Biking coast-to-coast and RAGBRAI: advice wanted

I’m planning on biking across the country this summer, and timing it all around (my second) Ragbrai.

My general plan is: start on an ACA trail, break off the trail in Wyoming to head towards Ragbrai, Ragbrai :), down the Mississippi, rejoin the trail and keep heading East.

Advice on how to find good places to camp/eat/bike, or anything else, would be greatly appreciated! It will be my first time planning a trip like this on my own.

26 Replies

Ari Brenner, February 9, 2020 at 7:41 pm

Thanks Rick!

I’m up for a challenge but I will breaking off from the Trans America route before Colorado so I think I won’t be doing the hardest part.

I’m pretty excited about the pre Ragbrai route I’ve planned so far, but less sure about the post Ragbrai/Mississippi River route so I’ll take a closer look at Crazy Guy’s routes. John mentioned above ACA’s Northern Tier route which I was thinking against, and now reconsidering. And of course Allan mentioned that I can really plan my own. So I have a lot more thinking to do about post Ragbrai route.

Thanks for the tip about the roads, I’ve also been using Google Earth to get an idea of certain roads, but I know that some images are old and I can’t do this for every mile.

And thanks for the tip about the internet presence and calling bars. Getting to know the towns is both practical and a big (maybe most important) part of the experience.

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Ari Brenner, February 9, 2020 at 7:46 pm

Thanks Sandaltan. Country golf courses is another good idea. Reminds of the Honey Creek Resort last year, which was very nice.

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John Richardson, February 10, 2020 at 8:52 am

On the the Trans Am Route I’ve never found the Rockies to be overly taxing unless you have issues with the lack of oxygen at higher elevations. The grades are long but not all that steep and you are rewarded by great scenery and a long descent. While you will never get above 5000 foot of elevation I think you will find the Appalachian Mountains to be much more challenging. Some of those climbs are unbelievably steep! Hmm, never tried a golf course but many RV camps will sell you a shower and a tent space, and municipal swimming pools will sell you a shower as well.

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Michael J. Fiorill, February 12, 2020 at 10:27 am

Ari, a friend told me about your post. I’ve ridden coast to coast in 2016 and 2019, merging in with RAGBRAI both times. It’s a fun way to do a cross-country trip. Getting close to 500 miles of riding without having to plan the route and meal stops is a nice break halfway across the USA. I made up my own route, generally overlaying it on or along rail trails such as the Millwalkee Road, Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, Mickelson Trail, Cowboy Trail and various others. Both routes started in Ocean City, Washington and went to Ocean City, Maryland. If you have any questions you can feel free to contact me. My email is my first name at my website, MikeXC.com. Have a great trip! -Mike

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Ari Brenner, February 12, 2020 at 10:59 pm

Thanks a lot Micheal! I just sent you an email.

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Gypsy Rose, February 13, 2020 at 6:49 am

Most small towns will allow you to camp in their city parks especially if you are on a ACA route but some do not. I have been awakened a few times and been told to move on, and also many city parks will have a sprinkler system that will go off late at night which is a rude way to wake up.

John,

That reminds me of an experience I had on one of my X-C trips while overnighting in Salida, Colorado. I was aware of the sprinklers in the park, which prompted my wife and I to set up our tent on a bandstand along the edge, hoping that it would be out of the way of the spray. On warm summer nights when there is no rain in the forecast, I typically don’t put on the fly, using the tent primarily as protection from bugs.

Well, at 1 a.m. the sprinklers came on and the jet of water from the one nearest out tent blasted right across the side of our tent’s open netting. I sprang into action, running toward that sprinkler head, hoping to redirect it before another soaking pass.

With not a stitch of clothing on, I tackled that sprinkler in the middle of the night, using my hands to keep the spray away from the tent as I tried to sort out the mechanism.

Salida is a pretty quiet town, but, as chance would have it, a set of headlights appeared and a car slowly made its way down the street alongside the park. Then, as I continued to fight with the sprinkler, the beam of a spot light swept over to me, naked and soaking wet in the middle of that grassy lawn. The vehicle was a police car I was suddenly the focus of the cop inside.

I’m guessing that the officer tells the story as often as I do, because he was laughing very loudly at the sight of me struggling with that sprinkler in my birthday suit!

I ended up lifting the sprinkler head off and, with the beam of his searchlight following me, went back to my tent (where my wife was laughing as hysterically as the cop).

I, too, have lots of fond memories from small towns all across the country!

Cheers,
~ Kevin

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John Richardson, February 14, 2020 at 10:28 am

What a great story Gypsy Rose! I’ll bet you done sleep in the buff when your bike camping these days.

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Dan Connolly, February 14, 2020 at 10:51 am

Ari,

Awesome idea, hope all goes well.

While going through the Black Hills, ride the Mickelson trail, you wont regret it. Beautiful!
You can overnight in Hill City SD, Rabbit Bicycle shop is there if you need any cycling stuff.
Pick up highway 20 (wide paved shoulders eastern portion of the way) across the top of Nebraska through portions of the sand hills to O’Neil, Ne. Then head towards Sioux City on highway 20, and on to Le Mars, Ia.

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Gypsy Rose, February 14, 2020 at 12:41 pm

What a great story Gypsy Rose! I’ll bet you done sleep in the buff when your bike camping these days.

John,

Old habits die hard. Not even an experience like that one has been able to change my ways.

~ Kevin

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Ari Brenner, February 16, 2020 at 11:36 am

Thanks Dan. O’Neil, onto 20 to Sioux City, then Le Mars is exactly what I plan to do.

Thanks for the tip about the bike shop and the trail and Hill City. It looks like the perfect place to stay!

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montestaples, February 28, 2020 at 1:57 pm

Thank you Gypsy Rose for the great story. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt and I had tears running down my face. I will carry that mental image for a long time.

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