Victory for the five Ural Sidecar Rigs which undertook the challenge of the 2013 Elephant Ride! Since the 2010 iteration of this yearly snow riding event, I've been part of our Uralisti group's efforts to make it to the highest point permissible from Grant, Colorado; along the Guanella Pass Road, to the Forest Service gate that bars access to vehicular traffic to the actual summit of Guanella Pass.
Last year, 2012, was the closest we'd gotten with me as part of the challenge group, we could see the Forest Service gate but a deep patch of snow stopped further progress of our rigs.
This year, five rigs started off shortly after 9:45 AM from Grant, following in the wake of multiple dirt bike riders. The first couple of miles had no snow at all! Eventually, we started seeing signs of snow, and finally hit patches of snow-covered road where the trees shielded the fallen snow from the Colorado Sun.
From the Burning Bear Campground's vicinity onwards, it was pretty much snow-covered road with brief stretches of bare pavement somewhat covered in hard ice. The ice was quite slippery to our rigs, and our two-wheeled brethren were having quite the time with it.
The Ural rigs made good if sometimes slow progress as we made our way uphill in the loose snow. There were deep ruts in the snow and little maneuvering room as we slowed to safely pass struggling two-wheeled riders. Pretty soon, I could see the Uralisti ahead of me reaching down to engage their 2WD function and I followed suit. The two wheels now being powered made a difference but there was still some slipping and sliding done by the rigs as we motored upwards to the parking spot at the hairpin turn before the "big drift".
It was soon time for our rigs to charge up the hill, all five of us in a line, easily negotiating the icy patches that gave the dirt bike riders pause. There were even spots where we had to disengage our 2WD since you can't run in that mode on dry pavement. The usual site of the "big drift" was where we expected it but the small amount of snow we've had so far this winter had created a rather small "big drift" that was easily negotiated by most of the rigs.
Soon after the drift, we were cruising past two stretches of somewhat deep and definitely loose snow and we all made it to the Forest Service Gate! Quite gratifying, though I know the mild winter we've had here in Colorado helped us with very small snow fall amounts.
Victory lineup at the Forest Service Gate, several of the dirt bikes were small enough to
go around the gate but they reportedly didn't get much farther up the road due to a pretty big snow drift.
Finally, it was time to go back down the mountain road. Downhill riding on snow is much easier than uphill riding on snow since Mr Gravity is now your friend. We got back to the bare dirt portions of the Guanella Pass road with no issues and continued on US285 back towards Bailey, CO.
Arriving at Bailey, we gassed up and proceeded to our usual "apres-elephant ride" cafe for a late lunch. The Cutthroat Cafe is a small diner with a friendly staff and owner and good food. Worth a stop if you find yourself hungry while riding near Bailey.
The couple at the table next to us remarked that they'd just passed through a pretty good snow storm on the way to Bailey from the Denver Metro Area. I thought it ironic that we'd see more fresh snow on the way home than we did going up Guanella Pass! Near the end of our meal, snow started coming down but not really sticking to the pavement yet.
We left Bailey under snowy skies, the roads wet but not icy. As we got past Crow Hill though, we saw a line of red brake lights ahead. Uh oh. There was an accident further up the hill from where we were and traffic started to stack up in front and behind us. We pulled the rigs over to a small pullout spot to assess the situation.
Emergency response vehicles came and went, finally after about 30 minutes, two large tow trucks drove past us. After about 50 minutes of delay in the cold and snow, we finally got moving again.
Pretty soon, we were past the accident site and traffic flow picked up in speed. Alex P. turned south at Pine Junction to motor home to Colorado Springs, he had the longest to go to get home today. He rides a 2011 Ural Gobi and I think he'll fit in just fine with the CZAR. Alex would later report it snowed on him all the way home.
The remaining four rigs used US285 all the way back to the Denver Metro Area and we soon split up headed our separate ways once we got to the C-470 interchange. It snowed on us all the way till shortly after Conifer and I for one was glad to see dry roads once again given all the cagers around us.
I got home shortly after 4:00 PM, washed off the road grime and magnesium chloride from Valencia before walking into the house. Great day of riding, no mechanical issues, we made it to the gate and met a new Uralista!
Ride Safe. Ride Aware.