I am not a football fan. It's simply not a sport that "clicks" with me. I've watched hockey for so long, that everything short of Asian ping-pong tournaments simply seems painfully slow by comparison. People like me are akin to singles without lovers on valentines day; We know something great is happening, yet we just can't get in on it.
While sitting in my garage with a cup of coffee Sunday morning, gazing at motorcycles in various stages of winter hibernation, the realization hit me. If everyone else is watching the game, nobody is out on the roads/trails. No miles of dust to eat behind jeeps, or painfully slow miles behind minivans realizing they underestimated the '4WD Suggested' sign.
I checked all the fluids in the Ural, careful not to trip on the coils of extension cords powering battery tenders hooked up to the other 3-season motorcycles. I checked the temperature; 46 degrees in Colorado Springs. I threw in my Hemingway "old-man" sweater, some extra oil and a map. Packed some water for the dog, and off we went.
We headed due west out of Colorado Springs, and right onto Old Stage Road. The road climbs very quickly and steeply through the drainages and canyons of the Cheyenne and Sugarloaf mountains. This is steep, twisting, washboarded dirt road. Occasionally I found some patches of ice in corners and shaded areas.
(This is a poor picture, but I hope it some of the deep iced board).
On the way up, some of the views of the city are pretty nice. We can back around Dusk and got to catch the city at twilight, just as the lights we're coming on. The contrast of mountains and plains is incredible when viewed from up high. The change is so abrupt, its almost majestic.
At this point, the road levels off a bit, and picks up on Gold Camp Road.
Back in 1890, a railroad was created from Cripple Creek, CO to haul ore to Colorado Springs. The railroad was finished around 1901, at a cost of $40,000 per mile. The most expensive railway in Colorado at the time. Nine tunnels, many rock cuts were needed to get the standard-gauge line through to The Springs. After WWI, competitive railroads forced the company out of business. A local coal mine owner bought the bankrupt line for 370,000$ in 1920.
The local miner tore up the line, and turned it into a toll road, as a tourist attraction. At its peak in 1926, the road made 400$ per day (1$ per automobile to travel the road). In 1936 the special-use permit for the land along the line expired, and it was absorbed into the Pike National forest. They changed the name from Corley Mountain Highway, to Gold Camp Road.
This is Tunnel #9. One of the last tunnels you can still drive through from the old line. Crews had to remove 300 tons of debris from the tunnel, reenforce everything with steel beams, and then replace the ORIGINAL wooden trestle work. Local legend says that some of these tunnels and parts of the road are haunted. The only chills I had came from the brisk 30 degree air. I flipped on the heated grips and they went away.
After the tunnel, the scenery opens up, and you get some great views of the peaks and rock formations.
I can't imagine what it was like to cut this rock back in the 1900's. Really neat to ride through though.
Lola really digs riding along. I never had to train her in the hack, she just got in and looked at me as if to say "Now what?". Couple miles later and she was leaning into corners and reading the road. She doesn't like wearing her doggles very much though. I may have to find another solution.
There is a myriad of additional trails and more technical riding available right off Gold Camp Road. I took a few detours to check some of the routes out. Lots of rutted, rocky jeep trails. I'd ride them until I had to engage 2WD. Then I would calmly put it into reverse and turn around.
This trail was particularly fun. I came up behind a Jeep and a Dodge truck inching their way down. They let me around them. Probably one of the few times a Ural will ever pass another vehicle in motion.
Further along, I came across this shooting range. Targets still set up, and a whole lot of shotgun shells and 22 casings lying around. I'm an avid shooter, and I usually carry a piece on me when I ride. I had packed an extra magazine in the event some target practice presented itself, so I took the opportunity to put a few down range. I collected my casings, and left the targets up for someone else to use some other time. I think I'll start packing a garbage bag with me though. Over 200 pink and red shotgun shells littered everywhere is no way to treat your forest. Police your brass people.
At the end of Gold Camp road, you can continue into Victor or Cripple Creek for refreshments and gambling. There are some excellent backcountry byways and dirt roads from Victor to Canon City. That is for another day. By the time I reached the intersection at County Road 81, it was already 5:00pm. Riding railroad grade with steep dropoffs in the dark is not my idea of fun, so we turned around.
All in all, from garage to garage, it ended up being about 100 miles. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
Yours truly and Lola on our Sunday ride.