Monday, February 13, 2012

Five Urals and One Strom Rig challenge the Elephant Ride

We woke to temperatures in the low teens this Sunday morning, and it felt quite "brisk" as I rode across the Denver Metro Area to meet with what would turn out to be five Ural Sidecar Rigs at the gas station just outside the town of Morrison, Colorado.

The gathering of the rigs

We left the gas station by 08:30 AM and a bit short of an hour later, we'd ridden along US285 to the town of Grant, Colorado.  The road was nice and dry and strangely, the weather also felt warmer in Grant than it did in Morrison!

The rigs at Grant, Colorado

The strangest vehicle I saw today that would try the Elephant Ride

As folks made pit stops and sorted out their gear/rig.  I fastened three chain links to my pusher tire, double-secured them with some 550 cord (aka parachute cord) to prevent their moving sideways.  It's called, by the way, 550 cord because military specifications call for it to have a breaking strength of 550 pounds.

My rig ready as it ever would be, the six rigs got lined up and off we went up the Guanella Pass Road to see how far we'd get.  I have to say, there really was not much snow on the road when compared to previous years.  We all made good time and really had no issues with what snow we did find except for a couple of spots and even then, no real problem.

We took a break at the last hairpin turn and girded our loins for the upcoming last portion of road before the dreaded "snow drift" that had stopped us on my first Elephant Ride.

Craig H and his 2007 Ural Gear-Up

The last stretch of snow-covered road before the "snow drift"

Here's a picture from the 2010 Elephant Ride which gives you an idea of the snow drift that stopped the Ural rigs that time.  I am happy to report that this year, not only did all the Ural Rigs make it across, but so did Yoshie, my V-Strom Sidecar Rig!  Sure, there was some assistance required for the rigs to make it across as you can see in the videos but it's progress!

Craig H and his Gear-UP would be the first Ural to make the attempt

Nick, one of the new Uralisti I met today, had a bit of a mishap as he attempted the snow drift above.  We believe his sidecar wheel hit some hard bump buried in the drift and it caught air, causing the tug to fall over onto it's left side.  Nick adroitly came off the tug, did a couple of rolls, stood up and helped right his rig.

Nick's rig goes onto its side

Above video courtesy of Deana and Jay

Above and below videos courtesy of Deana and Jay

Above video courtesy of Deana and Jay

Once we had all the rigs past the drift, we had to stop to give Nick some time to troubleshoot his Ural.  Its engine was having a lot of trouble staying running.  After a bit of fiddling and trial and error, he got it running but very weakly.  He decided to turn around and we got him across the snow drift and he headed on down the mountain.

The remaining five rigs continued onwards, but not even 200 yards further down the road, there was this large field of snow.  John aka Spat and Cookie, on their white Ural, sped up and came to a dead stop in the midst of this snow mass, stuck.  They would mark the furthest point of progress for our rigs.  Still, we'd finally conquered the snow drift and we could see the gate!  You see, the Forest Service closes the road to the pass for the Winter, and the the gate is the point our rigs had tried to reach each of the previous years.

 Dead Stop....we ended up hooking a tow strap to Spat's rig 
and we pulled it out of the snow trap.

 You can see how close we were to the Forest Service Gate!

 A closer view of  the Forest Service Gate, closing the way
to Guanella Pass during the Winter.

Deana entertained us while we rested for a bit
video courtesy of Deana and Jay

The rest of the rigs, resting as we caught our collective breath
after pulling Spat's Rig out of the deep snow.  It was also quite warm up there, 
several of us doffed layers as it was almost 49°F up on the mountain!

Above video courtesy of Deana and Jay

It was hard to breath at altitude, and each time we helped each other with a stuck rig, we'd spend some minutes just gasping for breath.  Soon enough, it was time to turn our rigs around, and travel the 200 yards back to the snow drift.  Perhaps it was because now we were headed downhill but all the rigs managed to traverse the drift with no issues and more important, no assistance needed!

Coming back across the snow drift
photo courtesy of Spat and Cookie

above video courtesy of Deana and Jay

Our rigs, back across the snow drift.

We all rode back down the hill towards the hairpin turn where we'd paused beforehand, to take a group picture and to chat with some fellow riders who'd gathered there to watch the festivities.

