Author Topic: Early/Late Options for Western Express?  (Read 4209 times)

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Offline jamawani

Early/Late Options for Western Express?
« on: March 27, 2011, 03:31:06 pm »
Should there be a significantly rerouted early and late option for the Western Express in the Sierras?  This year there is at least 15 feet of snow still at Carson Pass and more than 20 feet at Kirkwood Resort.  Highway 88 is an all-season crossing, but it has been closed because of snow and avalanche danger numerous times in the past month.  Even though it will be open in May, there is likely to be little else open - stores, lodges, and esp. campgrounds until - what - July?  It's a record snow year.

Although I live in Wyoming, I have done about 10 Sierra crossings from Yosemite to northeast Calif.  In Wyoming nearly every year, you have cyclists attempting the Bighorns in May.  But May can look like mid-winter to those unfamiliar with the West.  And I have frequently loaded cyclists up in my pickup and taken them down to stay in my house until things warmed up.  (And I take them back up so they don't lose any net elevation.)

Here's the deal - you are going to have cyclists attempting the Western Express early in the season who have little experience with high elevation cycling in the West.  And are often amazed that everything is still snowed in - let alone get snowed upon.  Should the Western Express have a significantly lower crossing of the Sierras for early-season and late-season riders?  (It's easier in the fall - since you don't have oodles of accumulated snow - but still you can have early snowstorms.)

I am morally opposed to interstate riding.  One possibility would be to use service roads and cross over the Old Donner Pass on US 40-.  Still that means a lot of I-80 - - yucko!  Or using Highway 20 from Grass Valley - - which is pretty busy.  The other option is to cross Yuba Pass on Highway 49 and then cut south to Lake Tahoe - - a really nice place to cross the border - and then into Carson City.  It's a good piece longer - but much lower.  And traffic on Highway 49 is light with lots of places to camp and great Forty-Niner history.

Whatcha think?

Offline vtmidlifer

Re: Early/Late Options for Western Express?
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2011, 04:30:42 pm »
I'm starting a XC via the Western Express from San Fran on May 10. My plane tix from the east coast are bought, so my start date isn't negotiable. I've read several of your informative posts about the snowpack on the WE, and would be interested in learning more about the Yuba pass option you mention. Although Hwy 88 should be open in May, camping won't be much of an option, and I'd prefer not to be forced to do a long day to make it over Carson pass and back down to where there is camping. How is the climb over Yuba pass compared to Carson? The climb over the Sierras worries me a bit since it comes only a couple days into the tour, and no amount of riding the trainer in the basement will get my legs and lungs in hill-climbing shape, so doing a bit more mileage to give me more options if I want to do shorter days at the start is something I'm not opposed to. I look forward to hearing what people think about the route you suggested and any other good alternatives to the ACA route this year.

Many thanks.

Offline Patco

Re: Early/Late Options for Western Express?
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2011, 05:44:24 pm »
Vtmidlifer -There will be an incredible amount of snow at Truckee and points south. Nearly 12 feet of snow fell this week in the Squaw Valley, and an additional 18 inches are expected to fall in the Tahoe basin area by the end of this weekend. As you approach your start date, check in with Caltrans about road conditions. As was pointed out, while the roads may be passable, there may be limited services that early in the season. As a backup, you may want to consider riding North from SF toward Oroville and using SR 70 - it generally follows the Feather River. It crosses the Sierras at a much lower elevation. You could then catch US395 or south to Reno and then travel to Carson City. Best of luck.

Offline cgarch

Re: Early/Late Options for Western Express?
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2011, 09:14:05 pm »
Agreed. The only 'low' pass option is going to be CA 70 through the Feather River and over Beckwourth Pass. I personally like riding Feather River though the narrow shoulders and truck traffic can be unnerving after a while. Getting back on track would be some work, but not impossible. I would suggest though heading to Fernley (yep, I-80 - it'll suck), then taking US50 Alt to Fallon as opposed to riding to Carson City (which appears longer). Either route will place you on busy roads until you reach 50 at Fallon. As for other passes, everything from Tahoe south is either higher or closed and way out of the way. Perhaps one option is to ride to Sacramento and grab Amtrak to Reno.


Offline jamawani

Re: Early/Late Options for Western Express?
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2011, 10:27:08 pm »
Actually, Yuba Pass on Highway 49 is fairly low - about 6700 ft - 2000 feet lower than Carson Pass.
Also the Highway 49 route is MUCH shorter than going via Highway 70.

From Davis you can head north to Knights Landing and then take back roads to Marysville/Yuba City.  The bridge at Knights Landing sucks.  Highway 113 is pretty busy but has shoulders.  From Marysville there are great back roads up to Bullards Bar Reservoir and then you connect with Highway 49 through Gold Country.

After you cross the pass, you have two options.  You can head dwon Highway 89 which has a great paved bike trail along the Truckee River to Lake Tahoe - then ride around the northeast corner of the lake to US 50 and to Carson City.  Or you can continue east thru Beckwourth Pass and head south to Reno.  The Lake Tahoe option may still be pretty cold - but there is a state park right on the lake with hiker/biker sites.  Lake Tahoe is only at about 6200 ft - so even if it's chilly it's doable.  Heading via Reno means a lot of 4-lane roads and city riding - but it is a back-up option.