Sometimes the most rewarding things in life are entirely unplanned.
I recently had to make a trip to Golden, Colorado. For various reasons, I really didn't want to make the trip. But, it was a family thing, and I had to. But rather than focusing on that too much, I decided that I would take a "mental day off" and ride the mountain roads around Golden by myself. Riding by myself usually gives me enough "helmet time" to get my head straight. So, I asked inmates for road suggestions in the area and started mapping.
I trailered the KTM from Des Moines to Golden (I know -- trailer wuss. There were reasons.) and offloaded the Orangecicle at my sister's house. The first night I tested the bike up and down Lookout Mountain. Are there pictures of this little endeavor, you ask? No. It was dark.
The next morning my sister suggested that she would also like to partake of my mental day off, but she had to get in her morning run at Red Rocks. This was really unexpected and not really what I was thinking my day would be like. I was thinking I needed "alone time" doing things a bit edgy, but how could I turn down sis?
She suggested that I tool around Red Rocks a bit to get a feel of the bike. I'd been to Red Rocks many times, but it is always amazing to see.
What a beautiful place. I made a quick run from Red Rocks up to Evergreen and then slabbed it back to Golden. The bike was running fine, so I ran back to my sis's house before heading out. I asked her again, "Are you sure you're going?" She said, "You bet. Wouldn't miss it. Let me shower up first." I thought, "Hmmm. I've never had anyone
on the back of the KTM before, and I'm planning to go up Mt. Evans. . . . This could be interesting."
I have to start by mentioning that my sis is one of those rare souls you find that you simply want to be around -- full of life, full of stories. Well, the fun started even before she "threw leg over" the Orangecicle. First she had to get an ice pack for her back, which she'd injured preparing for a marathon. So she pulls out this ice pack holder that you would swear was an oversized feminine pad . . . with strings. It was gross. That got us both laughing from the start.
Then, she tried to climb on the KTM. Needless to say, neither the first such effort nor even the second was successful -- each attempt followed with a hardy laugh and an ever-growing string of expletives. "Why do they make this damn thing so tall
" was a frequent query thoughout the day. She did eventually make it, but I did have to convince her throughout the day that the bike was not growing taller
as we rode.
We headed out of Golden and went to Morrison and then up Bear Creek Road towards Evergreen. Do I have pictures of this? No. I've never been on a road like this before with blind turns carved in the rock walls. I just wanted to deliver my sis and the Orangecicle safely to Evergreen, which I did. But man, what a road, and sis and her refreshingly cool feminine pad were the perfect passengers. Here's a shot of sis in Evergreen:
She did take a shot of the feminine pad at this point, but I can't bring myself to post it. Some sights are better left unseen. We had lunch in a great little pizza place overlooking the stream that runs through Evergreen and spent a lot of time catching up and talking about those things that siblings talk about. Then, we headed up Squaw Pass to Echo Lake, stopping at the little store by the lake.
She looks good in Orange, huh? I think she's laughing here because I told her that if she dropped it she would pick it up. Visiting the store was bittersweet. I'd been there a few years ago with my parents. Mom passed away just a few years later. The store still carries all of the little trinkets that my little daughter pined over back then and wanted Mom to buy. I liked being there and didn't like being there at the same time, if that makes any sense.
At the store we decided that we would go ahead and try to see how far we could go up Mt. Evans before the carbs on the KTM went "tits up." Little did I know how close to heart that phrase would come a bit later. So, we headed up Evans. Wow, what an experience. Thank you to everyone who suggested it.
Had it not been for my sis on the back on the bike, I would have been in total peace there. With her there, I had a constant reminder that a simple mistake in this place could have drastic consequences. Love the guardrails they have up there. They consist of the little green aluminum posts you see in the picture above. Every now and again you see one bent over the cliff just past the apex of a curve.
Sis kept asking questions like, "Did you see that muskrat looking animal sunning itself on the rock by the road?" I could only shake my head. I saw nothing but the road.
