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Old 10-07-12, 05:06 PM   #1
eappleton1
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Vancouver to New York

Hi all,

My wife and I are in the beginning stages of planning a cross-country trip next spring/summer. I'm wondering if the route below is reasonable. We can leave Vancouver as early as late April (if that works for the weather) and need to be in NYC by the end of August.

http://bit.ly/Q6HmRK (a simplification. I haven't researched the specific roads yet.)


We just got back from a 6-day ride from NYC to Baltimore, which was our first trip using racks and panniers. We stayed in hotels and b&b's. We rode about 50 miles/day, which seems like a comfortable distance for us. I'm hoping that we could increase the mileage a bit as we get comfortable being in the saddle. We are new to touring, but not to biking. I commute daily about 20 miles and have done a number of centuries. My wife is much less of a rider, but it is a yoga instructor and is in great shape. (She does experience a lot of discomfort being on the bike day after day and is looking for solutions.) We are planning to camp most of the trip, with a stay in a hotel once a week or so.

I have a million questions, but the first think I'm wondering is if this West-East route makes sense. Will we be able to make it across the country on this route? If we started in April, would the weather be okay in Vancouver-Seattle-Portland? Our plan is to spend 2-3 weeks on this leg, since we have friends to stay with in each city.

Thanks for the help,
Eric
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Old 10-07-12, 05:19 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by eappleton1 View Post
If we started in April, would the weather be okay in Vancouver-Seattle-Portland? Our plan is to spend 2-3 weeks on this leg, since we have friends to stay with in each city.
2-3 weeks is a fair amount of time for this distance (~400 miles). Spring weather in Pacific Northwest is pretty variable but still reasonable chances of rain most days. Not necessarily hard, not necessarily all day but fair number of days with rain. Given you have a fair amount of time, have places to visit in all three cities and bring some rain gear, I'd say this leg could work out.

Just bicycled from Vancouver to Seattle last weekend. Beautiful weather and a great ride.
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Old 10-07-12, 11:22 PM   #3
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Hi, and welcome to the Forum!

It is possible, but early April is pretty early for the first part of the route. We had snow in April this year, and we live in the Willamette Valley, not the mountains. You can expect rain, cold weather and snow at the higher elevations.

Your route is approximately 4500 miles. If you average 50 miles a day, that would be roughly 90 days. If you started your trip in May you would still have approximately 120 days to get to NYC. The weather can still be "iffy" in the PNW, Eastern Oregon, Idaho in May, but it is usually better than April. Several of our ski areas are still running in April!

My wife and I rode across the country a few years ago averaging 50 miles a day for 74 days. That is a moderate pace for someone in reasonably good condition. It sounds like you should not have any trouble maintaining that pace. It also looks like you have allowed plenty of time for the ride, which allows quite a bit of flexibility.

Get good rain gear, a warm sleeping bag and fenders

Good luck on your venture.
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Old 10-08-12, 01:06 AM   #4
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Weather going over the mountains is going to determine your plans. Too early, and you will be assured of bad weather, too late and you may be squeezing your schedule.

I think Doug64's 90 day estimate is good, and you could fit it in between mid-May and mid-August.

Good luck,
and keep us posted on your plans and preparations.
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Old 10-08-12, 04:55 AM   #5
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It is possible, but early April is pretty early for the first part of the route. We had snow in April this year, and we live in the Willamette Valley, not the mountains. You can expect rain, cold weather and snow at the higher elevations.
There was a record snowfall on Wednesday March 21st (http://www.kptv.com/story/17209187/p...ake-up-to-snow). I cycled from Eugene to Salem the following Saturday (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/161385290) and it was fine. I also did a three day mini-tour from Portland to Pasco, WA on April 20th/21st/22nd this year and remember cycling most other April weekends in Portland. Even this year if you were willing to be a little flexible on your dates pending local weather - that first section from Vancouver to Portland would be ok.

The issue is a little more in the mountains. You can bypass some going through Columbia River gorge but depending on route through highest passes could be an issue. Again, having a little flexibility on days and not deciding to travel in middle of a storm - I think April start can work.

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Old 10-08-12, 05:33 AM   #6
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Here is one way to approximate historical precipitation: http://or.water.usgs.gov/non-usgs/bes/ This is a rain gauge network in Portland. Pick a weather station and look at "data table" You can then thumb through and see most every April/May in last 12 years how often there was precipitation. The trick is to expect some rain many days in April/May but also expect days w/o rain. If you have some flexibility with your Seattle/Vancouver/Portland connections try to pick days with less precipitation and carry rain gear for others.
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Old 10-08-12, 07:45 AM   #7
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Your initial plans are likely to produce a rather miserable trip. Yes, it's "doable" but it will likely poison you towards bicycle touring for the rest of your lives. If your wife is a yoga instructor - then she knows about flexibility and flow.

