Monday, August 31, 2009

2005.07 - Red Riders Rocky Mountain Rendezvous

This is a copy of the post I originally made on the IMZ-Ural WebBoard after the 2005 RRRMR

Topic: Ride Report - 2005 Red Riders RM Rendezvous
Conference: Ride, Trip, Rally Reports
From: Dan Kearney {iudaSuite.macro.userPeek ()}
Date: Aug 6 2005; 10:30:00 PM

Take a deep breath now, this puppy is looong winded!

Greetings All,

Here's a quick write-up of last weekend's 2005 Red Riders Rocky Mountain Rendezvous.

We met up in Lyons, Colorado (Just northwest of Denver) on Friday morning for breakfast. attending were Myself, Jon & Michelle Buscho (of Brighton, CO); Kevin Ferguson & Susan Johnson (of Albuquerque, NM); Dennis (IvanRider) & Becky McAllister (of Bodega Bay, CA); John Willcox (of Denver, CO); Vlad ??? (Formerly of Russia, now of Denver). We were also met by Marcus of Long River Motorworks, a local importer of Chang Jiang motorcycles.

Vlad is a huge, gregarious Russian guy who is a member of the local sidecar club (Colorado Sidecar Enthusiasts). He was riding his Yamaha with hack. Vlad's hack doubles as rolling advertising for his window blind company. Marcus met us on his "Neval Dnepr" bike. That's the very first Dnept that I've ever seen in person. John came along in his older model Tourist with 750cc upgrade. John Wilcox had the lone BMW of the bunch, although his bike was 80% EML and 20% BMW as only the motor, shaft drive, and final drive were BMW components. John's rig is a sidecar-cross rig set up for off-road racing. Kevin and I were both mounted on our respective Patrols.

The day began by riding up the aptly named "Peak to Peak" highway which runs about 60 miles from Black Hawk, CO to Estes Park, CO. The road basically parallels the continental divide and give many good views of the 13,000' plus peaks that line it. We gassed up in Estes Park, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and home of what is supposedly the highest continuously paved highway in America. Trail Ridge Road runs up and over the continental divide, maxing out at more than 12,250'. The views are endless and spectacular. We made the obligatory stop at the visitor's center atop the road for souvenirs and snacks and then headed down the west side of the divide. There were a few moose and elk jams as the drivers on the road slowed to gawk at the wildlife.

When we reached Granby, CO, Vlad peeled off and headed back to Denver as he had his business to attend to the next day. He planned to meet back up with us in Grand Junction on Sunday. The rest of us headed west through the canyon of the Colorado River as it winds its way through Kremmling, CO. A quick gas stop in Kremmling and we were off again. The ride up to Gore Pass at a little over 9,500' is not too steep, but features some nice switchback corners. Little did we know that things were about to become a lot more exciting.

As we were heading down the pass on the west side, I was leading the group down the hill. Nearing the bottom of one curve, I realized that only Dennis was riding behind me. As is custom, we stopped at the next turnout and waited for the group to catch up. But, no one did...

Dennis remarked that he thought he could see a red rig on the wrong side of the guard rail as we looked back up the road. I didn't see that, but thought I saw someone standing there. I figured that someone had decided to stop and take a photo. Dennis, Becky and I decided to ride back up the road to see what was happening. As we passed through the first tight turn I saw John Willcox's rig sitting in the middle of the road and immediately knew something was not right.

No one actually saw the crash. John Buscho (JEB) heard it, as he was riding in front of John Willcox. JEB looked in his rear view mirror and saw John's rig, sans John, coasting down the road. In short, it looks like John got caught off-guard by the reducing radius right-hand curve, went wide, and hit the guard rail on the left-hand side of the road. There were a whole series of events to unfold in the next hour or so. In the end, John was air-lifted to the hospital back in Denver and the rest of us continued on with the ride.

We reached Craig in the evening. JEB's battery was just about dead (He, like I, was running a total loss electrical system). I still had plenty of juice left in my battery so I gave it to John and we made it in to town just at dark. Kevin and Susan had reservations at a local bed & breakfast and the rest of us settled in at the local KOA. we all had a late dinner together and naturally spent most of the time discussing the day's events. A call to the hospital reveled little more than John was there and in surgery.

The next morning we made a late start, but it was another beautiful Colorado morning. Just south of Craig, a leaping antelope woke me from my morning haze as it sprang across just a few feet in front of my bike as I led the group through the rolling countryside. I never saw it until it was too late to do anything so I just clenched every muscle in my body and held on. It was a close miss, but no collision. I was certainly awake right after that.

Shortly before we reached Meeker, Dennis' Retro began to act up again. It seemed that he was losing compression the day before and now his crankcase breather was really pushing oil back into the air cleaner. we all figured that it was a case of bad piston rings and/or a scored cylinder. we stopped at a local auto parts store and after purchasing a few feet of rubber hose Dennis had her rigged so that he could continue on without taking an oil bath. Unfortunately, this spelled the end of the ride for Dennis and Becky. He certainly couldn't take the chance of riding the bike for the remainder of the trip. So, Dennis and Becky bid farewell to us at the next road junction and they headed on the shortest route back to my house just west of Denver. They kept us updated and made it all the way back to my house with no problem. Dennis even noted that they were able to pass a few vehicles while traveling up the steep grade to the Eisenhower tunnel.

The rest of us continued on west toward Rangely. we stopped for lunch beside a large reservoir. The day had warmed up to be more than comfortable and this little oasis made a good lunch stop. We noticed as we completed our meal that a good sized cluster of angry looking clouds had formed itself right in our intended path. We decided it was time to roll and we hit the road again.

The wind picked up immensely and blew directly in strong gusts across out path. When we turned south to start the long climb towards Douglas Pass the wind hit us head on, but we managed to maintain speed quite well. At one point it looked to me like we were about to get hit with the usual Colorado afternoon deluge and I was just about to pull over and dig out the rain gear, but instead just kept on going. Luck shined on us as the clouds remained east of our route and the rain that fell served to cool the air greatly and make the ride up to the pass very pleasant.

By the time we reached the pass, the sun was shiny brightly and the views to the south were excellent. As we rested at the pass, we met two gentlemen. One was riding a VRod and the other another Harley (Sorry, I can't tell most of the models apart). We conversed, and learned that they had just been all the way up to Alaska on these two bikes and were slowly wending their way back to California where the one gent was to celebrate his 70th. birthday. Too cool.

So, we headed on down the curving, descending road back toward the hot, lower mesas rising up below. Part way down the slope we ran in to Terry and Linda. We had arranged to meet them somewhere along the road. They and their Italia and a friend on a Valkyrie were waiting for us in a layby. So, we had our escort back down into Fruita, which is just across the interstate from the entrance of the spectacular Colorado National Monument.

Fruita would be our destination for the evening. Kevin had an aunt living just east of town, so he and Susan spent the night there. John and I hooked up with Ron. I had never met Ron, but had spoken to him a number of times on the phone as he is well known to the members of the Colorado Sidecar Enthusiasts club. We exchanged information about John's accident over dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and spent some time discussing life in general and its impact upon our motorcycling.

The next morning was again another Colorado standard: sunny and cool. We met up with Kevin and Susan out at Kevin's aunt's farmhouse. We were treated to a wonderful home-cooked breakfast and met Kevin's wonderful aunt. If I remember correctly, she is 82 or 83 years old and still lives on her own at the farmhouse. Before we left, Kevin fulfilled her request for a quick jaunt in Kevin's sidecar. She may have gotten more than she bargained for as Kevin could not resist flying the chair as they sped down the road.

Kevin spent a lot of time in that area when he was younger and knew of a good, long, dirt road that would take us to the top of the Grand Mesa. This route proved to be so much better than the paved road which I had in my route plan. The Grand Mesa is a flat top mountain that tops out above 10,000 feet and is filled with literally hundreds of lakes and miles and miles of hiking and 4x4 trails.

