Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sphinx Park by way of Foxton Road

Although a bit on the cool side early on, today ended up being a nicely sunny and cool riding day here in Colorado.

It's been a while since I was last at Sphinx Park which is about two miles from the town of Pine on County Rd 126 in Jefferson County. The idea was to get a picture of the huge rock dome located there and sights along the way. Today, there were plenty of sights.....

I took County Line Road across the southern edge of the Denver Metro Area, and after a brief 2 mile sprint from where it ends on US85 to the Wadsworth exit on westbound E-470 slab, I was at Deer Creek Canyon Rd, my gateway into the foothills and mountains as of late.

I took Deer Creek Canyon until I could turn left onto Deer Creek Road. From there it shortly becomes High Grade Road and later on twists its way up into the mountains as Pleasant Park Road.

Pleasant Park Road

Not too many shots of the twisting pavement on Pleasant Park Rd since Natasha has the width of a small car and not able to park safely along most of this road. Here's some from a previous trip when I was on Brigitta and thus able to park in more spots safely. LINK.

Once at Conifer, I tanked up at the gas station there, still getting about 30 MPG! I headed South on US285 to the next exit which is Foxton Road. (Just get on 285 and stay in the right lane). Foxton road, for you twisting roads enthusiasts is a combination of easy curves and technical twisting turns. There's a little something for everyone.

Foxton Road took me down to where it joins up with CR 96 which you can take southwards to the South Platte River road area and Deckers. Today though, I stayed on Foxton road as it becomes a packed dirt road.

I turned Natasha around, to get this curve in the river

You can see where Foxton Rd becomes paved just up ahead in the picture above

Right after the above spot, I saw a sign for Resort Creek Rd heading up into the hills. I went up it and was soon stopped by "private drive" signs. Frustratingly, the road on which I posed Natasha below was marked private and I did not get to ride it. Just a picture:

On Resort Creek Road

I headed back to Foxton Rd, the "private drive" was above me and to the right with the river to my left. It would have been quite nice I think but I respect private property signs. Still, one gets some nice views of the river and its snow-clad rocks and ice covered shallow spots. The main eye-catcher on this stretch of Foxton Rd is the rock formation known as Cathedral Spires:

Cathedral Spires

Soon after Cathedral Spires, you pass the "town" of Foxton which appears to be about 4-5 houses. The road now becomes SW Platte River Rd or Country Rd 96. Here's other rock walls and formations as well that lend themselves nicely as scenic backdrops:

The view on CR96, sometime after passing Foxton

Eventually, you end up at the small "town" of Buffalo Creek where CR96 and CR126 join up. Not much at Buffalo Creek but this building built in 1898 and still functioning as a Mercantile Store. If you want to step back in time into the late 40s, go there and have a look inside.

Buffalo Creek's Mercantile Store

I headed northwards on CR126 to the next town of Pine where I took the road which rapidly became packed dirt to the small "town" of Sphinx Park. It's claim to fame are the huge rock domes in its vicinity and the "Bucksnort Saloon".

Sphinx Park's Rock Dome

The saloon was having a good day. The really small parking lot for it was full and there were more SUVs headed up the road, freshly cut pine trees on their roofs, trying to find a parking spot. Needless to say, I left quickly since there's not much room up there among the rocks!

The view from the shack up on the rocks must be awesome!

Rock walls, probably part of another rock dome

I got back to the town of Pine and retraced my route on CR126 back to CR96. Along the way I stopped for the pictures below and the sumptuous lunch that my loving wife had packed for me. Salami sandwich, chips and hot tea.....mmmmmmmm.

Colorful barns on CR126

The view at my lunch site, not bad eh?

Today must have been "the day" to go and cut down a tree for Christmas. I saw many SUVs and trucks trees strapped onto their roofs or inside them. Kind of a shame really, cutting down healthy trees just to display them for a month or so in one's home. Oh well. No, I'm not a tree hugger, just making an observation.

I was heading back towards Foxton and trying to capture some shots of the river and it's boulders. As a bonus, I got some views of the cathedral spires as well.

Another view of Cathedral Spires

Panoramic shot of Foxton Road
warning: big file

Cathedral Spires again

The snow-clad boulders in the river

I got back onto the paved portion of Foxton Road and after a brief stop to try and capture the twistiness of the road:

This is the first hill on hits when heading up Foxton Road from where it junctions with the dirt portion of Foxton Road and the South Platte River Road.

