Saturday, April 02, 2011

A Windy Day on Pikes Peak, with a slight detour to the Garden of the Gods

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:

 Balancing Rock

 Wandering about The Garden of The Gods

 Pikes Peak from The Garden of the Gods

Panoramic view

 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

Bigfoot?  Really?

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!


motoroz said...

Glad you made the trip with out being blown over. I love the Garden of the gods. It is a great place. Have not ridden up Pikes - yet. Is it paved all the way up now? Next time you are in that area you need to eat at the Hungry Bear in Woodland Park. Great photos.

RichardM said...

Great shots and I like the pano. The Garden of the Gods park looks like a great place to hike around. I've thought several times about going up Pikes Peak but never made it. It looks like a great view.


Andrew said...

Great pictures! Now I want to see some of a Black Strom up there...

SonjaM said...

I can see that the Garden of the Gods wears its name for a reason. Beautiful! Glad that the wind hasn't blown you off the bike. I still gotta lot respect when encountering strong cross winds, yours and Bob's advice however helped handling it. Lovely pics.

irondad said...

How nice of the rangers to stop traffic so you had less obstacles to deal with!

I was exhausted reading about your trip. Been there, done that. I feel for you. Glad it turned out okay.

The side benefit is that the wind seems to have blown all the clouds out of the sky. What beautiful clear blue skies in the photos.

BackSeatRider said...

Beautiful pics...did you see bigfoot? :-)

Steve Williams said...

I first looked at the pictures and saw a postcard day of riding. Beautiful images.

It wasn't until I read the text that I got kind of nervous. Glad your wife wasn't posting these pictures while you recuperated in a hospital after being blown over the side.

Can't believe it was 82F there. Snow is forecast here tonight.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks
Follow me on TWITTER

cj'sboutique said...

I'm looking for info about the ride past Bishop's Castle and another down past Ft. Garland and the stations of the cross in San Luis.

Have you been there?

Charlie6 said...

motoroz, you're glad? I was ecstatic! : ) And no, it's not paved all the way to the top yet, but any motorcycle can do it, just take it easy.

RichardM, all you got to do is show up here...and if the road to the top is open (and not windy), I'll make it happen.

Andrew....thanks for the visit and kind words.

SonjaM, I gained a new respect for the wind yesterday. Especially when on the side of a mountain...

Irondad, it was definitely an experience I don't care to repeat any time soon. Thanks for the kind words and visit.

Backseatrider, nope, no bigfoot....though if the took the trouble to put up a sign....

SteveW, thanks for the nice words re the pics and the concern, I too was quite glad it wasn't Martha posting the pics.

Cj'sboutique, I've not ridden to either of those attractions...have your tried

Chris Luhman said...

82F?! I'm jealous. The most we've had is 55F this past weekend. It snowed this morning for a couple hours, but has already melted.

The last time I went to the top of pike's peak, I took the train. I regret not riding to the top in 2009 when I was there. Garden of the Gods was also fun. Good to see the photos of places that I remember fondly.

bobskoot said...


You could not tell it was windy by the photos you posted. They look so calm, serene and inviting. I do know what you mean about the wind, though.

The worst winds I have experienced were in the Columbia Gorge about 100 miles east of Portland. Probably not as fierce as what you experienced in Pikes Peak. Sometimes we don't have an extra day to hang around waiting for the road to open. I would imagine that a sidecar rig would be blown about even more than Vikki

Riding the Wet Coast

Charlie6 said...

Chris, we actually broke a record and hit 84 that day. It snowed the next day though, Spring in the Rockies.

Bobskoot, I've actually been in pretty stiff winds in the Ural, it's pretty stable but you do sometimes have to ride "hanging out" when its a starboard wind.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

I didn't know there was a cog railway up Pike's Peak. Yoir pictures were great... The ride report was gripping... But why didn't you just take the train! That would have been exciting to the point of breathtaking. (I rather like trains.) Why is it you tease me with the trains in your neighborhood, and then move on like nothing happened?

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Charlie6 said...

Jack, I figured you'd like the Cog railway picture....its a bit expensive to ride up in it but I am told quite worth it for the views on a clear day.


Christine said...

If you ever ride up the Peak again (or Mt. Evans for that matter), make sure you are up and off the mountain early. Afternoon thunderbumpers, hail and lightning are really no fun on a bike!

Brady said...

This makes me so happy to have a bigger bike. I'm not on a bus by any means, but my new connie will hold up a whole lot better in the wind (and truck traffic) than the BMW dual sport...

Nice looking shots, and I agree, you wouldn't know of the wind based on the photos. Looks serene.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Anonymous said...

Great pics and a great story-
you say you got a little short-winded on top of the mtn- coupla years ago when I drove up there they had an oxygen bar in the little snackbar/giftshop place