Thursday, July 12, 2012

Crested Butte, Schofield Pass and a Bear, Oh My....

Worked all morning and past 4:00 PM remotely from the campsite.  The plan had been to stop work at 3:PM, with nine hours on the clock but last minute issues and user errors postponed my departure till after the rain storm that pounded the area between 3-4 PM.

Before I take you on today's ride though, some pictures of my campsite accommodations:

 I am in one of apparently only five "tent cabins" at this site

 My Tent Cabin, #9

 Spacious, don't you think?

My tent cabin lies by the camp's perimeter fence, this
morning, I saw a deer and its fawn just walk by.....

It was still lightly sprinkling as I geared up but it all cleared up by the time I cruised through Gunnison and took CO135 North out of town towards Crested Butte.  It did rain one more time on me, heavily, as I approached Crested Butte but as I was still wearing my rain gear, it was no big deal.  Just another reminder how quickly weather can change here in this great state, and how summer rain in Colorado is anything but warm!

Approaching Crested Butte 

It's only 30 miles or so to Crested Butte from Gunnison so in no time I was at the city limits.  The town is quite small, typical ski resort tourist trap but it was clean and neat and folks waved as I rode by.  The intent had been to find Gunnison County Road 12 on the south edge of town but I failed to spot the sign.  I ended up riding through town, not so distant glimpses of gorgeously colored mountain tops teasing me northwards until I left Crested Butte and found myself on a dirt road labeled Gothic Road.  I saw signs for Schofield Pass and it sounded interesting, and it was in the direction of the gorgeous views so why not right?

Gothic Road is an easy dirt road, with some rocky portions but overall pretty easy.  The views along this road are simply gorgeous.  I know, I keep using that word, but trust me, the mountains to the north and west of Crested Butte are simply beautifully green and colorful this time of year.  It's apparently the height of the Wildflower season but I didn't see much of those.

I got to and went through the small settlement of Gothic in the blink of an eye.  The road the got narrower and steeper as one approached closer to Schofield Pass.  In fact, there was a point where Valencia started bogging down and I couldn't get forward motion up a hilly portion of the road.  Disappointed, I turned her around and started heading back into town.

Not a mile down the road though, I stopped, let her cool down for about five minutes and "girded our collective loins" for another attempt.  This time, I kept her in first most of the way there and once I got to the portion that had defeated me before, got a good running headstart and just nailed the  throttle while running Valencia up the hill!  I have to say, she did great!  The trick apparently is to "attack" the steep portions with heavy throttle and first gear.  There was very little need to "slip the clutch" though there were two times I was forced to do so when encountering cagers coming down the mountain.

Making steady progress and experience no "burnt clutch" smells, Valencia and I made it (actually shot past, we had to turn around) the sign for Schofield Pass!

Made it!

Feeling victorious and ever more confident in Valencia's abilities, we started back down the way we came as continuing on this road involved ten more miles to the town of Marble and I didn't have the time to do that.

Running back down the mountain from Schofield Pass Summit was much easier as you can imagine, using just engine braking to basically "coast" our way down to lower elevations.

Approaching the settlement of Gothic

Back in Crested Butte, this time I managed to find the small Elk Loop Scenic Byway Sign and followed it to Whiterock Road which eventually leads one out of town onto Gunnison County Rd 12.  This road is also a very smooth maintained dirt road with a paved section as one nears the junction for either the Kebler Pass Road or the Ohio Pass Road aka Gunnison County Rd 730.

I didn't have the time to go the extra 11+ miles to the summit of Kebler Pass, that will have to wait till the next time I am in the area.  Instead, I looked for Ohio Pass as a quite doable pass reachable via the dirt road that is County Rd 730.  There was no sign and before I knew it I realized I had negotiated the summit with no issues and started riding in a downward trend for about 24 miles to Gunnison.

