Monday, February 25, 2013

A Ride to the Race Track

A Horse Race Track that is....although I am quite sure it didn't occur to any of you that I was going to be racing my Ural Sidecar Rig, Valencia!

There was still much snow on the ground in the neighborhood streets, snow that back in 2007 would have trapped me until it all melted away.  That is no longer the case!  Valencia and I blasted our way out of the cul-de-sac, purposedly driving straight through the bigger mounds of snow that had piled up as folks dug themselves out of this latest snow storm's results.

We quickly exited the neighborhood streets and motored along main roads which while still snow-covered in stretches, were pretty much clear and filled with melting snow water.  I made my way to a local subdivision that is till being built out that has a clear view of Mount Evans and the front range mountains:

Mount Evans, from the Copperleaf subdivision

Then I decided to motor over to the Aurora Race Track, which had for the last few months, had it's main gate closed so I'd not been able to use its nicely placed parking lot for sunset pictures.  Today I rode up to the gate and noted that it wasn't locked, just a chain with a couple of small carabiners holding it together.

Took a chance, undid the chain, rode in and found an elderly gentlemen outside the race track building, shoveling snow.  I asked him where I could find the man in charge, to ask permission to take pictures.  He said the man had left for lunch and after I explained things to him, he readily said go ahead and take the pictures!

The parking lot had part of its surfaced plowed clear so folks could get to/from the rear of the parking lot where there's a lot of RVs and campers parked.  The rest was pretty much virgin snow, about 2-4 inches deep.  I got into 2WD and easily motored about until I got Valencia in the right spot for pictures.

 Above is a look at the parking lot snow conditions, it wasn't the spot
I ended up using to get the picture below:

I think I'll title this one: Valencia, Sidecar Rig of the Rockies!

Pictures over, I rushed home on slushy streets with lots of running water as the sun melted away the snow on the roads.

I expect the snow will last us a couple of days more, hopefully it'll stick around some more on the mountains.  We've been waiting for a snow storm such as Rocky for a long time.  Oh, there's a possibility of another snow storm, albeit a smaller one, hitting in a couple of days.

For those of you to the east of Colorado, Rocky is coming, and he's got a bunch of snow for you too.....

Previously: A Quiet Sunday Ride in the Country

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Quiet Sunday Ride in the Country...

We're in the throes of the first major blizzard of this Winter, Storm Rocky, kind of a silly name but then again the one before that was "Q".

We woke to about 2-3 inches of snow in my neighborhood, I went out after breakfast to do some snow-blowing or what my youngest son Miles referred to as a "snow job".  I got to talk to him about colloquialisms one of these days.

Job done, there was already a 1/2 inch of snow where I had cleared the earlier snow!  Oh well, it was time to go riding of course.  I geared up and motored out of my neighborhood on Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig.  First it was a brief cruise through the neighborhood to gauge conditions, traction was fine though the snow was still falling and causing slight visibility issues for me and the gopro camera.

I rode out to Smoky Hill Road and eventually ended up in the ranching neighborhoods off of Piney Lake Road and Bronco Road.  This is the same neighborhood where I went for a lunchtime ride this past Thursday, I was curious to see how the additional snow had affected conditions.

As you can see in the pictures above, the roads had a lovely amount of snow, perhaps 3-4 inches tops, and I only had to engage the 2WD on the steeper parts of the road due to the pusher tire slipping without the help of the driven sidecar wheel.

I wandered all about this neighborhood and soon it was time to go back towards my home neighboords.  The streets were slushy in spots but mostly snow-packed.  The plows were having trouble keeping up with the falling snow, which by now had gotten stronger and the winds had increased as well.

I got to the rear parking areas of the local High School eventually and practiced some donuts, you knew I was going to, didn't you?  You definitely need to engage the 2WD, otherwise all you end up doing is some wide sliding.

Fun over with, I headed on back home, arriving just before lunch with no issues.  Some cars on the road but not too many, saw one pickup truck that just kept fishtailing on the turns, he was the only one seemingly not able to handle the snow.

Here's a movie of my ride through the neighborhood, the ranching neighbood, the ride to the high school and the donuts, and finally the ride back home.  I hope you like it.

 Nearing my home neighborhood

 Home again, safe and sound

 Check out the icicles emanating from the hub...

Previously: Snowy Lunchtime Ride

Friday, February 22, 2013

Snowy Lunchtime Ride

Thursday of this week, we woke to snow-covered landscapes here in the Denver Metro Area.  The weather guessers said this was part of the outer edge of Winter Storm Q and we'd end up getting about four inches of  fluffy snow.

Rode twice today, the first ride was to take my youngest son Miles to school on my sidecar rig Valencia.  Being a teenager, and even though he thought he was running late, he still took a minute to make sure his hair was just right.  Sigh.  You should have seen the look on his face when I reminded him that it was all for naught as he had to wear a helmet for the ride to school!  :)

Still, we motored out of the snowy neighborhood and even the main roads were covered in snow still!  I even had to engage the Ural's 2WD capability in spots to fight the slick road surfaces, especially when the rig was going up even slight inclines!  We made it to school with no issue except for cagers gawking at us and one even stepping out of his car at a stoplight to take a picture of Miles and I.  Cagers!

The second ride was during my lunch break, much fewer cars on the road and I headed out to the ranch style neighborhood to our southwest.  The skies were heavily overcast so no view of the Front Range mountains today.  Still, plenty of snow to play around in and pose Valencia on:

 Towards the end of the riding, I made sure to take a picture as Valencia's 
odometer turned over to 20,000 Kilometers.  
So about 12,000 Miles since I bought her last March.

One final shot, taken on the way home along County Line Road,
I liked the snow-clad geometric shapes presented by the houses in the distance.

We got a decent amount of snow but I fear most of it will be gone from the roads by the weekend, though it does show some promise for nice mountain peak shots if I can manage to wander into the Rockies this weekend.

Previously: Uraling Home by way of Monarch Pass and Skyline Drive

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Uraling home by way of Monarch Pass and Skyline Drive

This past Sunday, I woke up before dawn and rode out of the motel in Salida, CO as the first rays of the dawning sun were starting to color the skies to the east in a deep blood red color.  The day before, I had ridden down from the Denver Metro Area to Salida and explored the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range.

It was a bit cold though this Sunday morning, and it somehow affected my camera's auto-focus mechanism somehow, so a lot of the pictures I took came out blurry!  Major bummer.  Or maybe it was so cold that my numb hands were shaking too much? : )

I salvaged what I could of the pictures I took, used Google Photos to "push" the sharpness and clarity so please excuse the sub-optimal quality of the pictures that were originally only marginally usable.

I first headed north on US285 towards the Collegiate Peaks, seeking a good spot for when the sun finally broke past the mountains to the east and lit up the peaks with that special golden light one gets after sunrise and just before sunset.  The temperatures dropped from the high 20's in town to high single digits when I arrived near the Collegiate Peaks!  Once the sun came out fully, it felt warmer to me, but before it did, things were a bit "brisk".

I tried several spots closer to the mountains, tried for several panorama shots, but alas, the focus issue rendered them useless.  This was the best of the bunch and it was highly "tweaked":

Pano of part of the Collegiate Peaks

Collegiate Peaks shortly after sunrise

I then retraced my way back to Salida where I then had breakfast at the McDonald's in town.  After eating, I decided why not take a small 40 mile detour (since I was so close) and ride over to the top of Monarch Pass.  Unfortunately, there were many skier/cagers in a seemingly desperate rush to get past me as I motored up to the summit.  I must have pulled over at least four times as I didn't like them riding my ass.  I hope they found themselves in slow and unmoving skilift lines the rest of the day!

I made it to the summit with no further issues, the parking lot was almost empty and there was a lot of snow piled up around the visitor center!  The summit sign itself was nearly buried in piled up snow so no picture of that but I did take a picture of the gondola building.

