Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Fall Colors on Independence Pass

Coming back from the Colorado National Monument this past Sunday, my route took me towards Aspen from the small town of Hotchkiss, CO where I had stayed overnight.

The weather was warm, the sun was out and the skies were partly other words perfect riding weather.  To top it all off, there was a brilliant amount of color in the forests of Colorado, what with the advent of Fall and all.  Tourists tend to flock to the mountains to see the Aspens change color and this weekend showed them in full color change mode!

 The motel I stayed at, was a bit rustic but homey and inexpensive.  
A bit of an unusual combination though, service station and motel.
Still, it beats camping!

I said my goodbyes to my fellow Uralisti who'd invited me to the rally, had a couple cups of coffee and a donut courtesy of the BMW Club of Western Colorado and I was on the road by 8:00AM, heading east on CO 133.

 Coming down from McClure Pass

 Did I mention the hillsides were bright with fall colors?

 Still on CO 133, the mountains spanned by McClure Pass
now behind me.  This road is part of  the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway.

 I liked the way the sun was shining through the leaves of these Aspen

 Sights on CO 133, while heading towards Carbondale
from Hotchkiss

After arriving at Carbondale, I turned south on CO 82 heading towards the ski resort of Aspen.  Once you get across this tourist trap of a town, you follow the signs for CO 82 and soon you're on Independence Pass Road.
 A view of the road I just rode over, looking in the direction of Aspen.
The pass summit is just a few miles from this point.

 The requisite picture of the pass with one's rig near it.
I did ride across McClure and Fremont Passes this day, just didn't stop 
for pictures as the scenery was "lacking" at those passes.

 Here's Yoshie sitting pretty at Twin Lakes, with the nearby 
mountains as backdrops with their patches of Fall Color
I believe that's either Quail Mountain or Mount Hope in the far background.

After pictures at Twin Lakes, I continued east until I got to the junction with US24.  Here I turned north and made for the I-70 super slab and the Copper Mountain Ski Resort.  On the way there though, I rode on part of the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway, through Leadville, onto CO 91 and eventually to one of my favorite stopping points for picture taking, the Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir.

The rest of the ride home was just I-70 superslab riding.  Yoshie continued pulling strongly on the inclines and keeping up with the majority of the traffic with no issues, I am happy to report.  Got home after 765 miles or so of riding over the last two days, no mechanical issues or injuries, participated in my first small BMW rally, saw some great sights....a good weekend's worth of riding.

If you've a few minutes to kill, please take a look at the video I shot while riding up to and down from Independence Pass.  Long video (it was much longer before I edited it) but it shows the large extent of Fall Colors in evidence along the ride and surrounding mountain sides.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Colorado National Monument and a Beemer Rally

O'Dark Thirty - what folks who've served in the military know as a really early hour in the morning.

It was truly O'Dark Thirty, in my case 3:45 AM yesterday when I set out from my home en route to the other side of the state, the city of Grand Junction, CO.  Why?  I was going to check out the Colorado National Monument.  I'd seen its rock formations from a distance as I rode home from Montana, all the way from I-70, and it had become a destination in my mind.

In a happy coincidence, the BMW Club of Western Colorado was hosting its annual Thunder Mountain Rally in the small town of Hotchkiss, CO and I'd been invited by fellow Uralisti Dana and John to come by and visit.

It took me 5.5 hours to get to the park, riding on Yoshie, my 2006 Suzuki V-Strom Dauntless Sidecar Rig.  She did great, I had a "re-introduction to bitter cold" experience as I rode through the Continental Divide and Vail Pass in the dark.  The temperatures were in the low 40s but with the wind chill and my lack of a big windshield on Yoshie, it was "brisk".  I was so glad I'd mounted the Oxford heated grips, they helped me bear the cold as I motored on towards the dawn and the welcome heat from the sun.

Once the sun came out in force, things were "warm" enough to not notice anymore as Yoshie and I cruised along steadily along I-70.

The rock formation just east of Grand Junction's eastern limit.
You see this, you're almost at the exit for Horizon Road
which is the road you take south towards the monument.

I arrived at the eastern end of the park and found out it was "National Parks Day" or something like that so all entrance fees were waved!  It was only $5 but hey...