Ohio Creek Road, is quite scenic in terms of farmland, and cattle and horse ranches.  They are very large spreads and given the recent rains, very green and verdant.  It's a very enjoyable ride on a motorcycle if a bit lacking in mountain scenery.  What mountains could be seen were in shadows due to the setting sun at my back so no really good pictures.

I did see off to the west this weird looking rock formation on top of a nearby mountain, I'll have to find out what it is.

Do you recognize this mountain top?

Shortly after I shot the above shot, I spotted a dark object in the middle of the road.  As I neared, it moved! I quickly stopped Valencia, perhaps less than 1/4 mile from what was a young brown bear!

My first bear sighting while riding....

We looked at each other, I frantically dug the camera out and managed to snap one decent shot of the bear before it turned around and ran off into the woods on the side of the road.  I rode forward slowly and managed to see the bear's hind end as he disappeared into the thick bushes and trees.  Pretty cool, my first bear encounter.

The rest of the ride was more scenic farmland, giving way to suburban homes as I got closer and closer to Gunnison.  Dinner was fast food as it was getting dark by this point, it was close to 8:30PM, perhaps later as I arrived back at the campsite.  Quite a ride, don't you think?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gone to Gunnison

Trying out the extension of the work from home concept.  My present contract is based on the premise that I do most if not all of my work remotely, telecommuting full time so to speak.  Basically, I connect via the Internet to the company's network and put in my hours as needed.

So I thought to myself the week before last: "Hey, you don't have to be at home to work remotely, you doofus....all you need is Internet access, power, shelter and some kind of makeshift workspace."

Some map perusing and online searching later, I made reservations at the KOA in Gunnison, CO for three nights.  I got on my 2011 Ural Patrol Sidecar, Valencia, right after work today and hit the road for what would be a 4 hour 35 minute ride from Centennial to Gunnison!

It was mainly slab riding of course in order to make the campsite before dark.  I was mostly on US285 once I left the Denver Metro Area.  Except for fuel stops, my only other stops would end up being stops to don or shed rain gear, and of course to take pictures.

Once I was down from Kenosha Pass and into the Colorado Plateau Valley, it was time to pose Valencia with some mountains comprising part of the Continental Divide in the background:

 On the valley floor, western side of Kenosha Pass
The Continental Divide mountains in the background

Continuing on US285, the towns of Jefferson, Fairplay were passed with ease.  This road enables you to claim several passes by the way.  There was Crow Hill, Kenosha Pass, Red Hill Pass, Trout Creek Pass, and finally the mighty Monarch Pass on US50.

Once you get to Buena Vista (Good View in Spanish), you can gaze in awe at the massive mountain formations to the west of the junction of US285 and US24 known as the Collegiate Peaks.

The light however wasn't very favorable for pictures, lots of haze and of course the overcast skies laden with rain clouds didn't really allow the sun to paint the mountains nicely.

The lighting wasn't great, but it had stopped raining at this point so I was not complaining!

Soon after the above pictures, I came upon the junction of US285 and US50 which I took westbound towards Monarch Pass and the Monarch Ski Resort.  Valencia struggled a bit with the altitude and the uphill portions of the ride but she still managed to actually pass some other vehicles!  I think the engine is finally getting fully broken in....

The requisite picture

Being in the mountains, things turned pretty dark by now, it was around 6:15PM or so I think but the overcast skies and mountains made it look much later.  I chased the setting sun along US50 and soon I could see a big rain cloud dumping rain on the town of Gunnison.  I made good speed and arrived in town just a little after 7:00PM, the rain had passed and I got to the campsite with no hassles.

I had, by mistake, booked what the KOA Camp folks call a Tent Cabin....I thought it was just an overhead shelter arrangement under which one pitched a tent.  Nope, it turns out to be a 10x10 A-Frame structure that sleeps two adults in small single "beds".  You lay out your sleeping bag on top of the foam cushion.  You get electric power, lights, a lockable set of doors and this view of a small pond:

Valencia is parked right outside so I can keep an eye on her with no issues.  It's getting late and it was a long ride.  I'll take pictures of the tent cabin tomorrow in the light of day for your viewing amusement.  After I put in a full day's of work, there will be riding to be done!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Valencia's 7500 Km Service

Spent yesterday morning in the garage performing Valencia's 7500 Kilometer Service.