We made it as far as the park rangers would let us go -- the pond/lake just below the summit.
Sis and I by the lake in this shot. Note that she is wearing my winter riding jacket while I, the ever thoughtful brother, was wearing my summer jacket -- with the air mesh over the chest. She commented that it was cold
at that altitude. I said, "You're kidding, right? You're wearing the winter jacket, and I have on the mesh. My nipples are like little diamonds
." She cracked up and said, "Well, maybe I'll cup them with my hands on the way down," to which I responded, "Well, are you at least going to rub them a little for warmth?" That brought out a big laugh and a "Ew, your my brother
Having had enough fun at 13,000 feet, we decided to go see if the KTM would start. First, though, I had to move it back a bit to get it pointing uphill. That's a fairly simple task, which resulted in me getting winded enough that I was seeing spots and just about ready to pass out. As others mentioned, "There ain't no air up there." The Orangecicle started, somehow, and we headed down to Idaho Springs.
I thought the trip up was interesting. Not so. On the trip down you have to ride next to the shear dropoff! Yikes! When they say, "Don't look down," don't look down.
Just a little over that white stripe and you would definitely find the quickest way down the mountain.
I probably made the best mileage of any KTM in history going from Mt. Evans to Idaho Springs. I hardly touched the throttle on that leg of the trip.
But, about halfway to Idaho Springs, we were following a Range Rover, that was taking the twisties slowly
, so I was on the brakes a lot. I was trying to alternate curves between the front a rear brakes. But I eventually started to feel the rear get mushy, then nothing. I thought, "Hmmm. Should I stop and tell sis that the rear brake is out and that the front rotors are warped? Or, should I just be careful and ride on?" I kept riding, gingerly. Eventually the rear brake started to show some
signs of life, and we limped into the gas station at Idaho Springs. There, we were greeted by a gray-haired sexagenarian with a tongue stud. Go figure. Sis's observation was pretty straight forward: "Did ya see the tongue stud on granny? When ya hit sixty the tongue stud's gotta go!" I'll bury that bit of advice deep in the recesses of my mind -- along with mental images of excessively large feminine pads.
Well, sis had had enough. We had considered going down Oh My God highway, but her back wouldn't take it anymore. So we mounted our trusty, rusty Orangecicle . . . . Actually, I mounted, and then sis attempted numerous times (No, sis, the bike does not get taller during the ride. It's you!), with each attempted mount accompanied by a ever growing string of expletives and laughter. We eventually zipped down Highway 6 back to Golden with a few thousand of our closest planet dwellers doing all we could to safely blend in
the flow of speeding cars, bikes and buses transporting victims to the local casinos. What a dash that was. Along the way sis kept pointing out various points of interests. "Look, there's a guy climbing that rock face! Did you see that climber???" Hell no I didn't see the climber! I was focused on not being plaster next to other roadkill on the grill of a Greyhound bus at that particular moment. Highway 6 is some road when it's busy.
We made it back to Golden without incident. The next day, I tackled some other roads by myself, including Golden Gate Canyon Road, Highway 119, and 72 running through Nederland.
Again, some of the best roads I have ever been on in my life. The pictures could never do them justice. We also had a little time to ride before I left the next morning, so sis and I headed back out to look at a place or two, including a trip up and down a treacherous
gravel road. On Highway 72 there were a number of 10 mph switchbacks which truly were 10 mph switchbacks. This gravel mountain road was more like a 3 mph switchback, but the Orangecicle handled it perfectly, even two up. Thank you Simon Pavey for Adventure Riding Techniques.
In the end, I ended up going to an event that I was dreading a bit because of odd circumstances, but I wound up unexpectedly spending time with a sibling talking about life, family, the past, the future. And, we laughed 'til we just about peed our riding gear. It was totally unexpected, and totally unforgettable.
A very special thanks to everyone in my previous thread who offered suggestions about where I should ride, especially Esteban and Geek: