Sunday, March 01, 2009

A Mild Winter at Pikes Peak so far....

Today temperatures were forecast to be a high of 63°F and overcast. It had been almost warm yesterday with highs just in the mid-50s so I figure it was a good way to start the month, riding to the top of Pikes Peak to see how much snow there was up there.

I left shortly after nine o'clock in the morning and sped down the E-470 Slab to the I-25 Slab southbound towards Colorado Springs. I usually don't like taking the super slabs but time was of the essence today since I wanted to be back before late afternoon.

The sign on the old wagon says it all

I rode Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Airhead Beemer and she did sweetly at 65-75 mph. She fairly hummed along and I dealt with the winds at these speeds by crouching forward and deriving some protection from her S fairing. As fast as I was going, I was hardly the fastest thing on the slab, at times I had to check the speedometer to confirm that yes I was indeed going 75mph while cages kept passing me!

I made good time and got to the entrance to the Pikes Peak Highway about 95 minutes later, paid my $10 and phoned my loving wife to let her know I was getting ready to ascend the 19 miles of the Pike's Peak Highway to the top of the mountain.

It was a bit brisk on the way down to Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Highway which is located off of US24 West. Still, what had started as high 30s, had become high 40s around eleven thirty AM and the sun was out in force, warming me and the scenery up.

Crystal Reservoir, that's Pike's Peak on the distant left, I would be up there soon

Of the nineteen miles to the top, the first 15 or so are curvy, twisty and smooth paved roads. One lane in each direction, there was hardly any other traffic on the road with me. I don't think I saw more than 30 cars the whole time I was on the mountain! These first 15 miles are lined with pine trees and as such, I devoted less time to sightseeing and more time to leaning into the curves. Quite enjoyable. The last four miles are a series of hairpins with no more trees as you're above the timberline, just steep drop-offs down the side of the mountain.

The pavement ends at the "Halfway Point" picnic area and you get to ride packed dirt covered with gravel for about three miles or so. The pavement resumes at Cove Lodge where they park the monster snow throwers used to keep the roads clear. This is also where the "good stuff" begins in terms of snow-covered mountainsides and rock formations.

Guardrails? What guardrails?

Not much snow so far

A glimpse at some of the twisting turns one takes on the way up and down the mountain

Last time I was here was last Spring and the mountainsides were covered in deep snow banks

Nice hairpin, one of many, located at what I called The Rockpile

More delicious hairpins, still not much snow

In due time, perhaps an hour of slow riding and much stopping to take pictures, I got to the summit. Barely 5 cars up there along with my Brigitta! I've never seen it so uncrowded! So, it was really easy to find a good spot to pose Brigitta by and still see the Summit Sign:

At the Summit! It's a balmy 22°F while I take this picture.

I wandered about a bit trying to get a cellphone signal to let my loving wife know I'd arrived, but no luck. I guess being now more than two miles closer to the sun than at sea level could have something to do with it. : )

The only snow-covered view from the top, all the views were bare ground/rocks/pine trees

Click on the pic to read the lyrics inspired by Pike's Peak

I'd like to mention that while Brigitta did superbly, she did not like being at 14,000+ feet too much when idling. Being a carbureted motorcycle, the altitude and lack of air were causing her to not hold idle and cut out. She would do fine at anything above idle, but I had to keep the idle higher than normal to keep her going when stopped.

Hell, I was having some trouble breathing as well while climbing rocks to get good picture taking positions! I am so out of shape. This was the first time too that I recall feeling a bit light-headed as well.

I started on down, using first gear and engine braking to keep my speeds on the loose gravel dirt roads between the summit and mile marker 16 down. As on the way up, there were plenty of stops to take pictures:

Now that's a long way down!

Near "Devil's Playground"

Near the "Bottomless Pit"

Gorgeous skies eh?

A view of the hairpin near the Rock Pile, I was huffing and puffing climbing just a few feet up the rocky sides of the road!

Some curves on the way down to the Rock Pile

A couple of panoramics of the hairpin by the rock pile and the rock pile itself

A note for you who are contemplating riding up to the top of Pike's Peak but worrying about the road conditions. It's quite doable, if I can do it with my skills, you can as well. Of the nineteen miles you have to ride, only six (in two 3-mile stretches) are dirt with loose gravel on top. Just take it easy on the gravel, no panic stops, and you'll do fine. I've gone up with a much heavier motorcycle: Maria, my 2004 R1150RT and I've seen Goldwings ride up! So get going! (Don't forget your insulated liners, it's cold up on top, even in the summer!)

After exiting the Pike Peaks Highway Entrance, one comes up on Santa's Workshop at the North Pole, a cheesy tourist trap with amusement rides for kids and of course a gift shop filled with Christmas-themed junk.

I made my way back to the city of Colorado Springs and the I-25 Slab northbound. It was close to two o'clock by now and things had warmed into the mid 50s from the low 20s up at the summit.

Once I got on the slab heading northbound, the weather continued to warm into the mid-60s and the sun warmed me up nicely. The ride home was via slab to Castle Rock, from there I took the Founder's Parkway exit to Crowfoot Parkway, through the town of Parker, up Parker Rd and home via Arapahoe Road.

220 miles total with about 5 hours of saddle time perhaps, my knees were a bit sore since Brigitta is not the long-distance cruiser that Maria is, but she does pretty good regardless.

For those of you wondering about how little snow there was up on top:

While I continue to believe that Al Gore and his sycophantic alarmists are over-hyping "global warming" to further their own agendas, my ride today up to the top of Pike's Peak would have made a good scenic background to some slanted presentation from this crowd.

I know instead that the mild winter we're experiencing here in Colorado is more likely the result of a cyclical phenomenon known as "La Nina". More here from NOAA: LINK

So take no counsel from the fear mongers, heck, there's a growing bunch saying it's global cooling...not warming that's coming! Mother Nature will do, what Mother Nature wants and we will just have to adapt.


Bucky said...

Just ran across your blog. Good stuff. Colorado is a favorite place to visit. Spent 2-1/2 weeks touring there by car and tent camper some years ago.

One good place for a summer ride is to the Kit Carson County carousel in Burlington, CO. It is one of finest around with a superb band organ providing music:

I have started a blog of my own, discussing my having started riding a sport motorcycle in middle age, and touring the local sights in upstate South Carolina, western North Carolina, and eastern Georgia. I, too, ride year around.

I will add a link to your blog from mine.

Charlie6 said...

Thanks Bucky for your kind words.

I've added you to the blogroll, I look forward to getting to know the carolinas via your postings.

I spent five years at Ft Bragg, NC but wasn't a rider then.