Author Topic: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)  (Read 6419 times)

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Offline Colorado.Michael

Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« on: October 20, 2019, 09:39:45 pm »
I am in Denver and trying to catch up with a route that will help me stay ahead of weather and tour for a while. I was hoping to go west from Denver to the West Coast for the winter as I acclimate to touring for a bit. My plan of heading due west hasn't worked out from one problem to the other of getting out. Currently, a snowstorm wall to the west of 10" is now cutting me off from leaving.

I am new at solo touring, don't have a good gauge for the temperatures, terrain, etc... I have a fully loaded bike, with full gear to camp/bike touring, and have enough information and knowledge to know what I am doing now, except planning routes and weather. I have been trying to get out of here for 2 weeks now and getting stuck behind storms and a bit scared to try and ride across the Rockies now via bike because of some of the temperatures now.

I was hoping to head out to the West Coast and utilize the weather while acclimating and seeing which direction I want to go. I am thinking that I would like to be in the North West by spring to explore that region up there. I might end up just heading up to Oregon for the winter to try and find a place to stay until that point.

I don't want to be in the cold and trying to survive in it either. I have gear that will take me down to freezing, but I don't want to test the limits and/or stay in that kind of weather. I am in Denver right now and need to get out with plans to leave tomorrow morning or Tuesday.

I have been looking at this stuff:

https://www.cyclingabout.com/year-long-usa-bike-tour/
https://www.citylab.com/environment/2015/10/a-13235-mile-road-trip-for-70-degree-weather-every-day/411406/

and I am utilizing that information, haphazardly, last minute, with no real gauge on expectations, and trying to see if I can catch up with a point on those maps and still be safe with the weather and comfortable to ride/survive. Instead of going west, I was thinking I should just head directly south, and see if I can catch the 66 bike trail down by Albuquerque, and then head due west from that point.

I was looking at your maps and I think the Great Divide wouldn't be an option at this point in time because of elevations and the like, so I assume I can't ride that out of here from Denver with weather. So I would have to look for bike routes along the front range that doesn't go up into elevation and the rocky mountains at time of writing. Is that correct assumptions?

If I go due south towards Colorado Springs, Sante Fe, etc...via roads, and then catch the 66 bike route, will I be safe with weather? What can I expect along those routes until I can get to Arizona and warmer weather?

Is the Grand Canyon still safe to visit, go past, etc... this time of year with weather?

I was thinking that I can go that route, or at this point, it's a Amtrak to Sacramento, and then just ride out from there, which is what I am thinking of doing the most now. I can get an Amtrak for $200 with bike fee, but I have a lot of gear and a 29er bike, which when all broken down, I am concerned about getting all that stuff on a train. 29er bike, 4 20 liter panniers, frame bag, back pack, and me. I never traveled this way, and I know from reading enough it's a gamble with trains at times.

I have everything I need...just need ideas on the safest route out. Money is always tight and I don't have a lot of flexibility with other options. I also put up a post on Craiglist rideshares looking for ride to the other side of the storm or west coast for myself and bike, but nothing yet.

If it was warmer weather, I would just ride out and head due west from Denver, and then go south along the west side of the state to see more, but not with this weather now. The weather is the only thing that has me concerned and I waited too long to get out of here for the year via bike I think.

Any advice??

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2019, 10:03:28 pm »
You gave a lot to unpack.  I will only address some.  Unless you have a true 4-season tent, do not try to cross the Rockies in Colorado at this time unless you have money to hole up in a hotel when a storm hits. All the campgrounds will most likely be closed. Carry some extra food and water just in case.

I personally would head south to Route 66 and even warmer would be the Southern Tier.  Once you hit Pueblo, CO, you can ride along the interstate if no paved frontage roads exists. 

If you want to ride, for getting down south from Denver, consider taking local light rail to Denver Airport then heading southeast about a day, say to Limon via local roads, interstate, and frontage roads. Be sure to look at Google Maps to ensure the frontage roads don't end after 5 miles and they have a barbed wire fence between the frontage road and the interstate.  From Limon, head south toward Ordway (free camping and/or inside lodging I think), then head SW toward Walsenburg before reconnecting to the frontage road/I-25 combo.   Again, always keep extra food and water as there is very little between towns out there.

Or as you said, take Amtrak.  Many of the trains you do NOT need to break down the bike if they have roll-on service.  You just have to unload all your bags. Simple enough. But even if you do have to "break down", the Amtrak boxes are huge, so big all you typically have to do is turn your handlebars and remove your pedals. 

For the weather, check out WeatherSpark.com.  They have a lot of data for most places in the world.  Then check out websites for local weather, i.e. WeatherBug, WeatherUnderground, etc. for the next coming days. 

Hope it works out for you!  Tailwinds, John

Offline John Nelson

Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2019, 11:11:45 pm »
I agree with what's been said. Your two best options are:

(1) Take Amtrak. Trains have almost no baggage limitations and only require minimal bicycle preparation. If you have the money, and if you're not dead set on riding there, this is almost certainly your best option.

(2) Go south. It's not safe, but it's safer. I'd stay away from the Grand Canyon. It gets pretty damn cold. If you really want to see it, you could take the train up from Williams. You'll need to be careful to pick a good window to get past Flagstaff. You might consider going all the way down to the Southern Tier instead of Route 66.

Depending on how time sensitive you are, it is almost certain that a weather window will open up within the next few weeks that will allow you to ride through the Rockies.

Offline Colorado.Michael

Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2019, 12:23:49 am »
You gave a lot to unpack.  I will only address some.  Unless you have a true 4-season tent, do not try to cross the Rockies in Colorado at this time unless you have money to hole up in a hotel when a storm hits. All the campgrounds will most likely be closed. Carry some extra food and water just in case.

I personally would head south to Route 66 and even warmer would be the Southern Tier.  Once you hit Pueblo, CO, you can ride along the interstate if no paved frontage roads exists. 

OK. Enough said. Anyone signing their messages with "tailwinds" must ride A LOT and know.

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If you want to ride, for getting down south from Denver, consider taking local light rail to Denver Airport then heading southeast about a day, say to Limon via local roads, interstate, and frontage roads. Be sure to look at Google Maps to ensure the frontage roads don't end after 5 miles and they have a barbed wire fence between the frontage road and the interstate.  From Limon, head south toward Ordway (free camping and/or inside lodging I think), then head SW toward Walsenburg before reconnecting to the frontage road/I-25 combo.   Again, always keep extra food and water as there is very little between towns out there.

OK. This is the next most serious consideration now.

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Be sure to look at Google Maps to ensure the frontage roads don't end after 5 miles and they have a barbed wire fence between the frontage road and the interstate.
 

Best life lesson serendipity in the post though.


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Or as you said, take Amtrak.  Many of the trains you do NOT need to break down the bike if they have roll-on service.  You just have to unload all your bags. Simple enough. But even if you do have to "break down", the Amtrak boxes are huge, so big all you typically have to do is turn your handlebars and remove your pedals. 

This is what I am leaning towards, and then acclimate in California to touring in unfamiliar, but warm, enviornment. Work out kinks of being on road full time, then continue on from there. I am not worried about the day after kind of stuff, just tomorrow, and not really even tomorrow unless their is snow or danger involved.

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For the weather, check out WeatherSpark.com.  They have a lot of data for most places in the world.  Then check out websites for local weather, i.e. WeatherBug, WeatherUnderground, etc. for the next coming days.

I will look at these, and I do look at these sort of things, but even today I still struggle with really getting a feel for real expectations that way. I need to utilize those tools more. Things to do on the road during down time :) 

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Hope it works out for you!  Tailwinds, John

Me too John, thank you. This is something I have been working towards and preparing for a long time. Cold feet like crazy, even ice cold at times, and still I take the next step. I hope it's better than anything I ever imagined!

