Author Topic: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring  (Read 1708 times)

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Offline lauren6

Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« on: February 10, 2014, 04:08:42 pm »
Hi there. Myself and my boyfriend are planning on cycling parts of the Trans Am trail and Pacific Coast route this summer. Currently we're hoping to start mid May in Denver, get on the Trans Am to Oregon and then down the coast, ending in San Francisco late July.

Reading people's comments on the forum have been really useful but there's a couple of things I'm still wondering about. Firstly, the risk of snow in the Rockies when we're starting out, is this often a problem in May? (We're from the UK, not used to proper snow!) Also, traffic on the Pacific Coast in July. The adventure cycling website map blurb advises against this route in high summer for this reason. Is it really that bad? Any experiences/advice very much appreciated!

Offline tsteven4

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2014, 07:37:19 pm »
Hi Lauren,

I have been on the PC twice in June/July.  I think it will be fine.  It is a very beautiful route.  The ACA route winds around a bit in Oregon and the extra turns are worth it.

Starting from Denver I would want to go over Trail Ridge Rd in Rocky Mountain National Park which is an alternative on the Great Parks Route.  When we rode Seattle to Boulder it was the best day, the North Cascades lost out perhaps due to non-stop rain and the accompanying clouds.  However, it is a little less direct and typically opens in late May.  If it is open I think it is much prettier than the I70 corridor and Berthod Pass on US40.  I am not sure how I would get from DIA to Boulder, but after that I could give you turn by turn directions.

Steve


Offline John Nelson

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2014, 08:17:24 pm »
Trail Ridge Road won't be open in mid May. It will be under 20 feet of snow.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2014, 10:22:54 pm »
Do you have any flexibility with the start date? Can you wait a month?

Denver isn't on the TransAm, so where exactly do you plan to join the TransAm? Can you start in Pueblo instead? Or maybe fly to Denver and take a bus to Breckenridge for the start. That would get you past the passes with the most risk of snow.

The Rockies will be your first problem, but you may also run into problems in Yellowstone and the Cascades. You may get lucky with weather, but it's risky. The later you start, the better your chances. Depending on how far you ride in a day, you may be able to start in early June and still make SF by late July.

Traffic on the Pacific Coast is definitely more in the summer, but since you are only going as far south as SF, you should be fine. Traffic would have been more of a concern farther south.

Offline lauren6

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2014, 08:04:06 am »
Thanks both for the info. I was thinking we could use the Great Parks South maps to take us on to the Trans Am in Granby - we'd need to work out how to get from Denver on to the Steamboat Springs to Poncha Springs section. I think Granby is North of Breckenridge, not sure how much difference that makes? I'm also unsure if snow in May would be roads completely closed sort of snow, or just unplesant cycling conditions.

I was thinking of the mid-May start in Denver because it's easy-ish to fly to, and to try avoid the mid-summer heat going across Oregon. I guess we can't avoid everything though!

Cheers,
Lauren.

Offline tsteven4

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2014, 09:38:40 am »
Af far as Trail Ridge being open you couldn't count on it but it might be open, From the national park service in 2012:
Quote
Trail Ridge Road historically opens on Memorial Day weekend; last year, due to historic snow accumulation, the road opened on June 6. This year's opening is the third earliest day that Trail Ridge Road has opened since the road was completed in 1932. The earliest day was May 7, 2002. In 1963, the road opened on May 11. Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, climbing to 12,183 feet and connecting the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake.
and from a local paper in 2013:
Quote
Trail Ridge Road historically opens on Memorial Day weekend; last year the road opened early on May 14. The earliest the road has opened was on May 7, 2002; the latest June 26, 1943.

