Getting your bike on the Amtrak train isn’t as easy as it sounds. Yes, it is easier than it used to be but is still really confusing. First you have to find out if the station you want to leave from has roll on, roll up or requires the bike to be boxed. We find that on the Amtrak from Grand Rapids to Chicago you have the roll up option. Great! We will just roll the bikes up to the side of the baggage car and lift them up to the Amtrak employee in the baggage car and he puts the bikes in a rack on the car. That’s pretty cool, we can do that.
So, we make it to Chicago. Now we have to get the luggage off the train and go back to the baggage car and get the bikes. Then we have to go to the terminal and buy a bike box and pack the bikes in the boxes. The train from GR won’t take a bike box, but to get them on the train to Portland they have to be in a box. Good thing we have a 5 hour lay over in Chicago to box our bikes. To fit the bike in the box you have remove the pedals and turn the handle bars sideways. And maybe take the front wheel off if the bike is to long for the box. Now if you wanted to go from Chicago to Spokane you can just use the roll up service and just hand your bike up to the worker. But the train splits up at Spokane and some of it goes to Seattle (which does not require a box) and some of the train goes to Portland (That part of the trip does require a box ). Easy peasy. Confused so far?
Now, to make it even more perfect, Amtrak is trying to update their equipment all the time so all of what I just said could go out the window. They said the reason I have to box them is that the part from Spokane to Portland does not have the proper equipment to do it. I’m guessing they don’t have racks in the baggage car for the bikes yet. Seems like you would want to have that equipment going to the biggest bike friendly city in the U.S.
Also on some parts of the route you have the roll on option where you roll the bike on the train car and put it in a rack your self. This option seems to be more on the East coast, but you can find it at various places around the country.
It seems that Amtrak is trying to be more bike friendly and accommodate bikes, but they have a ways to go I think. Even with all of the hoops to jump through I can’t wait to get going. It’s all part of the adventure.
It’s a little hard to think about riding your bike across the country when its snowing so hard outside you have to snow blow the driveway twice in 4 hours. But yet this ride crosses my mind every hour or so.
Perhaps I should share some of the plan for where and how we are going to do this thing. (Most people I tell about it say, YOU’RE GONNA DO WHAT?) So I hope it makes more sense when you learn about what we’re gonna do.
In mid May of next year Deb and I plan to load our bikes and ourselves on the Empire Builder Train to Portland OR. We have reservations for a sleeper berth on the Amtrak Empire Builder. It takes about 48 hours to cross the country. From Portland we will go west even further to Astoria. We think we are going to hire a ride for that (approx 100 miles). From Astoria we will follow the Trans Am trail down the coast to Eugene OR. The route then angles up toward Missoula Montana where the main offices of Adventure Cycling are located. https://www.adventurecycling.org/ . Then, roughly, the trail goes south east through Yellowstone and Tetons National parks and further south into Colorado where it turn directly east. The Trans Am trail isn’t really a trail, but is a route along back roads that has been mapped out by Adventure Cycling. They make all kinds of maps just for this kind of bike travel. (approx 40,000 miles of routes in the U.S.) The maps are used a guide for bicyclists to follow and have info about water,food lodging etc on it. We still have to make our own decisions about where to go and how far to go and where to stay, but the maps help do that.
Our idea is to stay in hotels, motels and couch surf as much as possible. There are several organizations such as Warm Showers and Air b n B that we plan to use also to find lodging. We will also take a tent and sleeping bags as back up. Many small towns have a city park or camp ground to stay in. Our budget is $100 a day for food and lodging so camping or free stays may have to enter into it if we get off budget.
We are thinking we will want to take our time doing this and stop and see the sights along the way. So we’ve planned for 120 days to get from Oregon to Virginia. I guess if you’re going to ride through Yellowstone you probably should stop and take a look for a couple of days.
Sounds so simple eh. I’m ready to ride. This is going to be a blast. Did I mention this is 4200 miles??
It took me a while to figure out how to get back to this blog. Shall we say technology is not my friend.
I’ve been working on the bikes getting them ready to make the 4200 mile trip. Deb is going to ride her Cannondale SR-800, she has had for a long time. She is one with her bike. The wheels that came with the bike only have 16 spokes per rim and we have had some issue with breaking spokes in the past. So I ordered 2 new rims from Velocity with 32 spokes each that I think will be stronger. I put two new tires and tubes on it and a new rear cassette, along w/ a new chain. There were some options for what gears to use. Knowing we were going to ride some mountains I chose the cassette with the biggest number of teeth on the low gear that I could get. What is called an 11-28 set. Also the bike got a new small chain ring on the front crank set. It had a 30 tooth gear and I went with a 26 tooth gear to give a lower “granny gear’. Over the years of riding Deb had tried a few different saddles on her bike and found that the Brooks women’s is what works for her. We’ve also raised the handle bars up a bit so she isn’t leaning so much forward. We also added a rear rack for carrying panniers.
I bought a new bike for this trip about a year ago. Yes I’ve been thinking about this ride a long time. I got a Surly Longhaul Disc trucker. It is a bike made for this kind of loaded touring. Of coarse, if you know me, you know I like to tinker with things. So I changed the handlebars and the stem and the shifters and the brake levers and the tires. I added fenders and racks and front and rear lights. Other than that it came with everything I wanted. No one ever said hobbies were cheap.