Author Topic: Western Express + TransAm in early May?  (Read 3005 times)

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Offline chreisele

Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« on: November 07, 2019, 05:26:02 am »
Hey guys,

i'm 23 and I'm planning to do a bike tour next year, starting in San Francisco with the Western Express, joining the TransAm in Pueblo and ending in New York City. For the trip I want to start at the beginning of May. My question now is, if that is too early especially for the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains because there could still be snow and if yes, when would be the earliest possibility to start in your opinion? (Or is that completely dependent on the next Winter?) Or does it make more sense to start at the east coast in May and finishing in San Francisco? But then i would be riding in Nevada's desert in the middle of the summer, so I'm pretty undecided at this point and it would be great if you could share your experiences with this route!

Thanks!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2019, 06:35:32 am »
Sounds like a great time to start in the east to me.  I have no experience with the Western Express, but Adventure Cycling's times listed in their logistics sections are generally well thought out and they say "This route can be ridden from mid-May through October, depending on weather."  Based on my experience with other areas in the west that sounds about right, but someone with more experience with the WE will pipe up to confirm or correct me.

Is mid may do-able for you?

Offline chreisele

Re: Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2019, 09:30:13 am »
Thanks for the answer! I wanted to start as early as possible in order to have all the time i need for the tour before i need to go back to Germany. But maybe i'll just stay a couple of days in Los Angeles in early May and then travel to San Francisco by train in order to start the tour in mid-May. It's probably the better and safer alternative in terms of catching the better weather in the mountains :D

Offline staehpj1

Re: Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2019, 09:56:53 am »
Just a thought...  If you are interested, you could conceivably ride a bit of the coast first to delay your arrival in the mountains.  The Pacific Coast Route is nice (scenic, hiker biker camping, and so on) especially Oregon and northern California.  Riding southbound on the PCH is preferred for a number of reasons (NW wind, shoulder width, cars more accustomed to seeing bikes on that side of the road, scenic pull outs more accessible, etc.)

Offline jamawani

Re: Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2019, 10:17:45 am »
I have ridden across Nevada many times - the most recent this past June.
An early May start eastbound is iffy, at best.

There are three places that may present challenges.
1. The California Sierras
2. The basins and ranges of Nevada & Utah
3. The Colorado Rockies

It all depends on two things as you mention -
How cold and snowy the winter of 2019-20 is and how late it lasts.

Back in the late 1990s, I had snow Memorial Day weekend - in Honey Lake Valley - 4000 ft.
This past summer we had cold, wind, & rain all across Nevada & Utah - in early June.
It was 35F in Milford - lowest point on the Western Express in western Utah.

It is unlikely that the stretch in the Sierras will have melted out in early May -
So you will be riding thru walls of snow - Caltrans keeps Hwy 88 open all year.
Plus, none of the campgrounds will be open, yet.

In Nevada, bad weather will make the ride more challenging.
Also, when it is stormy you usually have east winds - i.e. headwinds.
The Western Express in Utah has some significant high elevations which will be snowed-in.

Colorado will be iffy, too, in mid to late May.
In the Rockies, we always have May snows and sometimes June snows, as well.
And there will be all the snow from winter that is waiting to melt out.
Snowy winter? Dry winter?? Who knows?

<<<>>>

If you are riding X-USA in the summer in any ways it is best to do east-to-west.
You mention that it will be hot be the time you reach Nevada.
If you leave in late May from Calif., it will be brutal in the East by mid-summer.

If you stay on your schedule riding east-to-west,
you will escape most of the summer heat in the East,
you will hit the Rockies in wildflower season - still cool with snow patches -
and Utah/Nevada will be fine, esp. if you start early in the morning.
(Nice weather in the Great Basin tends to have westerly winds.)

I'm not a big fan of the ACA WX route thru Sacramento and along I-80.
If you are interested, I can offer options through the Delta country.
The back roads of the Delta are sweet - windy, but sweet.
Any chance you want to walk-in camp on the cliffs overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge?

