Saturday, December 29, 2012

Uraling the Peak to Peak Highway

A bit of a late start this fine morning, leaving the house a little after 9:00AM with temperatures in the low 20s and the sun shining brightly in the sky.  I elected to make up some time by slabbing it up I-25 to the US36 highway into Boulder.

One hour later, I'd transited through Boulder and gotten on CO Highway 119 heading west into the mountains.  I turned off just a few minutes into the ride up Boulder Creek Canyon to get on Sugarloaf  Road.  This road climbs quickly from creek level and soon I was passing by the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain.

The start of Sugarloaf Road

Lots of snow on the trees and sides of the road, and there were long stretches of the road that were thinly covered in snow as well.  Quite idyllic actually, the morning was quiet, there was no traffic and the rocky formations alongside of the road looked like huge chunks of chocolate liberally covered in white frosting.

As I neared the junction of Sugarloaf Road and CO Highway 72, I would glimpse views of far off snow-covered mountain peaks, views that kept pulling me forward; always trying to get closer and see what Mother Nature had to offer today.

A view of Mount Meeker (I think)
from Sugarloaf Road

I motored onto CO72, a.k.a. the Peak to Peak Highway, heading north along this mostly deserted road.  Conditions on this road were fair, with the occasionally patch of snow and ice to keep things interesting for two-wheeled traffic.  As I was riding on Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol, these icy patches were just a part of the scenery.

Temperatures remained in the low 20s for the most part, and things would get a bit brisk when I rode through areas shaded from the sun, but all in all, quite the enjoyable ride.

Once you get north of the small town of Ward, you come to the junction of CO72 and CO7.  Turning left or NW, I headed towards Estes Park, the city next to the Rocky Mountain National Park.  One of the first sights you see is the magnificent peak of Mount Meeker.

 Mount Meeker

Continuing along on CO7, I headed along at an easy pace with Lilly Lake being the furthermost point planned for the day.  On the way there, I spotted the tops of the Twin Sisters Peaks, subtly highlighted by the sun for one's viewing pleasure.

The Twin Sisters

Arriving at Lilly Lake, the views were not conducive for posing Valencia in the foreground so instead, please enjoy this panorama of frozen Lilly Lake.

Lilly Lake, December 2012

Although the plan had been to just ride to Lilly Lake and turn around, I was running a bit low on gas at this point so I motored into Estes Park to tank up.  The mountains belonging within the Rocky Mountain National Park that are visible from Estes Park were looking a bit naked, not a lot of snow upon them.

Fueled up, I retraced my way back to Mary's Lake Road where I found a suitable view of the nearby mountains.

Estes Park 

Continuing to retrace my way back towards the south, I meandered my way back towards the Long's Peak scenic overlook.

Long's Peak

Turning back onto CO72 and winding my way further closer to Denver, I neared and stopped at the historic site of Saint Malo Retreat Center and the Saint Catherine of Siena's Chapel.  It's a small church set on a small flat area with Mount Meeker imposingly in the background.

The Chapel on the Rock

I made my way south, and soon enough was back in the town of Boulder.  Had a bit of a surprise while sitting at a traffic light waiting for it to turn green.  I hear a small voice trying to get my attention, I looked to my left and there was this cute little girl, window open and her seating on a child's seat, asking me how I was doing.  I could see her mother listening from the driver's seat.  I replied that I was fine and thanked her for asking, which brought a big smile on her face.

Thinking that was the extent of the conversation, I turned my attention to watching for the green light.  The little girl spoke up again, snagging my attention once more.  She stated, quite firmly I might add, that she was happy I was wearing a helmet!  I replied that my wife is also happy that I wear a helmet....she and her mother both smiled approvingly.

The light turned and I waved goodbye to the nice little girl and her mom and motored onto US36 and out of Boulder.  Such a precocious little girl, though I wonder why her mother would encourage her to speak at strangers, even ones on orange sidecar rigs!  :)

The rest of the ride was quite uninteresting, except for some slow-n-go traffic on US270 caused by some construction and also the sight of two patrol cars in the median who'd pulled over a car.  The cold was starting to get to me a bit at this point I'll admit; but I didn't want to stop and put on my heated vest.

The stop-n-go traffic actually was a welcome respite from the wind chill factor engendered while moving at highway speeds in temperatures that never went above 30°F.  The pace of the traffic picked up as we neared the I-225 interchange and soon I was feeling the chill creeping past my multiple layers of clothing.

I got home around 4:30PM, a bit chilled but still happy with Valencia's performance, the sights I'd seen and the highlight of the ride, my conversation with that little girl.  Hopefully she'll grow up liking sidecar motorcycles.


SonjaM said...

Wow! My favourite picture is the Chapel on the Rock with Valencia in it.

Who knows what drove the mother to allow the girl to talk to a stranger on a hack. Maybe she has some fond memories of a motorcycle adventure herself...

redlegsrides said...

Hi SonjaM, I think you're right, perhaps a good prior experience or perhaps one looks so harmless when on a sidecar rig that looks like a creamsicle.....