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Route Planning Where to go, when, what are the interesting places to see
Photo by Igor Djokovic, camping above San Juan river, Arizona USA

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Igor Djokovic,
camping above San Juan river,
Arizona USA



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  • 1 Post By PanEuropean
  • 2 Post By markharf
  • 1 Post By Alanymarce

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  #1  
Old 19 Mar 2024
jamwil's Avatar
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Vancouver to Palm Springs to Calgary (~3 weeks in May)

Hello all, I was hoping for some feedback on my prospective route down the west coast and back up to Calgary in May.

I have 3 weeks budgeted, but will be meeting some friends in Palm Springs, so 3 rest days are planned there, along with another rest day on the northbound leg, making for 17 riding days total, mas o menos.

I'm hoping for general advice, good diversions, and campground/motel recommendations roughly along the route. I've been riding for two years and mostly stuck to two or three day trips, so this will be a challenge of a lifetime so far. I'm open to any and all advice from more experienced HUBBers. Much of this route was planned with the help of Dale Coyner's Motorcycle Journeys Through North America.

The rough itinerary is as follows:
  1. Vancouver, BC to Port Angeles, WA (~328 km w/ border & ferry)
  2. Port Angeles, WA to area of Fort Stevens State Park/Hammond, OR (~418 km)
  3. Hammond, OR to area of Coos Bay/Sunset Bay State Park, OR (~407 km)
  4. Coos Bay, OR to area of Myers Flat, CA (~438 km)
  5. Myers Flat, CA to area north of San Francisco, CA (~378 km)
  6. San Francisco, CA to area of Santa Maria, CA (~489 km)
  7. Santa Maria, CA to Palm Springs, CA (~468 km)
  8. Rest Day
  9. Rest Day
  10. Rest Day
  11. Palm Springs, CA to Prescott/Watson Lake Park, AZ (~457 km)
  12. Prescott, AZ to area of Grand Canyon Camper Village, AZ (~200 km)
  13. Grand Canyon, AZ to area of Springdale/Zion Park, UT (~403 km)
  14. Springdale, UT to area of Green River/Goblin Valley State Park, UT via Hwy 12 (~410 km)
  15. Green River, UT to area of Durango, CO (~459 km)
  16. Rest Day
  17. Durango, CO to area of Jensen/Dinosaur National Monument, UT (~485 km)
  18. Jensen, UT to area of Kelly/Grand Teton National Park, WY (~521 km)
  19. Kelly, WY to Cody/Ponderosa Campground, WY via Hwy 212 (~389 km)
  20. Cody, WY to area of Great Falls, MT (~645 km)
  21. Great Falls, MT to Okotoks, AB (~501 km w/ border)

Note: Big Sur is closed due to landslide and I'm not expecting it to be open by mid-May.
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Vancouver to Palm Springs to Calgary (~3 weeks in May)-screenshot-2024-03-19-8.33.09  

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  #2  
Old 21 Mar 2024
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You haven't mentioned what kind of motorcycle you are riding. I'm going to presume it is 500cc or greater and has some form of wind protection (fairing or windscreen). If it is smaller than 500cc or lacks wind protection, the trip might be more gruelling than you expect.

It's certainly possible to get from Vancouver to Palm Springs and then back up to Calgary in 3 weeks. No problem with that concept. I note, though, that you have planned your route so that it is all on scenic secondary roads that pass through many cities, towns, & villages. My experience (25 years of long-distance riding on exactly those kind of roads, on a Honda ST 1100) has been that 400km per day is about the most you will be able to accomplish on those kind of roads. You'll average around 50 km/h, which means 8 to 10 hours of riding each day.

Your plan is not unrealistic, but what I suggest you do is keep in mind an "alternate escape plan" in case you get behind schedule due to weather (rainfall, especially, on the southbound trip) or mechanical problems. That alternate plan would be to abandon the scenic route and move over to the north-south US Interstate system - I-5 if you get behind schedule going southbound, and I-15 if you get behind schedule going northbound.

I don't know what percentage of the time you plan to stay at campgrounds vs. motels. Personally, I suggest you abandon plans to stay at campgrounds, simply because camping is going to add at least another 2 or 3 hours per day to your "work schedule" (riding & setting up / breaking camp being work in this context). If I was going to be doing 7 straight days of 400 km+ riding on secondary roads, I would want a nice bed & hot shower at the end of each day, not the burden of camping.

Abandoning the camping plans will also greatly reduce the amount of gear that you need to bring with you. My experience has been that I can take everything I need to enjoy a month or more of touring on my ST 1100, and fit all of that into the two saddlebags, but if I had to bring camping gear it would significantly increase the load - I'd need to store the camping gear across the rear passenger seat. Don't forget that it can take a fair amount of time to carefully load up the moto each day if you are travelling with a lot of gear.