 Monarch Pass Summit Parking Lot

 Near the summit of Monarch Pass

 Mountain view as one descends towards Salida from Monarch Pass

I rode down from Monarch Pass with no issues, and soon transited Salida once again as I took eastbound US50 for the almost 60 miles to Cañon City.  There were a lot of twists and turns on those miles between Salida and Cañon City; since the road follows the course of the Arkansas River!  Sadly, none of the very few shots I took along this part of US50 came out in focus.

I arrived at the entrance to Skyline Drive which lies along US50 to the west of the city itself.  The gate was open this time so I spent a little time shedding layers (it was almost 60 degrees by now!) and arranging the camera tripod onto my spare wheel on the sidecar.

 Skyline Drive

I like the new angle provided by the tripod on the rig's spare tire.
Perhaps I'll try it a bit higher up next time around?

As I was leaving town, I spotted the train cars belonging to the Royal Gorge Train lined up.  I rushed over but it was apparently just parked there, the train.  The rides don't begin till March 9, the sign at the train station announced.

The Royal Gorge Train, at the station in Salida, CO
(this one is for you Jack....)

I left town after tanking up and from there it was pretty much slab riding along US50 to CO115 which took me past Fort Carson and into Colorado Springs.  From there it was the I-25 super slab through Colorado Springs and onto the Interquest Parkway which leads one to CO83 or Parker Road.

The winds had really picked up again, blowing in from the west.  I could feel the whole rig being pushed to the right at times and was glad I wasn't on two wheels today!  The day was so warm though that the HD guys were out riding about, you know we're having a mild winter when you see so many Harleys out.

Got home shortly after 3:30PM, very tired and knees aching.  Valencia and I covered 818 Kilometers or just over 490 miles in the last two days, with no mechanical issues and much beautiful scenery!  I hope you were able to get a ride in the last couple of days.

Previous post: Uraling to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Uraling to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Three day weekend, with President's Day on Monday creating an extended time off window.  What to do, what to do?  Obviously, an overnight ride was in order!

I left the house a bit after 10:00 AM, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 40s.  Perfect riding weather in other words.  I wanted to have as much time as possible in the Salida, CO area so I took the E470/C470 slabs to cross the underside of the Denver Metro Area.  Soon I was southbound on US285 and motoring through the mountain towns of Aspen Park, Conifer, Pine Junction and such.

Traffic was pretty light and temperatures would at times dip down into the 30s but the sun pretty much kept things warm enough.  Valencia motored, with the usual effort, up the inclines leading one through Crow Hill Pass, Red Hill Pass and then came the last big one before Jefferson, CO: Kenosha Pass.  I will say that we were fighting some pretty strong headwinds most of the day, it added quite a lot to the wind chill factor!

I descended down into the valley and pulled over by the entrance of the Flying Horse Ranch.  There was some pretty beautiful mountain scenery beyond the gate, so I slowly made my way down the road towards the buildings that comprise the ranch's guest accommodations.

Yep, lots of pictures but it was quite scenic, you must agree.  I then got back onto US285, continuing to head south and soon went past the towns of Jefferson and Fairplay.  There were some dicey road conditions south of Jefferson, the winds were blowing very hard, right across the highway and causing snow from the roadside to accumulate on the highway.

There were some spots where snow had collected and melted then more snow had piled on top.  Made for some slippery traction conditions that caused me to slow down a bit.  Still, no issues once I realized to take it easy on those spots.

The roads were pretty dry once I was nearing Buena Vista and soon I was gazing upon the first of several majestic mountains that comprise the Collegiate Peaks.

I believe this is Mount Princeton

This one is Mount White, I think.

I'd booked a motel room in the town of Salida, CO.  Salida means exit in Spanish, and it's aptly named as this town resides at the northern exit of the large San Luis Valley, a large agricultural area in southern Colorado.

