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USA in 3 months. What to see, where to ride?

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USA in 3 months. What to see, where to ride?

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Old 08-02-12, 03:58 PM
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richmotion
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USA in 3 months. What to see, where to ride?

Hey guys,

I am from Austria, Europe. In 2011 I rode through Arizona, did about 1.000 miles in 18 days. However, this pace is too fast for a 3 months ride, so the mileage I can manage per day will be less. I think I can ride 3.500 to 3.800 miles in 3 months. I plan to ride May to July 2013.

So far I have been to CA, AZ, NV and like the spectacular landscape. I am not sure if the East of the USA can really compete. My first thoughts of planning a tour: TX - NM - CO - Wyoming - Montana - Washington - Highway 1: Oregon - CA down to San Diego.

Are my ambitions too high? It should be some sort of holidays, not just mile-eating. My suggestion is sort of riding western states, which I donīt know yet. I want to include some NPs. I like to photograph and I will carry all needs on my bike including tent and cooking stuff. I travel rather light though.

What do you think? I would really appreciate all sorts of input. In this early stage of planning I am open to consider every suggestion made.

Thanks!

Richard
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Old 08-02-12, 05:11 PM
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do consider how you will carry a generous supply of water. the distances are large,

The western mountains, Coastal, Cascades & Sierras cause much of the moisture
to fall out of the clouds
in order to rise over them, so east of there is rather arrid.
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Old 08-02-12, 06:25 PM
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There are some nice things to see along route if you follow the Rocky Mountains north and then come back south via the Pacific Coast. Not certain where you might start in TX, but I'd probably skip this and start with southern NM and come via Carlsbad, White Sands, Chaco Canyon; several possible routes through CO, etc.

Southwest deserts will start to be hot by May - so depends a little on elevation where you are coming through. Utah also has some nice desert areas and parks (Bryce, Zion, Arches, Capitol Reef,...) though it is likely hot by May.
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Old 08-02-12, 07:27 PM
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There are a number routes that you might be interested in and could already be mapped out by Adventure Cycling Association. See Grand Canyon, Great Divide, Pacific Coast, Sierra Cascades or Western Express. See Link below:

http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/

The routes might be a good way to start your planning; revising your route might be based on the suggestions and experience of others in this forum or your own interests. In fact, most people will make their own revisions in some form or fashion.
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Old 08-02-12, 07:56 PM
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I think your first thoughts are pretty good, except that I would omit Texas. The landscape in most of the state can't compare with what you can find west of Texas. I'm a little bit concerned about your May start. It's too early for the northern Rockies and you'd likely have cool & wet weather on the northern half of the Pacific Coast. I suggest you add Utah to your itinerary, and May is a great time to ride in southern Utah. I have toured in southern Utah around Zion NP & Bryce Canyon NPs in mid-may and had good weather (a bit cool in Bryce, but not too cold, and Zion had perfect temperatures). I would consider starting from Las Vegas, which is relatively close to Zion. All 5 NPs in Utah are magnificent, and are quite different from one another. These parks have very unusual landscapes quite different from anything in Europe. The only one which is problematic for biking, in my opinion, is Capitol Reef NP, which has few paved roads and is far away from the other parks. I prefer the other 4 Utah NPs for scenery. I had hot weather in Canyonlands already in mid-May, though I wasn't biking.

You should definitely try to include Yellowstone NP in your route. There's no place like it. I suggest you ride along the Pacific coast as late as possible. You'll appreciate the cooler temperatures there, when most of the west is extremely hot.

No, the eastern USA cannot compete scenery-wise with the western USA.
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Old 08-02-12, 08:04 PM
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Occasionally when in a large, potentially interesting city, I'll hire a bus tour. Best way to see and learn about the interesting stuff in a short time.

