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Thread: Western Express

  1. #1
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    Western Express

    Hi,

    I'm kicking off my first tour in San Francisco and heading along the Western Express until it meets the Trans America at Pueblo. Was originally planning on taking a detour at Cedar City and heading to the grand Canyon before looping back and continuing.

    My big concern is that I booked my flight to arrive in SF and start my journey too early without fully researching and appreciating the weather conditions.

    Is there much chance of me getting lucky with the weather if I start on my planned departure date of May the 1st from SF. I arrive in SF on the 28th of April. I'm going to be credit card touring and not planning on rushing myself.

    If this is truly a bad idea can anyone give me a suggested alternative to Pueblo that might not take too much longer at the same time as avoiding a lot of busy roads?
    Last edited by gordyb; 03-11-13 at 06:06 PM.

  2. #2
    Hooked on Touring
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    May 1 is pretty early. A better start date for east-to-west.
    You will certainly still have snow on the ground in the high Sierras.
    You may also have snow coming down.
    Plus almost no services will be open from Placerville to Woodfords.
    It would be prudent to call ahead for this stretch.

    Early to mid May is likely to be chilly in Nevada - esp. at higher elevations.
    Late May will still be chilly in the Rockies, too.
    Yes, you can have glorious weather, but you can have a blizzard, too.
    Since you are credit-card touring - you should be O.K.
    But make sure you have appropriate cold weather riding gear.
    Good rain/cold jacket, fleece layer, ear band, light gloves, long pants.
    You are almost certain to get at least one cold spell.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    Plus almost no services will be open from Placerville to Woodfords.
    It would be prudent to call ahead for this stretch.
    I agree with everything Jamawani said but the above. It seems to me that Kirkwood, just past Carson Spur, should be open. It won't be cheap and it is a long hard ride from Placerville to Kirkwood, but there should be something available there.
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    From last year - -

    http://news.kirkwood.vailresorts.com...rticle_id=1815
    Kirkwood Summer Operation Hours
    Summer Activities
    Kirkwood Mountain Resort will be open for summer on the weekends from July 7-September 2, 2012. Kirkwood offers a bike park, ziplining, ropes course and climbing wall, hiking, and disc golf.

    Kirkwood tries to stay open for skiing thru the last weekend of April.
    I doubt they have any services open in May. Maybe a caretaker and assistant manager.
    A person might be able to make special arrangements - might.
    A few places near the summit try to open for Memorial Day Weekend.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    May 1 is pretty early. A better start date for east-to-west.
    You will certainly still have snow on the ground in the high Sierras.
    You may also have snow coming down.
    Plus almost no services will be open from Placerville to Woodfords.
    It would be prudent to call ahead for this stretch.

    Early to mid May is likely to be chilly in Nevada - esp. at higher elevations.
    Late May will still be chilly in the Rockies, too.
    Yes, you can have glorious weather, but you can have a blizzard, too.
    Since you are credit-card touring - you should be O.K.
    But make sure you have appropriate cold weather riding gear.
    Good rain/cold jacket, fleece layer, ear band, light gloves, long pants.
    You are almost certain to get at least one cold spell.

    great advice thanks

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    There is the option to ride down the California coast to San Luis Obispo,
    Cross the very southern end of the Sierras thru Tejon Pass then to Old Route 66.
    Then head east to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde -
    And, perhaps, Taos before connection with the Trans Am near Pueblo.
    (In which case heat might be the issue in the Mojave Desert)

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    Jamawani,

    I stand corrected.
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    Snowpack in the Washington passes (Cascades) this year is about half of what it was last year. Anyone know what the Sierra snowpack is like?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    There is the option to ride down the California coast to San Luis Obispo,
    Cross the very southern end of the Sierras thru Tejon Pass then to Old Route 66.
    Then head east to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde -
    And, perhaps, Taos before connection with the Trans Am near Pueblo.
    (In which case heat might be the issue in the Mojave Desert)
    pretty much what i'm about to suggest...

    heading south on AC Pacific coast route to San Diego and then to el paso via the AC Southern Tier route, then north to Pueblo is pretty much doable any time of year. distances can be minimized by taking more risk and or clothing.

    heading to the California Central valley then over the Sierras at Lake Isabella will probably be okay too, then through Death Valley, but when you get to Utah i think you'll be screwed now matter what. getting out of Cedar City would be awful, of course you could go down to St. George, then through the Kaibab, over the Colorado at Page AZ, but getting through northern New Mexico would be very dicey.

    two years ago i left SF in late May and suffered from the cold when traveling to Ohio on my motorcyle.

    if i was heading east across the country from SF at that time, i wouldn't consider a route north of Lordsburg, NM, and El Paso TX. i've been burnt so consider the source...

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    Quote Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
    Snowpack in the Washington passes (Cascades) this year is about half of what it was last year. Anyone know what the Sierra snowpack is like?
    As of yesterday, about the same (50-60%)

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    Quote Originally Posted by stevepusser View Post
    As of yesterday, about the same (50-60%)
    Is this very good news? Not familiar with snow terminology etc
    Ben
    gordybennett.com ---- twitter @gordybennett

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    My take on this is that you are just a *little* too early.

