Cross Country Challenge

Cross Country Challenge is one of four cross-country bike tours offered by America by Bicycle. Its route is the central offering across the United States. So why pick this one over any of the other routes? We at America by Bicycle would have to say try them all. It is impossible to say one is better than any of the others. They are each different – different views and perspectives of the country.  The challenge here is to describe the Challenge. What makes it special? Why recommend it to a cyclist? Fifty-two days across thirteen states in a few paragraphs. Now that’s a real challenge. Here are the highlights of each of the six legs of this tour.

San Francisco, CA to Salt Lake City, UT

Cross Country Challenge begins with a climb over the ridge from the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. After the ceremonial wheel dip, we head north over the Golden Gate Bridge and work our way through the golden colored hills just south of Napa Valley. Riding through some of California’s fertile farmland, you’ll have the opportunity to sample the local products, including strawberries, cherries, Jelly Belly Beans, and In-N-Out Burgers. It is all about the food! And you will need it as we begin our climb into the Sierra Mountains. After a SAG stop on the shores of Folsom Lake, the route heads up into Auburn for the night. Sleep well because the next day we climb up over Donner Pass. It is well worth the effort as you will be rewarded with the views of Donner Lake surrounded by the snow-capped Sierras and an exhilarating descent down into Truckee. Riding along the top of Lake Tahoe, we cross into Nevada and head towards an 8.5 mile climb up Mount Rose. Be sure to stop and take in the views on the way up. Overlooks provide one last look at the Sierras and Lake Tahoe, definitely picture worthy. Once on the summit, it’s downhill into Sparks and the high desert in bloom. You will ride through wide open vistas with distant mountains and sage covered ranch lands. We’ll have one of the best breakfasts on tour at the Cowpoke Cafe. If the timing is right, you can catch a rodeo in Winnemucca. Reaching the eastern border of Nevada, the route heads into Utah, across the Bonneville Salt Flats and to the first, well-earned day-off in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City, UT to Pueblo, CO

The second leg of Cross Country Challenge works its way south out of Salt Lake City towards Provo with lush green peaks of the Wasatch Mountains providing company. We head east out of Provo into the Spanish Fork Canyon and up to the top of Soldier Summit. The green hills that flank the road are slowly replaced by red, craggy cliffs as we descend into Price. After a night in  the town of Green River, you’ll head east along the Book Cliffs that look just like the tail fins on 1950’s cars and a possible inspiration for the design of Radiator Springs. The mostly rolling terrain and wide open high desert vistas dotted with hills and mesas will accompany you into Colorado all the way down to Montrose. It is here that you will get your first glimpse of the peaks that will be your companions through the Rockies. Out of Montrose, the route climbs for 12 miles up to the top of Cerro Summit followed by a stunning descent into Cimarron. Pause for a few minutes here to grab some pie at the Pleasant Valley General Store, you will have earned it. Those few extra calories will be of use as you head back up again for a few more good climbs on your way to Gunnison. You will ride up over high hills, through tall craggy canyons, and along mountain lakes that reflect the hills to either side. From Gunnison, it’s time to tackle the Continental Divide and the highest point of the tour. The route heads up to the top of Monarch Pass at 11,312’. If the elevation doesn’t do it, the scenery of the pine covered mountains will take your breath away. Celebrate the summit and then get ready for over 20 miles of non-technical downhill into Salida. The last day of this leg heads west along the Arkansas River through Big Horn Sheep Canyon. You will experience more stunning scenery on terrain that is mostly downhill. Riding through Canon City, the vista opens to rolling high plains as we head into Pueblo for our second day off on the tour.

Pueblo, CO to Saint Joseph, MO

The high plains are featured in this next leg of the tour. You will head out of Pueblo CO for two back-to-back century days that cross the border into Kansas. The rolling hills give way to the flat Kansas prairie. The name Kansas is derived from the Sioux word meaning “people of the south wind.” If all goes well, you will spend most of your time riding east to northeast with a wind primarily coming out of the south to southwest. The miles will fly and you combine the prevailing wind with the slight but persistent downhill moving across the state from west to east. We spend a night in Dodge City where you can take in a shootout and the Long Branch Variety Show featuring Miss Kitty and her Can-Can dancers. All across Kansas, distant silos mark the next town and if you imagine them painted green with a little glitter, you just might discover the inspiration for Emerald City. After riding by several stockyards, replete with all the livestock sites, sounds, and smells, you will cross the halfway point of the Cross Country Challenge. East of Topeka the ride travels through the Flint Hills. Hills in Kansas? Absolutely! You will spend a day riding through one of the last great swaths of tall grass prairie in the US. Crossing the Missouri River, we head north through a taste of Missouri hills yet to come and into Saint Joseph for our third day off.

Saint Joseph, MO to Indianapolis, IN

Heading into Missouri, you will quickly discover that any ideas you might have about the midwest being flat are completely wrong. Across the lush rural landscape, you will be challenged to many hill repeats, not exceptionally long or steep hills but plenty to keep the legs and heart pumping. Riding through an area aptly named Thousand Hill State Park will give you a very clear picture of this idea. Missouri provides a rural beauty, Amish charm, and just enough hills to leave a lasting impression. We head down into the valley and across the mighty Mississippi River into the Land of Lincoln. Illinois’ terrain becomes slightly flatter and the midwestern farmland stretches out in front of you for miles. The browns of the west are replaced with the green fields of corn and soybeans. We stop in Springfield but not before riding right by the state capitol building. Through Illinois, the route heads into Indiana. The farmland gives way as we ride into Indianapolis. Before heading to the hotel, you will have the chance to ride in the (unofficial) AbB Time Trial on the Major Taylor Velodrome, visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and ride along the White River through downtown Indianapolis.

