Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year and 2015 in Pictures

Got home from Walsenburg around noon today, figured out the power loss issue (clogged air filter, swapped in GMH (get me home) used filter and was good to go!  Oh, and ran out of gas just short of  Larkspur, CO but the spare tank got me going.

Scarlett did great on this trip and this year!

2015: The Year in Pictures....hope you like it.

make sure you select 1080p for best quality

Some stats for record.

Total mileage ridden in 2014: 11,560 miles broken down by motorcycle:

Scarlett:  Ending odometer reading 31,258.  16,155 Km or 9690 Miles

Brigitta ('87 BMW R80): Ending Odometer 97,370.  1870 Miles (Sad, I know)

1560 miles ridden in Europe on the rental URAL.

In my pitiful defense, I don't have a work commute anymore since I work from home.

This brings my total miles ridden on motorcycles to:  181,643 (more or less)

Martha and I wish you and yours a Happy New Year in 2016!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Riding back to Colorado from Arizona, Part 2

I woke to temperatures in the mid-teens (Fahrenheit) this morning in Kayenta, Arizona.  After a leisurely breakfast it was past 7:30 or so and I went to gear up for today's riding.  After I got ALL the layers on, I was almost overheating inside the hotel room, it was almost a relief to step outside into the low 20s!

I packed up the rig and used the kick starter lever to break the "stiction" of the oil which had congealed overnight in the cold temperatures; this to allow things to "move" easier when the starter was applied.

I held my breath, cracked the throttle open a tiny bit and thumbed the starter.  After about three seconds of cranking it caught!  Then it died.  Then it caught again as I pressed the starter again, and it ran for a bit then died again.  Finally, on the third attempt, the engine stayed on and I finished gearing up while things warmed up.

I motored out of the area between 8 and 8:30 AM after fueling up at the gas station next to the inn.  The sun was out and made the temperatures that were in the mid 20s Fahrenheit seem warmer than they were.

The ride from Kayenta to Cortez on US160 east was a series of scenic snow-clad landscapes.  The roads were pretty clear, in fact it was in the cities where I encountered most of the snow-packed surfaces of the day.  Sorry, but there was a dearth of safe places to stop and take pictures of the snow-clad roadside scenery; either that or when there was a spot, some cager was right on my butt and I couldn't slow to grab the safe spot.

Once I got closer to Cortez, Colorado, I did manage to stop to get the below pictures:

The ride through Durango proved more interesting in a mechanical sense.  I went to start moving from a stoplight and Scarlett acting like she had no power.  It was like the clutch was slipping you might say, I could not get any power out of third gear and had to motor onwards in second gear for about two miles.  Tried a couple of times to engage third gear, no power and so I went back to second and high RPMs.  Finally, third gear "caught" and I had normal power under that gear and onwards.

Very weird.

It happened one more time several miles later, same behavior but it only lasted for a minute at most and I was able to hold power in third, but not fourth that time.  It didn't happen again the rest of the day, makes me wonder what's going on.

After Durango, I motored through roads that were slushy at times, snow-covered in others but mostly quite rideable.  The skies were overcast though and lent more chill to the air.

After a slow transit through Pagosa Springs (everyone was taking it pretty slow with all the snow packed streets), it was time to take on Wolf Creek Pass or as I now will remember it: The White Death.

The signs along the highway mandated tire chains for commercial trucks so I knew conditions would be snow-packed.  What I saw as I approached that it seemed the entire pass was enshrouded in a huge snowy cloud.

Visibility was crap with driving snow, and it didn't help that my visor got wet on the inside and froze.  As I slowly made my way up the curvy western portions of the pass, I kept Scarlett in 1WD since the snow was hard packed.

Once I got past the "scenic overlook" site, the snow got a bit deeper and slicker.  I reached down while moving and engage Scarlett's 2WD lever and motored on with no issues except for the almost whiteout conditions, the inability to see the end of the road at times, the idiot cagers who passed me in the passing lane when one couldn't see the lanes!

I felt sorry for the big trucks who were pointed downhill and about to try and negotiate the curvy portions of the pass road.  Still, I had my own problems.  I ended up popping my visor fully open and squinting into the driving snow, keeping the throttle steady, an eye on where I thought the edge of the road was and also watching for cagers coming up behind me and cagers coming down towards me.

