Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Monkey

Although Halloween activities are not exactly my cup of tea. My loving wife had bought this plastic skeleton thinking I'd asked her for one, when I had just asked if she had one at the school where she's a nurse.

So, what to do, here we have a skeleton but we're not doing Halloween activities? It was probably my burned out mind after a long day of working, but an idea came to me near the end of the work day....rig up the skeleton in the sidecar, use my son as the "engine" to move its arm up and down as if the skeleton is waving to people as we pass by.

Some hurried preparations later, a bit of contortion by Miles and we were set:

My Halloween Monkeys

Here we go...

Miles and I wandered about my neighborhood roads, moving slowly of course, and everytime I spotted kids I circled around to present the monkey to them.  Everyone seemed to like the skeleton waving at them, most kids waved back.

The cheap construction of the skeleton though soon fell apart and I had to cut the ride short after the legs, hips and one arm came off.  The skull barely stayed home as I went home but we made it into the garage with all pieces in the sidecar.

That's all we're doing for Halloween this year, hope you like the pictures and the short video below.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Little bit of Snow

Following the pattern I've observed over the years of living here in the great state of Colorado, we got snow right on schedule, the last week in October.  Although this year we did have an earlier snow fall but it melted so quickly it didn't really count in my mind.

Miles, my youngest son, asked me for a ride to school, given the slipperiness of the sidewalks so I took him and his viola to school on Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol.  See the brief video clip at the end for the new camera angle provided by the tripod I've mounted temporarily on Valencia's spare wheel carrier.

Later on, during a work break, I went out again to grab some pictures before all the snow had melted.  The temperature was still below freezing but once the sun is out, its just a matter of time.  There are predictions for a bit more snow in the afternoon, but I am doubtful.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Loveland Pass and another try at Jones Pass

A heartbreakingly beautiful day here in the great state of Colorado yesterday.  The forecasted high was 72°F and sunny skies, there was no excuse not to go riding!

Buffalo Herd Overlook

I left the house shortly after 9:05AM and about two hours later, I had taken the usual highways and roads up into the mountains along the I-70 corridor, heading for the Continental Divide and US6, also known as Loveland Pass.  This is the route that hazmat cargo trucks must take to cross over the Continental Divide instead of staying on I-70 and crossing the divide using the Eisenhower Tunnel.

The temperature was a bit cool at altitude, but it would not get below 42°F the whole time I was up there.  The roads were dry and clear of snow, and I made good time up Loveland Pass Road.

 At the first big hairpin turn, heading west on Loveland Pass Road.
As you can see, not much show on the mountain sides.

 Above and below, near the Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort.
Today was opening day for the 2012 Ski Season for this facility.

 The peaks one can admire while cruising up and down Loveland Pass

 Approaching the summit of Loveland Pass

 The requisite picture of one's motorcycle by the summit sign above
and below, the view from near the summit sign.

 Icy reflections of the mountainside in a small alpine lake near the summit.

 Above and below, overlooking the Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort

I retraced my route back towards I-70, this time heading eastbound towards the US40 Junction, I wanted to take another shot at reaching the summit of Jones Pass, snow and slippery conditions had stopped me after meager progress last weekend; it was time to see how far I could get this time around.

I reached the parking lot where Jones Pass Road begins, and saw a group of four on quad ATVs heading out.  I caught up with them pretty quickly and had to stop and let them get ahead for a bit.  The going was a bit tougher than last week, if you can believe it.  The melting snow had caused slippery mud conditions and I had to engage 2WD way sooner than last time!

 As you can see, a clear sunny day, and most of the snow is gone

 This was the furthest point I reached last weekend while the road
was snow-covered and the snow was falling.  

 The road's slippery conditions where mud and snow made life interesting, caused
me to stop several times where I could find a flat spot to let 
the clutch mechanism cool down.

 A bit below my furthest point of climb, you can see the Henderson Mine
down below, that's where Jones Pass Road begins, way down there.

