Sunday, April 29, 2012

The In-Between Jobs Ride, Day 1 and 2

As I am presently in-between jobs, I had a week to get some riding in and "reboot" as it were.  My last job had turned quite toxic in terms of a work environment and I needed to clear my head before starting the new gig as contractor to TIAA-CREF.

So, my loving wife shooed me out of the house this past Saturday morning.  I left the house at 09:30AM and stopped by my friend Oscar's house to pick up a sleeping mat.  He didn't know though that his sons had cleaned out his supply of camping gear on their way out to Utah themselves!  

I lost an hour this way of daylight but no problem.  It was heavy duty slab riding on I-70 to the Utah Border and the final destination of Moab, Utah.  It took me a bit over 8 hours and it was heavy headwinds the whole damn way as long as I was facing West!  Poor Valencia could hardly hold 50 mph even on the straightaways!  Needless to say, on the inclines like when we crossed the Continental Divide, she struggled.

At the Utah Border

We got to Moab at 7:05 PM, I tried the online services for a cheap room but there was some large collectors car rally in town and not a room to be had for any kind of reasonable amount.  I checked out the Slippery Rock RV Camp and they had one last tent site for me!  

Man I was tired, even the flimsy sleeping mat I'd bought earlier at Walmarts in Rifle, CO seemed good.

 I woke early and managed to do a little tour of the Arches National Park in the "golden hour' just after dawn.  The above picture was taken much later after I'd finished riding Arches.  I didn't spend too much time at Arches as the really good stuff you have to hike to get to.  I don't hike, ten+ years in the Army cured me of that little habit!

Above and below, view of the Courthouse Towers Rock Formations
in Arches National Park

 Rock formation at Arches N.P.

 The Devil's Garden in Arches N.P.

 Balanced Rock at Arches N.P.

 A curious rock formation in
Arches N.P.

A view of the Moab Fault from
within Arches N.P.

From Arches, I tried unsuccesfully to find a breakfast place in Moab that wasn't overfull, so instead I tanked up and headed to the Canyonlands National Park which was about 35 miles away.  I figured there would be some place to get something to eat along the way.  I was wrong.

 Panoramic shot of the Monitor and Merrimac Rock Formations
that one sees while riding towards the entrance to Canyonlands National Park

 Valencia at one of the two overlooks from which to see the
Monitor and Merrimac Rock Formations

As I rode about Canyonlands N.P. I was beginning to think that it was a hiker's kind of national park in that there was not much in the way of views to pose one's motorcycle by.  How wrong I was.  I noted, while watching the view from the Grand View Overlook that there was a trail called Shafer's Road that seemed to dive down into the canyon below.  That was for me!

 A panoramic view of canyons from the paved road coming
from Grand View Overlook.

 See that thin road way down there in the floor of the canyon?
That's White Rim Road and you get to it via
Shafer's Road

 Now on Shafer Road, a view of White Rim Road from the top

 I like the symmetry presented by the canyon walls on the far side

 A view of Shafer Road and the way it hugs the side
of the canyon walls.

 The several hairpin turns on Shafer Road were very steep 
and very tight, Valencia and I went really slow.

 The paved road for Canyonlands N.P. sits atop the far side canyon
walls across from where Valencia is posing.

 Massive and very straight canyon ways would be my 
companions all the way down to the canyon floor.

 Shafer's Road is apparently very popular with bicyclists who were
chugging their way up the steep road.  That's the support vehicle
escorting three female riders who were riding up the steep slopes.

 Slowly making my way down the steep dirt roads, which were filled
with loose rocks of all sizes, big rocks poking out from the dirt and lots 
and lots of loose sand to break one's traction if not careful!

 Another view of the high canyon walls along Shafer's Road

 Still a long way from the bottom.

 As you can see, I'd come down quite a ways!

 Getting closer to White Rim Road.

 Looks almost level doesn't it, nope.  Still lots of up and down slopes covered
with rocks and sand and gravel.

 Another look back to where I'd come down from....

 On White Rim Road now, being passed by a dualsport rider.

It was shortly after the above picture was taken that I came up on a Park Ranger who flagged me down to check for my license plate.  Only "street legal" motorcycles are allowed on this road you see.  He advised me that I'd missed my turn for Potash Road which is the way back to Moab.  I was instead headed out towards a 110 mile loop that is the White Rim Road!  Needless to say, I was very glad the Ranger was there.

I got myself turned around and found the road per the Ranger's instructions.  He had some doubts as to Valencia's ability to negotiate Potash Road as the first couple of miles were much more difficult, he said, that anything I'd ridden so far today.

I didn't want to climb up Shafer's Road though, as I believed I'd end up burning up the clutch on Valencia so Potash Road was my choice.  Man, I should have listened to the Ranger.

 Right after the first 1/4 mile of so of road on Potash Road.  The
Range had not been kidding.  Very steep, very sandy, and rocks out the wazzo!

 Potash Road did have some really nice rock 
formations of it's own though.

 Along Potash Road

 A view of one of the steeper points of Potash Road with
large exposed rocks along the center.  I basically held Valencia's brakes
tight and inched my way down the part that was all exposed rock.

