Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => Routes => Topic started by: MrBent on January 30, 2012, 10:58:46 am

 
Title: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: MrBent on January 30, 2012, 10:58:46 am
Ahoy, riders:  After doing some "street view" research on our Rocky Mtn. tour, it's sad to see the great shoulders of so many Canadian rds. give way to the narrow B.S. of so many US highways.  Arrrrgh.  Anyway, we'd like to go through Glacier, but then we are presented with some options.  What is the best way for a cyclist to get from Glacier to Missoula?  Looking at the map, Rt. 83 seems a natural choice, scenic, and it has campgrounds; however, it doesn't seem to have ANY shoulder to speak of.  Advice, opinions, experience?

Thanks!

Scott
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: CMajernik on January 30, 2012, 12:29:04 pm
ACA's Great Parks North section 2 map shows routing between Glacier and Missoula, and we recommend Hwy. 83 even though it doesn't have shoulders. It is much less traveled than the other options which go around Flathead Lake. US 93 which goes around the western side of the lake has shoulders (for the most part) but also carries the highest amount of vehicle traffic. And Hwy. 35 on the lake's east side is narrow, winding and shoulderless.
http://adventurecycling.org/routes/greatparks.cfm?pg=detail&s=2
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: MrBent on January 30, 2012, 12:54:26 pm
Thank you!  I suspected that was the case, but it's good to have it confirmed.

Cheers,

Scott
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: johnsondasw on January 30, 2012, 12:55:38 pm
I had no problem with 93 around the west side of FH Lake, but the hills were another matter!  We hit this section after about 80 miles on a day with little to no sleep the night before.  I really slept well after the hills at West Lake CG. I've heard 83 is a great ride.
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: Pat Lamb on January 30, 2012, 02:20:38 pm
As Carla notes, 83 has very light traffic.  We had no problems, and the scenery is beautiful through Seeley Lake.
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: adventurepdx on January 30, 2012, 04:01:59 pm
I guess Montana 83 has light traffic...as long as you don't hit it on a holiday. Or even slightly before a holiday.
Last year we turned onto 83 from Missoula to Glacier on the Thursday before the Independence Day weekend. I thought we'd be okay since it was Thursday, not Friday. Fat chance. And of course it was the worst type of traffic to deal with in this situation: RVs, camper trailers, and boat trailers. Plus, the Forest Service made had the brilliant idea of closing the main campground in the area for "repaving of the parking lot" during this weekend, so all the smaller ones were already packed. We managed to squeak into the last spot at Lake Alva.

Past Lake Alva, conditions improved significantly. But the stretch from Lake Alva south to the SR 200 junction was not fun. I thought maybe it was bad just because it was a holiday, but my friends toured through there later in July and had a similar experience (though their experience with the Ranger station was much less positive than ours):
http://wedding.paulzdesign.com/?p=658

Sorry for being a downer. But I will say the scenery is beautiful, especially as you get closer to Swan Lake.
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: indyfabz on January 30, 2012, 04:20:07 pm
We managed to squeak into the last spot at Lake Alva.

Do you know if the loons were nesting there? There used to be a pair that came back to Lake Alva every year.
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: adventurepdx on January 30, 2012, 04:36:21 pm
We managed to squeak into the last spot at Lake Alva.

Do you know if the loons were nesting there? There used to be a pair that came back to Lake Alva every year.

Oh there were loons, alright. But not the avian type.  ;)

Honestly, we got there late enough in the day and were too preoccupied with camp stuff that we didn't have a chance to notice much else. We did take a quick walk down to the lake, but I don't recall anything.

As sort of addendum to my post above: if I were to try riding 83 again, I would aim for Monday-Thursday. I get the impression that this area is a popular spot for folks from the Missoula area. The lack of shoulder, high speeds, and winding road coupled with recreational vehicles is not a good combination for bicyclists on the weekends.
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: MrBent on January 30, 2012, 05:20:14 pm
Thank you so much for this information.  We'll be hitting the road in August, so traffic will be at its worst.  What about staying fully east of the Rockies all the way down?  I don't have a map up, but we drove that road once back before the Earth cooled, and it was quite beautiful--not much shoulder but traffic so light it didn't seem to matter much.  Just checked it out: Hwy 89 to 287 to 200--and follow that into Missoula, or maybe do some kind of workaround further east, although my wife really wants to go through Missoula.
 
What say you?

The Rt 83 business seems a lot like hwy 89 between Burney Falls and McCloud (Sierra Cascades Rt.) and the route west of Placerville in the Sierras (Western Express):  Both of these blow chunks--tight, narrow, lots of traffic, nasty.  Time to fine a workaround!

Scott
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: jamawani on January 30, 2012, 06:17:17 pm
Well, at least we dont have drivers with Alberta plates - -
Notorious all over Canada, eh?

I suggest US 89 & US 287 on the east side of the divide over Hwy 83.
Why?  Less traffic, more wide-open views, and more sections with shoulders.