The top of the next rise, is the furthest I got with Valencia.  
It was also there that the group of ATVs had become stopped by the snow levels
so I didn't feel too bad about quitting at the same point.

Valencia and I rode down with no issues, occasionally switching into 2WD to get me past the slippery/snowy points in the shadow of the trees alongside the road.

I rode safely into the parking lot, waved at the ATV riders who were tying down their vehicles onto trailers and was soon heading eastbound again on I-70.  I elected to stay on I-70 for most of the way back to the Denver Metro Area, as it was downhill and Valencia could hold an indicated 60 MPH with no issues.

About 300 Kilometers (180 miles) and eight hours in the saddle later, I made it home around 5:00PM, quite the day in the office huh?

Hope you got a ride in, the snow comes soon to the rest of Colorado, and I for one, am eagerly expecting it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Finding Snow on Jones Pass Road

The weather guessers were predicting snow on the Continental Divide this past Saturday, 13OCT12, a byproduct of a storm system that was moving through Colorado last night.  This of course meant a ride out on Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig to see how much snow we could find!

I left the house shortly after 7:30AM and after a short stop in Morrison, I continued on CO93 until it junctions with US40.  I took this nice and sparsely used two lane paved road, which parallels the frantic traffic on I-70, all the way to where it joins up with US6 from Golden.  From there, one must dash briefly on I-70 westbound for about four miles, reaching the town of Idaho Springs.

I stayed on the slab however and soon I was exiting at the Dumont exit, picking up frontage/county roads again paralleling I-70.  Soon I reached the Easter Seal Campsite and turned onto the highway overpass, crossing over I-70 and turning back for a mile or so till I could get on the road to the town of Empire, CO.

This road is again, US40 and if you stay on it long enough, you'll get to the ski resorts at Winterpark and further on, the towns of Granby and Grand Lake and even further on, the ski resort of Steamboat Springs.  I however, was not going nowhere near those resorts.  I cruised through the small town of Empire, home of the original "Hard Rock Cafe", and headed away from it as snow started falling in earnest.

Though it was snowing steadily, it wasn't sticking to the pavement (much) and traffic was moving along just fine.  The air temperature of course had dropped into the low 30s at the altitude I was now at and it would reach a low of 28°F.  You can bet my heated grips were turned on!

The road leading to the parking area for Jones Pass Road was mostly covered with snow, perhaps an inch deep or so.  It would get uniformly covered before I left the parking area and started up the road.  There were tire tracks in the snow, which I followed as I could see the dirt under the snow in spots.  Valencia's tires were gripping the snow just fine, just had to keep a steady throttle, avoid sudden bursts of speed and a steady hand on the handlebars.

After about 1500 meters or so, I came upon the second hairpin, finding a couple of trucks sitting there, watching me approach.  They waved from inside their cabs, I nodded my head and started powering into the hairpin so as to not lose momentum.

It was then that I noticed two things:  1.  No more tire tracks, it was virgin snow in front of me leading up the steep road.  2.  The sidecar wheel was dragging the rig over to the right and towards the embankment!  I managed to correct for the first slide, but as I tried to power up the slope, got dragged back towards the embankment and I stopped, with the sidecar lodged against the embankment and the tug at an unhealthy angle.

I got off the tug, pulled in the clutch lever and the rig coasted down a bit, and off the embankment, back onto the flat part of the road.  I got Valencia pointed straight again, jumped back onto the tug, engaged the 2WD lever and slowly motored up the slow.  I wonder what the cagers must have been thinking when they saw me gain ground with seemingly no effort!  :)

This was the first time I'd used the 2WD feature on Valencia, you're not supposed to use it on pavement, just on loose stuff; which the snow certainly qualified as.  I continued motoring up Jones Pass Road, going slowly and steadily upwards.  I would go perhaps another kilometer, and lost finally lost momentum two hairpin turns later, getting bogged down and smelling clutch smoke.

I backed down the slope a little bit and got Valencia to a good spot to let the engine cool.

