Monday, April 23, 2012

8 Ural Rigs take on Phantom Canyon Road

This past weekend I joined the riders of seven other Ural Sidecar Rigs for a ride from Cañon City to Victor, Colorado by way of Phantom Canyon Road.

Phantom Canyon Road follows what used to be an old railroad bed that used to connect the cities of Cañon City and the mining communities near Victor and Cripple Creek.  It runs somewhat parallel to an old stagecoach road called The Shelf Road.  My fellow Uralisti had ridden down from Cripple Creek down to Cañon City by way of the Shelf Road but I'd not been able to join them.

I wasn't going to miss out on riding with them for the return towards the Denver Metro area though!  I woke up at 5:15 AM on Sunday and by 6:05 AM I was on the road.  I rode Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol Rig of course and took the I-25 Slab all the way down to Colorado Springs.  From this point I picked up CO115 towards Cañon City and US50.

I made it down there in good time, in cool weather, and by 8:25 I was done refueling and was riding about the small town of Cañon City looking for the Uralisti who'd overnighted there.  It's a small town and in no time at all I'd spotted several sidecar rigs in a motel's parking lot.

The Uralisti at dinner the evening before.....I missed out on this one.
photo courtesy of Craig H.

Everyone was packing up their rigs, coming back from breakfast and just generally getting ready for the day's riding.  Greetings all around, met some new Uralisti:  Sally and Dave from Colorado Springs, Janet and Roy who'd bought the Forest Fog colored Ural Gear-UP at Unique Rides shortly after I bought Valencia!

I also met Darrel's wife Piper, who is soon to be the rider of a green Ural Patrol, same as Darrells in color but currently being "rehabilitated" from the issues that caused her previous owner to sell it.

Rendezvous at the Motel in
Cañon City

photo courtesy of Craig H.

We started riding shortly after 9:05AM after a refueling stop for some of the rigs.  Soon we were motoring out of town, eight rigs strong, causing quite the head-turning distraction from the locals walking about that time of the morning.

Soon though, we were out of the town, and turning north onto Phantom Canyon Road from US50.  The first portion of the road is nicely paved but dirt appears really fast and then the fun begins.

The road twists and turns following the contours of the canyon carved out over the millenia by the creek at the bottom of the canyon.  The roughest portions were deeply wash-boarded parts of the dirt road which used to be a rail bed for the trains that connected the mining communities up north to Cañon City.

 Our first stop was at the "Lower Level" Tunnel, note how narrow
these tunnels were, just wide and tall enough for the narrow gauge trains of  the day
Above and below pics courtesy of Craig H.

Uralisti Lineup at the Lower Tunnel

Some more riding got us to the southern rest stop on Phantom Canyon Road where a "rest break" was in order to rid some of the riders of their morning coffee.

At the rest area
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Julie tries on Valencia for "fit", she liked it!

Motoring onwards, we soon arrived at the second one of the two tunnels one crosses on this road.  

Looking back through the "Upper Level Tunnel" at
my fellow Uralisti

Another feature of the Phantom Canyon Road is the rebuilt/restored trestle bridge spanning one of the wider portions of the canyon floor.

photo courtesy of Denver Public Library

photo courtesy of
click the above link for more historical information on the road.

This Sunday though, the bridge was crowded with eight Ural Sidecar Rigs, their respective riders endeavouring to strike up heroic poses on their rigs.

After the photographic pause on the bridge, much to the amusement of some locals who were hiking in the area, we proceeded onwards towards the "narrows" portion of Phantom Canyon Road:

Just one of several points on the road where things
become a bit narrow.

It was soon after this stop that Roy and Janet had to leave us as they had other commitments for the rest of the afternoon.  That's them departing in the above picture.

An "old time film effect" video from Dave Springer

Now seven rigs strong, we climbed towards Victor but would encounter some delays due to some "issues" for one of our happy crew.

It was a rather warm day at this point and the dust on this dirt road was really kicking up some dust behind each rig as we "raced" along.  Urals have air filters which sometimes become "clogged" with oil or, one of our number would pull over due to this.

Dust-choked air filter

Three of us pulled off with John, the Uralista who was losing power on the inclines, a sure sign his air filter was saturated with the fine dust we'd all been eating today while riding.  No problem though, John carries a spare!  Soon, we reunited with the other rigs.  Everyone was thinking, well it's not a ride without one of the Urals having some issue, we're good to go now!  Not quite.

Further along the road, I saw the rigs in front of me stopped, and some long object in the middle of the road behind them.  Hmmmm.   I stopped by it and damn if it wasn't an exhaust pipe from a Ural!

Yep, the mounting bracket itself had broken off John's Ural.

John soon came walking back, a little sheepishly I think, and retrieved his exhaust pipe.  Now it was time for the Uralisti to go into WWID (What Would Ivan Do) mode to help John out and get him running again.  Sure, you could run without the exhaust pipe and put up with the noise but there was some concern about unbalanced exhausts out of the engine.

Pretty soon I'd secured a length of free-hanging barbed wire from a nearby fenceline and handed it to John as he rode up, the idea being to secure the exhaust pipe to the motorcycle to get it home.  The wire turned out to be  too thick and unmanageable but one of the Uralisti, Dave, came up with a spool of safety wire!

photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

John aka "Safety Wire"

 Here's John on his second wiring attempt.  The first one didn't last long so he's
using more of the wire this time.

