Sunday, February 15, 2015

The 2015 Elephant Ride

Today, four URAL Sidecar Rigs attempted to reach the gate about three miles from the summit of Guanella Pass.  An annual event since 1989 I think, held on the Sunday of the second full weekend of February, the Elephant Ride is an attempt to ride on the snow-packed packed road from Grant, CO to the gate barring further access to the summit,  in Winter.

The challenge is you see, is negotiating what is usually several miles of snow-covered, uphill sloping roadway, crossing the "big drift" of snow and getting one's picture taken at the gate.

This year?  Not a lot of snow but there was the big drift, which stopped the three attempts, by three separate URAL rigs, to get past it.  We didn't feel too bad though, not many two-wheelers made it past without much help from bystanders and fellow riders.

There was such a dearth of snow this year, that it was clear dirt road all the way to the hairpin turn where folks usually stage for the run up the hill where "the snow drift" is located.  From here, there was dry paved roadway until the last 100-200 feet before the snow drift.

Road conditions then became rather slippery, rutted, ice....then packed snow/ice....then the big drift.

Since I've been riding this event, I've only gotten my rig past the snow drift twice, and both times there was assistance required in terms of pushing by bystanders.

So, on to the pictures.

 Tim L. and I motored in after meeting at Morrison, turns out that
Jim K, with his 2012 Patrol showed up a few minutes after we left and 
arrived shortly after we did, to Grant.

 Shortly before 10:00 AM, Roy N. and his friend Dave showed
up on his asphalt gray GearUP.

Roy and Dave were raring to go and took off up Guanella Pass Road first, with the remaining three rigs following shortly afterwards.  It was boring packed dirt road all the way to the pavement near the snow drift as I mentioned before.  The only mildly "interesting" on the dirt portion were the narrow one lane portions which had become rutted while in a muddy state.  

We came upon Roy and Dave as they waited their turn at the snow drift.  I positioned myself to take pictures of the stalwart duo but as you can see, the rig bottomed out pretty quickly.

 Dave and Roy, the first Team URAL attempt 

Jim K would next give it shot on his 2012 Patrol, with me as the monkey hanging off his sidecar's step for dear life.  Jim tried a bit further to the right of where Roy entered the drift but the results were about the same.  The rig sank to its belly, became high-centered, and lost all traction.

Jim K's Patrol, the second attempt by Team URAL
source pictures courtesy of Tim L.

Roy, Dave and I helped push/pull Jim K's rig off the snow drift and finally get her pointed downhill again, back to the parking/staging point.

That's Roy and Dave aiding Jim
Picture courtesy Tim L.

Then, several other riders tried on their two-wheeled rigs, even a small sidecar rig tried it and eventually did make it across the drift (with much help).    I'm pretty sure that rig didn't weigh as much as the URAL rigs!

Picture courtesy of Tim L.

Then, it was Scarlett's and my turn at the snow drift.  Jim K. played the role of the monkey, hanging onto the sidecar as I gunned the engine towards the snow drift.  I am told we got two feet further in than Roy's rig but still we ended up high-centered on Scarlett's belly pan with wheels spinning uselessly.

Third and last attempt by Team URAL
source pictures courtesy of Tim L.

With assistance, I got the rig turned around and headed back to the other rigs in the staging area.   All that remained now was for Tim L. to try  it on his rig, but the consensus was quickly reached that his results would not be any different and so we elected to turn around and head back down the mountain.

 The above and below pictures should give you an idea of the slippery
conditions one had to gain speed on, and the size of the snow drift
to be traversed!  Note also the off-camber on the snow drift, which
required a monkey hanging on the side of the tub!  Otherwise, that snow
drift has been known to upend URALs onto their left side, spilling the
driver onto the steep hill to the left!


Here's a video of Craig H. and his URAL rig, back in the 2012 Elephant Ride, when the snow drift
was actually much smaller than this years's snow drift:

Again from the 2010 Elephant Ride, here's Nick trying to get across the snow drift but was caught by the off-camber and took a spill:

Back to today:

Once we got to Grant, we noted that Jim K. had elected to go home on his own which made sense since he'd ridden in all the way from Berthoud!  He had a long way to go before the incoming snow.

Roy and Dave, Tim and I headed back north on US285 towards the town of Pine Junction, then we took CO67 South from there towards the town of Pine and the Zokas Cafe for a bite too eat.  As we chatted and ate, the weather moved in on us and soon we were gearing up in the parking lot with snow flakes falling gently.

Goodbyes were said, hands were shaken, and Dave and Roy headed South towards Sedalia while Tim and I headed north back to Pine Junction and US285.

The snow stayed light for us all the way till we reached Conifer then got worse by the second.  Soon I was covered in snow, along with Scarlett, as we motored along at a safe 30 mph on roads that were becoming snowy/icy with the temperature in the low 20s.

Near the junction of South Turkey Creek Road and US285, I saw a sea of red lights in the hill up ahead.  It was an accident and both Tim and I slowed to a stop along with the cars near us.  Conditions were slick, I could feel the back wheel on the tug trying to slide to the right at the slightest over-application of the rear brakes!  Front brake usage was just asking to lose control so was avoided at all costs.

The snow was really falling pretty heavily by now, in big fluffy snow flakes which covered our helmet visors.  Tim and I could see it would take a while to sort out the accident up ahead on US285 so we elected to turn off along with other cars onto South Turkey Creek Road.

Road conditions on South Turkey Creek Road were slick.  I don't think we went over 15 mph and probably was closer to 10 mph during the entire transit of this road, around the accident on US285. Fortunately the car behind us kept their distance, as we slowly negotiated the icy roadway.  For such a small amount of snow, it was truly quite slippery.

Reaching the northern end of Turkey Creek road without incident, we got back onto US 285 and conditions were much better, and got even better as we neared the Metro Denver area where the ambient temperature soared into the low 30s!

The roadways became merely wet and we were able to pick up some speed.  Tim L. peeled off towards Morrison, planning to take CO93 to Golden and then make his way to his home in Longmont.  We waved goodbye and I headed into Denver on US285.  Conditions became warmer with ambient temperatures in the mid 30s and dry roads for the most part.

I'll admit I was glad for the drier road conditions within the metro area, I didn't like the slick conditions in the foothills.  Got home with no issues, adjusted the idle on Scarlett since it felt a little low and found the balance off by enough that I re-balanced it.  Gosh I like having the Harmonizer and vacuum ports on the EFI throttle bodies.

I am glad to report all URAL riders made it to their homes safely.


Richard M said...

What an adventure. How long of a trip was it?

Charlie6 said...

not long....about an hour out from Morrison, which is about 50 min from home....

Thomas Osburn said...

Interesting outing. Sounds fun.

Charlie6 said...

Thanks Thomas Osburn....

Trobairitz said...

Wow, good driving/riding to make it home through the snow safely.

Thanks for sharing the pictures and I am glad everyone is safe.

Paul Stone said...

I have got to get down there for that ride one of these days !

Charlie6 said...

Trobairitz, it was definitely a heart rate raising ride home....thanks for commenting.

Paul Stone, come on down! I am sure we can find you a place to stay.

Marc Lomax said...

Great ride report. Good to see you even for the brief moment we talked. The trip down 285 sounds scary, I know what mine does on the ice :-(