Hit the Road

Thirsty work in Kansas
3

Cycling the TransAm from Pueblo to Yorktown

For our ride from San Francisco to Pueblo see The Western Express ride log

Pueblo to Haswell – 96 mi

As we join the TransAm out of Pueblo we leave the mountains of Colorado behind us and head out in to the flat plains of the mid-west. We join Highway 95 which will be our friend for some weeks to come. The horizons get bigger and we pass some of the biggest and smelliest cattle farms we have ever seen. The sidewinds hit us after lunch and we stop a little early in Haswell. This very small town seems deserted, but we find a local who lets us shelter in the local elementary school as a storm is forecast.

Haswell to Tribune – 82 mi

An early start to try and avoid the strong afternoon winds.Reached the Kansas border by midday. Wheat today. Lots of wheat. Camping at the town park in Tribune tonight, next to the town pool and a creepy old abandoned fairground.

Tribune to Ness City – 106 mi

Conveniently in Kansas it seems the towns are spaced evenly every 20 miles or so along the route. That’s just far enough to go between rest stops for food or cold drinks. Wind was slightly on our side today so were able to push on to Ness City. About to set up camp in the town park when a massive storm set in. Checked in to the Elite Suites motel just in time to see the heavens open and rain begin to flow down the streets, the wind spinning street signs around and lightening strobe in the sky.

Ness City to Larned – 67 mi

Shorter day today to the fairly large town of Larned. Stopped at the historic Fort Larned to take a look around (and make the most of the air conditioned visitors centre). another great town park to camp in with free access to the local pool for showers and a swim.

Larned to Hutchinson – 73 mi

Went slightly off route toward the end of the day to take us to the slightly larger town of Hutchinson. Stayed at the very accommodating Zion Lutherean Church which runs a free cyclists hostel. Some beers in town with Motion Commotion as we part company with them after several days riding togher.

Hutchinson to Cassoday – 77 mi

Really hot and humid today. past miles and miles of cornfields which eventually give way to rolling grassy terrain. Stopped earlier than planned due to the heat where we camped in the nice shady town park in the Prairie Chicken Capitol of the World. Fireflies dart about in the dusk as we try and get an early night in the sticky evening heat.

Cassoday to Chanute – 101 mi

Dawn start to attempt to beat the heat, but failed. First 20 miles in to the wind was tough, an armadillo crossing the road in front of us seemed to be out-pacing me. Turned East toward Eureka which was a little easier and pushed hard to make it to Chanute for a day off tomorrow. Some rolling meadowloand for a lot of the ride today, then back to massive expanses of corn. Passed the 8000 mile mark today!

Chanute to Golden City – 100 mi

Had lunch under one of the largest American flags in the country in Girard. Gentle rolling hills most of the day and some cloud cover offered some welcome shade. Through the large town of Pittsburg then crossed the border into Missouri. Camping in Golden City, setting the tent up under and awning as there are storms forecast later.

Golden City to Marshfield – 85 mi

The rolling hills grew today in to steep undulating roads climbing and descending a little higher each time it seems. Quite a long day to Marshfield, the home of Hubble. Checked out the model of Hubble in the town square before setting up camp in the park. Another free night’s camping!

Marshfield to Houston – 70 mi

Up and down. Down and up. High rolling hills and plains with lush meadows, windflowers and trees. Tough work as the days get hotter and hotter. All time temperature records are being broken every day as a heatwave bakes the country. Hartville for lunch – unfortunately, all that was left of what looked like a historic downtown was a Subway. It’s a shame that we can’t get lunch at a local diner or deli so another $5 footlong for lunch it is.

Houston to Johnson’s Shut-In State Park – 100 mi

Made good time in the morning to see Alley Springs with it’s beautiful crystal clear pool feeding the old grist mill. Forests become prettier as we enter the conservation area. Lunch at teh little mountain town of Eminence. Lots of weekend motor-boaters on the road. One truck shedded a canoe as I approached it and it rattled down the hill. The bizarrely named Jonson’s Shut-In state park is really quite well appointed and reminds me of the Pacific Coast campsites, the likes of which we haven’t seen in hundreds of miles.