The main venue is Rimrock Road which spans the park and allows visitors a paved road that borders all the main canyons within the park.  The temperature rose as the morning went on, so by the time I'd ridden and photographed my way through to the western end of the park, it was hot!  Frozen in the morning, bathed in sweat by noon.

 You gain a bit of altitude as you enter the park

 That's Grand Junction down there

 I think this was Red Canyon

Pano of one of the park's many canyons

Pano of Independence Monument

 Panoramic view of the above closeup

 Pano view of the above closeups

After a quick lunch at the town of Fruita, I retraced my ride through the monument, this time going from west to east.

I got on I-70 after getting a bit mis-oriented in Grand Junction and I found my way east towards the exit towards Grand Mesa.  Turns out, this is a scenic byway, quite twisty and very scenic with the fall colors coloring the countryside and hillsides.

The view from "Skyway" along the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway

I motored on through the Grand Mesa Byway until it plunges you down into the valley south of it and soon I was at the town of Hotchkiss.  It is a small town and it didn't take me long to find the city park where the BMW Thunder Mountain Rally was being held.

I couldn't find sight of John or Dana, or their motorcycles.  Especially Dana's since he'd told me he was going to ride his GS Sidecar Rig to the even.  However, I did spot another GS Sidecar Rig and I parked next to it.  I took off my helmet and asked the folks next to it if they happened to know Dana.  Before they could answer, I heard a loud "no!" behind me and there were John and his wife Cookie smiling at me!

Dana, it turns out, was out riding somewhere in town getting supplies.  The owner of the other sidecar rig was Greg and with him was his wife, Cathy.  Turns out, Greg has been "lurking" on this blog for a while and my "adventures" with Natasha and Vikki had partly motivated him to get himself  his own rig!

 The above rig is Greg's, sweet isn't it?  
He's got the same dualsport sidecar model that
I bought from Dauntless.

 That's Dana and his yellow GS Rig on the right
Quite a disreputable looking trio aren't we?

I managed to snag a room at a local "motel" and so was able to register with the rally for dinner.  It was a delicious gumbo (sorry, forgot my camera, so no food porn).  The BMW Club of Western Colorado also arranged for a singing duo called "Honey Don't" and they entertained us with bluegrass type music that was actually quite good.  I highly recommend you visit their website and sample their music.

Bill Powers and Shelly Gray
"Honey Don't"

We listened to them sing till 9PM and after the club gave out door prizes and the grand prize of $300 from the BMW of  Denver dealer, everyone retired to either their tents or in my case the hotel room and crashed.  It was a small rally, perhaps 90 riders in attendance, and I liked it a lot.  Not very crowded, everyone was pretty friendly.  I even ran into Dick Paschen and Nick who'd hosted the Airhead Tech event earlier this year.  It was quite the good time and I am glad I attended.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Maintenance Notes

This "blog" or weblog having started life partly as a record for logging maintenance, repairs and services on my motorcycle; here's a posting with such information.

Today I received the Shinko 705 Dualsport 110/80R19 tire from the local Suzuki dealer who'd offered the best price (savings on shipping basically, $75 out the door).  Got it home and in about an hour got the old Shinko Tour Master 110/90R19 tire off and the new one on with 30,600 miles on the tug's odometer.  How many miles did I get from the Tour Master?  I am unsure as I neglected to get the final mileage on Vikki when last I saw her at the salvage yard, I am estimating less than 7000 miles.

The Shinko tires side by side
As you can see, not much left on the old one.

The tug has Metzeler Tourances and there's plenty of "meat" left in the threads so no plans on changing them out any time soon.  I do have a new General Exclaim 205/55 R17 read to take the place of the pusher tire already, it's the same one that was on the previous tug, Vikki.

I also took receipt of the wiring harness to hook up the Oxford Heated grips.  The harness is from Eastern Beaver, purveyor of fine wiring adapters and such items that make the electrical farkling of one's motorcycle that much easier.  This adapter, along with the headlight cutout switch for the low beam lamp, will probably be installed tomorrow night.  The adapter hooks up to the stock coupler for Suzuki heated grips but allows easy connection to non-OEM grips like the Oxfords I like.

Oxford Heated Grip Controller, the 40% setting was plenty this past winter on Natasha

Heated Grip Adapter from

The headlight cutout?  To allow me to shut off one of the two headlights that are always on with the tug, to save on current draw if adding more electrical farkles causes too much drain.  Not sure I'll need it but if I do, I'll need it badly.