 As I got further along on Potash Road, you can see views of 
the Green River.

 Panoramic view of the one of the gooseneck turns of 
the Green River.

 Many, many nice and large rock formations are there
for your enjoyment along Potash Road

 Another view of Green River.

 The rock formation in the background will be forever known as 
"you left the parking brake on" rock formation.  I rode perhaps 1/4 mile with
the brake on before I realized it.  No apparently damage luckily.

 Made it, here's Valencia at the start of Potash Road.
Below pic gives you some information about this road.

 AFTER leaving Potash road, there was about five more miles of dirt 
riding before I finally got to pavement!  Man, I was glad to get to
that pavement!

 Another "Balanced Rock" just before one finds pavement.

Once on the pavement, it was 19 miles of blissful smooth pavement all the way back to Moab.  I got back with no issues, tanked up again and got an early supper since I'd not eaten a thing all day and I was famished.

The rest of the afternoon was spent processing photos, and modifying them just a touch to remove the "washed out" look of the original pics.  Then posting them via the slow WiFi connection at the camp site and as I type this, I am looking forward to bed.

Tomorrow I head south towards Monument Valley, but will check out a park or two along the way if I can find the right maps!  Hope you enjoyed the pictures, there's video too but it's late and it's taking too long to upload the videos.  I'll add them later on when I have better Internet access.  So subscribe to this posting when you leave a comment and you'll be notified when videos are added.

Note: No GoPro videos I'm afraid, I forgot it at home.  Doh!

Monday, April 23, 2012

8 Ural Rigs take on Phantom Canyon Road

This past weekend I joined the riders of seven other Ural Sidecar Rigs for a ride from Cañon City to Victor, Colorado by way of Phantom Canyon Road.

Phantom Canyon Road follows what used to be an old railroad bed that used to connect the cities of Cañon City and the mining communities near Victor and Cripple Creek.  It runs somewhat parallel to an old stagecoach road called The Shelf Road.  My fellow Uralisti had ridden down from Cripple Creek down to Cañon City by way of the Shelf Road but I'd not been able to join them.

I wasn't going to miss out on riding with them for the return towards the Denver Metro area though!  I woke up at 5:15 AM on Sunday and by 6:05 AM I was on the road.  I rode Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol Rig of course and took the I-25 Slab all the way down to Colorado Springs.  From this point I picked up CO115 towards Cañon City and US50.

I made it down there in good time, in cool weather, and by 8:25 I was done refueling and was riding about the small town of Cañon City looking for the Uralisti who'd overnighted there.  It's a small town and in no time at all I'd spotted several sidecar rigs in a motel's parking lot.

The Uralisti at dinner the evening before.....I missed out on this one.
photo courtesy of Craig H.

Everyone was packing up their rigs, coming back from breakfast and just generally getting ready for the day's riding.  Greetings all around, met some new Uralisti:  Sally and Dave from Colorado Springs, Janet and Roy who'd bought the Forest Fog colored Ural Gear-UP at Unique Rides shortly after I bought Valencia!

I also met Darrel's wife Piper, who is soon to be the rider of a green Ural Patrol, same as Darrells in color but currently being "rehabilitated" from the issues that caused her previous owner to sell it.

Rendezvous at the Motel in
Cañon City

photo courtesy of Craig H.

We started riding shortly after 9:05AM after a refueling stop for some of the rigs.  Soon we were motoring out of town, eight rigs strong, causing quite the head-turning distraction from the locals walking about that time of the morning.

Soon though, we were out of the town, and turning north onto Phantom Canyon Road from US50.  The first portion of the road is nicely paved but dirt appears really fast and then the fun begins.

The road twists and turns following the contours of the canyon carved out over the millenia by the creek at the bottom of the canyon.  The roughest portions were deeply wash-boarded parts of the dirt road which used to be a rail bed for the trains that connected the mining communities up north to Cañon City.

 Our first stop was at the "Lower Level" Tunnel, note how narrow
these tunnels were, just wide and tall enough for the narrow gauge trains of  the day
Above and below pics courtesy of Craig H.

Uralisti Lineup at the Lower Tunnel

Some more riding got us to the southern rest stop on Phantom Canyon Road where a "rest break" was in order to rid some of the riders of their morning coffee.

At the rest area
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Julie tries on Valencia for "fit", she liked it!

Motoring onwards, we soon arrived at the second one of the two tunnels one crosses on this road.  

Looking back through the "Upper Level Tunnel" at
my fellow Uralisti

Another feature of the Phantom Canyon Road is the rebuilt/restored trestle bridge spanning one of the wider portions of the canyon floor.

photo courtesy of Denver Public Library

photo courtesy of
click the above link for more historical information on the road.

This Sunday though, the bridge was crowded with eight Ural Sidecar Rigs, their respective riders endeavouring to strike up heroic poses on their rigs.

After the photographic pause on the bridge, much to the amusement of some locals who were hiking in the area, we proceeded onwards towards the "narrows" portion of Phantom Canyon Road:

Just one of several points on the road where things
become a bit narrow.