The objective today was to catch the sunset colors on the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountain Range to the south of Salida and the town of Poncha Springs.  US285 leads you away from these towns and towards the summit of Poncha Pass where you get your first good glimpse of the northern portion of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

Summit area of Poncha Pass, just a bit over 9000 ft in altitude

I continued motoring south, enjoying the views of the snow-capped peaks of the remainder of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range.  I arrived at the town of Moffat using CO17, thinking that the National San Dunes Park was close enough to ride to.  Alas, it was another 20 miles or so to get to it and I was going to lose daylight for the sunset pictures of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

 Along Saguache County Road T, looking towards the small town of Crestone.
I turned around at this point and retraced my route back along CO17 heading
for its junction with US285.

 A view of the southern portion of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

The sun was setting by now and I motored back and forth trying to find the best spot before the sun set into the horizon.  

About two miles or so south of Poncha Pass

Back at Poncha Pass

 I ended up back at the summit area of Poncha Pass, that being the best spot to photograph the mountains.
However, as the sun set, the shadows caused by the hills to the west caused some disappointing light conditions.

As dusk gathered, I rode back in gathering darkness towards the town of Salida.  It was dark as I entered the town but I found the motel with no issues as it was right on US50.  I got UDF'ed by the owner as I registered for the night.  Turns out, he's from Poland and he'd seen URAL rigs before.

After registering, I got myself something to eat from the local Chinese restaurant and relaxed in my room.

The plan is to get up before dawn in the morning and ride back towards the Collegiate Peaks area and hopefully the dawning sun will color those magnificent peaks in some nice light.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures above, good day's worth of riding, around 200 miles or so of riding and some really strong winds coming from the west and north!

Previous post: Five Ural Rigs challenge and win the 2013 Elephant Ride

Monday, February 11, 2013

Five Ural Rigs challenge and win the 2013 Elephant Ride

Victory for the five Ural Sidecar Rigs which undertook the challenge of the 2013 Elephant Ride!  Since the 2010 iteration of this yearly snow riding event, I've been part of our Uralisti group's efforts to make it to the highest point permissible from Grant, Colorado; along the Guanella Pass Road, to the Forest Service gate that bars access to vehicular traffic to the actual summit of Guanella Pass.

The Uralisti strike a heroic pose prior to departure from Morrison
(Alex, new Uralista on the right, is probably starting to wonder about joining us)
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Last year, 2012, was the closest we'd gotten with me as part of the challenge group, we could see the Forest Service gate but a deep patch of snow stopped further progress of our rigs.

At the staging area in Grant, CO

This year, five rigs started off shortly after 9:45 AM from Grant, following in the wake of multiple dirt bike riders.  The first couple of miles had no snow at all!  Eventually, we started seeing signs of snow, and finally hit patches of snow-covered road where the trees shielded the fallen snow from the Colorado Sun.

 On the lower portion of the Guanella Pass Road
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

No winter maintenance?  No problem...this year anyways.
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

photo courtesy of Darrell's friend John who apparently
was also riding this day!

From the Burning Bear Campground's vicinity onwards, it was pretty much snow-covered road with brief stretches of bare pavement somewhat covered in hard ice.  The ice was quite slippery to our rigs, and our two-wheeled brethren were having quite the time with it.

The Ural rigs made good if sometimes slow progress as we made our way uphill in the loose snow.  There were deep ruts in the snow and little maneuvering room as we slowed to safely pass struggling two-wheeled riders.   Pretty soon, I could see the Uralisti ahead of me reaching down to engage their 2WD function and I followed suit.  The two wheels now being powered made a difference but there was still some slipping and sliding done by the rigs as we motored upwards to the parking spot at the hairpin turn before the "big drift".

