Author Topic: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?  (Read 11771 times)

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Offline Philipp_

Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« on: February 01, 2018, 12:24:24 pm »
Hello,
I'm from Germany and I'm thinking about cycling from the westcoast to Colorado in August and September this year. I've never been to the USA before and I'm planning to cycle with tent and sleeping bag.
I could either take a plane to San Francisco and cycle the Western Express Route through Nevada and Utah OR take a plane to Portland and cycle the Transamerica Trail through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. I've got nearly three months, so both would work fine. Which one would be preferable? I've read that most people choose the Transamerica Trail. Are the gradients lower and the streets better on the Transamerica Trail? Is cycling through Nevada in August recommendable or is it just to hot?

Thank you, Philipp
« Last Edit: February 01, 2018, 12:26:31 pm by Philipp_ »

Offline jamawani

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2018, 12:45:21 pm »
If it is August and September, then the TransAm would be much better.
Temperatures in Nevada and Utah are quite high in late summer,
Plus there has been very little moisture in the Great Basin this season.
So it will be pretty dusty and with a much higher risk of fires.

The Pacific Northwest has had pretty good rain/snow this winter.
Even thought there is always a fire risk in late summer, it should not be high.

Remember, snow comes early in the Rockies.
Early September - possibility of light snow. By Sept 21, could be moderate.
Temperatures will, definitely, drop below freezing at high elevations by Sept.
But, the sunny, brilliant blue mountain skies of Sept. are to die for.

Offline Philipp_

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2018, 03:53:00 pm »
If it is August and September, then the TransAm would be much better.

TransAm it is then!

The wiki-entry sounds like the TransAm is mostly tarmac, is this true? I'm was wondering if road tires are okay or if I need rougher tires, something like this:

https://www.schwalbe.com/en/tour-reader/marathon-mondial.html
or
https://www.continental-reifen.de/fahrrad/reifen/city-trekking/top-contact2

Thank you, Philipp

Offline jamawani

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2018, 04:13:49 pm »
Marathon is fine - you do want some tread.
Plus some campgrounds might be a mile or two off the highway.

My experience with Contis has been terrible -  they don't hold up.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2018, 05:12:28 pm »
The scenery is considerably different. The TransAm includes some stunning scenery along the coast (assuming you start in Astoria), along the Lochsa River Valley in Idaho, and of course Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Many Europeans, however, highly value that rugged American West that is found in Utah along the Western Express. The TransAmerica is longer but probably easier per mile.

The TA is all paved, unless you go off route to find a campground.

Offline Philipp_

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2018, 02:12:33 am »
Hello John,
I probably would start in the end of Juli. Which route would you prefer considering the climate? I've got a 28"-trekking-bike and the tires are 1.6" wide, so I can cycle offroad if the track is not too rough.

Thank you!
« Last Edit: February 02, 2018, 02:19:53 am by Philipp_ »

Offline jamawani

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2018, 05:24:53 am »
Phillipp -

If you have almost three months, you have time for both.
The TransAm from Astoria to Pueblo is approx. 2050 miles.
The Western Express from Pueblo to San Fran is approx. 1600 miles.
If so, I would connect thru Buena Vista & Gunnison - saving 100+ miles.
So the total would be about 3500 miles.

You can shorten the TransAm section by 250 miles taking the Lewis & Clark to Missoula.
Or you can take the Northern Tier from Anacortes to Sandpoint to connect to Missoula - shorter by 250 miles.
The Northern Tier is a spectacular - kinda tough - ride over the North Cascades - perfect in late summer.
(Fly into Seattle for the Northern Tier - easier from Europe than Portland - then ferry to the San Juan Islands.)
Either way drops the total to about 3250 miles.

In 10 weeks 3500 miles is only 350 miles per week - 3250 is only 325 miles per week.
If you note the Western trip linked - I was riding 400 miles per week and doing major hikes.

https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1mr&doc_id=1168&v=sM

I've ridden major western tours a dozen or more times - including western sections of x-USA trips.
If you were to combine the Trans Am and Western Express you would see differing sections of the West.
And you would have nearly ideal times to see both - mid summer Northwest, late summer Rockies, early fall Utah/Nevada.

