Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => Routes => Topic started by: ewoodwarde on December 06, 2012, 04:30:38 pm

 
Title: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: ewoodwarde on December 06, 2012, 04:30:38 pm
Planning a cross-country ride starting June 1, 2013, choosing a northern route. Our question: opinions/recommendations starting on the West Coast through Oregon and/or Washington comparing the Northern Tier, Lewis and Clark and Transamerica.
We are husband and wife 59 and 60 years, experienced touring bicyclists but never more than 10 days duration. Usually motels and inns but have done one week also camping. Medium fitness, but know the first few weeks may be tough. Never spent time in the Northwest.
So comparing those three routes balancing factors like safety, difficulty, and scenic potential advice is welcomed.  Which route has closer spaced towns? (coffee and tea stops!)Also, we hope to find places to stay as we go, maybe calling for reservations one or two days in advance -- is it possible that so many people start Transamerica in June that camping and motels may already be booked before we arrive?
Then, once we get to Montana same question about crossing Montana on north middle or southern route?
Last, we have read about the difficulties biking through North Dakota; is anybody using an alternate route up through Canada instead of the Bismarck reroute?
Looking forward to the feedback, Eric and Hilary
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: Pat Lamb on December 06, 2012, 06:23:07 pm
I'm like most of the people posting here in that I've only done one route, but I expect you'll hear from the handfull who've done more in the northwest soon.

Northern Tier to Glacier: the towns are spaced such that you'll be able to motel it most nights.  Rainy Pass and Washington Pass in the Cascades are the exception -- it's a very long day from motel to motel.  You may be able to find a B&B near Concrete, and there's an expensive lodge near Mazama.  The rest of the route you should be able to find motels within 60 miles or so.

The difficult part of the TransAm east of Missoula is the stretch east of West Yellowstone, going through the park.  There's lodges and motels in Yellowstone NP, but the tour operators normally snap those up the second or third week in January.  For that reason, many people recommend planning your trip, with appropriate rest days, early enough to get into a room.  West Thumb is centrally located between West Yellowstone and Jackson Lake in the Tetons, but Old Faithful has more to see and do.  There's a couple of options within 10-15 miles of the east side of Moran Junction in the Tetons, though they're pricy.  If you want to plan on the fly, start a week or two before you'll hit the park, and keep calling (whenever you have cell service!), and you may get lucky and one will open up the night or so you need it.

In general, you should be able to reserve rooms a day or so ahead of time.  Exceptions include special events (like a softball or soccer tournament, or a parade), and weekends often book earlier.  If you take the TransAm, booking will be much easier east of Pueblo, although I'm told the Kansas motels fill up during wheat harvest, usually a couple weeks around the first of July.
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: John Nelson on December 06, 2012, 09:33:12 pm
I've done the TA and the NT, but not the L&C. And I almost always camped. The TA will be easier for the first week starting in the West. The NT has those famous five passes in four days in Washington.

Doing either route is possible with all motels, especially if you're willing to put in a long day occasionally and nail down your schedule ahead of time. The national parks (Yellowstone and Grand Teton on the TA and Glacier on the NT) are the toughest reservations, and absolutely must be make well in advance (like now!). There's a very helpful journal over at CGOAB of a couple who motelled it the whole way and documented every place they stayed and what it cost with a web link and/or phone number. They did deviate from the TA after Kansas.

http://bicyclelife.topicwise.com/doc/Yumadons1

If you take camping gear, your flexibility increases significantly, although it's a heavy price to carry camping gear if you're only going to use it one day our of ten.
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: staehpj1 on December 07, 2012, 07:30:29 am
Of your three choices, I have only done the TA.  I have to say I liked it quite well.  We started in early June and had absolutely no trouble finding places to camp.  Motels, I expect may be full in some places like Yellowstone.  Not sure about motels though since we mostly camped in our 73 days on that trip with only one motel stay on a chilly rainy night and a few stays where hosts invited us to stay with them.
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: johnsondasw on December 07, 2012, 03:22:03 pm
I've done the TA and the NT, but not the L&C. And I almost always camped. The TA will be easier for the first week starting in the West. The NT has those famous five passes in four days in Washington.