Headlight cutout adapter from

The front brake pads were replaced 1200 miles ago at 29400 miles, the rear brake pads will be changed out by next month as they've still some wear left on them.

Last note is the oil and filter on the tug having been changed out at 30,125 miles.  She'll be "due" again at 34000 miles.

Update: 22SEP11: Installed the Oxford Heated Grips, see picture below as to mounting location for the heat controller.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Mount Lindo Cross

There's a lighted cross on the west side of the Denver Metro Area, near the exit for the town of Morrison on US285. The last time I'd spotted it, I had been riding in the pre-dawn hours headed out of town and trying for New Mexico at the end of 2010.

The image of that huge cross, illuminated on the dark hillside as I rode south on US285 stayed on my mind off and on in the last year and a half and today I rode to capture its image.

Here's some more information about the Mount Lindo Cross from the blog: Cemeteries and Cemetery Symbols:  LINK

I rode out of the neighborhood under a very light rain, riding on Yoshie, my 2006 Suzuki V-Strom Dauntless Sidecar Rig. The rain became heavier as I rode into the city but was never too bad. You'd have thought it was the prelude to the second flood of biblical proportions they way some of the clueless cagers reacted to it though.

A little splash? Hit the brakes. Ride 5-10 miles under the speed limit if your windshield wipers are on and by all means, tap your brakes for no apparently reason. Even had one guy come to an almost complete stop because he realized too late he was on an on-ramp to I-225. Traffic was dodging this stupid idiot as he "waited" for a gap in traffic to get off the on-ramp; truly amazing he wasn't killed.

I made it safely across the city as the rain passed overhead and arrived at the western edge of town with just wet streets to deal with. As I approached the exit of US285 to go to Morrison, I spotted the perfect spot to pose Yoshie at with the cross in the background:

 This is about 15 minutes before sunset, the can you see the cross on the hillside

 Here's the "overall" view of the area, you can just make out the cross
 The sun has now set and you can see the cross much easier 
against the dark hillside

 I rode eastward to the Simms Blvd exit and posed Yoshie on
a sidewalk near the freeway exit

The last shot of the evening that turned out

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Photogrammetry and Old video

Spotted this on a website I tend to visit now and then.  I keyed in on the sidecars displayed within the montage of vintage photographs of an old Petrol Station.  Very Cool.

From the posting:

Using the incredible visual trickery of 3D camera mapping (Photogrammetry), Miklós Falvay was able to create a virtual step inside these timeworn photos of Hungary’s first gas station — the subject of an upcoming documentary. The photos, beautiful in of themselves become utterly mesmerizing as they take motion.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 - The Tenth Anniversary

Never Forget, Never Forgive
image source: link

It's been ten years since the murdering cowards of al-qaeda killed thousands of Americans in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  I still see in my mind's eye where I was when I first heard of the first jet liner hitting the the North Tower of the WTC.

The ongoing news reports today, along with the discussions and reviews of the footage and recordings and memories of the families affected are something worth watching and hearing.  

The anger I felt ten years ago has not abated and likely will never go away.  

I rejoiced in the killing of osama bin laden, may he burn in hell along with the cowardly bastards that hijacked the planes ten years ago.

I salute the men and women of our armed forces who served then, the ones who joined up since then because of 9/11 and the ones who continue to serve today.  

I hope the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks find some comfort today, and I hope that this great nation never forgets.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sidecaring to the top of Jones Pass

Another gorgeous Fall day here in the great state of Colorado.  Before Noon I would ride up to above 12,000 feet, cross patches of snow, dare precipices and finally achieve the top of Jones Pass near Berthoud Falls, Colorado.

I rode Yoshie, my 2006 Suzuki V-Strom Dauntless Sidecar Rig, and the weather was in the low 50's as she cruised effortlessly on the I-70 Superslab, rising out of the Denver Metro Area and into brisker temperatures under partly cloudy, intensely blue skies over the Rocky Mountains.

I turned off at the Empire, CO exit and made a short detour to introduce my rig to the beginning of Empire Pass.

Start of Empire Pass with Georgetown's Lake in the background

I made a half-hearted attempt to go all the way pass the start of Empire Pass but after stalling Yoshie out twice, decided to try it again another day, perhaps in the company of some Uralisti for support.  I am still testing out the drive chain on Yoshie you see, so it doesn't have my full trust yet in such conditions.

