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April 15th too early to tackle ACA Western Express this year?

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April 15th too early to tackle ACA Western Express this year?

Old 01-26-18, 05:47 PM
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April 15th too early to tackle ACA Western Express this year?

Hi guys,

It's been awhile since my 2012 Southern Tier tour and this place helped me out tremendously both while planning and with words of encouragement while riding. Five years have gone by and I find myself in a position where I've saved up some cash and am burnt out after working five years straight. The first bike trip created a monster, and I have to get back out there.

I have a family vacation planned in Lake Tahoe starting July 7th, and was trying to piece together a route leaving from the North Bay Area (California) that would let me ride for 2-3 months and deposit me in Lake Tahoe on or before that date. What I've kind of landed on is a mashup of the ACA's Western Express, TransAm, & Sierra Cascade route. I'd complete the entire Western Express and jump on the TransAm headed North West until it connects with the Sierra Cascades route which would take me south a few hundred miles to Lake Tahoe. The route would look like the enclosed loop in this picture: https://imgur.com/a/oC9Br .

My concern here is that this is a mighty long trip and by my rough calculations could take me closer to 3 months to complete especially as its going to be quite a lot of mountain pass climbing. If I need to be in Lake Tahoe by July 7th I think I'd need to leave around Mid April to have a good shot of making my deadline. I'm not very resourceful when it comes to recognizing where the hairy areas will be in terms of route closures, or whether or not I'll be in for a world of pain due to severe cold. Does anyone think that leaving in mid April would be acceptable? I'm also open to alternate route suggestions...Thanks in advance for any input you may have!

Last edited by Kengh; 01-26-18 at 05:51 PM.
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Old 01-26-18, 06:39 PM
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The problem may not be the Western Express in April,
but rather, the TransAm in Colorado, Wyoming, & Montana in May.

It's been a very dry winter so far in the Sierra Nevadas - that could change -
but I do not expect the snow pack to be more than 66% this spring, probably less.
Snow and significant cold are still possible around Ely and Bryce Canyon, however.

But if you started in mid April, you would be turning north in early May.
Very few national forest and national park facilities open before Memorial Day.
Same goes for private facilities from campgrounds to cafes. Not all, but many.
There is almost always a significant high-altitude snow in May.
I know, I have lived in Wyoming for nearly 30 years and have X-C skied well into June.
If you were to hit Yellowstone around May 22, you will find very little open.
Heck, the South Entrance isn't scheduled to open until May 11 - Dunraven Pass, May 25.


I have 30+ years of touring experience and 100,000 miles.
I have discovered that I can either pick a route and then try for the best timing on that route -
Or I can have a specific time period and then pick the best route for that time period.
But I cannot make both happen.

If you haven't toured in 5 years, but enjoy touring, why set yourself up for disappointment?
You can bike into Tahoe - or there are trains, planes, and buses.
A route as you suggest is best done starting in mid to late May.
I have done variations of that circle four times. And still had snow & cold.


If you want to stick with mid April arriving at Tahoe in early July -
I would stay further south - Route 66 for ex. - then head north west of the Rockies.
Spectacular country in western Colorado, eastern Utah, Yellowstone, east slope Montana.
Of course, you would need to create your own route.
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Old 01-26-18, 07:25 PM
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Jamawani thank you very much for your wise input. It saddens me, but I suppose you're 100% correct in saying pick the route or the time of year.

Unfortunately I have no experience choosing my own route and it terrifies me. I certainly strayed from my maps a few times on the Southern Tier, but on one occasion I ended up on a busy two lane road with no shoulder and cars honking at me for 10 miles. That was a nightmare.

I suppose one alternative if I stick with ACA maps would be to head south on the Pacific Coast route from San Fran down to LA and then cut in East on the Route 66 route. From there it'd be a short ride to intersect with the Grand Canyon Connector (I've always wanted to see the Grand Canyon). From here I could grab the Western Express Route and head North West to Lake Tahoe. This would be a much shorter trip, but should all be doable this time of year. The other thought is maybe flying to Key West or Virginia and starting from there. Back to the drawing board
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Old 01-27-18, 02:05 AM
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Now Iím actually looking into heading down into Baja and busing from Tijuana to a safer area then cycling down to Cabo. I hear itís beautiful and safe down there once past San Quintin. Iíd take a nice ride down there and probably hang out in Cabo for a few days before flying back to LA and then heading East on the Route 66 route. Iíve never flown with a bike so Iíd need to figure all that out...hopefully they have bike boxes in Cabo. This adventure is getting wilder
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Old 01-27-18, 06:50 AM
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If you are truly up for an adventure, after a few days in Cabo, ride back up to La Paz and then take the ferry over to Los Mochis and catch the train through the Copper Canyon (bigger, deeper than the Grand Canyon) toward Chihuahua. Take it up to at least Bahuichivo to begin the paved road again all the way to La Junta then ride back up to the USA (say Antelope Wells) and head north to Silver City, NM, then north along the AZ/NM border to where ever your heart takes you.

