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  1. #1
    lis
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    Predominant winds in New Mexico, Utah and Colorado in March / April?

    Hi!

    So, next year I've got a 5 weeks leave approved with work. I'm looking at various exciting ways to spend those five weeks, mostly involving cycle touring which I've done before. I currently live in San Francisco, and while I'd originially looked at a tour of Tasmania, really it seems quite silly to pay such a huge airfare when there's so much beauty around the corner (and I'm French so it'll be new to me).

    The time off is likely to be around march or april, which rules out a lot of places where I'll be too cold. That's alright because I've wanted to tour Arizona / Utah / New Mexico / Colorado for ages.

    I've sort of mapped something tentative that linked the sort of things I want to see: white sands in NM, historical towns in NM, amazing parks in UT, and mountain scenery in CO. I'm aiming to start south and head north as it gets warmer. This would be the possible route: http://bit.ly/bP1TU6 although it's by no means fixed.

    I've tried to find info on predominant winds, but most of what I can find relates to the southern tier route, which is west-east, whereas mine is more or less north-south oriented. I've seen someone mention south-westerlies in texas in summer. (southerly would be good )

    Any help about the winds would be great! I turn into a horrible gremlin when I've got a strong headwind - I know they're a fact of touring but if I can avoid a predictable pattern, that'd be great!

    Thanks!

    Lis

    PS: any general comments on the route welcome! I'm not saying I'd cycle those specific roads though - I'll keep it flexible. I'm looking for something that starts near an airport and ends near an airport to keep it simple!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Any chance you could do this in May and June?

    Most of your route is 2000-5000 ft elevation. That means it'll still be cold in March and April. Still be snow in the passes, and good chances for more. Plus spring rains, cold spring rains. Freezing spring rains. In other words, too early for comfortable touring along that route. Even if you started in April in southern NM, conditions in the mountains of SW CO would be very iffy. I had snow and sleet near Eagar, Az in May during a tour.

    OTOH, with 2 months to do the trip, you'll have time to wait out storms. There'll be many more good days than bad ones. Just be prepared for very cold conditions. Carry a weather radio. Pay close attention to forecast. Hibernate when necessary.

    You may get some tailwind help south to north, but more likely it'll be a very mixed bag. Spring weather is notoriously unsettled.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  3. #3
    lis
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    Ha - actually I have five weeks and I'm a fairly slow tourer (45 miles daily on average), plus I need rest days reguarly - so not necessarily much of an opportunity to wait out a storm unless it syncs with a rest! Also I am planning on hiking during my "rest" days as I love that too - so bad weather isn't great I thought perhaps march or april would be ok as the southern tier route is meant to be navigable through winter, but perhaps I'm going too far north from it?
    The southern tier route itself is another option, catching it in El Paso or perhaps even further east, and continuing as far west as I can go. For some reason this doesn't inspire me as much - I'm horrified by the fact that it's going through Phoenix but perhaps the rest of it is actually splendid?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    El Paso to SD on the ST would be advisable as that is an option for you. No significant weather worries. You can avoid Phx altogether by using the interstates to get around it, but that would be no fun at all.

    I've ridden Phoenix a good bit. It ain't great, but by staying off the main highways, as ridable as most large cities. Besides, I think the ACA maps will direct you onto the Canal Trails that will take you from the east to the west side. That may take you a couple of days.

    Only down side, east to west, you'll likely encounter more head winds, tho the fickled spring weather rule will still apply. And the scenery will not be as spectacular as your original route. But, you'll be seeing the desert in full bloom as compensation.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  5. #5
    Hooked on Touring
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    Quote Originally Posted by lis View Post
    The time off is likely to be around march or april, which rules out a lot of places where I'll be too cold. That's alright because I've wanted to tour Arizona / Utah / New Mexico / Colorado for ages.
    Puis je dire que l'hiver reste encore pendant les mois de mars et d'avril dan le région de "Four Corners".

