Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lightning and a Fiery Sunset

I went for a short ride before sunset this evening, things had cooled off into the mid-70s after a short rain fall.

I offer you a view of the cloudy skies and a fiery sunset.....the sunset shot was not tweaked for color, shot using my camera's sunset mode, tweaked only for cropping and resizing.

Typical Colorado Sunset, we have it rough here, don't we?

While waiting for the right light conditions, I shot several minutes of dark skies with sporadic lightning flashes.  Here's a short video clip of the parts with lightning, and a view of a couple out "walking" their dog.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Back Home where I Belong...

Long days of work and riding the last couple of days.  I left Genoa City, Wisconsin at 3:25PM CST on Tuesday of this week, heading back along the same route I'd ridden a few days before.  I hate re-using routes but it was the shortest and simplest and time was not my friend on this trip.

It was a relatively cool day for riding as the temperatures would not go above 90°F the whole time I was riding.

On the western bank of the Mighty Mississippi
That's Illinois on the far end, the bridge which is I-80 and I am on the Iowa bank

Seemingly endless slab views, three power drinks and about eight hours later, I would be in the western portion of Omaha, NE and checking into a Red Carpet Inn.  It was hot and muggy in Omaha, even at the late hour at night, I guess all that concrete holds in the heat of the day.  Figure about 500 miles ridden and I felt it!  I did, over-indulge, in caffeinated drinks and so it took me a while to get to sleep and it was fitful sleep at that.

The next day, yesterday, was another long day in the saddle.  Worked online till about 2:PM CST and was on the road 25 minutes later.  It was 103.4°F in Omaha when I started off and it damn sure felt like an oven as I geared up with water-soaked gear.

Riding out of Omaha and towards Lincoln, I saw a high temperature on my onboard thermometer of 107.7°F!  A new personal high for me, one I really don't care to repeat or for that matter, break.  I stopped one more time at a highway rest stop somewhere west of Lincoln and watered down things again and the orgasmic coolness I felt after starting to ride again was glorious!

Some incoming rain storms to my North cooled the temperatures on I-80 down to the low 90s and high 80s for the rest of the daytime riding and after the 107.7°F temperatures, it felt quite balmy.  Or perhaps, my sun-cooked brain just had gotten used to the heat.  

Lots of construction on I-80, several work phone calls I had to answer, and fuel stops were my only breaks as I motored on westward.  I held a steady indicated 80 MPH which translates to about 75MPH most of the time I rode.

It felt good to cross the line into the Mountain Time Zone.  It felt even better to arrive at and cross the border from Nebraska into Colorado as the sun was setting for the evening.  Note, it takes 6 hrs from Omaha, NE to the Colorado Border.  The temperatures dropped precipitously as I rode deeper into Colorado and would settle into the mid-60s.  Positively chilly!  I even had to don my windproof liner in Sterling, CO where I got my last gas for the ride.  Bring on Winter!

I took back roads from Roggen off of I-76 instead of riding all the way into the metro area just to turn south again on E-470.  This cut many miles, I believe, from my ride but led to my discovery that my high beam bulb had burned out.  Nothing like motoring down two lane country roads, at night, wondering if each reflecting object in one's headlight's beam is the eye of a deer or just a road marker!

I saw no Deer Crossing signs all the way from Roggen to Bennett but nevertheless rode with some trepidation and much caution till I got into Bennett and shortly after that reached the I-70 Expressway.  From there it was "rapid" motoring to the junction with E-470 Tollway which I then took home.  Got home just shy of nine hours of riding.  Long days.

Brigitta, bug-spattered as I was, did wonderful the entire trip.  Burned a little oil but otherwise, no complaints except for the burned out high beam bulb.

The song Rawhide's lyrics ran through my head a lot on this recent trip, here's the part I modified slightly in my head as I rode along:

Rollin Rollin Rollin 
Man, my ass is swollen 
Keep them dogies rollin Rawhide 

Rain and wind and weather 
Hell bent for leather 
Wishing my gal was by my side 

All the things I'm missing 
Good vittles love and kissing 
Are waiting at the end of my ride 

For those of you who care, it was a round trip of 2251 glorious miles on my 1987 BMW R80.  Not bad for something that's over 25 years old eh?  As to the rider, he's recovering nicely under the care of his loving wife.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

On, to Wisconsin....

My loving wife and sons had flown this past Thursday to Genoa City, Wisconsin to attend her dad's birthday celebration.  I left on Friday afternoon to meet them there.  It was a hot and sultry day in Colorado as I donned my gear and rode astride Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Airhead Beemer.

