Author Topic: Southern Tier in Winter  (Read 1197 times)

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Offline horses60

Southern Tier in Winter
« on: November 21, 2021, 09:18:52 am »
Hello,
I would like to start in San Diego next January. Some suggestions?
I know that in NM I can find snow, but my doubt is abount campground. It's easy to find? They are open also in this season?
All informations are welcome, also some address and place where stay.
Thank you all.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Southern Tier in Winter
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2021, 10:34:03 am »
Hello,
I would like to start in San Diego next January. Some suggestions?
I know that in NM I can find snow, but my doubt is abount campground. It's easy to find? They are open also in this season?
All informations are welcome, also some address and place where stay.
Thank you all.
I started in mid February and had no problems.  I generally relied on the places listed on the AC maps where I followed their route.  At times I improvised the route a bit and generally found places to stay without much difficulty.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Southern Tier in Winter
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2021, 07:55:06 pm »
I cycled the southern tier five times, four in winter and one in summer. It was mostly stealth camping and some days in motels. The AC maps tell you where you can camp or rent. Stealthing in some areas is not as simple as it seems. So much land is fenced and posted. In the east there is so much undergrowth there is no room to pitch a tent. There may be space only to string up a tarp and sleep under it.

Offline Smudgy

Re: Southern Tier in Winter
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2021, 03:32:23 am »
I was looking at this too. Here are my concerns / questions.
1. Day length. The solstice (12/21) is the shortest day of the year and as you get away from the solstice the days get longer. Before the spring equinox (3/21) your getting less than 12 hours of daylight. So lets say you leave in Feb., you're probably looking at 10 hrs, or less of daylight. Is that enough time to get your miles in without rushing through the day?
2. Cold mornings. Even if the daytime high is in the 60's, morning lows might be in the 20's or 30's. So, it might hit 60 for only a couple of hours around the middle of the day. How uncomfortable are the early mornings and the early evenings?
3. Distance between services in the SW. I'm not interested in stealth camping at all. Camping in the desert in Feb. sounds cold. Are there enough motels close enough together in the SW where one could sleep indoors every night, or are there stretches where camping is a must? If I slept indoors every night, I wouldn't worry much about night time low temps. Those early morning (sunrise) temps. could be tough.
4. Am I crazy? You don't have to answer that. I think I already know the answer.   

Offline staehpj1

Re: Southern Tier in Winter
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2021, 08:23:15 am »
I was looking at this too. Here are my concerns / questions.
1. Day length. The solstice (12/21) is the shortest day of the year and as you get away from the solstice the days get longer. Before the spring equinox (3/21) your getting less than 12 hours of daylight. So lets say you leave in Feb., you're probably looking at 10 hrs, or less of daylight. Is that enough time to get your miles in without rushing through the day?
In mid February the days were about an hour longer than in the late Fall early Winter.  Remember that this is the south (closer to the equater) so the days and nights are closer to the same length than further north.  So while the days are short it isn't as bad as it would be along say the northern border.
 Still the late winter is much better than the early winter.  As far as whether it is enough daylight to get long mileage in...  I found that I generally knocked out longer mileage than I did on summer tours on other routes.  That probably had more to do with the rather boring scenery though.  I am pretty sure I did more 100 mile days on this trip than on any other and wasn't particularly making any effort to do so.  There were also plenty of 80 and 90 mile days.  I was packing very light so that helped, but the route lends itself to long days and late winter days are plenty long enough unless you hang out in camp all day.

2. Cold mornings. Even if the daytime high is in the 60's, morning lows might be in the 20's or 30's. So, it might hit 60 for only a couple of hours around the middle of the day. How uncomfortable are the early mornings and the early evenings?
I like cooler weather so that that into account, but only found a few mornings were actually very cold.  I rather enjoyed the weather and found it much preferrable to dealing with summer heat, but that is me.  There was frost quite a few nights, but it didn't dip far into the 20's often and it warmed up fast when the sun came up.  There was one night in the teens.  This was mid feb - mid mar.
3. Distance between services in the SW. I'm not interested in stealth camping at all. Camping in the desert in Feb. sounds cold. Are there enough motels close enough together in the SW where one could sleep indoors every night, or are there stretches where camping is a must? If I slept indoors every night, I wouldn't worry much about night time low temps. Those early morning (sunrise) temps. could be tough.
Not sure about sleeping indoors every night since I wasn't looking for motels all the time, but I'd guess it would be possible with some planning and some long days.  I did zero "stealth" camping, but some improvised camping in places like the ocasional Texas roadside picnic area or wild camping in plain sight.  The majority of the time I used camping sites listed on the ACA maps when I was on the route.  I did go off route some and found places easily enough.  I did get rooms here and there and managed to stay with hosts a few times.
4. Am I crazy? You don't have to answer that. I think I already know the answer.
You may be crazy, but not for riding the ST in winter.  Late winter to early spring is the best time in my opinion.

