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Thread: First Time Heading West - Could Use Some Advice

  1. #1

    First Time Heading West - Could Use Some Advice

    I live in PA and I've ridden all over the eastern US, but I've never ridden out west. I'm about to head out west in early September. If anyone has advice regarding these topics (or anything else you think is relevant), I would appreciate it:

    -- I have been trying to figure out how to get from PA to the west. My target state is Colorado, but Wyoming looks pretty interesting, also. Was thinking of making Cody, Wyoming an objective in order to see the Rockies. I don't think I can handle days on an interstate, so I'm thinking of heading east to Michigan and then going up to northern Michigan and traveling the rest of the way on a northern route (possible Rte 2 or Rte 6). I would like to hear from someone who has done this, or someone who has another route to recommend that keeps me off the interstate but still makes reasonable time. I'm not opposed to a more southerly route.

    -- I've checked the average temperatures in my target states and those states I'll be passing through, and they seem pretty reasonable in September. Not too hot and not too cold, but I'm wondering if they reflect higher altitudes I'll be riding in when I hit the mountains. I'll be camping as much as I can. Regardless of the published average temperatures, I've had people tell me it's common to experience sleet and snow randomly during this time. Anyone riders experienced in this area in September could help me here.

    -- I'm not planning on making any reservations at hotels or campsites. First, I hate to be tied down to a schedule. If I see a detour that looks good I'll take it. If I feel tired I'll want to stop and if I don't I'll want to continue. My assumption is that in September once school has begun and summer vacationers are back home there will be ample camping and hotel rooms available throughout the area. However, for all I know, September is a major tourist period as it is here in PA in September/October due to the leaves changing. Can anyone advise me on this?

    I'll greatly appreciate any info anyone can share with me and anything else that you think I need to know. Regards, Don

  2. #2
    Nick Kennedy
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    Good plan.
    "The lack of planning is the key to flexibility"
    This is my style too!
    One bit of advice of course is keeping an eye on the weather.
    Check out the Black Hills between Sturgis SD and Custer, awesome roads and scenery.
    Custer is a great place for a couple of nights. Take the Wind Cave Tour.
    Head to Colorado if it's not storming, it's kind of high so it cools off quicker.
    Wyoming can be windy look on Windy.com for the forecast.
    Bring a heated jacket liner, and a CC
    Utah is fantastic then too!
    If it turns cold and windy head south sooner than later.
    Have good tires and follow your nose!
    I'm doing one of these " unplanned" tours to BC next month, my Fav.
    You're coming at a good time, I've been riding a lot this summer and the Colorado State Patrol seems to be on strike, haven't seen a CSP in 7 weeks!
    Nick

  3. #3
    TravelsWithBarley.com
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    Take layers. Temps can be wildly variable at altitude. Know the signs of altitude sickness and if it effects you don't camp up high.

    I'm not sure how much time you have or what part of PA you call home, but here are a few personal thoughts on cross-country transits. Avoid Chicago and surrounding areas. I follow the Kankakee River NW, then backroads to Prairie du Chien WI into the hilly, pretty part of Iowa. Pick up US-18 and follow it west; it's scenic and you can make good time while seeing small town America. Consider camping in the Niobrara/Pickstown area as you cross the Missouri River. Angle NW to SD-44 and pass through Badlands NP. From there to the Black Hills and explore all the area has to offer. I found the city park in Spearfish to have some of the best camping in the area. Devils Tower is a treat, but arrive early in the morning to beat the crowds.

    Short stretch of slab to Gillette, then 14/16 to Buffalo and on into the Big Horn Range with many camping options. 16 to Ten Sleep, north to Graybull, 14 up Shell Canyon to Burgess Junction, then ALT14 to Cody. Much western history there. Over Chief Joseph Byway and Beartooth Pass. Back over Beartooth and through Yellowstone (early, unless you plan on spending a week there), drop down to Teton then further south to Flaming Gorge UT. South again to Colorado National Monument, over Grand Mesa to Montrose CO, west at Ridgeway to CO-145 south over the San Juans and dispersed camping options, 160 to Durango and up the incredible US-550 back to Montrose. US-50 east to Black Canyon of the Gunnison, then south on 149 over Slumgullion Pass with a stop in Creede CO. That will dump you out on US-160.

    At that point I'd be concerned about conditions at altitude. If clear, you could travel up US-24/285 to Evergreen and take in Mt Evans and/or Guanella Pass with plenty of options for side trips to fantastic alpine lakes, streams, peaks, etc. Or if the weather looks threatening US-160 or US-590 will take you east in a hurry

    Pete
    '18 R1200GSA for solo rides
    '12 R1200GSA with Hannigan sidecar for rides with Glenlivet

    http://travelswithbarley.com/

  4. #4
    Registered User lkraus's Avatar
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    Watch the weather closely in the mountains. September is a great month for travel, but the two times I've been in WY in September I've encountered substantial snow.

