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Water Supply & Desert Riding (Western Express) How much water to bring/availability?

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Water Supply & Desert Riding (Western Express) How much water to bring/availability?

Old 05-16-11, 08:02 AM
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thesearethesuns
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Water Supply & Desert Riding (Western Express) How much water to bring/availability?

I am planning on utilizing a large portion of the Western Express as a major section of my cross country route. I intend on riding US 40 through Northern New Mexico heading west. The last town I will pass through in NM before entering AZ is Shiprock where it seems that there are services, albeit limited. I figure that I can link up to the Western Express route in Utah via NE Arizona in the Four Corners/Monument Valley Area by taking US 163 up to US 191, and continuing on to the section that passes through Blanding, UT. There doesn't seem to be much in between those areas in terms of service, and I've noticed that these are Navajo tribal lands/reservation.

I would be riding in August, and I'm trying to realistically gauge how much water I should expect to have on my person, and how often I will able to refill. Does anyone have experience riding through these areas?

Thanks for any help.
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Old 05-16-11, 09:02 AM
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In these situations local knowledge is invaluable. Have you tried calling one of their local bike shops for info?

https://www.bicycleshops.us/regional/az.htm

Also, try the AZ bike club: https://azbikeclub.com/

Good luck and post pictures!
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Old 05-16-11, 06:15 PM
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Good ideas man! Upon checking that link I was unable find any bike shops in the area that I plan on riding through.

The areas that I would like to go through and that I am most concerned about are:

1) In and around Monument Valley up to Mexican Hat.

2) Mexican Hat up to either Blanding, UT (a stop on the Western Express), or

3) Up from Mexican Hat to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Bullfrog, UT) via US 261 (as per Google Maps) and to continue through the park on the Burr Trail (all the way up to Boulder Town, UT another stop on the Western Express).

4) Route 50 into and across Nevada

I will definitely give the AZ bike club a look. I've been trying to find information about the towns on the Navajo reservations, but I can't seem to find much information regarding services on or near the reservations in the Apache County area. Anyone here have experience with any of these areas? Any ideas would be very much appreciated.

I would especially like to hear from anyone who has taken the Western Express during the summer months to get a sense for what I should expect and prepare for.


Thanks alot guys.

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Old 05-16-11, 07:22 PM
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Someone i read, .. replaced a whole pannier's worth of space..
for a gallon or more.
Bladder bags to refill the water bottles.
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Old 05-16-11, 08:33 PM
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I rode the Western Express from Cedar City UT to Dolores CO in June 2009. Streams hadn't dried up yet so filtering was still possible, but I was able to buy and carry enough since I had an MSR 10 L Dromedary bladder. The names of the creeks like Poison Spring etc were kinda off-putting for filtering. There was piped water at the Hite Rec Area (Glen Canyon). Get ready for some unbelievably steep grades and some wonderful scenery!
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Old 05-17-11, 08:08 AM
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I would say 4 L or thereabouts to be on the safe side. I once missed a refill opportunity and ended up doing 70 miles on empty and sleeping without finding water. I was so thirsty that I drank from discarded soda bottles on the side of the road. Avoid the yellow Pepsi though. Gross I know, so if you want to avoid that kind of situation, keep tabs on the frequency of towns and how much water you have.

As a rule of thumb I would say a water bottle every 10 miles in hot weather. That's about a pint or 500 mL. You can certainly drink more than this, but you probably shouldn't go too much less than that if it's hot. So if for example, the longest stretch without water is 60 miles, plan to take 3 litres plus a bit of reserve.
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Old 05-17-11, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
I rode the Western Express from Cedar City UT to Dolores CO in June 2009. Streams hadn't dried up yet so filtering was still possible, but I was able to buy and carry enough since I had an MSR 10 L Dromedary bladder. The names of the creeks like Poison Spring etc were kinda off-putting for filtering.
Geez, Poison Spring? Is that anywhere near Arsenic Lake or Depleted Uranium Creek? I didn't even think about getting a water bladder/hydration bag. I thought I would be alright with the water bottles in wet socks solution I read about somewhere on this forum, tucked about into my panniers. Where do you keep your water bladder--in a pannier or on your back (or somewhere else, like a handlebar bag)? I wonder how difficult it is to balance a 10L water bladder (approx. 24 lbs?) in a pannier against your opposing pannier. I also wonder if people typically use hydration backpacks when on a lengthy tour, because that seems like a lot of weight on the back.