Johnson’s Shut-In State Park to Farmington – 37 mi

Nice easy day over a couple of hills to Farmington by midday. Amazing bike hostel provided by the town in the old converted jail house.Al’s Place is cool, well equipped and has everything  the travelling cyclist needs. Perfect place to escape the heat!

Farmington to Chester – 48 mi

Half day over the last couple of Ozarks past wineries and a tiger sanctuary, then back out into wider plains with the Mississippi in sight. Crossed the mighty Mississippi in to Chester and Illinois. Discovered Chester is the home of Popeye and the town has erected great granite statues of the Popeye characters all over town. Staying in a bunk house at the Eagle Club which is a bit ramshackle and feels like a chicken coop, but the margaritas and wings specials offered in the club go some way to make up for it.

Chester to Marion – 68 mi

Finally the temperatures have dropped a little today making riding a little more bearable. Fought past coal trucks on the small roads  leaving town. Rode over the Mississippi levee through lovely quiet roads and farm fields. Deviated from the route to take Highway 3 direct to Carbondale. Stopped at Marion where the big strip-malls lining the roads were a bit of a shock – we haven’t seen such civilisation for weeks!

Marion to Seabree – 90 mi

Riding on the highway for most of the day, but shaved about 50 miles off the TransAm in the process. Lots of squashed turtles on the highway unfortunately. Busy highway until we reach the Kentucky border which then changes to single lane rolling farm road. Terrific floats and sodas at the drug store when we arrived in Seabree helped cool us down. Stayed in the Baptist church basement run by Pastor Bob and his wife Violet, a thoroughly wonderfully welcoming place. We just sat down to eat with Bob and Violet when a group of four Korean riders turned up. Immediately they were ushered in too and seemingly out of nowhere Violet began producing more and more food until everyone was well fed.

Seabree to Rough River State Park – 75 mi

Quite an easy days ride with towns conveniently every 10 miles. Fordsville for lunch (outside a gas station of course).

Rough River State Park to Bardstown – 87 mi

Some nice riding through the backtowns of Kentucky this morning. Stopped at Lincoln’s birthplace – a wooden shack inside a big stone shrine. Except they did some tests to date it in 2004 and found it was a fake. Still, people queue up to take photos of it and marvel at the history. Slight detour onto the highway to quicken the hot ride to Bardstown. Dinner at the old tavern in Bardstown where I discovered the Southern favourite ‘Old Brown’ – a shredded pork lump swimming in melted cheese. Gastro-pub indeed. Staying in the Old Kentucky Home Motel, not the same place the song was written about I think. visit to the local bourbon distillery on a day off tomorrow is a must.

Bardstown to Berea – 96 mi

Toughest day for a while – humid early on and temps over 100F before lunch. More Lincoln tourist stops on the way today as well as the fort at Harrodsburg – the first permanent settlement in Kentucky. Some good distance covered today, but just too tough in this heat. Need to plan some shorter rides in the days to come to combat this heat.

Berea to Boonesville – 50 mi

Today the terrain begins to change as we enter the Appellations. Farmland gives way to little town nestled amongst trees and rivers as the road winds around and over the hills Camping behind a church with a nice little shelter and shower facilities provided by the church.

Boonesville to Heinman – 65 mi

Climbing the hills of the Appellations was made so much more difficult by the high humidity. Sweat dripping off us by the time we reach the summits then try to dry off on the way down the other side. Nice. Only a few dogs to fend off this morning – nothing too wild. After turning off the highway toward Heinman a lovely shady ride following the river is a welcome break from the climbs.

Heinman to Breaks Interstate Park – 71 mi

Passed the 9000 mile mark early on this morning! Four big peaks to trek up and down today. Some rain early on made for a fun change and a cool ride for a short time but helped make the rest of the day terribly humid. Passed through Lookout after lunch – by all accounts the hellmouth of Kentucky’s manic dogs. Was happy to see barely any dogs at all today and as we’ve now left Kentucky, hopefully all the worries over dog attacks was for nothing. Quite annoyed by the hills by time we got to Breaks park, and not very impressed by the park or the camping prices!