Although not called for at this mileage interval, I first checked the valve clearances with the engine "cold", and its good that I did, I found the left side intake valve loose (tightened to .004 in. per spec) and more troubling, found the right side intake valve very tight (.002, which is still within spec but tighter than I prefer, so I made the clearance .004 in.).  The right side exhaust valve was loose as well, so that got tightened down.

I did find a tiny bit of swarf clumped together in the right side valve cover, am hoping it was due to the tight intake valve or just normal engine "break in", we'll see when I check it next time.

Another check called for is the "check adjustment of the wheel bearings".  Well, back when I had my '96 Ural Sportsman Rig: Natasha (I miss her), this would involve also disassembly the wheel hub components and repacking the tapered wheel bearings with fresh grease, a messy but strangely satisfying ritual.  Starting like in 2008, Ural now uses "sealed" wheel bearings, so none of that maintenance is called for now.  Instead, you need to check for wobbling of the wheel while on its respective axle, if any, take the wheel off and:

  • Remove locking ring with special wrench (provided in Ural Tool Kit)
  • Remove bearing retainer with pin wrench from tool kit.
  • Check condition but don't remove the sealed bearing
  • Replace the bearing retainer, tighten down snug (don't back it off as with older units)
  • Secure the bearing retainer down tight.
  • Note: Though I didn't do it, you can apparently carefully pry off the plastic cover on the sealed bearings, apply a small (pearl sized) drop of grease between bearings and replace the plastic cover.
You then remount the wheel, affix mounting nut and check for wobble.  Easy-Peasy, and I only found a very slight wobble in the sidecar wheel, the pusher and front wheels seemed fine.

Fastener checks revealed no loose or missing fasteners, I really love that Ural has started using Nyloc as the type of bolt fastening nuts on their rigs.

Next came the "Inspect the air filter element".  Mine was filthy from all the dusty rides recently though I'd not experienced the "bog down" symptoms others had.  I of course cleaned it out using the K&N cleaner and re-oiled it lightly with the K&N oil.

While replacing the air filter I accidentally nudge the battery and it moved!  Hmmm, that ain't right.  It appears the metal strapping that holds it down had come loose and was lost somewhere on some dirt trail.....bummer.  The tight confines of the battery's location had kept things in place but of course I couldn't leave it that way till I got a replacement!  Two big zip ties later, the battery is nice and secure, awaiting the eventual delivery of the proper hold down straps.

Craig H then showed up at my request, to educate me on proper adjustment of the clutch cable.  I'd felt it was in need of adjustment lately and I was right.  Craig found mine a bit loose and walked me through the procedure.  The key is making sure there's just a tiny bit of play both at the clutch lever and the clutch actuating lever.  NOTE: The below instructions are for my reference, I try to be accurate but as the saying goes: "Your mileage WILL vary".  Check your motorcycle's manual, do some research.  I sure am not the guy one should base wrenching procedures off of.

Doing your adjustments solely at the clutch lever on the handle bar
tighten/loosen things till you have a very slight forward/backward motion 
while grasping the end of the clutch actuating lever above.
(Note: when you pull oh so slightly on the clutch lever, this motion should dissappear)
This slack prevents you "riding the clutch" and damaging it.

