Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Uraling on Mammoth Gulch Road, after first trying Rollins Pass Road

Today four of five rigs of the Denver Area Uralisti (DAU) met at John's house for a quick breakfast  and coffee and then ride forth to try and see how far we could go up Rollins Pass Road before being either stopped by the collapsed tunnel near the top or snow which was rumored still blocking the road in the shady areas.

"Rollins Pass was the primary travel route west from Denver until an easier road over Berthoud Pass was constructed".  There's lots more information here: LINK along with pictures of scenic spots along the road.  Rollins Pass Road has held a long standing fascination for me as I'd spied its rocky terrain or snow covered road twice in my motorcycle travels.  Both times I was stopped by either the deep snow when on the Ural and by myself or by the long deep ruts in evidence from the entrance near the East portal of the Moffat Railway Tunnel.

Today though, the weather was warm, the sun was out and we were four Ural sidecar rigs strong, energized by Cookie's cooking and John's coffee.  An attempt would be made!  We headed out of the Denver Metro area using US6 out of Golden, twisting and turning our way past its massive rocky canyon walls and a raging creek swollen with the springtime melt of snow.  I can't believe there were folks out there in there kayaks, getting ready to get into that boiling fast water!

We continued riding on CO119 until we were in the vicinity of its junction with Golden Gate Canyon Road.  Just before though, John who was in the lead sidecar rig, spotted a Harley Davidson rider working on his motorcycle on the side of CO119.  John signals and pulls over so of course we all did.  I wonder what ran through that rider's mind the first couple of seconds of spotting four Ural rigs coming to a stop on the side of the road near him?  : )

The Harley guy turned out to be a local resident and was just working on an electrical issue and told John he was good to go.  So we all rode on a bit further to a nearby housing area where we stopped at a new fellow Uralisti house who lives in the mountains south of Rollinsville.  His sidecar rig was sidelined due to power issues so he joined us instead on his Yamaha XT Dual Sport motorcycle.  Natasha's ignition module got a little overheated once we arrived at Dan's house but a few sprays of water on it got her going again.  I would from that point on develop the habit of hosing the ignition module down every time we stopped!  (Did I mention it was a warm day?)

Now five vehicles strong, we headed off  on CO119 towards Rollinsville where we turned west onto Tolland Road and headed for Rollins Pass Road.  Tolland Road is packed dirt but pretty smooth, you follow the railroad line which goes into the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel.

 Riding along Tolland Road, check out the swift waters of the spring snow melt
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Nearing the old rail station of Tolland
 photo courtesy of Deana and Jay 

Less than a mile before the tunnel, you turn a sharp right onto Rollins Pass Rd and it's all steep inclines from there.

 At the beginning of Rollings Pass Road
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay 

I'd thought I'd seen rough and rocky road conditions on my brief stint on the Alpine Loop Road in Southwestern Colorado, boy was I wrong!  The Alpine Loop was a walk in the park compared to damn near all of the first four kilometers or so of Rollins Pass Road!  Rocks of all sizes and shapes, large sunken sections of roads and ruts and sand.  Oh and did I mention the plethora of rocks?  We were all bouncing quite well along the road as our rigs slowly made their way up the rocky trail that is Rollins Pass Road.

A view of the Tolland Valley
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay 

This shot should give you an idea of the rocky road conditions
  photo courtesy of Deana and Jay 

Going up Rollins Pass Road
video courtesy of Deana and Jay 
I tried standing on the pegs during the rougher portions but when the rougher portions didn't seem to run out, my knees gave up and I bounced along on the seat.  About maybe 5 Km into the trail, we all stopped at a bend in the road after being filmed riding by John.  We waited a couple of minutes and noticed Jay and Deana were no longer bringing up the rear.   Hmmmm.  I had been ahead of them so I felt a bit guilty at not having noticed their being gone so I turned Natasha around and rode perhaps 1 Km back downhill until I spotted them.

Jay and Deana's rig had lost all forward power, even though the engine ran and idled well but the rig would not go forward up the incline it was on!  I thought it was the air filter and advised Jay to check it out.  By the time he'd verified the filter seemed OK, I had been joined by Dan on his Yamaha motorcycle and soon afterward the rest of the Uralisti.

Here we are, trying to diagnose Jay's rig's engine before the rest of the Uralisti showed up
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay 

Natasha rests under the shade of a tree while we resolve Jay's Rig's issue
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay 

John walked up and after hearing of our actions so far, said the symptoms smacked of a "smoked clutch disk".  Apparently Jay had been working the clutch a lot on the way up and it had overheated and no longer disengaged to allow the drive train to work.  No worries, we all parked our rigs and chatted for a bit while we waited for the clutch disk to cool off so it would work again.

