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:


Circle Blue said...

I'm delighted to hear that all seems well with Yoshie's chain. You seem to be enjoying this rig. I've been impressed with the gas mileage. I'm thinking we have a real winner here.

SonjaM said...

Breathtaking! Stunning! Marvelous! An the weather plays along nicely. I have to admit those were road I wouldn't take, not on be previously owned F650GS, and certainly not on the Sporty (well, on the Vespa... maybe). Glad to hear that Yoshie performed well, and was patient enough to wait until you were done with taking pictures ;-)

RichardM said...

Beautiful scenery and stunning backgrounds for your bike shots. I take it that the V-Strom doesn't have a really low first gear which necessitates clutch slipping. Are these roads/trails fire roads or just part of the normally travelled road systems?


Charlie6 said...

Circle Blue, yes, 40+ mpg on a sidecar rig is pretty good, thanks for reading this stuff.

SonjaM, you would do fine on these roads I am sure. I prefer a sidecar rig though for such roads, as the rig compensates for my lack of offroad skills on two wheels.

RichardM, not a fire road or regularly used road systems. Usually they lead to hiking trails these days, and are not very well maintained. Mostly used by the 4x4 crowd though I saw regular SUVs and trucks during the ride to the op. Heck, there were 3 of them parked at the top of the pass, so the road is quite doable.

And yes, I am finding the Ural had more low end torque than the V-Strom, though I wonder if perhaps I am just hesitant to "push things" as I get used to the new rig. There's one guy who went to 47 teeth on the rear sprocket of his V-Strom.