Showing posts with label Elephant Ride. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elephant Ride. Show all posts

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?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ready for the 2013 Elephant Ride

I spent a few hours today, making sure Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig is ready for this year's Elephant Ride.

What's the Elephant Ride you ask?  Longtime readers will know its a yearly event, held on the Guanella Pass Road starting from the small settlement of Grant, Colorado.  This year, the even is on February 10.

The objective is to see how far one can take one's motorcycle/sidecar rig up Guanella Pass Road, which is not maintained by snow plows in the Winter.  I've been attending this event since 2010 when four Ural rigs including my first Ural, Natasha, a '96 Ural Sportsman model:  LINK-2010 Elephant Ride.

It's a whole bunch of fun, even when one is stuck as everyone nearby pitches in to help you get moving once again.  Last year, we made it to with rock throwing distance of the gate the National Forest Rangers put up to block the way for vehicles to reach the summit of the pass.

February 2011, Spat's Rig with Cookie in it.
You can see the gate in the background.

So, today I put new Heidenau K37 Tires on both the pusher and front wheels on Valencia.  The slightly worn Heidenau K37 that had been the pusher for the last 1700 KM got swapped to the sidecar wheel, so now I have Heidenaus all around.  The spare is what used to be the sidecar tire, a somewhat worn Duro 307.  I must say, the Duro 307s were not very long lasting.  The front Duro lasted 5732 km, though I think I could have gotten 6000km on it.  It was too worn though for the expected miles and miles of snow covered road at the Elephant Ride next month.

Two sets of eight snow chains are ready to be fitted onto the tires for extra traction if needed, though they're really for icy conditions.  I'm expecting a layer of ice under the snow, especially after the top layer is churned up by the dirt bikes and dual sport motorcycles that usually go ahead of our rigs.

All fluids were changed a bit over 1000 KM ago, air filter cleaned at that time.  She ran beautifully yesterday so I believe she's ready.  Got my cold weather gear all sorted out so I'm ready. We have tow straps and even practiced manual winching techniques.  Bring on the snow, Motorcycling Gods, bring on the snow!

Elephant Ride 2010, 2011, 2012

Frazier's account of the Birth of the Elephant Ride: LINK

Previous post: Getting Unstuck

Monday, February 13, 2012

Five Urals and One Strom Rig challenge the Elephant Ride

We woke to temperatures in the low teens this Sunday morning, and it felt quite "brisk" as I rode across the Denver Metro Area to meet with what would turn out to be five Ural Sidecar Rigs at the gas station just outside the town of Morrison, Colorado.

The gathering of the rigs

We left the gas station by 08:30 AM and a bit short of an hour later, we'd ridden along US285 to the town of Grant, Colorado.  The road was nice and dry and strangely, the weather also felt warmer in Grant than it did in Morrison!


The rigs at Grant, Colorado

The strangest vehicle I saw today that would try the Elephant Ride

As folks made pit stops and sorted out their gear/rig.  I fastened three chain links to my pusher tire, double-secured them with some 550 cord (aka parachute cord) to prevent their moving sideways.  It's called, by the way, 550 cord because military specifications call for it to have a breaking strength of 550 pounds.

My rig ready as it ever would be, the six rigs got lined up and off we went up the Guanella Pass Road to see how far we'd get.  I have to say, there really was not much snow on the road when compared to previous years.  We all made good time and really had no issues with what snow we did find except for a couple of spots and even then, no real problem.

We took a break at the last hairpin turn and girded our loins for the upcoming last portion of road before the dreaded "snow drift" that had stopped us on my first Elephant Ride.

Craig H and his 2007 Ural Gear-Up

The last stretch of snow-covered road before the "snow drift"

Here's a picture from the 2010 Elephant Ride which gives you an idea of the snow drift that stopped the Ural rigs that time.  I am happy to report that this year, not only did all the Ural Rigs make it across, but so did Yoshie, my V-Strom Sidecar Rig!  Sure, there was some assistance required for the rigs to make it across as you can see in the videos but it's progress!