I headed back the same way I'd come. The combination of Foxton Rd, Pleasant Park Rd and Deer Creek Canyon Rd would have been quite the twist-o-rama had I been on Brigitta but it was still fun on Natasha. I am happy to report that I was able to stay at or just slightly above the posted limits all the way down these mountain roads.

Once back near the Chatfield Reservoir, it was another 2 mile sprint on eastbound E-470 back to the US85 exit and from there to County Line Rd. No incidents to report for the ride home and I was in the garage by 4PM, after racking up about 180 Km or 108 miles and about 6 hours in the saddle.

Natasha, I am continually pleased to report, did outstanding! No mechanical issues and she rode up and down the steep grades with aplomb. Heck, one or two times while accelerating up a slope, I felt her front wheel seemingly pop up an inch or two when I engaged the next higher gear! Weird, like she couldn't wait to attack the hill!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day ride to Castlewood Canyon

Happy Thanksgiving day! I hope you have much to be thankful for this day, for I surely do.

I've a loving wife and two good sons, a job, and the wherewithal to not only ride but ride classic motorcycles pretty much everywhere I want to go. To top it all, we had a beautiful sunny day here in Colorado with predicted highs in the low 60s!

We're going to a neighborhood friend's home for Thanksgiving Dinner so I only had the morning to get a ride in. So I decided to head south to nearby Franktown and from there go in the back way to Castlewood Canyon to get pictures of the dam which had failed back in 1933 and had caused Denver's second worst flood in its history.

I took back roads that sort of paralleled CO 83, eventually I got on Castle Oaks Drive and rode sedately on dirt roads eventually getting to CO86 which is the road to Castle Rock from Franktown.

I went west on CO86 after tanking up at a strip mall near Castle Rock. 29MPG was the calculated mileage I got with the last tank. Not bad at all!

Soon I was at the Castlewood Canyon Rd turnoff just shy of Franktown where CO86 intersects with CO83. I headed south on Castlewood Canyon Rd and entered the Castlewood Canyon State Park. I paid the $6 fee at the self-service station but must remember next time that it only applies if you park within the state park to go hiking its several trails. I instead went past the parking areas serving the trailheads and got on the dirt road which leads to the dam.

The road looks bad but traction was very good

The road becomes a narrow dirt trail on which two cars can fit if moving slowly and carefully. As you can see above, the shaded areas still have some snow remaining from the last snow storm. Conditions were not bad though, any two-wheeled motorcycle would have been fine I think. Since I was on Natasha, my 1996 Ural, conditions were perfect!

I got to the dam's location and as you can see, part of it remains standing but you can see where the dam wall collapsed back in 1933:

Near the top of the dam

A view of the southern wall of the dam

The road then takes you past some ranches and farms which are built where water once filled the valley contained by the now failed dam.

Standing where water once covered everything, the dam is in the far background

Closeup view showing what part of the dam failed back in 1933

I continued along Castlewood Canyon Rd past several large ranches and fenced off rock formations along the ridge line. Then, I came upon something a bit weird:

Cow Circle!

The above put me in mind of crop circles and other such weird occurrences, but I know it was probably the way the rancher dropped off feed for the cows.....Colorado Cow Circles....surely there's a way to overhype that into some alien conspiracy rumor!

Eventually, Castlewood Canyon Rd reaches pavement at Douglas County road 11. I took it southwards, past a few twists and turns until I got to where you can turn off on County Rd 63 and this view of Pikes Peak in the distance:

Pikes Peak from a little over 30 miles away

It was now time to head home for a light lunch before Thanksgiving Dinner at the neighbor's. I cruised north on CO83, through Franktown and Parker and it was back roads again all the way home.

Here's my last ride to Castlewood Canyon Dam: LINK

Hope you got some riding in today, again, Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Beemer R90S Safety Videos

The R90S Beemer Airhead motorcycle was instantly an icon of the 70's when it first came out. Take a look at these safety videos put out originally by BMW and placed on youtube for your viewing pleasure by

Check out the guy's riding outfit, I am thinking the color of his leathers was more red than pink in real life and it was just the crude state of color film technology perhaps? Then again, his rain gear is even more flamboyantly pinkish! He rides though like I wish I would ride all the time.

Some of the stuff he's shown doing though, like passing cars while going up a mountain, is not what's done around here. Apparently it's all one way traffic in Germany up the particular mountains that the films were shot in but even it that were the case here, I doubt cagers would take kindly to motorcycles zooming past them while on the way up or down the mountain!

Part 1 of the safety video. Direct link here.

Part 2 of the safety video. Direct link here.

99% of the rider's actions and the narrator's advice holds true today as it did the day the film was shot. I invite Irondad's feedback of course in light of modern day traffic patterns and his experience as a motorcycle safety instructor.

