Author Topic: Beginning TransAmerica cycling trip in September  (Read 432 times)

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Offline Barak10

Beginning TransAmerica cycling trip in September
« on: July 24, 2021, 04:41:21 am »
Hello,
I have read that the TransAm can be ridden from May to September, but wanted to know if these days, given climate change, it would be feasible to begin an eastbound or westbound crossing in early September. I have three main reasons for wanting to leave later on the trip: 1) A later start date will give me more time to save up for the trip; 2) I would prefer to have lower temperatures when cycling; 3) I would like to arrive at Yellowstone and Grand Teton in early November, as I have read there is a short period of a few weeks during which roads are closed for outside automobiles but open for cyclists.
I understand one issue with a late start is shorter riding days - is it very difficult or dangerous to ride after dark or before sunrise on the TransAm?
If possible to start in early September, would eastbound or westbound be better?
I would be grateful for informed feedback on this issue.
Many thanks in advance.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Beginning TransAmerica cycling trip in September
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2021, 06:52:43 am »
Going east to west is probably a non starter late in the season, and I think you are considering a time that is too late even for west to east.  November in Yellowstone sounds really late to me.  I don't recommend it as part of a TA.  A few things to consider...

Remember that it will take a good while to get out of the Rockies and you will be pretty high a lot of the time.  Most people will take something like 40 days to get to Hoosier Pass (11,542 feet) and up until then you will be at elevation a lot of the time.  Perhaps you will ride longer days, but you will need to allow for possible snow delays.

You will likely be delayed by snow that will clear out if you wait it out.  If you are unlucky the delays could be longish.  By November they could be getting pretty bad.

Campgrounds and services start closing before November.

You are a new bike tourist right?  I definitely would suggest going at a more forgiving time.  I have crossed the US a couple times, done quite a few other long tours, backpacked, and canoe camped including some of that in winter conditions and I wouldn't do the trip you suggest when you are considering it.

Another thread with more info that might be worth reading:
https://www.bikeforums.net/touring/1233732-crossing-rockies-september-october.html

I want to do a November trip to Yellowstone sometime, but it will probably be a snowshoeing trip.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2021, 07:00:09 am by staehpj1 »

Offline Barak10

Re: Beginning TransAmerica cycling trip in September
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2021, 07:19:35 am »
Thank you very much, @staehpji1. I read the other thread and have realized that what I am considering is definitely not feasible. I will try to do the TransAm earlier and if that does not work out, will consider another route.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Beginning TransAmerica cycling trip in September
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2021, 07:40:00 am »
Thank you very much, @staehpji1. I read the other thread and have realized that what I am considering is definitely not feasible. I will try to do the TransAm earlier and if that does not work out, will consider another route.
The TA is a great route if you catch it at a suitable time.  I think you mentioned not liking hot weather.  Unfortunately you almost certainly will need to put up with some hot weather on the TA.  It is worth it though.

I think there were two long tours where I mostly avoided hot weather,

One was the Southern Tier in Mid February to Mid March (I went W-E and stopped in Pensacola).  It was hot a little the first day or so.  Then I enjoyed the cool weather, the people (a collection of misfits, mostly transplants from other places), and the food (texmex, barbecue, Cajun, gulf seafood...).  There was some nice scenery, but much of the way the scenery was a boring, seemingly endless brown sagebrush day after day.  There was frost many nights and one night it got down into the teens, but it got up into at least the 50s during the day and often 70.  There was a little snow on top of a couple passes but the road was clear.  There could be more snow than I had so snow delays would be possible.

The other was the Pacific Coast where the ocean moderates the temperature when you are close to it.  It can get hot here and there when you get away from the ocean a bit farther.  It can be nice and cool on the coast and scorching not very far away, but most of the route is close to the coast.  Going in the early fall helps.  It also means way less vacation traffic, which drops off after labor day.

Offline jamawani

Re: Beginning TransAmerica cycling trip in September
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2021, 10:09:21 am »
Barak -

From what you have posted, I can surmise that you do not know the West very well.
I have lived in Jackson and have cycled the Tetons and Yellowstone as early and as late as possible.
When you do catch those special times when the roads remain closed to cars, it is wonderful.
But it varies from year to year and some years the snows come early or stay late.
With the added factor of Covid, I doubt the parks will have s special cycling period.

