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When to start the Western Express?

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When to start the Western Express?

Old 01-11-18, 04:49 AM
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When to start the Western Express?

We are a senior couple (64 and 58 years) from Austria (no kangaroos) planning to cycle the Western Express to celebrate my retirement. If the fun persists, we'll continue all the way to the east coast mainly along the adventurecycling-route. Since (as Alpine dwellers) we are used to cool riding conditions, we try to avoid the heat in the great plains (Kansas and beyond) during June/July and we plan to start in San Francisco as early as possible. Is beginning/mid April too early, in other words, when are (snow-free and frostbite-free) cycling conditions across Carson pass doable? From Fallon to Cedar City I assume it's more dry, i.e. snow should be a minor problem.
Your advice would be highly appreciated! Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old 01-11-18, 08:03 AM
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Hello Kurt -

Short answer - Yes, Starting the WX at the beginning of April is too early.
Even for Austrians.

Your assumptions about Nevada are incorrect.
The climate is more extreme in the interior and can be quite cold.
Also, the high country of Colorado can have snow well into June.

I have lived in Wyoming for 30 years.
I have 100,000 miles touring - much of it in the West.
And I've done the WX a few times.

Now, you might have a few mild weeks in a mild year.
But you could also have some extremely heavy snowfall.
In addition, services in the Sierras and elsewhere do not open until late May.
I don't find Nevada that remote, but Europeans certainly do.

I got stuck in an unexpected snow in late May back in 2006.
They were predicting rain, I was at 4000 feet (1250 m).
Which is Fallon's elevation - not Austin's.
It is survivable, but certainly not pleasant.

Depending on the year, late spring (May-June) is the best time.
If it has been a wet winter, Nevada has a few weeks of magic in the dry valleys.
If you plan to head further east, you can cut north in Colorado.

You will have climate challenges no matter what.
The climate regimes of the West are like books on a book shelf.
Cool Pacific, hot Central Valley, cold Sierras, extreme Great Basin, cold Rockies, hot Plains.
But it's worth it.

Happy travels und gute Reise -

Pic - Honey Lake Valley - May 27, 2006
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Old 01-11-18, 01:56 PM
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Carson pass is 8,574 ft (2,613 m) Donner pass is 7,056 ft (2,151 m)... not to talk you out of the SFO start, But..

The Columbia river was so strong, when the Sierra-Nevada - Cascade mountains rose, in geological history,
the river kept cutting through them.. as the tectonic forces pushed the mountains upwards..

So it is the only place in the western states you don't have to climb over a high pass to get east of the mountains.
Columbia Gorge..

On the Coast the 6th month of the year is often called Junuary..


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Old 01-11-18, 02:12 PM
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I started from San Francisco the last week of May. To my surprise they just opened Highway 88 the day I arrived in Silver Lake, CA (near the top of the Sierras) because of snow. There was some difficulty setting up my tent in the snow. The temperature in the morning was 29 deg F (-2 C).

Highway 50 across Nevada was the best part. Not hot. Not cold.

Going across Kansas in June is not hot. It is actually very pleasant.

June/July is actually a good time to cross the country. August is the month to avoid.
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Old 01-11-18, 04:27 PM
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As others have pointed out, the middle of Nevada (route 50/Western Express) is at higher elevations than the south (e.g. Las Vegas). As a result, temperatures are also somewhat cooler. As a desert climate there can be a high day/night swing in all of Nevada. Hence, April/May can have some cold desert nights and the passes can have snow.

The western parts of Kansas are still dry and there is a climate gradient where average rainfalls/humidity increases and eventually get into areas where (unless already cleared) a lot more trees. I find the cycling in drier parts, to be pleasant.

Adventure cycling recommends a mid-May to October timeframe for the Western Express and I would agree.
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Old 01-11-18, 04:51 PM
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While not focused on when to start, this page has 14 links to information about the Western Express route.

Not all of them will be of interest to you, but several will help inform your planning. One link is the journal a ride from San Francisco to Carson City.

Be prepared for some serious climbing from the very start!
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Old 01-11-18, 08:18 PM
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I like cooler weather also but one can acclimate to hot weather fairly quickly unless it's extreme ie over 35 C. Summer sun in USA can be intense, I recommend long shirt sleeves & "Da Brim" which fits over helmet & really helps to keep sun off face & neck.

Da Brim
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Old 01-13-18, 03:11 PM
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We are on the western express in W CO, as WS hosts start seeing bikers from San Fran in mid May but MOST are in June. Weather is a hard call, yes lots of high elevation which means cold nights. I will agree April is a bit early.
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