Author Topic: Late start to ST  (Read 7549 times)

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Offline solsrch

Late start to ST
« on: December 03, 2011, 11:25:25 pm »
My son and I are planning to ride the ST starting in San Diego in 2012.  We'd be starting in mid-May (20?) and ending in St Augustine by July 4th.  We are both comfortable with getting up early to get going before the day starts to heat up  (dawn or so).  We think these dates will keep us just ahead of the worst of the heat but I'm looking for any comments.  I know folks say the best time is the fall or spring, but that doesn't work with class schedules, etc.  Is this foolhardy?  I think we're in fairly good shape but living in the DC area means we won't be able to do warm weather training before our departure. 

Offline staehpj1

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2011, 10:39:24 am »
I'd suggest picking a bunch of places along the way and figuring about when you will be there.  Then go to weatherspark.com and check what the average and record highs and lows are for those times and places.  That is what I do.

Personally, I'd probably do the trans America if I was starting in mid May.  At that time it would be a judgement call as to whether to start the TA in the East or West, but I'd lean toward the East.

If you do go on the ST and it is really hot, you might consider starting your days a couple hours before sunrise.  I did that in KS, OK, and NM on one trip and it was a great time to be on empty rural highways.  In any case I hope you have a great trip.

Offline jamawani

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2011, 11:39:18 am »
I don't think it is a great idea.
I've ridden the Southern Tier in late winter.
I wouldn't want to consider it in mid summer.

Since it's your first post there's not much to go on.
Here's what I am guessing:
You want to ride cross-country - -
But you only have 45 days to do it.
And it has to be in the May 20 to July 4 window.
Plus you are not familiar with desert Southwest conditions.

Now, that is not an ideal combination if you step back.
Yes, you could probably get through it.
But is that what you want - simply to get through it?

Heading west to east on the ST -
You are in the Imperial and Sonoran Deserts by Day 2.
Plus June is the hottest month in much of the Southwest.
Then you add highest temps and humidities of the Southeast.
It borders on the danerous - plus you leave yourself no leeway.

I agree with my colleague that the TransAm/Western Express combo is better.
A fast westbound trip starting in Yorktown would be in good weather, mostly.
YMMV - weather normals are long-term averages.
But the TA/WE is 3800 miles vs the ST at 3000. (Let's say 43 days.)
That's the difference between 70 miles/day and 88 miles/day.
(Frankly, 70 mpd on the ST in summer will be pushing it.)

I see a number of possible options.
First, you could add a week and do the TA/WE fast, but reasonably.
Second, you could map your own more direct route - say LAX to DC.
That would be perhaps only 3200 miles.
(See Tzuo Han Law's route - http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1&doc_id=2405&v=2LH)

I helped him with his route - he got up to 100 miles per day.
It includes an easy start with gradual climbs out of Ventura.
Then involves stretches of Historic Route 66 and the Grand Canyon.
You pick up the TransAm in Colorado and stay on it until SW Virginia.
Then take the Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive towards DC.

But the Southern Tier for those dates?
There's better riding out there.

Offline jamawani

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2011, 12:25:55 pm »
PS - Camping or motels?

If you motel it, you carry less weight -
But motels are not conveniently located in remote areas.

Offline solsrch

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2011, 06:22:35 pm »
Thanks for the thoughtful replies!  I'll definitely take a look at the LA - DC route.  Having lived in the midwest for a few years, the idea of riding though there and dealing with summer storms is a little concerning too.  I live near DC now and went to school in LA so very familiar with both ends of that trip.  It would be great to end near my house. 