We crossed the top of the mesa and then descended its southern flank down into Cederedge where we stopped and visited a small winery that Kevin and Susan knew of. A little tasting and a few bottles purchased later, we were back on the road and headed back into the high mountains as we wound our way past Paonia (Site of a very popular BMW rally every July) up and over 9,755 foot McClure pass and then the long ride down to Carbondale where we stopped for lunch. Carbondale sports a name that, like many Colorado mountain towns, is derived from the mineral which was mined there during its heyday.

Our repast completed, we took the heavily trafficked, but still scenic road into and through the glitzy resort town of Aspen. No need to stop there, so we continued on to climb the spectacular road up to Independence Pass. This road is one of the "must ride" roads in the Colorado mountains. It climbs and climbs and narrows and narrows to the point where two vehicles cannot physically pass each other in opposite directions. We reached the pass by mid-afternoon and stopped for the obligatory photos at this 12,900 foot pass. Our rest stop was quickly ended by lightning strikes that were too close for comfort. The high Rockies in Summertime are no place to be when the lightning bolts start popping. So, we headed on down the east side of the pass towards the day's endpoint of Buena Vista.

At Buena Vista, Kevin and susan chose to relax in the lap of luxury at the local Best Western while John and I continued on down the road a piece to the local KOA. John was met here by his lovely wife Michelle and his two children. While I set about setting up my tent, John and crew settled into their cabin and enjoyed the family rites of ritual marshmallow sacrifice over the open fire. While they enjoyed the roasted ones, I jumped back on the bike and cruised into town to enjoy the local version of the Great American West's roadside bar and grill. One could not have scripted a more stereotypical place. Harley's parked out front, young, buxom waitresses scurrying about above the sawdust and peanut shells hiding the ages old wooded plank floor. Although no live entertainment was on tap for this Sunday evening, I was nonetheless kept enraptured by the antics of four young rafting guide service employees who had way too much to drink and little on their minds to discuss of more import than the local guide service gossip and who's screwing whom stories. It made me long for my old college days...sigh. After a beer and a burger it was back to the tent where I quickly succumbed to slumber.

Our final day of riding dawned cold, but sunny. We all met at the campground and had breakfast at the campground's own cafe. No exactly a meal to write home about, but there was plenty of it. We managed to hand out some ural brochures to a few interested campers and hit the road at about 8am. Our first break of the day came fairly soon as we shopped a nearby auto parts store so that Kevin could make a few modifications to his steel tube, home welded, carburetor intake tubes. A marvel of home engineering that unfortunately was made less effective by a recent turtle-turning that Kevin's rig took shortly before he joined us on this ride. (Don't worry Kevin, I won't tell anyone--except for a few close friends...)

We headed south, then east to follow the beautiful canyon of the Arkansas River towards Canyon City. By the time we reached Canyon City and its lower elevation, things had warmed up quite considerably and we were treated to sights of various antique cars that were running the rural roads and around town as there was some sort of car show going on in town. We decided to stop for fuel and to take a much needed beverage break.

Our final bit of challenging road for this trip was the Phantom Canyon road. This road runs about 35 miles north to south and climbs up out of the now broad and flat Arkansas River valley and wends its way up a former narrow gauge railroad bed to its terminus at the old mining town of Victor, Colorado at about 10,000 feet. This road is quite interesting as it climbs through a series of old railroad tunnels and across a number of small trestles. Unfortunately, the road was pretty badly washboarded and that made for an uncomfortable ride. Our last bit of excitement for this four day ride was when my rear tire finally gave up the ghost and blew out on me. Luckily, it was on a slow, straight stretch of road.

Finally! Finally! I've been telling people for two years of the virtue of not only having a spare tire, but having one that works on any wheel on the bike. In all of my years of riding motorcycles I have never gotten a flat tire until now. And now, I got to use my handy-dandy spare. I was smug with self-reliance as I spent the ten minutes necessary to swap the old sausage out for the new. That old tire went bald six months ago and I managed to get at least 2,000 more Kms on it before it died.

