Author Topic: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?  (Read 4702 times)

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Offline Antonio74

Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« on: January 22, 2016, 05:51:50 am »
Hello everybody, it is really a pleasure reading all the topics on this forum.
I am planning to bike the Transamerica from West to East direction, landing to Portland (it is the closest airport to Astoria OR, leaving from Europe). As I said I will start from Astoria, OR to arrive to New York City, Transamerica trail + Atlantic cost partially. I would like to do this ride in the late Spring, starting on the end of April-beginning of May, and I am on the fence because of the passes.  I would like to discuss this matter with you hoping they are not as much a problem in case they are closed.
Thanks in advance for your support. 

Offline staehpj1

Re: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2016, 08:26:01 am »
In recent years it has been rare for McKenzie pass to open before June, and early July isn't unusual.  It typically can be ridden a week or two before it opens for cars.  Santiam pass is an alternate to McKenzie and is plowed all year, but I'd hate to miss McKenzie.  Being an El Nino year I'd expect late openings.

The year I rode the TA (2007), we started June 11th and it was fine, but I figured we were on the early side.  If it were me I'd try to start later or to start in the East.

http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/REGION4/pages/mckenziehighwayclosure.aspx

Offline jamawani

Re: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2016, 08:38:30 am »
This is really a bad idea - not impossible, but not likely to be much fun, either.
I have 100,000 miles touring experience - most of it in the U.S. and Canadian Wests.
Back in 1990, I got stuck in the Cascades by a snowstorm in early June.

By your user name, I am guessing that you might be from Portugal, Spain, or Italy.
If so, you probably don't have much winter touring experience.
And it's not just the passes. You will face tough conditions all the way through the Rockies.

It is hard to predict any one year, but this is an El Nino year in the West.
Already, the snow levels in most Western mountains are higher than average.
(Less so in the Northwest, more so in the southwest)
Here is a link to snow levels which is updated regularly:
http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/snotelanom/basinswe.html

May snowstorms in the North Cascades and Northern Rockies are common.
You can wait them out in the valleys - where it might be 5C, rainy, and windy.
Most campgrounds and other National Forest / National Park facilities do not open until late May.

McKenzie Pass in Oregon may or may not be open that early - you can always use Santiam Pass.
But what that means is that you will be cycling in cold, wet, windy weather.
Craig Pass in Yellowstone does not open until May 21 - few services until June.

<<<>>>

If you plan on leaving in late April, I would STRONGLY urge you to go east-to-west.
Even then, you will experience some cool, wet weather in the eastern mountains.
But it won't be anything like May in the West.

Cycling the West in late June will be far, far more enjoyable.

<<<>>>

Late May in the Sierras of California in an average snow year in nice weather:
(The reason I don't have many pix of heavy snow in the spring is because I avoid touring in those conditions.)



Offline Antonio74

Re: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2016, 09:23:21 am »
HI Jamawani,
first thanks for taking the time to answer, that is still an issue going on in my in my mind, going east to west or west to east?!?!?. I am really my last decision during these days and most of it will depend on the passes in the west, and from what I will read on this forum.
Until now I have biked on long trips only from the north to the south of Europe, with really hot temperature during the last summers. I would like to avoid that kind of temperature in the States.
Thanks for your suggestions.

Offline Patco

Re: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2016, 11:42:59 am »
McKenzie Pass is currently expected to be open to traffic the third Monday in June. As noted earlier, it it generally open to bikes a week or so before that date.

I see no problem with traveling west to east at that time of year if you are flexible with the route, for example, taking Santiam Pass instead of McKenzie (Santiam is always open) and alternating your route through the Rockies if the Trans Am passes are not yet bike friendly. Also, be open to riding in weather that may not be ideal, but it also will not be a deal killer if you have the appropriate clothing. I started one of my longer rides in early May riding west to east and had a range of weather, from rain, hail, light snow (no accumulation) to sunny and comfortable. You just need to perhaps carry more clothing than you find optimal.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2016, 11:52:46 am »
McKenzie Pass is currently expected to be open to traffic the third Monday in June.
I am curious where that date came from.  It would seem to be hard to predict accurately with the rest of the Winter and Spring still ahead of us.  I'd agree that is a fairly likely opening date, but wouldn't count on it being at all accurate though.

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2016, 02:01:44 pm »
Jama nailed it. I was on part of the TransAm east from Missoula in 2014. Flew out there mid-June. A few days before I arrived there was a storm at the first pass that left 4" of wet snow on the ground at higher elevations. The third day of the trip I got caught in a storm crossing an 8,000 summit. Got rained, sleeted and snowed on. Fortunately, nothing stuck to the ground.

How long are planning for the trip? Even if you start in the west in early May you could still wind up riding in hot and, more importantly, humid conditions in the Midwest and east. I live in Philly, right near the Atlantic Coast Route. July and August can be miserable. Even June can bring temps in the mid-90s (F), with high humidity.

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2016, 02:03:35 pm »
Craig Pass in Yellowstone does not open until May 21....
We know someone who can get him a special permit. ;)

Offline Patco

Re: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2016, 03:42:39 pm »
To reply to staehpj1 - from the Oregon Department of Transportation website regarding McKenzie Pass.

Offline Antonio74

Re: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2016, 02:03:04 am »
@indyfabz, thanks for your tips about the weather on the Atlantic Coast Route. I am planning to finish the trip in 70-80 days. But at this point i am reconsidering the direction and I am planning take East to West.

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2016, 08:21:40 am »
E-W you might even be able to get away with starting in mid-April or so. On the other hand, it could be on the wet side. I have off from work on Good Friday and have taken many three day tours from home in Philadelphia during Easter weekend. Doesn't look like that's going to happen this year though because Easter is in March.

Also keep in mind that Memorial Day weekend (May 27th to May 30th this year) is the unofficial start of summer. You may need reservations depending on where you are, and many private campgrounds require multi-day stays during that weekend.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2016, 10:20:50 am »
To reply to staehpj1 - from the Oregon Department of Transportation website regarding McKenzie Pass.
Thanks.  I looked and found it there since you mentioned it.  I will add that when they said that the road was scheduled to open June 20th, they also said "weather permitting".  To me that makes it sound like it won't be any earlier, but might be later depending on the amount of snow in late winter and spring.

Of course it typically is open to bicycles a bit ahead of the official opening.

Offline Norsman

Re: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2016, 06:52:42 pm »
A good indicator of the approximate best times to start a TransAm ride is the touring calendar of the Adventure Cycling Association; the most experienced bike touring company doing the route. For 2016 their earliest Westward tour begins in Virginia on May 2.  The earliest Eastward tour begins in Oregon on May 21. Those times seem quite sensible to me.

Offline Antonio74

Re: Transamerica: West to East, are the passes open in May?
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2016, 06:21:19 am »
Hello Norsman, thanks a lot for the suggestion  :)