Top down view of the clutch lever at handle bar:
Back off the locking screw, and use the knurled knob to tighten/loosen
the slack on the clutch cable.  The end of the cable should be "seated"
into the knurled knob after a couple of pumps of the clutch lever after making adjustments.
(if the silver end cap of the cable remains out, the cable is still loose)

I'd mentioned in the first photo that you needed a bit of forward/backward motion
on the clutch actuating lever.  This translates to the slight gap you see above
between the lever and the clutch lever assembly.  Ensure you have this gap!
It's not a very large gap but this way you know you're clutch cable is not too tight and you're
not riding with the clutch lever "engaged".  When you pull slightly on the lever, your
clutch actuating lever should not move forwards/backwards anymore in terms of "slack"

Further pulling back of the above clutch lever will of course begin to "engage the clutch" and disconnect your engine's flywheel from the drive train in the transmission.  

To my way of thinking, it should be called "Disengaging the clutch" when one holds down the clutch lever, not engaging as the clutch assembly is actually in contact with the engine flywheel normally...hopefully I am being clear on this.  Craig and I then spent perhaps an hour just chatting about our Urals, and basically solving the world's problems as we saw them.....good time.

Wrenching Guru Craig, leaves for home having
educated me once more.....Thanks Craig!

All that remained after a check of the steering head bearings, was the fluids on Valencia.  I changed out the engine oil, transmission and final drive oils even though only the engine oil is called for at this interval.  It's not a lot of oil in the transmission (1 Liter) and the Final Drive only calls for 4 ounces.

All done, tools put away and Valencia buttoned up.  She's good to go now until the next service interval at 10,000 Km.

Note to self:  Time to adjust the clutch again when the "friction zone" spot on the clutch lever moves from just after one starts engaging clutch to closer to the handle bar.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Independence Day Ride

A warm Fourth of July Holiday here in the Denver area.  There was smoke in the air after mid-morning from the fires in Wyoming apparently, made everything looked like it was socked in with fog/smog.

As I had "the duty", being oncall for work, I chose to ride near the western edge of the Denver Metro area....Bailey, CO was as far west that I went as I wanted to explore a new dirt road detailed in Steve Farson's great book: The Complete Guide to Motorcycling Colorado.  For those of you who have the book, and I strongly recommend getting it if you ride Colorado, it was ride # 49 Matukat.

I took US285 out of the metro area and took it easy all the way to Bailey where I gassed up for the rest of the day's riding.  I took Wellington Lake Road south out of Bailey and enjoyed the pretty smooth dirt road surface.  The riding was easy and both sides of the road were thickly forested with pine trees and would remain so till I got to the outskirts of the Haman Fire area.

While I rode along Wellington Lake Road, I spotted a trailhead parking area with a date-significant piece of information:

Valencia at the Colorado Trail's #1776 Marker

Motoring onwards, I started seeing a large rock formation/mountain starting to peek through the trees as the road wound its way south.  Soon, Valencia and I came to a wide opening in the trees and there stood what would end up being the mountain formation next to Wellington Lake:  The Castle.

 You know, it does kind of look like a castle now that
I think about it.

Wellington Lake, CO

Steve Farson's description of this ride mentions the stony condition leading up to Stoney Pass.  I must have still been inured by the rocky terrain of the Switzerland Trail for I never noticed any undue stony conditions.  So I either missed Stony Pass or it wasn't much in the way of stony.  In time Valencia and I arrived at the end of what was now Forest Road 550 as it junctioned onto CO 126.  

Approaching Deckers, one can see the land is still trying
to recover from the devastation of the Haman Fire.

We took this nicely paved highway all the way to Deckers where we turned north on CO Highway 67 towards the South Platte River area.  The river was full of either anglers trying to catch fish or folks trying to escape momentarily from the heat by riding inner tubes and floats down the river.  I wonder how annoyed the fly fishermen would get when a group of gabby people floated by, interfering with their fishing?  :)

CO Hwy 67 goes through the small town of Ox Yoke and this time I took the time and stopped by a rusty old gas pump that I'd seen many times before while motoring on this grand motorcycling road.

