Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Spring ride to Estes Park, CO

Sunday's forecast was for a high of 50°F and mostly cloudy skies with about a 30% chance of rain in the Denver Metro area.  I was to encounter slightly different conditions while riding with four other fellow Uralisti on our way to and from Estes Park, Colorado.

The plan was to meet in Boulder, on Boulder Canyon Rd, also known as CO119, at 9:30AM and ride towards Ward, CO and then north towards Estes Park, the gateway town to the Rocky Mountain National Park.  I used the I-25 and US36 super slabs to make my way to Boulder, traffic was light early Sunday morning and I got there about 15 minutes before the appointed time.

Before I could even get off Natasha, my Ural Sportsman Sidecar rig, I was joined by Steffen with his son Nicholas on their 2006 Ural Retro Sidecar rig!  We chatted for a bit, enjoying the warm sunny weather in Boulder at that time while we waited for Jay and Deana on their 2007 Patrol Sidecar rig to show.

We were entertained by this rather tame squirrel who came up to us, sniffed around our rigs and begged for food from Nicholas who was munching on a cookie.

Nicholas and his new friend
photo courtesy of Steffen

Jay and Deana met up with us shortly before 10:00AM and after introductions, we prepared to ride west on Canyon Road:

A warm and sunny start to the day

 Uralisti ready to ride!
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

The twists and turns start right away as soon as you start heading west on CO119 out of Boulder.  Steffen was in the lead and he kept a brisk pace that had both Jay and I swinging our rigs and our bodies into the turns!  We didn't stay on Boulder Canyon for long, soon turning right onto Four Mile Canyon Road on our way to the town of Gold Hill.

We soon left pavement behind and it was dirt roads all the way to Gold Hill.  The first portion of the dirt road was a bit rough and washboarded but it soon smoothed out enough.  It's quite the winding road with some steep grades where I had to gear down to second gear to maintain headway on my Ural.

The Red Store in Gold Hill
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Gold Hill, fittingly enough, is located to top of a big hill.  I'll have to go back one day for more leisurely exploration of the area.  After a brief stop, Steffen once again led off, this time taking Lickskillet Rd north and down from Gold Hill.  When I say down, I mean down.  The road led us down the mountain, all of us in first gear I am sure and mostly riding the brakes in order to avoid building up too much speed!  I am very glad that the muddy parts of that dirt road were not wide or frequent.  I am not sure I'd go down this steep hilly road with snow on it.

Less than five minutes later, we were at the bottom of the road and pretty soon we were heading west on Lefthand Canyon Road towards the town of Ward and the junction with CO72, also known as the Peak to Peak Highway.  Ward is another interesting old Colorado town I'll have to make time one day to go and explore thoroughly.

As we cruised northwards on CO72, I could see darkening skies ahead.  The skies were overcast and the clouds were very low today, obscuring the usually breathtaking views of Mount Meeker.  The thick pine forests floor on either side of the highway was still covered in snow and made for some beautiful but chilly scenery.

We got onto CO7 and it started snowing lightly on us as we passed Allenspark but it was no big deal as the snow would melt immediately upon touching the pavement.  Just south of St. Malo's church site, we made a pit stop to get rid of the morning's coffee.  The snow fall got a bit thicker as we did this but still, it was not a big deal:

You can tell by Steffen's expression that he's having a good time!

photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Continuing on CO7 the snow would taper off, then start again, then taper off.  Everyone seemed to be warm enough in our gear so we continued on and soon were past Lilly Lake and saw before us the partly sunlit valley where the city of Estes Park is located.  We rode down the mountain to Estes, the roads remaining wet but not icy as we got into town.

 On the Peak to Peak Highway
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Low flying clouds today, obscuring most of the mountain views
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Some of the rock formations the road was cut through on the way to Estes Park
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 The valley where Estes Park is located
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Some more rock formations on the way to Estes Park
 photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

                      

Riding into Estes Park
 note the deer by the side of the road at the end of the clip
video courtesy of Deana and Jay

After a bit of meandering, we found parking spots within short walking distance of a place that sold pie.

photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

It was lunchtime after all and we all purchased a slice a pie each and walked over to the nearby Starbucks coffee shop to get seats and take a break.  I had a warm slice of blueberry pie, it was delicious!

