Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Boulder, CO, USA
Long ride tale
Not sure how to post the pix, but here's the story:
We had a ride planned for Friday. We thought we’d go up Poudre Canyon to Walden for lunch, over Willow Creek Pass and then home via Trail Ridge Road or Berthoud Pass. Just an easy fall ride for half a day and then back for a BBQ at Mike & Heidi’s. The usual suspects: Mike & Heidi two up on Mike’s GS, John on his ST, Bob on his GT, and me on my GT.
The ride up the canyon was beautiful. Occasional glimpses of the gold trees and grasses reflected in the slow running Poudre. It did start getting cold going over Cameron Pass, and as we descended into North Park it was just above 40*F with a bit of snow flurries as we got into Walden. At one point I was grinning in my helmet thinking how most folks would never know the unique feeling of riding through weather on a bike and being completely at ease and comfortable. All they see is ‘crazy bikers’ riding through the snow, not knowing about heated gear and touring bikes. The truly crazy part was to come later.
Over lunch we saw the snow was still falling, but not sticking to the pavement, but in an abundance of caution we decided to reverse route rather than chancing TRR or Berthoud Pass.
Just a few miles outside of Walden the snow started in earnest. Mike was in the lead and setting the pace as he was two up. It was wet heavy snow and I found myself having to constantly use my left hand to wipe the snow off my visor. Then my visor fogged up, so I opened it up so I could wipe the inside bottom 2” and peer through that. After awhile I was practically driving blind, but I could follow Mike’s taillight. We were now down to 25 mph or so, and the snow was starting to pile up on the pavement, but I could see the water spray from Mike’s rear tire so I figured if we could just get over the pass and drop down, we’d be OK. Riding blind in a white out, I did notice that there were trucks stacking up behind Bob at the back. Shortly, the Moose Visitor Center sign loomed up out of the murk, so I honked at Mike and we pulled over. I put my feet down and almost slipped. The snow was now sticking. We decided to go into the Visitor Center, clear our visors, and take a break.
We were only 8 miles to the Pass. The woman at the Center looked at the radar and said there was a big mass between Steamboat and the Pass. We decided that there would be no waiting it out, going back to Walden meant being stuck there for who knows how long, so we decided to push on. I figured the truck tracks would give us just enough wet pavement, and we didn’t have far to go.
It got worse. The snow was now piled up to about 3-4” and the truck tracks were starting to freeze. My thermo read 30*F. I was now in the lead, but the bike felt solid, was not squirming around at all, and all things considered, I was feeling surprisingly relaxed. This is the point at which the drivers, nice and warm in their cages, were absolutely correct about ‘those crazy bikers’.
Then I heard a loud crash. I looked in my rear view and saw that John was down. I managed to get stopped and parked, and in rushing back to help, discovered that the road was completely iced over under the snow. Not good.
Several guys in two trucks had already stopped and were helping John get it upright and off the road. John reported that his shoulder was sore, but he was not really hurt. Lots of broken plastic, but the bike could run. Thankfully John was OK, and we really had no choice but to push on quickly. Mike reported that his bike was feeling pretty squirrelly (remember he’s two up) so he took the lead to set the pace...both feet down as outriggers and creeping at just enough speed to stay upright. Trucks that passed us sprayed us with heavy wet snow. I kept thinking that any minute now, we would drop some elevation and the ice would stop. We just kept on like that for what seemed like a very long time.
Finally I could see water spraying off Mike’s rear tire and I knew we were going to make it. In a shockingly short time, the snow disappeared and we were able to pick up speed. When we found a place to pull off and take stock, the bikes were covered in ice. After another half hour and dropping several thousand more feet, the sun was out and we were in a completely different world.
In retrospect, and all things considered, it was really amazing that we did not all go down repeatedly, and thankfully John was not really injured. The old adage that comes to mind is: “Adventures suck when you’re having them”, but since no one got really hurt it sure makes a good story.
And the truly wonderful part is, that this is the stuff that makes us feel fully alive and keeps us riding on into the unknown.
And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.