Sunday, November 18, 2007

Passbagger Attempt 1: Only bagged 3 out of 13!!!

A tad overambitious perhaps but I had set out this morning to try and "bag" 13 passes along the following route:

Yuri Pass in NW Boulder was the first pass on the list I'd planned yesterday. Unfortunately, though the GPS got me close I could not ride the pass as there was a locked gate barring the way up the hill towards where I assume the pass was. The below picture depicts a building sitting on what I imagine is an overlook of Yuri Pass.

So, not a great beginning to this particular quest. No problem I thought to myself, it'll be better at the other 12 passes surely! This was not to be.

Next stop was Sunshine Saddle which lies near Boulder as well on Boulder County 83, off of Sunshine Canyon Road which is Boulder County 52. The way there was mostly packed dirt and slow going. I had to drop down into the city to refuel before I made my way back to Sunshine Saddle. County 83 is a narrow dirt road, filled with loose gravel and no fun at all but I made it to where the GPS declared the saddle to be with no issues. Little did I know then that this dirt road would be cake compared to the other trails I'd be on today!

Sunshine Saddle

Next stop was Culbertson Pass which was not that far away. You head West on Sunshine Canyon Road which becomes Gold Hill Road after the little town of Gold Hill. These roads were packed dirt and gravelly but I made good progress on them.

Culbertson Pass, at intersection of Gold Hill Rd and Switzerland Trail

The GPS at this point failed to find a route to the next pass, Rollins Pass. I dug out the map book I carry with me on such trips and decided to continue on Gold Hill Road until it hit CO72 which would take me south to Nederland and I thought to take it down to I-70, Winter Park and Rollins Pass.

So I get to Nederland and saw a brown wooden sign for Rollins Pass! Naturally I took it, the road was County Rd 16 and naturally it was yet another packed dirt road with lots of loose rocks. Still, good progress was made until I got to where the road to Rollins Pass became this rock strewn steep climb. I stopped short of this and managed to get turned around since I was not sure even a GS could handle that terrain. So, scratch that pass! Made my way back the way I came, back to Nederland and from there down to I-70.

On way to Rollins Pass, shortly after this point, I turned around

No pictures, was having enough trouble keeping the motorcycle upright where I stopped to turn around. Upon further examination at home later, it was still miles to go to get to the actual pass so it would have been bad to continue.

After Nederland on CO119, I spotted a sign for Jones Pass on the way to the slab so I thought I'd check it out. Alas, it was not to be. Yes, yet another dirt road, this one a bit rougher than previous roads but still I made good progress until after a particular rocky patch I saw the trail was snow-covered. No go, turned around and headed back to CO119, scratch that pass as well!

I finally got to the I-70 superslab which I took West towards US40 and Winter Park. I got to Berthoud Pass heading North and found the plaque which marks the pass:

Berthoud Pass, easiest one of the day!

My next stop was Fawn Creek Pass which was just up the road in Winter Park so that's where I headed. Following the GPS I got pretty close to the pass but then found my way barred by a barrier made of logs. Apparently, housing is going up at the pass and the way was barred to all traffic. Dammit. Scratch this pass as well!

Made my way south out of Winter Park, through Berthoud Pass, heading towards Empire and Empire Pass. This was to be the last pass attempt of the day. The way to the pass was yet another dirt road but it was pretty well maintained and I thought it'd be the same as the others in terms of difficulty. Soon though, as I neared the pass, the rocks and boulders embedded in the road became quite large and road conditions were pretty bad. After a pretty bad stretch which had me swearing off these little mountain passes, I spotted an adult Big Horn Sheep looking back at me. As I approached I saw him head, slowly, up this steep grade with really big rocks in the even narrower rocky trail. No way I could make it up that I realized so I stopped on the uphill slope.

This is where things got interesting. I was facing uphill, a 20% grade at least, loose large rocks and gravel underneath me and a heavy motorcycle to try and turn around. I tried backing up with the wheel turned all the way to the right and got the motorcycle almost parallel to the hill. At this point I tried full lock to the left with the wheel and started easing back down to try and point the motorcycle downhill.

My downhill foot slipped, not sure but must have grabbed the front brakes, and down the motorcycle went with me being thrown off! I was not hurt at all, in fact, did not even feel the impact with the ground. Damn Damn Damn. There was my poor motorcycle, on her left side, engine still running.

I used the emergency shutoff and tried to catch my breath. I tried picking her up while she was parallel to the slope but no go. I took off my helmet, the tankbag and gloves. I then had to drag my poor motorcycle by the handlebars downhill so that she ended up facing downhill. Now I was no longer fighting gravity as before and slowly and surely I was able to pick up the motorcycle and keep her upright.

I was hyperventilating by this point, but managed to put the sidestand down and move a flat rock near it so the motorcycle would not lean over too far and fall over again! A quick damage check revealed some gas had leaked onto the ground, probably from the overflow tubes, the left-side mirror was scratched up and a small hole was punched in the plastic signal blinker lens. The valve cover guard had done its job and protected the valve cover and kept the motorcycle fairing from contacting the ground.

So really, I had been pretty lucky in terms of damage to the motorcycle that I could see. Once I got my breathing under control, I started hacking up all the dust I must have hyperventilated into my lungs while righting the motorcycle in multiple attempts. That was nasty. I could not clear my throat for quite some time but finally got it under control.

By now some hikers had come up to me and the guy and I started talking. Turns out he's a BMW RT rider as well, he's got the 2002 model and he'd been wondering if I'd been stupid enough to try and get over the pass with my RT. I told him no but that I'd dropped her while I tried to turn her around. We talked for a bit and then he went back to his hike with his family.

I got all my gear back on, started up Maria and nervously made it over the really rough patch of rocky trail and safely back to the packed dirt road leading to the town of Empire. Got over that rough patch safely if a bit tenuously, and stopped once again to continue clearing my throat.

It was close to 4pm at this point and I decided that I'd pushed my luck as far as I should for the day, not to mention I did not want to be on the road after dark since I was tired and who knew what damage my motorcycle had incurred that I could not see.

I made my way to I-70 which was close by and without any further incidents made my way home via I-70 East to C470 to E470 and home. What a day, I sure could have used a F650GS motorcycle on most of the passes I attempted today. I sure am going to bypass these little dirt mountain passes in future passbagger rides!

Results of the fall: Scratched up mirror housing, and a punctured amber lens.

I covered perhaps 250 miles or so today, over 8 hours of saddletime and bagged only three passes for sure, perhaps four if the verifier cuts me some slack about Yuri Pass but I doubt it. No more dirt passes for this rider, if it's not on pavement, I'll be passing it by, pun intended.

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