Remember, too - you do not have to restrict yourself only to ACA routes.
Actually, I'd ride the Northern Tier to Glacier then Hiway 89 south to Yellowstone - skipping Missoula.
Going to the Sun Road in Glacier is one of the finest bike rides in the world.

Just sayin'.

Pix -
Going to the Sun Road; Glacier NP, Montana
Stone Cabin Valley, Nevada
« Last Edit: February 02, 2018, 05:26:27 am by jamawani »

Offline Philipp_

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2018, 09:48:01 am »
Hello Neil,
it all sounds amazing. I plan to cycle from Colorado further to Albuquerque where I'd like to end the tour around October, 10th, to visit a distant relative of mine and the Balloonfiesta.

Maybe the best thing would be to cycle the first 1-2 weeks on the Pacific Coast in Oregon and/or Washington, then to take the TransAm/Lewis&Clark/NorthernTier into the Rockies to Missoula, then the TransAm through Monatana and Wyoming to Pueblo, Colorado and then from Pueblo to Albuquerque.

Would you recommend the TransAm, the Lewis & Clark or the Northern Tier to get to Missoula? I'll be traveling with tent and sleeping bag so I try to avoid very steep gradients and large stretchs without campsites or shops.

Thank you!
« Last Edit: February 02, 2018, 10:35:34 am by Philipp_ »

Offline jamawani

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2018, 11:19:42 am »
Philipp -

The above comment if from me -  John or Juan or Jamawani -  not Neil.
Neil operates the website Crazyguyonabike. The link is my journal.

In order for me or anyone to offer effective advice, some basic info is necessary.

"I'll be traveling with tent and sleeping bag so I try to avoid very steep gradients and large stretchs without campsites or shops."

This suggests that you don't have very much experience touring.
Certainly, you would not want to ride the Western Express -
because it has many mountain ranges to cross and very long distances (150 km) without services - even water.

To tour the West in late summer/autumn is not the best choice for a first tour.
You will have significant climbs on any route and - for a German - long empty stretches all over the West.
I would guess every route has distances of at least 50-60 km without services on a regular basis.
That is what the West is all about. That is why you have the magnificent views that go on forever.

How old are you?
How much touring experience do you have?
Are you trying to do this super cheap, moderately, with money to spare?
Is your camping equipment adequate for conditions? Minus 5C, maybe minus 10C?
Are you knowledgeable about proper food handling and storage in bear country?

Yes, nearly anyone can do a trip such as this with proper preparation -
However, in our virtual age when everything seems to be at your fingertips -
the reality of the West - when you are cycling alone - can be sobering.



Offline Philipp_

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2018, 02:41:21 pm »
Hello John,
I'll be 41 when I arrive in the US. I'd like to do the tour and visit a relative of mine in Albuquerque. I've got from around Juli, 20th to October, 15th.
At home, I cycle about 50 to 100 miles per week. On tour, I normally cycle about 300 miles per week because I like visiting parks and historic or cultural sites. Cities not so much. I've done five two-week-bicycle-trips and last year I've done a four-week-tour. I usually stay on the designated cycling routes. I may be spoiled from cycling in Europe, where the next shop and the next campsite is never far away. I understand the US is different. I still would - given the choice - cycle a route where there is a bit more infrastructure on the way. I've read that this may be the case on the Trans America Trail.
I like to stay in campsites where possible but I also like camping in hidden places or staying in hostels. Motels or hotels are also okay occasionally. I usually get my food from convenience stores but I sometimes eat in restaurants.

It's a down-sleepingbag. I may have to let it refill for the tour. The tent is a MSR Hubba Hubba  (it's really called that).
https://www.globetrotter.de/shop/msr-hubba-hubba-nx-233507/
The cycle is this one:
http://www.gudereit.de/2017/fahrraeder/trekkingline/trekkingline-detail/item/fahrrad/show/lc-90-evo.html
But 10 years older with 3x9 gears. Propperly maintained.