 Above and below, the furthest point I got on Jones Pass Road

 Views of Jones Pass Road, you'll note the snow is not 
too deep.

 The view of the valley below, obscured by the snow
 Valencia, parked where I saw the cagers in their trucks.

Exiting the Jones Pass Road, I went past the Urad Cleanup area and noted the road is now barred to the public, there was even a security guard in a truck nearby.

Since I was so close, once I got back to US40 I turned north on it and headed for Berthoud Pass.  The snow was still falling lightly and the roads had some snow accumulation but still not bad if you're on three wheels.

The weather guessers were right, snow on the Continental Divide!

I headed back down towards Empire, feeling the temperatures rise as I lost altitude.  I refueled in Georgetown and then rode Valencia over to Georgetown Lake to pose her by the lake.

Georgetown Lake

Leaving the Georgetown Lake area using frontage roads, I headed east, paralleling I-70 once again.  I got to Idaho Springs and the weather had turned warm and sunny, at least for a little bit.  I stopped Valencia near the site of the status of Steve Canyon, a cartoon of the 1940s.

I left Idaho Springs and using the super slab took the exit for the Central City Parkway.  This parkway, was built by its namesake solely as a method to get folks to come to the gambling towns of Central City and Black Hawk.  The trick though was this parkway took you to Central City, whereas CO119, previously the only way to get to Black Hawk and Central City, had been seen as "siphoning" gamblers from Central City since it came to Black Hawk first you see.  The bright lights of the casinos in Black Hawk lured the tourists and gamblers and apparently Central City only got the leftovers!

I got to the town of Central City and slowly cruised through the town, heading upwards to its outlying buildings.  I spotted this dirt road leading off to along the hillsides overlooking the town and this is where Valencia and I headed.

The trail was a bit rocky but not too bad I thought at the time.  I could see the town far below, as I continued skirting the side of the hills.  The trail started getting a bit narrow but I still wasn't too concerned as it wasn't too steep yet.  All good things come to an end though, the trail suddenly narrowed a lot and I was brought to a sudden stop by this sight:

Way too narrow for the rig!
That and a cliff off to the right....

I got the rig turned around on the narrow trail using a set of maneuvers that reminded me of that scene in one of the Mike Myers spy spoof movies where he's turning an electric cargo cart around in a narrow hallway.

I got headed back the way I had come only to have one more unpleasant surprise, the road was sloped/cambered towards the edge of the cliffside!  There were spots where I had to slowly ride, with my body hanging as far over the sidecar as I could because the sidecar was higher than the tug.  A very uneasy feeling, let me tell you!

Still, a few scary moments later, I was back on the flatter portion of the trail and I got back into the town limits with no issues.  I spotted no cars parked in front of the Central City Opera House and so it was another good picture opportunity.

The Central City Opera House

I left Central City headed towards CO119, which took me through the town of Black Hawk as well.  Once headed East on CO119, it was twists and turns all the way back towards Golden.  Traffic was moderate headed back to Golden, pretty heavy going the other way towards the gambling towns.

The rest of the ride was under light rain, using just back roads, taking me through the Denver Metro Area via Hampden Road, aka US285.  I was home just before 2:30 PM, about 270 Kilometers or 162 miles.  I stayed pretty warm throughout the ride, though I must remember winter boots next time.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Rider.....a meeting in Germany

A bit of fiction....which I am prone to, now and then.....this time due to the book I recently reviewed: Key West Revenge.  I hope you like it and it's tie-in to SonjaM's recent posting.

The monotonous drone of the Air Force C-130 engines were drowned out by the sudden roar of night air as the rear ramp of the aircraft lowered open.  All was dark within the rear compartment of the aircraft with small red lights providing the only illumination as the rider re-checked his gear one more time, since they took of from the airbase at RAF Mindenhall two hours before.

The night outside was just barely visible from the within the aircraft, and the rider could see the dark ground below, covered mostly by vast forests, roll by and into the distance, disappearing once more into the darkness that was this part of western Germany at night.

