Friday, November 25, 2011

Ride to Red Cliff

The forecast was for mid-50s for the Denver Metro Area today, Black Friday 2011.  I fled into the mountains to avoid the ravening hordes that merchants hoped would assault their stores today.

Riding Yoshie, I crossed the Continental Divide using the I-70/Eisenhower Tunnel route around 10:30 AM and by 11:00 I was starting to warm up from "feeling the cold" as I cruised up and over the summit of Vail Pass.

My objective today was to get a nice shot or two of the bridge near the entrance to the town of Red Cliff which lies south of Minturn, CO on US24.  I was also going to test the rear tire's snow traction and the makeshift tire chains I'd cobbled together a week or so ago.  The town of Red Cliff, is the entry point for the Shrine Pass Road on which I hoped to ride to the overlook for the Mount Holy Cross mountain peak.

Eagle River Bridge near Red Cliff, CO

Along US24 on the overlook one can use to take the above picture of the bridge

 Here Yoshie poses on Water Street, which crosses under the bridge 
and leads one into the small town of Red Cliff

After the bridge pictures, I cruised through Red Cliffe and turned onto the Shrine Pass Road.  The roads through town were clear of snow but Shrine Road itself was covered with about 1-2 inches of packed snow immediately after the town limits.

Yoshie and I rode along just fine for almost 3 miles I think.  Then we encountered a small hill where the snow was no longer packed down.  Yoshie came to a stop and proceeded to dig the rear tire into the snow.  No traction.

I tried attaching three chain links onto the pusher tire, tensioning them with a rubber bungee cord.  This setup failed almost immediately I regret to report.  One of the hooks on the bungee failed and came off and one of the three sets of chain links failed in that a chain link came apart!

No reverse on Yoshie, so I pushed her down and towards the right.  After that, it was a matter of muscling the front wheel around so it pointed downhill.  No big deal and it helped "warm me up" in the bitter cold of the  snow-covered trail.

Once I got Yoshie pointed in the right direction, I attached a spare set of chain links with a nylon strap securing it to the wheel.  I used a length of rope as a tensioning device and with this setup rode all the way back to Red Cliff with no issues.  I'll have to "tweak the design" a bit I guess, or get a full-up knobby tire for the pusher on Yoshie.

I got back on US24, after removing the chain links from the pusher tire at Red Cliff, heading back towards Minturn.  I cruised through Minturn and headed for the entrance ramp to I-70 to head East towards Vail.

I'd heard some car honking while in town and as I stopped at the left turn lane to get on I-70, who of all people pulls up on my right in a blue SUV but fellow Uralistas John and Dana!  They'd spotted me riding through town and had given chase.  

We pulled over, and they invited me for lunch at the "Sticky Fingers" diner in Minturn.  Off we went and I enjoyed a nice lunch in the company of John, his lovely wife Cookie and Dana.  Heck, Dana even paid for my lunch!  : )

The "Mountain Man"
Pastrami on Rye with "Fire Colesaw", and yes, it had a kick to it.

Lunch over, I parted ways with them as they were retrieving John's trailer from their recent ride to Griffith Park near Los Angeles, CA where they'd attended a sidecar rally.

I headed towards Vail, watching the tops of the mountain peaks in the area covered with low-flying clouds.  Snow began falling as I neared the summit of Vail Pass, no big deal as it wasn't sticking on the pavement.

It was "brisk" at the summit.

Above and below are some of the mountain peaks visible from I-70 as
one descends from the summit of Vail Pass, heading East towards Copper Mountain.

Once past Copper Mountain and the town of Frisco, I got on US6 to get across the Continental Divide using that route instead of the I-70 slab and Eisenhower Tunnel.  The weather continued gray and cold but still was quite bearable with the gear I had on.

My first stop as I headed up towards the summit of Loveland Pass.
Turns out, I parked her on top of an ice field, thinly covered by a smattering of snow.
I ended up walking along Yoshie, helping move her along as her pusher tire slipped and slid along.

A nice view of the mountain peaks on the west side of Loveland Pass

You'll note I didn't stray too far from the pavement this time!
You can just see the summit parking area for the pass up ahead.

The requisite sign of the pass with Yoshie nearby.

The roads were pretty clear on US6, all the way down towards the I-70 super slab.  The rest of the almost 300 miles I covered today were pretty much without incident.  I was home a little after 5:00 PM as daylight faded over the Front Range Mountains.  A good day's riding, a bit cold at times I'll admit but filled with great scenery, a happy meet up with fellow Uralisti, and while the pusher is not great on snow, it does fine on the packed stuff.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Guanella Pass in mid-November

The Denver Metro area got its first big snow storm of the season about two weeks ago, and had enjoyed pretty dry and clear weather since.  Yesterday, fellow Uralistas Jay and Deana in their Ural Patrol, GS Rig rider Greg P aka Cesspool, Mike H (fellow airhead rider) and I decided to see how far we could get up to on Guanella Pass.

The road up to Guanella Pass is the scene of a yearly event in February called the Elephant Ride.  It's held after the winter snows have thoroughly blanketed the road leading up to the pass.  I'd attempted this ride twice now in the last two years, both times riding Natasha, my Ural Sportsman Sidecar Rig which I've since sold to a fellow named Mike in Michigan.  LINK to 2010 ride.  LINK to 2011 Ride.

I was curious to see how much snow remained on the road to the top of Guanella Pass and convinced the folks I mentioned to come along for the fun.  Mike H, hereafter to be known as Fearless Mike H, elected to ride with us astride his 1985 Kawasaki KLR 250 Dual Sport motorcycle.

We arranged to meet at the gas station just east of Morrison, CO at 10:00 AM.  Introductions over with and layers donned, we set off for the small settlement of Grant, CO by 10:21 AM.  In less than an hour, we pulled into Grant and soon Mike has his KLR off the back of his truck and was geared up and ready to go.

Mike Fearless H.

The road up to the top of the pass proved to be quite navigable by sidecar rig.  There were extensive portions though covered in compacted snow/ice which slowed but did not stop Mike on his KLR 250.  He did admit to a couple of close calls and one minor fall but no injuries so it was all good.

The sun was out for the most part and the snow was melting where it was exposed to the sun.  The sidecar rigs had really no issues with the conditions as I'd mentioned and we only had to stop and wait a couple of times for Mike as he picked his way carefully through some of the iffier parts of the ride.  I sure wouldn't have taken a two-wheeled motorcycle down some of the ice covered stretches that we passed!

 At a rest break while nearing the summit of Guanella Pass
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Greg's GS/Dauntless Rig
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Deana and Jay's Ural Patrol
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Still, there was really no snow accumulation on the road and there were long stretches of dry pavement.  Soon enough we were at the top of the pass and pulling into the scenic overlook parking lot.

 The magnificent view of nearby mountain peaks from
the scenic overlook parking lot on top of Guanella Pass

Photo by Don Koch, 1942
courtesy of Denver Public Library Z-4162

 Yoshie on Guanella Pass

 That's Deana on the left, then Mike and Jay holding the coffee thermos.
It was a tad brisk up there as you can imagine.

Here's the group with the requisite shot of the pass sign.

Jay shoots the group at the Summit Sign

We then proceeded down from the pass in the direction of Georgetown, CO.  Guanella Pass Road you see, links Georgetown on the I-70 Super Slab with Grant on US285 to the south.

On the way to Georgetown

We had a late lunch at the Raven Restaurant in Georgetown, eating and chatting as we warmed ourselves from the morning's riding.  By 2:30PM, we'd noted that some snow flakes were coming down from above and geared up for the return trip up to Guanella Pass and back to Grant where Fearless Mike's truck was parked.

Note the snow flakes falling as the group geared up.

