Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Uraling to catch Sunset at the Garden of the Gods

Rode Valencia, my 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig down to Colorado Springs to try and catch the sunset's lighting on the famous rock formations at the Garden of the Gods.

Instead of motoring down the I-25 expressway though, I rode to the start of Rampart Range Road just a few miles west of the small town of Sedalia, CO.

The road is packed dirt, two lanes wide (barely at times) with lots of sections which are bone-jarringly washboarded.  The sides of this road are bordered by the occasional campsite and thick growths of pine trees.  You can see, dirt bike trails on the western side of the road, as you have to have state license tags to use Rampart Range road itself.

The road also has the designation of Forest Road 300, and these were the signs I followed along the 30+ miles of dirt riding that it took to finally find the end of the road in the town of Woodland Park.  The road changes names about a block shy of the intersection of it and US24.  Look for Baldwin Street (there's a McDonald's at this intersection)

I had originally planned to camp so I could also catch the sunrise at the Garden of the Gods (GOTG).  Finding myself over 18 miles from the site, I motored on US24 eastbound till I got to the GOTG exit just past Manitou Springs (Home of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway).

It was still way early for sunset pictures when I arrived at the GOTG so I motored onto Forest Road 300 near Balanced Rock (I later, after looking at Google Maps, saw that FR300 splits off and exists in two very different paths, sigh).  FR 300 takes you out of the park on a climbing and twisty dirt road with some great views of Colorado Springs and the nearby mountain peaks of Pikes Peak and Cheyenne Mountain (home of NORAD).

The big mountain in the distance is Cheyenne Mountain

About 23 kilometers of dirt road later, I had ridden through the area devastated by the great Waldo Fire of a couple of years ago.  The area is starting to recover, somewhat, but gone are all the pine tree forests that were there before.  The national forest is closed in these parts due to the fire so no camping here as I had planned!

After reaching the junction with paved road 306 which takes you to Rampart Range Reservoir, I retraced my steps back towards GOTG.

Approaching the GOTG

I thought it was still too early to go sunset picture shooting so since there was no camping in the National Forest near the GOTG park, I motored on back towards Woodland Park to check out some sites I'd seen on FR 300.

Above is the site I had spied on the way down towards Woodland Park.  Big open area with a great view of Pikes Peak as you can see.  However, it was an area where the local liked to come and shoot.  There was evidence of shotgun shell casings, spent pistol and rifle casings as well so not a great spot to camp.

I checked out two other nearby sites but one was already occupied and the other had this old decrepit looking mobile home/trailer alongside the trail leading into the camping areas.  I could hear banjo music playing in my mind so I turned around and bagged the idea of camping.

I killed some time eating dinner at the McDonald's and rode on towards GOTG thinking I had plenty of time for sunset pictures as it was only 7:30 PM or so.  Wrong!  Due to the nearby mountains, sunset at the GOTG happened right about then it turned out.

There were many tourists and a slow moving traffic jam through the park's roads so I didn't make it to the desired spot till at the end of the sunset lighting.  No spot to place Valencia to include her in the pics either due to cars.  Oh well.

I parked Valencia near the spot I'd originally planned on and walked to a spot where I could see the below rocks clearly.

Here's a very shaky time-lapse video.  I didn't have my tripod with me, left it on the rig, so I propped the camera on top of a fence post and held the angle with my hands only.  Not optimal, but should give you an idea of conditions.

I was back at my rig, packing up to ride home when I noticed a rock climber on top of the peak of the tallest rock in the above video:

I swapped lenses on the Sony Camera and got this full zoom with digital enhancement shot for demo purposes:

I finished packing up and rode on home in under two hours.  I rode back towards Denver staying on the I-25 expressway.  Even going at about 60 mph, I still managed to pass a couple of trucks along the way so I wasn't the slowest vehicle on the road that night!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Yep, another Colorado Sunset

One never knows how many sunsets one is going to get to see and enjoy, so today I blog about yet another beautiful Colorado sunset.

This was one of those occasions where of the 105 pictures I took, it took me a while to whittle it down to 13 to post-process, ending up with the 7 pictures below.  I hope you like them.

