I would like to do some Mountain / Road Touring, and I would like to start in mid to late November, Starting perhaps in Colorado and ending outside of Seattle, Wa.
First off, am I absolutely crazy to start during that time? I currently live in Chicago, and I feel it's time to up and go, and while the weather might not be convenient, the timing would be alright for me.
Second, gear recommendations. I've got the bike, and I'm figuring on using my bob trailer to haul what I do carry.
Technically, it could be done, but you would need considerable winter touring and camping experience in order to do this. There would be only 8 hours of daylight. Temperatures could drop to -20, -30, even -40. Although there might be pleasant days, there would also be days with brutal blizzard conditions - heavy snow and high winds. Often in the interior West in early winter, conditions switch from nice to deadly in a matter of minutes.
I have lived in Wyoming for 15 years and have considerable outdoor experience. People die every year in our mountains. Many are from the Midwest. If you do not know this country - and your request for routes suggests that you do not - you should not even consider it.
Yeah, I was afraid of that. Perhaps starting much further west in the same time frame might work better? The main thing is I would like to be off-road as much as possible, rather than tour on the road. I would like to ride the Continental Divide, and I can put that off for awhile to a later date where a flat lander like me would not get myself killed.
So any suggestions for mountain touring in the US in early winter?
Consider Death Valley, the Mojave National Preserve, and Joshua Tree. Nov-Dec is a great time of year there. Remember that elevation is correlated with temp. In summer it's 3 degrees for every 1000 feet. I'd allow 5 degrees for every 1000 feet in winter. This if it's 60 in the valley for a high - it might be only 45 in the high country.
Here's a website with detailed average temps and precip. Click on the state - then the location. http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/climsum.html
For instance - Twenty-Nine Palms has averages of 72/42 in mid-Nov - - 63/35 by mid-Dec. 10 to 20 degrees cooler in the mountains.
There are also website for each of the parklands. The national parks allow less backcountry riding, but there are some incredible routes - like Saline Valley Road in Death Valley that you cam make a huge loop and swing back thru Scotty's Castle. Mojave's options are limitless. Consider heading out either on Southwest to Vegas or Amtrak to Needles. Then you can fly up to Seattle from Vegas or ride over to Bakersfield and take Amtrak up to Washington.
PS - You talk about being off road. Have you ridden dirt roads that are snow/slush covered? It's one thing if they are hard-packed - which usually implies snowmobile traffic, but early snows usually melt and freeze and produce an impossible muddy goo. So you either need to be in areas where the snow season hasn't started or where it's very dry and there is little snow.
Bruce Gordon BLT, Cannondale parts bike, Ecodyne recumbent trike, Counterpoint Opus 2, miyata 1000
I would go for coastal California in that time frame. Less rain the further south you go. Forget the Rockies, I was set to tour from Denver to San Francisco in mid APRIL and it snowed 12" the night before I left. If I had to live in the snow belt again I would sacrifice and get a set of the metal studded Schwalbe tires. They are nothing to tour on.
surly LHT, kona jake the snake, cannondale f600 and f400, dahon boardwalk, 1970 columbia cruiser, Jamis dakar XC
I think a tour from astoria oregon down the coastal hills to san francisco or so would be fun and good for a first route. it would be easy enough to stay near supplies but be out in the wilderness most of the time. Then maybe route in to joshua tree and arizona/nevada.
If you are planning on going over lots of mountain ranges dont buy stiff mountain style spd shoes, try to find some with a flexable sole. I split the plates on my new northwaves with in a week from trying to walk up some of the grades. Thats about the only problem i had.