Sunday, December 10, 2006

A ride to the Mother Cabrini Shrine, by way of Echo Lake.

So my loving wife tells me after breakfast: "Go riding, the weather is beautiful". When I asked her when she wanted me home, she tells me: "Ride till you decide the weather is no longer good". Is she a jewel or what?

So off I go, after a brief stop at work to pick something up, I headed west on Hampden Road which becomes US 285 which took me to the West side of the Denver Metro 3/4 beltway or C470. I headed north I got on US70 heading West seeking the Mother Cabrini Shrine I'd often seen when heading west on US70. I took the exit, failed to find the shrine. Circled back, tried again, failed again so this time I elected to follow the signs for the "Lariat Loop" and rode up Lookout Mountain and visited Buffalo Bill's Grave and the Museum nearby dedicated to his achievements.

I knew Buffalo Bill had won the Medal of Honor acting as an Army Scout but little did I know he was also a Master Mason!

After touring the museum, I skipped the onsite grill which advertised Buffalo Burgers, electing instead to ride down Lookout Mountain and following the signs for the "Lariat Loop". Just before I had to get on Westbound US70 I was struck by this view of the Rockies:

It's lucky the view stopped me for I would have cruised by the herd of buffalo that was resting by the side of the road along the entrance ramp to US70!

As I headed West on US70 I decided that since the Lariat Loop would take me to MT Evans I'd go up to Echo Lake even if the road was closed to MT Evans itself. The road up, which is CO103 was dry for the most part with isolated patches of snow/ice which were no problem to navigate by staying in the ruts caused by cars that had gone before me. The ruts were dry of course and I made it to Echo Lake Park and the Echo Lake Lodge parking lot with no issues.

Snow covered Echo Lake
Echo Lake Lodge, closed for Winter

It was at this point that I stopped and donned my electric vest and overpants liner as it was quite cold up there. It was in the high 30s and windy. Having donned the gear I proceeded on CO103 under the awfully wrong assumption that the road conditions would mirror the easy stuff I'd ridden on the way up to Echo Lake. How wrong I was! Today, in my usual dancing on top of the line between common sense and stupid, I came down on stupid side.

The rest of CO 103, heading down from Echo Lake area proved to be mostly shaded and snow/ice covered. I'd say a good 60% of the road was ice/snow covered in the first half of the trip down. I kept it in low gears as I traversed areas that were basically hardpacked snow or ice with occasional glimpses of dry road. Had my fourway flashers on and made way for the 3-4 cars that passed me on the way down.

I had been doing pretty good but this was not to last. Just up from Old Squaw Pass I was crossing an extended snowy patch of road and noticed that I was in second gear. I decided, stupidly it turns out, to gear down to first while going about 5mph or so. Wrong! The back wheel on Maria immediately slid out from under me and to the left, dumping me on the snow onto my right side. As I slid to a stop, I watched poor Maria slide on her right side ahead of me, her sole contact points luckily being the right-side engine guard and the right-side sidebag. She spun 180 degrees and ended up facing up the road towards me, engine still idling.

I picked myself up, no injuries, the riding gear had protected me from what had been a pretty slow and minor fall. I walked over to Maria while at the same time a hiker down the hill who'd seen me fall walked up to render assistance. He asked me if I was ok and I assured him I was fine. I had managed to lift Maria by myself at this point but had failed to put the kickstand out first. So I asked the good samaritan to put the kickstand down while I stood to Maria's right holding her up.

We tried setting her down but she was not in a good spot by the side of the road, so we let her roll down a little bit more to a level spot where we set her on her kickstand. We both inspected for damage and there was none! I surely lucked out, the engine valve cover guard did its job and protected the motorcycle! Having done the fall on snow helped of course. There was no contact with the road surface itself.

The good samaritan, then just walked away after asking again if I was ok. I never got his name, my mind was still on how I'd get going again now that the motorcycle was upright. He watched from downhill as I fired up the motorcycle, backed her as close to 90 degrees to the roadside as I could get it, then slowly turned/slid her to face downhill once again. This went fine and I slowly moved past where he was with his dog and car, thanking him once again. There was no stopping to shake his hand as I was still on snow.

I slowly made my way down the mountain without further incidents and was heartily glad to reach the point where there was no further snow on the road. Shortly after the road turned dry I came upon CO74 and Bergen Park. Wheeeew!

I decided at this point I'd pushed my luck enough and headed back to Denver on CO74 which took me back to US70 which I then headed East on.

Lo and Behold as I was riding East I spotted the elusive Mother Cabrini Shrine up there on the mountain!

The Mother Cabrini Shrine is that white statue in center of picture

I couldn't very well skip this stop now that I had it in sight, it had been after all the original objective of the ride. I took the next exit which also led back to Lookout Mountain. This time there were signs which directed to me to the entrance of the shrine which provided entry to a set of switchbacks which got me to the actual shrine/chapel.

Mother Cabrini Chapel, through Maria's windshield

The Stone House

Denver's Skyline from Shrine's Entrance

Another shot of the Denver Skyline

The Shrine's Statue, as close as I could get

I left the Shrine with a feeling of accomplishment. Rode C470 to E470 and was home by 1545hrs, safe and sound.

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