Sunday, May 31, 2009

Trail Ridge Road, Check!

Those of you who read my meanderings, know that I tried but failed to ride the whole length of Trail Ridge Road which lies in the northern half of the Rocky Mountain National Park last weekend.

Today, the weather promised to be warmer and sunnier than last weekend so I rode out around 08:45 am today to take another shot at riding the Trail Ridge Road. This time however, I'd do it in reverse, starting from the western end of the park and heading east on the Trail Ridge road.

Again I took the superslabs out of town, this town using the I-25 slab to the I-70 slab westbound. I did however take the US40 exit before reaching C470 and used that to ride a sedate pace parallel to the frantic traffic on westbound I-70. All things come to an end however, and I soon was forced to get on the I-70 slab to proceed towards Empire where US40 leads northwards.

One's view of the Rockies, just past Genesee

I fueled up in the town of Empire and proceeded onwards to Berthoud Pass. The roads were clear and dry and the traffic light. The mountains were mostly cloudy but not overcast like yesterday so I had high hopes for clear weather over the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).

Some of the mountain peaks one sees as one approaches Berthoud Pass and the Continental Divide

A wider view

The requisite picture of the pass

I continued northwards on US40, winding and hairpin-turning my way ever downwards. I could see the continental divide mountains to my right as I made my way down to the ski resort town of Winter Park.

The view back towards Berthoud Pass

Once past the towns of Winter Park, Granby and Grand Lake, I could see dark storm clouds approaching the RMNP from the west. Dammit. Still, I was committed to my course and I thought I could possible stay ahead of the storm clouds as I made my way through the park. This was not to be.

On CO34, heading towards the Grand Lake

Still on CO34, looking to the SE between Grand Lake and Granby

I paid my $10 fee and negotiated the 7 hairpin turns or so up towards Milner Pass. You cross the continental divide once again here at Milner Pass by the way. The sky overhead was overcast and it was lightly raining at times. The roads were wet but not bad since the temperatures were holding in the 40s.

Nearing Milner Pass, after transiting about 4-5 hairpin turns or so

I chatted briefly with a German tourist couple who commented favorably on my choice of motorcycle here as I took the above picture.

Once I was enroute once again, I enjoyed pretty dry roads, high walls of snow on the upper side of the road and deep drop-offs on the lower side. Once past the Alpine Visitors Center while lies shortly to the east of Milner Pass, I stopped at an overlook for these pictures:

Looking back at the mountains bordering the Trail Ridge road portions I'd already traversed

Coming up on my favorite part of the Trail Ridge Road

The storm clouds were overhead by now and I'd given up on being able to outpace them. No rain was falling yet though, just the occasional small snowflake so I was not much worried. I got to the overlook area I prefer for shooting the mountain ranges visible from the Trail Ridge Road. It was this spot in fact, where I got the picture of Maria, that I use as a masthead for this blog. Conditions were not as "sunny" as when I rode Maria up there same time last year though:



The pano shots above came out much better in terms of consistent exposure than yesterday's shots, not sure what I did different. Oh well.

I continued on Trail Ridge Road, heading ever eastwards towards Estes Park. As I approached the eastern end of the RMNP it started raining pretty steadily. I didn't think much of it as the temperatures were still in the high 30s by this time. Just when I passed the two mile high elevation sign, I spotted icy hale which still covered the pavement! Apparently the storm had outpaced me and dumped a bunch of pea-sized hale onto the road. I should have known something was wrong when the cars going westwards had what looked like clumps of snow on their hoods!

Since the temperature was still in the high 30s though, it was no problem. All I had to do was make sure to ride in the channels cleared by the cars ahead of me. Everyone was taking it easy and going slowly. The slow speeds however caused my helmet visor to start fogging up a bit and this interfered with visibility but still it was not too bad. Mother Nature even threw in a little bit of hail/snow at me during this stretch of road but still, it wasn't too bad.

I got to "enjoy" the slow traveling in slushy snow bordered channels all the way to the eastern edge of the park. The rain continued to fall steadily though and by this time my visor was wet on the inside and outside. I stopped at a gas station in Estes Park to tank up, put on my waterproof pant liners and dry things up inside my helmet.

Once fully suited up for rain, the rain of course slackened. It didn't stop, just enough to get your attention. I took US36 away from Estes Park and stayed on it with the rain occasionally hitting me as I made my way down to the front range. Still, it was mostly dry roads from the town of Lyons onwards. I'll confess I smirked at the large herds of cruisers clustered around the bars in Lyons. The weather down there was actually nice and warm, with no rain.

I reached Boulder on US36 and while the rain did finally stop and the sun come out, I had to slog my way through the many red light intersections. Woe be unto you if you choose to run a yellow light, the town of Boulder reaps much revenue from camera devices at their intersections.

Once "free" of Boulder, US36 becomes a superslab heading into the Denver Metro area and I took advantage of the dry roads and sunny conditions to pick up the speed. Soon I was at the junction with the I-25 slab which I took southwards to I-225 and thence to the Parker Road exit and my home neighborhoods. I got home just at 4:00 pm, and shed all the warm layers I'd had on since Estes Park. The temperatures in the city had soared to 82°F so I was bordering on "too warm".

I covered 285 miles today, perhaps six hours of saddle time total. Trail Ridge Road is now marked as "done" for this year.

EOM Mileage Readings:
Brigitta: 73,326, Maria: 67450. 2360 miles ridden in May.

4 comments:

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

I just spent 4 days on the road and I don't have any pictures to compare with yours. Your pictures tell the story of a deatgh-defying ride in the clouds, with hairpin curves, and drops in elevation that would frighte a condor.

Once again, these are impressive ride reports suitable for publicaton in motorcycle magazines that would pay real money. I think you ashould branch out.

Fondest regards,
Jack riepe
Twisted Roads

Charlie6 said...

thanks Jack, you wouldn't happen to know the contact info for any such publishers do you? : )

Jane said...

Hi Charlie,
My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
I was looking for blogs about the Town of Winter Park to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
Hope to hear from you :)
Jane

Charlie6 said...

Jane, if you wish to link to the posting from dwellable.com, go for it....