Author Topic: Route options for a mid-September start date  (Read 671 times)

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Offline darby80

Route options for a mid-September start date
« on: January 16, 2020, 04:20:42 am »
I currently live in Switzerland, but I am returning to the US in September after 12 years living overseas. In hopes of getting reacquainted with my country, I'd like to ride coast to coast. My start date is roughly September 15. Riding the Southern Tier seems like the most plausible given that I'm starting in September, however, the Southern Tier doesn't excite me as much as some of the other options. I'm from the Midwest, so I would love to ride through there if possible. Here are the options I'm considering:

1. Southern Tier West to East or East to West
2. Southern Tier modified to Transamerica- Southern Tier W-E to Hillsboro, NM, then find a route headed northeast (suggestions please) to meet up in central Kansas with the Transamerica route, then carry on east from there
3. Western Express W-E to Pueblo, CO, then Transamerica from Pueblo to Yorktown
4. Transamerica E-W to Pueblo, CO, then Western Express from Pueblo to SF
5. Transamerica W-E
6. Am I a complete idiot for thinking any of these options are doable at that time of year?

My fitness level will allow up to an average of 75 miles per day. I will have lightweight camping gear with me. I have a timeframe of mid-September to mid-December. Your advice is appreciated, thank you!
« Last Edit: January 16, 2020, 08:13:56 am by darby80 »

Offline John Nettles

Re: Route options for a mid-September start date
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2020, 09:03:31 am »
Darby, first welcome to the ACA Forums and welcome back to the USA.

A lot depends on what you feel is comfortable climate-wise when riding.  Checkout to get good historical data for most places in the world.

Even if you enjoy AND are prepared for the the cold, one issue you will have is the closure of services after Labor Day (September 7 this year).  Also, with snow in the northern latitudes, camping gets really limited.

Based on that, I would eliminate #5 for sure.  However, if you have time and money (to stay in hotels and camping is closed or covered in snow), you could do any of them but would probably have to wait out some days due to snow.  Due to the cold temps, I personally would not do #2 and #4.

That leaves a few choices.  Route 1 is the obvious easy choice.  Route #3 is "doable" but budget some days for indoor accommodations and/or snow days.  Also, crossing Colorado west of Pueblo in October would suck in my opinion; wet, cold, snowy, slushy roads, yuk.

You don't say specifically where in the midwest you want to ride. I personally might consider starting somewhere on the east coast (depending on where you want to visit in the midwest), then ride in a general WSW direction.  For instance, you could take the Chicago to NYC route (reversed of course) to Pittsburgh, then the unofficial to say near St. Louis.  Then Bike Route 66 to as far west as you feel you can handle temps wise before dipping down to the Southern Tier.

This gives you fall temps most of the way and when it gets cool around New Mexico, you could head south to warmer climates. Note you still may have to get a few days of indoor accommodations in the west, but the hotels are frequently similar in cost to the private campgrounds.

If you prefer to ride what I call my "Southern Comfort Route" that goes from El Reno, OK (on Route 66) to Charleston, SC, message me privately for the route. It is mainly on lower traffic roads and I would recommend a GPS or an accurately calibrated bike computer as a lot of roads in MS, AL, and GA are not signed and the route has plenty of turns.

Whatever you choose, I wish you a wonderful time!  Tailwinds, John
« Last Edit: January 16, 2020, 09:05:08 am by John Nettles »

Offline jamawani

Re: Route options for a mid-September start date
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2020, 09:32:35 am »
I strongly urge you NOT to do the Southern Tier.
My first X-USA tour started on Sept 1 and was from Oregon to North Carolina.
Via a good portion of the Midwest. Way back in 1987.
I've done 6 more since then - plus lots more in the West and Canada.

Autumn weather is some of the finest for touring -
But you hours of daylight shrink rapidly after Sept. 21.
Of course, the further south you are - the longer the days.
And you might get a first quick snow in October.

It took me 10 weeks back in '87 - with two longish lay-overs.
I think 8 weeks  - thru mid November  - might easily do it.
By early November touring is much tougher and facilities are limited.
Any chance you could start Sept 1? Better window, esp. the West.

Also, you list specific ACA routes.
How willing might you be to go off route?
Sure, there's climate change, but you can't count on it.
There is a point in the fall when touring conditions flip.

