Author Topic: Western Express -- When to leave?  (Read 4871 times)

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Offline psemler

Western Express -- When to leave?
« on: February 28, 2008, 06:18:27 pm »
I would like to start early as possible from San Francisco and still be comfortable. To those who know -- would May 15 be a good start date? What's the optimal date for starting?
I will be solo and camping. Cold in the night/morning is Ok. Would like it warm in the day amd when I set up camp each day.
I will then connect with the Trans-Am. I assume it will be pretty hot by the time I get to KS.
I plan to take at least 2 months.

Offline MrBent

Western Express -- When to leave?
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2008, 04:22:27 pm »
Hey, Psemler:  May can be a great time to start.  My wife and I have ridden the Carson City to Davis portion of that route and will do it again this year.  The problem you are likely to encounter (aside from whatever weather is moving through) is the likely closure of the Mormon--Immigrant Trail, which connects Hwy 50 to Hwy 88.  Last time we crossed (in May) after a heavy winter--LIKE THIS YEAR--and the road was buried in snow.  We were traveling  east to west (as we will this year), so we just kept dropping down 88 until we could peel off the main route.  I think we took Shingle Ridge Rd., if I recall.  Regardless, we ended up a good deal south of Folsom but found some nice connecting roads to get us back north.

The problem with going all the way up through Placerville and such and THEN finding your route cut off is then you have to back track or continue along Hwy 50.  I've driven this stretch many times.  There is no way you'd get me to bike it.  Fantastic loads of fast traffic headed into Lake Tahoe, often little to no shoulder.  Cyclists have survived it, but OY!  Plain misery as far as I can see.  Do some careful research before heading out and plan your route accordingly.  If you end up riding through the gold country foothills, avoid Hwy 49, which carries the bulk of the north/south traffic.  In general, try to avoid the main Sierra crossing on a weekend.

I just checked the map, and I see that from Placerville, you can follow back roads south and then east to pick up Hwy 88 west of the Mormon/Immigrant Trail.  This will almost certainly involve some sharp climbs and descents.  I don't know about traffic.  There has been a ton of development in the gold country over the last decade, so you should be prepared for anything.  You could probably get great local info. from a bike shop in Placerville.

Plan on sweating across the Midwest, but you might be okay if you can hit it before July.  I crossed east to west in Sept./Oct. and found plenty to perspire about in Kansas.  Actually, west Kansas was the toughest part of my tour--boring, long, windy, just-plain-tough.

Best of luck on your tour!  You'll love Nevada if you are into big, lonely, wild places.  The basin and range country is some of my favorite.

Oh, one more thing:  Hwy 50 dropping into Canon City, Colorado, might be pretty crazy with all the spring rafting along the Arkansas River.  If you can avoid that stretch on the weekend, you'll be a happier camper.



Offline psemler

Western Express -- When to leave?
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2008, 05:42:51 pm »
Hey, Scott--

thanks for the wealth of information. Here's my email -- let me know if you think if anything else.
I purchased the Adventure Cycling map of Western Express Section 1 SF to Fallon. I believe it's got all I need to get to Fallon. There's a bike path from Sac to Folsom and then Green Valley rd to Placerville. Placerville to Cooks Station at hwy 88 via Mt. Aukum Rd and Omo Ranch rd.
this map looks invaluable in figuring out how to get how of the madness of Sac Valley.

so I am fairly certain the route will be a nice ride to  Cooks Station. and then on to Carson City on 88.

I am leaning toward leaving about May 15. It's sure getting warm here in the Bay Area. makes me want to get started!

I will avoid hwy 49. I am looking fwd to the World's Lonliest Road in NV.
I expect to be in KS around June 15.

again, thanks for the great info. I feel very fortunate to be part of this great network at Adventure Cycling.

Offline MrBent

Western Express -- When to leave?
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2008, 08:45:57 pm »
No problem, Phil.  You'll love the bike path through the Sacto/Folsom zone.  Over Carson Pass the roads should be clear but with snow on both sides .  Nevada should be just about perfect--not too hot or cold, but some chilly mornings are likely.  You'll have a blast.  The ACA maps are fantastic.  I used them for about 1/3 or so of my crossing, which you can check out on my blog: Home

Enjoy your ride.  It was one of my all time great journeys.

Offline mikehdsn

Western Express -- When to leave?
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2008, 01:40:16 am »
I left SF about a week earlier than you plan to, and I ran into a serious snow storm on Carson Pass on 88 over the Sierras and a crazy blizzard east of Austin, NV (on hiwy 50). Both episodes are now good stories, but at the time it was kinda dicey. Be aware that May weather can be very capricious in the mts -- or any time, for that matter :)

Offline psemler

Western Express -- When to leave?
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2008, 08:09:28 pm »
Thanks for the info. I do plan on leaving May 19 from SF.
I am kinda looking forward to Nevada in a perverse kind of way.

Offline RangerTom

Western Express -- When to leave?
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2008, 07:50:48 pm »
Just came across your post, don't know if you're on the road yet. I live along your route near Placerville. I may be around to provide an overnight spot. If you care to contact me, e-mail at  Best wishes on the adventure!