 Waiting alongside the road for repairs on John's rig to finish.
Sad thing was a couple of Harley Davidsons motored on by, waving at us

Repairs done, we motored on and soon reached pavement at the end of Phantom Canyon Road in the small town of Victor.  I think it was just before this that Sally and Dave split off from the group as they live in Colorado Springs and and Julie and Craig I think left us here to go home via a separate route. Sorry if  I got the departure sequences wrong folks!  As folks executed another "rest break" series of operations, I found John some copper wire strands which had been discarded by the local energy concern.  This stronger but malleable stuff proved to be the winner in terms of a good solution to John's exhaust pipe mounting needs:

Those of us who were left departed as a group from Victor and took County Road 81 north towards the town of Divide, CO.  The ride was uneventful though full of trepidation on our part as the skies above were dark and stormy looking clouds that threatened that cold rain that makes life "interesting".

 Leaving Victor
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 A view of the storm on Pikes Peak
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 Darkening Skies
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Safe and Dry at Divide, co
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

We managed to outrun the rain though and made it to Divide without getting wet.  Two of the rigs, Deana and Jay's and Piper and Darrel decided to take a "dirt shortcut" north of town towards Deckers  The rest of us went by highway (CO 67) out of the town of Woodland Park to Deckers for ice cream.

The ride to Deckers was incident free, the road was full of motorcycle riders enjoying the nicely warm day and Deckers itself was crammed with motorcycles.  The Urals caused their usual UDF as they tended to stand out from the throngs of HD type cruisers in the parking lot.  We got ourselves a table and people watched for about 30 minutes.  We did see our two "we want more dirt riding" Uralisti cruise by at speed past our location perhaps 20 minutes after we'd arrived.

I left the Uralisti after the late lunch and headed North on CO 67 towards the dirt roads that take one to Sprucewood, CO.  John and his rig would be escorted back to the Denver Metro Area by Greg and Cathy in their brand new Gobi Ural Gear-up.

There was light traffic on this road which parallels the Platte River and soon enough I was climbing up the dirt road with reported 15% grades headed towards Sprucewood.

 One of several hilly climbs on the way to Sprucewood.
It was "first gear" all the way up to the top of this one!

Past Sprucewood and back onto pavement, it was twisty turns, up and down hills, finally exiting out of Jarre Canyon.  I made a quick detour on Bee Rock Road and posed Valencia at this spot:

 Bee Rock

Leaving Bee Rock, I was soon in the town of Sedalia, just in time to line up at the queue waiting for a coal train to cross through town.  No problem, it gave a chance to check in and to rest my throttle hand.  I really need to get some kind of cruise control on it.

Once I was southbound on US85, it was clear sailing to the city of Castle Rock where I caught glimpses of some nice lightning on the town's namesake and distant Pikes Peak.  So I cruised over to my usual spot for pictures of both and got this:

Castle Rock and Pikes Peak

I was home soon after the above shot, motoring up Founder's Parkway towards the Town of Parker and soon enough back in my home neighborhoods.  A bit over 12 hours of riding today, perhaps 10 of it in the saddle.  Valencia did great, though I think she got some of the dust from the trail, I must go and get her a spare air filter to carry along.


RichardM said...

Wonderful video! I love these back road trips around Colorado. Though you can't hear the mechanical sounds from the Urals.

Gary France said...

Fantastic post and pictures. That looked like a great ride, full of adventure, rough roads, repairs and without and doubt you all had smiles on your faces. I especially like the pictures of the Urals lined up together. Now a question - do the Uralisti generally pronounce the bikes as ooorals or yuralls?

redlegsrides said...

Thanks for the kind words Richard....I muted the audio on most of the videos...the videos of the rigs going through the tunnel I didn't mute but the audio pickup on the camera is not great.

redlegsrides said...

Hi Gary and thanks as well for your kind words. Re your question, the correct pronounciation (per a Russian friend of mine) is oooral, but we Yanks tend to use yural....

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom)

What a great ride with great pictures! There was adventure! There was history! There was scenery! There was challenge! And there was creative mechanical expression!

But where was the picture of the coal train locomotives? I know you can pilot a Ural through the brush without pause, but what was your speed on the interstate?

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

redlegsrides said...

Jack, the manual says to not exceed 65 so I don't. I tend to average somewhere close to it at long as there's no hills that is. :)

Thanks for commenting, as to the coal train, sorry, didn't think to take a picture...I was about ten vehicles back from the actual crossing.

Keith - Circle Blue said...

You all must have been quite the head turning sight!

Thanks for the share.
Circle Blue

Keith - Circle Blue said...

You all must have been quite the head turning sight!

The mention of the woman waiting for her new to her Ural to be rehabilitated made me think of Natasha. Do you hear anything from the person who bought her?

Thanks for the share,
Circle Blue

redlegsrides said...

Circle Blue (Keith): thanks, although I've not heard from the gentleman for quite a while. He did start a blog about the whole thing but it's not had much activity.

BeemerGirl said...

Looks like a great day. I love ghost towns and old roads. You got the history, the scenery, and the adventure on that road. Great pics of the tunnels and bridges.

Those were some impressive clouds, I'm gald you didn't get caught in any showers.

I do have to point out that the bathroom break does appear to be a drive thru with they way everyone is parked. ;)

redlegsrides said...

BeemerGirl thanks for the kind words and comments....

Chris said...

I'm quite jealous you have so many fun Ural folks to ride with in such great scenery. :)

Unknown said...

I'm a newbe to uraling. Have been for four months now and getting used to wrestling with the drunken bear. You do some outstanding photography. Appreciate it alot. Seems to be at least one other Uralista in Colorado Springs. Thanks for doing the blog. Enjoy the pics.

redlegsrides said...

Thank you Robin Leeman, I hope you're referring to driving your rig in an affectionate manner and not because it's a big effort to drive it? If you use Facebook, we've a page called: CZAR Colorado Zidecar Adventure Riders you could join. It's very loosely organized but when group rides are hatched/planned/discussed, it's usually there where it happens.