Today is the first year anniversary of my having bought Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig from Unique Rides of Fort Collins, Colorado.
20,467 Kilometers is what has accumulated on her odometer since March 3 of 2012, almost 300 of which was racked up in today's riding with three other fellow Uralisti and their trusty three-wheeled steeds.
We all met at the Conoco gas station outside of Morrison, CO. Joining me for the ride today were Darrell and his wife Piper, Roy N. and Mapperjay, aka Jay B. Deana, Jay's wife was under the weather with a cold so she stayed home this time.
The four rigs headed north from Morrison along CO93 towards the junction with US40. We took US40, now a two lane road which parallels the hectic traffic of the I-70 Super Slab, into the mountains. We were able to use frontage roads for the most part all the way to the the vicinity of Empire, CO where US40 turns north while I-70 continues westward to the Continental Divide.
We started climbing in earnest once we left Empire behind, slowly making our way on pavement made wet by melting snows. Soon we were rapidly gaining altitude as we climbed to the summit of Berthoud Pass where we would be crossing the Continental Divide for today.
The view of US40 and the peaks visible from the summit parking lot
of Berthoud Pass.
Darrell and I both need to work on our "heroic pose" for the group pictures.
Check out Jay (second from the left) for correct posture.
The rigs, waiting for us to finish with our photo antics
photo courtesy of Jay
Now, is that a happy looking group of Uralisti or what?
From left to right:
Roy, Jay, Darrell, Piper and yours truly
We proceeded north on US40, heading towards the Winter Park Ski Resort area, with the goal of trying to find and ride on the Rollins Pass Road/Corona Pass Road to see how far we could get. I lagged behind the group to take the following shot of the mountain range one can admire while driving towards Winter Park.
Looking northward along US40, to the west of Berthoud Pass
I caught up with the rest of the Uralisti shortly after they arrived at the Safeway Market in the small town of Fraser, just north of the city limits of Winter Park. Coffee and snacks were had and we managed to get UDF'ed by a lady from Lithuania and a gentleman from the Czech Republic while getting the coffee!
I had the sad duty to inform the rest of the Uralisti that I'd spotted a large snow mound blocking the entrance to Corona Pass Road and that it looked pretty steep and deep with snow. Alternate plans were discussed over coffee and we decided to try and find the western portal of the Moffat Railroad Tunnel.
Heading back towards Winter Park, I failed miserably in locating the western portal of the Moffat tunnel. I really was batting zero today, first the road up to Rollins Pass being blocked and snow-choked, and failing to easily find the tunnel entrance! I'd last found the portal back in January of 2010
and here's a picture as proof:
Western Portal of Moffat Railroad Tunnel
We retraced our route back towards Berthoud Pass and after crossing the Continental Divide once again, descended sedately down towards the turnoff for Jones Pass. The thinking was, to see if it was doable in terms of riding on it with our sidecar rigs. As we neared the parking lot for the Jones Pass Trailhead, I began to have serious doubts as all I saw was snowmobiles being used.
After some dithering, Darrell decided to take a shot at surmounting the snow mound that was blocking the way into the entrance to Jones Pass Road. He managed to get over it just fine....but then he found some really soft snow......
The snow was deep enough, that once the rig's exhaust pipes contacted the snow, the rig pretty much became high-centered and lost traction and forward momentum. As you saw, Darrell tried 2WD and backing up but there just wasn't any traction.
Darrell and Jay survey the sunken rig....
Doesn't look too bad from this angle does it?
photo courtesy of Jay
While Piper took pictures, the rest of us help Darrell get unstuck and turned around so he could get a running start at the snow mound:
photo courtesy of Piper
Once Darrell's rig was safely back in the parking lot, we again discussed options and decided to head back towards Idaho Spring, tank up, and then try to find the Little Bear Creek road which appeared to lead towards Squaw Pass Road on Jay's map.
A colorful mountain peak visible from the Jones Pass Trailhead.
Doesn't that straight line look kind of like a road carved on the face of the peak?
We made it to Idaho Springs, once again using frontage roads, and watching with some amusement the stop and go traffic on the nearby I-70 Super Slab, eastbound towards Denver. I'd not seen it that choked with apres-ski traffic in quite some time.
As we were gassing up, Darrell and Piper were surprised by fellow Uralisti Steffen and his wife Jody at the gas station they chose to use! What are the odds right?
To us on the other gas station, it didn't dawn on us till a bit later who the couple
was that was seemingly UDF'ing Darrell and Piper.
Jody and Steffen finished chatting with Darrel and Piper and got into their Dodge Truck, swinging by our position across the street, everyone smiling at each other.
Jay then led us through the town of Idaho Springs, just for a few blocks and we turned onto Soda Creek Road which took us under the I-70 Super Slab (still choked with traffic). Soda Springs Road took us to Little Bear Creek Road, and we took this semi-smooth dirt road into the mountains once again. There were several hair pin turns to be negotiated, some of them slick with mud from the melting snows on the side of the road!
No problems though and we stopped at a couple of points to rest and relax a bit on the way up.
Soon enough, we made it all the way up to Squaw Pass Road, a.k.a. CO103, the road that takes one to the Mount Evans Highway. Jay continued to lead and we rode east towards Witter Gulch Road. This road allowed us to descend, sometimes quite steeply on tight hairpins, towards the valley through which Upper Bear Creek runs.
At the end of Witter Gulch Road, I took up the lead once again and we rode towards the town of Evergreen. We motored on past this busy tourist town and used CO74 to go through the twists and turns of the high rocky walls of the canyon formed by Bear Creek all the way back to Morrison.
I led the group to a parking spot alongside the road. After saying our goodbyes, Darrell and Piper took off first to go home, the rest of us were removing layers as it was 60°F in town! I heard a car's horn being sounded repeatedly and saw a black truck make an abrupt U-turn in the narrow street leading into Morrison. The driver parked near us and I recognized the driver! It was Michael L, the guy I'd bought Vikkie, my 2004 V-Strom from!
He came over, introduced himself to Jay and Roy and we chatted for a bit while his daughter played at the edge of the nearby stream. Soon enough though, it was time for us to go and we said our goodbyes once again. Jay and Roy took off southbound on the C-470 Slab and I continued on Morrison Road towards Kipling which I would then take towards Hampden Road.
A bit after 4:00 PM, and I was home safe and sound. Valencia was behaving as if her air filter was choked with dust, having a bit of trouble holding idle, so I'll have to check that out tomorrow. Too tired today. Still, she did great throughout the day as did seemingly everyone's rig. A good day's worth of riding on this anniversary day.
Previously: The Arch and the Reservoir