Up and Down Bear Creek

The idea yesterday, with the beautifully sunny but not too warm weather we're experiencing here in Colorado, was to explore the small mesa-like hills to the south of where I now work. I can see the hills with their flat tops, hence mesa-like, from the third floor of the building where I am captive 8-9 hours every workday....glistening with snow in the distance, beckoning to me.

T'was not to be, the dirt road leading to them is fenced off and while the gate was open, large no trespassing signs kept me from further exploration.

So, you'll have to make do with pictures I took below along Bear Creek Rd and Bear Creek Canyon Road. I headed west on Lincoln Avenue until it gradually turns north and becomes University Blvd. Westward again on County Line rd finally got me to Santa Fe Blvd where one is forced to do a quick sprint on the E-470 super slab to the Wadsworth blvd exit.

I got off on Wadsworth and turned south till I could get on Deer Creek Canyon Rd and head into the foothills. Road conditions were pretty good, the areas in the shade still sported a "wet" look to them and accumulations of snow/ice and sand were in evidence. I've seen it worse while on two wheels and turned back, but today I was on Natasha and as I've said before, three wheels makes a difference!

Deer Creek Canyon road, while wonderfully twisty and turning in parts, generally does not lend itself to pictures as the rocky canyon walls are so close to the side of the road. I did manage to find a suitable spot for pictures though I had to turn around to get into position safely.

Rocky wall along Deer Creek Canyon

Once at Fenders, I took Turkey Creek North until it passes under the US285 highway. Winding my way further into the mountains on Turkey Creek, I arrived at the junction with CO73. I headed north on CO73 and eventually things started to look really familiar and I found myself in the town of Evergreen.

Foregoing the usual turn for CO74 and the Bergen Parkway, I instead turned onto Upper Bear Creek canyon road as I remembered a scenic location there from a past ride:

The view of the mountains one sees when clear of the town of Evergreen, along Upper Bear Creek Canyon Road.

After the above pictures, I had me a near encounter with about three deer on the road. Luckily they were in the other lane and as I tried to slow, they scampered off away from me and into the woods. Close one!

I continued on Bear Creek rd but it eventually dead-ends in a sparsely populated housing area where it must get real quiet at night. Didn't see but one person the whole time and the area was thickly forested.

Once back to Evergreen, I went east to start heading towards home. I was on CO67 which eventually becomes known as Bear Creek Canyon Rd. I've said it before but it bears (no pun intended) repeating, Bear Creek Canyon Rd is really twisty and on two wheels can be quite technical at speed. Being as I was on Natasha, I kept to the speed limits, making sure I didn't fly the chair by accident. I'd pull off where safe to let the cagers who wanted to go faster than the speed limit get by.

Sometimes, this having to let faster traffic go by would result in my being in a good spot for pictures:

Bear Creek Canyon Road

I am very glad that I was heading east on this road, as I saw a line of about 10-12 "rice boy" wannabe mario andrettis zooming along westward. They were going at a fast clip, closely following each other through the curves. I'd be very surprised if tonight's news doesn't mention a multi-car pileup in the mountains.

Got to Morrison and turned south to US285 which I took North into the Denver metro area. From that point on, it was highway, city streets and mild Sunday afternoon traffic all the way home.

I got 170km in today, with perhaps 160km yesterday. As I filled up my gas tank, I did the calculations and Natasha's MPG really climbed once I took the sidecar's windshield off. I went from 24 to 33 mpg! For a 70 year technology motorcycle with a 750cc engine, dragging the weight she does, that's pretty good!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Perry Park and Bee Rock

A nicely sunny and semi-warm day today here in the great state of Colorado. I rode out of the house shortly before 10 AM and headed south towards the town of Parker. Today's objective was to visit Perry Park with Natasha, my 1996 Ural Sportsman. I didn't want to make it a really long ride as I am still riding on the patched drive shaft to the sidecar wheel. The welding company I found will not be able to work on it till Dec 2 you see.

Natasha and I rode at a good but sedate pace through the towns of Parker and Castle Rock. Traffic was kind of heavy in both towns but otherwise the roads were pretty good. Soon enough I was on CO 105 heading south along the valley it runs on making my way to Perry Park. This housing area lies north of Palmer Lake just off of CO 105 which is also known as Perry Park Road.

