We woke to clear blue skies and a forecasted high temperature of 82°F, so I thought I'd check with the Pikes Peak folks and their recording as to road conditions to the top of "America's Mountain". The recording was from Friday but it reported the road was clear all the 19 miles to the top of the mountain!
Right after breakfast, I geared up and rode out shortly after 08:30 AM on Vikki, the 2004 DL1000 V-Strom. Since she's built for the highway, I took the I-25 Super Slab and was at the toll gate of the Pikes Peak Highway at about 9:45 AM, only to be told by the Ranger that the road was closed at the 15 mile marker due to dangerously high winds.
I was a bit disappointed but after checking in with my loving wife, I headed at her suggestion over to The Garden of the Gods park for pictures. I spent about an hour there or so and got some pictures:
Wandering about The Garden of The Gods
Pikes Peak from The Garden of the Gods
Stopping for some interesting rock formation on Rampart Range Road
Vikki waits for me by the road
I was heading back North on Rampart Range Road out of The Garden of the Gods park when I thought to stop and check again with the Pikes Peak ranger station as to whether or not the winds were still shutting things down at the top.
To my delight, the road was open all the way to the top again! I turned myself around, and motored back over to the tollbooth where the nice ranger took my money and said: "Be careful, it's still pretty windy above the timberline". A master of understatement, she was.
Crystal Reservoir along the Pikes Peak Highway
Right around mile marker 13, I was above 12,000 feet and above the timberline. Then, the mountain decided to get my attention by sending wind gusts, strong and steady at first, becoming frighteningly powerful as I climbed higher and higher.
It could have been because I was on a mountainside two lane road, with sheer rock walls on one side and precipitous drops on the other, but I swear those winds were stronger than anything I'd ever experienced before.
I was having trouble finding safe spots to park Vikki where she would face into the wind if possible so the wind would not push her down on her side! Every time I stopped to take pictures, I'd have to take several of the same shot as the wind kept pushing me around, making it hard to hold the camera steady.
I chose this wind-blown spot to put on more layers, took me over ten minutes, fighting the winds and holding on to the extra warming layers!
A view of the mountainside, the road curving away...seems peaceful doesn't it?
The winds would abate as I was shielded by parts of the mountain, then roar back onto Vikke and me full force when we left the protection of the shielding rock walls. It was really "interesting" when trying to negotiate a tight hairpin turn, maintain speed and upright position and be hit by massively strong headwinds which rocked me from side to side. I am not ashamed to admit, I thought about turning around a few times, but each time there was no safe spot to turn around....and so I forged ahead.
I kept my speeds at less than 20mph all the rest of the way up, trading speed for traction area as I tried to keep from being blown out of my lane and into rock walls or worse, the edge of the precipice. Luckily, traffic was very light and I was able to use both lanes when needed and when I could see far ahead of me.
Finally, with the wind never letting up for very long, I made it to the top of the mountain parking lot and dismounted Vikki. I was exhausted from dealing with the wind and walked around a bit to relax a bit.
Vikki at the top of Pikes Peak
The view from the top of Pikes Peak, I chose to not get too close to the edge
The Cog Train was operating today, here you go Jack.
Walking around at over 14,000 feet lead to some light-headedness and hard breathing. I slowly walked back to Vikki and slowly made my way out of the parking lot to make my way down the mountain.
I remembered thinking, as I fought my way down the mountain, once again at the mercy of strong wind gusts at the exposed spots; that there seemed to be no traffic heading up the mountain. Didn't give it much thought though as I was trying to keep the motorcycle on the road.
I stopped at the usual spots for pictures, making sure Vikki was securely parked before venturing around her for these following shots:
Vikki, parked near the "Bottomless Pit"
Panoramic view of the "Bottomless Pit" area
Some of the curves of the Pikes Peak Highway
The Rock Pile
As I again approached mile marker 13, by the lodge/gift shop located there, I saw as I descended a ranger standing by some traffic cones, blocking the way up to the top. He flagged me down and asked me if I'd made it all the way to the top. I told him yes but that I would not try that again anytime soon; he smiled and said they had been stopping traffic from going up as I was coming down! Again, it was too windy to allow even four wheeled traffic from going up.
I think the concern is tourists getting out of said cars, getting too close to the edge of the mountain, and getting blown off. A very real possibility I am here to confirm.
Once below the timberline, the winds died down considerably and I was feeling much less "stressed" by the now seemingly comfortable winds that blew through the pine trees.
An interesting sign just a few feet from Mile Marker 3
I cruised all the way back to the small group of buildings by the junction of the Pikes Peak Highway and US24, got the standard "Pikes Peak of Bust" shot.
I made my way down towards Manitou Springs and elected to transit their main street to get a shot of a thing or two I'd spotted on the way up. There were bikers everywhere, made me wonder if the town is a popular hangout for said bikers. Or, it could have been the first really warm day of Spring, bringing out the folks who choose to not ride during Colorado's Winter.
The bears were a part of a large row of wooden carvings along Manitou Spring's main drag, thought you'd like how they looked.
I rode US24 back towards I-25 North and then branched off at the Interquest Parkway onto CO83, making my way back towards Franktown. The winds on the way back were strong but not bad, well, till I got near the junction of CO11 and CO83 and points North! Then, they were back in full strength, forcing me to lean Vikki over in order to just go straight. Still, no precipices on either side, I was good to go.
Note to self: If the Pikes Peak rangers shut down the road for wind, try riding to the top on another day, not during a lull between wind closures!