If you have a time frame - say April thru July - then pick a wide band which is the best region to tour in during this period.
Consider an east-to-west trip rather than a west to east one given the early timefrime.
Even east-towest is tricky in the east in April - perhaps a few weeks delay is in order.
Rather than zig-zagging to see friends - have friends meet you - maybe a state park cabin or yurt?
(Getting into and out of cities is often tricky and breaks the rhythm of the tour.)

I would urge you to give more thought to your route - since you will be "out there".
I have been snowed on in the Cascades in June and the Rockies in July and August.
It is my belief that linking a series of friends' pins without careful route preparation can be risky.
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Old 10-08-12, 08:12 AM   #8
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Toronto and Montreal to get to NYC? Take a look at Adventure Cycling Association's web site for route maps:

http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/RouteNetwork.pdf

Pacific Coast to Nothern Tier (and possibly North Lakes) to Erie, PA where you can pick up PA Bike Route Y across the northern tier of PA and then find your own way into NYC or hook up with ACA's Atlantic Coast, which has a roundabout way to get to Summit, NJ where you can catch the train into Manhattan. Or from Summit you can ride to Hoboken and take a pretty ferry ride across the Hudson to the bike path along the river. As you obvously know, riding into NYC is difficult, with the GWB being the only way you can actually ride into the city from the west.

Agree with Jamami. Go later and skip the friends thing.
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Old 10-08-12, 09:33 AM   #9
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on the NW Coast the 6th month is called Junuary, since it is still cool and wet often.
April and May will still have snow on mountain passes..
but CDN's will be used to that.
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Old 10-08-12, 09:46 AM   #10
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This sounds like a tour with plenty of time for unexpected delays if started late April. You're experienced tourist who can handle yourselves and understand the value of common sense. Go for it with little compromise to amplify the adventure, within reason. Mail the cold weather gear home asap.
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Old 10-08-12, 09:52 PM   #11
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Hi all,

Thank you for your advice. Just to clarify, we don't have to start in April. May would be fine. I just thought we might need extra time. Are the objections to the route due to the start date or to fact that we added a couple North-South legs? What if we started in the beginning of May and turned west in mid-May? Or if we went farther south and caught the Western Express? Sounds like rain and cold weather gear will be necessary either way...

Eric
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Old 10-08-12, 10:26 PM   #12
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Hey Eric-

I think starting in May is a better idea, especially if you plan on spending up to three weeks on the Vancouver-Portland section. Weather in that part of the NW is touch-and-go in May. While it won't be frigid in the valley floor, you can expect some cool nights. May vacillates between nice, sunny days with temps in the 60s and 70s (even a stray 80 if you are lucky), and winter holdover weather of cloudy to sprinkly to occasional short downpour with temps in the 50s to 60s. (And it will of course feel colder if you get soaked.) Touring will be doable, though be prepared for the rain.

If you time it so you leave Portland towards the end of May, the likelihood of getting over the Cascade passes sans snow increases, though still be prepared for that likelihood. You can also avoid snowy passes by travelling east through the Columbia River Gorge, which will still be a beautiful ride. Of course if you head east-west and get to the NW in August, you're almost guaranteed great weather!

I don't see any problem with the zig-zag action you have, as I've done longer tours that were anything but direct. You'll have four months to do it all, which is a decent window of time. It might be wise to plan for a Plan B where you cut off some of the zig-zag if you are going slower than you expected.
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Old 10-09-12, 10:27 PM   #13
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Thank you all. I'll keep you posted.

Eric
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Old 10-10-12, 08:06 PM   #14
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Some years you may not even be able to get over the North Cascade Hwy until the middle of May... If that is the route you decide to take. Sounds like a fun trip.
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Old 10-11-12, 11:57 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Toronto and Montreal to get to NYC? Take a look at Adventure Cycling Association's web site for route maps:

http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/RouteNetwork.pdf

Pacific Coast to Nothern Tier (and possibly North Lakes) to Erie, PA where you can pick up PA Bike Route Y across the northern tier of PA and then find your own way into NYC or hook up with ACA's Atlantic Coast, which has a roundabout way to get to Summit, NJ where you can catch the train into Manhattan. Or from Summit you can ride to Hoboken and take a pretty ferry ride across the Hudson to the bike path along the river. As you obvously know, riding into NYC is difficult, with the GWB being the only way you can actually ride into the city from the west.

Agree with Jamami. Go later and skip the friends thing.
To get from Toronto to Montreal, just take the Waterfront Trail to the Quebec border and take Route Verte 5 into Montreal. Leaving Montreal take Route Verte 1 & 2 to the US border where you can take Bike Route 9 to the GWB or you can cross the Hudson River earlier and take advantage of Westchester's bike routes.