 Downtown Denver's Skyline

 I wonder if a similar sunset back in old Japan inspired their battle flag

Reminds me of burning embers of a dying fire

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Home Sunset

It's good to be back in Colorado, my home state.

Been doing a lot of traveling lately, and being back in familiar surroundings and among my family again is a good feeling.

Got my rig, Scarlett's starter swapped out by Randy, the URAL dealer in Fort Collins yesterday.  It's apparently sourced from the Ukraine and a metal sleeve on it had failed, leading to it not matching the teeth on the flywheel during starting operations; resulting in the nasty sound of metal grinding against metal.

Today, was a day of chores at the house, squaring things away from all the traveling.

I liked the sunset that Mother Nature presented this evening, I hope you like it too.

about 20 minutes before sunset

Friday, July 17, 2015

Home from Utah

Long day in the saddle today, got home from Park City, Utah at 6:05PM after leaving at 4:10 AM.

14 hours of riding, which included an initial 6-7 hours of riding in which I couldn't go more than 30-45 minutes before feeling too sleepy to ride safely, forcing me to make a lot of stops to wake myself up.

Encountered a traffic jam on eastbound I-70 west of Parachute, CO.  It was caused by some cager who managed to roll his car.  This stopped traffic dead for almost an hour.

Another hour was consumed telecommuting from a rest area near Edwards, CO to do a network change for testing that's going on this weekend for one of our data centers.

The first few hours were a bit chilly while I transited the canyon roads from Salt Lake City to Green River, UT.  Note to self, even in summer, bring along some long underwear or at least a nice warm henley shirt.

My riding jacket's wind liner did enough to keep me from freezing though, so that's OK.

Total roundtrip mileage for the Utah trip: 1248 miles.

Brigitta, my '87 R80 BMW Airhead, did great though I did find an issue that need fixing.

The gauge lights for the speedo and the tach are not working, so you can't see how fast you're going when it's dark outside.  I got a small LED headlamp for the return trip that illuminated the cockpit area well.

I noticed when I got to Park City on Tuesday that the high beam wasn't working on the headlight. Replaced it with a bulb from my boss, Ari, and that's now good to go.

At the Yellowcat highway exit on I-70, while still in Utah

Cameo Bridge near Glenwood Springs, CO

Not many pictures taken, construction, accidents, a hot day and a severe case of gethomeitis on my part precluded additional stops just for pictures.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Utah Sunset

My last night in Utah for this business trip.  I rode up to Guardsman Pass on Utah State Road 224 but got there a bit late and missed most of the sunset.

All I managed to do is catch the last fading colors....had some trouble finding a safe spot to park Brigitta, my '87 R80 Beemer for pictures.

Homeward bound tomorrow, I'll get on the road soon after I wake up, by 6:30AM if I sleep till the alarm wakes me....probably earlier if jet lag wakes me.

Pretty good business trip, had fun sharing meals with my co-workers and boss, learned some new things about the direction the company is headed in terms of IT.

A Better Utah Sunrise

Mother Nature was in a more colorful mood this morning when it set about painting this morning's sunrise.

I barely caught it too, woke up later than expected, must be getting over the jet lag from the Europe trip.

I hope you like them. ( All pics taken with iPhone6 camera)

The ski jumps from the nearby Utah Olympic Park

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Utah Dawn

Dawn, near Park City, Utah....

An interesting cloud, that ended up sprinkling a bit of rain on me

A pretty mediocre sunrise compared to yesterday's sunrise, but still not too shabby.  Since I'm up way before the crack of dawn anyways due to jet lag, might as well enjoy Nature's work.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Presently in Park City, Utah for work meetings.  I rode out early this morning (jetlag being a benefit in this respect) and 9.5 hours later I was checking into the hotel that my company arranged for me.

I rode Brigitta, my '87 BMW R80 Airhead motorcycle.  She performed flawlessly.  Motoring along between 75-80 mph with no problems.

As dawn made its appearance this morning, I posed Brigitta at an exit near the Colorado/Wyoming border:

Oh, and this is posting number 1507.  I meant to track it more closely but I guess I went over 1500 while in Europe.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The European Trip, Notes and Lessons Learned.

