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Old 12-21-10, 07:05 PM   #1
graybeard
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So Cal in February

we have a few weeks available to tour Sothern California in late February...Is it to early to tour there? we are Campers and stay in motels only in emergencies...Two of us , experienced tourers, totally self contained, generally...just the cold ..as we get older.....comments and suggestions please...
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Old 12-21-10, 07:07 PM   #2
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It depends where you are going in SoCal. The coast will be just fine. San Diego and LA are great year round. Death Valley and further inland will be pretty chilly at night but just fine during the day. Take a good sleeping bag and you will have a good time!
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Old 12-21-10, 07:57 PM   #3
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you can tour here. the high mountain roads will be closed (sierras, etc.) but you can ride anywhere else unless the biblical rains we are currently having washes the roads away or causes similar damage.
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Old 12-21-10, 10:10 PM   #4
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next question would be , has anyone used Amtrak with their bikes ..it sounds easy on their website, but a bit vague as to availablity for touring bikes..bags etc etc...we would leave from Vancouver Canada and head as far south as San Diego and start working our way back north... for two weeks then take the train back up north for the rest..and the cold..
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Old 12-21-10, 10:37 PM   #5
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There is no guarantee that you will be warm throughout the trip so back well. I have been on Amtrak with my bike but not past San Luis Obispo. There are some stretches where you will have to pay a nominal fee to take your bike on board. The trains are rarely full but if fell the need to make a reservation, do so to guarantee you and your bike will be traveling together.
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Old 12-21-10, 11:05 PM   #6
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some amtrak lines (coast starlight is one, i think) require your bike to be boxed and checked as luggage for a small ($5-10?) fee. other lines have no restriction and you can wheel your bike onboard and hang it from a hook. i think most stations sell boxes, so you would just need a pedal wrench and a 6mm or whatever your stem takes. most stations will provide the tape to shut your box, but i recall one somewhere that wanted me to supply my own. or maybe i'm drunk.

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Old 12-22-10, 02:08 AM   #7
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I spent two months in SoCal this year, mid jan to mid march, Anzo Borrego, Joshua Tree and Death Valley for the most part.

As others have said the deserts can get very cold at night (below freezing) so a good 3 season bag is a must. Mine is rated to comfort temperature of -9/-2 (m/f) EN 13537 even so I would at times have been glad to have had an even warmer bag.
Cold in the morning, but warmed up quickly after sunrise and a hot coffee

Days are short. I found myself riding all day rather than taking a long break/siesta in the middle of the day as I would in summer, so I got to sleep much earlier than normal but which in turn made getting up at 6 a.m no problem

The days were mostly lovely, I ended up with a great tan on my arms/legs

oh and the deserts are magical! I'd go back in february in a heartbeat...

I crossed the Central Valley on the way back to the coast, but it was definitely not a region I would want to spend more time in than the time it took to get out...

my tour pictures here

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Old 12-22-10, 07:41 AM   #8
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You might reconsider riding north. The wind blows north to south and you will be fighting it the entire way. Also, most of the shoulders and bike paths are on the coastal side of the road because that is where most people ride. I would take the train as far south as you think you can go and then ride to San Diego, then take the train back north.
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Old 12-22-10, 09:35 AM   #9
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Really enjoyed your pix..thyanx for the info Bob
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Old 12-22-10, 09:37 AM   #10
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Thats extremely good advise...I forgot about the wind factor..plus the bike path ...hmm thanx Bob
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Old 12-22-10, 09:47 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by zeppinger View Post
You might reconsider riding north. The wind blows north to south and you will be fighting it the entire way. Also, most of the shoulders and bike paths are on the coastal side of the road because that is where most people ride. I would take the train as far south as you think you can go and then ride to San Diego, then take the train back north.
That's less true in winter. Most storm systems bring winds from the South. My friend just finished riding from SF to SD yesterday - lots of headwinds.

Personally in February, I would head out to the desert as imi described above.
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Old 12-22-10, 10:02 AM   #12
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Here's a rough route suggestion in SoCal, Amtrak station to Amtrak station with 1049 miles in between. I stayed at all the markers (A,B,C... etc), and rode most of the roads... would need more tweaking

SoCal loop (loads slowly)

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Old 12-22-10, 11:06 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by graybeard View Post
next question would be , has anyone used Amtrak with their bikes ..it sounds easy on their website, but a bit vague as to availablity for touring bikes..bags etc etc...we would leave from Vancouver Canada and head as far south as San Diego and start working our way back north... for two weeks then take the train back up north for the rest..and the cold..
I've done Amtrak on the Pacific Coast multiple times. The primary train along the Pacific is the Coast Starlight which goes from Seattle to Los Angeles. On either end, there are cross connections with the Cascades (Eugene to Vancouver) and the Surfliner (San Luis Obispo to San Diego). If you are traveling end-to-end, you can check your boxed bike at start to make the transfers. For example, last Christmas I traveled from Portland to San Diego and the Coast Starlight/Surfliner transfer happened without my intervention in LA.

The Coast Starlight only loads/unloads bicycles at stations that are baggage stations (check their route guide). The policy seems to be mostly that bikes should be boxed. I say mostly because I've seen one or two occasions where a San Luis Obispo to San Jose jaunt was with unboxed bike - but believe this is the exception. Baggage stations also sell boxes. The cost is quite a bit more reasonable than the airlines.

