Sunday, February 22, 2009

Going to the Rocky Mountain National Park via the Peak to Peak Highway

The weather forecast today was for sunny and a high temperature of 58°F, so I thought I'd work in a long distance ride to the Rocky Mountain National Park by Estes Park, CO.

A little before 9am, I was riding northwest-ward, crossing the Denver Metro Area using the I-225/I-25 slabs towards Boulder and US36 which would take me all the way into Estes Park. As usual, I got mixed up and ended up going west of I-70 instead.

My taking the wrong turn actually worked out great for another rider and his girlfriend whom I spotted while I was nearing the exit for CO72 which I was then going to use to go to Estes Park. The rider was pushing his crotch rocket along the side of the highway on I-70 while his passenger walked alongside. I slowed and stopped a bit ahead of them and parked to see if I could render assistance.

Once we got to talking, he told he'd run out of gas of all things. I asked him if he had some kind of container for me to drain some gas from Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer and he did not. I did not have an empty container either, I had forgotten my usual bottle of water! So I drained the can of soda my loving wife had packed for my lunch, drained about ten ounces from Brigitta's tank and he poured it into his tank. This operation would not have been that easy had I been riding Maria, my 2004 R1150RT, although I do carry a gas siphon hose with her.

He seemed confident that what I gave him was enough to get him to the nearest gas station which we could see across the slabs. I packed everything up, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

I headed North on CO72, enjoying the curves on Coal Creek Canyon Road, following the road to the junction with CO119, I turned right onto CO119 was was shortly at the the town of Nederland where I got this picture of Bucephalus, the ex-Panama Canal steam shovel one sees next to the mining museum in town. I noticed in the same lot there's a few other pieces of equipment now, will have to dedicate some more time to peruse them next time.

Bucephalus, the last veteran steam shovel of the Panama Canal's construction

I had been getting pretty chilly by now and had stopped to don my electric vest, only to find out when I went to hook it up that I lacked the right BMW type electric adapter! Oh well, the vest itself has good insulation so it helped to warm me up a bit.

Heading North out of Nederland on CO72/119, aka the Peak to Peak Highway, I wound my way past thick pine forests bordering the pavement and soon went past the settlements of Ward and Allenspark. There's some beautiful scenery in the area between these two settlements:

Near Riverside, on CO7

Mount Meeker, near Allenspark, on CO7

Shortly before Allenspark, one turns onto CO7, which eventually leads you to Estes Park. The roads were pretty empty, but there were points where there was significant amounts of gravel down the center of one's lane. I had to slow way down in these spots but still enjoyed the winding curves and scenery until I finally debauched (big word eh?) onto the valley that leads to Estes Park. The road's gentle downward grade made for an easy entrance into the town itself.

I got to Estes Park around 1130 or so I think. Right about on schedule, I cruised on now US34 which takes you to the entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park and paid the $10 entrance fee.

The roads within the park were nice and swept for the most part, no gravel. What there was though, in the higher points still accessible was occasional stretches of gravelly snow and ice patches. No big deal as the traffic was very light so I could traverse these small stretches going really slow.

The following are pictures I took of the mountain scenery as I wandered what roads remained open in the park. The Trail Ridge Road which leads through Milner Pass across the Continental Divide was closed for the winter as expected so it limits the amount of pavement once can reach on a motorcycle. Still, I think the shots I got were worth the entrance fee:

I got so close to the retaining wall to clear traffic that I actually bumped it with the right side engine guard!

I really liked the way this shot came out

It took me about an hour or so to take the above pictures, after which there was really not much else to photograph due to the road closures. I made my way out of the park via the Beaver Meadows exit, pausing at the visitor center there to wolf down the sandwich made for me by my loving wife. It was good....

Thus fortified, I headed on back through Estes Park, hooked up with US36 East and rode away from the national park. The day had warmed into the 50s by now as opposed to the 30s when I started the ride back home so I was feeling toasty.

US36, is a winding road which follows the contours of the canyons and mountains it passes through. At times you get glimpses of the frozen waters of the St Vrain river by the side of the highway, very nice. The roadway was dry, and traffic remained light so it was an enjoyable ride to Lyons.

From Lyons, I kept on US36 heading towards Boulder which I reached soon enough. Boulder is the Berkeley wannabe town here in Colorado, full of "free spirited" individuals shall we say? One of these free spirits, a disheveled bearded man in a flannel shirt and soft cap, was carrying for whatever reason a folded lawn chair and yelling stuff at the passing traffic. It was about par for Boulder in my opinion. Luckily, I was moving when he wandered past my position and I could not hear what he yelled directly at me. Probably didn't like BMW motorcycles or something. :)

From Boulder it was a some more riding on US36 till I saw the turnoff for I-25. Traffic on this slab was much heavier than I had seen all day, unsurprisingly. This made the last 40 minutes or so of my riding a bit tense but there were no issues and no idiots that I could not predict. I took the usual roads back to my home neighborhood and was back safe in the garage a little after 3PM.

Perhaps 200 miles of riding today, pretty sunny though chilly conditions on the peak to peak highway. The afternoon started out sunny but soon it was heavily overcast throughout the front range and the temperatures seemed to drop accordingly. Still, a good day of riding.


Richard Machida said...

Gorgeous photos! Thanks for bringing everyone along on the trip. I've enjoyed every trip I've ever made to RMNP. No riding here yet for a couple more months...

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6:

One picture is more beautiful than the next. It is 2:39am here. My eyes are shot and cannot read the text you wrote. But these pictures are sensational. And they are the best you have taken since November because they have a lot of green in them, as opposed to depressing brown.

These were simply beautiful.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

cpa3485 said...

Thanks for the post. It brings back some good memories for me.

For Christmas in 1981, my siblings and our families, congregated and rented some cabins at the YMCA camp near Estes Park. We all came from various locations such as Denver, Wichita, Topeka, Tulsa, and Helsinki Finland. The scenery up there is beautiful and your pictures are great!! We had a wonderful time.

I bet it is great to ride a motorcycle up there, although maybe a little more fun in the summertime.
Thanks again.

Charlie6 said...

Richard, thanks for your note...too bad about not being able to ride for two more months though.....I'd have to buy a sidecar rig if I lived up there.

Jack, glad you liked them, will keep looking for green stuff...

Cpa3485, glad to help bring back good memories...

Anonymous said...

Great stuff! One of these years I'll drag my 06 Drifter out there to ride. I'm a long time RMNP camper. bjw