Sunday, August 26, 2012

2012.08.25 - Another good Colorado day under the belt

Boy, today was another beautiful Colorado Summer day.  I slept in late.  I puttered around the house for a while.  Then I got the itch that only a ride can scratch.  So I jumped on the bike and headed out.  I first turned north along Peak-to-Peak scenic Byway and headed toward Nederland and points north.  When I arrived in Nederland, I was rudely slapped by reality.

I'd forgotten that the hugely successful second edition of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge was running the 5th stage of the race and it was passing through Nederland and heading north on the same road I planned to travel.  No manner of pleading with the wanna-be FBI agent guarding the road would get me past.

So, to the south I went.  A few weeks ago I had done a run up and over Guanella Pass.  On that day, I had intended to putt up to Loveland Pass (11,990'), but the traffic returning east on I-70 turned me off that idea.  I figured maybe today was a good day for that ride.

As usual, I headed up through Black Hawk and Central City and up, then down, Virginia Canyon Road to Idaho Springs.  I stopped to take a few snaps just after leaving Central City.

When I arrived down in Idaho springs I could see that traffic was running smoothly both east and west.  west I went.  as usual, I followed the winding service road that roughly parallels I-70 at the bottom of this narrow mountain valley.  Reaching Georgetown, I am forced to step up and merge onto I-70.

Not usually something to worry about, but riding the Ural up a relentless and steep mountain grade, while doable, is an act of faith.  Faith in the bike?  No.  Faith in the other drivers on the road. 

Georgetown sits at about 8,500'.  My goal is the turn-off for U.S. 6 to Loveland Pass.  This exit is 12 miles and 2,400' higher in elevation.  The speed limit on I-70 in this area is 65mph.  If I'm lucky, I'll be able to hit about 40mph on some stretches.  That's 1 mph for each horsepower the bike can muster.

Luckily for me, lots of cars find this grade difficult also and relative speed of traffic slows more and more as we go higher.  I find a few convenient tractor-trailers to follow.  They're the only ones driving as slowly as me, and people can see the slow moving behemoths much more easily than me.  Regardless, my eyes are glued to the rear view mirrors for the bulk of the trip.

None too soon, my exit appears and I slide off to the right and down the exit ramp.  U.S. 6 used to be the only road that travelled west from Denver and up and over the Continental Divide.  These days, the road is used mostly by gawkers like me, back country skier and boarders, and any tractor-trailers carrying volatile loads.  They're not allowed to driver through the twin tunnels which bore straight under Loveland Pass ski area and out the other side of the divide.

I pull over to the side of the road near the entrance to the ski area.  Forlorn and looking forgotten, the ski area is devoid of people.  In just a few weeks they'll begin to use their snow making equipment to get a jump on on Mother Nature's bounty of white gold.  September is just one week distant and the nights above 10,000' will soon be below freezing.

I relaxed for about 10 minutes, allowing my motor a well deserved rest after straining it in the ride up to the U.S. 6 exit.  Enough time for a quick, cool drink and a look around the wooded area at the base of the mountain.

The distance to Loveland Pass is only 4 miles, but its also a very steep and winding 4 miles.  I remember a time years ago, while returning home late one night from Keystone Ski area, (which is on the other side of the pass), I came across a passenger van which had slid off the roadway. like some cheesy low-budget film, it was sitting with its front wheels off the roadway and hanging in mid-air.  Nothing but a long, long drop into a very dark void below. 

My Ural eats up the long grade.  The speed limit here is only 30 mph, and the Ural has no trouble doing it.  At each hairpin turn, it's a beautiful view back down the mountain valley, or back up to the top of the Continental Divide.

The four miles goes by in about 10 minutes (No one buys a Ural to go fast).  The pass summit is as I expected, lots of tourists like me running around and taking photos.  One of the things I like about the Ural is the attention it garners everywhere it goes.  It seems that people who would never think of looking at you when you're riding a two-wheeled bike, will smile and wave and stop to talk when you're riding a hack.  I think the Ural's vintage looks are somehow disarming.  Actually, sometimes the attention is not wanted.  Today I want to be alone with my thoughts, so I continue past the summit of Loveland Pass and stop a few hunderd meters  down the road at an unused turnout.

It's a beautiful day, in a beautiful spot, and I have a beautiful bike.  I decided that it's time to produce some Ural porn.  I spent the next ten minutes or so snapping pics of the bike.  With the help of a tripod, I manage to stage a few "candid" shots of myself too.  Oh, with the bike in the photo too, of course.


OK, is that too many pics?  Do I have an unnatural relationship with my bike?  If you own a bike, then we both already know the answer to those questions.

Photography session over, I make a u-turn and head back down the serpentine ribbon and merge back onto I-70.  This time the ride back down to Georgetown has a completely different character.  The throttle is barely touched and I glide down the long grade with ease.  The Ural being so much like a farm tractor when ridden at highway speeds, I keep my speed down between 55 and 60 mph.  Cars and trucks are passing me at a good clip as it seems everyone must prove that their vehicle really are fast.

The rest of the ride home is pleasant and uneventful.  I make full use of any and all dirt roads that I can find when I leave the interstate at Idaho Springs.  Too soon I am pulling up the grade and into my driveway.

Another good Colorado day under the belt.

1 comment:

  1. Nice photos of the rig Dan....recommend using the free utility in Google photos to rotate pictures.