Down but not out, Deana and Jay wave at passing dualsport riders
photo courtesy Cookie and John

After some discussion, we decided to not overstress Jay's rig's clutch much more and try for Rollins Pass another day.  We would instead go up nearby Mammoth Gulch Road that Dan knew about and had ridden before.  We got ourselves turned around and slowly made our way back down towards Tolland Road.

 Craig and Julie riding down Rollins Pass Road
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Truly some beautiful sights of the mountains beyond and the valley below

Look closely, you can see a train making its way towards the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel

Four rigs and one motorcycle went up, same number came back.
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay 

 Yours truly on Tolland Road
 photo courtesy Cookie and John

We rode east on Tolland Road and found the Mammoth Gulch Road turnoff soon enough. Compared to Rollins Pass Road, Mammoth Gulch Road was a piece of cake!  Still steep mind you, still had its fair share of rocks and depressions and such but after Rollins Pass Road, it seemed easier.

Dan was leading the way on his Yamaha XT and we rattled along behind him.  The road actually got a bit smoother a couple of kilometers in and it was pretty easy going for the most part.  We were soon at the snowline and the melting snow provided some relief in holding down the dust from the trail.

We came to a turnout where we could fit all the rigs with a great view of nearby James Peak, it's not quite high enough to be one of the Fourteeners of Colorado but it was pretty impressive looking.

Taking a break with a view of James Peak

 Our heroic couple strike a pose
photo courtesy of Cooke and John
Jay points the way forward (heroically of course)

After we'd rested for a bit at the turnout above, we continued on, making our way the now gentle incline to the topmost portion of Mammoth Gulch Road where we stopped for another break and pictures.

Near the summit of Mammoth Gulch Road

Shortly after the above picture, we came upon one more low point in the road where snow melting had created about a four foot wide creek across the road.  The words "River Crossing" popped into my head and once Jay and Deana were through the creek, it was my turn.  I admit I gunned it a bit as I rode down the road and hit the water.  Big splash but the water felt good on me.  Did it mention it was a warm day?

Listen closely near the end of the clip as I ride by Jay and Deana, you can hear me laughing maniacally
video courtesy of Deana and Jay

After a few minutes break while Jay's rig's clutch once again cooled off a bit, we went over came the last incline and then began our descent down a pretty smooth portion of Mammoth Gulch Road, eventually turning right onto Apex Valley Road which led us down, eventually, back onto CO 119, just north of the city limits of Blackhawk, CO.

 Look how smooth Apex Valley Road is!
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay 

photo courtesy of Deana and Jay  

We briefly stopped to chat with two fellows who were working on stuff at a collection of trailers on Apex Valley Rd.  Note the above motorcycle's rear tire, they were apparently snow riding enthusiasts as there were several snowmobiles parked around the area.  I even saw some kind of military truck with snow chains on it.

 Uralisti on the march
Photo courtesy Cookie and John

Deana and Jay with yours truly behind them

Striking a "heroic" pose near the end of the ride
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Saying our goodbyes

Dan said his goodbyes at this point as he was headed back up to his house in the mountains.  Jay and Deana headed up the road for a late lunch and the rest of us headed on back towards our respective homes in the Denver Metro area.  Natasha and I covered about 235 Km today with very little issue, she did great offroad on what was the toughest road I'd been on with her.

As I approached Golden on CO119 on the way home, I saw out of the corner of my eye what looked like a small bird coming at me from the right.  Before I could reach, whatever it was had hit my right mirror and then the left side of my helmet's visor was covered in yellow sticky goo.  It must have been some huge bug based on the remains on my helmet!  Wiping at it only served to get yellow goo on my left glove and really smeared vision.  Luckily, I had my water bottle sprayer handy, and sprayed my visor while at a traffic light....good enough to get me home.

Another great and fun ride with the Denver Area Uralisti, all we got to do now is get Dan's Ural working again and then it'll be six rigs out looking for "interesting" trails to blaze.


cpa3485 said...

This great post has it all. Friends helping friends. Great scenery. Exciting roads. Drama with mechanical difficulties. Hot or not, Rocks or not, it sounds like a great ride! Even a final crescendo with a bird!
Thanks for the read!

Chris Luhman said...

Good post. I'm quite jealous you have such great scenery to ride offroad with your Ural. (and people to do it with). I should get my offroad fix this weekend.