Author Topic: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016  (Read 5998 times)

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Offline jeffreyv

Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« on: October 14, 2015, 10:56:54 am »
Hi everyone,

First I would like to say thanks for all the info the community has already given me through this forum and the awesome maps & routes that the ACA provides. Those actually sparked the trip that I'm now planning for apr-may-june next year (finally got approval from the boss, yay!). Date is set for these 3 months and I have to finish in San Francisco (girlfriend has relatives there that we will be visiting the end of june and we're flying back together). Other than that, all options are open.

Some general information - 31 years old avid road cyclist (2000 mi p/yr) from Amsterdam, first time solo tour on a touring bike, plan on doing 50/60 mi p/day, want to camp most of the time with a hot shower / bed once every 5 days or so, like to spend some time of the bike every now and then sightseeing, rafting, hiking etc

My question: I'm stuck on two routes (see attachments). Option 1 would be the well known Washington DC - San Francisco route via Trans Am and Western Express. Around 3700 miles in total. Option 2 would be a round trip San Francisco - San Francisco using parts of the Pacific Coast Route, Sierra Cascades, Route 66, Grand Canyon Connector, Utah Cliffs Loop and Western Express. Around 3000 miles in total I think. 

After deciding on the route I can proceed with actually buying the bike (building it up myself so have to look at gearing although I think both options will not differ much gearing wise) and booking flights etc. So help me out? What do you think would be the nicer option considering that I probably won't do a trip like this soon after? (I'm very aware that this in the end is a personal preference and anything is possible, but I'm still very curious to your opinions since there is so much knowledge and experience in this community and I'm only a newbie)

Here are some of my Pro's & Con's (correct me if I completely made the wrong assumption or you have a different view / experience)

Option 1
+ very well documented route incl many services, not needing to transfer between ACA routes
+ I like the idea of crossing the entire continent, a true accomplishment - feels complete with a very clear beginning and end
+ Blue Ridge Parkway I think it's really nice from what I've seen so far
+ More options to camp (although Blue Ridge Parkway is known for filled up campsites and no stealth camping possibilities)
- Weatherwise I think it's relatively early to start in april, not looking forward to very hilly, chilly, rainy days in VA, KY and MO
- While I would never be bored on a bike the long stretch through VA, KY, MO and KS seems like a bit more of the same after a while. Are these states really different to bike through?

Option 2
+ Weatherwise this works a bit better in april, but maybe too hot in may @ Las Vegas, Grand Canyon etc?
+ Options for spending some time in a few big cities like LA, San Diego, Las Vegas and Sacramento, also a bit more of the famous national parks like Grand Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, Sequoia etc
+ Easier flights - just one return trip instead of Amsterdam - Washington / San Francisco - Amsterdam
+ Easy option to cut the trip short when running late - I could just skip the last southbound part through Sierra Cascades and instead bolt right to San Francisco using the Western Express.
- Certain stretches have much less services than on the Trans Am, esp in Nevada, maybe a bit too stressful for a first timer?



Thanks in advance!!

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2015, 12:20:02 pm »
I can't speak to the western loop, except to note you may run into passes still closed the first part of your trip there.  Depends on whether they get no, normal, or heavy snow fall this winter.

On the other option, I don't think you'll be too bored with same old, same old scenery (except for a  few hundred miles in western Kansas).  For one thing, you'll be hitting in early to middle spring; southern Virginia will be far advanced compared to northern Kentucky, for instance.  If you can do a few hikes into the woods, there's a good chance you'll get to see a wide variety of wildflowers blooming.  Also, the states aren't that similar; eastern Virginia to southwest Virginia is like two or three different zones for topography, agriculture, and forests.  Eastern Kentucky lacks the long ridges of Virginia, and it flattens out (and kind of inverts, in that you descend to creeks and then climb out vs. climbing ridges and then descending) as you go west.  Birds, dogs, shrubs, and roadkill change all along the way.

The TransAm doesn't stay on the Blue Ridge Parkway for long; if you can load up on groceries, you can stay on the BRP south of Roanoke and then take the New River Trail north to Radford.  There won't be any significant competition for camp sites, but you'll want to check and see what the opening dates for the campgrounds on the BRP will be.