You take Red Rock road in, past many houses built into the forest and onto the bare rock walls which make up the scenery in this area. Soon, you turn right on Perry Park Boulevard, past the Wauconda Reservoir and the Perry Park Country Club. Turn left onto Wauconda Drive and the first nice rock formation presents itself to you, lying in the middle of one of the golf course's fairways:

Further along are very expensive homes nestled amongst the rock formations which form a ridge line. I rode past these houses and turned left towards where the pavement ends and the rock formations I came to photograph begin:

The above is Camel Rock, looking at it head-on

A more recognizable Camel Rock (it's still up for sale folks!)

I wandered a bit around the area, looking for suitable backgrounds to pose Natasha by. Mud and snow though had most of the area closed off so I turned myself around to get this panoramic show near the area where the smaller rock formations abound:

warning: 2MB+ sized picture

One more shot of Camel Rock

On the way out of the Perry Park development, I got this picture of the waters in Wauconda Reservoir, the first photo's rock formation in the middle of the background view:

Wauconda Reservoir

This is the large rock formation one sees where Red Rock Rd and Perry Park Blvd meet up:

The namesake for Red Rock Road I think

I made my way back to CO 105 and headed north on it for a few miles until I got to the turn off for Douglas County Road 12. It's the back way to Bee Rock, a pretty cool rock formation I found while looking for a way to get to Elephant Rock.

It's a dirt road, with several patches of snowy mud and ice to make things interesting if you're on two wheels only. Being on three today, it was no big deal for Natasha to carry me on through these obstacles so we could get to these views of Bee Rock:

Soon I was back on pavement, using CO 67 to get back to Sedalia. It was 1:00 PM and I got to the town just in time to cool my heels at a railroad crossing. I lost count after 50, in terms of how many cars the two locomotives at the front and two in the back belonging to the BNSF rail line were moving.

I used US85 to get back to Castle Rock, and from there it was Crowfoot Parkway again back to Parker. From Parker, it was back roads back to my home neighborhoods. I am happy to report that Natasha did just fine! Nothing fell off, nothing broke and no weird noises or behavior on her part.

Hope you got some riding in today, temperatures were in the 60s I think by the afternoon here. Got home, and saw how much mud had collected on poor Natasha while I cruised around Perry Park:

A few minutes with the water hose and she was clean again, ready for the next ride. I plan to change out her engine oil and filter along with both the final drive and gear box as well. This is supposed to be done every 2500km and the last time I did it was at 6372 Km, after the rebuild due to the failed alternator. A bit early but maybe I'll catch the rest of any remaining metal debris from that debacle!

My previous rides to Perry Park on my other motorcycles:

Maria and Brigitta go riding together

A return trip to Perry Park's rock formations

My first ride to Bee Rock

Last Sunday ride of 2008

My first time at Perry Park

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A travelogue blog, with a different view of life....

I'd read Oisin Hughes', yes that's his real name....he jokes that his mother was dropping LSD when she thought of it....travelogue before and now he's on the road again, this time apparently going round the world instead of just riding the American continent.

His first blogging adventure: 30,000 Miles on 2 Wheels where he rides from Nova Scotia down to the tip of Argentina was quite the read and I really liked the "colorful" descriptions he used to describe the experiences he encounters while riding from one country to the next.

Now, he's at at month four or so of a planned trip around the world, lucky bastard. He last posted an entry from Columbia and he is apparently doing well in spite of some colorfully detailed events.

Highly recommended reading for riders who someday dream of riding further than their own's country's borders. Specially on those snowy/icy days when you don't have a working Ural sidecar rig in your garage.....

Here's some excerpts I found amusing and which in a way reminded me somewhat of Mr Riepe's storytelling abilities:

On his trying to wash his underwear and get it dried out by draping it on a lamp:

I tried to wash at least a pair of cacks and socks and dry them on the lights but the lights were all energy saver type, more heat in a mouse fart.

What happened after eating what the locals ate in Mexico:

The grub pretty much made like a bobsleigh as it cascaded from one orifice to the other.... Neither of us slept very well and both pretty much blew out an O-Ring this morning.

He is traveling with no tools and unable to find some once he realizes they might come in handy:

I checked my Spanish phrase book and not unsurprisingly any words to do with tools; adjustable spanner, screwdriver, leatherman were all in short supply. I went around and asked a few locals where I could buy some tools, describing tools by making a screwdriver action with my hands, or a spanner action. They kept saying to me this place called Romero. It was a clothing store, I couldn’t figure out what about the actions I was doing led people to believe I wanted to get some clothes.

So, you get the idea, check out his current travels at: BacktoBroke, it'll be worth your time I think. I've added him to the list of bloggers I track.

