Author Topic: Western Express versus TransAmerica  (Read 2837 times)

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Offline LouisB

Western Express versus TransAmerica
« on: August 11, 2022, 01:19:56 pm »
Hi All

Although I'm still 9 months or so away from crossing the US, I've already started tentatively planning (as per my previous post) and would appreciate your thoughts on route choices.

I intend to start the TA in Virginia and then head west until I reach Pueblo, CO. I was initially planning to continue on the TA until Oregon, but I have to admit that the lure of riding through the dry, arid landscapes of Utah and Nevada (on the Western Express) is extremely appealing, simply because they look so different to anything I have previously experienced e.g. the European Alps. I love landscape photography, which is always something I think about when choosing where to travel.

I appreciate that this will come down to personal preference, and some might argue that Yellowstone is a must-see, so I guess I can potentially limit my choices by asking if the Western Express is unrealistic on my part given that this will be my first tour?

I'm a very experienced cyclist (albeit not particularly gifted when it comes to bike maintenance / repairs!), in good health and fit, and will be fastidious about my preparation e.g. I'll no doubt go on a bicycle maintenance course before I leave. I'm planning to leave Virginia in early May, fully loaded, and will have a 90 day visa waiver (I'm from the UK) to make it from the east to the west coast.

Any thoughts about the more suitable route? One other thing I should mention; I like the idea of regularly crossing paths with other cyclists, which perhaps will not happen if I choose to cycle the lesser travelled Western Express?

Thanks again for any recommendations and for your previous advice re. bike boxes!

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2022, 01:37:49 pm »
You don't mention how you prefer your temperatures.  The WE can get quite toasty in the summer but it is doable.  Additionally, the prevailing winds are from the southwest.  Check out WeatherSpark.com to see the climate averages along both routes as that might have a major impact on your decision.

You will definitely meet less cyclists on the WE after Colorado.

I keep planning to do the WE (one of the few I have not ridden yet) but I personally would go W>E and leave in very late August or early September (I prefer heat over cold).  However, Utah is such a wonderfully diverse state that I might just end up doing loops around the southern half and then not finish the WE as the temps would get too cool for me in October while in Colorado. 

I would suggest you stay on the TA as it really is a wonderful route.  If you have time, you could always finish the TA and ride or take a train down to San Francisco and do the WE from there and fly home from Denver. 

Whatever you decide, I wish you a wonderful trip and Tailwinds, John
« Last Edit: August 11, 2022, 01:42:35 pm by John Nettles »

Offline aggie

Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2022, 01:45:53 pm »
Sounds like you will be doing the WE in late July/early August.  This will be the hottest time of the year.  There are literally no services between the small towns.  Once you leave Milford you will need to carry all the water you will need until you reach the next town which can be over 100 miles.  Water stops become more available once you reach Austin,NV.  This route is doable but just expect it to be very hot and dry. 

As John mentions the prevailing winds tend to be out of the West but I have ridden it in late September when the winds were out of the east.  The scenery will be very different from the rest of the TA.  Once you reach Nevada you can expect to climb 2-4 passes each day.  Nothing particularly steep.

Offline LouisB

Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2022, 02:24:40 pm »
Thank you John / Aggie.

I completely overlooked that I'd be hitting Utah / Nevada in mid-summer, although looking at the Weather Spark info., the temperature highs weren't quite as scary as I thought they might be.

I like your suggestion about travelling down to San Francisco John and joining the WE from there, time permitting. I suppose I could also apply for a longer visa and do both routes in the one visit!  ;D

Offline UncaBuddha

Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2022, 02:51:52 pm »
If those summer temps don't scare you I'm impressed. I lived for years out there and it gets REALLY hot, dangerously hot... and if you had a mechanical you might wait by the road for hours with no shade for a truck to pass by. Just sayin... Have a GREAT trip and when you get near Louisville, KY send me a message and we'll talk!

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2022, 02:58:12 pm »
Louis, I am not by any means the most knowledgeable about this but since you will be on the TA and going within 2 days ride of the Canadian border, if you left the USA to visit say Waterton National Park (north of Glacier NP) and the come back to the USA, would the clock start over for a new 90 day stretch? 