So, to sum up: Very do-able plan, not unrealistic, but I doubt you will be able to accomplish all of it on the roads you have picked - you will probably have to shift modes from "touring" to "Transiting" at some point and just haul ass on the Interstates to meet your arrival deadlines in Palm Springs & Calgary. FYI, it's reasonable to expect to cover 1,000 km a day on Interstates. Not great riding, but it gets you there.

Michael

PS: Don't fail to consider that on your northbound trip, regardless of what roads you take, you are going to be spending a lot of time at high elevations & in mountainous areas. It can get darn cold in May in those areas. Without heated clothing (a full set of heated clothing) and a fully-faired moto, it's not practical to plan long distance riding in temperatures below about 15°C, and even with a fully faired bike & full set of heated clothing it's gruelling to ride in temperatures less than 5°C. Snowfall in May is not uncommon along that northbound route - heck, it's not uncommon even in the city of Calgary. I do recommend you research elevations, passes, & temperature history along your northbound route before you firm up your plans.

PPS: Plan to start your trip with two new tires on your moto, that will save you the aggravation of having to organize a tire change on the road. If it is a chain-driven bike, get the chain fully serviced (inspected & adjusted) before you go.
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  #3  
Old 21 Mar 2024
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Hi PanEuropean, thank-you for the very detailed post! Some good things to think about in there.

The bike is an 803 Ducati Desert Sled.

Point taken on the escape valve. It is an aggressive itinerary, but I would note that 50 km/h average doesn't seem quite right to me. It's mostly secondary highway riding and I'd expect to average 70 to 80 km/h. Garmin has me at between 5 and 7 hours in the saddle most days assuming no obstructions or diversions, which I understand is an assumption indeed, but such is the nature of adventure.

I should also add that I'm not starting totally from scratch in terms of experience. I've ridden and camped plenty throughout BC, Alberta and Washington and in all sorts of conditions (I'm from Calgary); I've just never taken a trip of this length before. But camping is part of the game for me—at least in the lower elevations.

Great point on the conditions in the higher elevations and latitudes. It will definitely be a close shave at the end of May. I'll make a call in Colorado and bypass the high elevations of northwest Wyoming and western Montana to the east if need be. I have a couple buffer days on the tail end if the trip runs long.

Cheers and thank-you for the insights. Happy riding!
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Old 4 Weeks Ago
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamwil View Post
...I would note that 50 km/h average doesn't seem quite right to me. It's mostly secondary highway riding and I'd expect to average 70 to 80 km/h. Garmin has me at between 5 and 7 hours in the saddle most days assuming no obstructions or diversions...
There is no doubt that you will average 70 to 80 km/h when you are actually sitting on top of the motorcycle and are in motion. Obstructions & diversions are not a major concern.

The 50 km/h average that I cited includes not only time in motion, but all the time that you spend stopped, whether that be for lunch, for fuel, for a stretch break, for a coffee, or just to stop and look at something interesting that you see along the way. Also, keep in mind that all highways except multi-lane expressways pass through cities, towns, & villages, which means lower speed limits, traffic lights, stop signs, and so forth.

That 50 km/h on average whilst touring figure has been my experience over the past 20 years & 250,000 km of touring in Europe. Note that there is a very significant difference between touring & transiting. If you want to cover miles and are prepared to spend hours on expressways just pounding along the pavement, you can probably average about 90 km/h "gross" (meaning, including any & any stops) if you are prepared to push yourself hard. But that kind of riding is really no fun at all.

Michael
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  #5  
Old 4 Weeks Ago
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I’m having some difficulty imagining your trip as it’ll unfold on the ground. You’re covering a lot of ground, but don’t appear to be actually [I]seeing[I] very much, mainly because so much of what’s worth seeing along your route requires either long side trips, getting off the bike and walking around, or both. That’s in addition to the factors cited by PanEuropean.

Please take the following with a grain of salt—I’m getting older, more weary, and no longer possess preternatural levels of energy, even briefly. But having said that, maybe bear in mind that I’m familiar with virtually all the places you’re going, most of the available routes, and am in fact astraddle your day #18 as we speak.

Starting with day #2, I don’t see any point taking the long route around the Olympic Penninsula unless you’re going to be stopping at a beach or two—the best are far off-route—and doing some wandering among the big (<—-understatement) trees. If that doesn’t interest you, perhaps because you’re from Vancouver and figure you’ve seen it all, well, why spend the time navigating local roads in disappointingly heavy traffic. It’s not world-class riding; it’s world-class scenery and ecosystems.

The Oregon Coast is nice enough, but in truth it’s not world-class; more like a series of beach towns with some pretty good scenery and beaches interspersed between. The best stuff starts in the southernmost parts of Oregon and through the redwood parks and the Lost Coast (don’t miss this, but allow extra time getting to and from, and then more extra for walking the beaches). And you can’t really appreciate the redwood forests until you take an extended hike through them—driving or riding is impressive, but insubstantial.

