San Fran to Boulder, CO
I am looking at riding a motorcycle from SF to Boulder April or May time. I figure the odds are good that the weather will be healthier by then. The bike will only have a 120mile range at best, so I am planning to strap on an reserve tank. A friend suggested highway 50 as a "nice ride" in preference to 80. I'd appreciate any advice, and am really looking for suggestions for routes using lower altitude passes (for health and engine reasons) if possible.
How serious are you about lower elevations?
You are talking about crossing two of the most significant mountain ranges (& the continental divide) in North America, so if you really need or want to keep to lower elevations you will need to by-pass both the Sierra Nevadas and the Rockies. The way to do that is to head south on I-5 to I-10 to Phoenix. From Phoenix pick up US-70 to I-25 and then north on I-25 to Denver. Course this route, will add a few hundred extra miles to your trip.
If crossing the mountain passes isn't that big a concern to you, then US-50 to I-70 will be a beautiful trip. But snow is still likely in April and maybe even May all along the route.
I agree with your friend -- I think US50 would be a great ride. It's wide open, big sky country. There is one stretch from Ely NV to Delta UT that looks like it is longer than your 120 mile range, but if, as you say, you will carry an extra supply, you'll probably be OK.
As far as high altitude passes, to get into Boulder you have no choice (that I can see with a quick look). Also, you must get around the Sierras. You can go south and around to do that if you really want to avoid them, but once you get close to Boulder you've got a high pass one way or the other.
What kind of machine are you riding that's limited to 120 miles?
US50 et. al.
Thanks for the response, the bike is a Honda NT650 Hawk, and like most of the non-cruiser twins, these bikes look like they have larger gas tanks but most of it is taken up with carb. airbox (thankfully its fuel economy is better than many). People have gone cross-country on these bikes before, so I'm not so concerned about that and apparently US50 has plenty of warning for the longer (100 mile stretches) distances between the longest gas supply stops. The real concern I have is the fact that I occassionally suffer debilitating but temporary migraines (blindness etc.) which would be a bit of a nuisance on a bike :o) (I'd get enough time to pull over) I am going to head into the mountains soon to see how I am with altitudes these days but altitude can be a trigger for some people and I'm curious to know what my alternatives are...
One way or another, I'll do the US50 thing one of these days, but will look into your suggestion because snow does provide a little too much "entertainment" on a bike and was certainly one of my concerns.
As you can see in my response to Bob, my major concern is possible effects of mild altitude sickness which I have experienced once before - triggering an ongoing problem that I have (occular migraines). The migraines are a bloody nuisance but people deal with much worse problems than that, so (given the fact I currently live near Boulder) I think I'll have to hit the ski towns to see how much of a concern the altitude really will be.
Thanks again, this is a great site that I will definitely be forwarding to friends.
Thinking about it some more. I am not overly concerned about extended periods at 8,500 or maybe 9,000 feet, but would definitely like to keep periods at altitudes higher than that to a minimum.
Although I suspect that the trip to Boulder would be by the Southern route you suggest because of weather concerns, I would certainly like to head back West at a better time of year and if there are passes that don't spend much time over 9,000 feet that would get me to US50, I would definitely be interested. The plan this summer is to ride the bike up the West-coast, so a trip in the opposite direction is definitely on the cards.
I'm an ex-Pat Brit and have spent way too much time working and not enough time enjoying the beauty this country has to offer, the West-coast plan would be the standard highway 1 fare, but in the meantime, I definitely appreciate any advice on US50...
Yikes, that doesn't sound like any kind of fun. Open road driving as much as I have in recent years I am always alert to any on-coming migrane symptoms. I have found that ice placed on the spine at the base of the head can stop the visual (flashing lights) effects of the migrane long enough to find a good place to park and hunker down. Luckily, for me, altitude is not one of the triggering mechanisms -- my over-all health usually improves when I am over 10,000 feet.
If you do the long distance ride-around, you can reach Boulder without going any higher than 4000 feet. Plus it is pretty country -- so that is always an option.
I drove most of US-50 (in Colorado) a year ago. The original road has been widened and improved to handle the traffic flow. It is beautiful road -- the highest past is Monarch at ~11,312 feet. Be sure to check out the <a href = "http://www.roadtripamerica.com/places/gunnison.htm">Black Canyon of the Gunnison</a> National Park on your way west.
Something to consider, even I-70 westward from Denver is gorgeous.