Pix -

Snow on the Nevada border, Memorial Day weekend
Snow banks at Sonora Pass, Memorial Day weekend
Stormy weather in central Nevada, mid-June

« Last Edit: November 07, 2019, 10:19:17 am by jamawani »

Offline staehpj1

Re: Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2019, 11:15:04 am »
If you are riding X-USA in the summer in any ways it is best to do east-to-west.
I'd argue that many folks find starting in the west to work very well for X-USA tours particularly with later starts and there are plenty of good reasons to do so.  I agree that for early starts on summer X-USA starting in the east is the way to go weatherwise.  I also agree that starting later in the west yes you will likely get clobbered with heat and humidity in the east, but if you want to start later in the season or want to finish in the east it may well be the preferred way to go in any specific case.

I went W-E on my two X-USA tours and my reasons were generally personal and may not apply to anyone else.  Some of them wouldn't apply to me at a different time in my life.  Some of them wouldn't apply to most other people.  For me they might be things like a preference to have air travel out of the way up front and to ride toward home or to save the steeper climbs in the Appalachians for later in the tour when I am more road hardened.  Others would probably have entirely different reasons.  A mandated time window is probably the most common one though and as jamawani has said, and conventional wisdom supports, that favors a start in the east in this case all other things being equal.

Offline jamawani

Re: Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2019, 11:30:35 am »
That was some kind of typo.
I've ridden X-USA a dozen times -
And I've probably done more west-to-east than east-to-west.
Including my first one in 1987 and my most recent one in 2016.

I saw that and wondered, what was I thinking to write those words>
"Any ways" doesn't make sense. "Many ways"?

So - - let me say.
In many ways, it is better to ride east-to-west with a May departure date.
(Although an early May departure west-to-east is best for Route 66.)
Early June - either direction for Trans Am / Western Express.
Late June - west-to-east. But it will be HOT in Kansas & Missouri.

Offline Nyimbo

Re: Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2019, 02:30:16 pm »
I will add my personal stories on the subject of crossing the Sierra Mountains in May since I live and ride in them regularly.  I agree completely that you may get snow in May.  Five or six years back, I took my wife up to Squaw Valley for a Memorial Day weekend (end of May). The second day it was chilly but we put on our jackets to ride from Squaw Valley over to Alpine Meadows.  We stopped at a cafe and when we came out after lunch the temperature was dropping and we jumped on the bikes to head back.  It started sleeting on the way back to our lodge.  My wife was not happy.  She wasn't mad at the weather - she was mad at the person who took her riding in the weather. It snowed the rest of the weekend. 

On another occasion this past fall I went up to Tahoe for the day, it was supposed to be clear according to the weather apps with tempetures in the 60's very similiar to today's weather up in the higher elevation - it was a lovely day for a ride but by the time I finished and I was to drive home a weather front moved in and it started snowing and they required chains on the cars to get back on interstate 80. 

But... I have gone up to the same areas on (m)any more occasions when the weather was beautiful in May and have had wonderful days of riding.  I'm sure you can ride over highway 88 with good weather and without walls of snow if you have the liberty of time to wait out a late season storm -- if it comes. The picture above of the snow on the side of highway 88 only happens on occasional winters when there is heavy snowfall, but it does happen from time to time and as Captain Obvious said there is no way to know what next May will be like.

Cheers
« Last Edit: November 07, 2019, 02:32:43 pm by Nyimbo »

Offline staehpj1

Re: Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2019, 05:36:38 pm »
That was some kind of typo.
I've ridden X-USA a dozen times -
And I've probably done more west-to-east than east-to-west.
Including my first one in 1987 and my most recent one in 2016.

I saw that and wondered, what was I thinking to write those words>
"Any ways" doesn't make sense. "Many ways"?
Ah, okay.  I had reread it several times thinking I was missing something.  It didn't sound like something you would say and I wondered if I was reading it wrong.  I probably should have guess it was a typo.

Offline chreisele

Re: Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2019, 05:30:35 am »
All right, thank you for all the helpful answers! So i think it's best for me to start in the east in early May and riding westwards to go weatherwise, because then i'm not that dependent on the weather. To be honest, i didn't really think about the heat in the East in mid-summer, but it's a good point and therefore it makes even more sense to start in the East. I just heard that the wind tends to come from the west, so i would have headwind when i go westwards but apparently the wind is not a big deal i guess.