On a different sort of note, there are places which are less rewarding on foot—like Grand Teton and Yellowstone, unless you’re skiing in the relative quiet of the off-season as I am. But by May, both will be overflowing with chaotic drivers, making NOT stopping less than rewarding as well (IMHO). Grand Canyon and Zion, on the other hand, positively beg to be hiked in (The Narrows!), although don’t forget the time-consuming shuttle to/from Zion Canyon. And if you’re skipping Canyonlands, Moab, and Arches in favor of Dinosaur, well, you must have a good reason to do so

I could go on in this vein, but I’ll spare you. I do hope you’re scheduled to catch the opening of the Beartooth Highway, usually late May. And despite all appearances, I hope the above is helpful.
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  #6  
Old 4 Weeks Ago
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Ah, I understand what you're saying. That tracks with my experience as well. Probably around 45 gross for me once I factor in my wee little gas tank. Appreciate the guidance.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markharf View Post
I’m having some difficulty imagining your trip as it’ll unfold on the ground. You’re covering a lot of ground, but don’t appear to be actually [I]seeing[I] very much, mainly because so much of what’s worth seeing along your route requires either long side trips, getting off the bike and walking around, or both. That’s in addition to the factors cited by PanEuropean.

Please take the following with a grain of salt—I’m getting older, more weary, and no longer possess preternatural levels of energy, even briefly. But having said that, maybe bear in mind that I’m familiar with virtually all the places you’re going, most of the available routes, and am in fact astraddle your day #18 as we speak.

Starting with day #2, I don’t see any point taking the long route around the Olympic Penninsula unless you’re going to be stopping at a beach or two—the best are far off-route—and doing some wandering among the big (<—-understatement) trees. If that doesn’t interest you, perhaps because you’re from Vancouver and figure you’ve seen it all, well, why spend the time navigating local roads in disappointingly heavy traffic. It’s not world-class riding; it’s world-class scenery and ecosystems.

The Oregon Coast is nice enough, but in truth it’s not world-class; more like a series of beach towns with some pretty good scenery and beaches interspersed between. The best stuff starts in the southernmost parts of Oregon and through the redwood parks and the Lost Coast (don’t miss this, but allow extra time getting to and from, and then more extra for walking the beaches). And you can’t really appreciate the redwood forests until you take an extended hike through them—driving or riding is impressive, but insubstantial.

On a different sort of note, there are places which are less rewarding on foot—like Grand Teton and Yellowstone, unless you’re skiing in the relative quiet of the off-season as I am. But by May, both will be overflowing with chaotic drivers, making NOT stopping less than rewarding as well (IMHO). Grand Canyon and Zion, on the other hand, positively beg to be hiked in (The Narrows!), although don’t forget the time-consuming shuttle to/from Zion Canyon. And if you’re skipping Canyonlands, Moab, and Arches in favor of Dinosaur, well, you must have a good reason to do so

I could go on in this vein, but I’ll spare you. I do hope you’re scheduled to catch the opening of the Beartooth Highway, usually late May. And despite all appearances, I hope the above is helpful.
That is helpful, thank-you. I appreciate the PNW bit is mostly a transiting affair—the only reason I'm taking the long way around Olympic is because I've ridden the stretch parallel Puget Sound before, so it's new ground.

Generally speaking, yes I understand it's a lot of ground. I can't take more than three weeks away, so it is what it is. I understand I'm going to miss some hikes and sightseeing that one might do if they had more time, I just don't have more time. At the end of the day it's a motorcycle trip and I'm quite fine with the primary activity being motorcycling.

I have a short riding day at Grand Canyon so I can do some touristy stuff there, and I booked the round trip on the Narrow Gauge Durango-Dollarton Steam train for my day off in Durango. My original plan was to have more off days spread throughout (more in-line with your thinking), but the prospect of spending a few days in Palm Springs with friends worked out quite well, so that is the tradeoff there and I've made my peace with it. There are also some opportunities to hop on the BDR at some points, so that's another option to mix in some nature in lieu of hiking.

I very much appreciate the guidance regarding Lost Coast, the Canyons, Utah and Beartooth Highway. That's exactly the sort of insight I'm hoping for. I will try to adjust my route on the northbound leg straddling Colorado and Utah to match. As for Beartooth it should be fully open May 24, so it's a close shave but with some luck I'll be alright.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago
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We all travel differently, and enjoy different aspects of our travel style. Just to calibrate, this is around 6500 km, and we'd take 39 days to do this, the way we travel. I agree that you need a plan with flexibility so that you'll know early enough to avoid spending the last few days trying to cover a lot more than 500 km a day, with attendant risk of losing focus with fatigue. Enjoy the trip!
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