Fun times, I hope the picture I paint of the conditions lead you to understand why I called it "the white death".

Finally, I got to the summit sign location and made a quick stop for proof:

Wolf Creek Pass

There were no, repeat no safe stopping spots anywhere where I usually stop to take pictures while transiting through Wolf Creek Pass.  I am surprised the state patrol didn't shut down the pass, conditions were really bad.  I wouldn't care to try that again any time soon I think.

After the pass, the sun came out and it was almost a balmy feel as Scarlett and I motored onwards still in temperatures in the mid-20s.  They would, eventually, climb into the low 30s for a bit as I motored through the towns of Del Norte, Monte Vista and finally Alamosa.

The Sangre de Cristo Mountain range with their end point mountain: Blanca Peak were nicely visible today under the warm sunlight.

 Blanca Peak

Part of the Sangre de Cristos, the narrow grayish line on
the right, between the sage/grasslands and the mountains
is the Sand Dunes National Monument.

It was almost 4:00PM by now and the sun was low in the western sky.  I thought I might have spent too much time getting the above two shots but I made it to the western side of La Veta Pass just in time to catch the sunset's red glory: (although I did miss the initial burst of color due to worrying about ice patches in the gathering dark)

If you think the above shots were nice, just a minute before I spotted the light show and was able to stop and get the camera in position, the whole sky was brilliant orange hues!  It was amazing.

Scarlett and I continued onwards and reached the summit area.  There was a State Patrol cruiser with its lights on, handling the scene of a car crash.  The car in question had somehow flipped and come to rest on top of its roof!  Then, I understand why there'd been an ambulance with its lights and siren on, driving out of the summit towards Alamosa.

Literally seconds after witnessing that scene, I spotted what I'd been fearing all along, black ice.

Training kicked in, I pulled in the clutch, made no steering movements and rode the wide ice patch with a very scary wriggling feel coming from the tires.  It was very icy at the summit, and I slowed way down, luckily there was very little traffic.  I would do this with one more large patch of solid ice, with no issues.

I crawled along for a bit till I started descending from the summit and the icy conditions seemed to go away but I stayed with slower speeds.  The 4-5 cagers who passed me must have thought I was too slow but I didn't care, I just slid over to the side and let them pass.

Soon it was apparently dry roads once again and some time later I saw the lights of Walsenburg, the city where I had booked a room online while in Alamosa.  It was quite dark by now, I was cold, tired and not seeing very well.  I was quite glad that I'd decided not to press through the remaining 3-4 hours to get home.

I think the high temperature today was 34°F (1.1°C) and the low was 22°F (-5.5°C).

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Riding back to Colorado from Arizona, Part 1

I left the Phoenix area on Scarlett, my 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig this morning around 7:30PM and would end the day in Kayenta, AZ by 6:30 PM or so.  Long day in the saddle.

I elected to check out AZ 87 out of the urban sprawl that is Phoenix metro.  Not a bad road through the Tonto National Forest.  The scenery was sure better than on I-17 between Flagstaff and Phoenix.  If ever I find myself going to Phoenix (very doubtful by motorcycle again) I will use this road to get there from I-40.

There was a bit of snow the last 100 miles or so south of the junction of this road with I-40, it made for some cold riding especially as I'd neglected to don the usual fleece layer under my riding coat!  We made it to Winslow with no issues however and after a bit of getting turned around, finally located the northbound version of AZ 87 which was a bit east of Winslow.  This was the route that the GPS said was fastest to Kayenta, Arizona...the southern gateway town to Monument Valley.

 An interesting rock formation I saw shortly after heading 
north on US87 from its junction with I-40 

The one thing that the GPS didn't let me know, and I assumed, was that there'd be no gas stations between I-40 and Tuba City, AZ!  I had counted on there being gas in Second Mesa but no go, not sure what the native-americans of the Hopi tribe do for gasoline in this area!

I was sweating the ability to reach Tuba City but in the end made it without having to tap into the reserve 1.5 gallons of fuel in the spare tank.  In fact, I only had to put in 4.65 gallons when I finally got to a gas station in Tuba City.  Pheeeew!