It was slab riding time, with a high (as reported on my onboard thermometer) of 103.7°F, it was like riding inside an oven.  Every thirty minutes or so, I'd stop somewhere and soak down my wicking shirt that I was wearing and I'd be "good to go" for about 20 minutes until the wind and the heat dried things out as I road along.

About three hours to the Nebraska/Colorado Border

Every single trick I'd learned and tried came into play as I rode the sun-baked highway eastward.  Soaking the inner shirt down, drinking constantly from the Camelback carrier on my back, soaking down the helmet at pit stops....still, it was hot riding.

It was so hot, that when sunset finally came to Nebraska, somewhere between North Platte and Kearney and the temperatures dropped into the mid-80s, it felt quite cool and comfortable!

 Not sure what the marketing intent is with the "You are Nowhere"
sign but it caught my eye....truly there was not much around this spot.
It was here that I had a "Red Bull" to keep me going.

One of the more artfully decorated rest stops in Iowa.

Close to nine hours of riding on Friday afternoon/evening got me past Grand Island, NE and to the small town of Newton just beyond where I finally called it quits for the day.  I found a room for under $60 at the Super8, some fast food and I was in bed by 11:30 Mountain time, or since I was in the Central Time Zone now, just after Midnight by 30 minutes.  

The next day, I was on the road by 8:15 AM.  Just a day of slogging through Iowa in temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s, no rain though the clouds looked like they wanted to.  The sometimes seemingly endless fields of corn were looking a bit peaked as I sped by due to the ongoing drought that's hitting most of the country.

I got close to the Mississippi River and chose to exit in the town of Le Claire just east of Davenport, IA.  I wanted to make sure I had a full tank before I crossed into Illinois you see.  The signage is a bit deceptive as to the availability of gas stations it turns out and I had to go down a good mile before I found it.

As I was gassing up, I looked up and noticed this on the building up the hill from the gas station:

It was the logo for the show "American Pickers"

So I paid for the gas and rode the short distance to a graveled parking lot.  Sure enough, it was the set for American Pickers!  There were several folks who'd stopped to look as well, so I didn't go inside, but I could see a poster of the two main characters for the show, so I knew I had accidentally stumbled onto the set.

Brigitta, doing the "tourist" thing.

I crossed the great Mississippi at 5:00 PM CST, it would be another three hours of riding on US88 and county back roads to the small town of Genoa City.  Note to self, when you elect to use a GPS, tell it to use the "fastest route" mode, not the "shortest route".  I ended up using mostly State Rd 173 to get to Genoa City, trouble is its not a straight shot and you get to transit each and every little small town along the way....not very fast after a long day of riding!

Almost exactly 12 hours after I'd left the Super8 Motel in Newton, NE.....I was once again with my family at the vacation rental home near Lake Benedict, WI.  It's about six miles SE of famed Lake Geneva, WI....apparently the weekend getaway for the rich of  the Chicago area.  Man, I was a tired puppy after all those hours on the road.

1,122 miles from my home in Centennial, CO to the rental unit near Lake Benedict, WI.  20 collective hours in the saddle.  I am please to report Brigitta did great though about 75 mph was the best speed she could hold without her gas mileage going to crap.  Her speedometer tops out at 85 so don't really know her top speed, will have to see if I can check the GPS on the way back to Colorado.

Today was spend celebrating my father-in-law's birthday with family and friends of his.  Good time.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Rainy Sunset

After a long day of "following the process" and moving data from one form to another (exciting stuff eh?), I was more than ready for a ride after dinner.

So what if it was raining, it was a light rain after all.  I put on my waterproof liner under my riding jacket and headed out on Brigitta, my '87 R80 Airhead Beemer.  She started right up with a little help from the choke I'll admit but then ran smoothly throughout the ride.

The rain was really light, the wind was a bit strong at times but nothing that was "terribly exciting", the skies were overcast and gray and yet, it was better than sitting at a desk staring at a computer monitor!

The coolness of the evening and the gray horizons enclosed me as I rode along, water puddles reminding me that hydroplaning is something to consider more seriously when on two wheels.

To paraphrase a recent posting's content by Behind Bars Brady, I watched in my mirrors the wakes left by my motorcycle's wheels on the wet streets.....and the world was right for that little while.

Darkness fell, it was time to "head for the barn".

I offer you these photos of Brigitta.  The first is barely tweaked using Google's online photo tools that used to belong to picnik.com.  

