Monday, April 12, 2010

Uraling to Tarryall Reservoir

This past Sunday, I rode out on US 285 out of the Denver Metro area under partly cloudy skies in temperatures that started out for me in the high 40s and would end up in the low 70s and sunny skies.  The idea was to explore Park County Rd 77 from the small town of Jefferson to the "Ghost Town" of Tarryall, one of the many gold strike towns that Colorado is known for.

While I really did not find much in terms of remaining structures at Tarryall, I did find the Historical Society's marker by the schoolhouse building and some delapidated wooden shacks that probably were part of the old mining town but no signs affirming this.

The ride out on US285 was without incident and in light traffic for the most part.  There's lots of construction right now in the vicinity of Pine Junction so be prepared for the slower speeds.  The local and state law enforcement patrols were out in force that day!

From my house it took me less than two hours to arrive at Jefferson.  The mountains to the east of the town were shining brightly with the remaining winter snows and made a nice backdrop:

A panoramic show of the Continental Divide from just east of Jefferson, CO

After the above shots, I returned towards Jefferson and took County Rd 77 east out of town.  The road is mostly roughly paved with plenty of patches of packed dirt with lots of gravel.  Great road for Endure/Dual Sport motorcycles but quite doable at slower speeds for regular street motorcycles as well.  It follows a meandering stream that flows from Jefferson to the Tarryall Reservoir.

The countryside is dotted with horse and cattle ranches, there's even a Bison ranch near Observatory Rock just east of Jefferson.  I observed some pretty large specimens of Bison quietly grazing so I stopped for this shot:

At the Observatory Rock Bison Ranch

As you ride down County Road 77 or Tarryall Road, you can see many rock formations on both sides of the road.  Some of the are quite impressive and definitely define the character of this valley.

After a few miles I sighted the frozen over waters of the Tarryall Reservoir and State Recreation area.  Folks were ice-fishing on the ice and just enjoying the scenery at this location.  I spotted a narrow rocky spit of land that projected from the shore and looked wide enough (barely) for Natasha to ride out on.

As there were no signs prohibiting motor vehicles on the narrow pier-like structure, I backed the Ural slowly and carefully down the narrow surface which was filled with large embedded rocks.  I chose not to go all the way to the end as it got narrower and rockier.

I explored the area around the reservoir and ended up on the opposite side of the reservoir where one can see the small dam that creates this reservoir.

Look closely, you can see a couple of ice fishermen out on the ice

After the above shots, I continued south on Tarryall Road in search of  Tarryall itself.  The road became a bit curvier as it followed the stream that meanders south of the reservoir.  Once in a while, you'd get a peek at the top of McCurdy Mountain to the east and more and larger rock formations near the Ute Trail Valley which is a national preserve apparently.

I finally got to the town and not much remains of the old mining town as I mentioned at the beginning of this post.   Several wooden "buildings" that were either collapsing into themselves or near that state can be seen from the road but appear to be on private property so I didn't ride up to them.

At the southern end of the "town" is a white building which the Colorado Historical Society has apparently restored or maintained along with a historical marker panel stating such things as:  The original school was built in 1898 and replaced in 1921 by the structure that is pictured below.  The school served from 1921 to 1949.  A teacher's recollection from the late 1880s state she was paid $40 a month to teach about 25 students; she also recalls heating rocks on the stove and passing them out to students in the winter to help keep them warm.

A few more minutes wandering around found no more "marked" structures and I continued south for several miles, to see what lay to the south of town.  The road becomes a bit narrower and more enclosed by hills as one nears US24.  About seven miles shy of US24 I stopped and turned around to go back to Jefferson.

The Ural had been misfiring under load sporadically, accompanied by loud exhaust popping noises.  I'd tried replacing the air filter with the spare I carry, no luck.  The problem would kind of go away after a bit of riding so I was enduring the momentary poor engine performance.

I got to Jefferson thinking my engine problems were over, perhaps just some bad gas.  I stopped at the old church in Jefferson for this shot:

Alas, it was not to be.  As I rode out of Jefferson and onto US285, the Ural's engine misfired more and more and I could barely achieve 30 MPH!  I stopped for a bit at the bottom of the road which leads out of the valley and onto Kenosha Pass and still found no issues.

I limped up to Kenosha Pass and parked at the scenic overlook at the top and removed the cover on the front of the engine to the ignition module and coil.  I had verified air (air filter) and gas (fuel lines) and all that remained of the triumvirate necessary for a internal combustion engine was spark (ignition system).  As I removed the cover, I noted that the wires leading to the coil were very loose; in fact the bottom one came off by the simple act of me removing the plastic cover!

I re-crimped the connectors and ensure all three wires going to the ignition coil were nice and secure.  I left the cover off just in case and rode on north on US285.  The engine started off rough the first few hundred meters but smoothed out nicely and I regained expected power levers.

I came upon the small settlement of Shawnee and parked in front of the Shawnee Tea Room after several good performance miles and replaced the plastic cover  to protect the exposed ignition coil and timing module.

I continued on, Natasha's engine pulling as strong as ever and I was able to maintain the normal speeds as I made my way closer to home.  Loose wires, I guess the vibrations from the engine had loosened them?  I was glad I was able to find them and fix them.

The rest of the ride was smooth sailing along the many curves on US285 coupled with the steep inclines that make life interesting when on two wheel and really interesting when on three.  I must have looked quite the sight, hanging off the sides of the seat to deal with the curves as they came up.

Made it home just fine with no further issues.  It had gotten quite warm in the metro area, and I was sweating a bit as I neared home.  A bit over 300Km ridden today in about six hour of saddle time.  Park County Rd 77 is a nice road for dualsport motorcycles like I mentioned but well worth a slow ride with street motorcycles as well.  Very nice and sedate scenery will inspire to stop often just to look around and there are several trailheads for the hiking-minded among you.


Chris said...

Nice shots of the snow covered mountains. Did you walk out onto the ice??

redlegsrides said...

thanks Chris and no, it didn't occur to me to do that.....I remember thinking that if I'd seen vehicles on the ice, I'd try it but no vehicles.

Unknown said...


I was wondering why you had to back up, is it possible to just pick up the sidecar and rotate it around ? (Just thinking outloud)

It doesn't get cold enough up here to have frozen lakes, perhaps further north, and who knows how thin the ice really is until it is too late

Wet Coast Scootin

redlegsrides said...


yeah, I guess I could have chanced what would probably have been at least a 20 point u-turn but then significantly taking the chance of going off the edge? nah. : )

redlegsrides said...

Bobskoot, I didn't answer your question did I?

I've never tried lifting the chair and rotating it, don't think its a doable since the tug's two wheels are still on the ground.

Unknown said...


I am a hobbyist. I'm thinking of a hydraulic clamp with a rotating base under the Ural at a balanced point to enable you to jack it up to use as a pivot to "drag" the sidecar around. or a tripod base with a pivot point where it attaches somewhere to the frame to allow it to rotate

Wet Coast Scootin

Chris said...

I dunno Bob... the Ural is quite heavy. I've lifted the car, but I can't imagine turning it as you describe... I've spun my bikes on the kickstand before, but I don't know with the Ural. Using the reverse gear is much easier :)

irondad said...

I left a comment on the Examiner site, but wanted to leave another one here about the ice fishing.

I rode out onto the ice and started drilling a hole to fish through.

The ice rink manager had me thrown out.