Author Topic: Southern tier. To cycle east or west.  (Read 546 times)

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Offline Westinghouse

Southern tier. To cycle east or west.
« on: November 15, 2020, 05:41:20 pm »
The question frequently asked about the ST is whether to go west from Florida or east from California. The received opinion seems to be that going west will pit you against constant strong headwinds. They will turn every day into a miserable ordeal like climbing a steep and endless hill. It will stop you in your tracks. You will have to stop for days. Well, the received opinion is not necessarily right. Because I have cycled and camped the ST in its entirety five times from Florida, and twice from FL to El Paso, I know a thing or two on this subject. The fact is these celebrated and vaunted killer head winds may not happen to you at all, but they might happen.

In my crossings on the ST I encountered such west to east winds only once. When that happened they hit me from the side as I went north from Marfa to Van Horn, TX. It was a difficult ride into Van Horn. There I met two fellows from Germany. They were going east. They had been riding those winds for days. To say they were elated and very satisfied with their journey is putting it about right. The three of us got rooms in a small motel. The next morning the wind was gone. It was nearly dead calm. The Deutschlanders were gone. I waited a day or two and continued west into New Mexico, Arizona and San Diego. So sure, it is possible that going east to west will run you into seriously impeding wind. But it is not written in stone and it is not inevitable. Frequently winds come out of the southeast. Many come from the northeast and north. Many days or parts of days there is hardly any wind at all. Cold fronts in winter can bring side winds from the north. Many winds come from north and south, and these affect you the same whether you are traveling west to east or east to west.

Several bicycle journalists recorded strong opposing winds when they cycled west to east on the ST. They recorded them going east to west. If you are planning a cross country ride on the southern tier of states, I think you probably do not have to take the trouble to travel cross country to begin on any given coast because of winds you might encounter. I mean, if you choose a coast to begin your tour based only on wind, I suggest leaving from the coast nearest you. The wind very often does not flow the way people say it does. It is way too variable to predict with certainty.

Offline John Nettles

Re: Southern tier. To cycle east or west.
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2020, 06:02:14 pm »
Overall, I agree with you that the winds on a specific day may or may not be the prevailing winds.  However, there is a reason they are called prevailing. 

If you want to look at the National Weather Service's weather almanac, check out Grey House Publishing's "Weather Almanac, A Thirty-Year Summary of Statistical Weather Data and Rankings".  It is huge, i.e. 2000+ pages.  New it is something like $200.  I bought mine used on eBay for maybe $15.  I actually have 2 so if someone wants one, private message me and I will mail it to you if you pay postage, but be forewarned, it is quite heavy.

Or you can check out WeatherSpark.com and get mostly the same info but in an easier to read format but not quite as in-depth.   

My point is there is a statistical probability of prevailing winds.  Sure you may not get them but why go against the odds.  That said, when you cross the country, you will definitely have prevailing winds from different directions, i.e. the west coast is different than say around South Texas which is different than around Gainesville, FL.

Tailwinds (I least I go with the odds), John

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Southern tier. To cycle east or west.
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2020, 06:44:15 pm »
Overall, I agree with you that the winds on a specific day may or may not be the prevailing winds.  However, there is a reason they are called prevailing. 

If you want to look at the National Weather Service's weather almanac, check out Grey House Publishing's "Weather Almanac, A Thirty-Year Summary of Statistical Weather Data and Rankings".  It is huge, i.e. 2000+ pages.  New it is something like $200.  I bought mine used on eBay for maybe $15.  I actually have 2 so if someone wants one, private message me and I will mail it to you if you pay postage, but be forewarned, it is quite heavy.

Or you can check out WeatherSpark.com and get mostly the same info but in an easier to read format but not quite as in-depth.   

My point is there is a statistical probability of prevailing winds.  Sure you may not get them but why go against the odds.  That said, when you cross the country, you will definitely have prevailing winds from different directions, i.e. the west coast is different than say around South Texas which is different than around Gainesville, FL.

Tailwinds (I least I go with the odds), John


I am seriously considering cycling the southern tier this winter. I will make it a point to record daily wind directions and speeds. After the trip is complete, I will report it. This journey is not set in stone to happen. I think it is a pretty sure thing.

Offline John Nettles

Re: Southern tier. To cycle east or west.
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2020, 06:51:34 pm »
May the winds be with you!

Tailwinds, John

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Southern tier. To cycle east or west.
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2020, 10:20:41 pm »
May the winds be with you!

Tailwinds, John

Generally speaking, if they are not against me, they are not there at all. All I seemed to notice was that the wind came from and went to every direction on the compass. I did not notice consistent strong west winds prevailing a long time. West winds can blow up for days and nights without surcease, but I hit that only once. They can put you off your bike for days.

Offline hikerjer

Re: Southern tier. To cycle east or west.
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2020, 10:47:46 pm »
I suppose it all depends on where you are and when you're there. Luck certainly is  a large factor.  There are absolutely no absolutes.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2020, 12:04:53 am by hikerjer »

Offline jamawani

Re: Southern tier. To cycle east or west.
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2020, 09:38:40 am »
There are absolutely no absolutes.

You are absolutely right!

Offline hikerjer

Re: Southern tier. To cycle east or west.
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2020, 04:07:33 pm »
Well, that's an absolute first.