And those five passes can be brutal starting off on a trip.
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: ewoodwarde on January 26, 2013, 03:50:13 pm
so we are still  deciding which route from the west coast to Missoula. Lewis and Clarke is clearly less challenging physically; but is it a compromise in scenic beauty?  Wouldn't want to discover after the fact that Northern Tier orTrans Am are much better for the scenery. Opinions?
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: jamawani on January 26, 2013, 06:31:21 pm
Do you have to stay on ACA marked routes?

I have done all three plus a number of other routes.
1. NT is pretty brutal early on, 5 passes, remote, plus can be cold/snowy in early June.
2. L&C has least climbing, warmer, but with Portland metro to navigate, also remote east of The Dalles.
3. TA is generally most cyclist friendly, McKenzie Pass likely to be closed still.  Pretty far south of your plans.

Where would you like to start?  How to you plan on getting out to the coast?
Do you plan on riding Going to the Sun in Glacier NP - - you should.
Check out the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes - paved, services - combined with Thompson Pass.
There are some nice possibilities in southern Washington that have the combinations you are seeking.
Moderate climbs, nice scenery, towns along the way, reasonable weather.

PS - Personally, I think you should head from Glacier to Yellowstone on US 89 - 
Then head east to the Black Hills and continue roughly along SD/Neb border.
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: jimbo on January 27, 2013, 08:23:36 pm
"Ewoo...."
I did the NT to Glacier starting June 1, 2012. We had rain and 40's for much of the first two weeks and snow on Washington Pass. That kind of weather is not unusual that time of year. Road to the Sun opened the day after we left Glacier, but the weather was terrible. I did the same route in Aug is 2008 and the scenery was incredible. Early June puts you at risk for lousy weather.

 Non-camping services can be quite limited but with a little research and spacing the daily mileage you can locate accommodations for most days.

Enjoy the planning phase of your trip.
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: indyfabz on January 28, 2013, 01:03:36 pm
’99: Seattle up to the NT for the entire route.
’00: Seattle to the NT to Glacier N.P., backtracked to Columbia Falls, Great Parks to Missoula, TransAm to Fairplay, CO.
’02: Cycle Oregon, which included much of the OR portion of the TA.
’06: CANDISC, which included some of what is now the new NT routing into Bismarck.
’09: NT between Whitefish and Eureka, MT and the west side of Going to the Sun.
’11: 2 ½ days on the TransAm between Missoula and the east side of Big Hole Pass.

Some opinions/observations:
1. The OR potion of the TA was far less interesting than the NT with the notable exception of McKenzie Pass. And, IIRC, the distances between services were usually greater on this stretch of the TA.

2. The scenery between Anacortes and Glacier, N.P. is fabulous. Once you cross the Cascades via Rainy/Washington Passes, indoor sleeping options on the NT were relatively easy to find. Places like Winthrop, Tonasket, Omak, Republic, Colville, Sandpoint, ID. You don’t have to cross two passes to find places to camp, eat or sleep inside. As noted, you might get wet and/or chilly weather. Both times I left Seattle the third week in May and took three days to get up to the NT. First time there was rain and snow on Washington Pass and then again on Sherman Pass. Generally, we had numerous chilly and/or damp days through Whitefish, MT. But you can get that on the TA. In Missoula near the end of June ’11 it was chilly and drizzly that evening and the next morning, and the next two nights on the road it was 40 or below.

3. The ride up Going to the Sun in Glacier National Park is hard to beat. Waterton Village in Canada is in a dramatic setting. However, east of Cut Bank, MT, the scenery is nothing to write home about. Lots of open farm and ranch land, but there are plenty of towns usually spaced nicely apart.

4. I would trust the re-route though ND. During CANDISC we rode a couple of days in that area. Very little traffic except for in Bismarck, and even that wasn’t really bad. Two friends just did the NT last summer. They didn’t have any problems in that area. Haven’t seen the new map for that section, but in general I like riding in ND. The general lack of traffic in most places and open skies gives a sense of freedom. The winds, on the other hand, can be brutal. With very few trees there is little shade and nothing to block the wind. You will see trees again once you get into MN.

