Author Topic: Start date suggestions for Pacific Coast (north to south)  (Read 5877 times)

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Offline scarcellagv

Start date suggestions for Pacific Coast (north to south)
« on: February 19, 2012, 12:08:43 pm »
I am planning on riding the ACA Pacific Coast route later this summer.  From what I've read it is best to ride north to south due to prevailing winds in the summer.  Do these winds usually last through September? (wasn't sure if the ACA comment about winds was for meteorlogical summer through Labor Day or actual summer through Sept. 21st)

I've also read that tourist traffic on the route is higher in the summer (no real surprise).  I'm wondering if it would be a good idea to start earlier than the Labor Day weekend to get to California coast just after Labor Day?  Or would it be better just to wait until after Labor Day to start the whole trip?

Any comments on start dates from those who have ridden this route will be appreciated (and if you have links to any blogs or journals those would be appreciated too).


Offline John Nelson

Re: Start date suggestions for Pacific Coast (north to south)
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2012, 01:10:39 pm »
I did a quick look at the wind rose data for Arcata, California, in section 3 of the five-section route, so roughly in the middle of the route. It does look like the favorable winds continue through September. The most favorable winds appear to be in May, June and July, then slightly abate in intensity in August (but still favorable in direction) and then become a bit more favorable again in September. They begin to get a bit more easterly in October and become decidedly unfavorable in November and stay that way until April.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Start date suggestions for Pacific Coast (north to south)
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2012, 12:26:51 am »
The good winds usually start in the spring and last all summer, but you never know.  We rode it June 21 to July 10 in 2005 and it was a very unusual year.  The consistent north winds did not get going until July 15 that year. Very strange and, although disappointing, was still a great ride.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Start date suggestions for Pacific Coast (north to south)
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2012, 10:54:37 pm »
Generally yes, the winds are still coming from the north that time of year. I started my Coast tour (Tillamook, OR south to San Luis Obispo) I started in mid-September and don't remember headwinds. If it's stormy, however, the winds tend to come out of the south. September is generally not a stormy month, October is when the weather generally starts to turn.

Note how often I've said "generally". ;-)

Offline esassaman

Re: Start date suggestions for Pacific Coast (north to south)
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2012, 11:55:49 am »
Definitely lots of tail winds in September when I rode Tillimook OR to San Francisco in 2011. Don't ride northbound! I felt so sorry for everyone we met going in that direction mashing into constant headwinds!

Regarding traffic, it's actually pretty awful. I am not an experienced tour cyclist, only having done a few months in central Europe and this one coastal ride, but I gotta tell you, the constant traffic was a real downer and most of the towns along the way were just not all that interesting. Once you've seen a few dozen, you've seen them all. Same thing goes for the coastal views, too. Great the first week or so, after that... same 'ol thing, if you can even see the ocean through the fog. Again, comparing to touring nirvana in Denmark/Germany/Netherlands so perhaps the comparision is not fair - it's a completely different kind of tour. The only reason I continued this ride was the awesome people I ended up riding with every day, that made it all totally worthwhile, and the desire to not wuss out :)

The camping was great, too, a never ending string of pretty good state/county/etc. parks, but while I was riding many were in the process of closing in CA so be sure to check the respective websites re: park closures, the last thing you want to do is finish up a long hilly ride to... a closed park and be forced to continue on. I had great mobile connectivity so checking the websites for closures any time I wanted was easy.

If I was by myself I would have quit and gone somewhere else, the traffic was just no fun at all - it's not like you are meandering on lightly traveled back roads at all. I got on the road right after labor day and during a week or so afterwards the traffic was heavy but died down after that, so I'm not complaining about the holiday traffic, I expected that. Really if you can avoid labor day and even the week before and after when it's ramping up and slowing down... much better. It's just sucked with constant RVs, cars, and logging trucks zooming past you. I had very few safety fears with the RVs and tourists - they always gave us a wide berth. It seemed like it was the locals in their pickup trucks and the logging trucks that would blow by with inches to spare. I finally got less nervous about the logging trucks as time went by - they are pros and they know exactly how far away from you they are, but still - scary stuff when they pass so close, not to mention the wind blast. I also got less freaked out about taking the entire road when it was, in my expert judgement in road sharing, just too narrow for cars to pass us safely to stop idiot drivers from trying to squeeze past - you need to protect yourself and get right out there when it's not safe - people are insane so you're in effect protecting them from a head-on collision when they try to blow past. I saw one too many close call head-ons before I started taking control of the situation and only letting cars pass me when *I* judged it was safe insead of the other way around. Scary incidents decreased dramatically after that :) Ditto for the few narrow bridges you will be forced to cross in the road - I recommend earplugs or loud music to drown out the drivers screaming "get off the road!" like you have no right to be there blocking traffic on a super narrow lane (as if they expected you to swim across the river with your bike or fly across like superman or something, go figure).

In the end all the stress from the safety threats, close calls, careless driving, exhaust pollution and hassle of the traffic just wore me down after a while. Yah I'm probably spoiled by riding less traveled roads/paths, but there you go, one person's viewpoint.

Riding in San Francisco was pure joy. By then the hills in the city were nothing to me and it's such an uber awesome city (including the surrounding areas) to cycle in. We rode into town directly to Tour de Fat which blew my mind for sheer 2-wheel loving awesomeness. And the northbound train goes through SF so that was a convenient ending point for me :) The drivers are in total harmony with bikes on the road and knew exactly what to do. Never ever felt at risk or that I was in any driver's way in SF. If I was single I think I'd be seriously considering moving there, really, it's heaven :)

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Start date suggestions for Pacific Coast (north to south)
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2012, 12:43:08 am »
Sorry you found the coast route to be such a downer.  I liked all the small towns--I generally like small towns wherever I go and find them very interesting. In fact, I've lived in a small town of abour 950 people for 37 years.  I also did not find the traffic to be that bad, even though I rode it in mid-summer.  I am used to traffic because I do a lot of urban riding in the Seattle area.  I feel quite comfortable in traffic, but would be totally freaked out on a route like the Pacific Coast if I did not have a mirror.  I do like to be able to control the road and that can really only be done if you know what's going on in front and behind.  In addition, I think the everchanging coastal views are great.  I would consider riding the Pacific Coast again if there weren't so many other choices that I've yet to do. 

May the wind be at your back!