Craig H and his Gear-UP would be the first Ural to make the attempt

Nick, one of the new Uralisti I met today, had a bit of a mishap as he attempted the snow drift above.  We believe his sidecar wheel hit some hard bump buried in the drift and it caught air, causing the tug to fall over onto it's left side.  Nick adroitly came off the tug, did a couple of rolls, stood up and helped right his rig.

Nick's rig goes onto its side

Above video courtesy of Deana and Jay



Above and below videos courtesy of Deana and Jay






Above video courtesy of Deana and Jay

Once we had all the rigs past the drift, we had to stop to give Nick some time to troubleshoot his Ural.  Its engine was having a lot of trouble staying running.  After a bit of fiddling and trial and error, he got it running but very weakly.  He decided to turn around and we got him across the snow drift and he headed on down the mountain.


The remaining five rigs continued onwards, but not even 200 yards further down the road, there was this large field of snow.  John aka Spat and Cookie, on their white Ural, sped up and came to a dead stop in the midst of this snow mass, stuck.  They would mark the furthest point of progress for our rigs.  Still, we'd finally conquered the snow drift and we could see the gate!  You see, the Forest Service closes the road to the pass for the Winter, and the the gate is the point our rigs had tried to reach each of the previous years.

 Dead Stop....we ended up hooking a tow strap to Spat's rig 
and we pulled it out of the snow trap.

 You can see how close we were to the Forest Service Gate!

 A closer view of  the Forest Service Gate, closing the way
to Guanella Pass during the Winter.

Deana entertained us while we rested for a bit
video courtesy of Deana and Jay

The rest of the rigs, resting as we caught our collective breath
after pulling Spat's Rig out of the deep snow.  It was also quite warm up there, 
several of us doffed layers as it was almost 49°F up on the mountain!

Above video courtesy of Deana and Jay

It was hard to breath at altitude, and each time we helped each other with a stuck rig, we'd spend some minutes just gasping for breath.  Soon enough, it was time to turn our rigs around, and travel the 200 yards back to the snow drift.  Perhaps it was because now we were headed downhill but all the rigs managed to traverse the drift with no issues and more important, no assistance needed!

Coming back across the snow drift
photo courtesy of Spat and Cookie

above video courtesy of Deana and Jay

Our rigs, back across the snow drift.

We all rode back down the hill towards the hairpin turn where we'd paused beforehand, to take a group picture and to chat with some fellow riders who'd gathered there to watch the festivities.

 As you can see, Deana had the guys eating out of her hand!
photo courtesy Deana and Jay

The Uralisti and one Stromtrooper 

We made our way down the mountain with no issues, passing a couple of the dirt bikes that had preceded us since they had to go slower than what our rigs could do.  Before long, we were all gathered back at Grant, Colorado but no sign of Nick whom we thought would be waiting for us in town.  We would later hear from him via email saying he'd gotten home safely.


Back in the town of Grant
photo courtesy Deana and Jay

We rode on, five rigs strong, to the town of Bailey where we had a late lunch at the Cutthroat Cafe.  A nice meal and a chance to thaw out a bit, can't beat that.  And now, a "then and now" shot of the building next to where we had lunch today:

Bailey between 1950-1960 x-7156

Bailey, 2012

Uralisti gearing up for the ride back to Denver

We would encounter quite the snow storm between Conifer, Colorado and the town of Morrison as we rode along US285.  No big deal but there was need for constant clearing of one's visor as the snow and ice formed  on it.

Once past Morrison, the snow stopped and it was a cool 29°F in the Denver Metro Area as we waved goodbye to each other as folks took different exits from US285.  I would stay on US285, crossing the metro area and soon arriving at my home neighborhoods by way of Parker Road.

A great day of riding, got to meet two new Uralisti, rode again with almost the entire Denver Area Uralisti contingent and all rigs made it home safe.  Here's a compilation video of the road conditions on the way up, through the drift, and back down the mountain:


Hope you got some riding in today.