I have no idea, it is just a thought of something to check into. 

I know that getting into the USA legally is a pain at times.

Tailwinds, John

Offline LouisB

Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2022, 03:05:55 pm »
Thanks UncaBuddha.

Perhaps I've become a little flippant after witnessing 41 degrees in the UK last week!

Offline LouisB

Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2022, 03:08:44 pm »
Worth investigating, thanks for the suggestion John.

Offline jamawani

Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2022, 03:58:47 pm »
Louis B. -

I've ridden the Western Express across Utah & Nevada three times
and much more remote US 6 twice. (168-miles section with ero services)

The Western Express is nothing to sneeze at.
Granted, you will have ridden more than halfway across the U.S. by then,
but that's another issue - the heat of late summer.

I strongly suggest that the Western Express be saved for a later tour.
Would you die and your parched bones be found 50 years later? Probably not.
But you might find the touring exhausting ranging towards miserable.

On the TransAm you are rarely more than 40 miles from services,
plus, the TA has far more bicycle-oriented services - camping, bike shops, etc.
The Western Express has 70-80 empty stretches in Nevada & Utah -
And the biggie between Hanksville and Blanding - 125 miles.
I believe that the Hite Marina is long-closed du to low water levels.
There is water avaiable at Natural Bridges  - which still leaves 95 miles to Hanksville.

August Temperatures -

Hanksville, UT   Hi 95 / Lo 58
Milford, UT        Hi 90 / Lo 54
Eureka, NV       Hi 86 / Lo 53

Wisdom, MT      Hi 78 / Lo 35
Kooskia, ID       Hi 87 / Lo 53
John Day, OR    Hi 88 / Lo 48

It is only slightly cooler, on average, on the TransAm -
but you have more shade in the form of forests and places to stop.


Nevada Highway 722

Offline LouisB

Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2022, 02:31:48 am »
Thanks for your advice jamawani.

Having slept on it, and considering what has been said, I think I'll stick to the TA route, at least until Missoula. I may take the L&C Trail from there as it takes me a little further north in a little less time, and I quite like the idea of spending some time in Vancouver.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2022, 08:59:30 am »
When you're looking at temperatures, remember that it's going to be warmer than the listed highs roughly half the time.  (And Murphy's Law says you'll be riding there during the half the time it's hotter!)

If you're thinking about going to Missoula, you might thing about a two or three day jog up to Glacier National Park, and then take the Northern Tier west.  If you do that, when you're sweating across eastern and central Washington, congratulate yourself on being 700 miles north of the WE in Nevada!

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2022, 09:14:46 am »
As noted, you are likely to meet more folks travelling both eastbound and westbound on the TA.  Back in mid June of 2014 I camped in Jackson, MT while doing a loop tour out of Missoula.  There were close to a dozen other riders camped there with me.  I have stayed at the Bike Camp in Twin Bridges, MT three times for a total of five days.  Always shared the place with others doing either the TA or the L&C route.  Really nice place for a rest day, by the way.  Nice setting along a river.  The town is small, but it has just about everything you need, including a laundry.

The craziest encounter was while heading east on the bike path east of Missoula during a similar loop in 2011.  The GF and I met a Scottish cyclist heading west.  After chatting a bit, we moved on.  Maybe 30 min. later we met another Scottish cyclist heading west.  He had no idea a fellow countryman was just up the path a ways.

Offline LouisB

Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2022, 10:09:30 am »
Thanks Pat.

I think I read on another post that the deserts of Oregon are beautiful, which I will miss if I take the Northern Tier? I'm obviously very unfamiliar with the topography of the north western US, but would it be fair to say that Oregon offers something a little different to the other states I will be cycling through?

Offline LouisB

Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2022, 10:18:52 am »
Noted about Twin Bridges, thanks BikeliciousBabe. No doubt the first of many recommendations I'll be writing down!

Offline ray b

Re: Western Express versus TransAmerica
« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2022, 10:19:36 am »
In addition to all the comments above, I would hate to see you miss the big stretch of the TA north in the Rocky Mountains. These mountains differ from the Alps.
“A good man always knows his limitations.”