The train is one of those one-of-a-kind experience. They literally, not figuratively, let you ride outside of the train engine car at the very front, ala the movie Titanic as the train courses through a deep canyon and tons of tunnels. Creel and/or Divisadero are must stop places.

That said, if you go into Mexico and/or the southern USA in the mid-May through October, it may be extremely hot, especially at lower elevations. Be sure to carry a LOT of water as there are not many places refill. Check out WeatherSpark.com for climate averages. If you are firm on the May to July time frame, this would not be very good route suggestion but if you could go in the early spring or late fall, it would be great.

BTW, you can take buses relatively easily from Cabo back up north and you most likely would not have to box the bike (but it might get dinged/scratched a little).
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Old 01-27-18, 11:09 AM
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Ken -

I fear you may be going from the freezer to the fire.
Or maybe, more accurately, from the refrigerator to the toaster oven.
Much of Baja is brutally hot & dry by May.

Don't know your background - I went back over some of your posts.
I think you are in Northern Cal, but you could be back in Virginia.

If you really needed to start April 15 - -
California between the Bay Area and Ventura is really at its finest then.
The hills are at their greenest - with nice wildflower displays.
The coast ride is nice - although there may still be slide blockages.
I love some of the quiet, inland routes. Almost no traffic.

The other options might be to start a loop similar to the one above on May 15 -
Then hop on Amtrak from Glenwood Springs, CO to Reno, NV for the family gathering.

Here's are two important sources for cycling information for the US:

Climate maps by month - highs, lows, precipitation -
PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State U
I target the light green/yellow areas - Highs 70 to 80.
Of course, those are averages, no guarantees, but a pretty good guide.

AADT maps - Average annual daily traffic -
Most state DOTs have them, in varied formats
Arizona has a funky online interactive - https://adot.ms2soft.com/tcds/tsearch.asp?loc=Adot&mod
California has an older scroll down - 2016 Traffic Volumes
Washington's is easiest to use - WSDOT - Traffic Data GeoPortal

Jamawani's AADT Rule of Thumb -
Under 500 - Magical
500-999 - Pretty darn nice
1000-1999 - OK, but some traffic
2000-3999 - Steady traffic, shoulders needed
4000 Plus - Busy, shoulders essential

To get an idea of what 4000 AADT means - that's 100 cars per hour on your side of the road,
About 2 cars per minute, more importantly, each of those 100 cars meets 100 other cars.
So, each hour there are potential 10,000 scissors situations for cyclists.
(It's the oncoming traffic that really makes it tough on cyclists on roads without shoulders.)

April is sweet in California.
The mudslides have been horrible, but the grasses and wildflowers will be amazing.
The back roads in the Coast Range or in the Sierra foothills in April are the mostest.

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Old 01-29-18, 01:52 AM
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Originally Posted by jamawani

The other options might be to start a loop similar to the one above on May 15 -
Then hop on Amtrak from Glenwood Springs, CO to Reno, NV for the family gathering.

The back roads in the Coast Range or in the Sierra foothills in April are the mostest.

You mentioned being a bit afraid to go out on your own routes . If you think youíd enjoy Jamawaniís suggestion to make your own route then go for it. Iíve done a good bit of both and my own experience has been filled with more complications with routes of my own making. But, Most of the time that works out as part of the fun but not everyone is wired the same.

Anyway I was going to suggest just heading out from the East Coast from D.C. to CO on the EasternExpress route or from VIrginia on the TA route to CO that gives you maps and routes all ready to go tested and tried and so on and ride to Colorado. The Glenwood Springs to Reno with roll aboard service on Amtrak is about as easy as it gets. For me I would not do the Western Express the first half of August.

From Reno itís just a hop, skip and a jump over the hill to Lake Tahoe and youíll have your own ride with you.
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