I'll continue to review the temps based on expected dates.  As you can probably tell, I've done some of that and that is why I'm concerned.  From my perspective living in the southwest (Scottsdale, Tucson, San Diego) for much of my life before the Navy shipped me to other places, I'm not as concerned about the desert portion into Texas.   Before June from what I'm seeing the average high will be in the 90s, with lows in the 50s/60s mostly dependent on elevation.  I see the predawn starts as a great option to avoid traffic and the heat of the day depending on variance from the norm.  I've been in the Navy for a few decades and my son is in the Marine Corps, so we're both very accustom to starting the day early.  I'm actually more concerned with Texas and the coastal south.  I don't know that area as well although a number of trips to Pensacola have convinced me there is no good time of day to ride there starting by mid-June or early July.  Some of the Texas areas, like Austin, don't sound bad at all (average high of 90 at the very end of June), but not knowing the region causes my concern.  I don't want to do something bordering on dangerous; I'd rather cap out at uncomfortable.

Our intent is to minimize camping, although we'll probably take enough for minimal shelter just in case.  If I can map this out where I'm pretty sure we won't need anything, we'll leave it behind.  The desire is to travel light.

Please keep the comments coming!

Offline jamawani

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2011, 06:46:02 pm »
Check out info at the Western Regional Climate Center:

http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/Climsum.html

The Mojave is 10 or more degrees cooler than the Imperial Valley.
The Colorado Plateau is 20 or more degrees cooler than the Sonoran.

Click on the states and compare Barstow with Imperial.
(Yes, Needles is almost as hot as Yuma or Blythe.)
But once you climb - Kingman is 10+ degrees cooler than Salome -
And Flagstaff is 20+ cooler than Phoenix.

If you are planning on motelling it mostly, then is is relatively easy to do your own route.
Once you are out of the desert Southwest, most county seats have a motel in Kansas, Missouri, etc.

PS - This guy did the Southern Tier with his son.
Same dates - - same timeframe.
He didn't drop dead - but it was 110 in the desert -
And he got really sick towards the end.

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1&doc_id=1589&v=A8#38386
« Last Edit: December 04, 2011, 07:27:52 pm by jamawani »

Offline solsrch

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2011, 10:20:04 pm »
Yikes, you're so right, that is exactly the time frame, route, and basically same ages.  I think we'd be slightly better prepared - not trying to make this with road bikes, we'll be using Surly LHTs that we're used to riding.  Those 98 degrees, 90+ humidity days are the ones I can't stand.  Lots of advantages going LA to DC; I'll look over that route carefully.  I'm sure you're right, it would be considerably cooler.  As mentioned, it has us finish by our home.  I haven't looked in detail but I ride the GW parkway through Alexandria on my commute to work, so probably literally on the route.

Still, I got to admit there is a part of me that wants to see Austin, etc.  Regardless, I can start at the most one week earlier.  The timeframe is set and I'm going to take a shot at cross country somehow.

Thanks again

Offline bobbys beard

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2011, 12:58:36 am »
i just completed it in july and august on a LHT. it was incredibly hot at times (114 in brawley) but also quite pleasant in the mountains. i went from east to west, meaning the sun wasn't in my face the wole time. it makes a big difference. if you know what you're letting yourself in for, then go for it. you'll have a great time! i saw a grand total of zero tourers the whole journey. plenty of local bikers to chat too though. i'd recommend planning your rides day by day and not relying on outposts on the ACAA maps being open. (or even existing) be realistic and don't push for too many miles in the heat.  always carry a LOT of water. a lot of desert rv parks will allow you to camp for free!!  if youhave any questions, feel free to message me :)

Offline staehpj1

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2011, 10:38:17 am »
i saw a grand total of zero tourers the whole journey.
A big minus for going on that route at that time in my opinion.  Meeting other riders is one of the nice things about the more popular AC routes.

Also, regarding the heat...
I hit a good bit of 100+F on my 2010 tour (it hit 115F in the Mojave) and found it extremely unpleasant and difficult.  The route I was on had many redeeming qualities like going through Sequoia and Yosemite that made it worthwhile, but after that trip I try pretty hard to avoid 100+F heat.