The Cascades has a baggage car that includes bike hooks. You can reserve these bike spots for $5 and bring your unboxed bike to the train to load and unload. You can get on/off at any station with your unboxed bike. This last summer I took the train the entire Eugene to Vancouver distance in three different trips (Eugene to Portland/Portland to Seattle/Seattle to Vancouver) and cycling the other direction. It was very convenient to book trips and get on/off the train.

I'm less familiar with the Surfliner, but believe this takes a smaller number of unboxed bikes and doesn't have reservations.

So I believe your primary alternatives are likely:
1) Find a starting station with baggage service. Box your bike and check it through to your destination. Make sure the destination also has baggage service.
2) Do a subset of your trip only on the Cascades (in the north) or Surfliner (in the south). Get reservations on the Cascades. Bring your bike unboxed.

As far as the wind directions go, I prefer to do my touring heading southbound and on the ocean side of the road. In contrast to your plan, over this upcoming Christmas week I'm first driving to the SF Bay area and then cycling southbound. I'll go a variable distance down the coast and then take the train back northbound to the Bay Area. Given that you are in Vancouver, I'd also encourage you to consider a summer trip heading southbound from Vancouver and catching the Cascades train back home...It is a fun ride.

Last edited by mev; 12-22-10 at 12:52 PM.
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Old 12-22-10, 01:28 PM   #14
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In contrast to your plan, over this upcoming Christmas week I'm first driving to the SF Bay area and then cycling southbound. I'll go a variable distance down the coast and then take the train back northbound to the Bay Area. Given that you are in Vancouver, I'd also encourage you to consider a summer trip heading southbound from Vancouver and catching the Cascades train back home...It is a fun ride.
Apologies for hijacking the thread...Mev, just curious, what more specifically is your plan for the coast ride? Hopefuly the rains we've been having will have passed.
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Old 12-22-10, 01:47 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by graybeard View Post
we have a few weeks available to tour Sothern California in late February...Is it to early to tour there? we are Campers and stay in motels only in emergencies...Two of us , experienced tourers, totally self contained, generally...just the cold ..as we get older.....comments and suggestions please...
I've toured and lived in Southern California, and can offer a few suggestions:

Check the weather and wind forecasts. You can still run into nasty weather in Feb. If you have contingency plans, in case of bad weather in one area, you can avoid it.

The coast may be quite foggy. You can check forecasts.

Glad to hear that some others are finally recognizing the fact that the wind directions are very season-dependent.

Camping isn't so easy south of Malibu, along the coast. North of Malibu, there are many opportunities to free camp. There are a few campgrounds south of Malibu, in some areas, but they aren't so great.

Northern Southern California ("Southern California" -- according to some measures, such as latitude -- starts farther north than most people think), or what some people here call "The Central Coast," is much less populated than areas further south. It is a much better area for camping and touring (weather permitting) than the more-populated greater Los Angeles and San Diego areas.

(The actual dividing line between north and south, according to latitude, is somewhere near Santa Cruz and Monterey. Most people living here would consider "The Central Coast" to begin somewhere near Monterey, and continue south to somewhere a bit north of Santa Barbara.)

The Santa Ynez Valley is worth considering.

The area around Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo is great.

The fog is often much less prevalent when you go inland a bit (sometimes just a short distance).

There are areas where spring will be springing around that time (late Feb.). In other areas, though, it will still be winter. If you are at higher elevations (in the higher mountains or high desert areas), spring will be later. Spring, when it is springing, is a very beautiful time in much of California.

I would consider touring the backroads of the Central Coast. You can go inland if the coast weather is not agreeable; but if it is agreeable, some of the most scenic riding in California is there. North of Morro Bay is the Big Sur Coast, all the way up to Carmel. It's beautiful.

Last edited by Niles H.; 12-22-10 at 03:37 PM.
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Old 12-22-10, 06:45 PM   #16
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Apologies for hijacking the thread...Mev, just curious, what more specifically is your plan for the coast ride? Hopefuly the rains we've been having will have passed.
I've got a flexible plan since I want to adjust to weather and also because this is a favorite part of the coast I've cycled multiple times before. In a week time:
1. Start in San Jose. Cycle to Santa Cruz and then follow the coast route southbound.
2. End in one of three places: San Luis Obispo at ~200 miles (where I have train reserved), Santa Barbara ~300 miles or LAX ~430 miles (where I have rental car reserved). So I might end up canceling a car reservation or having an un-used train ticket.
3. Take a tent but also stay in motels where it makes sense.
4. Adjust each day to local conditions for that day.
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Old 01-10-11, 04:05 PM   #17
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Nice trip of about 300-350 miles is Half Moon Bay to Santa Barbara. Good camping along the way and good riding. In my opinion the ride South of Santa Barbara or Ventura is hardly worth doing.
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Old 01-10-11, 10:59 PM   #18
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...snip...

I crossed the Central Valley on the way back to the coast, but it was definitely not a region I would want to spend more time in than the time it took to get out...
Looking at the route you posted, this must have been the Imperial Valley, not the Central Valley. I think the Central Valley would have been even worse...
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Old 01-11-11, 03:51 AM   #19
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Looking at the route you posted, this must have been the Imperial Valley, not the Central Valley. I think the Central Valley would have been even worse...
The route I posted was a different suggestion than the route I rode last winter- I came down from Tehechapi to Bakersfield, rode to Wasco then got out of there on the road to Paso Robles towards the coast.
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