06-18-11, 11:23 AM
Although I have to take hwy 97 from Oroville to Omak, I have been advised to stay away from hwy 97 otherwise. I am considering hwy 155 to Epkrata, and hwy 17 to Kennewick. Don't know which one is best; hwy 205 or 395 to John Day, then 395 to Burns. From Burns, either hwy 95 to Winnemucca-Battle Mt. to hwy 305-376 to Tonopath through death Valley to Las Vegas, or hwy 395 to Lakeview, 395 to Reno, Death Valley, and Las Vegas. I expect to take this tour next late spring, and depending on fellow riders comments, will either go from north to south, or south to north. Thanks for any alternate suggestions, advice, and comments.
06-20-11, 05:56 PM
Since no one has jumped in here with riding experience on these routes, I'll add what I've seen from driving them with an eye toward touring on them one day (I do that often while on road trips). Sorry if this post sounds kind of scattered, I've added bits of info here and there at various times.
I'm not sure why you were advised to stay away from US97 south of Omak, it's fairly busy but has wide shoulders for much of its length. Crossing Blewett Pass will be a workout, but you'd also be doing quite a climb to get over Loup Loup Summit on 155 if you go that way. At Ellensburg, 97 joins with the I-82 freeway so you'll want to take the old highway 821 through the Yakima Canyon to get to Yakima. That's a delightful ride, and there's camping (pay) at several pleasant locations along that stretch. South of Yakima, 97 splits off I-82 again as a 2 lane highway and makes a scenic climb over Satus Pass. It then drops down into Goldendale, and then to the Columbia River crossing. This section mostly has good shoulders, but there are a couple of blind curves on the grade up to Satus Pass where the shoulder disappears- these require caution! South of the Columbia, 97 makes a rolling climb through farming and ranching country from near sea level to over 3,000'; this section is a grind if you'e southbound, but 97 tends to be somewhat less busy in Oregon than Washington. It has good shoulders most of the way to Redmond.
205 south from Burns goes through very sparsely populated country, but really nice if you like the high desert. There are no services until you reach the historic hotel at Frenchglen, it's a classy out of the way place to stay, but I'm not sure if you can purchase take-away food for the road there. 395 south from Burns also goes through remote country, but there is more traffic and potential help if you run shy of food & water. As with all the high desert, strong southerly to westerly winds are common during the spring and fall months, and these will be head and side winds if you're southbound at that time of year.
I recently drove 395 from Reno to Lakeview, and the section in northern California looked delightful for touring- in fact saw a couple of people doing just that. The 305/376 duo is my common route through Nevada and a lot of it is pleasant- but again, towns are few and far between. The shoulders on 305/376 are often very narrow and rumble stripped, but traffic is light enough that I wouldn't consider that to be a problem. A bonus along that route is it takes you through the little town of Austin, after a steep climb from the west on US 50. In addition to being the halfway point along that route between Battle Mtn. and Tonopah, it's a charming, funky little place that has drawn affection from a number of cyclists in their CGOAB journals.
395 south of Reno goes through many miles of suburbs that always seem like a drag to escape, even in a car. The busiest stretch seems to be between Reno and Topaz Lake to the south, if you can endure that, the top notch stretches along the eastern Sierra begin south of there.