When I tell people that I rode my bicycle across the country in 2011, the first question they ask is usually, "Which way did you go? From where to where?"
It wasn't the easiest decision, I'll tell you that. The start and end points were clear: I'd begin in Oregon, because that's where I was attending university at the time, and I'd finish in Florida because my sister lived there. I had other relatives on the East Coast, but they lived in places that would be pretty cold and dark by the time I completed my tour in November.
Researching feverishly and interrogating every touring bicyclist I met (there are plenty, in Oregon), my route began to take shape. A cycling friend recommended using routes and maps from Adventure Cycling Association, a non-profit based in Missoula, Montana. They have the BEST maps and routes for cross-country bike touring in the United States. No doubt. Each map has icons that indicate food and water sources as well as camping options and the location (and phone numbers) of the nearest bike shops. Genius, and invaluable when you're cycling in places without cell phone reception.
I decided to use the ACA's TransAmerica Bicycle Trail route from Oregon to Missouri. When I reached the Mississippi River, I'd transition to the Mississippi River Trail (MRT). The MRT would bring me South along the river, all the way to Louisiana, where I'd join the ACA's Southern Tier bicycle route to Florida.
I modified my route as I went, occasionally deviating from the maps in order to visit friends and family. Every time I left a route, I was immediately grateful that I'd be back on it again soon: those maps take the guesswork out of navigating, and guesswork can be stressful when you're traveling alone.
By the end of my bike tour, I'd pedaled just over 5,000 miles. YEEHAW!