Offline preston uk

Re: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2015, 05:55:10 am »
I've had to change my dates and have decided (my final decision) to ride the transam from washington to Pueblo , then take the western express with a diversion onto the grand canyon connector to take in the north rim and then zion and bryce. I'll be leaving washington in about the 3rd week of August , it'll be steamy but I plan to be up and away at dawn and get the miles in before it gets too hot. I've checked the weather patterns for the last stage of the ride through the Sierra Nevada  and it seems to be ok into late October.
I bought the book by Steph Kirz on the transam which is useful but obviously my daily mileage will not be the same. At the moment I'm checking campsite prices , most seem to be about $10 for hiker/biker sites  but  some  are  as high as $26 (I won't be using those!)
Like you I like the sense of achievement a coast to coast ride gives and I hope that  will increase my motivation on those inevitably bleak , windy , boring days.
My problem with the tour of the western natural wonders was the big stretches of desert , pine forests and the 'seen one seen 'em all' attitude that can creep in. In Norway I became too blase about the natural wonders.
As for daily mileage I'll probably average 50. I rode Cape ST Vincent in Portugal to N. Cape in Norway last year (4,500 mls) in 10 weeks and my average was about 62mls  a day. It was too much  .  If you haven't done a big tour before don't forget that head winds , rest days , illness can easily pull your average down  and  then  there is shopping , washing  . . .. In hilly areas I average about 8mph , on the flat about 12mph . In Norway I rode into head winds for two weeks.
Have a look at 3 wheeled adventure on youtube.

best wishes from Preston  Lancashire.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2015, 07:21:32 am »
I have no experience with the Western Express, but for the regular Trans America I'd go the other direction for that time frame.  That would put you in the Ozarks and Appalachians in the Fall color time.

From what I have read it sounds like late August and September would be a good time for the WE and October would be a great time for the eastern part of the TA, but wouldn't your starting time, proposed pace, and proposed direction of travel have you finishing in November?  Some years I'd think that could put you in snowy weather in the Rockies.

Offline jeffreyv

Re: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2015, 10:32:43 am »
Hi guys,

Thanks for all the great feedback. That's why this is one of my favorite forums on bicycle travel!

@ Pat Lamb, I didn't really think about (camp)sites possibly being closed in april. Good point, I'll look into that before I leave. Good to have some reassurance that the eastern states are diverse on theirselves, don't know too much about em. Definitly would like to stay on the BRP longer than just the parts between the start and Vesuvius. To keep going till about Roanoke and the reconnecting with the Trans Am sounds nice.

@ Preston UK, you're right about the big stretches of desert I think, that's one of my hestitations as well. I've read blogs by others that kinda liked biking in Kansas for instance because every ghost town is something new and exciting where the scenery in some of the more famous parks was, even though it sounds odd, kinda boring after a while. Those parks are maybe better suited for 2-3 day trips, not biking through them for weeks at a time. Valid point about average mileage - I have no idea what to expect. That's why I'm also a bit hesitant for option 1, 3700 miles in 90 days inclusing rest days, flights etc might be a bit on the rushy side. Other people commented that they did the whole trip in 2 months easy. A lot depends on the weather I guess. Another tip that I came across a few times - instead of cutting south directly from Washington DC to Richmond and reconnecting with the Trans Am you can head west on the W&OD trail - connect with the Skyline Drive that crosses the Shenandoah national park from north to south and connects with the Trans Am at Rockfish Gap (and goes right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway). Might give the first few days out of the city and reconnecting with the Trans Am an easy going flow cause it's dedicated cycling paths all the way. Just a thought! I've made a screenshot here: http://prntscr.com/8rlaou .

@ Staehpj1 You're right about the West to East thing when we talk about the TransAm starting in Oregon. Starting out west on the Western Express would put you in the nevada desert end of august. That doesn't sound too good right? I think late august for Virginia start sounds nice. I've seen many blogs about the Trans Am starting in april/may and pretty much all pictures you see are of rain, clouds and wind. :(


More feedback anyone?


Edit for typo
« Last Edit: October 15, 2015, 10:55:09 am by jeffreyv »

Offline staehpj1

Re: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2015, 01:36:41 pm »
@ Staehpj1 You're right about the West to East thing when we talk about the TransAm starting in Oregon. Starting out west on the Western Express would put you in the nevada desert end of august. That doesn't sound too good right? I think late august for Virginia start sounds nice. I've seen many blogs about the Trans Am starting in april/may and pretty much all pictures you see are of rain, clouds and wind. :(

I am not a fan of hot weather, but it looks like by the time you would get to Fallon starting in the west it will be September or very close to it.  It will already have cooled down some and be cooling down as you go.  Start out with https://weatherspark.com/averages/31034/Fallon-Nevada-United-States and pick some other points along the way and check them out on weatherspark.  It looks to me as if the worst of the heat is around August 1st and it starts to cool down a little pretty soon after.

Yes there are likely to be highs in the mid 80s of even a bit higher, but probably not the upper 90s or 100s like there would be if you hit Nevada in the end of July or the beginning of August.