Almost 2600 km ridden, most of them (2232) on the 2014 URAL Retro.

Rode through five countries of the European Union:  Austria, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Slovenia.

The Retro averaged about 40 mpg, the Ranger/GearUP, perhaps 29 mpg.


Get your international driver's license from your local AAA office.

You only need the Road Tax Vignette for Switzerland if you use their Autobahns.  Link to which roads require a vignette: LINK

Next time in Austria, pay the fee for the Vignette (less than 10 Euros), some of the state roads going through cities can eat up time because of getting lost while trying to navigate them!  Cross the big cities using the autobahn, then promptly get off after transiting the big city limits.  Both Salzburg and Linz were two cities where having the vignette would have been a good thing.

Does rental vehicle provider provide the green insurance card?  Ural of Austria did do this for me, a nice service on their part.  Note: they are a dealership/distributor first, not a full-time rental outfit.  Spend the money and get the comprehensive damage insurance, we got a dent in our rental car's tailgate (we think someone backed into it while having a bike on a carrier).

Get travel insurance for medical coverage, trip interruption, etc.  We used our local AAA office for this and flight/car rental booking.


To power your electronics, one usually relies on a cigarette lighter outlet. The rig I was rented had a new tub, so am guessing they'd not put the stock Powerlet outlet back into it?  Or perhaps European Retro models don't have it.  This of course, meant I couldn't charge my phone/GPS while riding.  Or you could carry a connector which clamps onto the rental vehicle's battery posts with a cigarette lighter outlet on the other end.

Roaming data sim vice country specific sim?  I think the next time I go on a multi-country ride, I'll research a cellphone sim that can roam for data at reasonable prices, buying country-specific ones works but turned out to be a hassle.  If you go with country-specific, buy them from their own stores, not stores which service multiple providers.  Know which package you want, don't let the sales guy pick it for you.

Get a Real GPS mounted on bike and visible with blue tooth!  Blue tooth on helmet too!  Maybe if I'd had a handlebar mount for my iPhone6, but I don't know if I could have viewed the screen easily; add that to the fact that taking one's eyes off the road is not a great idea.....

A handlebar-mounted compass would have been nice.  Here in Colorado, one looks for the mountains to determine West, in Europe, this proved a bit more difficult especially in the Alps where there's mountains everywhere!  Learn how to tell direction by seeing where your shadow is showing up.  In the middle of a pouring rain, the shadow method will be "sub-optimal".


Ride your own ride.  The tailgating driver behind you will soon pass you, whether the road markings permit it or not.  The white "sprinter" cargo vans were the worse, followed closely by AUDIs.

Riding in Italy can be "interesting".  More so than in Austria or Germany. Be hyperalert and expect cars/trucks/scooters to dart out from a side street and into the "safe following distance" you're maintaining in relation to the vehicle ahead of you.

Mountain pass roads can be really narrow, be careful and expect fast moving traffic to come whipping around a blind curve.

Get real maps, and use them!  Saves a lot of stops.  GPS is great but I think for the "big picture" route research, you can't beat real maps.  Detailed maps....the ones I got were not really detailed and proved pretty useless except in determining the general direction of an autobahn/autostrada.

It will take more than double the amount of time predicted by google maps to cover the distance between two destinations, probably triple if mountain pass roads are involved.  200 km/day turned out to be a long day on the URAL.

Packing cold weather gear ensured I would be riding in a major heat wave.  Carry water, more than a water bottle, to soak down your shirt in hot weather!  You can buy water each time you stop of course, but it's more expensive than gas!


Always have some tens for automated gas stations.  In Italy, the automated stations only seem to accept credit cards issued by Italian Banks.  Be prepared, have some tens, usually around 20 Euros would fill up the tank on the URAL Retro.  Larger denomination bills are accepted but No change given.  SonjaM tells me you can also try asking other riders to use their cards, giving them money as reimbursement.

The Swiss may return change in Swiss Francs, they do take Euros.  Don't forget to get rid of the Swiss coins before leaving Switzerland, the money exchanges I tried later, didn't take coins.

