Author Topic: Pros and Cons of starting either west to east or east to west on Northern Tier  (Read 4251 times)

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Offline schilld

I'm planning to ride the Northern Tier next summer. I would like advice and/or opinions on which way is the best West to East or East to West.

Thanks

Offline johnsondasw

I have not ridden the route--just most of the Washington and parts of the Idaho and Montana sections.  I can't speak for the  whole thing, but prevailing winds in the NW are from the west. This can be a big deal.  Also, winds move generally west to east, but some of the journals I've read said overall, it's about even going west to east or east to west.

Another consideration is the time of year--if leaving early in the spring, you can hit snow and cold in the western mountains, big time.   
May the wind be at your back!

Offline MrBent

I've ridden the eastern part, starting in Maine in early August and staying on route until Iowa.  Don't let the wind be a consideration.  I've read stories and talked to people heading east who got hammered with headwinds for a week across eastern Montana.  So you just can't tell what's going down on the ground.

I started in the east because I wanted to be heading home with no set end date, no plane to catch.  Also, because I had a wide window to plan my trip, I was able to head into the Southwest as the fall settled in with cooler temps in the desert, a big concern for me. 

Although I can handle humidity, it's not my favorite by a WIDE margin, so I would personally try to minimize my exposure to the heat and humidity of the East/Midwest, which is hard to do when a typical crossing takes about three months.

Another consideration (I think others will agree) is that the hardest riding is in the East in terms of climbing--some really brutal grades.  Hitting these first on the tour, fully loaded, is a bit of a shock, so be well trained in climbing if you start in the East.  Don't be shy about walking and he bike a little here and there.  I did this a couple of times and found that others ended up doing the same--even after riding from the west coast.  It's hard to overstate how steep some of those roads are in New England--yikes!

Ultimately this will be a personal choice, pro's and con's either way.  Because I was  familiar with the mountains of the West, the wild terrain of New England was my favorite part of the ride.

Enjoy!

Scott


Offline indyfabz

I don't know.  I did the entire route west to east and the portion from Seattle to Glacier National Park the following year.  No way would I want to have to ride against the tailwinds we had for days on the Montana "Highline" and in North Dakota.  One day I hit a sustained speed of 32.5 m.p.h. on the flats.  I could have gone faster but I had MTB gearing on my touring bike and spun out of my highest gear.  As for climbing, we left from Seattle and were taking on the nearly 30 mile climb to Rainy Pass and Washington Pass on Day 6.  It would have been about day 3 or 4 had we left from Anacortes.  There are then 3 consecutive passes, and the way things are spaced you basically have to do at least one each day, culminating with Sherman Pass, the highest paved road in WA.  Weather-wise, if you go west to east and start in late-May, you will likely encounter chilly weather until you cross Washington Pass and then again in Republic, WA at the base of Sherman Pass.  And you will almost certainly expereince some sort of precipitation.  (Winthrop to Tonasket is usually warm and arid).  Both times the generally cold and somewhat damp weather followed me through Sandpoint, ID and into Glacier N.P., which averages about 3.5 inches of rain in June.  But if you average about 60 miles/day and rest every 6th day or so, you will likely pass through IA, IL and IN duirng the peak heat and humidity season.  Conditions can get brutal.  (E.g., 107 with very high humidity in Hungtingdon, IN.  The low the night before was 85).  And corn provides NO shade.  Certainly somerthing to consider when chosing a direction.

Offline tonythomson

Hi - just wondered if it was possible to start W to E in late April or will I hit snow/real cold?  My alternative is leaving Florida in late April and reaching Seattle in Late July - will I be fighting strong head winds this direction?
Thanks
Just starting to record my trips  www.tonystravels.com

Offline johnsondasw

Hi - just wondered if it was possible to start W to E in late April or will I hit snow/real cold? 
Thanks
You will probably hit snow in the Cascades and Rockies in the early spring.  Also, count on lots of cold nights and rain off and on.  I've done several short tours at this time of year in Washington.  It is cold in the mountains!  We bring shoe covers, waterproff coats, insulation layers, ski gloves, etc.
I've been snowed on many times in April in the Cascades where I live.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline tonythomson

Thanks for that - mind made up - start in Florida.  Thanks for the advice.
Tony
Just starting to record my trips  www.tonystravels.com

Offline MrBent

Your mind is made up, but may I complicate things?  If you can start in early April, beginning on the Southern Tier and working northeast would be an interesting option.  Strong prevailing tailwinds are the norm down here in the SW at that time, and the desert isn't too bad, often ideal at that time of year--warm, wild flowers, nice!  You'd be getting into the Northeast in June sometime, starting to hit black fly season, perhaps, but it's worth thinking about.  In any event, you'd be able to miss the worst of the heat/humidity.

My 2 cents.

Have a great adventure, whatever you do!

Scott

Offline tonythomson

Thanks for that but think that in the end little choice re starting at Kissimmee end after all.   When do the black flies start and anyone got hints to how to deal.  What areas do they mainly inhabit?? Apart from my tent.

I remember starting off from Boston crossing Canada and those little flies nearly drove me mad.  In fact it is the first time I have seriously considered giving up a trip. 

Thanks Tony
Just starting to record my trips  www.tonystravels.com

Offline schilld

Thanks to all who have offered their "2 cents".

Dean
Flagstaff, AZ

Offline Westinghouse

I did 2600 miles of the NT west to east in 1987. In July car-sized chunks of ice were on the roadsides at high elevations. The wind was not much of a problem. After getting east of the Rockies and into the foothills I remember a sustained tailwind so strong it was often impossible to get torgue in the highest gear. I do not remember too much about the wind on that tour.