Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pikes Peak or Bust!

Temps in the high 40s to high 70s. Sunny on the Front Range, cloudy and cold up on the top of Pikes Peak.

Pikes Peak opened for the season three Fridays ago so it was time for me to attempt the ride all the way to the summit house at the top. I had some misgivings since a lot of the 19 miles up the mountain from US24 was unpaved, I had vague recollections of gravel hitting the underside of the minivan I was in the last time I was up the mountain, almost ten years ago.

I left home and tanked up at the local gas station I use. At 0800 I was again on the road, heading towards the I-25 slab towards Colorado Springs. I was listening to an audio book on my Nokia N800 Internet Tablet as a shakedown trial for the upcoming long ride to Wisconsin. The audio book was very clear and I only had to stop once to adjust the volume. Must get an inline volume controller to avoid having to stop to do volume adjustments.

I grooved into the book a bit too much as I motored down the slab, found it to detract a bit from the ride in terms of awareness so I think I'll only use it on long stretches of slab. Somehow I managed to miss the sign to go West on US24 once I got to Colorado Springs so I had to turn around and lost some time doing that. The ride was uneventful otherwise, I rode up US24 until I saw the signs for the Pikes Peak Highway. I paid my $10 and up I went after checking in with my loving wife.

The road up is paved for part of the way, it becomes a dirt road just past the Halfway Point Picnic Area. The road is packed dirt with some small gravel covering most of it, really not too bad, very similar to the dirt county roads in Colorado. Very much manageable for me and my skills as long as I stayed under 20mph. Since that was the speed limit, no problem. The one time a truck started getting near me, I pulled over and he passed me with lots of space to spare. The road is very wide you see, you could probably fit three vehicles across on most of it, except for the hairpin turns of course!

Once I got to the Glen Cove Inn, the road became paved again! Joy! The joy was not long lived though, it must have been only 3 to 4 miles of pavement and then it was dirt once more all the way to the top. As I neared the top, there was melting snow along the sides of the road. Mud was becoming more and more widespread as well. The parking lot at the Summit House is basically thin mud over packed dirt and lots of holes. Oh, and the road got bumpier the closer one gets to the top, nothing bad or unmanageable but you have to pay attention.

Here's Maria with the parking lot sign in the background

I wandered about a bit around the summit house, taking pictures of the surrounding countryside as seen from 14, 110ft in height. The clouds were rolling in as you can see in the following shots and it was quite cold though the thermometer only registered in the mid 40s!

Here's Katherine Lee Bates' Poem, inspired by her trip to Pikes Peak, America's Mountain

I left after a short while and took the following shots while headed down the mountain. Note, it seemed a lot easier to me to ride the dirt/gravelled road down as opposed to up. Not sure why but it sure felt more comfortable going downwards. Engine-braking is a wonderful thing.

Devils's Playground

Still a bit of snow near the top

Maria parked at the overlook next to "Bottomless Pit"

Cool Rock Formations overlooking the Front Range

Once you exit the Pikes Peak Highway, you see the signs for the North Pole and Santa's Workshop, it's a local amusement park/tourist trap with the Christmas motif. Thought I'd include a shot of it while ending this post.

I had discovered, on the way down the mountain that my lowbeam headlamp was burned out. I called my loving wife and she gave me directions to the Beemer dealer in Colorado Springs. Took me a bit but I found it just off US24 on 21st street. I saw a couple of Beemers coming from that direction and sure enough, found the dealer. Got my headlamp after some delay due to the parts guy not being too sure where everything was.

The delay caused me to get back on I-25 Northbound just in time for what I thought would be a short rainstorm which I could easily outrun.

On the way to I-25N, I saw a pack of about 20 mopeds riding together, an amusing sight. They seemed to be having a high old time but like me they kept looking up at the dark and threatening sky.

Sure enough, got rained on as I got on the slab and headed North through the city. I thought to myself that the rain seemed a bit hard and loud as it struck my helmet. Soon the raindrops started stinging as they hit me. Turns out I got hailed on by very small pea-sized hail. Hah! Spring in Colorado! Luckily, I did manage to outrun the storm and the rest of the ride was uneventful except for some congestion near Larkspur.

The sun came out again as I neared home, helping to dry the little bit of me that had gotten wet during the rain/hail storm. 219 miles is what I covered from 0800hrs to 1530hrs when I finally got home. Tanked up with 4.482 gallons at $3.58, which works out to 48.8mpg, pretty good huh?

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