You should be able to use the ACA routes to get you as far a Buffalo NY.
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Old 10-11-12, 12:07 PM   #16
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Many people ride east-to-west; Portland-Seattle-Vancouver are usually glorious in August, the plains are crossed before the heat of summer and the mountain passes are open in July. These concerns often trump the prevailing wind concerns.
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Old 10-11-12, 12:34 PM   #17
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To get from Toronto to Montreal, just take the Waterfront Trail to the Quebec border and take Route Verte 5 into Montreal. Leaving Montreal take Route Verte 1 & 2 to the US border where you can take Bike Route 9 to the GWB or you can cross the Hudson River earlier and take advantage of Westchester's bike routes.

You should be able to use the ACA routes to get you as far a Buffalo NY.
My point was "why?" given the parameters of the orginal post. About 4 months max (late April to the end of August) with up to 3 weeks of that spent getting through Portland with daily mileage "a bit" above 50 and what appears from the map to a less than direct route and no mention of the inevitable rest days. The schedule seems even tighter if the start is delayed due to bad weather. And Montreal-NYC is nearly 400 miles straight shot via I-87, which translates into a full week at the stated average assuming you get all the way up there and don't spend a few days in the city.
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Old 10-14-12, 10:14 AM   #18
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Hi all,

The route through Toronto and Montreal is a hope, but we're not locked into it. We can always reroute after we get to Illinois. What about the first leg of the journey? Let's say we start in Vancouver in early to mid-April, expect to get wet, have good rain gear, stay put when it rains and ride when it seems like there will be a break in the weather, get to Portland around the end of April and cut through the Columbia River Gorge at the beginning of May? We'll be ready for rain, but are we going to have to worry about snow from Vancouver to Seattle to Portland through the gorge to Dulles and down to Bend? Doesn't seem like it.

That would give us about four months to get across the country. It seems reasonable to me. About 4400 miles (assuming our zigzag route which can always be changed) and 50 miles a day, it would take 88 days of riding. If we have 4 months, we could rest every 4th day and still make it. Or ride farther daily and wait longer for a rest and spend long weekends in places we liked.

Am I missing something?

Eric
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Old 10-14-12, 10:28 AM   #19
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Eric, I think that's still a feasible plan. You won't have to worry about snow from Vancouver to the Columbia Gorge, however, once you hit the higher elevations in the intermountain West, you still run into the risk of snow, even in late April through May. (Heck, depending where you are, even June.)

But is starting in the East a deal breaker? Getting to the NW in August, the weather will be great-sunny and highs around 70-80. (Of course there's always a shot of rain, but it's pretty small during the height of summer.) You'd also be able to cross the gorgeous mountain passes of the Cascades without worry of snow.
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Old 10-14-12, 10:59 AM   #20
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Hmm. I guess I have heard so much about the winds blowing this way. Is that effect overstated? I hate headwinds. Is there anyone who doesn't? I'm imagining the Great Plains. Ugh.

I guess I'm thinking we could hole up for minute if snow comes along the way, which would be better than fighting a headwind for days and weeks.

Eric
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Old 10-16-12, 12:10 PM   #21
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From the folks (sample of two, so not conclusive) I talked to who have done it both ways, you're going to get occasional headwinds either direction. Both preferred the east-to-west for the weather, and didn't think the headwinds were enough worse to be concerned about. But probably there are more better opinions out there with firsthand experience? I'm going to start a thread, probably has been rehashed numerous times...
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Old 10-16-12, 12:26 PM   #22
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Eap - Actually, the Sandhills of Nebraska are WAY more scenic than the TA route across Kansas.
If you were to do that, I might suggest heading up from Carbondale, IL to St Louis -
(Eads Bridge and the Arch would be a nice transition point.)
Then take the Katy Trail across Missouri - way easier than Ozarks.
Basically following the Lewis & Clark to SE Nebraska.

From western Nebraska you can swing back down and get the Colorado Rockies
(Fort Collins to Walden) before continuing on the TransAm.
Winds in the Great Plains tend to be southerly in the summer.
As you get closer to the Rockies, they become southwesterly.
Expect headwinds on a westbound trip in Wyoming.
(Get up super early to get the jump on winds.)
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Old 10-16-12, 01:04 PM   #23
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Eap - Actually, the Sandhills of Nebraska are WAY more scenic than the TA route across Kansas.
Agree! Highway 20 through northern Nebraska is a decent route.
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Old 10-20-12, 11:32 PM   #24
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New York to Vancouver

Thanks, everyone, for the helpful advice. We have decided to start on the east coast. The tentative plan is to go down to Baltimore and then go west from there, at some point connect with the Katy trail and go towards the Lewis and Clark. We would like to start as early as possible so that we will be able to stop, rest and look around. I'm thinking to start as early as late April. Not sure if this is reasonable, but I'll keep looking into it.

Eric
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