Offline Colorado.Michael

Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2019, 12:40:10 am »
I agree with what's been said. Your two best options are:

(1) Take Amtrak. Trains have almost no baggage limitations and only require minimal bicycle preparation. If you have the money, and if you're not dead set on riding there, this is almost certainly your best option.

Well, I am super cost conscious and budgeted. Wasn't expecting this. It's $200 at this point to get there. And, I am not "dead set" on it, but there was a lot of hope as a rider. At the same token, I am thinking of places I have driven through like Utah and 4 corners area, and I am thinking of places that are going to be beyond boring, slow going, things I have already seen, and a lot of that area is boring as heck in a car, never mind at 5-15 mph pushing 100lbs. So pride is tipping the scale and I should probably be thinking about it from other angles. Like seeing the ride out by train would be cool, I could dump all my heavier gear and dump weight now, and be in shorts and sandals the rest of the way in a 30 hour train ride, that i hear is magnificent if never done before, which I have never done before. I am 50 in good shape, but I want to preserve my body and knees for better sites too, and ones I haven't seen before.

The 66 bike route sounds fun though in other ways. It's just the cold I am struggling with now. I don't do well with cold or being cold. If I am prepared and mitigate it properly, then most times I don't care, but my fingers and toes do care a lot for some reason.

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(2) Go south. It's not safe, but it's safer. I'd stay away from the Grand Canyon. It gets pretty damn cold. If you really want to see it, you could take the train up from Williams. You'll need to be careful to pick a good window to get past Flagstaff. You might consider going all the way down to the Southern Tier instead of Route 66.
I will stay away from Grand Canyon and see it next year on my way back down and through at warmer time. I want to come back to Colorado in the summers and ride back country more. Isn't flagstaff on the way through 66? I don't want to go through there cold. Did that once and it wasn't fun, and that was in a vehicle. I have to sit with the map more on this. I haven't planned that far ahead, and haven't had time, because...

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Depending on how time sensitive you are, it is almost certain that a weather window will open up within the next few weeks that will allow you to ride through the Rockies.

I am time sensitive. Has to be next 48 hours for the most part. Tried getting out twice in last week and both times wall of snow or cold. That last cold front scared the crap out of me to be honest. That's when the train came up.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2019, 01:09:21 am »
I love Route 66, but you may want to go all the way down to the Southern Tier. It'll still be cold in spots, but not as bad.

Offline Colorado.Michael

Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2019, 01:21:26 am »
I love Route 66, but you may want to go all the way down to the Southern Tier. It'll still be cold in spots, but not as bad.

Knowing what you know, based off the little bit of context, what are you doing for sure?

I think since this is my first step off the bridge into the void on a leap of faith, that I should go out to California and work out the kinks of getting acclimated to it where I know camp grounds are open, the weather is still warm, and I can acclimate for the winter is what I am thinking.

Or I can just head up to Oregon from Sacramento, and then find a room to rent for the winter while I check out Oregon.

I am wanting to stay on the west coast more than I am wanting to get off it right now or take the southern tier through the south.

Offline Colorado.Michael

Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2019, 02:33:15 am »
Looking at an Amtrak map, I can also take the same train to Reno, get off their, and then take a slow ride the rest of the way.

Is Reno doable through to the coast with weather? I see Tahoe national Forrest...is that like Colorado Rockies out there? Snow? Doable?

If not, I can take the train for an extra $30 to Sacramento and then figure things out from there.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2019, 09:35:20 am »
Michael,

Don't assume the scenery is the same at 60mph as 10mph.  For instance, when crossing "boring" places at 10mph, you get to see and hear little stuff.  Tiny blooms on flowers, a rabbit (I hope) scurrying through the field, watching the clouds actually building up in prep for a storm, etc. Sure it can be boring at times, but for me, I get bored only when it stays the same for 10+ days, even if great scenery.