Breaks Interstate Park to Abingdon – 71 mi

Up before sunrise and into the mists of the Appellation forests. Two big climbs today and several little ones, but in better spirits today. Some brief stunning views today for the first time in a while – layers of forested hills of different shades of misty green and blue stretching up into the mountains. Aimed for Damascus today, but just before town the heavens opened and an almighty storm erupted. Dashed in to a church picnic area to shelter to begin with then limped into Abingdon for a motel.

Abingdon to Damascus – 11 mi

Made the short hop in to Damascus to complete yesterday’s ride. Damascus is at the intersection of the TransAm and the Appalachian walking trail so fro a small town it is well populated with outdoors stores. The Virginia Creeper cycling rail trail also runs from here so it’s a popular town for bikes. Hostel for walkers and cyclists in town tonight is not bad.

Damascus to Radford – 102 mi

Really nice ride today. Humidity is down and the early climb up quiet forested roads is illuminated by shards of morning sunlight scattering in to beams through the dense forest in the mist and campfire smoke. The rest of the day was rolling but mainly downhill, and the route keeps pace with the freeway so services aren’t too hard to find. Feels like we can do anything when the weather is on our side.

Radford to Daleville – 61 mi

Similar te3rrain to yesterday but everything else couldn’t be more different. Hot, short and hard work. Partly because we were tired from yesterday and partly because the temperatures were up to 105F. Didn’t have much chance to appreciate the quiet rolling roads through dense forest.

Daleville to Rockfish Gap – 96 mi

Cool and cloudy today – great ringin conditions! Stayed on Highway 11 rather than following the TransAm which took us past Natural Bridge which seems to be a centre of bizarre abandoned tourist attractions: Godzilla, a safari park and Foam Henge to name a few. Gerties Cafe in Versuvius is a must before the final big climb of the trip where riders’ names cover the walls. The climb was probably the hardest and longest we have done yet – almost 2000ft in 4 miles. We were near the top when the rolls of thunder began and we knew we were going to get wet. The storm brought mist which ruined the spectacular views over the top of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Disappointed we missed such a scenic ride today – reminds me of our experience of Big Sur earlier in the year. Ah well, it’s downhill all the way to the Atlantic coast now.

Rockfish Gap to Charlotesville – 25 mi

Nice short ride to the pretty old university town of Charlottesville. Preppy college kids in chinos everywhere! Dinner and beers in the terrific Mellow Mushroom pizzeria.

Charlottesville to Richmond – 64 mi

Decided to take a bit of a shortcut to the TransAm and take highway 250 to Richmond. Some busy sections near the towns, but altogether not too bad. Visited the terrific Buzz and Neds BBQ place for dinner as featured on Man vs Food. Beef ribs worth crossing the country for!

Richmond to Yorktown – 77 mi

Our final day on the TransAm was a nice and enjoyable romp. Some traffic getting out of Richmond, past Edgar Allen Poe’s house and the old docklands. Pretty flat and shady ride through woods and plantations. Past President James Jaylor’s house, through historic Williamsburg and on to the pebbly colonial Parkway to Yorktown.  Yorktown is impossibly pretty and well-kept, almost like a model village. Dipped tyres in the sea and took photos at the vistory monument – the official end of the TransAm. Checked in to the beautiful sea-view cottage provided by the Grace Episcopal Church for cyclists.

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Peter • Fredericksburg, va • 16th July 2012


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Comments

  1. Katie 22nd July 2012 - 9:29 pm Reply

    Guys, Mocha’s been a wreck ever since you left. She can’t understand why her new British friends would leave. 🙂 It was lovely hosting you both and I hope the rest of your trip is wonderful!

  2. Tony Ives 9th September 2012 - 7:48 pm Reply

    Splendid write up. What’s your nationality?

    • Peter 10th September 2012 - 10:09 am Reply

      Thanks, glad you found it useful. We are both British.

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