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East to West or vice versa with a Sept. 1 start date?

Old 05-21-15, 06:25 PM
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East to West or vice versa with a Sept. 1 start date?

Hi Community,

I am in the early stages of a transcontinental bike tour and have a weather concern/question given the time constraints of our start date of ~ Sept 1st. Regardless of a West Coast or East Coast start, we are working with a southerly route but I want to err on the side of warm when it comes to mountain passes in september versus october.

What are your thoughts on the best/more comfortable direction to ride across the country if we are working with a September 1st start date, starting/finishing in/around Charleston, SC and Los Angeles, CA?

Thanks for your help, we've been enjoying reading up on the forum for some time.

ryan
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Old 05-21-15, 07:05 PM
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You'll be fine on the passes either direction on a southern route.

I'm a fan of west to east re prevailing winds. This is a highly controversial subject, but my experience has been that when the winds are out of the east, they tend to be lighter than when from the west. East of the Mississippi, it seems to be more a mixed bag.

OTOH, heading west, you're saving the best(?)for last, avoiding the morning sun, and the heat of the desert in Sept.

I've heard that transistioning into or out of LA can be pretty tedious.

You'll have a blast either way.
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Old 05-21-15, 07:09 PM
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Definitely west-to-east if you are doing a fall trip in much of the West.
But if you are starting in southern California it will be tricky.
The Mojave Desert can be brutal in early Sept. at the beginning of a trip.

What about near SFO and taking the Western Express to southern Utah/southern Colorado -
Then either cutting down via the Grand Canyon or Chama and Taos, NM?

October is the best time to ride in much of the South - less muggy, but still warm.
The Great Plains will be quite nice end of Sept/start of Oct in either direction.
But, if you start out in SC, you are likely to encounter weather in the Rockies.
Not to mention that many park and national forest sites close by mid/late Sept in the West.

I did my first of a half dozen cross-USA trips in the fall - Sept 1 start from Astoria, OR.
I had some tricky weather only after the start of October in Nebraska and later in West Virginia.
Fall cross-country trips really call for a diagonal - regardless of direction.
I may have been a wee bit too far north.
Of course, the further south you are - the fewer miles from ocean to ocean.

Enjoy planning.
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Old 05-21-15, 07:10 PM
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PS - How fixed are your endpoints - -
And are you a Southerner or a Westerner?
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Old 05-22-15, 08:33 AM
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Thanks Jamawani & Cyclebum!

Our endpoints are not fixed as we intend to start and finish in new places. Neither of us are Southerners or Westerners actually, I'm from Minnesota and my partner is from Brooklyn, where we both currently live.

The NorCal/SFO to the Western Express to southern Utah/southern Colorado - Then either cutting down via the Grand Canyon option sounds pretty appealing. As for the end point, if we do West to East, we would like to finish somewhere South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida.


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Old 05-22-15, 10:09 AM
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Hey there, I'm the other rider on this trip. Thought I'd chime in with a question of my own:

-Assuming West to East, with a southerly route, do you think we have any real flexibility with the start date in terms of weather? Would it be reasonable, or advantageous in any way, to start a bit further into September?

Thanks so much for all the info!
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Old 05-22-15, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by rloomis
The NorCal/SFO to the Western Express to southern Utah/southern Colorado - Then either cutting down via the Grand Canyon option sounds pretty appealing. As for the end point, if we do West to East, we would like to finish somewhere South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida.
This changes things. You'll want to leave from the west (SFO) to get out of the Sierras and Rockies while the passes are, well, passable. If you were going southeast from LAX or San Diego, it's a toss-up. Is miserably humid Gulf weather worse than still-hot southwest deserts? (As noted, a month later, the weather on both ends of the southern route generally gets much more tolerable.)
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Old 05-22-15, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb
This changes things. You'll want to leave from the west (SFO) to get out of the Sierras and Rockies while the passes are, well, passable. If you were going southeast from LAX or San Diego, it's a toss-up. Is miserably humid Gulf weather worse than still-hot southwest deserts? (As noted, a month later, the weather on both ends of the southern route generally gets much more tolerable.)
Thanks pdlamb. To clarify, you would say that if we want to do a Sept 1. start date, we should do NorCal so we we're not running into too much snow at elevation in the Sierras and Rockies. Alternatively, if we opted for a true Southerly route (IE: LA --- Charleston, SC) we would be better off with an Oct. 1 start date (starting either coast) so we're not dealing with as much heat?

