Author Topic: Western Express West to East, August?  (Read 3434 times)

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Offline Buddy_Hall

Western Express West to East, August?
« on: March 03, 2016, 02:25:16 pm »
I'm contemplating riding the Western Express this year, starting as late as reasonably practical.  The challenge is to avoid the worst of the summer heat in NV and UT, while still finishing in CO before the early snows hit the mountain passes. Hoping to hear from any who have ridden the route later in the season; what's the latest start date you think is reasonable? I'm experienced (Transam last year, see www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/BuddyHall ), I expect to take 4 or 5 weeks to cover the distance, and I will stay inside (motels, hostels) as much as possible.  I  like touring after the "normal" summer season; less traffic and crowds. The downside is that there are less fellow cyclists as well. Thanks in advance for your reply,

Buddy Hall

Offline zzzz

Re: Western Express West to East, August?
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2016, 05:06:25 pm »
Hi Buddy:

You would be better off getting an answer from a local than from me who has a sample size of 1 but nobody else has stepped up.

I did the western express as part of a cross-country trip 4 years back. I finished it in 19 days and there was just a dusting of snow at the top of Monarch Pass, nothing on the road. I left on August 29 and if I was to do that route again I would be fine leaving at the same time. You are going to be riding at a more relaxed pace than I did so maybe you should leave a week earlier.

In the last 4 years I have taken 4 long trips in the month of September. After the one above I rode from Jasper down to southern Colorado where I went over Hoosier and Loveland Pass near the end of September on the Great Parks routes and they are each over 11,500'. Next I did the Sierra Cascades route. Then last year I did a self designed route from Spokane to Flagstaff. All of these trips had multiple high passes and I haven't gotten snowed on once.

I think it's also important to remember that even if it does snow, you can probably park the bike for a day at a lower elevation and the snow on the road will be gone the next day.

Pete

Offline Buddy_Hall

Re: Western Express West to East, August?
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2016, 07:37:19 pm »
Thanks Pete, that was very helpful.  I'm also contemplating the Sierra Cascades route for a future ride. Last Year's Transam was my first tour longer than a week, and as you know, this stuff gets in your blood! Of the 2 routes (Western Express or Sierra Cascades), which did you enjoy most and why?  Thanks,

Buddy

Offline zzzz

Re: Western Express West to East, August?
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2016, 08:39:10 pm »
Which one I enjoyed most is kind of a tough question to answer. They were both great routes that I thoroughly enjoyed but my head was in a very different place for the two of them.

When I started the trip that included the WE it was not only my first tour, a week before I left I had never even had a rack on a bike. I was also on a very aggressive schedule and more than a little concerned that I had bitten off more than I could chew. Everything was completely new to me and it felt like sensory overload for the entire trip. Two years later when I left on the SC route, I was a little concerned because of the shear amount of climbing but other than that I was comfortable that I knew what to expect and that I could handle whatever came my way.

I thought crossing Nevada was very, very, very cool. There is something about a place being so uninhabited and uninhabitable that makes you feel like you're on another planet. I think Southern Utah has more eye candy per square mile than anyplace on the planet. The route skirts Zion and there's a ten mile detour to go see Bryce. I skipped them both on my WE trip but on this years trip I passed thru that area again and spent a day at Bryce and 3 days ay Zion. If you have the time, and particularly if you haven't seen them before, I strongly recommend you make those detours. After Bryce it stays beautiful until Hanksville then from there to Blanding is the worst stretch of the trip. The Colorado section is nice but not as special as Utah. I enjoyed the climb up Monarch Pass and the town of Westcliffe and the drop into Pueblo was very nice.

The SC has a lot of iconic stuff all along the way. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens & Hood, Makenzie Pass (it's off-route but easy to incorporate), Crater Lake, Lassen, Yosemite, and Giant Sequoia (the big trees almost made me cry). There are some amazing roads on the ride and some really crappy roads on it as well. Sometimes the bad roads are major highways, sometimes they are 2 lane roads w a lot of heavy truck traffic, and occasionally they were little dinky roads that didn't look like they had been paved since the 50's.

All that said, I can absolutely reccomend them both without reservation.

Let me give you a couple of tips for your WE trip:

- Make sure you at least stop and grab a meal at Middlegate. It's a piece of americana you won't find anywhere else

- Take the Carroll Summit alternate outside of Middlegate. 59 miles and I was passed by 3 cars

- When you get to Baker, get your hotel room and drop off your panniers and take the ride into Great Basin NP

Pete

Offline Bclayden

Re: Western Express West to East, August?
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2016, 12:05:50 pm »
I too have ridden the WE during summer and agree with what Zzzzzz says.  I did it unsupported and solo and stayed in motels.  People freak out about Nevada in August and yes, it can get hot but if you get rolling by sunrise you will be finished for the day by mid afternoon and hopefully before the thunderstorms get cranked up.  August is monsoon season in CA/NV desert area and the afternoon weather can get nasty.

WE sports a few long days with no where to re supply or get water so be prepared to support yourself with drink the entire day. Middlegate-Austin, Austin-Eureka, eureka-Ely and Ely-Baker are spectacular days but desolate.   Also, limited motels in Austin, NV so book early as they do fill up (with highway construction workers mostly). You will enjoy.



Of all the cycling adventures I have done the one I will most likely duplicate one day is the Nevada crossing of WE route. Nothing else quite like it. 

Offline Buddy_Hall

Re: Western Express West to East, August?
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2016, 12:34:35 pm »
Great advice Pete, much appreciated.  I think the WE is my tour for this year, and maybe the SC can be next year's tour.  If I have the time, I'll definitely detour into the parks as you suggested. Best of luck,

Buddy Hall

Offline Buddy_Hall

Re: Western Express West to East, August?
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2016, 12:54:26 pm »
Road Warrior; very good advice, I do appreciate it.  I had some long hot days with sparse services in WY, MT, ID, and OR on the Transam last year, so I understand what you mean by carrying extra fluids and food.  My solution for the expected tough days was to get up really early (like 3:30am!) and be rolling an hour or more before sunrise.  I have good lights with a dynohub, so rolling along in the early morning darkness was actually sort of fun. 

I too am hoping to do the WE using motels every night.  If I don't need to be prepared to camp, I can save some weight and volume - no need for tent, ground cloth, sleeping bag and liner, sleeping pad, pillow, stove, fuel, eating utensils, etc. - and the time savings by not having to set up and take down camp are significant as well.  I don't mind camping - it's enjoyable in it's own way - but the trip would be much different otherwise.  On the Transam, I camped some (it's hard to do the Transam without camping - really hard in my opinion), which meant I carried the extra weight all the time even though I only used it sometimes.   But even in the hostels I stayed at you needed a sleeping bag and sometimes the sleeping pad as well, and sometimes the cheap small-town hotels didn't have a microwave so I used my stove to prepare instant oatmeal breakfast - so I needed some of the camping gear even when staying indoors. 

Traveling without the camping gear sounds good to me.  Thanks again,

Buddy Hall