    Here are some climate links -
    The source is the Western Regional Climate Center
    http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/

    Average temperatures:

    Santa Fe - Mar 56/27 Apr 64/33
    http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliMAIN.pl?nm8085

    Cortez, Colorado - Mar 54/25 Apr 63/31
    http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliMAIN.pl?co1886

    Of course, the communities are in the valleys - so it is colder the higher you are.
    The general rule in summer is 3 degrees F per 1000 ft.
    In spring it is far more variable.

    Winds - are prevailing southwesterlies
    Wind charts -
    Direction - http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/htmlfiles/westwinddir.html
    Speed - http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/htmlfiles/westwind.final.html

    <<<>>>

    I cannot stress strongly enough that your suggested tour route and time are extremely early in the season. Possible, but difficult. You will almost certainly encounter snow - and spring snowstorms can be the most severe. Furthermore, in higher elevations there will be significant snow cover from the winter which has hardly begun to melt. Thus, almost all national park and national forest facilities will be closed - - camping, water, toilets.

    March and April are ideal touring months for Death Valley, the Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree National Park, and into Arizona to the Grand Canyon. (Although Zion and Moab are relatively low elevation in Utah - most of the intervening terrain is high and quite cold in spring.)

    If you were to start in Death Valley and work your way through the desert parks, you could arrive at the Grand Canyon in mid April - hike down into the canyon - and then head back to Flagstaff and catch Amtrak back to S.F. (You could also ride to Death Valley via the the Carrizo Plains and over Walker Pass.) The nice thing about early spring in the desert is that is when it is peak wildflower season.

    Take a look at Carrizo Plains:
    http://www.calpolylink.com/s/699/ind...873&photo=2735

    Antelope Valley
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ca...a_Poppies1.jpg

    Death Valley
    http://www.nps.gov/deva/naturescience/wildflowers.htm

    Anza Borrego
    http://www.desertusa.com/wildflo/ca_abdsp.html

    <<<>>>

    There are long, empty stretches of Historic Route 66 between Barstow, California; Needles, California, and Ash Fork, Arizona. If you want to include some Native America prehistoric sites, you can go further south via Parker and Prescott to Tuzigoot and Palatki Ruins.

    It is not that the Four Corners trip is impossible - just difficult.
    Touring the desert parks in March and April is the ideal time to do so.

    Bon séjour!

    Jama
    Last edited by jamawani; 11-10-10 at 07:11 PM. Reason: spelling

  6. #6
    lis
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    Ha, thanks so much jamawani! Those links will be very useful, especially the predominant wind direction one I shall mull this over - I'm fairly interested in the deserts and the bloom so your route could be tempting, even though I've already been to the Death Valley and Grand Canyon - but could it ever be enough? I could potentially push the trip into may but I'd rather sooner than later... seize the opportunity while it is there, sort of thing Would my original route be nice in may?

    What about the eastern tier of the souther tier route, through Louisiana and on? Is that scenic? I'm culturally quite interested in Louisiana, not so much in alligators

  7. #7
    Hooked on Touring
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    The eastern half of the Southern Tier gets VERY wet in springtime.
    I did a Deep South tour in winter off of the Southern Tier.
    I really cannot understand why the Southern Tier does not route you through Cajun Louisiana.
    But that part of Louisiana was hit hard by Hurricane Rita a few years ago.
    Link - http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p..._id=73245&v=4Q

    Looking at your route -
    It is définitivement too cold in March/April.
    Alpine, Ariz - March - 52/20
    C'est-à-dire - 11C et -7C avec plus de 20 cm de la neige pendent le mois de mars.

