Clear skies, brilliant sun, and a comfortable cool air. Good morning Colorado, its nice to be here.
The unspoken camp-pack-up competition continues. Despite Wayne & Zina coming the closest they ever have to beating me, I still enjoyed the last of my ritualistic coffee from the sidecar step while watching them pack up. As always, Lola was ready to go as soon as her bedding was in the sidecar.
Riding out to Kremmling, we got a better view of the scenic valley we had slept in. Absolutely stunning views made this pavement stretch really nice.
After topping off our tanks in Kremmling, we motored off on some wide, smooth, dirt superhighways into Arapaho National Forest. If it wasn’t for the fences, and other sporadic signs of ranching, we’d feel pretty alone out here.
As most roads do in a civilized world, the dirt eventually turned to pavement. We passed the huge tailing lakes created from the Henderson molybdenum mine. I’d love to know what evil deal transpired in the 70’s to allow this to national forest land to become private land.
I’ve touched on this before, and I believe it bears repeating. The Ural is not a hill-climber. Climbing to 9,000 feet over mountain passes, even with the proper jetting on pavement is a slow and steady process. As the road steepened, I waved Wayne and Zina on. Shifting into second gear with a quiet sigh, Lola and I crawled up the pass, peaking at 30mph.
Despite the somewhat frustrating slow climb, our patience was rewarded with this beautiful view of Dora, Keller and Eagle’s Nest peaks on a straight and long downhill grade.
The sun is blazing, but the air is still cool. A light breeze blew out of the south, and puffy clouds of moisture bloomed up over the mountains. Considering we woke up to mostly clear blue skies, and it’s only 9:00am, I’d bet my donut against your dollar we’ll be getting wet today.
The Dillon Reservoir is a real pretty detour around I-70, despite the traffic. Tensions must be high here however, as large metal gates adorn each end with guard shacks, and concrete barriers set up in a zig-zag fashion popular with most military forward operating bases.
We pushed into Breckenridge, where we fueled up and decided to get an early lunch. Soupz On had some delicious combinations, as well as sandwiches. Ever conscious of colon health, I chose an all-vegetable meal to supplant the damage from last nights chili and minute-rice festival.
Onwards, through the throngs of vacationing populace we rode. One of the great joys of riding a Ural (especially with a dog), is the smiles you put on peoples faces. Rolling down main street, you can watch people turn, look, laugh, smile and point at you in a smooth motion. Even bums on street corners raise their afternoon 40-ounce malt liquor in a salute as we go by.
Onward and upward, turning onto Boreas Pass, just outside Breckenridge. Remember those little puffy clouds from 9:00am? Someone or something pissed in their Wheaties, and they are angry.
The paved portion of Boreas Pass ends rather abruptly, and turns into a narrow railroad-grade dirt road. Lots of tourist traffic coming down from the pass, so try to keep a steady throttle hand.
Midway up with a few rain-drops still clinging to our visors and (do)goggles, I stopped to admire the view. Zina and Wayne donned their humidity suits again, while Lola found a delectable defecation from another animal. Lunch is served I guess. Gross. Bad dog.
These railroad-grade roads are perfect for a Ural. Even though the air up here at 11,000 feet has around 30% less oxygen in it (and 30% less bang for your buck), the gradual grade up over the pass gives the Ural a fighting chance. The buried rocks on the road are also at the right height not to rattle us around.
Another pass, and another crossing of the divide. Considering Lola is retirement age in human years, she’s really getting around.
There are some that say you can get scenery-apathetic when you are in the same landscape all the time. I think those people need to eat more vegetables. I could look at this all day long.
Unfortunately, looking around at scenery on the backside of Boreas Pass was not a luxury I could afford. Ever-longer stretches of half-buried rock gardens kept popping up, requiring evasive maneuvers on the Ural.
We picked up the pavement for a brief stretch, offering Lola and I some respite from the pounding we took coming down Boreas. It would appear the angry clouds in the distance are forming a posse.
Elkhorn Road put us back on dirt through a bunch of open ranges. Beautiful gravel road through rolling hills. Lola stood at full alert in case any stubborn cattle presented themselves. 4th gear at 45 mph, and loving every minute of it.
Kait loves baby animals, and I promised to take as many photos of the ones I encountered as possible. This little girl was frolicking all around, unfazed by the loud motorbikes near her.
Despite Zina and Wayne’s rain suits, there was no doubt that we were about to get soaked. This news brought a bit of concern, as some of these roads can get really, really, bad in a hard storm. Also, being a large metallic object moving across high alpine meadows with an inch or two of rubber separating you from a good electrical ground is cause for concern.
And the rain rolled in. A few large drops at first, and then a deluge. Lola laid down in the sidecar to avoid the stinging raindrops, while I covered my face with my scarf. Deluge of water. Earlier I had told Wayne “I’d rather be cold and wet, than hot and sweating”. Seems the fates had given me my wish.
Thoroughly soaked, we rode into Hartsel to gas up and evaluate our options. The Ural had handled the snotty, mucky roads without much problem; it doesn’t have to balance. The motorcycles do, and the soft muck did not please the either rider (or dog). I had seen some slides and swerves riding behind them which confirmed their concerns.
After chatting with some other riders coming the opposite way about the weather, we made the executive decision to by-pass the dirt section from Hartsel to Salida. With a steady rain falling and dark clouds bordering the valley, the chances of getting stuck on a 10,000 foot mountain in a thunderstorm were high. That is to say nothing about the condition of those mountain roads during a bad storm.
Fifty-five ball-busting wet miles into Salida. The bands of rolling storms produced lots of wind, which slowed the Ural down considerably. Wayne and Zina zoomed forward at 70mph to land a hotel room in Salida, while Lola and I chugged over the pass into Buena Vista.
And the best way to recover from cold water? Hot water. Throw a few bubbles in there for good measure, and feel the miles melt off your shoulders. Major thanks to the Super 8 in Salida for letting a bunch of dirty moto folks pollute your hot-tub.
Lola offloaded some photos while we piled through some mexican take-out. “O-Brother, Where art thou?” flickered on the TV while we caught up with emails and the outside world.
Happiness is a warm, dry bed after a cold, wet day. Bonus points if you have a puppy curled up next to you.
Days Mileage: 182 miles
Total Mileage: 2,684 miles