Sure, pre-booking the night before saves some hassle upon arrival at new overnight destination but if you pre-book and can't make it to that destination, you're going to lose money.  This is also where a real GPS would aid immensely.


If you're feeling adventurous, try a room at the Gasthof that offer them, they're cheaper than what you can find via

I didn't try AirBnB rooms.

A "single" room will be small, barely room to swing a cat but they proved good enough for my needs and all came with bath/shower in room.  


When flying out of Frankfurt, Germany: No sense getting to airport before 6am, though you can check bag in, you can't go thru the gate's boarding pass control and passport control till 630AM.

Buy the German chocolate at duty free store after border control checkpoint, it's cheaper by a lot....bought 2 x 7Euro each outside, the duty free had 3 x 7Euro total! 

If you book a hotel near the Frankfurt airport, you should call the hotel to ensure you know which terminal gate their shuttle will go to for pickup. Unlike the airports here in the States, Frankfurt's airport had multiple spots.

Try for direct flights from overseas back to your home town. Customs and rechecking the bag in is a big PITA, not to mention going through security once more.

Route taken via Rental Car.  

Pictures taken: 4288+
Pictures used: 601 or 14% of total taken.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

The European Trip, Day 32 - Last Day of Uraling in Europe

Today was my last day of riding the rental URAL sidecar rig.  I was on the Ranger/GearUP which behaved a bit differently from the Retro I'd been riding for the last 8 days or so.

It was also an older carbureted model, the Ranger, and it had a modified factory windshield attached which made it a bit wiggly when the winds hit it right.  It was quite windy today too, which made things interesting in handling the new-to-me rig until I adapted to it.

Today's last day of riding would involve castles and the Donau river, which turns out is the German name for the Danube river!

First stop was the Burg Clam near the town of Klam, Austria.  Weird name eh?  Made it to the castle just fine, it was quite small compared to say Festung Hohensalzburg, the big castle which made Salzburg famous but it was still scenic.

Burg Clam

It functions these days mostly as an event location, for instance, there was a stage already in place near the castle, preparing for a concert called Live at 25, or something like that.

Next up, a few kilometers away in the town of Grein, was another castle/palace...situated right across a street which bordered the Danube Riber.  Greinburg an der Donau.

Next stop was riding along the Danube River, seeing what I could see.  A very scenic area, little towns with houses dotting the lush green hillsides.  You could see barges being pushed up the river by tugs, horses and cows grazing and folks riding the bicycle path seemingly without a care in the world.

As I rode along, I spotted an imposing twin spired church in the distance, high on a hill.  

It was the Church of Maria Taferl.  Rain was starting to come down as I pulled into a nearby parking lot so I went first into the church to both look around and shelter from the rain.

I bet you thought there'd be no more church interior shots right?

A view from the church, of the Danube River

Next, I wandered over towards the small town of Saint Georgen, which had been mentioned to me in an email recommending routes, by Hari; the owner of the URAL dealership.

Saint Georgen

Weather was rolling in and I really didn't want another thorough soaking like yesterday so I started heading back towards Marchtrenk.

Didn't quite make it to Perq before the rain caught up with me so I pulled over to don my rain liner and stow the camera into the sidecar's trunk out of the weather.

I then kept riding, in a light rain, that only lasted a few more minutes or I managed to ride west out of it.  Either way, no big soaking today.

Made it back to the hotel a little after 4:30PM or so and logged into work.  Saw an email from Hari and we coordinated my returning the rig to him this everning, and he brought me back to the hotel in the BMW URV used yesterday.

Good rental experience with Ural of Austria!  I updated yesterday's posting about what they found wrong with the Retro rig I'd ridden before.  They found nothing, the darn engine just turned right over and ran when they thumbed the starter this morning.  Sigh.  They think "something" got wet in the "toad-strangler" rain storm I rode through yesterday, and the water had evaporated overnight.

So that finishes my European Riding section of the European trip.  My thanks to my loving wife Martha, whose idea it was for me to do this.  I board the train tomorrow for Frankfurt's airport where I've booked a room nearby.  I fly on Saturday back to the good old US of A!

Sign from town of St. Georgen