Same with the ACA routes mentioned above. The maps are chock full of interesting tid bits and take most of the guess work out of route planning, especially for someone not raised in the US. The national parks of the NW are highly recommended as is SW Utah and the Pacific Coast Highway. If Texas is really high on your agenda, check out the Hill Country west and north of San Antonio. DIY routing between ACA routes.

As noted, water carrying capacity can be a major issue in certain areas of the west, especially in hotter months. I've had as much as 8 liters on my bent and had no trouble drinking that much one day in SD when the temp was 100+.
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Old 08-02-12, 11:56 PM
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Wow, great response! Thank you very much, so far I got a lot of useful informations. No, Texas is no priority on my route. I am aware of the water supply problem, but I was surprised how many gas stations, shops, trading posts... are there in AZ. I never ran out of water - carrying 4-6 litres most of the time.

So far I think of:

1) Start in Denver, CO, west through Utah, north to Wyoming (Yellowstone NP), west to Montana/Idaho? What would you recommend between Yellostone and the west coast? Then down to San Diego.

2) Start in NM, everything else as above. I guess I only get a cheap flight from Europe to Albuquerque, thatīs already far north to start. I am not sure if CO has a more stunning landscape to start, or is it to cold in CO in May? Snow??

As the early planning is done, I will start to read and collect informations in detail. However, I want to avoid planning every little detail, my experience is that best things happen if you NOT stick to a plan made on the PC at home.

I want to travel on pavement mostly, gravel roads are fine (Apache Trail was good!). My bike is a Surly CrossCheck with Salsa Woodchipper handlebar, bomb proof tires, Tubus racks, hub dynamo for light, GPS and iPhone, so I wonīt get lost. I built it up myself and for me everything is perfect on this bike. I am riding about 6000 miles per year, and since the climate is very dry in the western states it is no problem to ride in temperatures 100+ - at least it wasnīt around Phoenix, AZ.

Again thank you for sharing your informations, keep on!
Richard
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Old 08-03-12, 12:17 AM
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Originally Posted by richmotion View Post
Hey guys,

I am from Austria, Europe. In 2011 I rode through Arizona, did about 1.000 miles in 18 days. However, this pace is too fast for a 3 months ride, so the mileage I can manage per day will be less. I think I can ride 3.500 to 3.800 miles in 3 months. I plan to ride May to July 2013.

So far I have been to CA, AZ, NV and like the spectacular landscape. I am not sure if the East of the USA can really compete. My first thoughts of planning a tour: TX - NM - CO - Wyoming - Montana - Washington - Highway 1: Oregon - CA down to San Diego.

Are my ambitions too high? It should be some sort of holidays, not just mile-eating. My suggestion is sort of riding western states, which I donīt know yet. I want to include some NPs. I like to photograph and I will carry all needs on my bike including tent and cooking stuff. I travel rather light though.

What do you think? I would really appreciate all sorts of input. In this early stage of planning I am open to consider every suggestion made.

Thanks!

Richard
Western USA has much spectacular scenery but on the other hand often big distances between the beauty spots. Westerners tend to be more friendly & more fitness-oriented but since you have already been to that general area perhaps consider the east for variety? Many great areas in the east for touring such as the Skyline Drive/Blue Ridge Parkway which offers challenging non-stop climbing & beautiful scenery. Eastern states have more rural roads for quiet cycling plus are closer to the big cities if one is interested in the general culture/history etc aspect. True that the eastern mountains are basically foothills compared to the big western mountains but despite lower altitude many bikers say they're harder climbs due to steeper grades frequency of hills. Since you have a big allotment of time you could include all sorts of nice eastern areas such as Maine coastline, Adirondacks etc & include spots like New York City, Washington DC etc. Even perhaps down to Florida? Florida is very flat & somewhat featureless but OTOH Miami is pretty exciting & interesting...many German & Brit expats live down there.