I backed down and headed back towards Empire, feeling a little bit like a quitter but this feeling soon dissipated as I approached the entrance to Jones Pass Road near Berthoud Falls, CO.  You see, I'd attempted to ride to this pass about three times before, each time when snow was on the ground and had been turned back each time.

Now, it was early Fall and I was certain I would not find any snow on the ground.  I would be wrong about that, but more later about this.  The Jones Pass road is packed dirt with long stretches filled with small rocks and boulders protruding from the ground.  There's also patches of loose dirt/sand which make things interesting when on a motorcycle, though on a sidecar rig, not so scary.

Sample view of Jones Pass Road

As I climbed higher and higher on this dirt road, the air became crisper and colder, causing me to have to breathe harder each time I dismounted and walked around to take pictures.  The road gets steeper of course as you approached the top of the pass and the switchbacks and hairpin turns come at you more frequently.

Yoshie took all these conditions on with aplomb and no complaints.  I did have to feather the clutch a bit on the hairpin turns to keep the engine from lugging and stalling but overall, she did great.  Soon I passed through a small stretch of ice/snow with ruts cut into it by cars who'd preceded me and came upon the top of Jones Pass!

 The initial view one has of the mountains visible from the top of Jones Pass

 Yoshie waits for me to take pictures as we descend down into the valley
from the top of Jones Pass

 I didn't have time today to descend fully into the valley on the 
other side of Jones Pass, so once I found a good spot to 
turn around, I took it.

 Yoshie waits for me once again to take pictures as we ascend back
up towards the top of Jones Pass

 Above and below, shots of the little bit of snow and ice I managed
to find and traverse with Yoshie.  There was of course larger patches
of frozen snow on the side of the mountain I was riding on.

The last shot while on Jones Pass Road
You can see the buildings comprising the Henderson Mine
down below.

Once I got back down to the valley where the Henderson Mine is located, I found myself riding down the nicely groomed dirt road that leads one to the URAD Mine and Water Treatment Facility.  They used to mine Uranium around there and are presently engaged in cleaning things up apparently.

I'd last been in this area while riding with fellow Uralista Jay and his lovely bride Deana.  LINK  This had been the last attempt at getting to Jones Pass by yours truly.  The snow stopped us quite easily that time.

 I liked the shades of red on the hillside above

One of the more unusual animal crossing signs I've seen in my
time as a motorcyclist.  Boreal Frogs?  Must be some 
migration when it happens, and why here? 

Colorado's Alpine Boreal Frog, looks familiar doesn't he?  : )
Link to more information on the Boreal Frog

I made my way down towards the town of Berthoud Fall and cruised on the US40 Frontage road back towards the Denver Metro Area.  I passed and stopped briefly by the spot near Downieville where Vikki, my previous V-Strom Tug had met her end.  

Yoshie and I stayed on frontage roads all the way into Idaho Springs where I tanked her up.  We then headed into the mountains which are spanned by CO Highway 103 as I didn't want to just ride back to Denver on the I-70 Slab.

Conditions were nice and smooth on CO103, with very light traffic and only slightly cool conditions given the altitudes involved.  Soon I passed by Echo Lake which was crammed with cagers, blocking all the spots where I could have posed Yoshie with the peak of Mount Evans in the background.  I kept on riding and elected not to go into the fee portion of the Mount Evans Road as the road all the way to the top of Mount Evans has already been closed for the season.  You can only get to Summit Lake, and while that's a nice ride, the lack of snow at those altitudes didn't make it picture-worthy to me today.

I kept on going on CO103 and soon enough I was parking at the usual spot where one "can see forever" on a clear day.  Things weren't quite that clear due to some haze on the horizon but I think you'll agree it was a great background at which to pose one's motorcycle?

Homeward bound, the twists and turns of CO103 as one descends down towards Bergen Park wore me out and I turned towards the I-70 Slab once I reached its junction with Bergen Park.

The rest of the ride home was boring slab riding, no incidents really to speak off and the traffic was medium heavy at its worst.  A good day's worth of riding, probably 200 miles or so only but quite enjoyable.  I continue to be happy to report Yoshie's new chain remains up to the job as well.

Previous rides/attempts at Jones Pass: