Saturday, September 29, 2007

Another failed attempt ride through Milner Pass

I had tried, last year, to cross the continental divide at Milner Pass which is part of the Trail Ridge Road, which crosses through the Rocky Mountain National Park to the NW of the Denver Metro Area. This time, I said to myself, check to make sure its not closed for the season and get there before the first real snows of October.

So I head out this morning shortly after 0800, using the E470 to C470 slabs to get to I-70 on which I sped my way to Empire, CO. It's the town right after Idaho Springs which serves as the western gateway to CO 103 which leads one to Mount Evans.

I got on US40 at Empire, negotiated the gorgeous road which leads one to and through Berthoud Pass (you do cross the continental divide at this point also) but no signs due to construction so no picture of Maria at the Pass sign.

US 40 then winds and twists its way down for quite an enjoyable ride down to Winterpark. I cruised through Winterpark and was soon at Granby and US34. The overcast skies which I had started the ride in earlier in the morning opened up at this point and I rode through a light rain towards Grand Lake. Perhaps five miles south of Grand Lakes, I noticed the warning light about a failed light had come alight on my dashboard. Damn, I thought, did I lose the tailight again as I had done last night while coming home from work?

I had stopped at the BMW of Denver dealer after work and gotten a replacement and spare and some other bulbs as well. So I thought: OK, no big deal, it's probably your taillight again for some damn reason, and since there was no traffic behind me I elected to keep riding until I spotted a gas station at Grand Lake. I was using hand signals of course to signal slowing just in case it was my brake light and it was fortuitous that I did since it turned out to be my brake lights were out!

So there I was, standing in the small gravel parking lot of this gas station, being rained on lightly as I dismantled my rear light assembly to do some troubleshooting. Turned out the ground wire for the brake light had come loose and nothing else! I was glad, I took my trusty Leatherman multitool and pinched the connector onto the grounding point firmly and I had brake lights once again.

I then went into the gas station to put on my pant liners since I was still planning on continuing on US34 to the western end of the Rocky Mountain National Park and ride the Trail Ridge Road and Milner Pass.

I exited the bathroom where I had donned the liners and went to the cashier to pay for a snack. It was there that I overhead her talking to some other customer about the weather and that they were surprised the Trail Ridge Road had not been closed already due to the rain. She offered me the phone to call the ranger station which I gladly accepted. I was hearing the ranger say the road was closed as the cashier got same confirmation from a couple who'd just come off the Trail Ridge Road! Not only closed but it was snowing heavily which is why it was closed!

Needless to say I turned around at that point and started heading south on US34, discretion being the better part of valor, not to mention the road being closed to traffic.

As I retraced my route back to US 70, I stopped at Winterpark to check out the map, eat lunch and try and salvage the trip by exploring some other roads. I noticed my right turn signal blinker blinking rather more rapidly than usual and found this worrisome given my electrical issues lately. A quick check once parked confirmed I no longer had a right turn signal light!

The weather was cloudy but warming at this point so at least I was not dismantling the rear light assembly in the rain again. The culprit was a damn broken wire leading to the right turn signal bulb at the rear of the motorcycle! I guess all the strain I'd put on the connections while fixing other things had finally worn the wire to the point it broke. It was an easy fix of course and some wire cutting and duct tape later, it was all working again.

I ate lunch which my loving wife had packed for me and got my plans together. I checked out the map and noticed a road labeled as "Oh My God" just North of Idaho Springs! Well, with a name like that, I could not resist.

I headed back down US40 to I-70 and took these pictures by a grove of Aspen in full bloom, with an Aspen covered mountain saddle in the background. This after I got snowed on (light stuff which melted on contact) while traversing Berthoud Pass once again. You can believe I took it nice and slow.

I got back on the I-70 slab heading East and got off at the westmost Idaho Springs exit where I stopped for a picture of an old mining structure which had caught my eye from the highway:

I stayed on the road in front of Stanley Mines and it took me into Idaho Springs where I cruised slowly looking for a street sign labeled "Oh My God Road" as the paper map led me to expect. No luck, no such road.

However, I did spot the below status of Steve Canyon of WWII cartoon fame. I'd learned about this status from but had forgotten it was located in Idaho Springs! So naturally, I had to get some pictures.

I consulted the GPS and it led me to a likely road that led North of town and had some very twisty hairpin turns on it. I was sure this was "oh my god" road so I went there. Well, I ended up stopping at the end of the pavement where it became a narrow gravel/dirt road leading up into the canyon with very steep grades that I could see.

Again, discretion was the better part of valor since my R1150RT motorcycle is not quite what one takes on such trails. I turned around and headed back into Idaho Springs where at a bank parking lot I spotted this sign:

I chatted with a fellow beemer rider that was in the area with his wife. Kenny was his name and he was riding a 2004 R1150S I believe. Nice motorcycle and nice conversation, turns out we both share a beemer mechanic in common, Pete Homan of Bavarian Motor Works! Small world, not only that but he also is a ColoradoBeemer like me!

We went our separate ways and I decided to take CO103 to Bergen Park. I found a spot where the Aspen bordered the road and it was safe to stop while winding my way up to Echo Lake and got these pics:

Once past the clueless cagers clogging up the area around Echo Lake Park, I descended on CO103 and its wonderfully twisting turns, some of which do require you to slow WAY down if you want to negotiate them successfully. A word to the wise if you decide to ride this road.

Once at Bergen Park I headed South on US74 till I got to Evergreen, stayed on US74 until just shortly before the town of Morrison where a traffic jam was evident from quite far away. I thought perhaps they were giving money and beer away due to the amount of bikers and cars I saw piling up trying to get into town. I elected instead to head down CO8 south of town. The line of cars and motorcycles waiting to get into Morrison must have been two miles long.

Once I got to where CO8 intersects with US285 I spied an accident just East of the overpass and belated saw that Northbound US285 was blocked and the police where diverting traffic onto CO8 which lead to Morrison and hence the piling up of weekend traffic!

At this point I was stuck on the entrance ramp to Northbound US285 and considering my options. NO one behind me and I was able to traverse a gravel path back to the ramp leading back towards Morrison, an obliging cager in a SUV let me in since there was a steady flow of diverted traffic.

Once able to, I then u-turned and got onto the ramp for Southbound US285 which was clear. In fact, there was very little traffic heading South. I watched a good three to four miles more of cars and motorcycles clogging up Northbound US285 and congratulated myself on what I had done.

I took US285 South to the Tiny Town exit and got on Turkey Creek Road which I knew well and which took me to the Firestation at Fenders, and then I turned left onto Deer Creek Canyon road which twisted my way back towards the Chatfield reservoir. A smooth ride later, I was at the Wadsworth Blvd exit of I-70, getting back on the smoothly flowing traffic low heading East and home.

Got home about 1620hrs or so. Perhaps 7 hrs of saddle time and 300 more miles on Maria's odometer. Two field electrical lights repairs, one failed attempt at Milner Pass, crossing the Continental Divide twice using Berthoud Pass, finding Steve Canyon's statue in Idaho Springs, CO. A pretty good ride I would say.

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