 In the town of Ox Yoke

 A fuel pump from "back in the day"

Continuing on CO Hwy 67, I passed many more folks on inner tubes placidly floating past rocks with the somewhat swiftly moving current.  There were many people along the banks of the river as well, enjoying the cool waters.  Pretty soon I was riding my usual haunts along the South Platte River road and was a bit offput by the number of people there.  Oh well, they've as much right to be there as I did.  

 My favorite rock formations along the South Platte River 

 Massive boulders constrict a bend along the South Platte River
It didn't seem to stop the folks on their inner tubes however....

 I like to pose my motorcycles next to what remains of the South 
Platte Hotel.  It apparently was a key part of a settlement along the river
back when the South Platte was used to move cargo around the area.

The South Platte Hotel and buildings
Between 1899 and 1937

 Further along the South Platte River Road, once comes upon 
Dome Rock.  What folks often miss, while gazing up at the massive 
rock formations, is a stone memorial tucked away in the bushes
closer to the river:

 More details about this memorial to 
Billy Westall are here

As you can see, someone's taken the time to fix
up the memorial.

I took South Foxton Road back towards the town of Conifer.  Sidecar riders should beware the sharp turn one takes from Platte River Rd onto Foxton Road, I wasn't going very fast but the camber and curve combined to lift my sidecar!  No harm done but it was a bit surprising.

Once I was in the vicinity of Conifer, and since there were no voicemails on my work phone, I elected to ride up Kennedy Gulch Road in search of Conifer Mountain Road.  This is a twisty ride listed in Steve Farson's book as well, and it definitely had its share of sharp curves and big changes in elevations!  Valencia and I rode sedately to the top where we found some good views and a fire station of all things.

 Originally, I thought the smoke I was seeing was from either the
High Park Fire near Fort Collins or the Waldo Canyon Fire near
Colorado Springs.  

 As I mentioned before, turned out the smoke was coming to us from
fires in Wyoming!

Kind of looks like fog doesn't it?
There really was no smoky smell in the air though....

We descended from the top of Conifer Mountain with no issues though we did get turned around and ended up a couple of miles west of where we junctioned before with US285.  Taking this highway east towards the metro area, I left it soon after the town of Conifer.  I took the exit for Pleasant Park Road/High Grade Road which I knew would dump me onto Deer Creek Canyon Road eventually.

 Stopped along Pleasant Park Road, or possibly High Grade Road
Some pretty sharp curves here....

Once I reached Deer Creek Canyon road I turned west towards North Turkey Creek Road.  I wanted to see if I could find the lights that form the giant cross on the hillside where the Mount Lindo cemetery is located.

Once you cross the gated entrance to the Mount Lindo Memorial Park, you've got 1.2 miles of steeply climbing dirt road (very smooth for the most part) which takes you up to the top of what I assume is Mount Lindo (Lindo is Pretty in Spanish).  I must say, on a clear day, the views provided by the location of this cemetery must be pretty spectacular.

I parked Valencia in the shade, downed a bottle of water as the day had gotten into the high 90s by now and I was beginning to feel it.  I walked about a bit and stumbled upon the topmost set of lights belonging to the giant cross one sees in the evening from US285.

 The topmost three lights which comprise part of the large cross
of lights one can see at night from Denver.
That's the Denver Metro Area through the hazy smoke, in the distance

As I walked back towards Valencia, I noticed a plethora of stone angels and such placed at different gravesites.  I hope you don't find it morbid, but I found them quite picture-worthy.

I'd mentioned the smoky/hazy conditions before?  Well, the heat wasn't helping things any, I think we were under a temperature inversion condition, which kept the smoke hanging low among the hills and nearby mountain tops.
 A view of US 285 from Mount Lindo Memorial Park

After I descended from Mount Lindo, it was just hot riding back into the Denver Metro area on US285, enduring the heat and spraying myself down whenever I stopped to alleviate some of the heat.  I made it home sometime after 4:00PM with no issues.  Valencia once again had performed marvelously in the heat and riding conditions I put her through.

Here's hoping you got a ride in during our country's birthday!  I hope you had a great Fourth of July.