The crew chief nodded at the rider who followed the jump master's hand signals by attaching his rip cord to the wire stretching the length of the aircraft.  Ahead and between him and the open ramp, was his Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig, strapped down on its cargo pallet, sitting on and surrounded by the cardboard blocks which would provide it a cushioning effect upon landing.

The rider could barely hear the jump masters commands and concentrated on his training as he waited for the red jump light to turn green, indicating that they were above the drop zone.  He knew that they would rise to an altitude of 1200 feet just before the jump, the aircraft currently flying low over the ground, in nap of earth mode, to avoid detection by radar.

The rider felt his stomach seemingly drop away from him as the C-130 suddenly and swiftly gained altitude and leveled.  The jump light turned green and the cargo master quickly activated the release switches which unlocked the rider's Ural cargo platform from its moorings.  A small drogue chute was launched by another crewman and it dragged the lines attached to the Ural's cargo pallet out into the night.  One second the Ural had been a large shadowy object in front of the rider, the next it was a small dark blob floating in the sky, a larger set of three parachutes beginning to billow out.

The rider moved forward before the jump master could urge him and launched himself off the rear cargo ramp, feet and knees tightly together, head bowed forward into his chest and his hands tightly grasping the sides of his reserve parachute attached below his chest to his parachute harness.

The rush of air almost caused him to close his eyes, but he fought them open against the pressure as he counted to four as he'd been trained.  As his count passed three, he felt the gratifying pull of his parachute drag him up into the sky, slowing his fall through the night sky.  Looking up, he briefly gloried in the sight of a fully open parachute before turning his attention down and seeking his Ural.

He spotted it just as it hit the trailing edge of the small drop zone, it raised a small dust cloud and he steered his parachute towards his rig, manipulating his parachute's risers to guide his descent.  The rider managed to land on top of one of the three collapsed cargo parachutes and he hit, dropped and rolled into a PLF or Parachute Landing Fall to absorb the impact.

Standing up and ridding himself of his jump gear and helmet, he moved towards the dark bulk near him and swiftly moved to free his Ural from its cargo platform and cushioning material.  Kicking away the cardboard cushions from the front of his rig, he turned the ignition on after ensuring the lights were still disabled, held open the throttle a quarter turn and pushed down on the kick starter.

The Ural's 750cc engine roared to life at the one kick and he mounted the motorcycle in one smooth motion, opening up the throttle he rolled off the cargo platform and moved quickly to the trail he knew existed on the southeastern portion of the drop zone.

The rider donned his motorcycle helmet and keeping his helmet's visor open, soon saw the trail dimly among the dark trees that bordered the drop zone.  The going was rough as the drop zone had been a recently harvested wheat field and the rig bounced about as the rider fought to keep it in a straight line until he reached the smoother edge of the field which had served as the drop zone.

Dark shapes which took to be deer flitted in and out of his way as the rider slowly but steadily gained distance from the drop zone and sought the small county road nearby.  The map he'd memorized before the mission solidly in his mind, he found the road and turned right onto it after ensuring no one had seen him.

The rider's eye's adjusted quickly as he switched on his headlight and running lights as he spotted oncoming traffic about a half mile away.

The night was still and quiet as the Rider's Ural Sidecar Rig's headlight cut a weak swath through the darkness blanketing the narrow road.  In his peripheral vision, the rider saw glimpses of the tall tree trunks and thick foliage growing close to the side of the road he was on.  Dark shapes on both sides, with a slightly lighter shade of black where the trees ended and the sky began, this was his world at the moment.

The Ural's engine, while not exactly a purring sound, had its usual calming effect on its rider as it consumed the miles of  German forest road.  The hum of the wheels, could just barely be discerned by the rider from within his helmet which kept the night's chill air from his shielded face.

Off in the distance, the rider could discern the glow of a small town's lights.  Knowing it was the town of Pulheim in western Germany, the rider had been using it as a navigational landmark and as it loomed, he slowed his pace, seeking a suitable place to pull over and park.