Thanks again
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Old 05-22-15, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by OBackquote
Hey there, I'm the other rider on this trip. Thought I'd chime in with a question of my own:

-Assuming West to East, with a southerly route, do you think we have any real flexibility with the start date in terms of weather? Would it be reasonable, or advantageous in any way, to start a bit further into September?

Thanks so much for all the info!
starting in the middle of December, i took the ACA Pacific Coast from SF to San Diego, then the ACA Southern Tier route to Gainsville, FL before heading down to the Everglades. took a down jacket, gortex gloves, gortex parka shell, rainpants and light polypro underwear and didn't suffer from the weather. i did spend a couple days iced up in Bogalusa, La. though.
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Old 05-22-15, 07:27 PM
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Ooooh - have you thought about the Sea Islands of Georgia?
Tybee Island near Savannah and Jekyll or St. Simons near Brunswick are developed -
But Sapelo Island - ah, Sapelo Island - is a pristine paradise.
Cumberland Island National Seashore is also quite nice.

That would entail riding thru the Delta blues country of Mississippi -
Then central Alabama and southern Georgia. Quite nice in the fall.

But nothing surpasses Sapelo.
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Old 05-22-15, 07:35 PM
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Another PS - I've toured cross-country in all seasons.
Fall is wonderful, but the days really start to get short as you get into October.
An Oct 1 start date will push you into late November.
If you plan to camp, that will make for pretty short riding days.
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Old 05-25-15, 07:43 AM
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Thank Hueyhoolihan and Jamawani. Great info and suggestions. Here is another question for you, can any of you recommend a few good digital, overview maps of the Adventure Cycling Route Network and/or other major transcontinental and regional touring routes? I've found the USBRS interactive map and the Omnimap which is great to help visualize options.
USBRS Interactive Map | Adventure Cycling Association
https://www.omnimap.com/catalog/image...uteNetwork.pdf

But if anyone has any other good overview route maps I'd love to take a look.
Thanks,
Ryan
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Old 05-25-15, 09:21 AM
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If you plan to do the Western Express and Rockies, I recommend West to East. You can get serious winter storms in the Sierras and Rockies in early October.
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Old 05-25-15, 10:13 AM
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Ryan - ACA is pretty proprietary about their maps. They put a lot of resources into them and offer them at a moderate price - certainly not cheap. For that reason, the only available online overviews are pretty general. Also, ACA has a statement about reproduction when they sell them. So, I have rarely seen any scans. I would suspect that moderators here and on other touring websites would pull them down so as not to violate copyright.
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Old 05-25-15, 10:46 AM
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But I can tell you that the Western Express route in Nevada is basically US 50 - actually NV 206 from Calif border to Carson City, plus a totally empty NV 722 east of Middlegate to Austin. In Utah it's UT 21 and UT 130 to Cedar City - then it's UT 14 and US 89, US 89A, AZ 67 to the Grand Canyon.

In California, the Western Express begins with a ferry ride to Vallejo, then zigs and zags to Davis and Sacramento. Follows the American River Trail to Placerville, then county roads to CA 88, crossing the Sierras at Carson Pass. It used to use Mormon Emigrant Trail from Placerville, but this road is often blocked by snow until late spring. (Not this year and certainly not in Sept.)