At the end of the road, we did what most people who travel to this part of Colorado do. We bypassed the authentic and still operating mining town of victor and rode the last two miles down in to Cripple Creek, Colorado's premier gambling town. We stopped for a mediocre lunch in one of the casinos and again hooked up with JEB's wife and kids. we left the town and its incessant dinging and ringing sounds behind as we drove up, then down, then around innumerable hills and curves. John had intended to carry his son in the sidecar with him for the rest of the journey, but Michelle mentioned her trepidation at the numerous curves ahead, so the little guy was relegated to the back seat of the sedan until we made our way to Woodland Park where he'd have his chance to Monkey around. I didn't have the heart to mention that the road was just as curvy from that point on however.

As we grunted and strained our way around the last of the higher speed sharp curves of U.S. 285 I caught my first glimpse of the skyline of Denver and was immediately disappointed as I knew this ride was coming to an end. The original plan was to stop in quaint Morrison, Colorado to have a bit of a farewell dinner, but since we ate lunch so late, and since it was already nearing 7pm, we all decided to go our separate ways at the bottom of the hill.

Anticlimactially and suddenly, it was all over. I had gotten used to looking in my rear view mirror and seeing the headlights of my companions for the past four days and now there was nothing but the blank stare of an SUV driver as he sped down the road yakking on his cell phone and tailgating me. The last 20 miles of this trip were a mixture of melancholy and relief. Sadness at the end of a (mostly) excellent multi-day ride with a good group of people, and relief that I could go home and collapse on the couch.

Don't tell anyone, but my rig sat under the awning in my driveway for two days before I even thought to start unloading her...


Dan K.
2003 Ural Patrol, 1987 BMW K75, 2002 Yamaha XT225


The first group of photos are fromthe morning that we left. we are still at the restaurant and preparing to leave. Here's a shot of Dan's loaded Patrol and Vlad's Yamaha rig. Notice his clever ploy to make all his riding tax deductible:


Vlad, dennis, & Becky discuss the finer points of the Ural Retro:


The two John's look over JEB's Rig - John Willcox's custom EML rig in the foreground:


The group, just before departure - R to L Kevin, Susan, Vlad, John Buscho, John Willcox, Dennis, Becky, Marcus, unknown:


These next few are at our first rest stop in front of the St. Malmo retreat and conference center just south of Rocky Mountain National Park:

Dennis & Becky - Mt. Meeker (13,900') in the background:


Along Peak-to-Peak highway - Nearing Estes Park, CO:


Dan in front of the St. Malmo retreat Center - Peak-to-Peak Highway - Nearing Estes Park, CO:


Now we are on trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. 12,000 feet above Colorado - Trail Ridge Road - Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park:


Kevin, John W., and Vlad - Trail Ridge Road - Rocky Mt. Nat'l Park


Dennis_troubleshoots his Retro - Near Meeker, CO:


Douglas Pass rest stop - near grand Junction, CO:


An early morning flight for Kevin's 82 year old aunt - Fruita, CO:


John sneers, Susan laughs, and Kevin makes intake modifications - Salida, CO:


Now we are on our way to the top of the Grand Mesa, 10,000+ feet high. Kevin, susan, and Dan - Nearing Land's End - Grand Mesa, CO:


Oops, the self-timer is too fast. - Nearing Land's End - Grand Mesa, CO:


Now we're heading up Phantom Canyon on an old railroad bed. Railroad tunnel along Phantom Canyon Road - Near Cripple Creek, CO:


Kevin and susan negotiate Phantom Canyon Road - near Cripple Creek, CO:


Dan waves to the adoring crowd - Phantom Canyon - Near Cripple Creek, CO:


Dan, Susan, Kevin, and John take a break - Phantom Canyon Road - Near Cripple Creek, CO:


For the last bit of asphalt on the last day Michelle prepares junior for monkey duty - Woodland Park, CO:


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