Sunday, February 14, 2010

Four Uralisti challenge the Elephant Ride!

I awoke to temperatures in the low teens, about three inches of fresh snow on the ground and still snowing.  Perfect weather for the second gathering of the Denver Uralisti as we sought to ride the Elephant Ride on Valentine's Day. 

Sure, mere mortals would spend the day cuddling with their significant other, speaking sweet phrases into each other's ears and rejoicing in each other's company.  Well, I am here to tell you, with the exception of my wife (who'd just worked a 12hr shift at the hospital), the other three Uralisti brought along their wives again and we had a blast riding on Valentine's Day!  There was I am sure much cuddling in order to try and stay warm as they rode along, and I am sure the sweet phrases they spoke to each other over the motorcycle intercoms were warming in nature.  You know, stuff like: "Holy crap, slow down will you?!" or "I can't feel my toes anymore honey!".  Yes, there was much rejoicing amongst us Uralisti as we rode along.

We all rendezvoused at the Conoco gas station outside of Morrison, just north of US285 around 8:00 AM.  It was snowing pretty good and by 8:20 am or so, there were three Urals, one 1150GS towing a Rokon owned by Uralista Dana from Vail, CO, making us 6 Uralisti waiting for the fourth Ural rig to show up.

At the gas station near Morrison, CO
 photo courtesy of Spat and Cookie

Jay and Deana however, had managed to miss the exit to Morrison from US285 and had continued on into Turkey Creek Canyon though and then accidentally got a portion of Deana's blanket caught on the sidecar's drive shaft!  They dropped us a message and by 8:38 AM we were off as a group to go find them.

Shortly afterwards, we saw them by the side of the road, looking like they were gearing up.  All was well and the only damage was to the blanket and the dust cap on the left side of the sidecar wheel.  No harm done to the rig so we could continue on together!

Deana showing us the damage to the blanket
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

We were now four Ural rigs strong and headed into the snow storm, making our way to Conifer where Jay would end up tanking up his rig and we'd meet up once again with Dana who'd gone ahead with his 1150GS Tug and Sidecar, towing his Rokon motorcycle.

On US285 heading west towards Conifer, CO
 photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

It was here at the Conifer gas station that we also linked up with this older gentleman who was also enroute to the Elephant Ride on his Yamaha Sidecar Rig:

Here's the Yamaha with sidecar we linked up with at Conifer

Here's Dana's 2003 1150GS and sidecar rig, towing his Rokon motorcycle

 The Rokon is front and rear wheel driven!  They may be slow but apparently they are unstoppable.

 We made it to Grant, CO a little after 10:00 AM, just an hour or so behind schedule.  It had stopped snowing by then but it was still pretty brisk with the temperatures still in the teens.  Pit stops were made, I linked up with Ken Bingenheimer ('s National Motorcycle Examiner) who was to ride with me today.  I was glad for his company as I was anticipating some pushing and lifting of the rig as we negotiated the road up to Guanella Pass.  (click on Ken's name above for his take on the Elephant Ride and how the ride came to be).

The settlement of Grant, CO is small and you really can't miss the sign
photo courtesy of Julie and Craig

 Here's the gentleman from Golden, CO and his Yamaha Sidecar Rig, his name is Happy
He walks with a cane, has to hoist his leg onto the motorcycle using his arms, definitely hard core!
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Craig and Julie along with some Rokons in the marshalling area for the ride
photo courtesy of Spat and Cookie

The Urals in the marshalling area, that's Spat by his white Ural
photo courtesy of Julie and Craig

Jay's probably thinking "a windshield for our Ural just made the "must have" list
photo courtesy of Julie and Craig

Another shot of the Rokons as they prepared to ride off ahead of us
photo courtesy of Julie and Craig

Soon enough, we Urals formed up and with John and Cookie in the lead in their white Ural, we crossed over US285 and started up towards Guanella Pass.  The first couple of miles were flat and plowed, so no big deal.  Things got more interesting for me once we passed the sign which declared there was no winter maintenance beyond that point!

Ken and I riding along, just before we caught up with the Rokons and passed them
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

A very nice picture of the valley we rode by on the way up to Guanella Pass
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay
There were stretches of road where the snow was about 4-6 inches deep and very loose and rutted!  Everyone's Urals were fishtailing and it was hard to keep going in a straight direction since once you became trapped into a rut in the snow, you were going to go the way whomever had created that rut had taken!