I have often opted for a route across the Sierras that includes some of the California coast via Yosemite National Park. Generally speaking, you start at Golden Gate Bridge - or if you wish, maybe, Half Moon Bay - then ride down to the hipster town of Santa Cruz along the coast. From there you cut inland to San Juan Bautista and the historic Spanish mission and cross the Coast Range on a remarkably empty County Road J1 via Mercey Hot Springs. There are a number of ways to cross the San Joaquin Valley - which is flat and rather boring - but towns such as Firebaugh and Chowchilla give you an understanding of the cultural differences between coastal and valley California. CA 140 is a great way to access Yosemite - you can ride from Merced, but Whiterock Rd (95%) paved is a fantastic, empty ride thru the Sierra foothills to Mariposa.

From Yosemite, you head east over Tioga Pass via CA 120 and continue to Nevada to US 6. Everybody talks about US 50 in Nevada (including ACA's Western Express) as the "Loneliest Road" - but US 6 is even emptier. Tonopah is a fabulous old mining town with the incredible, renovated Mizpah Hotel. There are abandoned hot springs at Warm Springs, then you can continue east either via US 6 and Ely or NV 375 - the Extraterrestrial Highway, Rachel, and Caliente. Both have their advantages - I would probably opt for the more northerly route in September and stop at Great Basin National Park. Few Western Express riders catcbh a ride up to the top and hike into the bristlecone pine groves - - which are the oldest living things on earth.

If you do choose a route similar to this, you may still be able to use the shuttle service at Grand Canyon to shuttle you bikes and then hike across. Radical, yes - but I've done it a half dozen times. Why not have the best of both worlds??

Anyhoo - them's is some ideas.

Pic - Stone Cabin Valley on US 6 east of Tonopah
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Old 05-25-15, 01:50 PM
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Sept 1 start date Western Express west to east. Remember, the monsoon season is active this time of year. Using the GC connector to bridge down the the south will result is headwinds.

Oct 1 start date I'd vote south route east to west Why? Look at West Texas wind roses.-shiver-

I did the WE, GC connector, ST route starting Sept 4. The temps were perfect GC and ST winds, horrible until I was in SE Texas.

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Old 05-27-15, 07:04 AM
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Great info everyone! We are going to be picking up some adventure cycling maps in the coming days so we can at least tack down a start point and date. Also, brief update, I finally picked up the bike that will carry me across - a rebuilt 62cm 1986 shwinn passage, 27" CR18 rims, suntour superb crank set, shimano 105 derailer. I through a rear rack on it and picked up ortlieb rear panniers REI's Memorial Day sale. Still a ways to go but it cruises! Taking it up north of the city this weekend for some test riding.
Here's another question - I've spoken with people recently who have done the trip with clip less pedals & shoes as well as one guy who just stayed with clips the whole way. I wouldn't mind the added efficiency of having clipless but it seems like I'd want to then have 3 different pairs of footwear total, rather than being able to get away with two (clipless riding shoes, closed-toe walking shoes, open-toe sandles/flip flops). What are your thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of going clipless for a trans continental ride like this?
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Old 05-27-15, 08:40 AM
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get MTB clipless shoes and cleats. i didn't need any other shoes for a nine month tour. and about those 27" cr18's...

i've got a couple of sets of 27's with M13II's i use on a regular basis, but here's the thing. 27" tires are not common and if and when you need a new tire, and you may not need one at all, they may not be found in all bike stores.

OTOH, on a recent tour, i found myself, due to bad luck and worse planning, with an 'opportunity' to ride on a flat tire for 5 miles or walk. i chose to walk because i was worried about ruining my 27" tire and the consequences thereof. the only town even remotely close by was Hayfork, CA (look it up, it may have a light, i don't remember). anyway, there was a hardware store of sorts, and although they had no bike tube, which i what i really needed, they did have a tire, which i didn't, and by-golly it was a 27 incher, folder no-less!

so, the moral of the story is, i guess, that i don't take my own advice and if it did it would have been wrong! otherwise, the bike sounds like it should do the job. good luck.
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Old 05-27-15, 10:58 AM
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Lots of good info from others here. I finished a Southern Tier ride earlier this spring travelling from West to East. I'm sure weather patterns are variable as far as winds go. I encountered head winds from New Mexico to Florida (all light). Just missed a lot of bad weather with only one tornado warning.

