Sunday, November 28, 2010

Seeking snow at Berthoud Pass

As I finally had Natasha back in my possession after an extended repair sojourn, today she and I rode out of the Denver Metro area to look for some snowy mountain peaks.

It's been a pretty mild winter so far for us here in this part of Colorado so I had to head out all the way to the town of Empire, located at the junction of I-70 and US40, before I started seeing snow accumulations on the side of the road.

The sun was out most of the morning and so it was quite the pleasant ride along the frontage road paralleling the crazy traffic pattern that is I-70 westbound during a Sunday.  Only one mechanical mishap and not related to the recent repairs.

I'd stopped for gas next to a "park and ride" lot where a Conoco gas station was located.  I'd forgotten to check the tire air pressures on Natasha before heading out and wanted to make sure all was well there.  As luck would have it, the dang valve stem installed on the inner tube for the sidecar wheel failed!  Yep, it would not seal anymore.  Luckily, I had a spare, and after fueling up was soon on my way.  Do you carry spare air valves for your inner tubed motorcycle?

 The valve removal tool, built into the air stem cap, handy to have

Example picture of the air valve that failed, goes inside the inner tube's air stem

I reached Empire without further incident and cruised through the small town with no issues and no snow in evidence yet.  As I went past the small group of houses that comprises Berthoud Falls though, it looked more promising.  Still, anyone on two wheels could have ridden all the way to the parking lot of Berthoud Pass with no issues.  The parking lot however, was snow-packed, a bit dicey when on two wheels....not so much on three wheels. 

At the entrance to the parking lot at Berthoud Pass

The requisite shot of the pass sign

 A view of the twisty roads heading from the pass to Winter Park to the North

This is as close as I bothered to park Natasha to the pass sign

I retraced my route back towards Empire, as I didn't have enough time to cruise down the mountain towards Winter Park today.  I could see an incoming front of clouds and wanted to make sure I was on the right side of the Continental Divide if it was bringing snow along with the dark clouds.  The next four pictures are views of the nearby mountain peaks that one can see while riding down towards Berthoud Falls.

Just before Berthoud Falls, I took the turnoff exit for the Jones Pass Trailhead.  I wanted to see how much snow had accumulated on the narrow road leading from the trailhead's parking lot.  As on a previous ride, the road was snow-packed and my "city" tire was not getting traction.

So I turned around and headed back towards Berthoud Falls but not before stopping for this shot of the road leading towards Jones Pass:

Returning from the Jones Pass Trailhead

I elected to use frontage roads instead of I-70 eastbound to make my way back towards Idaho Springs.  From Idaho Springs, I could see that traffic was thick and heavy on eastbound I-70 (typical for a Sunday afternoon).  So I jumped onto CO103, the road which leads one to Echo Lake and the Mount Evans road instead.

Although Mount Evans Road is closed, CO103 remains one of my favorite twisty mountain roads to ride.  One thing though, its now the time of year when large stretches of the road are snow-packed and not recommended for two wheeled motorcycles.  

I made it up to Echo Lake with no issues, traversing several stretches of thinly snow-packed pavement on the way but with very little traffic to worry about.

Echo Lake, yeah the lighting was bad....sorry

I continued on CO103 and soon was past the passes at Juniper Pass and Squaw Pass.  Then it was time to turn onto Witter Gulch road and head down the mountain towards the town of Evergreen.  The road was clear of snow, just loose dirt and gravel and steeper than I remembered it.  I could feel Natasha's brakes sometimes causing sliding motion as the tires almost locked up at the hairpin turns.

Still, I got down to the valley just fine and only seeing one deer off in the woods and no threat to me on the road.  I turned right on Upper Bear Creek Road to pose Natasha at the usual spot where one can see mountain peaks.  Today though, the incoming front I mentioned before blocked the view of everything but the closest rock formations:

West of Evergreen, next to Upper Bear Creek Road

I then took the quite twisty Upper Bear Creek road into Evergreen.  It's a narrow two lane road with very little room at the shoulders due to the fences bordering the road.  Caution is usually a recommended thing on this road as deer tend to frequent it as well.  Again, I only saw one buck, munching on something while standing in someone's driveway.

The rest of the ride was the usual twists and turns through Evergreen, Kittredge, Idledale along CO 74 which is also known as Bear Creek Canyon Road.  Had to endure having a tail gating A-hole along the last stretch of this fun road as I decided not to pull over and let the idiot pass.  I was maintaining the speed limit and figured she could as well!

Not much else to report, used US285 to cross the Denver Metro area once again and was home before 4:00PM.  Natasha did great throughout the ride of roughly 150 miles or so, about six hours in the saddle.

Now, for some snow closer to home perhaps.....


motoroz said...

Road the pass this summer on our way from Steamboat Springs to Mt. Evans. Love the road. It is a great ride with great views. Can't imagine riding it with snow around!

George F said...

That's what I was talking about ;-) I needed the adventures of Natasha back to see the beautiful Colorado mountains, nice pictures :-) thanks

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

I duitfully left a comment on the Examiner site, and got a message that said my note had triggered a SPAM filter. Eveyone is a critic these days.

My coment went on to say that I found the opening of this episode very interesting... And that I went out to the garage to check the caps on my tubeless valve stems, only to discover they are flat without the extraction tool. What difference does it make if the tire is tubeless or if it has a tool? Couldn't the stem still fail?

I loved the pictures of the mountains and the pass. Yet I hope the winter stays mild and your riding options remain many.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

SonjaM said...

I really get a guilty conscience, just taking the keys (and not even spares) with me when I go out for a spin...
Good for you that you had everything handy to continue with this awesome winter ride.

RichardM said...

I bet it feels nice to have Natasha back and with a charging system! I do carry spare tire valves with me all the time. I've had them fail to seal well over the years. Many times, it's due to moisture in the tire which turns to ice crystals in the valve.

As always, I love your mountain pass photos.


Charlie6 said...

motoroz, its no big deal on three wheels....falling over is no longer an issue, all the other hazards remain of course. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

GeorgeF....anything for my readers!
thanks for continuing to visit and commenting.

Jack, yeah the examiner has "issues" on a regular basis....thanks though for reading the article there and trying to post. I think it's the same air valve for both tubeless and inner-tubed tires. The tool is cheap, and spares are cheap so why not carry them in one's toolkit. Thanks for your comments and continued patronage.

Oh and yes, I've heard of stems failing as well...which makes me wonder re the R80's stems....hmmm

Charlie6 said...

SonjaM, I thought you'd bought a toolkit to go with the 650? Am I mistaken? At the least, one should carry something to fix punctures in one's tires. : )

RichardM, thanks for visiting and commenting. In my case, it was two grains of the ceramic beads (dynabeads) that I use to "balance" the tires on the Ural. They'd become embedded in the seal, and my removing them was the final blow to that particular air valve.

Chris Luhman said...

those valve tool caps are handy. I bought a pack earlier this year and have one on each of my bikes.

good to see natasha back in the snow.

SonjaM said...

Dom, I only take a toolkit with me when I am touring, not for daytrips though... I know call me lazy.

irondad said...

I'm so glad you two had a happy reunion!


Was that a "spam" warning, or a "ham" warning?

Brady said...

I can support your linking. It's good to get paid for what you do. I'm envious of that bike. I really want to try one. I saw one at a bike show not too long ago and one for sale on ebay... both tempted me pretty hard.

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