Soon enough, we were all done and warmed enough to go out into the now driving snow fall that was blanketing the town in a thin coat of snow.  We all got ready and I made sure to put on my rain pants for the remainder of the now snowy ride.

 After lunch
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Gearing up after lunch

Ready for more!
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

We took US34 out of town, turning right on McGregor Avenue once past the historic Stanley Hotel (film location of the movie "The Shining").

 The Stanley Hotel
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay


We then turned onto Devils Gulch Road and in the falling snow, enjoyed views of snow covered ranches; twice we passed small herds of what looked like reindeer to me.  They'd just cluster together, not too far from the road, and watch us watch them as we rode past.  I am sure both groups were thinking: "Now what are they doing out here in this weather?".

 Near the start of Devil's Gulch Road
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

The weather got a bit worse in terms of snow falling, and all our visors ended up getting wet on both sides as we had to ride with the visors cracked open in order to see.  I regretted having brought my "fair weather" helmet and also leaving my cold weather face mask at home.  Oh well.

                            

Riding on Devil's Gulch Road
video courtesy of Deana and Jay

Devils Gulch Road, leads you through the small town of Glen Haven and after a few miles of twists and turns with a couple of steep portions with hairpin curves puts you back on US34 and the beginning of the Big Thompson Canyon Road near the town of Drake, CO.

Like high rocky walls, twisting turns and a view of fast moving water just a few feet away from the side of the road?  Well then you'll love riding your motorcycle down this canyon road!  It took quite an effort to not admire the large and looming rock walls of the canyon as we negotiated the road in the now just rainy conditions.

Just a small view of the rocky canyon walls of the Big Thompson Canyon Road
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

We rode on the Big Thompson Canyon road until we got to the Dam Store's location.  It's just west of the junctions with county road 22H.  Here we parted ways with Steffen who had to get Nicholas to a soccer game in Longmont by 3:00PM.  As it was 2:00PM when we stopped, there remained no time for him to go exploring some more.

 Steffen, who's probably thinking he should buy a windshield
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Yours truly, Steffen and Jay
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Once Steffen and Nicholas left us, we geared up once again and took a left onto County Road 22H, past some houses and onto this nicely smooth dirt road.  I have to say, this is a very nice little detour road  for those of you with an inclination for narrow dirt roads bounded by high rocky canyon walls.  Very scenic and it reminded me somewhat of the shelf road down near CaƱon City, Colorado.

Jay and Deana were leading me through this nice road and we stopped at the bridge that lies past the canyon:

Sunshine once again, parked on County Rd 22H

photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

This little detour off of CO34 is another road I will come back one day to explore further.  It is well worth your time if you find yourself on the Big Thompson Canyon Road coming from Loveland or headed there from Estes Park.

Pictures done, we cruised on CR 22H until it dumped us back on to US34 which we took into the city of Loveland.  From this point on, it was just boring city driving, with sporadic rain showers for entertainment.  Shortly after passing by Lake Loveland, we both turned south on US287 and rode at highway speeds until we reached the intersection with CO119 were we parted ways.  Jay and Deana were headed back to Boulder to meet with friends and I kept heading south on US287 until I reached US36 East.

Parting ways....a good ride
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

I tanked up at a gas station in the northern outskirts of Lafayette, CO.  I'd racked up almost 260 Km on one tank of gas, worked out to about 38 miles to the gallon!  I had a little less than one gallon left in the tank when I stopped per the gas meter, not too shabby at all!  I took off my waterproof pants at this point and though it would rain on me lightly off and on all the way home, I was more comfortable with them off as they bind a bit around the knees and hold heat in all too well!

I was home by 4:30PM, 314 Km ridden in about 7 hours of saddle time.  We encountered sunshine, rain, snow, light hail, more snow and ended the day in partly cloudy sunshine.  A typical spring ride here in the great state of Colorado!

I am happy to report that in spite of the generally wet conditions we rode under today, Natasha's ignition had zero issues with all the moisture and fired consistently and perfectly all day long.  I believe her past issues with wet weather are now resolved.

1 comment:

Chris Luhman said...

Great ride report! I'm glad you were able to fix your ignition troubles. There is nothing worse than dealing with an unreliable bike or one that you've lost trust in. Northern MN is also going to get some snow today. Interesting spring!