We started on April 12th 2014 near Halifax, Canada and ended on September 13th in San Francisco, USA. Altogether we cycled around 8500 km, approximately 3000 km in Canada and the rest of it in the US. In the beginning we did daily legs with 60 km, later we had longer days with 80 km on average. In general we had one or two rest days every 7 to 10 days.
The whole ride from Halifax to Pueblo was more or less flat, then we had a lot of climbs for the rest of our trip. First the Rocky Mountains with the highest pass of our journey, the Monarch Pass with 3449 m. Then conquered the mountains in Utah and Nevada and, last but not least, the Sierra Nevada in California.
A rough survey of our itinerary from the east coast of Canada to San Francisco on the west coast:
Nova Scotia: Truro - Wentworth - Amherst.
New Brunswick: Moncton - Fredericton - Dumfries - Woodstock - Perth Andover - Grand Falls - Edmundston.
Québec: Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac, Notre-Dame-Du-Portage, La Pocatière, Montmagny, Québec City, Trois-Rivière, Lanoraie, Montréal, St. Jérôme, St-Agathe-des-Monts, Labelle, Lac Saguay, Mont-Laurier, Grand-Remous, Le Domaine, Val d'Or, Malartic, Rouyn-Noranda, Arntfield, Angliers, Ville-Marie, Temiskaming.
Ontario: Redbridge, West Nipissing, Sudbury. Train from Sudbury to Toronto. Grand Valley, Moorefield, Goderich, Camlachie.
Michigan: Marine City, Detroit, Tecumseh.
Indiana: Fort Wayne, Salamonie Reservoir, Logansport, Lafayette.
Illinois: Henning, Champaign, Decatur, Raymond.
Missouri: St. Louis, Augusta, Hermann, Hartsburg, Boonville, Sedalia, Clinton.
Kansas: Garnett, Yates Center, Eureka, Cassoday, Newton, Sterling, Larned, Ness City, Dighton, Scott City, Tribune, Eads. Colorado: Ordway, Pueblo, Westcliffe, Salida, Monarch Pass, Gunnison, Cimarron, Ridgeway, Placerville, Lizardhead Pass, Dolores. Utah: Monticello, Natural Bridges Monument, Glen Canyon, Hanksville, Fruita/Capitol Reef, Grover, Escalante, Tropic, Lake Panguitch, Cedar City, Milford.
Nevada: Sacramento Pass, Ely, Illipah Reservoir, Eureka, Austin, Railroad Pass, Middlegate Station, Fallon, Dayton, Carson City. Kalifornien: Woodfords, Placerville, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco
In the beginning we'd never have expected how our travel itinerary would end up. The original plan was something completely different: On the Trans Canada Trail from east to west across Canada and then down the west coast to San Francisco.
Highways in Canada
Since we started quite early in the year and additionally at the end of the coldest winter of the last decade, we quickly found out that the Trans Canada Trail was still impassable. Some people on our way even generally gave advice against the trail because it's more a trail for mountainbikers and hikers and not suitable for loaded touring cyclists.
So we stuck to highways and country roads in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Québec.
In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick it's permitted to ride a bicycle on a highway. The shoulders are very wide and there's mostly not much traffic. And you can be sure to regularly pass a Tim Hortons for a cup of coffee. In Québec it's different. There, bicycles on highways are prohibited. However, we had to cycle on a highway for a short distance because we had no other choice. A few policemen passed us but apparently didn't mind.
Route Verte in Québec
Aside from that mentioned short piece of highway, there are many good alternative routes in Québec. Furthermore there's the bicycle route network Route Verte which offers numerous routes and bicycle paths across Québec. The corresponding maps you can buy in bike shops for instance. Many of the routes unfortunately go along roads with a lot of traffic, but there are also some great bicycle paths.
Just to be closer to nature and wilderness we took a big detour to the wildlife reserve La Verendrye and the region Abitibi-Témiscamingue on the Route Verte No. 2. One part of the route is the well-known and popular "P'tit Train du Nord", a former railway line that was converted to a 200 km recreational trail. This trail took us from right outside Montréal up to Mont-Laurier, through scenic forests and past idyllic lakes and it was definitely worth the detour.
Unfortunately Québec is the only province with such a bicycle route network. In the other parts of Canada there are mostly only short, local trails which are not suited for cross country tours, like for example the Waterfront Trail in Toronto.
In the US you can ride on highways as well, only on the big interstates bicycles are not allowed. From Detroit, Michigan to St. Louis, Missouri we planned our tour by means of regular paper road maps or with the bicycle feature of Google Maps. It worked quite well, due to the fact that the roads are laid out in a grid. It makes it easy to orientate and you can also cross to a parallel road, if necessary.
The Katy Trail
Not far outside of St. Louis we joined the Katy Trail, a 400 km long bicycle path on the former MKT railway line. Since this perfect bike trail was praised by many we planned our whole route according to it. The Katy Trail is a paradise for touring cyclists. A quiet, flat and smooth path through shady forests and along the banks of the Missouri river. Every few miles there's a station with drinking water and information boards showing you the way to the next grocery stores, accommodations and restaurants. Besides you can get the free maps for the Katy Trail there. Along the trail there are many possibilities for accommodation and food and beautiful spots to pitch up your tent. The trail is gorgeous, no motorized traffic instead a lot of nature and quaint landscape. And it's virtually impossible to get lost.
Adventure Cycling Association: Trans America Trail and Western Express
One of the reasons we continued our tour in the US is the American bicycle route network of the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) which covers around 65.000 kilometers. ACA offers very convenient, i.e. light and waterproof, bicycle maps with useful information like free campsites, accommodation, grocery stores and bike shops on the way.
You can order the maps directly on the Adventure Cycling Association website.
After we reached the end of the Katy Trail in western Missouri we bridged a few hundred kilometers with a road map and then joined the Trans America Trail of the ACA in Kansas. The Trans America Trail is very popular, within the first day we met six people cycling in the same direction - after we didn't see a single cyclist the last three months! Accordingly the infrastructure is catering to touring cyclists, there are many free campsites, many cafés, some bike shops and many, many friendly car drivers who are used to cyclists.
In Pueblo, Colorado the ACA route Western Express starts. The Western Express was less crowded with cyclists, but every now and then we met a bike tourer. Especially here the ACA maps provided valuable services. The route is well planned and avoids, if possible, roads with too much traffic and too steep climbs. The information about services and food supplies (water!) were especially useful in Utah and Nevada since there are distances between 60 and 130 kilometers without any water or food.