 That's Mount Evans in the distance, the
nearer formations are the "foothills"

 Above is my "going to town" with the HDR tool

Rainy evening in Denver

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Uraling to the West End of the Alpine Tunnel

The Alpine Tunnel.  Ever since I'd read about this tunnel, used to get access to the gold mining country in Colorado, first tunnel through the Continental Divide, highest railroad tunnel in the Continental United States according to the US Forest Service...I'd wanted to see it.  Specifically, I wanted to see if I could take a picture of my motorcycle in the spot as this shot I'd found in the Denver Public Library's Photo Archives.

Much more information on this cool tunnel's history here.

I left Gunnison shortly after 6:30 AM after a quick breakfast at the local McDonalds.  Inside of an hour, I'd gone past the small settlement of Parlin off of US50 and had ridden up to the junction with Forest road 839, the route to the Alpine Tunnel.

From the above point, it's ten miles of rather rocky and bumpy dirt road to the vicinity of the Alpine Tunnel Railroad Station Site.  The first four miles weren't too bad, when compared to the other 4x4 roads I'd ridden recently.  Just when I'd gotten comfortable, the rocks got seriously more prolific and much bigger!  

Still, Valencia and I motored on, everything onboard being shaken to include my fillings!  There were no pictures taken on the way up because you have to maintain good forward momentum with your rig or you'll have to start slipping the clutch when it bogs down on the really bad parts.  

Man, those were a long remaining six miles but we finally did manage to make it to the Palisades, the portion of the trail just short of the top where huge rock walls provided the dramatic background to the first picture in this posting.  Here it is again for your comparison between then and now:

Circa 1900-1920
courtesy Denver Public Library

July, 2012

One of the more longer -lasting "then and now" picture subject achieved.  I was the free to continue up to the top to check out what remains of  the train station on the western end of the now closed tunnel opening.

 A wider view

 The road up to the Alpine Tunnel is narrow and winding.  
The slope or grade doesn't exceed 3% though as that's
what the trains of yore were designed to handle.

 The restored Telegraph Building 

 Note the black trailer at the end of the railbed,
I am told the western tunnel opening was just off to the right of it

 To the left, all that remains of the Engine House which used to be able to hold 8 engines.
To the right is another photo of the Telegraph Building.  What you see of the 
rails, is all that remains.

Heading back down, enjoying the views

On the way down, I was stopped to let this big truck come through on its way up.  The driver stops next to me and I got UDF'ed (Ural Delay Factor) for the next 30 minutes at least!  Bob Fulton and I had a nice chat about Valencia, and how its the first sidecar Bob's seen on this road.  Bob also shared with me about the work he's doing for the US Forest Service to stabilize the walls of the Engine House, build some structures to show how the inside of the tunnel is supported and finally the set of signs he's going to install for visitors to get information on the Alpine Tunnel Railroad.

 Above, Bob Fulton alongside Valencia

 Above, a marmot showed up on some rocks near us while we talked.

 Above, you can see the line the road cuts into the side of the mountain.

Restored: a 30,000 gallon water tank used to replenish the steam engines

Once I got going again, it was an easy ride down towards the road to Pitkin/Parlin.  At that point, I made a fateful decision.  I didn't want to retrace my route again back towards US50.  The idea was to to next go to Saint Elmo's an old mining town.

I had the bright idea instead to go back to Pitkin and  take the road to Waunit Pass and Forest Road 887 which would also take me to US50 but by way of the aforementioned pass and Black Sage Pass.  Both passes turned out quite nice but unimpressive.  The roads took me through ranches and farmland with large expanses of Aspen groves.

Then, at the end of Forest Road 887, I turned left when I should have turned right.  The town of White Pine came and went while I sought the town of Sargents which would have meant I was back on US50.  Instead, the road east of White Pine got much narrower, rockier and steeper!  I motored on for a bit, in some of the roughest riding in a very long while then finally stopped when I saw a sign for Tomochi Pass.

Tomochi Pass?  Huh?  I looked where the sign pointed and it was up a very steep hillside covered with what seemed to be just loose boulders and rocks!  No way.  A brief consultation with the map, and I realized my mistake.  Backtracking consumed more time and the huge rainstorm that boiled up from the West wet me down thoroughly.  

By the time I found my bearings and got to US50, I'd lost enough time that St. Elmo's was quite out of the question and still be able to get home before dark!  The continuing rain clouds, lightning and thunder also convinced me that it was probably not the best day to explore a mountain mining town.

I stopped at the summit parking lot of Monarch Pass to try and reach Martha via cellphone but there was no signal up there.  There was instead, pea-sized hail starting to come down:

Quickly, right after this picture, I got back on the road as the hail started to really come down hard.  I was hoping to outrun the storm, but that took some time as I got stuck going downhill behind this semi-truck going slow.  Man, that hail stung when it hit my gloved hands or the parts of my riding gear that weren't armored.

