Author Topic: too many mountains/start date? canada to mexico.. zig zag..."best of the west"  (Read 4056 times)

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Offline naterskine

Thanks in advance for any help from anyone. I am new to this forum and distance cycling.
I was thinking of starting north of Bellingham, WA at Canadian border and taking the Northern Tier going west to the Great Parks North, see Glacier NP, double back, then southward in Montana to hook up with Transamerica for Yellowstone etc. to CO to detour to Great Parks South and back, then west again on the Western Express to Utah, then south on the Grand Canyon connector to the Southern Tier, then east to El Paso/Mexico.
This would be my first tour, and my goal doing this is to see a lot of the Nat. Parks. The main concern is this...what date range could I start? Also, I have had 5 right knee surgeries!...ok, and I'm 52...but in good shape. Going solo.  Good endurance guy, don't mind pain (marathons and such) but wondering if anyone has done this route and their thoughts in terms of difficulty or something less obvious I might be missing in terms of the route. I guess is there some glaring reason (assuming I have trained properly) I should not choose any of these segments, logistics-wise?

Offline Pat Lamb

I've done part of your route in reverse -- Tetons/Yellowstone to Glacier to Anacortes.  It should be doable.  Beware of the (in)famous "5 passes in 4 days" near the beginning of the NT (FWIW, Rainy and Washington Passes are so close they shouldn't count as two).  Those "two" can make for a long day if you're motelling, although there's campgrounds between Concrete and Mazama. 

The worst grade you'll hit on this section of your route is about 8% for 0.8 miles, but there's lots of 6% to make up for the shortness of that climb.  :)  Make sure you have low gears for your knee's sake; I'd shoot for 20 gear inches or lower.  Road-group gearing at 34-28 or even 30-34 lows won't cut it.

You'll probably be limited on start time by the opening of the Washington state route 20 (Northern Cascades) passes.  Google for Washington DOT pass closure to get more information.  IIRC, their average opening date is mid-May, but sometimes it's closed into June.  They closed that road a week before it was planned to close this year, but you'll have to wait until next March to see the late season snowfall before you make any guesses on opening date.

Offline John Nelson

If you want to ride Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier (and, in my opinion you'd be crazy not to), then I wouldn't start from Bellingham until around mid-June. There's a lot of variability in when the road opens from year to year, but it's almost always open by late June. Waiting until mid-June to start also makes it almost certain that the Washington passes will also be open.

Offline naterskine

VERY helpful information guys. I really appreciate it. I wonder if I started in august, would I be ok 2 months into it, with October weather, in the lower part of the terms of passes or such? Planning on being slow and steady, so maybe 50 a day, which puts my trip at 2 1/2 months, not counting rest/fun days off. More like 3 months with those days added in.

Offline Pat Lamb

After Labor Day, the national parks start rolling up the sidewalks so the bears and elk can come through.  Yellowstone, for instance, starts closing campgrounds a week after Labor Day, and (IIRC) some of the lodges close down by the end of September.  OTOH, everybody in the northwest seems to take off every weekend in July and August, so lodging then can be a challenge.

All of which is to day, I don't know what the southern passes will be like in October.