You can browse ACA routes here, I doubt you will go through Steamboat Springs.
http://tsteven4.qwestoffice.net/maps/GreatParksRoute.html

It is possible to ride up the I70 corridor to Idaho Springs, then you can pick up the Great Parks South.  Willow Creek Pass on 125 is nice.  It is very unlikely that you wouldn't be able to ride Idaho Springs,  Berthod Pass on US 40 Granby, Willow Creek Pass on 125 and on to Wyoming in May, these roads are open year round except during avalanche control or heavy snow storms.  Lookout Mountain, from Golden, would be a good way to start up, this is how we started the Western Express from Boulder.  You cannot ride on US 6.   I live in Boulder and ridden most of these roads multiple times.  I would still do Trail Ridge if it was open, and the above route if it wasn't.  If you do Trail Ridge I could suggest routes to get there, we had historic flooding last year and some of the canyons are still a mess.

Colorado cycling maps are available here:
http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/bikeped/colorado-bicycling-maps/scenicbywaysbikemap.pdf/at_download/file.
http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/bikeped/colorado-bicycling-maps/mapdetails.pdf/at_download/file
They will mail you a paper copy,
Quote
For a hard copy of Colorado State Map, send your name and mailing address to bicycleinfo@state.co.us.

As far as getting across Denver I would be tempted to get on a bus!  In general the RTD has bikes racks, although at the airport they might put your bikes underneath, if so you wouldn't want to unbox them before the bus.  I imagine you could ride from DIA, but in 30 years of riding in the area I have never headed in that direction, it seems so much better to head up and west into the glory of the Rockies.  I used to look unfavorably on this sort of thing, but a few Russian cycling clubs in Moscow taught me that it can be best, they always take the train out of town.
http://www.rtd-denver.com/Bike_n_Ride.shtml
« Last Edit: February 11, 2014, 07:24:42 pm by tsteven4 »

Offline John Nelson

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2014, 09:46:46 am »
Some of Colorado passes are closed in winter. Most, however, are open year-round, weather permitting. For the year-round passes, they are mostly open, closing occasionally for a day or two or three when it snows. So if you have some flexibility to wait out occasional snow storms, you can probably get through.

Trail Ridge Road is a spectacular cycling road, although not for the faint of heart, but is a seasonal road. Target date for opening is always Memorial Day (last Monday in May). Sometimes they get it open earlier, sometimes later. Sometimes they open it and have to close it again.

Even if it is sunny and warm when you start to climb a pass, you need to be prepared for below freezing blizzard conditions at the top. Never start up a Colorado pass without inquiring about the state of the pass, even in the middle of summer.

There's no way anyone can tell you today what the state of the Colorado passes will be in May. But I'd say you have a 50/50 chance of good weather for it. If you're comfortable riding on snow-packed roads (I am not), your odds would go up. At any rate, take winter clothing.

The Great Parks South route offers two options to get to Granby. I've ridden them both. As I said earlier, you probably will not be able to take Trail Ridge Road in May. So that leaves Berthoud Pass. Berthoud Pass is a year-round road, but it closes for a few days after each big snow storm.

Offline lauren6

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2014, 05:26:31 pm »
This Colorado info is really, really useful, thank you all for sharing it. I think it will help quite a lot with our next planning session! Getting pretty excited (but still intimidated!) about cycling in the Rockies.

Offline tsteven4

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2014, 07:41:51 pm »
I fixed the link for the colorado cycling map details in my previous post, it should work now.

I agree with John when he says you should be prepared for cold, be ready for nights around freezing.  Winter park is near Berthoud pass
http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/80482

We had a far worse experience in the North Cascades one June, about freezing and raining all day, we would have been much better off if it was a bit colder and snowing!

And a secret about the Rockies, they generally aren't steep but the can go on.  Some training is recommended.  You also might want to take a day or two after arriving from sea level to acclimate before moving up higher

I wouldn't worry to much about the Coloardo roads, it should be pretty obvious when you get here and then you can decide.  We start riding to 9,000-10,000 feet as early as the beginning of March and never later than the end of April, but we can pick the days.