I was a tad bit worried about Mike on his KLR but it was all wasted worry.  As we ascended towards the pass from Georgetown, the skies cleared up and the snow stopped.  It was an easy ride to the top and then straight down towards Grant.

 In case you ever wondered what Yoshie looks like from the back
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 The last one of these was scampering off the road as I 
rounded the curve!
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Riding along the summit of the pass
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Not so much snow as compacted ice!
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

We made it to Grant with no incidents.  It was there we said our goodbyes to Mike H.  It was also here that Mike gave me one of his old sawzalls!  He's a construction contractor you see and had read my previous blog posting about wanting a swazall for times when metal cutting is required!  He'd offered it to me earlier in the week and brought it along for today's ride.  Thanks very much Mike!

We left Mike loading his truck and us three sidecar rigs headed east on US285 towards the town of Bailey, CO where we tanked up at the gas station.  It was here that Greg (Cesspool) told me it was the first time he'd had his GS Rig on snow and that he'd had a blast!

All fueled up, we motored towards the Denver Metro area in late evening traffic.  We waved at each other goodbye near the C-470 intersection with US285, each splitting off in different directions.  I was home by 5:20PM, in near dark conditions, tired but happy with today's riding and camaraderie.  

Here's a youtube movie of portions of the ride up to the top of Guanella Pass, down towards Georgetown and then finally the interesting icy portions heading back towards Grant.

Here's another youtube video, shot by Deana:

The above and below videos courtesy of Jay and Deana

Past rides to Guanella Pass:

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Back to the Dark Side and modifying the centerstand

Today, I rode Yoshie, my V-Strom Sidecar Rig over to fellow Uralista Craig H.'s home to borrow the use of his Harbor Freight tire changer.

You see, the Metzeler Tourance pusher tire that had come with the V-Strom when I bought it had worn down quite a bit as expected and had performed very poorly in snow during the recent snow storm.  Not a big surprise of course but still, a bit disappointing nonetheless.

I had ordered a General Exclaim 205/55R17 M/S rated car tire shortly after I'd purchased Yoshie and today was the day to swap tires on the rear wheel before the next snow fall.

No pictures of the tire changing procedure itself, those are available to you from the posting I wrote when I first had the use of Craig's tire changer:  LINK 

The removal of the old tire and installation of the new one went without a problem.  It's quite easy actually with two people and the tire changer itself of course.  We did however, discover a fitment issue when I went to install the rear wheel/tire back onto the tug.

Turns out, the right leg of the center stand contacted/dug into the right sidewall of the tire!  This had not been an issue when I had Vikki since I'd removed the centerstand from here on the advice of Dauntless Motors, the makers of the sidecar.  (Turns out, you don't have to uninstall the center stand).

Craig suggested cutting off a little bit of the right leg, to gain clearance.  I agreed, as removing the center stand would be a huge PITA and I didn't have the time or inclination.

Craig broke out his grinder, and in a few minutes had the flat portion of the right center stand leg off:

Once the leg was cut, we then tried putting back into place.  It still touched the side of the tire!

We then decided to quit kidding around, and we decided to cut the portion of the leg down from the center brace.  This time, Craig broke out his Dewalt Saws All tool, that thing cut through the tough steel of the center stand leg like it was butter!  I've really got to get myself one of them saws alls!

Now, there was plenty of clearance for the new tire.  My only concern now is if there's enough clearance between the drive chain and the tire wall once I install the snow chains I ordered last week.  They're supposed to be here in the next day or two so I guess I'll find out then huh?

Got everything put back together, had some nice conversations with Craig about this and that and then I departed for home.

Here's the new tire, I hope it does well on mud and snow.
Note the small shiny donut, that the cutoff end of the right
center stand leg.  A little paint on the exposed metal is now in order.

So, the whole thing took a couple of hours, but we weren't moving fast and there were lots of chat breaks....pretty good way to change a tire eh?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

First real snow fall

Today we woke to about 4-6 inches of soft, wet snow.