From Tuba City it was a mere 75 miles more to Kayenta and I fueled up one more time there after arriving at 3:51 PM.  There was time so I dashed the 30 miles or so to the spot where I wanted to capture today's sunset.

Another interesting rock formation south of Monument Valley

I made it to the chosen sunset viewing point with just minutes to spare.  I tried Scarlett in a couple of spots and finally ended up pretty much where I'd posed her before on a previous trip with Valencia, my 2011 URAL Patrol sidecar rig: LINK

Valencia, May 2012

Sunset pictures done, it started to get cold.  The on board thermometer read 25°F (-3.8°C) before it got too dark to read the display.  I motored the 30 miles or so south back towards Kayenta in gathering, deepening darkness, the cold seemingly getting colder.

Finally I saw the lights of Kayenta!  I got back to the junction of AZ163 and US160 and pulled into the McDonalds there to warm up and get a bite to eat.  I couldn't get on the Internet so I ended up calling my loving wife who returned home via plane with the boys.  She speedily got me a room at the local inn via an online booking site and I went there after finishing my meal.

Did I mention it was cold?  It sure felt colder when I went back outside to motor across the highway to where the Inn was located.  I checked in and repositioned Scarlett outside my second story motel room in the back of the inn.

I finally got on the motel's Internet feed and checked the weather, it was a cool 19°F (-7.2°C).  No wonder it felt cold, though I suspect my body had used up any reserves it had for generating warmth after riding in cold temperatures most of the day.

Assuming the cold doesn't zap the battery on Scarlett, I hope to be back on the road by 8:00 AM for the final (hopefully) day of riding back to the metro Denver area.  I plan on using US160 all the way to I-25, the only iffy points will be Wolf Creek Pass and La Veta Pass I think.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Pleasant Lake and Sunset near the Cibola Resort

A trying day in some ways, a good day in others...

Martha and I rode Scarlett over to Lake Pleasant while the boys spent the morning with their grandfather as he pulled a volunteer shift at the MIM: Musical Instrument Museum.  He is one of the volunteer docents there, helping folks learn about the many varied musical instruments.

We parted ways around 9:30AM and by 10:30 or so, Martha and I were at Lake Pleasant which lies to the north of Phoenix and were doing some exploring.

There really wasn't that much to keep us at the lake and so we headed back into town early.  As their grandfather was apparently busy being a docent, we picked up the boys early at the MIM and got some fast food for lunch near the hotel.

We then went back to the hotel to relax for a bit as it was the afternoon of the football game between the Cardinals and the Packers.  We wanted to avoid all the rabid fans you see as the stadium was about five miles from the hotel.

So up to the room we go, only to find out neither of our hotel key cards were working.  Weird.

Martha went back down to the front desk and found there had been some mix up between her dad (who arranged the lodgings for us) and the hotel.  We thought we had another night there, but not according to their records.  Of course, the hotel was booked solid due to the game apparently.

So, luckily, they allowed us back into the room to get our stuff and without additional costs.  Martha then found us a room at the Cibola Resort and Spa about 18 minutes north and there we went.

Coincidentally, it was located along Pleasant Lake Parkway, the route one takes to Pleasant Lake, and it was easy to find and once the room was ready for us, to get settled in.

I went out for a ride to rid myself of the stress of the last minute hotel lodging displacement and saw hot air balloons to the north of the hotel!  I chased the nearest one and was there in time to see it land.  It was the first of several balloons which would follow the same path towards a local glider field.

 One of the balloons, reflected on the canal that is part of CAP:
Central Arizona Project

I didn't stick around for the following balloons, instead spent some time rushing about the area trying to find a good spot to catch the sunset, preferably with one of the local cactus in the foreground.

Several sites and attempts later, I think I got it:

Had an unusual UDF (Ural Delay Factor) moment while I shot the above sunset colors.  Not one but two Sheriff Deputies in their trucks pulled up to check on me.  They'd seen the rig and me kneeling down on the ground and were concerned apparently.

As the light and colors swiftly changed, I assured the deputy that all was OK and fielded his questions about Scarlett.  Thankfully, he wasn't too curious and let me capture some more shots before I lost the light.