If you really hate chilly weather you may find my comments are not in line with your preferences, but even the hot weather loving south Florida kid who I rode with on and off on the ride managed okay.  He did think the weather sucked though, but his idea of a nice day is 100+F.

« Last Edit: November 25, 2021, 08:30:09 am by staehpj1 »

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Southern Tier in Winter
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2021, 08:34:26 am »
In my opinion you are doing it the right time of year. The cool weather is much to be preferred over summer heat. Most of the time that far south it is pleasantly cool. It can get to extremes, so you might want to keep that in In my opinion you are doing it the right time of year. The cool weather is much to be preferred over summer heat. Most of the time that far south it is pleasantly cool. It can get to extremes, so you might want to keep that in mind. I slept out one night and it was 10°F. Another night it was 7°. That did not happen often, but if you are unprepared it only has to happen once. I got up on the morning of the 7° night and made my way to a waffle house. Someone told me one person had died of hypo thermia. They said he had been drunk. He fell down. He passed out. And that was that. Hi got me to a motel for two days. I was chilled to the bone. Most of the time though it is really just kind of cold and very cool. During the days it is often just cool.

Offline jamawani

Re: Southern Tier in Winter
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2021, 11:01:17 am »
I wasn't prepared for the shortness of the days -
And I had to do a major rethink en route.

I had always toured in late spring / summer / early fall.
I had a certain preconception of how far I could go in a day.
What happened was I was always rushing to get there.
Plus I felt I couldn't stop for lunch or look around a cute town.

Let's compare an average 10-hour winter day to a 14-hour summer day.
Getting up in the morning, packing up, breakfast - 1 hour summer or winter.
(And it will be chillier in winter - even on the Southern Tier )
Finding the campground, setting up, dinner - 1 hour.

That leaves 8 usable hours in winter - still 12 hours in summer.
Lunch and other breaks - 1 hour.
Shopping, laundry, flat tires, the Famous 10 Questions - 1 hour.
You probably have 6 riding hours in winter vs. 10 in summer.

So, in summer it's no problem doing 75-80 miles. 65 miles is a breeze.
In winter, 65 miles may be tops - which is 10+ mph fully loaded.
Not surprisingly, I found myself staying in motels far more often on the ST.
I didn't have time or energy to search for semi-closed campgrounds.
(In Texas they are shivering when it's 45F - that's winter down there.)

Although I had mondo touring experience before setting out on the ST,
I wasn't mentally prepared for the differences in touring during the winter.
I always felt hurried and crunching to get in the last miles of the day.
The key - fewer miles per day. I learned the hard way.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Southern Tier in Winter
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2021, 02:05:12 pm »
Yes 10 hours at the start of January, but...  By the end of January in El Paso the days are gettig to about 10:40 from sunrise to sunset with a half hour of partial daylight on each end.  By Mid February you add another half hour and the days get longer as you get later in the season.

I actually found that I made my longest daily miles on the ST than any of my tours despite it being done in mid Feb - mid Mar.  It probably helps that I like to get up at the crack of dawn, often before daylight.  It also helps that the scenery was kind of boing so I didn't do much other than ride.  Also there weren't that many towns to stop in a lot of the way.

Different strokes and all that, but I didn't find it limiting when I went.  I might have if I had gone in mid December or maybe even January first.  I figure mid Feburary is kind of an optimum time to do the ST.  By then sunrise to sunset is over 11 hours and getting longer every day.

So when the OP says starting in January, I'd suggest pushing it to at least mid month maybe, but personally I liked mid Feb.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Southern Tier in Winter
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2021, 11:21:07 pm »
As for myself, I got the highest daily mileage in winter, and the lowest in summer heat. The cold is invigorating. The heat can beat you down like a hammer. That is speaking only for myself. On one crossing of the southern tier, Florida to California there was extreme heat and also the beginning of cool weather. In the heat I struggled to get 60 miles in a day. I mean this was really hot, 100°F perhaps as much as 110°F. We all know what that means cycling out there over the hard top. West of San Angelo Texas a cold front moved in. What a relief that was. I started knocking out 80 mile days like a walk in the park. Extreme heat can take the wind out of your sails. Shorter days in winter I suppose or whatever you want them to be. When the temperatures allow and the wind isn’t howling in against you from all the wrong directions, Night cycling is quite pleasant and cool. You can make up for the day light hours that way. Of course there may be disadvantages to doing it that way. Setting up camp at night and eating and are preparing food could add to some disadvantage of convenience. It seems like whatever you do there will be some positive and some negative value to It. You just have to make whatever you consider to be the best choice for yourself based on the information you have. If you ever pulled into a campsite, stealth or official, on a cold cold night you know one of the last things on your mind might be preparing food. All I ever wanted to do was set up the tent or tarp or whatever And get inside that warm sleeping bag and go to sleep.