Author Topic: The Western Southern Tier in the Winter (January-Feb)  (Read 3121 times)

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Offline kmwoley

The Western Southern Tier in the Winter (January-Feb)
« on: December 08, 2012, 03:16:30 am »
Hi folks,
I've just started to plan my trip leaving in a little less than a month. I'm heading out alone on the ST starting in San Diego and planning to end in Austin (I don't have enough time for the full end-to-end).

I'm looking for advice from folks who've done the west-to-east in the winter time, particularly around advice on if I should avoid the highland/passes or trudge on through and risk some snow/cold. I'm an experienced backpacker, but I haven't done a lot of winter camping but mostly in the pacific northwest. I don't know how much concern I should have wrt cold desert nights.

Any thoughts on re-routing from the ACA's suggested route would be useful.

Thanks in advance!
Kevin

Offline staehpj1

Re: The Western Southern Tier in the Winter (January-Feb)
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2012, 09:51:11 am »
Conditions can be pretty variable so your trip may be different, but I found it quite pleasant last February.  I saw only a little snow on the ground and the roads were all passable with only a bit of snow near the edge of the road and that only on one pass.  Unless the weather is especially bad there is no reason to avoid the passes.  They were the most scenic part of the trip in my opinion.  The rest of the scenery was kind of boring.  That said the food and the people were great so the trip was nice despite the mostly so so scenery.

If you aren't prepared for the cold you might want to avoid camping on top of the passes.  That said I enjoyed camping at Black Jack SF Camp despite the fact that the low was in the teens.  I had quite a few nights with frost, but it was generally nice since it warmed up pretty warm every day.

I rerouted some because is some places I actually preferred the interstate on either the shoulder or access road.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: The Western Southern Tier in the Winter (January-Feb)
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2012, 02:08:02 pm »
What weather you might get is a matter of probabilities and so variable. Cycling through Van Horn one winter was all blue skies and some overcast. Another winter through Van Horn snowed me in for six consecutive days at a motel. You can try the interstate.

Offline kmwoley

Re: The Western Southern Tier in the Winter (January-Feb)
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2012, 01:29:07 pm »
Thanks, Westinghouse & staehpj1 - I appreciate your thoughts a lot! :)

I've got my flights booked and starting to plan out the details of the route... I'm excited.

Any particular sections where you thought the interstate was a better choice?

Offline staehpj1

Re: The Western Southern Tier in the Winter (January-Feb)
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2012, 05:51:59 pm »
Any particular sections where you thought the interstate was a better choice?
There were a number of places, but off the top of my head I recall quite a long section East of El Paso where I preferred the interstate.  East of Van Horn I rode US 90 rather than stay with the normal ST.

Offline kmwoley

Re: The Western Southern Tier in the Winter (January-Feb)
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2012, 09:07:54 pm »
Thanks, staehpj1.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: The Western Southern Tier in the Winter (January-Feb)
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2012, 05:51:47 am »
When I say southern tier I mean southern tier of states. I have cycled that ST a number of times. The interstate is not necessarily preferable to ACA's mapped route. The way I go follows the mapped route and departs from it off and on and off and on again. I used the interstates west of Las Cruces to Yuma, AZ. I would not really recommend it mainly because of the roughness of the surfaces and the debris in the bike lanes. It's just the way I go. On my last ST crossing I got on I-10 as far east as Junction, TX, and used interstates all the way to Yuma with forced uses of other roads in cities, and west of Van Horn going into El Paso. That sort of thing. Interstates are more direct and probably less hilly. There is often too much loud traffic though. On one ST trip I followed the extreme coastal routes from Florida to way down south to Port Isabel, TX and Brownsville, TX near Matamoros, Mexico, at the Gulf of Mexico. Then, I followed the border roads north to Van Horn, TX.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2012, 05:54:21 am by Westinghouse »