Ideally, I'd start Sept 15 in San Francisco -
Ride either the Western Express or via Yosemite into Nevada.
In Cedar City, Utah choose between the WX
Or ride via the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley
Basically on the Colo/NM border to Walsenburg or Taos.
(An important southerly detour option)

You'd be hitting the Great Plains in late October.
Which can be iffy by then - but also quite nice.
I've had snow, high winds, and ideal weather in October.
As you get into November it gets tricky.

Strictly ACA - Western Express to TransAm - 3800 miles.
75 miles per day x 52 days (6 days, 8 weeks + 4) = 3900.
So it is doable with 1 day off per week for weather, curiousity, laziness.

A better route would be more southerly -
Possibly in the Rockies, more so for the Appalachians.
A diagonal from mid-America to the Carolinas/Georgia would be ideal.

Here is a website with excellent climate averages - temp/precip.
Take a look at the October and November maps.
The greens are nice touring max. temps - the blues getting chilly.
Big difference between October and November.
Also, October is dryer in the East. Nov = cold & wet.
Just sayin'.

Best of luck and enjoy! - - J

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Route options for a mid-September start date
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2020, 09:59:51 am »
Option #3 (Western Express to TransAm) is possible, depending on weather across the Utah and Colorado Rockies.  If you can maintain 75 miles/day, you could finish the TransAm in Yorktown by Thanksgiving, with perhaps a week off hunkered down for bad weather.  Advantages include three major geographic regions (western mountains, all the Kansas you can handle, eastern mountains which are quite different from the west.  You might hit some fall colors in the Ozarks and Appalachians, depending on weather, of course.

One alternative you don't mention is starting east to west on the TransAm, then pick up Route 66 to go southwest and avoid the worst of the mountains as it starts getting colder.  You might miss most of Kansas, but you'll have plenty of Oklahoma and Texas to make up for it.  If winter weather gets bad, you can head down to the Southern Tier either in New Mexico (either from Santa Rosa through Alamgordo or from Albuquerque), or take the Grand Canyon connector to Wickenburg.  You'll get some warm weather in the east, but you'll also have plenty of daylight to ride the winding Appalachian roads.

Offline darby80

Re: Route options for a mid-September start date
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2020, 10:39:00 am »
First off, thank you so much for the quick feedback! All three of you have given me much to think about.

@JohnNettles: I like the Eastern Express to Route 66 to Southern Tier suggestion. I'll look at that in more detail. Also, I may end up asking you for more details about your "Southern Comfort Route."

@jamawani: Please pardon my naivety, but why the strong discouragement of riding the Southern Tier? To answer your questions, my start date is dependent on when I fly back to the US, which will most likely be during the first week of September. I am open to non-ACA routes, but would prefer riding an established route to ease up some of the planning. Your successful tour in 87 is encouraging! I'll also take a look at your southerly suggested route.

@Pat Lamb: Your suggestion lines up well with one of the other suggestions above. Whether it's the standard Transam or the Eastern Express to Route 66, sounds like east to west direction is worth looking into.

Offline TCS

Re: Route options for a mid-September start date
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2020, 09:22:12 pm »
Adventure Cycling's Underground Railroad goes across the country (the Midwest!) coast-to-coast, just not the coasts you're thinking about.
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline zzzz

Re: Route options for a mid-September start date
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2020, 09:55:58 pm »
Hi Darby:

I did your option #3 8 years ago now and left SF September 1 and my weather was pretty close to ideal. I will note though that on 9/18 when I crossed Monarch Pass (11,500’; highest point in the route) it had snowed the night before.
This was my first tour of any kind and I took a great deal of comfort in the ACA route maps which really are fantastic.
That said, Jamawani’s suggestion about heading south at ceder city and hitting Zion, the north rim, monument valley and Taos makes a lot of sense to me for that time of year. I’ve done a significant portion of that ride and the scenery is quite spectacular and the weather window is better.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Route options for a mid-September start date
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2020, 05:55:14 am »
I haven't done any of the the coast to coast routes in the Fall, so I don't have too much to share in the way of good suggestions.  I will say that Fall is beautiful in much of the US if you can avoid the early snows in the mountains.