Here's the most recent Montana DOT Traffic Count map:
http://www.mdt.mt.gov/publications/docs/datastats/trafcount/2009_traffic_flow_map.pdf

US 89 / US 287 has about a third of the traffic that Hwy 83 has.
Plus you have to negotiate some busy sections around Columbia Falls and Big Fork on Hwy 83.
I have ridden both routes a number of times.
US 89 / US 287 is far more pleasant for riding and scenery.
1500-1600 vehicles per day is not "light" traffic in my book.
It is enough traffic to require pretty good vigilance when there is no shoulder.

J
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: MrBent on January 30, 2012, 07:25:56 pm
Thanks for that traffic flow map--very useful.  The traffic load on the much praised Oregon coast in the summer?  Some places with 5--10,000 vehicles.  Lousy cycling, if you ask me.

Scott
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: jimbo on January 30, 2012, 09:51:40 pm
We rode  # 83 in late Aug in 2008 south to #200 and thought it was a great ride.  Our blog reported "light and friendly traffic". Not sure day of the week however. Camped at Holland Lake.
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: jfitch on January 30, 2012, 10:12:16 pm
We rode 83 from Bigfork to the junction with 200 on July 5 & 6, 2010 (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=1&page_id=152830&v=AH). The traffic was remarkably light for the day after July 4th, and was no problem at all. The scenery was fantastic. I wouldn't hesitate to ride 83 again. FWIW, YMMV.
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: adventurepdx on January 30, 2012, 11:12:11 pm
Thanks for that traffic flow map--very useful.  The traffic load on the much praised Oregon coast in the summer?  Some places with 5--10,000 vehicles.  Lousy cycling, if you ask me.

Scott

Well, the Oregon Coast is popular for a reason--the beauty. And since 101 is the only route that goes down the coast, and everyone (not just cycle tourists) wants to go to the coast...

Still, there tends to be more shoulder than not. Plus there's lots of facilities for cycle touring, like hiker/biker sites for $5-6 spaced about every 30 miles down the coast. This is why the route remains "praised" despite heavy traffic. And the best way to avoid traffic is ride it in September after Labor Day. The traffic drops dramatically but the weather is still good.
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: MrBent on January 31, 2012, 09:10:47 am
Well, of course, adventure.  No one is arguing the scenic values of the Oregon coast.  Unfortunately, most years, a long tour in Sept. is out of the question as I'm in the classroom.   For us--and as usual YMMV--the traffic in summer was a total deal breaker.  We dreaded getting on the road most mornings--the constant roar, the ones who pass too close and too fast.  Because of the huge numbers of cars, there were a lot more of these than any other tour we've done.  We've done the Pacific Coast from north of San Francisco to Santa Barbara three times and found it much more pleasant.  This is largely because hwy 101 siphons off the fast traffic and long distance commercial traffic.  It's a great ride!

Thanks, everyone, for your replies.  We will think on all you've said.

Scott
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: johnsondasw on January 31, 2012, 07:52:48 pm
We rode the Oregon coast in our June/July 2005 WA to Cal ride.  I remembered the Oregon section as a child in the 50s and 60s as a quaint and spectacular area.  Boy, has that changed! I thought much of it was now junky and crowded.  The larger towns had sprawl extending out in both north and south directions for miles.  The state should have done some kind of zoning or something.  I thought it got much more rural and scenic south of Coos Bay.  From there south it was quite enjoyable.  I personally would not ride the coast of Oregon north of Coos Bay again. One exception for the north part was Cannon Beach--a friendly, pretty, well laid out town with a great beach.
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: adventurepdx on February 01, 2012, 02:49:30 am
Hmm...somehow I don't find the Oregon Coast as bad as johnsondasw or Mr. Bent, but maybe it's because a)I live in Oregon and b) I used to live outside of Myrtle Beach. Any ugliness on the Oregon Coast pales in comparison to that sprawltastic landscape. (And Oregon does have zoning in the form of the Urban Growth Boundary around urban areas, for what it's worth.)

Yes, there is some ugly areas, like north of Tillamook for a bit, the area along 101 between Warrenton/Astoria and Seaside, and (especially) Lincoln City. But you can avoid much of the ugliness around the first two places mentioned by taking alternate routes. And there's enough positives for me interspersed in there to take my mind off the bad, like Manzanita, the Three Capes Scenic Route, Slab Creek Road, and Otter Crest Loop.

I wish the Oregon Coast could be as quaint as it was 50 years ago. But it's a popular area, and things change, not always for the better. People are drawn to the coast. But I think there's enough good around all areas of the Oregon Coast to make a ride worthwhile. Especially if you can manage to go in the shoulder season.

Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: jamawani on February 01, 2012, 04:18:32 am
Back to Montana - -
It seems that the OP likes as few cars as possible.
Although Hwy 83 is nice - US 89 / 287 has that "hardly a car" feel.
For some riders - that is something that is highly sought.
Hwy 83 has lots of trees and water.
Hwy 89 / 287 is expansive and wide open.
Different strokes - -
Title: Re: Montana 83 riding conditions?
Post by: MrBent on February 01, 2012, 09:05:28 am
Yeah, J., my wife and I are fans of the ultra-light traffic!  That was something I enjoyed so much about a lot of  my riding in New Mexico when I rode across country in 2007.  The relative difference in traffic loads is hard to ignore.

Scott