Offline jamawani

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2014, 11:04:04 pm »
May can be snowy, June can be snowy.
What's more, many facilities in the Rockies do not open until mid/late June.
Even if snow is not coming down, it takes a while for 20 feet of snow to melt.

If your dates are somewhat fixed - why not plan your route accordingly?
(Provided, of course, you have not already gone off and bought tickets.)
Late May is glorious weather in California - before it bakes.
The waterfalls in Yosemite are at their peak. This year will probably be less.

Then ride across Nevada to southern Utah and its magnificent parks.
Take in the Grand Canyon and do some hiking.
Then visit ancient Puebloan ruins in New Mexico -
Ending up in the Colorado Rockies when the wildflowers are at their peak.

What was it about the mountain and Mohammed?

Offline Cyclesafe

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2014, 11:58:16 pm »
Heed jamawani's advice.  He knows of what he speaks.  I rode through 3 inches on snow on the Monarch Pass on June 30, the TRR was barely open a week later, and Yellowstone was impassable due to freezing sleet a week after that.  The Rockies should be enjoyed from mid-July.

But also note that the Tioga Pass from Yosemite to Nevada is often closed until June, but since there is little snowpack this year you might be OK.

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/tiogaopen.htm
Hoping to do the North Star with ACA in 2014.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2014, 09:57:24 am »
The Rockies should be enjoyed from mid-July.
With rare exceptions, mid-June is the best time for riding in the Rockies. That's why one-week supported rides such as Ride The Rockies and Bicycle Tour of Colorado always pick mid-June. Your best weather in the Rockies is usually in June. Once you get into July and August, thunderstorms start posing more of a problem.

Offline indyfabz

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2014, 11:57:20 am »
McKenzie Pass in Oregon may be open when you get there. Or it may not be open when you get there.

http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/REGION4/pages/mckenziehighwayclosure.aspx

Online staehpj1

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2014, 12:22:04 pm »
If your dates are somewhat fixed - why not plan your route accordingly?

+1

That is good advice.  I never understood why folks so often try to force either a date or a route that is less than optimal.  It makes more sense to me to either pick the best route for the time or the best time for the route.

Offline jamawani

Re: Trans Am & Pacific Coast, questions from newbies to US touring
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2014, 12:33:03 pm »
With rare exceptions, mid-June is the best time for riding in the Rockies. That's why one-week supported rides such as Ride The Rockies and Bicycle Tour of Colorado always pick mid-June. Your best weather in the Rockies is usually in June. Once you get into July and August, thunderstorms start posing more of a problem.

I must disagree, John.  But I'll let you speak to the issue.
Here's what you said about riding Going to the Sun Road on June 24:

"For the three miles on either side of the pass, visibility dropped to near zero,
and the cycling between the 15-foot walls of snow was downright dangerous."

Ride the Rockies has considerable logistics support - plus prearranged camping and chow lines that can be moved indoors to school gyms or churches if necessary. Self-contained touring folks don't have that luxury.

In the Northern Rockies and, to a degree, the Colorado Rockies, the last big snow often occurs in early to mid June. Sure. It's gloppy and wet. And often it doesn't stick long to the roads. But for a couple of days it can be pretty nasty. (Even had a July 4th snowstorm in Jackson, WY.)

Plus, there's the issue of snow that is already on the ground and the dates when facilities open.  At higher elevations, snow begins accumulating in October and piles up all winter. Real melting doesn't start until May.  Campground do usually open by Memorial Day in Colorado, but in Wyoming and Montana often do not open to late June - - such as Grant Village in Yellowstone.

In 2010, I was doing census work over the summer after school got out.  Here are two pictures from June 20th.  The first is from town - 5000 feet.  The second is where I am snowshoeing in to verify that summer houses are not permanent residences - 8000 feet.  Big difference!

PS - Yes, I got paid to go snowshoeing on a glorious day.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2014, 12:34:54 pm by jamawani »