There was for example, one stretch where the rut I got stuck in seemed to be going too close towards the left snow bank.  I tried turning the front wheel full to the right and I still kept going down the rut!  It was interesting times until I got the hang of things.  The tricky parts were when two wheeled motorcycles who'd started ahead of us would stop somewhat in the road and we had to slow down and make our way past them.  This of course meant moving into the deeper snow on the side of the roads and it was key to keep forward motion, otherwise you'd get stuck!

Eventually, we got past a hairpin turn or two and stopped near a group of two-wheeled motorcycles who were resting before tackling the last mile or so to the top of the pass:

Here we stopped for a bit, about a couple of miles short of the summit I think

Here's Deana in their blue Ural Patrol, next to Natasha
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay
Behind the rigs, you can see the two-wheeled guys heading up the steep grade we'd be tackling next

Julie and Craig in their Ural Artic Gear-UP, note the Valentine's Day Balloon!
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Once most of the two-wheeled riders had motored their way up the slope, it was our turn to move up in stately formation.  It was actually quite easy going once we were past the slope in the pictures above.  Heck, there were points where you could see the pavement since the snow was dry and being blown off the road by the winds which were hitting us from up above.

courtesy of Deana and Jay
Here's pictures of the farthest point which we made it to, there was a snow drift blocking the road which was way higher than the ground clearance on our Urals!  John and Cookie, who were in the lead, made a run for it and got stuck trying to get past the drift.  So we stopped and turned the rigs around to take pictures:


Note the deepness of the drift, only the two-wheeled motorcycles were barely making it through, some needing a push or two from their buddies.  That's Cookie in the sidecar, I believe that shallower rut on the right is as far as their rig got before getting high-centered.
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

You can see here the stiff winds that were blowing the snow around and which had caused the big drift of snow which stopped us from reaching the summit.  I am told by Dana who was on the Rokon that we were about a bit over four miles from the summit at this point.  Oh well, maybe next year.  Note, doesn't Cookie look like she's having such a good time?

 Spat took these two pictures of Dana as he negotiated the big snow drift which stopped the Urals.

Courtesy of Deana and Jay
As you can see, even on Rokons, you still get to experience contact with Nature at times!  However, most of the Rokon riders made it all the way to the summit!  They may be slow, but they sure will get there!

We started heading down and I found the going pretty easy, perhaps it was because I was getting used to being on rutted, loose snow or perhaps because I was able to use engine braking more effectively to control our downward progress.  Either way, I sure was glad I'd taken the time yesterday to put the knobby tire I usually carried as a spare, on the motorcycle as the pusher tire!  

 Note my Uralshina  knobby pusher tire, then compare against the Uralshina street tire on the sidecar
 photo courtesy Deana and Jay

Ken and I coming down 
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay
John (Spat) and Cookie coming down

The Four Uralisti of Denver
You'll notice there's plenty more room for other Uralisti in the Denver Metro Area to join us for these rides!
Just drop me a line via comment, the more the merrier!

To the other Uralisti in or near Denver, come on, can't you picture your Ural in the lineup as well?

After the pictures, we all started heading down.  John and Cookie were leading as before, I was third in line with Deana and Jay bringing up the rear.  Shortly after the following picture I believe, we came upon a truck stopped on the right half of the road and I saw that John had somehow gotten stuck in the snow bank on the left side of the road!

 Ken and I heading down towards Grant
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Here's John I think attaching a tow strap onto the Ural, the crew would end up pulling on it while he backed the Ural out of the snow bank.  Easy recovery! 
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

  A short video showing the scene as Ken and I arrived to where Spat had gone into the snowbank

Apparently, as John went past the stopped truck, his front wheel got "pulled in" by the snowbank on the left and before he knew it, they were stuck.
Here's Cookie smiling from the now unstuck Ural
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

We continued on down towards Grant with no further issues and assembled back in the parking lot where all the riders had parked their vehicles.  Four Urals went up and four Urals came back down, no damage and no one got hurt....I'd call that a pretty successful adventure!

We left the area around 12:45 PM or so and headed back towards Denver on roads that were now clear and only slight wet.  Temperatures were in the 20s I think by this point and the sun was out, it still felt quite "brisk" however and I was glad the plan was to stop at a diner in Bailey, CO for some lunch and to warm up.