Offline Bike Hermit

Re: The Western Southern Tier in the Winter (January-Feb)
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2013, 12:39:51 pm »
I rode through Death Valley in February a few years ago and the weather was fantastic. We rode from Midland, TX to Big Bend and up to Austin in February one year too and the weather was fine, even though a little cold at night and it snowed the day I got to Austin. If you have time a detour to Big Bend is worthwhile although there was snow on the ground in Terlingua Ghost Town a few days ago. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151167308545946.448844.114093440945&type=1

I think AZ and NM might be the sketchiest for winter. If it was me I would get on Amtrack's Sunset Limited at Yuma or Phoenix, AZ  and ride it to Alpine, TX then ride down to Big Bend and back up to Marfa to continue to Austin. In fact that sounds really fun!

Offline dscheese

Re: The Western Southern Tier in the Winter (January-Feb)
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2013, 11:25:55 am »
A friend and I did a variation of a portion of the ACA Southern Tier route in Jan 2012 that might be of interest to readers of this forum. We rode from Lordsburg, NM to Silver City on Hwy 90, stayed in Silver City for several days doing day rides to the west and north, & then headed east on Hwys 180/152 over Emory Pass, the high pt of the entire Southern Tier route at 8300'. Then continued south on Hwys 187 & 185 to Las Cruces, where our trip ended (1 of us then took a bus back to our vehicle in Lordsburg from Las Cruces). We stayed in motels mostly but did camp at Percha Dam St Pk along the Rio Grande (highly recommend staying at the Black Range Lodge at the eastern base of Emory Pass).

We avoided the route from 3-Way, AZ up & over the unnamed 6300' pass (Blackjack) on the AZ/NM border b/c it had snowed there at the start of our trip.....but it looked like a beautiful route on Hwys 78/180 to Silver City when we previewed it by car beforehand).

Conditions were very favorable--50s &60s during the days, 30s & 40s at night. No snow or rain for the entire week, & just a little residual snow along the shaded spots along the highway over 7000' approaching Emory Pass....but look for icy spots on the road during the day where snow has melted then refrozen over night.

Am planning to do another trip in the region later this month Jan/Feb 2013, but as this is an El Nino winter it's been colder & wetter in the SW, so may have to stay low and cycle-tour in the Deming, NM area....we'll see.

Happy riding!

Offline kmwoley

Re: The Western Southern Tier in the Winter (January-Feb)
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2013, 11:48:10 am »
Thanks for the thoughts, dscheese.

I'm in the middle of my route and was looking for some alternatives to heading over the unnamed (Blackjack) pass due to the weather and lack of hotels/services along the ACA route between Safford and Silver City. Originally I was going to camp along this section but it is just to darn cold for that this week!

My current plan is to go from Safford to Lordsburg, NM and then follow Highway 90 up to Silver City. The only concern I have at this point is the weather - I'll be in Silver City mid next week and it still looks cold but it doesn't look like it is going to snow. As long as any precipitation has not accumulated on the ground I think I'll be okay...

Thanks for the advice on where to stay. :)

Kevin

Offline dscheese

Re: The Western Southern Tier in the Winter (January-Feb)
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2013, 11:25:42 am »
Kevin,

the route you're choosing from Safford to Lordsburg is a good one--undulating highways with good shoulders along the foothills at 3000-4000' elevations....there's a good coffee shop/bakery in Duncan, AZ to refuel at....not much in the way of camping possibilities right off the highways or even motels to stay at until you get to Lordsburg, but at least you'll be at lower elevation (for renegade camping)....

Looks like the cold weather will persist in the SW until next wk, then temps soar into the 50s....it's been cold in Silver City overnight (teens this morning), but as you say no precip is in store there for a while (at least according to the longer-range forecasts)....

Again, watch for icy spots on the roads where snow has melted then refrozen....

There is nothing
more beautiful
than a bicyclist
on the open road
headed for
the horizon.

seldom seen scheese