    If you were to start in El Paso - why not head east to Guadalupe Peak and Carlsbad Caverns?
    Then head north via Artesia and Ruidoso thru the mountains to Gran Quivira ruins.
    http://www.nps.gov/sapu/index.htm

    Then you could take the Turqouise Trail into Santa Fe - which does get pretty busy.
    If you were to take your time - the High Road to Taos is spectacular.
    By April it should be warmer. There are pueblos all along the route.
    And Taos Pueblo is a world heritage site.
    http://www.taospueblo.com/images/visiting_lg.jpg

    If this is too short, you could add a loop down to Big Bend National Park at the beginning of the trip.
    No matter which route you select, if you only do about 50 miles per day, you will need to do some remote camping. Many areas of the rural West have distances of 80 and more miles between services.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    El Paso east to as far as 5 weeks will take you would be good. You'd be moving from the desert to the coastal wet lands of LA and beyond. Yeah, there would surely be rain, but warm rain. Here is an option that would take you through Cajun Country, off the ACA route. More interesting. There is a long list of overnight spots at the end of the journal.

    Anything not involving elevations of more than 2000 ft, or further north than the central part of the country, will be fine.
    Last edited by Cyclebum; 11-10-10 at 08:54 PM.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  9. #9
    lis
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    Mmm... all in all sounds like it's just not the best season for the stuff I really want to tour. Maybe I should go back to my first plan of cycling Tasmania, and nevermind my pension fund

  10. #10
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    Hi Lis - I'm thinking of doing a similar route to what jamawani has suggested, starting first week of April from LA. If you end up doing something along these lines let me know and maybe we could meet up for part of it?

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    Totally agree w/Jamawani here (hi Jamawani!!!). It's much too early. I actually got snowed on in the Gila National Forest last April. My experience with the wind in AZ & UT in spring is it is often quite strong, and most often from the west or southwest.

    Also, it looks to me on quick inspection that you have selected a lot of dirt roads. Not sure if that was intentional? Google Map bike directions doesn't work very well. It will route you on any kind of passage, even if one doesn't exist or isn't really appropriate.

    I think that whole section between Hwy 40 and Canyonlands is dirt, and there are no towns. There are very limited services in Canyonlands park itself, you'll probably need to resupply in Monticello.

    Also, and Jamawani and I disagree about this - a lot of your route in AZ could be on Indian Reservations, and as a female traveling alone, I found those to be frankly terrifying, in terms of 1) drunk drivers 2) loose dogs 3) creepy panhandling. I might just be a person who expects and therefore experiences those things, but just, heads-up about that. I wouldn't ride through the Chinle area myself, at least not alone.

    The Colorado portion of your route will be just getting into riding season in mid May. June-August would be ideal.

    I thought Tasmania was ok - but if you are going to shell out the big bucks for a flight to the southern hemisphere, NZ is FANTASTIC. April is getting too late for the mountain passes in the south, so if you go there, plan to do the southern mountains at the beginning of your trip, and move north / to the north island later. I really enjoyed the southern alps (and everywhere else I went on the South Island) and the East Cape of the North Island. On the other hand, if you hate wind, NZ might be challenging, it's always windy, and there's no prevailing, it switches around a lot. On the good side, there are tons of little towns, most of them have somewhere to camp or rent a cheap bed, the food is good, it's clean, it's super hilly, and the scenery is great.
    ...

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    If you were to start in El Paso - why not head east to Guadalupe Peak and Carlsbad Caverns?
    Then head north via Artesia and Ruidoso thru the mountains to Gran Quivira ruins.
    http://www.nps.gov/sapu/index.htm

    Then you could take the Turqouise Trail into Santa Fe - which does get pretty busy.
    If you were to take your time - the High Road to Taos is spectacular.
    By April it should be warmer. There are pueblos all along the route.
    And Taos Pueblo is a world heritage site.
    http://www.taospueblo.com/images/visiting_lg.jpg

    I live in New Mexico: you will face REALLY STRONG WINDS in March and April. It will still be really cold on the High Road to Taos, maybe still snowing (or not, you never know). I got blizzarded on on a hiking trip in the Gila in April one year. I would recomend you come later, May/June is a nice time.

