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, through rolling hills, beyond bayous, and along the Gulf Coast, all the way to the East Coast. 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 European settlement.
We'll pass by many notable cities along this route, each with a unique set of diversions, including Phoenix, Austin, and New Orleans. In between there are many other great sights, sounds, cuisines, and cultures to experience.
I believe Dave and Lee did an excellent job at taking care of the group, providing guidance and support but also allowing the group some flexibility with regard to the route logistics.
Week 1. San Diego, California to Mesa, Arizona
We’ll meet each other 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 in the Colorado Desert. Passing through the agricultural heartland of Arizona, we cycle pas rows of date palms and vibrant green fields of cotton, alfalfa, and lettuce, adding color to our route to Mesa.
Week 2. Mesa to Silver City, New Mexico
We’ll swoop through before admiring saguaro sentinels as we continue eastward through the desert. A challenging climb to Tonto Basin is rewarded with views of the Theodore Roosevelt Reservoir filled by a 357 foot high dam of the same name. After another climb to Globe, we’ll start a long, gradual ascent along the Gila River that will bring us ultimately to the state of New Mexico. Silver City, a funky hamlet ringed by mountains, was an old hangout for outlaws like Billy the Kid, but now happily welcomes wandering cyclists. 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.
Week 3. Silver City to Van Horn, Texas
Leaving Silver City, 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. We’ll roll on through Hatch, the self-proclaimed “Chili Capital of the World,” home of the famous chili festival held every September. We’ll press onward to Las Cruces, the state’s second-largest city and the home of New Mexico State University, following the course of the Rio Grande River. Crossing into Texas through El Paso, a boomtown that was so lawless in the late 1800s it earned the moniker “Six Shooter Capital” we’ll stay within sight of Mexico, before moving on to Van Horn situated in the high Texas plains.
Week 4. Van Horn to Camp Wood, Texas
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. We’ll cruise over sagebrush-covered hills and under the wide-open skies of west Texas passing near Big Bend National Park, named for the sharp turn that the Rio Grande makes on its way to the sea. A trio of unique and charming towns — Marfa, Alpine, and Marathon — punctuate the long road through the open plains. Stop for a vist to an art gallery, a hearty serving of brisket, or a pint from a local brewery before moving on to 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 Brackettville.
Week 5. Camp Wood to Navasota, Texas
Moving into the beautiful Texas Hill Country, we’ll ride along the meandering Guadalupe River. This hills in this region are challenging, but each climb gets us closer to the food, music, and cultural activities in Fredericksburg and Austin. We'll then continue into the greener landscapes of east Texas, passing through state parks and national forests, being sure to stop at donut shops and diners in all the small towns in between.
Week 6. Navasota to Jackson, Louisiana
Continuing our journey eastward, we’ll glide through a beautiful stretch of woods within Sam Houston National Forest and other piney woods of southeast Texas before crossing the Sabine River to Merryville, Louisiana. 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, we'll listen for authentic zydeco music and look to treat our taste buds to catfish and boiled crawfish. We’ll ride through Simmesport and then finish the week crossing the mighty Mississippi.
Week 7. Jackson to Pensacola, Florida
As the terrain gradually changes to gently rolling hills, we’ll visit Easleyville and Bogalusa and cross into Mississippi, the land of levees. After just a few days in southern Mississippi, we’ll cross into Alabama and head for beautiful Dauphin Island, which has flown French, British, and Spanish flags. With a ferry ride back to the mainland, we'll just be beginning our coastal journey. We'll enjoy the salty air that comes from the Gulf Shores as we roll on towards Florida.
Week 8. Pensacola to Gainesville, Florida
Our last full week of the trip, diverting from the traditional Southern Tier Route, is all about the Gulf of Mexico as our route allows us to take in the amazing sights, sounds, smells, and cuisine of the coast. We'll appreciate the relatively frequent services in more visited areas and also the stretches of "forgotten coast" near the relatively remote Apalachicola National Forest. The road is mostly flat, except for the frequent bridges and causeways over bays, marshes, and rivers. Eventually, we’ll leave the Gulf and head inland, to cross the state and aim for our final goal — the Atlantic. We’ll finish the week near Ichetucknee Springs, Florida’s natural lazy river, where crystal clear waters welcome a swim or an afternoon kayak excursion.
Week 9. Gainesville to St. Augustine, Florida
On the penultimate day of the tour, we’ll bypass Gainesville in favor of the smaller communities of Hawthorne and East Palatka, and celebrate our completion of our transcontinental journey. We'll conclude our adventure in St. Augustine, the oldest European-settled city in the USA. Here we’ll dip our wheels in the Atlantic and relax.