital of the World,” home of the famous chile festival held every September. We’ll press onward to Las Cruces, the state’s second largest city and home of New Mexico State University, following the course of the Rio Grande River. After crossing into Texas, we’ll spend a night in El Paso, a boomtown that was so lawless in the late 1800s it earned the moniker “Six Shooter Capital.” From here, we’ll stay within sight of Mexico, bedding down in Fort Hancock for a night. We’ll then move on to Van Horn situated in the high Texas plains.

Week 4

Continuing eastward, we’ll ride across what a popular western-swing song refers to as “miles and miles of Texas” — more than a thousand miles, in fact. After a long day’s ride to reach Fort Davis, the best surviving example of a southwestern frontier military post, we’ll enjoy a well-deserved layover day with time to explore Davis Mountains State Park and/or the famed University of Texas McDonald Observatory. Rejuvenated, we’ll cruise over sagebrush-covered hills and under the wide-open skies of West Texas passing Big Bend National Park, named for the sharp turn that the Rio Grande River makes on its way to the sea. We’ll spend a night in Marathon and then swoop into Sanderson, the Cactus Capital of Texas. Next, we’ll press on through Del Rio (site of a legendary UFO crash), Seminole Canyon State Park, and Bracketville.

Week 5

Moving into the beautiful Texas Hill Country, we’ll ride along the Guadalupe River and take comfort in the town of the same name. Next, we’ll delight in the descent from Blanco to Wimberley and, finally, enjoy a long-awaited layover day in Austin. Known as “the live music capital of the world,” Austin is exceedingly rich in history and home to an inordinate number of fine museums and great eateries. We’ll spin from Austin through the town of Bastrop, nestled along the Colorado River (a different Colorado River), into Winchester, site of the largest mountain bike race in Texas. The next day we’ll continue riding downhill to our camp spot at Navasota — perhaps stopping in at the Burtin Cotton Gin, built in 1914 and still in operation. We’ll cap off the week by gliding through a beautiful stretch of woods within Sam Houston National Forest.

Week 6

Continuing our journey eastward, we’ll head through the brushy Big Thicket Preserve, historically a hiding place for outlaws and rogues, and spend a night in Silsbee, nestled in the piney woods of southeast Texas. Come morning, we’ll cross into Louisiana and the town of Merryville, which skirts both the state border and the Sabine River. All of Louisiana lies within the geological province known as the Gulf Coastal Plain. We’ll spend the majority of our time here crossing the pine hills and prairies of the Louisiana Uplands. As we continue to Oberlin, with luck we might catch the Bundick Lake Cajun Cook-Off. Then, on the following day, we’ll pass through Mamou, the Cajun capital of Louisiana (and the world!), where we can treat our ears to authentic zydeco music and our taste buds to catfish and boiled crawfish. We’ll ride through Simmesport and then finish the week crossing the mighty Mississippi.

Week 7

As the terrain gradually changes to gently rolling hills, we’ll visit Easleyville and Bogalusa and cross into Mississippi, the land of levees. We’ll camp in Perkinston — known far and wide for its spicy chicken strips, with a layover strategically scheduled for New Orleans. Here we can take in some of the best sights, sounds, and flavors the region has to offer. After recharging our batteries and jumpstarting our engines with zesty Cajun and Creole food, we’ll cross into Alabama, and roll our bicycles aboard a ferry across Mobile Bay to the Fort Morgan Historic Site and Dauphin Island, which has flown French, British, and Spanish flags. We’ll then pedal to our campsite in Gulf Shores, situated along the Gulf of Mexico. The next day we’ll find ourselves in Florida, where we’ll pedal past Pensacola and cruise the scenic Blackwater Trail on our way to Milton.

Week 8

We'll begin our last full week of the trip cycling toward DeFuniak Springs, home of Walton County Library, the oldest standing library in the state of Florida. It contains an interesting assortment of antiquities, including an impressive medieval weapons collection and many first-edition books. Next, we’ll course through the Marianna Lowlands, just a stone’s throw away from Florida Caverns State Park. After a final time-zone change at the Apalachicola River, we will take aim at Waukeenah, where we’ll pass through orange and lemon groves in a region that boasts the world’s greatest concentration of citrus growers. Forging onward, we’ll spend an evening at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, and then enjoy the shade of tall tulip poplars on our way to High Springs.

Week 9

On the penultimate day of the tour, we’ll bypass Gainesville in favor of the smaller communities of Hawthorne and East Palatka — where, it’s rumored, previous Southern Tier riders have tracked down some of the best milk shakes on the entire route. Our journey concludes in St. Augustine, the oldest city in America. Here we'll dip our wheels in the Alantic and relax. 

"The scenery was striking. The first 25 miles of the ride at 7000 feet the day before Emery Pass was a personal memory of a great ride, again the scenery and silence."

2012 Tour Participant

"On a scale of 1 to 10, the trip was a 15."

2013 Tour Participant

"When we began the tour I think that most people were interested in the accomplishment of a cycling across the country . The last several days many of us changed our focus. It was no longer the accomplishment of the ride. It was the friends we made during the journey."

2013 Tour Participant

"I had a great time, it pushed my limits and my kids think I'm slightly crazy which is just fine!"

2012 Tour Participant

Photo by Dennis Coello