Craig and Julie had gone ahead back home so it was just John and Cookie, Deana and Jay and myself at the diner.  We had us a leisurely lunch and thawed out nicely after a cup or two of hot coffee!

Once we were thawed out and our bellies full, we made our way back home on US285.  The roads were mostly dry and riding was no problem.  I waved goodbye to John and Cookie along with Deana and Jay near Conifer where they peeled off for fuel.  I had enough to get me home and so I kept on going.

I made it home shortly after 4:30 PM, having ridden about 236 Km or almost 142 miles, with perhaps 6-7 hrs in the saddle.  A good day of riding with my fellow Uralisti!


RichardM said...

Wow! Great ride report. I have been looking forward to this one since you mentioned it earlier. I must admit being impressed by the GS with hack and a trailer. Especially being one wheel drive. Thank you for taking us along...

Gary France said...

Terrific post Charlie. Your enthusiasm for riding your Ural and then sharing your adventures with us by writing about them seems endless. From the warmth of my house, I enjoy reading about your rides in the cold. I admire your gusto for getting out there either on your own with the Uralisti (LOL) and enjoying yourselves while some of us (me included) stay at home waiting for the weather to get warmer and dryer. Well done!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

Now this ride looked like great fun, and as unique a motorcycling event as any I'm likely to come across. I must admit my chest swelled with pride at the picture of the BMW GS, with a sidecar, towing a Rokkon on a trailer.

Yet the main event, of course, was the gathering of Urals. I must admit that I initially saw a herd of Brontosaurus when I clicked on the first picture. Seeing these bikes in the snow reminded me of some pages written by Tolstoy.

But there is nothing like the thrill of running into those who share a common obsession, knowing that every inch of the ride constitutes a memorable experience.

These were great pictures from a great ride... All the more so because I understand what it takes to keep these machines running. And the lady's whose blanket got caught in the wheel is lucky she didn't end up like Isadora Duncun.

What a great epic ride for you and your Ural.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Chris said...

Looks like a fun time, and a good use of the knobby tire. I might have to ride out for the 2011 ride. :)

irondad said...

You mean there are more like you? Hmmm, maybe I will take Denver off my list of places to move to!

Seriously, what a blast! I agree with Gary that it was an engaging read. Did you put your foot down at stop signs? :)

We had no snow yesterday. I did, however, ride 75 miles in the rain to claim a photo tag.

cpa3485 said...

Instead of chocolate or flowers, I see depicted here a whole new tradition starting for Valentine's Day. Looks like an absolute blast!
Thanks for the pictures and descriptions. I continue to live vicariously with your great ride reports.

redlegsrides said...

Dang, five comments already and its early guys stuck in the snow or something? : )

Richard, thanks for the kind words...The GS did look awesome with the sidecar attached.

Gary, thanks to you also for your kind was cold but not too cold, maybe...ok it was cold.

Jack, thanks for the visit and commentary. Someday I could see a GS mated to my Ural sidecar, I know you see that as heresy but then I could maintain highway speeds and STILL go wherever I want. Pricey stuff to ride though and I'd miss the reverse gear available on the Ural Tug.

Chris, you'd be more thank welcome!

Cpa3485, thanks for the kind words as well....

For all of you, I'll be adding youtube videos shot by one of the Uralisti couples I rode with....stay tuned. It'll be on the link as well.

682202 said...

I sure Hannibal would have liked to have had a few Ural's in his day. My helmet's off to you for the tenacity to even consider such a ride, no less to actually do it.

Unknown said...


a hardy bunch of adventurers you are. Looks like fun and cold at the same time. This was an excellent detailed report of your ride, lots of photos too.

I tried to give you "gas" money, but your LINK doesn't work

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

redlegsrides said...

thanks for the heads up, I fixed the link...

redlegsrides said...

Videos added

redlegsrides said...

682202, thanks for reading this stuff and your compliment.

FATTKAW said...

I don't know if you follow excessivevelocity but she just posted her elephant ride form last winter and I think she has a pic of you up. kind of funny when blogs collide----

FATTKAW said...

I don't know if you follow excessivevelocity but she just posted her elephant ride form last winter and I think she has a pic of you up. kind of funny when blogs collide----

redlegsrides said...

Hi Fattkaw

thanks for the link to that blog posting!

"when blogs collide", I love that phrase!

Gary France said...

Hi Dom,

It was good to "collide" with you recently! This could be a new verb!