    The first time, I watched it build up on the interstate from cold rain to 4" in a few hours, riding about fifty miles in the ruts made by cars before I could find a town with a motel so I could hole up at 11 a.m. Next morning, the streets looked clear, so I headed west again on a two lane highway. Road going up the mountain was clear and dry, got over the top and there was about six inches of snow with just single pair of wheel ruts with compacted snow at the bottom. Snow looked too deep to venture out of the rut I was in and I could not see under the snow to find a safe place to pull off, so I very cautiously continued. I managed to get down the mountain, but it took a while to get unpuckered, especially after a pickup pulling a 5th wheel decided I'd move faster if he stayed ten feet off my rear tire.

    The second time, in the car, we left Ogden headed east in clear weather, hit heavy snowfall halfway to Evanston, WY, where we were held up for two hours. I-80 was shut down while they "cleared" about 6" of snow. Clearing means they made a pass with the plow and spread a heavy layer of sand and small gravel. When the road opened it was still snowing hard, and traffic turned the new snow into an icy, abrasive slush. Didn't matter if you drove fast or slow, if you braved the developing ruts to pass or tried to be patient and maintain some distance, other traffic flung the slush at you and sandblasted the paint and windshield. After a while, the slush built up into a protective layer over an inch thick, but by that time our paint, headlights, and glass were already pitted.
    icecar.jpg
    Ice fell off the doors when we opened them.

    I understand not wanting to be committed to a particular destination, but I prefer to make at least same- or next-day reservations. There's a lot of retired boomers waiting for school to start. I carry a small netbook to research destinations and routes. I find I have less stress and enjoy the day much more when I know where I'll be spending the night. Tourist hotspots might require reservations weeks in advance. It helps to do some research online, most places let you see availability for the dates you need. We've not been on any long tours since the pandemic, but even 2017-2019, travelling in the fall, we had some difficulty finding rooms or campsites. Once had to take an 8 bed $uite for just the two of us, drove an extra hour in the dark at the end of an already long day another time. (Things are REALLY far apart out there.)


    Definitely take the two-lane routes where the population density is low. They are a lot more interesting and nearly as fast as the interstate, especially in the plains states. Gas up earlier than you usually do, fill up at a half tank if you can. (Things are REALLY far apart out there.)
    Larry
    2006 R1200RT

  5. #5
    Debbie's Servant Lee's Avatar
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    Early September is a great time to travel because of fewer people traveling. That should be early for leaf looker.
    As mentioned take a heated jacket liner. The weather can be very comfortable then but you may want the heat for the high passes.
    Just keep a eye on the weather and adjust you route according to the weather.
    Two years ago we had a big snow at Gunnison the first week of September that kept us off the roads 1.5 days.
    A major snow early September is rare but it can happen. We had at least a three day warning for our storm so it was not much of a problem.
    The road surface is still warm in September so snow and sleet will melt fast. If there is any moisture at night be careful early morning at high elevations.
    We were in Colorado July this year and we noticed a big increase in motel rates compared to 2020 when we went in July and September both.
    Lee
    2022 R1250RS
    MOA # 30878
    Past BMW Bikes: 2016 R1200RS, 2011 K1300S, 2003 K1200RS, 1991 K75S, 1987 K75T, 1984 R100RT

  6. #6
    Debbie's Servant Lee's Avatar
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    Last month we talked to several people who had to wait at construction for 45 minutes on a section of US 50 between Gunnison and Montrose.
    When we went west of Gunnison last month we were able to avoid this area by taking the North Rim Black Canyon of Gunnison, hwy 92.
    We were also able to get to 149 west of Gunnison to go over Slumgullion Pass.
    The construction is supposed to last until November.
    Here's the website for the construction.
    https://www.codot.gov/news/2021/apri...-creek-detours

    Map.jpg
    Lee
    2022 R1250RS
    MOA # 30878
    Past BMW Bikes: 2016 R1200RS, 2011 K1300S, 2003 K1200RS, 1991 K75S, 1987 K75T, 1984 R100RT

  7. #7
    #13338 PGlaves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    We were in Colorado July this year and we noticed a big increase in motel rates compared to 2020 when we went in July and September both.
    Some places that barely hung on during the heights of the Covid pandemic are now trying to recoup some of the lost income, I am sure. We are currently on a month-long trip on our G310s through the western plains and Rockies. The Internet can be a friend. For example, Lander and Riverton, WY are just a few miles apart, as are Rock Springs and Green River. Comparing lodging rates between these towns before deciding a destination can save a good bit of money sometimes.
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
    "The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution." - Bertrand Russell
    http://web.bigbend.net/~glaves/

  8. #8
    Debbie's Servant Lee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PGlaves View Post
    Some places that barely hung on during the heights of the Covid pandemic are now trying to recoup some of the lost income, I am sure. We are currently on a month-long trip on our G310s through the western plains and Rockies. The Internet can be a friend. For example, Lander and Riverton, WY are just a few miles apart, as are Rock Springs and Green River. Comparing lodging rates between these towns before deciding a destination can save a good bit of money sometimes.
    We've been on four trips this year and luckily other states have not been as bad.
    One place in Colorado that only had a minor increase was the Rimrock in Naturita.
    http://therimrockhotel.com/
    Lee
    2022 R1250RS
    MOA # 30878
    Past BMW Bikes: 2016 R1200RS, 2011 K1300S, 2003 K1200RS, 1991 K75S, 1987 K75T, 1984 R100RT

  9. #9
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    Pay attention to gas station locations. Away from urban areas, itís possible to go quite a ways between stations. I almost found that out the hard way on a westerly trip across ND in to a strong headwind. I pulled into a station with less than 10 mile range showing on my display. Even along interstates, the distance between gas stations can get uncomfortable.

    Doug
    Sent from a Galaxy, far, far away

  10. #10
    #13338 PGlaves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 83014 View Post
    Pay attention to gas station locations. Away from urban areas, it’s possible to go quite a ways between stations. I almost found that out the hard way on a westerly trip across ND in to a strong headwind. I pulled into a station with less than 10 mile range showing on my display. Even along interstates, the distance between gas stations can get uncomfortable.

    Doug
    On the highway on which our house fronts in Texas it is 80 miles between gas stations - one 25 miles south, a few 55 miles north. We keep several gallons of gas on hand for the intrepid urbanites who don't understand vast open spaces. That gas gets used a few times every year.
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
    "The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution." - Bertrand Russell
    http://web.bigbend.net/~glaves/

  11. #11
    SURVIVOR akbeemer's Avatar
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    Here in western Montana on the front range of the Rockies the forecast for September is quite mild. The highs for the first ten days are forecast to be in the 90s and 80s. The last three weeks the temps are forecast to be in the 70s except for six days in the 60s towards the end of the month. Unfortunately, only three days with rain are predicted.... we need the moisture.

    In addition to keeping an eye out for the weather, be mindful of smoke from wildfires. So far around here the smoke hasn't been exceptionally bad, but most of the west is ripe for fires right now. Heavy smoke will take the joy out of riding very quickly
    Kevin Huddy
    Silver City, Montana
    MOA# 24,790 Ambassador

  12. #12
    Debbie's Servant Lee's Avatar
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    Here's a good site to keep track of wildfires.
    https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/
    Lee
    2022 R1250RS
    MOA # 30878
    Past BMW Bikes: 2016 R1200RS, 2011 K1300S, 2003 K1200RS, 1991 K75S, 1987 K75T, 1984 R100RT

  13. #13
    Registered User Guenther's Avatar
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    Changing leaves in Colorado is around the last week in September +/-.

    Gawkers slow down traffic on weekends and some do stay overnight.

    Be prepared! Riding and tent camping in Colorado mountains in September requires winter gear - electrics for riding and a WARM sleeping bag. In places it can drop below freezing over night.

    Maybe you plan for the rally in Hotchkiss, CO?

    https://www.advrider.com/f/threads/1...rally.1581241/

    See you there!
    2017 F700GS

  14. #14
    Debbie's Servant Lee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guenther View Post
    Maybe you plan for the rally in Hotchkiss, CO?

    !
    There's a nice little Taco place in town on hwy 92.
    Taco Hut
    https://www.google.com/maps/place/Ta...=en&authuser=0

    20220729_100201.jpg
    Lee
    2022 R1250RS
    MOA # 30878
    Past BMW Bikes: 2016 R1200RS, 2011 K1300S, 2003 K1200RS, 1991 K75S, 1987 K75T, 1984 R100RT

  15. #15
    I am on my phone so I canít type much. Start early, like before dawn, and then about 1 or 2 PM get out your phone and use Booking.com and look for spots that are near where you think youíre gonna be in three or four hours. Make a reservation and youíre all set!

    My preference is US highways. I really like US 36. US 20 is a good ride too.

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