A rest stop showed itself and the rider pulled his rig into a parking spot, under one of the two bright halogen lights illuminating the rest stop.  Dismounting, the rider removed his helmet, took out his cellphone and dialed a number he'd stored as a speed dial during his mission briefing.

Two rings and a voice on the other end answered with a female voice.  The rider spoke: "R Bikes Rule" and thought he heard the speaker catch her breath and then come back with: "Oilheads drool" and shortly afterwards end the call.  Smiling, the rider donned back his helmet, remounted his sidecar rig and pulled away smartly from the rest area towards the lights of the town.

Streetlights and neon signs greeted the rider as he entered the outskirts of the Pulheim.  His helmet's earphones murmured directions into his ears, guiding him to the rendezvous point with his contact. He kept looking into his rear mirrors, trying to detect someone following him and finding his "six" clear.

The rider found his way to out of Pulheim, his onboard police scanner having reported no alarms or reports of parachutes in the sky over the Chorbusch Forest which had served as his drop zone.  He got on  the #1 Autobahn which formed part of the beltway around the big city of Koln or Cologne, the biggest German city closest to its border with Belgium.

The rider and his sidecar rig were not long on this highway, taking the Aachener Strasse Road exit and then heading straight into the center of town.

Traffic was pretty heavy and the rider noticed many glances from passing vehicles at his bright orange Ural sidecar rig. He wondered again why mission planning had dictated this color choice as it was not exactly what comes to mind when one is doing covert operations.

The rider threaded his way through the late night traffic, his rig being such an unusual sight that it caused drivers to give him some more space than usual.  Soon he arrived at his destination, the exposition center where the 2012 Intermot Motorcycle Trade Show was being hosted.  Pulling around to the back of the convention center, the rider slowly approached the loading dock area which was deserted at that time of night.

It was Saturday and near midnight as he parked the rig at one of the drive up ramps and he ran the access keycard he'd been provided earlier during the mission brief.  The steel shutters rolled noisily upwards as the Rider inwardly cringed at the noise being made.  Still, there were no persons around inside and no alarms started blaring so it was with a sigh of relief that he restarted the sidecar rig's engine.

Slowly motoring up the ramp and into the convention center, he quickly shut off the engine once inside and closed the dock door.

He pushed the sidecar rig through the brightly lit hallways leading to the convention site's exhibit area and pushed the rig through the doors.  His eyes feasted on the site of many new shiny motorcycles parked in their manufacturer exhibit areas.  The lights were on low as the exhibit was closed in preparation for the opening on Sunday, later that morning.

As he'd been briefed, there were no security guards about as the main public access doors were locked and he'd gained access from the docks.  His contact had apparently disabled the inside cameras and alarms as expected, though he once again was amused at the previous exchange of code words.

He looked for and spotted the Victory Logo sign on one of the exhibit hall walls and pushed the sidecar rig in that direction.  Finding the open spot he'd been briefed would be there, he pushed his Ural sidecar rig onto the display platform and locked the front wheel into place with the chock assembly that was waiting there.

Moving quickly, he disengaged the quick disconnects on the sidecar and separated the sidecar from the tug, leaving the tug on display.  He applied the various covers and tupperware add-ons to the tug to make it look like a Victory motorcycle to the casual eye and rapidly wheeled the sidecar into a nearby storage area.  He covered up the sidecar with a cover after ensuring the false bottom in the sidecar passenger compartment remained locked, security his special equipment and weapons.

Taking one last careful look, he moved silently back towards the dock area and let himself out a side door, blending rapidly into the night.  Later that day, Sunday, would be his meeting at the site where he'd left his Ural tug, he was to look for a brown-haired woman wearing a black top and jeans along with a black leather handbag and appearing to be just a Intermot spectator admiring the new motorcycles.