I'm not a big fan of the ACA WX route thru Sacramento and along I-80.
If you are interested, I can offer options through the Delta country.
The back roads of the Delta are sweet - windy, but sweet.
Any chance you want to walk-in camp on the cliffs overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge?



Yeah why not, thanks for the offer!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2019, 05:53:46 am »
I just heard that the wind tends to come from the west, so i would have headwind when i go westwards but apparently the wind is not a big deal i guess.
You won't find much agreement on that.

I have found that the prevailing surface winds in summer for the Great Plains tend to be out of the NW.  For the Trans America I think there is a bit of an advantage for W-E but wouldn't make it the deciding factor if other factors didn't line up.  Since you are using the Western Express that slight advantage would maybe be neutralized, but personally it really isn't a huge factor.  People make a big deal about the prevailing westerlies, but they are the jet stream at altitude.  The surface winds can be and generally are completely different.  Windy.com is a good tool to visualize surface winds if you want to fool around with this a bit, but I wouldn't sweat it much for a summer trip across the US.

An online acquaintance took daily readings on his TA at the same time every day and found it to be a wash in his case.  Zero advantage for either direction.

In general I found the people traveling opposite directions on the same route at the same time thought they on average experienced headwinds :)
« Last Edit: November 09, 2019, 06:51:32 am by staehpj1 »

Offline chreisele

Re: Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2019, 05:40:04 am »
All right, that's helpful, thank you!

Offline jamawani

Re: Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« Reply #12 on: November 11, 2019, 12:28:08 am »
Chr -

Before covering a route thru the Sacramento Delta I might ask - -

How much time, exactly, do you have for your trip? 60 days only or more like 90?
How much of it do you want to spend on the road touring? Vs. time in NYC, SFO & LA?
Or hiking in national parks, staying an extra day in a nice town with Warmshowers hosts?
Is it fair for me to guess that you want to do it on a low budget, yes?

Are you an experienced cyclist already - toured with gear?
How about camping? Camping in the remote West is way different than camping on the Isar.

Do you want to include places like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite?
The Western Express takes you close (within 100 miles) but does not go thru.
Also, if you plan to start/end in NYC, do you really want to head all the way down to Virginia?
The east coast route is very busy with limited camping options.

Because if you would like to visit Yosemite, then it changes any route thru the Delta.

I've biked X-USA many times on multiple routes.
Be glad to share more info.
Some people want to hit as many national parks as possible.
Some people have to visit Graceland or get a pic with a fake Elvis in Vegas.
It all depends.

If you would rather - - send me an email directly at jamawani(at)gmail(dot)com

Jama

Pic - Empty Road, Stone Cabin Valley, Nevada

Offline staehpj1

Re: Western Express + TransAm in early May?
« Reply #13 on: November 11, 2019, 07:04:15 am »
Jamawani makes a very good point about nailing down preferences first.  From reading his posts over the years it sounds like he is the master of finding the emptiest remote county roads.  If that is what you want his route may be perfect.  He is certainly a wealth of knowledge.  Otoh, I often find that even the Adventure Cycling routes go off the main drag for what I see as no apparent reason more often than I like.  I actually do the opposite and detour to stay more on the main drag some times.  Obviously this is a matter of personal preference, but I think most folks will find plenty of solitude either way.

Personally I kind of like highways with the US designations and in the American west all the roads are often pretty empty much of the way no matter how you go.  I have not ridden the WE but on or paralleling the ST and elsewhere on US highways I sometimes saw only 2 or 3 cars all day in the west.  BTW, I didn't even mind riding some Interstate here and there.  With a big wide shoulder, not much traffic, and well graded climbs it could actually be nice for a while.

FWIW I highly recommend visiting Yosemite.  Riding into the Yosemite Valley is one experience on the bike that I will never forget.  I almost never take a day off when touring and felt it worth taking a full week there in the Yosemite Valley.  If you decide to do that look into the logistics ahead of time so you know what to expect as it is a busy place.  Even if you just ride through it is an amazing experience.