I eagerly donned my snow riding gear and set off before dawn to see how Yoshie, my V-Strom Sidecar Rig would do in this snow fall.

Man, the stuff was sticky and wet, I struggled to even push her out of the garage and into the snow drifts which had piled up to about 6-8 inches in front of the garage door!

Finally got her turned around in the driveway and by a combination of pushing and using the engine, I got her pointed into the cul-de-sac and ready to go.  All the pushing I had to do should have been my first clue that things were a bit too slick.

I set off and Yoshie was slipping and sliding but making headway out of the cul-de-sac.  I could feel the real wheel aka pusher tire slipping a lot, failing to gain traction but I continued onwards to the feeder road out of the neighborhood.

Got all the way to Himalaya Road which is the main street out of the suburb I live in and turned Yoshie south towards the first major intersection with Smoky Hill Road.

I never made it that far.  The roads were not plowed of course and while cars had plowed tracks ahead of me, I was not able to gain speed enough to take advantage of the "semi-cleared" path.  I could barely maintain headway as it was so chose to ride on the right-hand lane which was not so clear.

At points, I was having flashbacks to my participation in this past February's Elephant Ride up snowy Guanella Pass Road!  The snow was really deep and slick!

Slowly I made my way up to the first turn for the shopping mall and I got Yoshie up a bit and got her turned around when she could not go further forward due to the incline of that sloping drive!  The pusher tire just wasn't getting traction so any kind of incline prevented progress!

Going back downhill towards Himalaya was fine, though a bit slick still.  I turned Yoshie back towards home as there was no way I was going to get to work with the snow conditions being what they were.

Got her home, slowly but surely.  The pusher tire slipping in the snow and not allowing me to gain much speed to maintain good momentum.  I left the rig in the driveway where she got stuck and went in to await daylight.

Here's a picture of poor Yoshie, waiting for me to dig her out.

I worked from home the rest of the morning, managing to snow-blow the snow off the driveway during breaks and freeing Yoshie so she could rest inside the garage.

At noon, I figured I'd do a proof of concept using the old time trick of wrapping rope around the pusher tire to provide traction aids.  I anchored three separate lengths of rope around each of the three wheel spokes and set off into the neighborhood streets.

The snow conditions had improved markedly with the sunshine beating down on the snow and cars having churned up the snow into tracks of sorts.  The snow had also turned to slush and ice instead of sticky snow so traction was much improved anyways.

Still, the ropes on the pusher tire did great!  I was able to ride my way with only minor slipping issues all the way to the local high school.  Heck, once I was out of the neighborhood streets, the roads were clear!  Of course, clear roads meant the ropes were rubbing straight into the pavement and getting worn down.

I lost one of the ropes while riding to the school but the two remaining ones provided plenty of traction in the snowy/icy parking lots of the school.

 Here's Yoshie, happy once again to be able to negotiate snowy/icy conditions.
She's sitting on about an inch of slushy ice.

 Above is a view of the rope arrangement I was field-testing.
The rope was not exactly the right kind but it worked good enough to prove the concept.

Another shot of Yoshie in the local high school's parking lot.
It being a snow day for the students, I had the place to myself.

I tried to execute some donuts but Yoshie was having none of that.  I figured between the rope traction aids and her wider stance, donuts would have to wait for the powdery stuff to come back.  We're supposed to get some more snow on Friday, so maybe it'll be donuts then.

I spent the lunch hour cruising through the neighborhood streets which remained choked with slushy ice and snow; effortlessly cruising by folks as they dug themselves out from the snow on their own driveways.  

Alas, the hour was up and I motored on home.  I would go out one more time after work in the late afternoon, this time field testing the use of chain links secured to the spokes with ropes.  They worked fine in terms of ride and security of the rope but by then the main roads were pretty much clear.  The neighborhood roads still had long stretches of ice and slush but there were wide tracks available if one wanted clear pavement.

A disappointing start but a good ending to today's riding.  I'll be ready next time.