So I can't blame you for focusing on the west though. Have you thought about British Columbia Canada? Have never been there myself but OTOH it looks very beautiful...many tv shows/movies are filmed there. Plenty of gorgeous mountains & lakes & also a more moderate summer climate than southwestern USA. Just yesterday I searched for "British Columbia"+"bicycle touring" & there are a huge number of companies offering tours so it seems that although you will go self-supported it's a popular area. Everyone says Vancouver is a great place to visit too.
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Old 08-03-12, 01:13 AM
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Consider:
perhaps mid-May to mid-August; better chance of snow being gone from some of the higher passes, earlier in the ride.

Albuquerque - Santa Fe - Taos -Chama - Durango - Moab. Mesa Verde, Arches, Canyonlands NPs.

Rock Springs, Jackson Hole, Bozeman. Grand Tetons, Yellowstone NPs.

Helena, East Glacier, Whitefish, Sandpoint (Idaho). Glacier NP, including descent of west side of Going-to=the-Sun highway (check for when it will be clear of snow)

Highway 2 west; Grand Coulee, Coulee City, Chelan, Twisp, Anacortes. Grand Coulee Dam, Dry Falls, Lake Chelan (take boat to far end and back), North Cascades NP.

San Juan Islands by ferry (visit Lopez, Orcas and San Juan); ferry to Victoria, BC. See some of Vancouver Island; ferry to Port Angeles; climb to Hurricane Ridge. Highway 101 around the west side of Olympic NP.

South on Washington coast, south on Oregon coast (find the state of Oregon's Pacific Coast bike map).

From Reedsport, inland to Roseburg, up to Crater Lake NP and ride around the lake. Then back to Roseburg and west to the coast at Bandon. (the ride around Crater Lake will be worth it!)

Then south along the Coast.
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Old 08-03-12, 02:23 AM
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Ride east along the southern coast to Natchez, Mississippi. There you can connect to the Natchez Trace Parkway. It's a National Park limited access roadway of 450 miles, all blacktop. It ends near Nashville, TN. Entrances and exits like an autobahn, but w/a 40mph motor vehicle speed limit. 2 lanes. No billboards and camping is allowed. My wife and I have a cottage called Cycler's Rest at which we'd be glad to put you up for no charge. We live 0.6 miles off the NTP near mile post 423 towards the nothern end. If you do an internet search do 'Cycler's Rest, Franklin, TN'. That should give you a link where you can see what the place looks like. If you decide to take up the offer just PM me and we'll schedule the date(s). The cottage is complete w/shower/laundry and cooking facilities. We'll even make a point to take you out to downtown Nashville for some 'real' country music...not the **** one hears on the 'country' stations, nowadays. Or we can invite some players over for a brauts and beers cookout on our backyard cookout pit.

Anyway, welcome and it's my hope you're treated as well here as I have been on my tours 'cross the pond. Hope you get to see everything you want.
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Old 08-03-12, 01:19 PM
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Trying to ride west out of Denver in May has you attempting any number of high passes, all above 10,000 ft., that are likely to either still be in snow, or see snow. So big crap shoot. About the only route I can think of would be SW on US 285 to the Arkansas River valley. but then what ?, you still need to get thru the mountains. So Colorado in May may be frustrating, weather wise.

I do like the idea of starting in Albuquerque and heading north, Santa Fe, Taos, etc... and into CO. Not bad weather in NM, which may well surprise you with some great riding thru beautiful scenic areas. Then maybe thru CO and up to Wyoming. You may want to check on timing and conditions for Yellowstone, which is pretty high up in elevation, so roads from the south may not yet be open in early June.

Which is the big problem in the high country of the west - CO., WY, Montana, Idaho, namely the narrower window at altitude for when the snow clears and the weather doesn't bring more. Typically it's mid June thru late Sept. so do a lot of e-mailing to the parks and or/ highway departments to ascertain best timing.

Or from northern NM head west towards northern AZ then up thru Utah (Moab area) then up thru Utah to Idaho and Montana, trying to delay a bit when you try the high passes in CO, and WY.

Just some thoughts

SB
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Old 08-03-12, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by moleman76 View Post
Consider:
perhaps mid-May to mid-August; better chance of snow being gone from some of the higher passes, earlier in the ride.

Albuquerque - Santa Fe - Taos -Chama - Durango - Moab. Mesa Verde, Arches, Canyonlands NPs.

Rock Springs, Jackson Hole, Bozeman. Grand Tetons, Yellowstone NPs.

Helena, East Glacier, Whitefish, Sandpoint (Idaho). Glacier NP, including descent of west side of Going-to=the-Sun highway (check for when it will be clear of snow)

Highway 2 west; Grand Coulee, Coulee City, Chelan, Twisp, Anacortes. Grand Coulee Dam, Dry Falls, Lake Chelan (take boat to far end and back), North Cascades NP.

San Juan Islands by ferry (visit Lopez, Orcas and San Juan); ferry to Victoria, BC. See some of Vancouver Island; ferry to Port Angeles; climb to Hurricane Ridge. Highway 101 around the west side of Olympic NP.

South on Washington coast, south on Oregon coast (find the state of Oregon's Pacific Coast bike map).

From Reedsport, inland to Roseburg, up to Crater Lake NP and ride around the lake. Then back to Roseburg and west to the coast at Bandon. (the ride around Crater Lake will be worth it!)

Then south along the Coast.
That would be a fantastic route; you would see more of the great western US sights than most Americans see in a lifetime. One question re. most of the posts, though: why the counterclockwise direction, starting near/in the highest/coldest regions and ending in SoCal? I would consider a CW route, including the points suggested by moleman, above.
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Old 08-03-12, 02:17 PM
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I would start in the east and work my way west, like the early settlers. Washington, DC and the surrounding area is a nice place to visit in the late spring, and your first week or so of riding could be to Pittsburgh along the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage, 300+ miles of relatively flat trails.
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Old 08-03-12, 03:46 PM
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If you ride through western Colorado and eastern Utah I can help you with routing. There are some great roads to ride that you may not think of otherwise.

May through July is quite nice in the lower elevations here, temperature-wise. But it does tend to be quite windy in the spring for a month or two. Gusts to 50mph.
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Old 08-06-12, 02:50 PM
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Well, thank you so much for all your replies!

@ moleman76: This really is a fantastic route!! My favorite so far!
@ patrickgm60: The question why always touring counterclockwise is interesting. Is it because the early settlers rode west and we want to share the spirit? Is it because of the wind? Climate? What is it?
I think most tourists would ride the coast DOWN from Seattle to San Diego. Not up. Why? I guess there will be winds from NW and therefore it is easier to ride down. Does that make sense?
Starting from Denver is probably snowy, right... I am used to ride in hard packed snow on streets or fresh snow on gravel roads though, Austria is good training. However I would choose starting far more south.

@nashcommguy: Thank you very much for your offer! Youīre located to far east for next years ride, I must admit. I will definitely come back to you when the time is right.
@eofelis: Thank you, I will probably come back to you when detailled planning starts...

@all others: Thank you for the useful hints and infos, I will re-read them as planning goes on! Please feel free to post more of your secrets, any help is appreciated. I guess it is time to start reading some books, my knowledge ends at AZ borders.

Thank you guys, have a nice day!
Richard
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Old 08-06-12, 03:03 PM
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I'd love to ride through Redwood National Park., like this guy.

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Old 08-06-12, 10:34 PM
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Here's the route I'm currently taking. I'm in South Dakota now. My buddy and I are also this in about 75 days.


Oregon - Amazing scenery and a few big passes to go over, but well worth it if you like trees and mountains.
Idaho - Not that exciting. Honestly didn't enjoy Idaho much at all. But we also had a bad headwind the whole time and it was hot. We got a lot of flat tires due to the goat head thorns.
Wyoming - Loved it! Amazing scenery, good ride, you got Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Devils tower. The ride from Riverton to Devils tower is gorgeous.
South Dakota - Boring. We rode at night most of the way through SD.

And that's as far as we are now. Heading to Iowa tomorrow. - Overall our route has been fun. I like the northern scenery better than the southern. But it all comes down to personal preference.
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Old 08-08-12, 10:20 PM
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Yes, winds blow mostly from the NW along the Pacific coast in the summer, some days very strongly!

If you find the coast a bit too cool and cloudy, in Northern California (or from Crater Lake), you can follow the Sierra-Cascades route through some amazing scenery, maybe by cutting inland along the Klamath River to Mt. Shasta, from there through Lassen Park to Lake Tahoe. You can head south to Yosemite from there (though it's crowded and has a theme-park vibe in the Valley) or head back down to the coast via a pass south of Tahoe (Carson or Ebbetts Pass).
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Old 08-08-12, 10:31 PM
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From Reedsport, inland to Roseburg, up to Crater Lake NP and ride around the lake. Then back to Roseburg and west to the coast at Bandon. (the ride around Crater Lake will be worth it!)
+1 the ride around Crater Lake will be worth it!
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Old 08-09-12, 01:54 PM
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Starting in May in the northwest also raises some issues in the Cascades. McKenzie Pass in Oregon will almost ceratinly not be open. The North Cascades Highway through North Cascades N.P. in Washington may still be closed if you start in early May from somewhere like Seattle. And if the last few years are any indication, I would not count on Going to the Sun Road in Glacier N.P. being open until mid-June at the very earliest. I believe Crater Lake in Oregon is also usually snowed in until sometime in June, but someone feel free to correct me if I am wrong. I have only ridden it in September. (Going to ride it again in about one month!)
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Old 08-09-12, 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by richmotion View Post
Well, thank you so much for all your replies!

Starting from Denver is probably snowy, right... I am used to ride in hard packed snow on streets or fresh snow on gravel roads though,
Richard
The problem is not so much riding during a storm, though that raises it's own issues, but more a case of the actual passes will have been snowed in and buried under multiple feet of snow (12 ?, 20 ?), with the highway departments not even attempting to clear until they are certain they can without it getting buried again. Due to the altitude of many of the passes being above 10,000 ft. and upwards to +12,000, a lot of the passes ON ROADS THAT YOU WOULD WANT TO BIKE ON - I.E., other then Interstate 70, will not be ridable. It's very much a crap shoot as to timing in May. Contacting the State of Colorado Highway Department (and Washington, Oregon, Wyoming etc... and all others) for advice on typical seasonal openings and/or which passes are kept open year round.

Then ask your self (and this applies to the Cascades in Oregon and Washington as well), is it safe to ride thru this terrain early in the season, thru a pass that is in theory kept open year round, in the middle of impossible conditions at +12,000 ft. ?. Would you attempt a winter transverse of the Swiss Alps ?. Note that the distances between towns in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, etc... is greater then is typical anywhere in Europe outside of possibly Russia, which greatly increases the danger.

So timing is somewhat critical and defines the route.
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Old 08-09-12, 06:15 PM
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I believe Crater Lake in Oregon is also usually snowed in until sometime in June, but ........
You are correct.

We have a tradition of skiing there off the north side of Llao Rock on the 4th of July. That should tell you something. More times than, not the road is not open all away around the rim at that time. They will have the road open connecting the North and South entrances, but not on the east side of the Lake. It is still a good ride even if you can't go all away around.


July 4th-- Not this year!





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Old 08-11-12, 02:23 PM
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Ok guys! You all made me thinking about weather conditions. Yes, an austrian guy knows about snow and winter conditions. I am aware of the fact that a big part on this route is in high elevations, which makes it more dangerous, so are the bigger distances than we have in the Alps.

What if I go the other way around? Starting in Los Angeles, West Coast heading north? I would reach the critical spots later, maybe mid-June . Except for Crater Lake this should make things easier. I donīt know about wind along the coast in May though. On the way down south from Yellowstone it could get hot, at least in UT, CO, NM? I think I can bear the heat, at least better than a snowstorm at 12.000 ft.

Unfortunately I must be back home End of July. There are co-workers who want some summer holidays too, so I have to work August. I am so thankful that I can take these 3 months off, I really donīt want to complain. So I have to bring my route in balance with the expected weather and conditions.

I really did some serious planning for my tour in 2011, and I actually travelled a very much different route. And it was just perfect. Locals advice is far more trustworthy than any travel book.

Again thank you for all your advice, information and suggestions! Everything will influence my early planning. Nice pics!!
Richard
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Old 08-11-12, 03:16 PM
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Richmotion,

Winds along the Pacific Coast are generally north to south, and most riders ride a north to south route. I made the msitake once of doing the coast route south to north, only once. I was young and did little research before setting out. There are some pretty serious winds, even on the southern coast. We did our last Pacific Coast Route trip, finishing it this summer. from north to south, and it was not uncommon to have a 15-20 mph cross or tail wind. There was a stretch near Crescent City CA, where we went over a mile without turning a pedal on the flat.

An added bonus is that you are on the ocean side, and the view is much better. It may be just my perception, but It looks like the southern bound road shoulders on Highway 101 (at lest in Oregon) seem a little wider than on the northbound lane.
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Old 08-11-12, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by richmotion View Post
Ok guys! You all made me thinking about weather conditions. Yes, an austrian guy knows about snow and winter conditions. I am aware of the fact that a big part on this route is in high elevations, which makes it more dangerous, so are the bigger distances than we have in the Alps.

Richard
Richard,

Apologies if the post(s) sounded condescending, that was not the intention. My concern was when you stated that you were accustomed to riding on snow covered roads that the information wasn't clear that the higher passes on local roads, especially in Colorado, were deeply buried in snow, as they are throughout the Alps as well, and that the roads would be completely un-ridable in many cases, regardless as to how comfortable you might be cycling in winter conditions. And in truth do you want too ?.

One thought and this is somewhat geography oriented, is that starting in say Albuquerque in May, then heading north (Rt 14 to Santa Fe, then Rt 285/84 to Eldorado and Rt 84 to Chama and up to Pagosa Springs, CO, then west to Durango and into southwest Colorado would all be ridable in May as well as very scenic, then "possibly" route 550 over Coal Bank and Molas passes to Silverton, then up over Red Mountain Pass to Ouray, might be do-able in May. I've driven it (550) in May and encountered snow showers, but the highway department does clear this route to keep it open all winter. Then from Ouray you descend to the Colorado River valley, then maybe head east and northward towards Wyoming. Another option is east from Pagosa Springs on Rt 160 over Wolf Creek Pass (also kept open as there's a ski area on Wolf Creek). Then down to Rt 149 and north to Creede, over Spring Creek and Slumgullion Passes and north to Gunnison. If Slumgullion is closed (+11,000), then skip heading east and north as you will also hit some passes trying to continue north and will get trapped in the Arkansas River valley. So then west to Durango.

Should Rt 550 north of Durango be closed or iffy, you can head west towards Utah to Moab area (very beautiful area) and north, or head back to western Colorado, essentially detouring around the San Juan mountains to the west.

Big question heading up to Wyoming is whether or not to go thru Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone website states they are clearing the roads in March into April, so in theory, the south entrance route should be open. Note that if the route thru Yellowstone is not doable, you have to detour pretty far to the east to get thru the mountains, as there are no other north/south routes except to go east around the Wind River range and the high country east of Yellowstone. Not sure you'd have the time to do that and would then recommend heading west into Idaho.

Then into Montana and west.

http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/hours.htm\

Just some thoughts as to NM, CO and WY.

SB

Last edited by Lightingguy; 08-11-12 at 06:20 PM.
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