Finally, we left the storm behind and I stopped at the gas station near the junction of US50 and US285.  Not that far behind me though, was the storm Valencia and I had just outrun:

Looking west along US50, where we'd just come from

I took US285 North, now heading towards Buena Vista.  The incoming storm was in the process of obscuring the Collegiate Peaks to the west of the road:

 Rain clouds over the Collegiate Peaks

Rain -shrouded Mount Princeton

As you can see, it was quite rainy and overcast, not the best picture taking conditions.  I elected at this point to simply head home, which was about three hours away on US285.  I made it home by 5:00PM, having been delayed by one accident where some cager had flipped his car on the side of the road.  The local fire department had the highway blocked while they did cleanup.  Rain, people around here just don't know how to handle it or drive safely in it apparently.

Update: Video of Alpine Tunnel added:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Uraling to Taylor Reservoir, Tin Cup, Cumberland Pass and Pitkin

Another four hours of riding today after putting in a ten hour workday, what is it about Fridays that brings out all the fools with their "urgent" last minute requests for stuff?

Anyways, I finally disconnected myself from work and by 4:30 PM I was heading out of Gunnison, once again taking CO135 north; this time heading for the small town of Almont.  It is at Almont that one turns East  and starts riding along the Taylor Canyon Road.

There was construction delays though for several miles on this road and so it wasn't really that much fun.  Once Valencia and I cleared the construction zone though, it was smooth riding until we reached the Taylor Canyon Reservoir.  Quite a nice little body of water, with the mountains of the Sawatch Range which are part of the Continental Divide to the North, very scenic spot, even under the heavy gray overcast skies that prevailed throughout the ride.

 Valencia "just fit" on the narrow path leading to the sign
describing the far off mountains and the reservoir.

 Sawatch Mountain Range

I continued on and after a small settlement, took Forest Road 765 East towards Cumberland Pass.  A pretty easy dirt road, washboarded in spots and quite dusty in others but Valencia and I made good speed, holding a steady 35 MPH for the most part.

We came upon the small ex-mining town of Tin Cup and there were a couple of buildings worth posing Valencia next to:

Forest Road 765 continued eastward out of town and started getting steeper and rougher.  It was all still quite manageable by Valencia, just very bumpy at times due to the many rocks embedded into the dirt road. Once we were within five miles of the pass, then it was rocky/gravelly/bumpy switchback roads with long straight stretches with a noticeable incline between switchback turns.

I kept Valencia in first gear and kept the revs up above 4000 RPM as well, and didn't experience any issues climbing all the way to the summit of Cumberland Pass.  She held a steady indicated 25 mph so figure we were doing about 20 mph all the way up.

 12,015 Feet in Altitude, Cumberland Pass
Valencia and I were both having a bit of trouble breathing at this altitude.

 A view of the Continental Divide/Sawatch Mountain Range

The valley we'd just climbed out of, the valley itself is around 
10,000 feet in elevation.

Having achieved the summit, the descent from Cumberland Pass was cake, simply a matter of keeping it in second gear and using engine braking and slight throttle inputs to keep a nice steady downward progress.  The road remained stony and bumpy.  I saw several ATVs going up the road towards the summit, they gave me quite the looks, as if in disbelief.  :)

 The view as one starts the descent towards Pitkin 
from the summit of Cumberland Pass

Remnant structures on an old mine site

The road descends pretty gently for the most part and if you can keep a good line avoiding the bigger rocks, you can hold 30 mph most of the way down.  Soon, I arrived at the old mining town of Pitkin and more pictures were to be had:

 Pitkin, CO
This town lived and died by the Alpine Railroad Tunnel,
once that was closed, so did the town wither.

 Ye Olde Post Office

 Pitkin's City Hall

 1904, Pitkin's last remaining hotel I think
(It's for sale)
Pitkins Assayer's Office

Continuing onwards, now on paved roads, I came onto the small town of Ohio city, named for the nearby river I believe.

Ohio City's City Hall

From Pitkin, it was about 28 miles of pavement back to US50 and Gunnison.  It was quite late by now, closing in on 8:00 PM and you know what that means, the deer were coming out.  I must have seen three in quick succession just sound of Pitkin and rode accordingly.

I didn't spot any more deer waiting to jump out from the roadside trees and heavy underbrush but still kept my speed to the posted limit in spite of wanting to get to Gunnison and dinner.  I made it to Gunnison and had a steak dinner at the Ole Miner Steakhouse.  Strongly recommend this restaurant, good steak!

It was dark by the time I returned to the campsite, still a very nice ride again, well worth the tiredness.