- The parade zone leaves downtown San Diego and heads north along
the Pacific Coast Highway into the Mission Valley. Soon after
passing Qualcomm Stadium, the racers turn up a short grade and
start the official race. A series of continuous gradual climbs
along I-8 frontage roads take the riders to the 4000 foot Tecate
Summit and the first of 55 time stations at Pine Valley. The terrain
gets much drier as the course dips south to within a stone’s
throw of the Mexican border before plummeting into the heat haze
of the Yuha desert. North of El Centro the race dips to its lowest
elevation (100 feet below sea level). If the Santa Ana winds kick
up, crossing the Imperial Sand Dunes will take the racers full
attention, as drifting sands could bury much of the road. Finally,
at Blythe the racers cross the Colorado River and leave California
- Arizona offers no relief for the racers. East of Quartzite the
course bends north of I-10, and gradually climbs across barren
country. The stretch between Wenden and Gladden will be more mentally
tough on the racers than almost any other part of the course:
for over twenty miles the road is perfectly straight and nothing
changes, not even the string of telephone poles along the left
side of the road. Surviving this, the racers are rewarded with
some spectacular climbs. RAAM revisits the legendary Yarnell Grade
as well as the subsequent climbs into Prescott. New this year
is an even more spectacular climb over Mingus Mountain: the views
from the precarious descent into Jerome won’t be soon forgotten.
The mountainous eastern half of Arizona includes a memorable ascent
of the red rock Mogollon rim outside Payson.
- Wide open vistas return with New Mexico. The course crosses
the Continental Divide at Pie Town—then paradoxically climbs
to its highest point at 8200 feet above sea level eight miles
later. Crossing the Plains of Agustin, the road bisects the Very
Large Array radio-telescope field. This is another long perfectly
straight section: for over an hour the racers will be tantalized
by the always-visible road bend at the far side of the valley.
The course then trends slightly northward, crosses one last summit
at Mountainair and noticeably flattens out as it joins Route 66
- In the history of RAAM, there has not been a shorter crossing
of Texas. The course clips the northwest corner of the panhandle,
traversing the state in less than 100 miles—and passing
even fewer oil wells. Oklahoma is dismissed even quicker. But
not until passing through Guymon, the single most visited city
in RAAM history.
- Kansas is true plains country, gently tilting from 3000 feet
in the west to 1000 feet in the east. The route passes just south
of the wild west town of Dodge City and the Santa Fe trail. Towns,
along with their water towers, regularly interrupt the continuity
of sunflower-lined roads. Halfway across the state, the route
leaves US 54, to skirt around the busy Wichita traffic. It is
here, soon after crossing the Arkansas River, where the halfway
point is reached. With any luck at all, the winds will behave
and speed the riders along.
- At Fort Scott, the race enters Missouri. Immediately, rolling
hills and distinctive "lettered" state highways will
clue the riders that they aren’t in Kansas any more. Midway
across the state, the route crosses two widely separated arms
of the massive Lake of the Ozarks and between which the racers
will be challenged to negotiate the throngs of vacationers. A
short while later, the course passes the magnificent rotunda of
the state capital at Jefferson City and crosses the Missouri River.
For the next 70 miles or so, the road never strays far from the
river and is fairly flat. That is, except for two sections of
short extremely steep twisty climbs through the neighboring bluffs.
Finally a bit north of St. Louis, racers will cycle over the mighty
Mississippi on a magnificent golden yellow suspension bridge into
- RAAM slices through the farming country of southern Illinois
and central Indiana, following US 40 for most of the way. The
historic National Road spurs off at several spots—including
once to pass through an old covered bridge within sight of the
race route. Along the tree shaded boulevards of Terre Haute, Indiana
the race enters the Eastern Time Zone: although the past three
RAAMs have completely avoided it, nearly a third of year’s
race is in it. The race then retraces the RAIN (Ride Across Indiana)
route, skirting south of Indianapolis and on to Richmond.
- Considering that Ohio, home of the Buckeyes, is the seventh
most populous state, racers may be surprised at how rural this
section of the race is. The course gently rolls north of Dayton
(reaching its northernmost point outside Urbana) before trending
southeast just west of Columbus. It gets steeply hilly through
the hardwood forests of the Hocking Hills region, before the more
moderate grades around Ohio University’s sprawling campus
and athletic fields in Athens.
- RAAM crosses the Ohio River and enters West Virginia on US highway
50 and starts a series of climbs through the Appalachian Mountains.
As the road narrows, it climbs over the Eastern Divide at 3000
feet above sea level, then climbs again to the ominously named
Mt. Storm before dropping into Maryland. Some of the most intense
grades of the entire race are found on scenic US route 40 in the
forty miles between Cumberland and Hancock. The fourth of these
climbs scales Sideling Hill, climbing 1000 feet in about two miles.
- Fortunately, once the route enters Pennsylvania the major climbs
will be behind the racers. Unfortunately, the interminable short
rollers will continue to take their toll on tired legs. After
passing through Gettysburg and by several Civil War battle sites,
RAAM crosses the Susquehanna River and enters Pennsylvania Dutch
"horse and buggy" country. Southwest of Philadelphia,
the course comes within two miles of adding Delaware as the fifteenth
state to its collection, but instead heads east across the Commodore
Barry Bridge over the Delaware River into New Jersey.
- The last one hundred miles of the race is mercifully flat. Tall
pine trees line most of the route across New Jersey. The increasing
traffic presages the approach of the finish line. After one last
time station, the route joins the Atlantic City Expressway and
crosses the Intracoastal Waterway. Finally, the casino-dominated
skyline of Atlantic City emerges in the distance. Entering the
city, the racers cross familiar "Monopoly" streets—Atlantic,
Pacific—and terminates on the Boardwalk, a few feet short
of the Atlantic Ocean.
source: www.raceacrossamerica.com, Rick