I did my first X-USA tour from west to east starting on September 1 and started in Astoria,
but I did a more direct route, left the Rockies in Wyoming, and ended further south in North Carolina.
The TransAm is doable if you start on August 15 and keep up a moderate pace.
(I'm not usre abour you touring experience or what your average day might be.)
It is possible to do a modified route - like the one above - and start no later than early Sept.

That said - this year there are major fires across the Northwest.
Already, there are multiple detours on the TransAm because of fires.
And we're not even into August, yet.
Even where there is no immediate fire danger, heavy smoke is an issue.
I would like to think that the 2021 heat wave might let up in August -
but it is probably more realistic to see it continuing with record heat & fires.
August/September is, after all, the normal fire season in the West.

With a later start and sticking to Adventure Cycling routes -
I would suggest starting in Astoria and taking the Lewis & Clark to Missoula -
Then taking the new Parks, Peaks & Prairies from Yellowstone to central South Dakota -
Then back on the Lewis & Clark to the town of Washington or to St. Louis.

From the Katy you can connect to the TransAM on a short Great Rivers Segment.
Or you can head all the way into St. Louis and the Arch - then continue down the Illinois side.
At that point, you can stay on the TransAm thru Kentucky to Yorktown, Virginia.
Provided that you do in in about 10 weeks - i.e. from Sept 1 to Nov 10.

Climate change has warmed things up in the fall in the East a little more.
We still get some big storms early in the West.
That's why I think it best to take an east turn out of the Rockies by about Sept. 21.
You'll still have some chilly mornings in the Bighorns and Black Hills -
But you'll have great fall weather across most of the rest of the U.S.

Best - Jama

Offline Barak10

Re: Beginning TransAmerica cycling trip in September
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2021, 02:09:22 pm »
Thank you both for your detailed advice.
staehpj1 - I have read your account of the Southern Tier and found it very interesting. It is my plan B in case I have to postpone to winter. However, I would prefer not to ride it alone as a first-timer, as I understand the beginning is challenging.
jamawani - You are right, I do not know the West well and things have become even more unpredictable with climate change.
When would you recommend I set out, going east to west on the TransAm, based on your experience?

Offline jamawani

Re: Beginning TransAmerica cycling trip in September
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2021, 03:16:24 pm »
Barak -

Going east to west you need to start earlier - so that you are finished by early October.
That means leaving from the east no later than mid-July - or early July if you take your time.
It is better to leave early from the east - say mid-May - to avoid the hot, humid summer weather.

The touring window is larger if you go west to east, but you can't start too early because of cold and snow.
If you leave no earlier than mid-June, you will arrive in the east in early to mid September.
But you can leave as later as early August from the west, early Sept. if you are fast.

You have the longest days with a May start east-to-west. And the morning sun behind you.
A late summer/fall trip west to east has shorter and shorter days - but glorious weather.

Offline Barak10

Re: Beginning TransAmerica cycling trip in September
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2021, 05:24:39 pm »
Barak -

Going east to west you need to start earlier - so that you are finished by early October.
That means leaving from the east no later than mid-July - or early July if you take your time.
It is better to leave early from the east - say mid-May - to avoid the hot, humid summer weather.

The touring window is larger if you go west to east, but you can't start too early because of cold and snow.
If you leave no earlier than mid-June, you will arrive in the east in early to mid September.
But you can leave as later as early August from the west, early Sept. if you are fast.

You have the longest days with a May start east-to-west. And the morning sun behind you.
A late summer/fall trip west to east has shorter and shorter days - but glorious weather.

Thank you very much.

Offline TeresaC

Re: Beginning TransAmerica cycling trip in September
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2021, 01:56:02 pm »
You may be able to do half the trip if you leave in Sept.  My brother and I left Silverthorne, CO on Sept. 30, 1978 and we got to DC a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving.  We had snow a couple of times.  It was a great time to travel!

Now I'm looking for a partner who could slowly do the western half with me.

Offline Barak10

Re: Beginning TransAmerica cycling trip in September
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2021, 03:09:39 pm »
You may be able to do half the trip if you leave in Sept.  My brother and I left Silverthorne, CO on Sept. 30, 1978 and we got to DC a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving.  We had snow a couple of times.  It was a great time to travel!

Now I'm looking for a partner who could slowly do the western half with me.

Thank you, best of luck on the western half