 Waiting our turn to charge up the big hill leading to the normal location of the "big drift"

 Yours truly trying to stay warm while waiting for our turn up the hill
photo courtesy of John S aka Spat

The Battle Scooter
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

A look at the battle scooter which seemingly easily enough kept up with the rest of the riders.

video courtesy of Deana and Jay

It was soon time for our rigs to charge up the hill, all five of us in a line, easily negotiating the icy patches that gave the dirt bike riders pause.  There were even spots where we had to disengage our 2WD since you can't run in that mode on dry pavement.  The usual site of the "big drift" was where we expected it but the small amount of snow we've had so far this winter had created a rather small "big drift" that was easily negotiated by most of the rigs.

It looks like Jay headed for the deeper part of the drift
video courtesy of Deana and Jay

Soon after the drift, we were cruising past two stretches of somewhat deep and definitely loose snow and we all made it to the Forest Service Gate!  Quite gratifying, though I know the mild winter we've had here in Colorado helped us with very small snow fall amounts.

 Victory lineup at the Forest Service Gate, several of the dirt bikes were small enough to
go around the gate but they reportedly didn't get much farther up the road due to a pretty big snow drift.

Candidate for Ural Magazine's Centerfold?
photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

 New Colorado Uralista Alex P. uses a conveniently "parked" motorcycle to
position his camera and mini-tripod.

Another heroic pose at the gate....Alex looks like he's definitely wondering about us by now
photo courtesy of John S. aka Spat

 The initial arrival at the gate

 Darrell, Jay and Deana pose with one of the dirt bike riders returning from
beyond the Forest Service Gate.

A photo of the whole group
photo courtesy of Alex P.

Finally, it was time to go back down the mountain road.  Downhill riding on snow is much easier than uphill riding on snow since Mr Gravity is now your friend.  We got back to the bare dirt portions of the Guanella Pass road with no issues and continued on US285 back towards Bailey, CO.

 While at a rest stop along Guanella Pass Road, a picture of 
part of Darrell's rig.

The last stop on Guanella Pass Road

The ride up AND down the southern half of Guanella Pass Road

Arriving at Bailey, we gassed up and proceeded to our usual "apres-elephant ride" cafe for a late lunch.  The Cutthroat Cafe is a small diner with a friendly staff and owner and good food.  Worth a stop if you find yourself hungry while riding near Bailey.

Digging into the "apres-elephant ride" meal

The couple at the table next to us remarked that they'd just passed through a pretty good snow storm on the way to Bailey from the Denver Metro Area.  I thought it ironic that we'd see more fresh snow on the way home than we did going up Guanella Pass!  Near the end of our meal, snow started coming down but not really sticking to the pavement yet.

Getting geared up again to ride homeward.

We left Bailey under snowy skies, the roads wet but not icy.  As we got past Crow Hill though, we saw a line of red brake lights ahead.  Uh oh.  There was an accident further up the hill from where we were and traffic started to stack up in front and behind us.  We pulled the rigs over to a small pullout spot to assess the situation:

On US285, somewhere between Crow Hill and Pine Junction
Yes, it is still snowing lightly.

photo courtesy of Deana and Jay

Emergency response vehicles came and went, finally after about 30 minutes, two large tow trucks drove past us.  After about 50 minutes of delay in the cold and snow, we finally got moving again.

 Lined up and waiting.

Jay expresses his displeasure at the delay

Pretty soon, we were past the accident site and traffic flow picked up in speed.  Alex P. turned south at Pine Junction to motor home to Colorado Springs, he had the longest to go to get home today.  He rides a 2011 Ural Gobi and I think he'll fit in just fine with the CZAR.  Alex would later report it snowed on him all the way home.

The remaining four rigs used US285 all the way back to the Denver Metro Area and we soon split up headed our separate ways once we got to the C-470 interchange.  It snowed on us all the way till shortly after Conifer and I for one was glad to see dry roads once again given all the cagers around us.

I got home shortly after 4:00 PM, washed off the road grime and magnesium chloride from Valencia before walking into the house.  Great day of riding, no mechanical issues, we made it to the gate and met a new Uralista!

Previous Elephant Ride Reports: LINK

Previous post: GoPro Camera working again?