I've got no experience with bears. But I know that it's best to store food outside the tent, maybe on a tree.

Would it be better to start at the eastcoast and finish in Albuquerque? No bears, no mountains.

Offline jamawani

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2018, 03:49:38 pm »
Philipp -

No, it would be far better to tour the West.
And at 41, it should be a piece of cake for you.
I was 49 in the link I sent you - 60 when I did my last cross-USA.

I think you will find that you do more distance per day in the West -
simply because distances are so great. Kinda like a Tibetan prayer wheel.
Once you get going on a remote road - you just keep going.

On the linked tour, I hiked across the Grand Canyon, hiked deep into a number of wildernesses.
So, I enjoy hiking as part of m extended bike tour, also. Plus, I dislike big cities when touring.

<<<>>>

I noticed that there is one non-stop flight from Frankfurt to Seattle. Dpt - 12:25. Arr - 14:25.
Only 2 hours! Except that you gain 9 hours. So It will feel like midnight when you arrive.
The key is to stay up as long as you can - maybe until dinnertime.

I think a tour from the Washington coast to Glacier National Park in Montana then down the Rockies -
would be very possible - esp. given all the time you have. Heading south with the autumn season.
And I think you will have no problem with climbing - if I can do it, you can.
Just take your time and eat a cookie for every mile you climb. (That's a lot of cookies.)

In Colorado I would stay as far west as possible - far from Denver metro.
The mountains near Denver are its back yard - very developed, very busy.
That includes the Breckinridge section of the TransAm.
Far better quality of riding further west.

Also, you don't want to go as far as Pueblo - then it's tough getting to Albuquerque.
Rather, stay in western Colorado then head east toward Taos - another amazing place.
You will have lots of ups and downs in northern New Mexico - plus much more traffic.

<<<>>>

Are you interested in Native American cultures?
I did my doctoral minor field in Native American history.
There are some excellent opportunities throughout the West to learn and see a wide variety of peoples.

On the far northwest tip of Washington is Neah Bay the homeland of the Makah people.
The Makah Museum is amazing - with a near-complete Ozette village from pre-1700s.
The village had been buried under a mudslide - then uncovered by a another slide.

http://makahmuseum.com/

Just east of Glacier N.P. is the Museum of the Plains Indians on the Blackfeet Reservation.
It is a relatively small museum with few visitors, but the collection is superb.
Fine buffalo robes, headdresses, photos and interpretation.

https://www.doi.gov/iacb/museum-plains-indian

The Puebloan peoples of the Southwest are another totally different culture.
If you can go off road some, the Chacoan ruins are unbelievable - rivaling Machu Pichu.
(You could also do that with your cousin from Abq, via auto.)
Other options would be either Mesa Verde N.P. or the Azrec Ruins N.M

Juan

PS - If you are ONLY riding from Washington state to Albuquerque -
then you will have plenty of time to deviate from a direct route and to explore.
Take the empty roads where you can hear the river on your right.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2018, 04:02:38 pm »
I know that it's best to store food outside the tent, maybe on a tree.
It's more than just where you store the food. It's also where you handle it, cook it and eat it. Keep all those activities far away from your tent. And it's not just food. It's virtually anything that smells.

Offline Ty0604

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2018, 05:30:25 pm »

I've got no experience with bears. But I know that it's best to store food outside the tent, maybe on a tree.

Would it be better to start at the eastcoast and finish in Albuquerque? No bears, no mountains.

If you travel through Yellowstone or a few other national parks then bear spray is recommended. Even if you start in the east you’ll still have mountains to cross and the possibility of bears. They exist in most of the USA. It’s also handy for dogs. 