Offline solsrch

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2011, 06:14:25 pm »
Especially with morning starts I can see an advantage to going E to W but trying to take advantage of the perhaps minor difference in winds.  We're hoping glasses and helmet visors make riding into the rising sun reasonable.  While I'm sure it would be fun to see other riders, I have to admit that isn't a major positive or negative for me.  If I was planning on camping I think I'd be more attracted to the idea of finding like minded folks, but mostly I'll be looking for a shower and comfortable place to sleep if possible.

I ordered the ST maps a bit ago.  As soon as they get here I'll guesstimate our progress and then check the daily temps.  If I start finding multiple days with an average high over 100 we'll find another route - LAX to DC or something.  Until I get a chance to work that out I'll keep looking for input but I don't think I'll make a final decision.  I kind-of have my heart set on ST but don't want to be stupid (too old for that).  I can sure respect a July August transit; makes me feel a little silly for worrying about about a May June attempt.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2011, 06:39:56 pm »
Those dates would be good for the Pacific Coast route which can be done in a month.  If you want to ride fewer miles per day, just start farther south of end before hitting the Mexican border.  This is a famous route with lots of conveniently spaced campgrounds and services.  Just be sure to go north to south because of prevailing winds.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2011, 07:34:07 am »
I ordered the ST maps a bit ago.  As soon as they get here I'll guesstimate our progress and then check the daily temps.  If I start finding multiple days with an average high over 100 we'll find another route - LAX to DC or something. 
Don't only consider the average highs and lows.  Look at record highs and lows as well.  You may not get record highs or lows, but you almost certainly will deviate from the averages and the record numbers give some idea of what is possible.

BTW, I tend to think that it makes sense to either:
1. Pick a route and then go at the best time for that route.
2. Pick a time and pick a route that will be pleasant at that time.

Even when you do that you will get plenty of hotter and colder weather than you would prefer, so it really makes sense to try to minimize that.  On a coast to coast trip you will probably have more heat and cold than you want in the best of cases, why stack the deck against yourself.

Offline solsrch

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2011, 12:29:46 pm »
Great point, I'll track the record highs and lows too.  I'm probably a bit less enthusiastic about switching to the TA route since that basically increases my mileage by 40%.  Given that I can work to adjust the temps some by choosing time of day, but mileage is a fixed item, that kind of jump is clearly non-trivial.  I will go from 67 mile average days to daily centuries if I want to take even 2-3 days off.  Clearly a balancing act.

The LAX to DC option, even biking on to the Maryland shore would still be under 3600, so that is a lot more tempting.  Unfortunately, then I'm off the ACA routes for a good bit and I think the eastern end would involve a lot more climbing (but lower temps).

Offline staehpj1

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2011, 12:57:07 pm »
I'm probably a bit less enthusiastic about switching to the TA route since that basically increases my mileage by 40%.  Given that I can work to adjust the temps some by choosing time of day, but mileage is a fixed item, that kind of jump is clearly non-trivial.  I will go from 67 mile average days to daily centuries if I want to take even 2-3 days off.  Clearly a balancing act.
Yeah you have to do what works for you. That said...

I add the following as food for though.  it may not suit you, but is something to possibly consider.  I find way nicer to have an open ended schedule or at least more time available than I need.  Barring that I try to have an undetermined final destination and bail when I run out of time.  I find that firm schedules really suck the joy out of a trip.  Since your goal is going coast to coast that may not work for you.  On the other hand you could do it in two installments half one year and half the next.  A fair number of folks do that.  You might also consider crossing the country the other way and ride down the Pacific Coast that would fit your time schedule well.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Late start to ST
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2011, 04:07:00 pm »
We met a guy who started on the Southern Tier, took the Grand Canyon Connector up to the Western Express, and then met up with TransAm.  (I think he was then planning to go UGRR to NT, but that's off course / off topic here.)  Not sure what that would do to your mileage, but it might get you past the Sierras early and avoid the worst of the Gulf of Mexico sauna.  All AC routes, too, if you're looking for company.