    Tabriz

  13. #13
    lis
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    @alpine girl : yeah that would be fun! My timing is going to be very dependent on work though so I really don't know yet whether it's going to be february, march, april... or even may... and it depends on which decision I make between Tasmania, America, or a scuba diving volunteer holiday!
    @valygrl : the dirt roads were not intentional. I don't really plan on cycling those specific routes - I'm mostly mapping out between things I want to see to get a rough idea of distance, but I won't plan the specific route ahead, I like to keep it flexible - although I'm happy to know my options. I really should know better about google's cycling directions though - almost took a group of 14 up a steep gravely road on what had looked tarmac'ed to me... (someone who rode it down said it would be "the climb of your life" - oops). Good to know about the reservations - I'm likely to be riding alone and that would definitely unsettle me.
    I couldn't agree more about NZ - it was where I did my first and only long-distance tour. I rode for 2 months around the South Island then drove up the North one for about 10 days. So I could cycle the north one but I have a feeling Tasmania would be better than the north island, especially considering I've seen a fair bit of it already. I'm not excluding returning to New Zealand one day, especially to ride the roads I didn't do in the South (arthur's pass, east coast from Dunedin to Christchurch...) and to do more backpacking. I'm actually expecting Tasmania to be a similar experience in terms of the people, food and landscapes - but with obviously different wildlife (and the odd kangaroo on the plate). I'm glad about the wind though: if NZ is a particularly windy place then maybe I'll feel lucky somewhere else (not Tasmania though which I bet is even worse!!)

  14. #14
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Having lived in NE New Mexico for a decade, the most accurate description of the winds I can give you is WINDY.

    Expect average 20mph winds, large daily temperature swings, and weather conditions that be both summerish and winterish over the course of a week or even a day.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  15. #15
    Senior Member Bent In El Paso's Avatar
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    I live in El Paso. Unless you are active military and can get a pass to ride on the base, you will not be allowed to ride on the military reservations. To get from El Paso to White Sands, you will need to ride to Las Cruces and then take US 70 over San Augustine Pass to White Sands National Monument. On the return you will have to back track on US 70 to Las Cruces. March and April are not typically very cold in this part of the country, but as stated before the wind can be very strong.

  16. #16
    But wait... I AM the man. NoGaBiker's Avatar
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    Just got back from a 300 mile trek in south-western N.Mexico last week. Had a blast. But I gotta tell you, it will be COLD in the regions you mention in March. I've gone backpacking in southern Utah every March for the past 9 years and it is often snowing (like this year!)

    That is why we chose southwestern NM for this time of year. But the weather's still crazy! Last Tuesday it was 81 on my bike thermometer at 4pm. I watched the sun go down sitting around camp in a single short-sleeve tee shirt. I woke up the next morning to a reading of 27degF!

    Anyway, we had a blast riding through the desolation of that area and southeastern Arizona. Did a big 200 mile loop from Silver City to Lordsburg, up through Duncan to Three Way, back east through Mule Creek (BIG climb!) to Cliff/Gila, then south to Silver City. I highly recommend that loop. Traffic is non-existent, no matter how big a road you pick. Our first day (Silver to Lordsburg) we were on a 4-lane divided highway with an 8-foot bike lane on either side, and traffic was so light (one car every 4-5 minutes) that we road the right lane rather than the bike lane because it was a little smoother. And other roads were even less travelled.

    Then we drove to Hillsboro (a little east of Silver City) and rode east to Caballo, south to Hatch, West to Nutt, and north to Hillsboro. A perfect 100 mile loop, with the biggest city (Hatch) at the 51-mile point. Problem was, we took no camping gear for this 100-mile loop because 3 motels showed up on our internet search. When we got to Hatch we were told "the last one closed down 3 months ago." We spent the night with the priest in the rectory! Traffic so light it made the first loop seem congested! The last 30 miles from Nutt to Hillsboro saw 5 cars total, both directions.

    Anyway, NM has some beautiful riding throughout the state, but I'd stay away from northern NM, UT, or CO during March unless you don't mind potential 20/30deg weather in the morning.
    Last edited by NoGaBiker; 11-11-10 at 01:49 PM.
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