I used Keen sandals with SPD and loved the flexibility. I've used them (or replacements) 3 times now crossing the country on various routes. No need for additional shoes since walking in them is easy. Bring wool socks for cold weather in the mountains just in case.

Be prepared for the Texas chip seal if you riding there. Have a great time.
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Old 05-27-15, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by rloomis
Here's another question - I've spoken with people recently who have done the trip with clip less pedals & shoes as well as one guy who just stayed with clips the whole way. I wouldn't mind the added efficiency of having clipless but it seems like I'd want to then have 3 different pairs of footwear total, rather than being able to get away with two (clipless riding shoes, closed-toe walking shoes, open-toe sandles/flip flops). What are your thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of going clipless for a trans continental ride like this?
Clipless or platform pedals is a personal choice. I prefer clipless so my feet stay attached to the bike when riding at a high cadence. (The alternative, feet flying off the pedals, can be unpleasant. At least for guys.) My knees like high cadence for climbing.

You may be able to get by with MTB shoes, as hueyhoolihan notes, and then add a pair of sandals. You can easily do moderate walking with MTB shoes, and heavy socks with sandals are good for anything other than cold rain. If it's raining and 35 degrees, you probably don't want to be hiking.
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Old 05-29-15, 06:16 AM
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Originally Posted by hueyhoolihan
27" tires are not common and if and when you need a new tire, and you may not need one at all, they may not be found in all bike stores.
.
Good note, I didn't realize 27" weren't 'standard.'
Thanks for the clip/clipless/sandle suggestions.
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Old 05-29-15, 09:28 AM
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Starting in San Diego and staying far south (using the ACA ST) I found that an early February start was really nice. The days are already starting to get a little longer by then and it is nice and cool. There was frost a number of nights, but I prefer that to hot weather. I did have one very cold night, but I could have avoided that by not staying on top of a pass. I saw a little snow on the passes but the roads were clear.

I find that I can get by with only my bike shoes (Sidi Giau SPD clipless) if I want. If I plan to hike more than a few miles at a time or hike really rough terrain I may take a pair of light trail runners. Some trips I have used Crocs instead of the trail runners. I think that is what I used on the Southern Tier.
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Old 06-04-15, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by jamawani

I did my first of a half dozen cross-USA trips in the fall - Sept 1 start from Astoria, OR.
I had some tricky weather only after the start of October in Nebraska and later in West Virginia.
Fall cross-country trips really call for a diagonal - regardless of direction.
I may have been a wee bit too far north.
Of course, the further south you are - the fewer miles from ocean to ocean.

Enjoy planning.
Hi All,
Back to having a route question. For our starting point we are trying to balance warmth/temperature against scenery/topography given a September 1st start date. The decision is between flying into San Francisco or Seattle/Portland. If we start in San Francisco we would go Western Express and if we start in Seattle/Portland we would go Lewis & Clark to Great Divide/Transamerica. With either starting point, we would end up in central Colorado before continuing on Eastward. So, what we are interested in learning from all of you is whether we will have to carry significantly more/less warm-weather gear going one route vs. the other given a Sept 1st start, and if the natural beauty & topography of one of these routes is (in your opinion) more impressive. Both routes would be amazing but if you have any cautionary words or super positive words about one route over the other given a September 1st start that would be great!
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Old 06-05-15, 02:22 PM
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RL -

The Astoria area is doable for a Sept 1 start. Or you can start in Tillamook, or Pacific City.
In all cases, you would fly into Portland - very bike / transit friendly.

If you were to bike across Oregon on the TransAm in early Sept you will be fine.
You can save a chunk of miles by cutting across Idaho -
Warm weather option thru Stanley - cool weather thru Gooding.

That would put you into Yellowstone / Grand Teton in mid to late Sept.
Colorado by this time might be tricky - you can either follow the Trans AM -
Or you can hed out into the Plains via Casper and Scottsbluff -
Then work your way south.

This option is less dry, gritty, and remote than the Western Express.
Beautiful scenery - just a touch more civilization.
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