I found the roads out east much steeper and narrower than the west. Many were built long before anyone had a clue about gradients.
Instagram: tyjames0604

WI—>WA—>CO

Offline Philipp_

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2018, 02:45:43 pm »
Hello Juan,
I've compiled two possible tours: one starting in Eugene and one starting in Seattle. They are both the same from Missoula on. I'd probably start around July, 24th and arrive at Albuquerque around October, 9th for the Ballon Fiesta. That leaves 11 weeks of cycling.
The one starting in Seattle uses the TransAmerica and would be 3127 miles in total, the one starting in Eugene uses the Northern Tier and would be 3058 miles. I can choose form several detours if I cycle faster then expected.

Which one would you prefer? What would you change? I try to avoid large stretches without shops.

Leg NoRoutemilesACA-TrackPossible DetourComment
1Seattle, Sequim, Townsend, Joyce, Neah Bay223Washington Parks - -
2Neah Bay, Forks, Kalaloch, Amanda Park, Humptulips, Astoria, Seaside249Washington Parks (mostly), Pacific Coast - -
3Seaside, Tillamook, Otis, Florence, Brummit Creek (Giant Conifers), Eugene364Pacific Coast Salem, Bend -
4Eugene, Sisters, Baker City341 TransAmerica - -
5Baker City, Kooskia, Missoula419 TransAmerica - -
Total1596 - -

Leg NoRoutemilesACA-TrackPossible DetourComment
1Eugene, Brummit Creek (Giant Conifers), Florence, Otis, Tillamook, Seaside370 Pacific Coast- -
2Seaside, Astoria, Longview, Centralia, Elma, Sequim, Anacortes324 Pacific Coast Neah Bay -
3Anacortes, Sedro Woolley, Twisp, Sandpoint458 Northern Tier North Cascades NP -
4Sandpoint, Clark Fork, Libby, Eureka, Olney, Whitefish214 Northern TierGlacier NP, Museum of the Plains Indians -
5Whitefish, Bigfork, Swan Lake, Condon, Seely Lake, Missoula161 Great Parks North -
Total1527 --


Leg NoRoutemilesACA-TrackPossible DetourComment
6Missoula -> West Yellowstone330 TransAmerica - -
7West Yellowstone, Yellowstone NP, Rawlins351 TransAmerica Gand Teton NP-
8Rawlins, Saratoga, Riverside, Walden118 TransAmerica --
9Walden, Rand, Grandby, Kremmling, Dillion, Breckenridge, Fairplay, Poncha Springs 216Great Parks South Rocky Mountain NPRoute for staying on ACA-Tracks
10Poncha Springs, Sargents, Gunnison, Montrose, Ridgway, Rico, Dolores250 Great Parks South, mostly Black Canyon NP-
11Dolores, Mesa Verde NP, Aztec Ruins, Nageezi, Chacoan Ruins, Albuquerque266- Four Corners, Taos, Los Alamos not sure if this route avoids desets
Total1531 --

Thanks, Philipp

Offline jamawani

Re: Westcoast to Colorado: Western Express or Transamerica Trail?
« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2018, 09:10:56 pm »
No doubt about it - -
Start in Seattle and head SOUTH down the coast.
The prevailing winds in the summer are northwest -
So heading south you will have a tailwind, heading north you will fight a headwind.

On the Washington Coast you might consider a loop out to Westport via Highway 105.
The ride along Willapa Bay from North cove to Raymond is sweet.
From Sisters, make sure to ride via Smith Rocks.
In Yellowstone ride early and, perhaps, late, too to avoid traffic.
Strongly suggest larger loop - Madison, Norris, Canyon, Lake, West Thumb.
(You can out and back to Old Faithful from Madison - O.F. is a zoo)
Definitely! Plan on riding into Grand Teton NP all the way to Moose and back.
The roads in Wyoming are much better than Colorado - even though Colo. has more $$.
I would suggest Silverthorne - Leadville - Buena VIsta - Gunnison - via Cottonwood Pass
From Chaco you can head south to Thoreau and follow Historic Route 66 into ABQ.

<<<>>>

The new moon is Oct. 9 - so you will have very dark skies at Chaco.
These are some of the darkest skies remaining in the world.
The stars will be spectacular. Give yourself 2 nights here.

Gute reise!

Pic - Tetons in September