He shoots some marvelous photography as well:

Source: Oisin's posting of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

Source: Posting while in Montana

Here's Oisin, while at Chichen Itza, Mexico

Interviewed for RumBum

So the other week I was interviewed by Ken B. whom I sort of inherited the Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner gig from on (See top item on right side of this blog page).

The focus was my experiences so far with Natasha, my 1996 Ural Sportsman. I invite you to read what he wrote, pretty much sums up things in a general way as to the ownership "experience" when riding an old technology vehicle.

Click here to go to the article

note: yes Dave, I do know what rumbum means in the UK, I didn't pick the name of this outfit.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Natasha is temporarily patched up, thanks to Sanoke

Yesterday I wrote about how Andre helped me through the process of removing the damaged pieces of the propeller shaft from Natasha, my 1996 Ural Sportsman Sidecar Motorcycle.

Today, we woke to about six inches of snow on the ground! I got busy with the snow blower and cleared off the driveway so that I could get out with my wife's minivan. I used it to drive on over to John's home where he awaited me with his welding expertise and equipment. He had about eight inches of snow in his neighborhood but the roads were navigable.

I spent a good three hours there I think while John, aka Sanoke my riding mentor, noodled over how to fix the shaft, and we debated options and prepared for the welding. I was too fascinated watching and where possible helping John do his welding on the propeller shaft to take pictures, sorry. Suffice to say, he knows what's he doing and made it look easy.

I left his house at 12:21PM and by 2:30PM I had the now whole propeller shaft installed and everything put back together on Natasha. Truly are these rigs easy to work on. Felicia of Wagner's Cycle wanted me to remind people of this fact and that newer rigs from 2005 onwards are leaps and bounds ahead of older Urals like mine in terms of reliability and quality. If only I'd know that ahead of time! Oh well, finances dictated this and I've no regrets.

I fired Natasha up and slowly backed her out of the garage, nothing broke and the weld held! That small timid step done, I geared up and took her out for a test ride around the neighborhood. I kept looking down at the moving propeller shaft every time I could do so safely, it was holding! Of course, there was still some snow on the streets and I extended my test ride accordingly. Have to give the weld a good workout right? : )

At the Eaglecrest High School Parking Lot

I got back home with no issues, still remembering how folks turned to stare as I rode past on the slushy streets.

Here's a couple of shots of the temporarily repaired propeller shaft:

That's the final drive on the left, the rubber boot protects where the prop shaft joins the U-joint assembly pictured.

Sanoke's welded pipe sleeve is visible above, it's the dark piece to the right of the whitish portion of the shaft.

Here's a view of the shaft so you can see how the final drive and the sidecar wheel are linked by the propeller shaft.

After securing the rubber boot where the prop shaft mates to the final drive assembly which I'd forgotten to do; and putting away my tools, I went for another "test ride". I asked my sons if they wanted to go but apparently they've more sense than their old man! : )

I went out to the auto parts store to get supplies. Finally, I went over to the Plains Conservation Center on Hampden Road and managed to get her up to 55mph on the way there with no issues.

At the Plains Conservation Center, note the tepees in the background

Looking east, you can make out Hampden Road

The temporary repair job by John is doing excellently so far! Thanks again John, you were The Man today! I hope to get the shaft properly repaired this week and then we'll on to the next RPOC moment with Natasha.

Tomorrow, my friend Andre is going to query his mechanic friend and see where I can get the prop shaft properly repaired by a welding professional. It'll involve cutting off the shaft except for a couple of inches from where it mates to the left and right u-joint assemblies. A new pipe/shaft will then be sleeved onto the stubs on the u-joint assemblies and welded.

A new shaft is $233 but I am going to try and new shaft welded on first and see how long that lasts.

The circled portion is going to get replaced by a new shaft that'll fit onto the remaining ends.

This experience taught me few things:

1. It's not hard to remove the side car wheel, or to lift it up in the air to permit you to put a jack stand in place.

2. It's not too hard to remove the propeller shaft or to put it back on. So when time comes to replace the u-joints on this shaft, it'll be easier to do with the shaft removed!

3. Rust can and will eat away at metal to the point where it'll break due to weakened metallic structure and stress.

4. Worst came to worst, I could have removed the shaft and then the u-joints and transformed Natasha into a 1WD sidecar rig and kept going if I had to. I would have to have come up with a way to cover up the exposed bits once the u-joints were taken off but it would have been doable.

Update: 19NOV09: The welder I've selected won't be able to do the repair work till 02DEC, so I'll be riding Natasha on the "patched" prop shaft till then. I bet the weld job that Sanoke did holds fine till then.