As far as costs go, just divide how many hotel nights vs. the cost of a train ticket.  I would go to Sacramento.  Actually, I would ride south to the Southern Tier but if I were taking a train, I would go to Sacramento as the pass in the cascades may be snowed in by the time you get there.

Don't forget about renting a car.  According to Kayak.com, you can rent a minivan (no bike disassembly at all) from Denver (city) to Alburqueque for only $65 (figure $125 with taxes and gas). Then you can ride south from there will not too much worry of snow for days on end.

Tailwinds, John

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2019, 09:37:40 am »
Plus if you take the ST, if you have a passport, check out Puerto Penasco in Mexico about a days ride south of the Arizona border.  Nice, warm, and cheap. Well, that is most all of Mexico anyway.

Tailwinds, John

Offline staehpj1

Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2019, 09:48:32 am »
Don't forget about renting a car.  According to Kayak.com, you can rent a minivan (no bike disassembly at all) from Denver (city) to Alburqueque for only $65 (figure $125 with taxes and gas). Then you can ride south from there will not too much worry of snow for days on end.
I second checking out the rental car option.  Definitely book online, never just walk up to the desk.  They almost always screw you with big one way fees or outright refuse to let a car go out one way if you book at the counter.  I never have that problem when booking online.  I also find that I have the best luck booking airport to airport for some reason.  I have found rental cars are often cheaper than amtrak and more flexible in many ways.

I also second riding the some of the ST and or riding into Mexico a bit.  I wish that I had crossed into Mexico when I was there.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2019, 09:52:03 am »
Is Reno doable through to the coast with weather? I see Tahoe national Forrest...is that like Colorado Rockies out there? Snow? Doable?

Reno to San Francisco at the beginning of winter??

You've heard of the Donner party, right?  The wagon train that got snowed in and ended up cannibalizing each other?  Check the maps and see where Donner Pass is from Reno.

Offline jamawani

Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2019, 10:25:30 am »
Late fall is not an easy time to cycle in the Intermountain West.
It is especially dangerous for anyone inexperienced and/or unfamiliar with the region.
The o.p. appears to be new to touring and unfamiliar with the West.
I would strong urge that he/she not ride in any areas north of I-40.
(And even there, Flagstaff gets plenty of snow & cold weather.)

Offline Colorado.Michael

Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2019, 12:06:25 pm »
So a couple of things come to mind...

OP is new tourer, but not new in the saddle or expectations, and also very familiar with the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, but not west of them until I get to the coast.  I don't know what to expect.

John - Yes, I understand the difference at 10 mph as I put 50+ miles in daily often in the Rocky Mountains. I know what to expect and what to see, and why I want to do it full time. At the same token, that path that you mentioned with all the birds and bee's worth seeing, also means going through Indian Country and having to see the utter segregation and poverty America is historically know for, and I have done that once before via car. And to be honest, that was 8 years ago, and I am still devastated down into my soul that I can't shake that we still live like this in 2019, and that humans live like this at all In America. Quite frankly, my soul can't handle it again, and I just don't want to see it. Along those same beautiful routes that you mentioned, is also riding along roads that are the most littered that I have ever seen also, which also leaves a feeling of hopelessness towards humans in general when I see it. So those are reasons 99.9999% of people will never openly talk about or say, but to be quite frank, my soul struggles deeply with seeing stuff like that as I just ride past into white privilege utopia struggling as a human as to what is happening all around me, and further, if you are honest or talk about it, then you will be branded, disrobed, and tar and feathered for being honest.

So "boring" was a politically correct way of not having to say what I really feel. Too late for that now. Then that starts bringing up issues of how people will help you or not because now they have a reason to hate or not like you. Then you get kicked off forums and websites for being honest, bla, bla, bla...

So I was trying to be nice about it without getting branded.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Help getting out of the Rockies (time sensitive)
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2019, 12:15:31 pm »
No worries.