Update: 14FEB12: Yesterday, there were 1590 views of the examiner.com article.....best ever showing for one of my postings!  Thanks for those of you who visited the link to it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Uralisti at the Elephant Ride 2011

As Winter continues to grip the country, three Ural Sidecar Rigs and their Uralisti riders and monkeys rode early this morning to Grant, Colorado.  Grant is the starting point for the annual "Elephant Ride".   An informal event whereby motorcycle riders of all sorts and makes attempt to make it to the summit of Guanella Pass.

The southern end of the road which leads to Guanella Pass is at at Grant, hence it's use as the starting point.

The Uralisti comprised myself, John and Cookie and Steffen and his son Nick.  Steffen, with his low-slung Retro model with one-wheel drive would almost put Natasha and I to shame, more on that later.

We were joined on the ride to to Grant by Murph of wherethehellismurph.blogspot.com.  He was riding his 2004 1150GS as US285, which takes one to Grant, was clear of snow and ice.  He would leave his GS at Grant and would ride as monkey on my rig.  I am glad he came along.

We all arrived shortly before 9:00AM and wandered about the parking area a bit.  There was a pretty good turnout of expected dirt bikes and dualsport motorcycles along with our Urals.  The most unusual vehicle I saw all day was this trike:

Someone had scrawled "Dung Beetle" on the dirty exterior of this trike.

Murph was not the only rider to bring his GS to this event, though we only saw one GS try and make it up to the pass.  The rider of that GS had placed chains with tiedown straps of some kind.  He would actually get pretty good traction on the road up, he in fact went about a mile further than we did.

Look familiar?

The riders prepare to depart

Finally, we set off after most of the lighter dualsports and dirt bikes had scrambled first.  The first 3-4 miles were nothing but packed dirt or pavement, with barely any snow on it.  I was almost ready to apologize to Murph who was riding in the sidecar for the lack of snow.




However, we soon found enough snow to make even the hardiest of riders take pause.  It was OK so long as one could maintain momentum and not stop in the soft stuff but there were bikes and riders stuck here and there and one could not go around them most of the time!

Everybody, when stopped, would gather about the stuck motorcycle of the moment and help extricate said vehicle, sending the rider on his way to the next spot of deeply rutted soft snow which was quite deep in places!




Slowly but surely, with much assistance given and rendered between us Uralisti and fellow riders on their smaller motorcycles, we gained altitude as the road climbed up the mountain.  We "achieved our level of victory", as one passing rider put it, at around 9994 ft in altitude.

my reception committee at our high water mark
photo courtesy of Cookie and John

I'd gotten well and truly stuck about 150 ft short of where Steffen's Retro and John's GearUp had made it to, luckily, folks got me going and with determination and somewhat in control as I opened up the throttle, made it a few feet past the single-wheel drive Retro!  Honor was preserved!


John and Cookie, gave it more than the "old college try" several times at one particularly wide and deeply rutted portion of snow-covered road and they eventually agreed on the "level of victory" already achieved.

Cookie and Spat on try number 3
photo courtesy of Cookie and John


We got our rigs turned around and started making our way slowly back down the mountain road.  I was following Steffen's rig and it only got stuck twice on the way down.  I managed to not get stuck at all though almost ran down a spectator who decided the middle of the road in front of a careening rig is the best place to take pictures.  She was looking away from us and there was no stopping, so Murph bellowed out "Move!" and she moved.


We got back down to the mountain valley and stopped for these pictures:

 Natasha and I, on one of our good days together.

Studly soon to be world traveler: Murph

We all gathered back at the parking lot in Grant to exchange stories with each other and other riders.  A fun time was had by all.  So, three Ural Rigs went up, three came down and no one hurt.....a good Elephant Ride.  My thanks to Murph for letting me use some of his pictures from his posting for today's ride:  LINK

Murph, ready to ride back to Denver
photo courtesy of Cookie and John

Steffen and his son Nick ready to roll

A longtime regular at these events: Happy

Here's Cookie pretending she still likes John