Riding x-country is a dream for many cyclists. A few years ago I realized that dream when I rode my bicycle with Crossroads Cycling Adventures 3,415 miles across the US on a paved route from Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles County, CA to Boston, MA.
Let me tell you, you haven’t lived till you’ve cycled in the 118 degree heat of the Mojave Desert:
Pedalled on the fabled Route 66:
Taken a break to do a little Standin’ on the Corner in Winslow, Arizona to commemorate the Eagles’ song:
Rolled through New Paris, IN, home of a world champion arm wrestler:
and cruised along the historic Erie Canal:
A lot of cyclists also know about a different route, the 4215.5 – mile TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, a classic paved route from Yorktown, Virginia to Astoria, Oregon.
But I recently learned Oregon is also the terminus of another x-country cycling route, this one the much more challenging, mostly unpaved 5,273 – mile TAT (also the Trans-America Trail) . The TAT starts in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and ends at Port Orford, OR.
Sam Correro, a motorcyclist, originated and mapped out the TAT and most of its users are still motorcyclists, but bicyclists are increasingly making their way across America on the route as well.
Instead of sticking to paved roads, the TAT follows mostly dirt, gravel and forest roads, jeep trails, and sort-of-paved backroads.
The Adventure Cycling Association, a non-profit member organization I’m a member of that is focused on travel by bicycle, recommends riding the TAT east to west. Either way, the route is more challenging and remote in the West, with fewer towns, some as far as 160 miles apart.
When cyclists on an east-west trip hit Port Orford, they usually head first to Battle Rock Beach, a bit south of downtown.
Most exuberant riders celebrate their accomplishment there by dipping their front wheels into the Pacific Ocean, a long-established tradition of x-country cyclists.
The Pineapple Express cycling shop in Port Orford is often the next stop for finishers. “We do see cyclists, but the TAT can be such a tough trail we probably see more motorcylists,” said Erin Kessler, the shop’s owner and mechanic.
Erin Kessler, owner, at her Pineapple Express cycling shop in Port Orford
Kessler moved to Port Orford from Palmer, Alaska in 2017. She initially established Pineapple Express as a fat bike rental and tour company. Then, seeing the need for a brick-and-mortar bicycle sales and repair business, she opened the current shop on Oregon St. (Hwy 101).
Sarah Swallow, of Durango, CO, who has ridden the TAT on her bicycle with her husband, Tom, described the route for Adventure Cycling.
The TAT begins in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, she said, and travels west across coastal Carolina and over the Great Smoky Mountains. From the Smoky Mountains, the route follows the backroads of the lush, humid river valleys and forests of southern Tennessee and northern Mississippi.
The route travels over the Mississippi River and into the rugged Ozark Mountains of Arkansas before it begins an ascent through the prairie grasslands of northern Oklahoma and the No Man’s Land of the state’s remote panhandle.
The route then travels through northeast New Mexico before navigating northwest into the Rocky Mountains and over the high alpine passes of the San Juans. The red rocks of Moab lead to a long stretch across the high desert of Utah, the Great Basin of Nevada, and eastern Oregon.
The route finally leaves the desert and drops into the greener land of Surprise Valley, California, over Oregon’s Cascades and to Battle Rock Beach.
Sarah and Tom Swallow reviewed their trip in a video on PathLessPedaled.com.
If you’re looking for an exciting x-country bicycle trip, try the TAT. It’s a long, challenging ride, but as Tom Swallow said, “If it’s fun, it’s easy.”
Not ready for a x-country ride yet? Stick to Oregon.
Oregon was the first state to develop a statewide Scenic Bikeway Program in 2009. According to Travel Oregon, the program now consists of 17 designated bicycle routes that showcase Oregon’s breathtaking landscapes, cultural treasures and western hospitality.
One of these routes is the 61 mile Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway which starts and ends at Battle Rock City Park in Port Orford.
“Scenic Bikeways are Oregon’s best-of-the-best bicycle rides for exploring this beautiful state,” says Travel Oregon.
By the way – I just learned about another challenging long-distance cycling route, the Eastern Divide bikepacking route that stretches 5,900 miles from Cape Spear, Newfoundland to Key West, Florida. a meandering chain of dirt roads, pavement, and singletrack first imagined back around 2014 or 2015. Check out this story by a fellow named Eddie O’Dea who in September 2022 was attempting to Become the first to bikepack the entire route.