Originally Posted by Dan The Man View Post
I once missed a refill opportunity and ended up doing 70 miles on empty and sleeping without finding water. I was so thirsty that I drank from discarded soda bottles on the side of the road.
Wow, that sounds rough.

Originally Posted by Dan The Man View Post
Avoid the yellow Pepsi though.
Man, I hope you're joking!

Originally Posted by Dan The Man View Post
As a rule of thumb I would say a water bottle every 10 miles in hot weather. That's about a pint or 500 mL. You can certainly drink more than this, but you probably shouldn't go too much less than that if it's hot. So if for example, the longest stretch without water is 60 miles, plan to take 3 litres plus a bit of reserve.
Thanks Dan (the man), this sounds like good advice. I will definitely use this rule on my trip.

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Old 05-17-11, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by thesearethesuns View Post
Geez, Poison Spring? Is that anywhere near Arsenic Lake or Depleted Uranium Creek? I didn't even think about getting a water bladder/hydration bag. I thought I would be alright with the water bottles in wet socks solution I read about somewhere on this forum, tucked about into my panniers. Where do you keep your water bladder--in a pannier or on your back (or somewhere else, like a handlebar bag)? I wonder how difficult it is to balance a 10L water bladder (approx. 24 lbs?) in a pannier against your opposing pannier. I also wonder if people typically use hydration backpacks when on a lengthy tour, because that seems like a lot of weight on the back.
My experience with a hydration pack on the GDMBR was not positive. It was always a relief to take it off, even when empty.

The 10L bladder went in my rear pannier. I rode with it full only a couple of times when I didn't know what lay ahead and when I knew I'd be stopping soon to camp. I'd often dump water before going up hill if I was confident that water was available just ahead. The incremental weight between a 4 or 6 L Dromedary and a 10L one is not much, a couple of ounces at most. Also, although I think about balancing left to right panniers, in reality it's just not so critical.

Also, when not full, the 10L is far more conformable than the smaller bladders, making it's volume much easier to accommodate within a pannier.

Flagging down a car is always an alternative when you run out of water. It's not likely that someone will deny you a drink. The highway patrol / sheriffs often would pull up next to me to ask if I needed water. Along this stretch of the Western Express, however, there's not alot of traffic, but certainly enough such that there's no need to seriously suffer for lack of water.

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Old 05-17-11, 10:12 AM
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That is insane to make that trip in August. Extreme heat. Some of the little reservation towns that appear on maps in reality were deserted long ago. I think you should reconsider.
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Old 05-17-11, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by BWF View Post
That is insane to make that trip in August. Extreme heat. Some of the little reservation towns that appear on maps in reality were deserted long ago. I think you should reconsider.

True this. Also, the economy has forced many private campgrounds, motels, and restaurants to close. There are few things more disheartening than to have your heart set on pancakes only to discover that the cafe you were counting on is boarded up. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And please don't disregard the second part of this statement. Good luck.
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Old 05-17-11, 10:36 AM
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If that desert is anything like the deserts in So Cal,it's going to be HOT!!!! in AUG,100*+ hot,all day and half the night.Then when it cools off it will be 85* for a couple hours before sunrise.It's doable,but you better make sure your carrying enough water.My motto,better too much than dead.

I can't give you specifics about your route,but I ride/play in the So Cal deserts alot.When it's a 100* + outside(Death Valley/Joshua Tree/Anza Borrego),25 pounds of water is a JOY to carry.

I carry an old 5gal collapsible type water container.Then fill it as I see fit,strapped to the top of the back rack.I carry it at all times,it's part of my normal packing list.I don't remember ever filling it completely full while riding for any kind of distance,but I can carry almost 1 1/2 gals on the bike alone.

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Old 05-17-11, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by BWF View Post
That is insane to make that trip in August. Extreme heat. Some of the little reservation towns that appear on maps in reality were deserted long ago. I think you should reconsider.
Thanks for the heads up! I will reconsider!

Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
True this. Also, the economy has forced many private campgrounds, motels, and restaurants to close. There are few things more disheartening than to have your heart set on pancakes only to discover that the cafe you were counting on is boarded up. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And please don't disregard the second part of this statement. Good luck.
Really good point about how the economy factors in. Just looking at some streets in Shiprock, NM on Google Earth I came across a few boarded up looking gas stations and the like. If you think it will be worst in the reservation towns of AZ, I may just scratch that all together and divert my route in Shiprock (or somewhere sooner on Route 64, maybe Farmington, NM?). Route 491 (formerly Route 666, the Devil's highway) links up to Monticello, UT from Shiprock which would be another option in linking up to the Western Express. I will look into that stretch today and see if the resources would be any better. Thanks for the heads up!

I do still plan on riding through northern NM because I have a friend in Raton, and I think riding through NM would have the added benefits of skirting some of the higher passes on the Trans Am in Colorado, and riding through Taos which I've heard great things about.
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Old 05-17-11, 11:21 AM
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Naysayers will say nay. The time I ran out of water was in Kansas after I stopped carrying as much, but I had come through the Anzio Borego, Southern California/Arizona and up through the four corners in late August without significant problems. It will be hot, but you already know that. A lot of people told me it was crazy, but the idea of riding a bike across the country, or just to the next town, is also crazy to a lot of people. Decide for yourself.
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Old 05-17-11, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by thesearethesuns View Post
Good ideas man! Upon checking that link I was unable find any bike shops in the area that I plan on riding through.

The areas that I would like to go through and that I am most concerned about are:

1) In and around Monument Valley up to Mexican Hat.

2) Mexican Hat up to either Blanding, UT (a stop on the Western Express), or

3) Up from Mexican Hat to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Bullfrog, UT) via US 261 (as per Google Maps) and to continue through the park on the Burr Trail (all the way up to Boulder Town, UT another stop on the Western Express).

4) Route 50 into and across Nevada

I will definitely give the AZ bike club a look. I've been trying to find information about the towns on the Navajo reservations, but I can't seem to find much information regarding services on or near the reservations in the Apache County area. Anyone here have experience with any of these areas? Any ideas would be very much appreciated.

I would especially like to hear from anyone who has taken the Western Express during the summer months to get a sense for what I should expect and prepare for.


Thanks alot guys.
I rode this route before. You're right. North of Monument you need to top off your water when you can. But I don't remember ever having more than 2 bottles. It really wasn't that big of a deal if you ride about 60-80 miles per day like I did.

Hwy 50 across Neveda is one of my best memories. There is a spot on the eastern end of the state where it was something like 80 miles between water. (this was in 1991 but things might be different now). I brought 3 bottles through that part but didn't ever crack open the third one. There are mountain passes every 10 or 20 miles but not severe. You can camp anywhere you want. That was the best part. Wild horses if you are lucky (I wasn't).


Good luck

p.s. I just read the previous posts. If you are a healthy (18-40 yr old male) and ran a year of high school track you should be fine. That's not to say you can be stupid. I didn't carry a lot of weight (only rear panniers). I also rode through that desert in SE Utah in July. It wasn't that hot. It's dry. That helps. Don't be scared!!! You can do this just fine and will see the best deserts and canyons of you life!

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Old 05-17-11, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by boomhauer View Post
I rode this route before. You're right. North of Monument you need to top off your water when you can. But I don't remember ever having more than 2 bottles. It really wasn't that big of a deal if you ride about 60-80 miles per day like I did.

Hwy 50 across Neveda is one of my best memories. There is a spot on the eastern end of the state where it was something like 80 miles between water. (this was in 1991 but things might be different now). I brought 3 bottles through that part but didn't ever crack open the third one. There are mountain passes every 10 or 20 miles but not severe. You can camp anywhere you want. That was the best part. Wild horses if you are lucky (I wasn't).


Good luck

p.s. I just read the previous posts. If you are a healthy (18-40 yr old male) and ran a year of high school track you should be fine. That's not to say you can be stupid. I didn't carry a lot of weight (only rear panniers). I also rode through that desert in SE Utah in July. It wasn't that hot. It's dry. That helps. Don't be scared!!! You can do this just fine and will see the best deserts and canyons of you life!
Thanks Boomhauer! That's really encouraging of you. It's always been a sort of dream or fantasy of mine to travel through a desert, ever since I was very young. I'd like to make it happen.
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