On the Southern Tier...  I did it in a mid Feb thru mid Mar time frame and have been in some of the areas in other times of the year.  I wouldn't want to be there when it was hot.  Also much of the attraction for me was the fact that it was a route that could be ridden in the winter.  I considered the scenery pretty boring.  That was at least somewhat offset by the interesting misfits I rubbed elbows with along the way and the various cuisines I sampled along the way.  Personally, I'd only consider it between late fall and early spring (late winter-spring has the advantage of the days being longer).

I liked the Trans America a lot, but don't know if you can squeak by in the acceptable weather window with your start date and travel speed.

September is a great time for the Pacific Coast, but you said coast to coast so that isn't an option I guess.  If you were to consider crossing in a N-S or S-N direction you could also consider routes like the Great Rivers or Underground Railroad or some combination of routes.  There is also the Atlantic Coast Route.  You could probably time your trip to maximize seeing fall color on one of those.

Offline darby80

Re: Route options for a mid-September start date
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2020, 05:18:04 am »
@TCS, thank you for the north-south I hadn't thought much about, but worth considering.

@zzzz, that's encouraging to hear regarding option 3, but as you and Jamawani noted heading south will be important, plus the additional beautiful scenery.

@staehpj1, I'm throwing out the idea of a full Transamerica route at that time of year. I'm fixated on east/west coast routes (maybe to my downfall) rather than north/south routes. It's sounds like despite the boring scenery, you still enjoyed the Souther Tier. I'll have to follow up with Jamawani to see why he/she discourages that route...maybe the desert temps at that time of year.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Route options for a mid-September start date
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2020, 06:11:43 am »
It's sounds like despite the boring scenery, you still enjoyed the Souther Tier.
Yes I did, but I am not sure if I would have in September or not.  I really have suffered in the SW in the heat at times on other trips.

The ST is shorter and faster than any other coast to coast route giving you a chance to finish early enough in the fall before the days get too short.  That will help mitigate the short days of winter by finishing before they get too bad.

As you get close to Winter solstice the daylight hours get really short and in the empty sagebrush country where there isn't much in the way of distractions from riding a lot of the time I'd find that pretty unpleasant.  Normally, I'd say the answer to that is to ride after the days start to get longer in mid February, but with your mid September start I'd try to finish fairly quickly before the days got too short or at least look at the day/night hours and decide what looks like it makes sense.

Then again the short daylight hours may not bother you.  Personally I don't mind getting up hours before daylight and riding.  I love those early hours, but somehow I think the short daylight hours still suck for me.  Maybe I'd adjust and maybe you would too.

Offline TCS

Re: Route options for a mid-September start date
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2020, 04:16:13 pm »
@TCS, thank you for the north-south I hadn't thought much about, but worth considering.

Hey, if you've got a cross country, ocean to ocean jones, there's nothing that will scratch that itch other than dipping your rear wheel in the Pacific and your front wheel in the Atlantic (or vice versa).  So I'm not trying to sell you on anything, just give you some stuff to think about.

With a mid-September start date, you'd want to do the 2000 mile-long Underground Railroad north to south.  You might catch some fall color in Ontario and New York, but I'm not hopeful.  Anyway, according to the weather tables cool/pleasant temperatures would accompany you south to Mobile. 

You get Canada & Niagara Falls, enjoy a double handful of the Midwest, ride some delightful paved Ohio rail-trails, stop in a major city (Cincinnati) about halfway through the trip for 'obscure resupply & repair', cross paths with the Trans-Am, do the Land Between the Lakes and sample the bucolic and historic Natchez Trace.

Because they understood the seasons at their latitude, agrarian pioneers tended to move straight west*.  By riding a north-south slice of America, the cyclist experiences a kaleidoscope of American culture.

Not long enough?  Well, from Mobile you can turn east and ride to St. Augustine and the Atlantic coast or west and ride through the wonderful Texas Hill Country to Del Rio and visit Mexico, making your tour a three-country ride.

"Mobile is what New Orleans was like before New Orleans got to be like it is." - Big Jake

*Someone on the board will argue this, forcing me to look up and post the results of a large genetic study that confirms it.  Sigh.  Welcome to 2020. :)

« Last Edit: January 27, 2020, 03:07:42 pm by TCS »
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."