1. Our Route

How did we decide our route?

We first decided the two ends of the route. We wanted to start and end our journey at places we had some connection to at some point in our lives.

The western point was easy to pick: We would start or finish on the coast of Oregon, the state we have called home for the last 44 years.

The eastern point was a little more challenging to decide. The candidates were New York City (where I have lived), Maryland (ditto), Virginia (where Shelly has lived) and Charleston, South Carolina (ditto). We picked Charleston, because Shelly had not been back there in over 30 years, and I have never been there. (Charleston turned out to be a good choice, for my brother and his fiancé have since moved there, and we will spend a week with them before we start bicycling home.)

Next, we needed a route. The most important consideration in planning our route was our safety.

Sharing the road with motor vehicles is risky for bicyclists, plain and simple. We know that from personal experience. To name just one harrowing experience, a logging truck, horn blaring, deliberately ran us off the road into a ditch on a remote stretch of highway in British Columbia. There are plenty of jerks driving motor vehicles who do not like bicyclists, and they are more than happy to show it, sometimes in dangerous ways.

The Adventure Cycling Association is a club of bicycle tourists. ACA has developed numerous bicycle-friendly routes all over the United States. (My definition of “bicycle-friendly” is a road with little traffic, lower speed limits, wide shoulders, smooth pavement, and no rumble strips along the fog line.) Perhaps the most well known and popular ACA route is the Transamerica Route, stretching from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia.

We decided to ride mostly on the Transamerica Route because of its reputation as a safe and scenic route. We are also riding a 650-mile route we developed ourselves to get us between the Transamerica Route in Kentucky and our to our eastern terminus at Charleston. We used MapMyRide and the bicycle feature on Google Maps to develop that 650-mile route.

If at any time we don’t like the roads we’re on, we can use the Garmin Edge Explore I’ll have mounted on my handlebar to seek a better route. After entering our destination in the Garmin, it will select the most bicycle-friendly route for us, giving us turn-by-turn navigation along the way. (Of course, we are already supposed to be on a bicycle-friendly route, so it will be interesting to see if the Garmin suggests otherwise.)

Better than relying on the maps and the Garmin, though, we will talk to other bicyclists and local residents along the way about the best way for us to reach our next destination.

The places we would see played some role in the route we chose, but it was not a major consideration, for any place we chose to ride would be an adventure. Neither of us have spent much (or in some cases, any) time in Tennessee, Kentucky, southern Illinois, Missouri, Kansas or eastern Colorado, all places we will be riding through.

Once we had decided our route, we had to decide which direction to ride. The most important consideration initially was wind direction. We want to avoid headwinds. I’d rather ride a day in the rain or in the mountains climbing than a day struggling against a stiff headwind.

When we first began planning this trip, I wanted to ride west to east. I had always heard and read that bicyclists encounter more headwinds riding westward. But after researching the issue, I concluded that we likely would encounter about the same amount of tailwinds and headwinds regardless which direction we rode.

With wind direction removed from the equation, we decided to ride east to west. These are our main reasons for riding westward: (1) We wanted to deal with the hassle of the shipping of our bicycles, clothing and gear between Eugene and Charleston at the start of the trip rather than at the end; (2) we wanted to fly between Eugene and Charleston at the start of the trip, rather than at the end; (3) we wanted to ride towards home, not away from home; (4) we were concerned that we might encounter snow in the Rocky Mountains if we crossed them early in the trip; (5) we wanted to avoid the humidity of the South in July and August; and (6) we wanted to ride our route through the Rockies in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho later in our ride, when we should be in better physical condition than we will be in earlier in the ride.

We like our route, but we wonder what we will think of it once we have ridden it.


This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Frank Gibson

    Exciting and fascinating, Jens & Shelly! These initials posts are a joy to read for the quality of the writing and the thrill you’re feeling, which I infer from it. I am looking forward to hearing more!

  2. Wanda Jackson

    What a great route!

  3. Pam

    I can feel your excitement through your wonderful writing. You and Shelly are amazing. We are looking forward to meeting up with you in our four wheeled vehicle. Your description and memories of your first ride reads like it was just a few years ago. Looking forward to following your blog.

  4. Terri

    What an adventure! Can’t wait for recap. May God bless you as you travel.

  5. Brian Stine

    What a great post and thoughtful decision making. I’m looking forward to following your journey and wish you the best adventure.

  6. Dan Braziel

    Wow!!! Enjoy the ride and be safe. Looks like a super cool route.

  7. Jane

    I’m so happy for you both. My thoughts and prayers are with you and I look forward to the updates. Godspeed dear friends.

  8. Jeff Svejcar

    How exciting! Looking forward to following your journey as you cross the United States. Remember to bring snacks. 😀

  9. Patti Mehallick

    I am amazed and inspired by your journey and will be watching and sending prayers for your safety along the way. Thanks for sharing this with us. Wishing you both the very best! Bon voyage!

  10. Diane Schilling

    Just started reading your blog this morning. Looking forward to your journey! Safe travels!

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