    If it was me I would map routes both ways - via the Western Express and hueyhoolihan's suggestion - and also be aware that once you cross the Sierra Nevada (Kirkwood & down the other side) you can head south on Hwy 395 and hook into the more southern route.

    So I would fly into SF and check the 10-day forecasts for the higher elevations on the Western Express (Kirkwood, the passes in Nevada), and decide at the last minute. I wouldn't head out across Nevada on the W.E. if the weather forecast is at all snowy/cold/windy, because there really is very little traffic out there, and you wouldn't be able to count on hitch hiking.

    Also check the opening dates for services at the Grand Canyon, make sure you check whichever rim you are planning to visit. North rim is quite high.

    Another thought if you want to do the southern route, Frontier and Southwest Airlines offer many inexpensive flights and charge $0 and $50 respectively for the bike, so you could add a flight to San Diego or LA and start down south if you need to save time. Or Amtrak (train) is a possibility, I would not recommend Greyhound (bus) b/c it's nasty.

    By the end of May in the southern Colorado Rockies, I think you will be OK but you will always have to be watching the forecast and making smart decisions about whether to wait out a storm.

    Hope you have a great trip!
    ...

  13. #13
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    Actually, Gordy -

    They may have misread the data.
    The percentage is % of total season - i.e. thru April 1.
    That is used as the peak date for snowpack.
    The readings you see were generally taken in late Feb -
    And there have been a few snows since then.

    Here is the California Snowpack website:
    http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/reports/EXECSUM

    You can see that the Central Sierras are at 92% as of the latest readings.
    So the snowpack is just slightly below normal this year.
    There may be more snows - certainly in April and perhaps May, too.
    I think it prudent to consider this an average snow year for planning.

    And, yes, you can do the Western Express over the Sierras is you are careful.
    I wouldn't go all the way down to the Southern Tier because of the heat.
    The California coast along Big Sur is glorious.
    And if you were to follow Old Route 66 you could take in many parks -
    Also, you would have more services than US 50 in Nevada - but only slightly more.
    If you were to skirt the southern edge of the Rockies -
    As Valygrl said, you could catch the best of the mountains in good weather.

    PS - Valygrl and I know from experience "riding the dog" - i.e. taking the Greyhound bus.

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    Thanks Valygrl and Jamawani, all really useful advice. Do you fancy doing the trip with me? I will just follow hehe
    Ben
    gordybennett.com ---- twitter @gordybennett

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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    Actually, Gordy -

    They may have misread the data.
    The percentage is % of total season - i.e. thru April 1.
    That is used as the peak date for snowpack.
    The readings you see were generally taken in late Feb -
    And there have been a few snows since then.

    Here is the California Snowpack website:
    http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/reports/EXECSUM

    You can see that the Central Sierras are at 92% as of the latest readings.
    So the snowpack is just slightly below normal this year.
    There may be more snows - certainly in April and perhaps May, too.
    I think it prudent to consider this an average snow year for planning.

    And, yes, you can do the Western Express over the Sierras is you are careful.
    I wouldn't go all the way down to the Southern Tier because of the heat.
    The California coast along Big Sur is glorious.
    And if you were to follow Old Route 66 you could take in many parks -
    Also, you would have more services than US 50 in Nevada - but only slightly more.
    If you were to skirt the southern edge of the Rockies -
    As Valygrl said, you could catch the best of the mountains in good weather.

    PS - Valygrl and I know from experience "riding the dog" - i.e. taking the Greyhound bus.
    Here's the daily updated report--February was very dry, so % of normal have fallen into the 50-70% range. For someone looking to have a pass open early, that's great. For those that depend on the Sierra for a water supply, not so great...

    http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow/DLYSWEQ

  16. #16
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    Snow in late May at low elevation - just north of Honey Lake - ca 4000 ft.

    Evening before & and the next morning
    Attached Images Attached Images

  17. #17
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    OMG! After being closed for a decade, the Mizpah Hotel has reopened in Tonopah, Nevada.
    A classic, Old West Hotel and casino from another era. Wow!

    Taking the more southerly route in Nevada would add almost 10F degrees in mid May.
    From Tonopah you would follow US 6, NV 375, US 93, NV 319, and UT 56 to Cedar City, Utah.
    I have cycled this route a few times - quite lovely, but remote.

    The question is getting from San Francisco to Tonopah.
    If the weather is favorable, you could always take the Western Express and cut southeast from Carson Pass.
    If the weather is questionable, you could ride / Amtrak down the coast and cut northeast from Walker Pass.

    Pic of US 6 east of Tonopah -
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by jamawani; 03-19-13 at 10:43 PM.

  18. #18
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    Yuba Pass is almost certain to be open. If you google images for 'Sierra Buttes' and 'Sardine Lake Sierra Buttes', the pictures should give some idea of the beauty of the area. Downieville and Sierra City have facilities and lodging.

    49 after Camptonville is quiet and scenic.

    If the Sardine Lake Resort is open, it's in a beautiful location.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    If the weather is favorable, you could always take the Western Express and cut southeast from Carson Pass.
    If the weather is questionable, you could ride / Amtrak down the coast and cut northeast from Walker Pass.

    -
    I'm going to take this advice and call it when I arrive based on the conditions. thanks
    Ben
    gordybennett.com ---- twitter @gordybennett

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