I returned to the resort and the family and we went out for dinner.  Another day in Arizona done with, with one more to go.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas in Phoenix

The family and I are in Phoenix for the Christmas holidays, spending time with Martha's dad and his friend Jan from Norway who's also in town.

I rode Scarlett down while the rest of the Chang gang flew into Phoenix from Denver on Christmas Eve.  Took me two days, nine hours each day, for a total of 905 miles according to Googlemaps.  Long day, but at least I only encountered very light snow falls.

I overnighted in Alburquerque with Piper and Darrell S.

I had forgotten about the stretch of road between the Meteor Crater and Flagstaff on I-40 though, and it's strong headwinds coming from the West.  MPG rating for that stretch?  20 MPG.  I think next time, I'll take the bypass road at Holbrook AZ that takes one on a reportedly curvy road towards Phoenix.

I've been seeing sad MPG results throughout the trip so far, best MPG being 27 and average seemingly to be around 24MPG, a far cry from the older OR1.01 EFI mapping that ranged from 32-36MPG.  I will evaluate after this road trip but I may go back to OR1.01 for the EFI mapping.

I've not found the scenic spots for Phoenix, Arizona yet but Miles (my youngest son) and I did wander over to the White Tank State Park on the west side of the city to see what we could see.

Turned out to be mostly large cactus, sage brush and rocky terrain with campgrounds interspersed throughout.  No trails available for the rig to get some altitude to get a shot of the sprawling metropolis that is the city of Phoenix.

 Christmas Day in Arizona

Miles, with his teenage energy levels climbed up a small hill
to get a look around.

The rest of the day was spent visiting Martha's family and friends in the area.  Here's a group family shot of yesterday evening.  There was much food eaten, beverages enjoyed and great company.

Nice crowns eh?
We had "crackers" with our dinner, and crowns came in them for all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Time passes, kids grow up, motorcycles come and go, onward flows the passage of time finding us all at another Christmas.

Here's wishing you and yours the best of Christmas holidays, may you get what you wish for, may you get to spend time with loved ones, and equally important, may you get a few good rides in before this year is history!

Speaking of time passing:

2006:  The long 30+ day of snow captivity for Maria, my 2004 BMW R1150RT and I; trapped by snow and unable to reach the main roads.


2007: Only one motorcycle in my life at the time, Maria, she was a quite the mileage crusher; but she was not a suitable motorcycle for snow...


2008: Still solely on two wheels, now mostly riding Brigitta, the 1987 BMW R80 Airhead and still easily trapped by snow.  Maria was still around but not for much longer...


2009: A year later, now not so easily trapped by snow and well on the way to embracing snow days, learned a lot about wrenching on a 1996 URAL Sportsman, really a lot....her name was Natasha.  I got her in trade for Maria.


2011: Natasha breaks one too many times (I really should have kept her) and Vikki, a 2004 Suzuki V-Strom and later Yoshie, a 2006 Suzuki V-Strom with the same Dauntless Sidecar come into the picture. They took a while to sort out into a good snow rig but she got there.  Fast, powerful, but in the end, not a URAL.


2012: Valencia is now in the picture and I was back to being a Uralista, along with still riding Yoshie the V-Strom sidecar rig sometimes.


2013: Valencia continues to provide much three-wheeled enjoyment, takes me to Alaska and back (though with some major mechanical work involved).


2014: After a trade-in deal I couldn't pass up, Yoshie and Valencia go to other owners and Scarlett enters the picture.

2015: Scarlett remains in the picture and doing well, Brigitta, the R80 Beemer remains as well, relegated to mostly dry and sunny riding conditions.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Winters Solstice Sunset

First day of the Winter season here in the great state of Colorado.  It was a balmy 41°F (5°C) as Scarlett, my 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig and I motored out of the home neighborhood to the nearby sunset viewing point.

As sunsets go, this one was "fair to middlin" as they say, but it was the Winters Solstice's Sunset so it made it onto this blog.

We've already had more snow, I believe, in the last couple of months than we had all of Winter last year it seems.  There's more snow called for near Christmas Day but we probably won't be seeing it as we'll be out of town.

Time to start working on my annual "Year in Pictures" compilation to bore you folks with along with the usual stats.