5. Columbia Falls/Whitefish to Missoula is nice overall. Missoula south/east through Montana is really nice, especially Darby through Big Hole Pass to Dillon and then on to Ennis. Services are adequately spaced for the most part. (Don’t expect high quality tea and coffee in most small towns.) Wasn’t a huge fan of riding in Yellowstone/Teetons due to the traffic. South of there it was fine most places except for a couple of noted areas in CO. The stretch between Lander and Rawlins, WY has very few services.

Send me a PM if you have any questions.

Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: ewoodwarde on March 02, 2013, 05:16:48 pm
Thanks all for the advice. We have decided to go the more challenging route. Northern Tier from the coast to Glacier and then down to visit  Missoula. Looking forward to it! Eric
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: windrath on March 03, 2013, 01:20:21 pm
I did L&C in 2007 (Early June) to Glacier and the NT in 2003.  Although the L&C is less climbing, the heat was incredible from Portland to Missoula.  We had 10 days of 100+ degrees.  After Portland, there are long stretches without services.  There are some steep climbs just west of Clarkston and Lewistown and then east as you go towards Lolo Pass (65 miles without any services).  You should be able to find hotels if you plan and research ahead.

L&C is scenic - in a different way that the NT.  I liked them both.

Good Luck

Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: Norsman on March 06, 2013, 05:16:31 pm
Last, we have read about the difficulties biking through North Dakota; is anybody using an alternate route up through Canada instead of the Bismarck reroute?
I would not suggest that you go north through Canada. I did a cross Canada ride last summer and the route through southern Manitoba was the worst riding conditions of the whole route.  The roads are crappy and, because of a boom in oil and natural gas drilling, busy with trucks in a hurry.  It is my understanding that the same drilling is happening in northern North Dakota.
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: ewoodwarde on June 16, 2013, 11:12:34 pm
Just an update, we did choose the northern tier and left and Anacortes  June 6th. Today, June 16 we are at the top of the last of the five passes, Beaver Lodge.  We are taking a slightly slower pace and look forward to meeting anyone else who is on the route this year. Note, we were very tired of up hills so took a successful detour from just beforeWocanda pass North follow the Kettle River into Canada and back down to Kettle Falls. Downhill 35 miles, missed Sherman Pass.
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: indyfabz on June 18, 2013, 02:16:38 pm
Where are you exactly? If you missed Sherman Pass, that was the 5th one.

FYI, according to the NPS site, Going to the Sun will be open in it's entirety to vehicle traffic on June 21st, weather permitting:

http://home.nps.gov/applications/glac/roadstatus/roadstatus.cfm

Looks like good timing. Even if opening is delayed, you may be abloe to cross on bikes during the weekends. I would definitely wait in the park if that looks like a possibility. You don't want to miss that hill. Besides, the alternative over Marias Pass is much longer. Stay at Sprague Creek or Avalanche campground and get a very early start. There will be enough light to start riding before 6 a.m.
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: jamawani on June 18, 2013, 03:07:01 pm
Logan Pass opens this Friday - weather permitting.
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: ewoodwarde on June 18, 2013, 06:00:38 pm
Today the 18th we are in Newport. Thanks so much for the helpful advice. We actually have a reservation at Lake McDonald lodge and will be sightseeing Glacier by bus. Not too keen on the steep accents and the possible traffic and road conditions so after Lake McDonald we are going to visit Missoula and then head east over the Continental Divide from there.  by the way I thought Rainy and Washington counted as one pass so that the fifth pass was the 3300 ft  at Beaver Lodge after Colville.  Anyway we are very happy with the trip so far. Eric
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: jamawani on June 18, 2013, 11:45:20 pm
Huh??
Going to the Sun Road is one of the finest rides in the world.
Yes, it involves climbing, but the road was engineered with a constant 8% grade on purpose.
Way easier than the climb to Rainy Pass.