Offline DanE

Re: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2015, 11:22:27 am »
Blue Ridge Parkway is very nice, however April is too early to do a tour there although day rides can be quite nice when the weather is good. Services such as camping do not open on the BRP until the middle of May with the exact dates published early in the year, so check early 2016 on park web page. Temperatures at night certainly at the higher elevations will still be below freezing. Daytime temperatures can be cool as well and throw in the high probability of rain and fog in the mountains it can make for a miserable time doing descents.

Summer months are better on the BJP as the weather is warmer and getting caught in the rain isn't as dangerous. Longer daylight hours are a plus as well to ride some of the longer remote stretches. I have found that campground spaces are usually easy to obtain with the exception of Mount Pisgah on the weekends. More of a problem can be that not all the campgrounds have been open the last several seasons and it can make for some long distances between NPS campgrounds.

Offline preston uk

Re: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2015, 01:14:07 pm »
I'm a bit stuck for family reasons on a departure date from Washington in August , I hope to be off by the 10th. The advice about the potential problems with snow in the Sierra Nevada is helpful but there's not much I can do but hope ! If I start from the west in August I'd be running into some really unpleasant temperatures in the desert areas. I'm also hoping (time again) to fit in a quick trip down to Yosemite and then fly out of Sacramento which looks like an accessible airport , especially as I'll have to get a boxed bike there and there id a campsite not far away.
Jefreyv : I'm sure you'll do the 3,700 in 90 days ! I don't know how old you are but I'm 61. You'll do it no bother. I build up my touring fitness over 3 months and in the final month do two 75 mile rides (with hills) a week.  If you are not retired then you can do shorter rides 'arse up , head down' in high gears and leg work in the gym.
I like the look of your route out of Washington. What is the full name of the W&OD trail ? Is there a web sight for it ?


Offline DanE

Re: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2015, 02:26:12 pm »

Offline Ty0604

Re: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2015, 03:50:13 pm »
I've seen many blogs about the Trans Am starting in april/may and pretty much all pictures you see are of rain, clouds and wind. :(


More feedback anyone?

I think this is the case in most years but 6 months out the weather maps are calling for a dry year. I am biking Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine leaving early April 2016. If it were going into 2017 I'd wait (weather maps are calling for a wet winter/spring that year). With that said, I hate the heat and anything above 80 is uncomfortable for me.
Instagram: tyjames0604

WI—>WA—>CO

Offline jeffreyv

Re: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2015, 09:31:37 am »
Great advice DanE about the Blue Ridge Parkway. I now know that an early april departure from washington would work but that the BRP definitely requires some planning ahead and careful consideration of the weather. Also noted that most campsites won't be open. I don't mind stealth camping tho'.

@ PacificNorthWestRider92 thanks for the info on the weather forecast. I don't know how reliable they are but it's good to know that there's a high chance we won't encounter too much rain. Myself, I don't mind higher temperatures too much. I've been road cycling in the south of france in 100+ degree days several and I've found that usually i could cope with it the best out of my cycling group. Of course biketouring is different so I have to wait and see.

@ prestonuk I sure hope your trip will turn out nicely, I think so. Sounds like you're planning ahead so you'll be fine. The W&OD trail looks like a good way to get out of Washington DC, have heard good things about it.

Offline Ty0604

Re: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2015, 06:10:01 pm »
@ PacificNorthWestRider92 thanks for the info on the weather forecast. I don't know how reliable they are but it's good to know that there's a high chance we won't encounter too much rain. Myself, I don't mind higher temperatures too much. I've been road cycling in the south of france in 100+ degree days several and I've found that usually i could cope with it the best out of my cycling group. Of course biketouring is different so I have to wait and see.

My philosophy has always been that when it's cold you can layer up as much as you can but when it's hot you can only take off so many clothes, legally  ::) Glad you don't mind the heat. I get sick in the heat the same way people do in the colder months.
Instagram: tyjames0604

WI—>WA—>CO

Offline jeffreyv

Re: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2015, 11:00:29 am »
Absolutely true. Too hot and there's nothing you can do about it - plus you have to carry extra water. Nothing worse than rain and wind when cycling though imo.

Anyone else got some more thoughts on the route options?

Offline Ty0604

Re: Route suggestions for apr-may-june 2016
« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2015, 12:23:55 pm »
Absolutely true. Too hot and there's nothing you can do about it - plus you have to carry extra water. Nothing worse than rain and wind when cycling though imo.

Anyone else got some more thoughts on the route options?

I agree with the rain and wind. Don't expect to hit too much of it while I am away! Luckily...
Instagram: tyjames0604

WI—>WA—>CO