Oh, and to prepare for going out of town, I greased the pusher splines (dry again), added grease to all three u-joints and checked fluids.  I'll probably check the sidecar splines tomorrow along with perhaps more grease on the sidecar u-joint as there was evidence of water contamination.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Uraling to Red Rocks and Echo Lake

It had been three days since the big snow storm had hit the Metro Denver area and things were getting back to normal in terms of clear main roads and warmer temperatures.

Our neighborhood streets remained snow-covered with crushed-down snow and ice but Scarlett, my 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar again had no issues motoring out short before 8:00AM.

We road on mostly clear main roads across the metro area.  Traffic was beginning to get heavy with swarms of unwary cagers rushing to the local malls to buy Christmas presents I assume.  Soon, Scarlett and I were clear of that mess that is called Denver and we got to the small foothill town of Morrison.

After tanking up, it was time to peruse the snow-covered scenery of nearby Red Rocks park.  This park with its large and scenic rock formations is a favorite day trip destination for the metro area.  The park also boasts an amphitheater literally carved out of and between two really large rock formations, quite cool.

The empty parking lots had enough snow for Scarlett and I to play a little bit with riding about in the snow with 2WD engaged, but alas, no other Uralisti had elected to join me so no movies.

Ship Rock

The roads in the park were clear for the most part but there were ice patches that reminded one to pay attention!  Not too many people in the park even though temperatures were in the 40s Fahrenheit.

Leaving Red Rocks, we proceeded on CO Highway 74 through Bear Creek Canyon and the small mountain towns of Idledale, Kittredge and eventually got to Evergreen.

At Evergreen, we motored through the town and got on Upper Bear Creek Canyon road to head further into the foothills.  This canyon road is a two lane road, paved and mostly clear of snow that day except for the shady areas which still had enough to cause one to slow down.

I stopped at the usual spot a bit past the turn for Witter Gulch Road and got this shot of nearby mountain peaks:

Turning back towards Witter Gulch Road, we rode north along it for a bit but had to stop when I spotted this really large elk crossing the road, by the time I had stopped on the side of the road it had run up to the side of the hill opposite me.

 Quite the rack wouldn't you say?

At this point, I was less than 60 feet from the Elk

Continuing on, Witter Gulch Road winds up towards its junction with Squaw Pass Road through a series of sometimes very tight hairpin turns.  Luckily, the road is now paved and was clear of snow, mostly.

Once on Squaw Pass Road, aka CO Highway 103, I headed further west for about ten miles to reach the vicinity of Echo Lake and the junction with CO Highway 5, aka the Mount Evans Road.  The Mount Evans road is closed for the season, it's one of two paved roads here in Colorado where one can motor all the way to the summit when the road is open and weather conditions permit.

 Views of distant and nearby mountain peaks while on Squaw Pass Road

 Echo Lake

Finishing off the above pictures, Scarlett and I retraced our route back towards the junction of Witter Gulch Road but stayed on Squaw Pass to get to Bergen Park.  Going now downhill, things got a bit more "interesting" on the tight turns since there was more snow covering the ground at times.  This part of CO 103 has many shady spots where the snow hasn't melted much after the snow plows went a lot more judicious braking is involved.

Still, made it down to Bergen Park with no issues and I rode CO74 down back to Evergreen.  I stopped at the dam which forms Evergreen Lake and got this shot of the cold, cold waters:

 Evergreen Lake and Dam

Yep, that's people on the frozen lake, doing some fishing or recreating.  No, vehicles not allowed on the frozen lake.  Just as well, because my experience with ice patches so far tells me the rig would just sit there spinning helplessly without studs on the tires!

Crossing through the town of Evergreen once more, Scarlett and I motored on CO Highway 74 back through Kittredge but this time spotted a scenic opportunity in Idledale.  Getting off the main road, I found myself in a small narrow trail loop alongside a small creek; part of Bear Creek I assume.

 Lots of ducks to be seen walking about the ice floes formed on top
of the creeks flowing waters.

Idledale neighborhood

The rest of the ride was just motoring out of the foothills through Morrison, and back into the Metro Denver area where the traffic had gotten significantly heavier with holiday shopping cagers.  I witnessed the usual acts of stupidity and unwary driving but made it home just fine.  I was a bit warm on the way home, temperatures had soared into the low 60s Fahrenheit according to the on board thermometer!