And yes, there are time limitations for cyclists - along Lake MacDonald and on the ascent.
It's 21 miles from the lodge to the pass - 10 miles gentle and 11 climbing.
You could make it in 3 hours at a steady pace, 3 1/2 hours banana breaks, 4 hours easy.
Not to mention that the uphill climb has jaw-dropping, right-on-the-edge views.
It does mean leaving early - or you can hike up to Avalanche Lake - and ride up after 4.
It doesn't get dark until 10 in late June.

Or you can have the shuttle drive take you panniers up to Logan Pass
or even across if you lodge on the east side, as well.
Then you can zoom up with less weight.
(The driver can leave your bags in bear boxes on top if you are comfortable with that.)

You'll be missing the numero uno section if you skip Going to the Sun.
Just sayin'.
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: John Nelson on June 18, 2013, 11:49:16 pm
Going to the Sun Road is one of the finest rides in the world.
+1

I doubt that the experience would be even one tenth as good by bus.
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: Pat Lamb on June 19, 2013, 09:32:13 am
Going to the Sun Road is one of the finest rides in the world.
+1

I doubt that the experience would be even one tenth as good by bus.

+1 more.

We came up from Missoula to Apgar before resuming our westward ride, and I took the shuttle.  I've got to get back there to cycle the pass, sometime, somehow.
Title: Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
Post by: indyfabz on June 19, 2013, 10:37:56 am
Huh??
Going to the Sun Road is one of the finest rides in the world.
Yes, it involves climbing, but the road was engineered with a constant 8% grade on purpose.
Way easier than the climb to Rainy Pass.

And yes, there are time limitations for cyclists - along Lake MacDonald and on the ascent.
It's 21 miles from the lodge to the pass - 10 miles gentle and 11 climbing.
You could make it in 3 hours at a steady pace, 3 1/2 hours banana breaks, 4 hours easy.
Not to mention that the uphill climb has jaw-dropping, right-on-the-edge views.
It does mean leaving early - or you can hike up to Avalanche Lake - and ride up after 4.
It doesn't get dark until 10 in late June.

Or you can have the shuttle drive take you panniers up to Logan Pass
or even across if you lodge on the east side, as well.
Then you can zoom up with less weight.
(The driver can leave your bags in bear boxes on top if you are comfortable with that.)

You'll be missing the numero uno section if you skip Going to the Sun.
Just sayin'.

+1 on all this. It's not as daunting as you might think. Nowhere near as taxing as Rainy/Washington. The above description from the Lodge is accurate. The first 10 miles will not really seem like climbing. When I crossed the first time, two members of our group had their gear shuttled to the top. As noted, you can start before 6 a.m., well before there is any traffic. And what traffic you encounter will be moving relatively slowly. It's not the sort of road where you can speed. Also, there are pulll-offs along the way where you can take a break and let traffic pass.

I will add that if you are planning to go to Missoula and get on the TransAm,  Lost Trail and Chief Joseph Passes (three miles apart) are tougher. If your plan is to go to Wisdom, you will have another 25 miles from Cheif Joseph Pass. About 5 miles of that is steep descent. The rest requires pedalling to one degree or another. Between Sula and Wisdom, a distance of almost 40 miles, there is no food or drink except for a rest stop in ID, just after Lost Trail and before the final push to Chief Joseph. Then how do you plan to get back north to rejoin the route? (I can give you an option to Butte.) Staying on the Trans Am beyond Wisdom will get you ever more mountain passes.

If you really want to skip Logan Pass, take Marias Pass and then go to Cut Bank, where you will hit the flats. The climb to Marias is long and there is more traffic, including RVs and trucks, which you won't find on GTS. You can break it up into two days if you can get a room at the Isaak Walton Inn. There is also a private campground before the pass and maybe other motels.

In an effort to tempt you, the last 24 in this set were taken during a 2009 ride up and back down the west side the day the pass opened:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davez2007/sets/72157620763740044/

At a minimum, I suggest you spend a few days at the lodge and make the ride up and back down without gear.

If you do opt for Loan Pass, send me a PM if you want a routing option to bypass Chif Mountain Hwy. and the section in  Canada, although I think Waterton Village is worth the effort.