 As you can see, Deana had the guys eating out of her hand!
photo courtesy Deana and Jay

The Uralisti and one Stromtrooper 

We made our way down the mountain with no issues, passing a couple of the dirt bikes that had preceded us since they had to go slower than what our rigs could do.  Before long, we were all gathered back at Grant, Colorado but no sign of Nick whom we thought would be waiting for us in town.  We would later hear from him via email saying he'd gotten home safely.

Back in the town of Grant
photo courtesy Deana and Jay

We rode on, five rigs strong, to the town of Bailey where we had a late lunch at the Cutthroat Cafe.  A nice meal and a chance to thaw out a bit, can't beat that.  And now, a "then and now" shot of the building next to where we had lunch today:

Bailey between 1950-1960 x-7156

Bailey, 2012

Uralisti gearing up for the ride back to Denver

We would encounter quite the snow storm between Conifer, Colorado and the town of Morrison as we rode along US285.  No big deal but there was need for constant clearing of one's visor as the snow and ice formed  on it.

Once past Morrison, the snow stopped and it was a cool 29°F in the Denver Metro Area as we waved goodbye to each other as folks took different exits from US285.  I would stay on US285, crossing the metro area and soon arriving at my home neighborhoods by way of Parker Road.

A great day of riding, got to meet two new Uralisti, rode again with almost the entire Denver Area Uralisti contingent and all rigs made it home safe.  Here's a compilation video of the road conditions on the way up, through the drift, and back down the mountain:

Hope you got some riding in today.

Update: 14FEB12: Yesterday, there were 1590 views of the ever showing for one of my postings!  Thanks for those of you who visited the link to it.


Keith - Circle Blue said...

Great post! It certainly looks like fun.

I do miss that certain official (police-like)air the white helmet gave you :)
Circle Blue

SonjaM said...

You really know how to stay warm... just drive your hacks into a snow drift and try to get it out again. Great stuff, I enjoyed the virtual rides very much. Fantastic video footage.
And yes, I got some riding in... other than you all I got was rain, rain, rain...

irondad said...

Sounds like a great day of fun and friendship. Not to mention exercise!

Always good to have a group to watch your back, isn't it?

I probably missed something but why is it called an elephant run?

redlegsrides said...

Circle Blue, its amazing how many folks mistook me for a cop, just as well these days....thanks for the visit.

SonjaM: oh yeah, all that pulling and pushing of rigs warmed us up nicely....we had rain too, it was just fat rain aka snow....thanks for the kind words.

Irondad: See this link for a pretty good explanation of why they call it the Elephant Ride and yes, lots of fun, woke up a bit sore but its all good. No way I would have tried that snow drift by my lonesome, I'd still be up there!

Bluekat said...

Fun, Fun stuff! And you talk like you don't like exercise. I saw some hard work outs there pushing the bikes through the drifts! The ride looks awesome!

redlegsrides said...

Bluekat...well, I don't exercise...and paid the price yesterday with some heavy breathing after all the pushing and pulling....or, it could be we were at 11000 feet altitude....hmmm. :)

thanks for visiting and commenting.

Andrew Thomson said...

Man that looks fun! Reckon a two-wheeled Strom would hack it?

redlegsrides said...


Not sure a Wee or one a Vee rider would have a good time in the snow, much less the ice patches unless perhaps the tires were fully studded....and even then, it's a heavy bike to ne repeatedly picking up!


redlegsrides said...

wow, 1590 views of the version of this posting ever showing. Thanks to you who went there as well as here.

Unknown said...

We're a few researchers from Linköping University and Lund University, Sweden, writing a scientific article on optimal maneuvers for road vehicles (read: cars), on different surfaces, in a hairpin turn. Now we've found one of your photos particularly appropriate as a visual example, and wonder if we could have your permission to use it? The photo in question has the caption "The last stretch of snow-covered road before the 'snow drift'" (and I believe the file name is 11-hairpin.jpg).

Kristoffer Lundahl
Linköping University

redlegsrides said...


Sure, use the photo for your research, all I ask is an attributional link back to my blog.

Thanks for asking first.