It was soon after this stop that Roy and Janet had to leave us as they had other commitments for the rest of the afternoon.  That's them departing in the above picture.

An "old time film effect" video from Dave Springer

Now seven rigs strong, we climbed towards Victor but would encounter some delays due to some "issues" for one of our happy crew.

It was a rather warm day at this point and the dust on this dirt road was really kicking up some dust behind each rig as we "raced" along.  Urals have air filters which sometimes become "clogged" with oil or, one of our number would pull over due to this.

Dust-choked air filter

Three of us pulled off with John, the Uralista who was losing power on the inclines, a sure sign his air filter was saturated with the fine dust we'd all been eating today while riding.  No problem though, John carries a spare!  Soon, we reunited with the other rigs.  Everyone was thinking, well it's not a ride without one of the Urals having some issue, we're good to go now!  Not quite.

Further along the road, I saw the rigs in front of me stopped, and some long object in the middle of the road behind them.  Hmmmm.   I stopped by it and damn if it wasn't an exhaust pipe from a Ural!

Yep, the mounting bracket itself had broken off John's Ural.

John soon came walking back, a little sheepishly I think, and retrieved his exhaust pipe.  Now it was time for the Uralisti to go into WWID (What Would Ivan Do) mode to help John out and get him running again.  Sure, you could run without the exhaust pipe and put up with the noise but there was some concern about unbalanced exhausts out of the engine.

Pretty soon I'd secured a length of free-hanging barbed wire from a nearby fenceline and handed it to John as he rode up, the idea being to secure the exhaust pipe to the motorcycle to get it home.  The wire turned out to be  too thick and unmanageable but one of the Uralisti, Dave, came up with a spool of safety wire!

photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

John aka "Safety Wire"

 Here's John on his second wiring attempt.  The first one didn't last long so he's
using more of the wire this time.

 Waiting alongside the road for repairs on John's rig to finish.
Sad thing was a couple of Harley Davidsons motored on by, waving at us

Repairs done, we motored on and soon reached pavement at the end of Phantom Canyon Road in the small town of Victor.  I think it was just before this that Sally and Dave split off from the group as they live in Colorado Springs and and Julie and Craig I think left us here to go home via a separate route. Sorry if  I got the departure sequences wrong folks!  As folks executed another "rest break" series of operations, I found John some copper wire strands which had been discarded by the local energy concern.  This stronger but malleable stuff proved to be the winner in terms of a good solution to John's exhaust pipe mounting needs:

Those of us who were left departed as a group from Victor and took County Road 81 north towards the town of Divide, CO.  The ride was uneventful though full of trepidation on our part as the skies above were dark and stormy looking clouds that threatened that cold rain that makes life "interesting".

 Leaving Victor
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 A view of the storm on Pikes Peak
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Darkening Skies
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Safe and Dry at Divide, co
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

We managed to outrun the rain though and made it to Divide without getting wet.  Two of the rigs, Deana and Jay's and Piper and Darrel decided to take a "dirt shortcut" north of town towards Deckers  The rest of us went by highway (CO 67) out of the town of Woodland Park to Deckers for ice cream.

The ride to Deckers was incident free, the road was full of motorcycle riders enjoying the nicely warm day and Deckers itself was crammed with motorcycles.  The Urals caused their usual UDF as they tended to stand out from the throngs of HD type cruisers in the parking lot.  We got ourselves a table and people watched for about 30 minutes.  We did see our two "we want more dirt riding" Uralisti cruise by at speed past our location perhaps 20 minutes after we'd arrived.

I left the Uralisti after the late lunch and headed North on CO 67 towards the dirt roads that take one to Sprucewood, CO.  John and his rig would be escorted back to the Denver Metro Area by Greg and Cathy in their brand new Gobi Ural Gear-up.

There was light traffic on this road which parallels the Platte River and soon enough I was climbing up the dirt road with reported 15% grades headed towards Sprucewood.

 One of several hilly climbs on the way to Sprucewood.
It was "first gear" all the way up to the top of this one!

Past Sprucewood and back onto pavement, it was twisty turns, up and down hills, finally exiting out of Jarre Canyon.  I made a quick detour on Bee Rock Road and posed Valencia at this spot:

 Bee Rock

Leaving Bee Rock, I was soon in the town of Sedalia, just in time to line up at the queue waiting for a coal train to cross through town.  No problem, it gave a chance to check in and to rest my throttle hand.  I really need to get some kind of cruise control on it.

Once I was southbound on US85, it was clear sailing to the city of Castle Rock where I caught glimpses of some nice lightning on the town's namesake and distant Pikes Peak.  So I cruised over to my usual spot for pictures of both and got this:

Castle Rock and Pikes Peak

I was home soon after the above shot, motoring up Founder's Parkway towards the Town of Parker and soon enough back in my home neighborhoods.  A bit over 12 hours of riding today, perhaps 10 of it in the saddle.  Valencia did great, though I think she got some of the dust from the trail, I must go and get her a spare air filter to carry along.