Indianapolis, IN to Buffalo, NY

This next leg can go by quickly so be careful not to blink. You will cover over 500 miles in 6 days. After a well deserved rest day the ride continues across the state of Indiana and through the town of Knightstown where the movie Hoosiers was filmed. If you have time, you can stand on the basketball court where Hickory’s home games were shot. We cross from the plains of Indiana into Ohio farmland. The terrain rolls a little more, especially on our day into Wooster, once again disproving the myth of the completely flat midwestern terrain. The rural beauty of the day gives way to larger towns as we overnight in the well known auto manufacturing communities of Marysville (Honda Motors) and Youngstown (General Motors). The route heads north to Lake Erie, the smallest of the five Great Lakes but the largest body of water we have seen since dipping our wheels in the Pacific. Continuing east along the lake, you’ll ride through some of Ohio’s and Pennsylvania’s wine country on your way into the city of Erie. We continue along the shore of Lake Erie into New York. Passing by more vineyards, we head up into the city of Buffalo for our well earned rest day. Located near both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and just down the road from Niagara Falls, Buffalo provides plenty of options to spend time enjoying the sites on your last rest day of the tour.

Buffalo, NY to Portsmouth, NH

Riding away from the lake, the final leg of the Cross Country Challenge heads through rolling farmland just north of the Finger Lakes. We eventually pick up the Erie Canal and follow it to the Mohawk River through Liverpool, Little Falls, and along the Hudson River into Latham, just north of Albany. You’ll get back into more serious climbing as we ride through part of the Appalachian Mountain range out of New York, across Vermont, and into New Hampshire. We climb to the top of Hogback Mountain and enjoy a sweeping view of three New England states. One night in Brattleboro and it’s time to cross the Connecticut River into our 13th and final official state, New Hampshire. While the major climbs are complete, you will still get to enjoy the roller coaster hills of New England through many small towns complete with the quintessential white church on the Norman Rockwell-esque town square. The last day we ride from Manchester down to the New Hampshire seacoast. The celebration would not be complete without the official police escort with flashing lights and sirens on the way to Wallis Sands Beach where we all perform the obligatory wheel dip in the Atlantic Ocean. The crossing is complete. But you can add a few more miles to your legs and add one more state to your list. Heading into Portsmouth, you’ll have the opportunity to cross the Piscataqua River and ride into Maine. Congratulations! You have just finished nearly 3900 miles on the Cross Country Challenge!

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Trip Details

START / FINISH
San Francisco, CA to Portsmouth, NH

DAYS
52 days

DATES
2018
Saturday June 2 to Tuesday July 24

2019
Saturday June 1 to Tuesday July 23

ITINERARY
Day 0
Burlingame, CA  0

Day 1
Vallejo, CA  71

Day 2
Sacramento, CA  67

Day 3
Auburn, CA  53

Day 4
Truckee, CA  74

Day 5
Sparks, NV  67

Day 6
Lovelock, NV  92

Day 7
Winnemucca, NV  72

Day 8
Battle Mountain, NV  56

Day 9
Elko, NV  75

Day 10
Wendover, UT  108

Day 11
Salt Lake City, UT  119

Day 12 - Rest Day
Salt Lake City, UT  0

Day 13
Provo, UT  61

Day 14
Price, UT  75

Day 15
Green River, UT  67

Day 16
Fruita, CO  90

Day 17
Montrose, CO  75

Day 18
Gunnison, CO  66

Day 19
Salida, CO  52

Day 20
Pueblo, CO  107

Day 21 - Rest Day
Pueblo, CO  0

Day 22
Lamar, CO  120

Day 23
Garden City, KS  104

Day 24
Dodge City, KS  53

Day 25
Great Bend, KS  85

Day 26
McPherson, KS  65

Day 27
Abilene, KS  65

Day 28
Topeka, KS  109

Day 29
St Joseph, MO  89

Day 30 - Rest Day
St Joseph, MO  0

Day 31
Chillicothe, MO  90

Day 32
Kirksville, MO  82

Day 33
Quincy, IL  91

Day 34
Springfield, IL  106

Day 35
Champaign, IL  95

Day 36
Crawfordsville, IN  81

Day 37
Indianapolis, IN  63

Day 38 - Rest Day
Indianapolis, IN  0

Day 39
Richmond, IN  75

Day 40
Marysville, OH  105

Day 41
Wooster, OH  103

Day 42
Niles, OH  85

Day 43
Erie, PA  97

Day 44
Buffalo, NY  92

Day 45 - Rest Day
Buffalo, NY  0

Day 46
Canandaigua, NY 91

Day 47
Liverpool, NY  69

Day 48
Little Falls, NY  79

Day 49
Latham, NY  77

Day 50
Brattleboro, VT  79

Day 51
Manchester, NH  84

Day 52
Portsmouth, NH  64

TOTAL MILEAGE
3838

DAILY MILEAGE
81+ per day average

MEALS
Breakfast and dinner included for all days except for the 5 rest days. Lunch is not included.

2018 PRICES
$8050 (Triple)
$10,650 (Double)
$13,250 (Single)

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