The rider looked forward to the meeting, as his contact had the details of the his next mission, rumor had it being somewhere in Norway.  He wondered what part his sidecar rig would play in that......

Image source: SonjaM

Previous appearance of "The Rider": A little mid-winter fiction

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Book Review: Key West Revenge

Absolutely no motorcycling content!

Still, a book so enjoyable to me that I read it in one sitting, finishing it late at night on the same day I got it through the mail.

Image Source:

Here's my review of it, also posted on, where you can buy the book.

Just finished reading this book last night (I couldn't put it down), and like Lee Sweetapple's first book: Vette Head's Not Dead, a thoroughly enjoyable tale with plenty of action, intrigue, and gun play.

The author vividly describes the local South Florida settings the story plays out in, mentioning well known and perhaps less well known locales that one will want to visit in person if a trip to South Florida is in your near future.
There are plot twists and turns within the main story which keep one's attention as the action moves rapidly to a showdown in a remote location in the Everglades. Three letter agencies and their characters, mix with drug lords, local and federal law enforcement corruption, and of course the black ops trained group of friends centered around the book's main character, Jim Stillwater.

The book evoked memories of my own life in South Florida, and gave me a new perspective on some of the locales I'd experienced first hand, along with providing back stories to enrich the old memories.

Now, to make it perfect, the book would have involved sidecar motorcycles in some way, but it's still quite the enjoyable tale.  Read it if your plans include Key West, or if you grew up in the area or just want some hours of fast moving action.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Safety Farkle - D3O Armor Pads

Farkle: Functional Sparkle, the nickname given to all sorts of usually shiny aftermarket parts/gadgets/add-ons to one's motorcycle in order to mold it into the image of one's ideal motorcycle.

Today, I was at a local motorcycle accessories store to pick up a Heidenau K37 Tire for Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig.  This was the tire to replace the one I'd gotten a puncture in and which had been acting as my spare tire.

I now have new semi-aggressive knobby type tires all around and as a spare.  Bring on the snow!  Despite the teaser reports on the news shows however, no snow to speak of.  A few snowflakes here and there, some small ice particles but nothing that stuck or hung around for long.  Very disappointing, it ended up being just a gray and overcast kind of day.  Perfect for hanging about the motorcycle accessories store!

As I wandered about the store, while waiting for them to mount the new tire onto my spare wheel (only $20 to do this), I stumbled upon what I am calling safety farkle.

It's not shiny though it is bright orange.  The store was selling D3O Motorcycle Armor pads!  I'd first written about them back in September of 2007, now five years later, they were there right in front of me.  Bluekat about written about the D3O kneepads she'd gotten online, and I had briefly thought about buying the armor online but I wanted to look at it firsthand.

I picked up a pair of shoulder pads to supplement the armor that came with my Motoport Riding Jacket, perhaps next time I have a lowside at over 40mph and my shoulder is the first impact point, the D3O armor will prevent further separation of my AC Joint!

On the top, are the shoulder pads, the hip pads are below them.

The D3O shoulder pads went in just fine over the existing motoport armor pads.  No drama there.

However, the original plan for the hip pads had been to replace the rather wimpy pads Motoport had installed in my riding pants.  I'd never had much faith in the thin armor pad provided.  But, as I was to find out, there's a reason they're so thin.  Once I had the hip pads in place, the pants were much too tight around the lower hip area and I could not sit comfortably on the motorcycle.

So I ended up cutting the hip pads in half, using one half to bolster the exiting hip pad, locating the D30 armor more towards the rear to cover more of my hip, outer buttock area.  The remaining hip pad, I split in half and sewed it into place using lots of Kevlar thread to provide protection for my Coccyx or tailbone:

The new tailbone armor
You can see the semi-circular pockets to each side containing just the 
thin motoport hip pad armor on the half furthers away from the orange tailbone pads
and the half closest to the orange pads containing half of the other D3O hip pad on each side.

 So the search is over for me, the extra and more modern armor pads give me much more confidence in being protected if and when I ever have another accident.