#98 PNW - RMNP & Delay in Greeley

2007 July 26-27
230 miles
PNW Trip
Day 19
Thursday & Friday

It's 70 degrees as I pull out of the Super 8 in Craig, Colorado at 8:10am under cloudy skies heading east to the Rocky Mountain National Park.
As I travel east on US40, I gain elevation on my way to Steamboat Springs. I learned that the trees that look like they are showing fall color have actually been attacked by beetles and are victims of the Beetle Kill happening in the area. US34 east of Steamboat Springs.The temperatures dropped into the high 60s by the time I reach Kremmling. I stop to fill up with gas and chat with a group of Gold Wingers heading to Steamboat Springs.I follow the Colorado River's lead through a canyon on my way to the next town...Hot Sulphur Springs. In Granby, I turn left onto US34...the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway. I follow the Colorado River to Lake Granby. Entering the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) at the south entrance near Grand Lake. It's getting cooler as I climb higher into the Rocky Mountains. The official Continental Divide photo op at Milner Pass -- elevation 10,759 feet.
FYI: When you see me with only one glove on, I am NOT trying out the Michael Jackson look. I AM using the other glove as a cradle for my camera when using the self-timer function.Continental Divide facts:The clouds get lower...or maybe I'm getting higher. Either way, it's clouding up and it seems only a matter of a few more feet (of elevation, that is...) before I will start getting wet. Just as the rain started, I saw this elk near the road.He's close enough for me to zoom in on his velvet antlers! Sure enough, the rain started a few minutes later. What I thought would be just the normal afternoon showers from the "mountain making it's own weather," turned into heavier rain than normal and cooler wind than normal. By the time I made it to the RMNP Alpine visitor center at the top, the shops had people hovering just inside the doors waiting for the downpour to let up long enough for them to make a run to their cars. People were running across the parking lots with umbrellas or full hooded raincoats. However, I was already soaking wet, so I just took my time walking across the parking lot as others dart to and fro around me.
When I walk into the gift shop, I just leave my helmet on. If I take it off, I'll just have to mess with a wet helmet and my head might get wet and/or cold. People look at me a bit odd...as I walk around in full gear, soaking wet with my feet squishing in my boots. Inside, I learn that the current outside temperature is 45 degrees and, indeed, this was NOT the normal afternoon showers, but much worse according to the employees at the visitor center. After I get my stamps from this visitor center, I slosh my way back to Fleeter and saddle up to continue in this wet mess.

To make matters at bit more interesting, the road leading to the other side of the RMNP was reduced to a muddy, rutted road awaiting re-paving. They had the road closed down to one lane of traffic only. So I sit in line with a group of vehicles waiting our turn to use the road for our direction of travel. While sitting there pondering if the white stuff is clouds or fog, I notice that the rain lets up enough for me to sneak the camera out for a couple quick photos. Because without the photos, I just don't know that you will understand what I'm trying to describe about the soupy fog/clouds.

The visibility only allows me to see about eight of the vehicles lined up directly in front of me at the construction light. Kinda nasty looking for a July afternoon at 3pm. This is where I came back up onto pavement beyond the muddy rutted road. Speaking of that road... let me share with you the feeling of riding a motorcycle made to ride on pavement through the slick and rocky mud. I could feel my tires slipping around as I fought to keep them stable while maintaining forward motion.

This photo might give you an idea of the degree of drop at the edge of the road. That kind of drop just made the slippery road that more interesting.I was fortunate enough that the rain let up to just a light mist when I saw these elk at the side of the road. I took the opportunity to snap a few photos.This shows how close they were to the road and to me.Looks like those elk horns serve a purpose other than challenging each other. If anyone ever asks you what baseball players and elk have in common...now you have an answer. By the time I reached Estes Park, the rain was coming down again in a steady downpour with water running along the curbs of the roads. My goal was to just get through the traffic and out of town. I could see a very small patch of blue in the sky in the direction I was headed. I set my sights on that patch of blue and continued onward.

On the other side of Estes Park, I entered into Thompson Canyon. The blue patch of sky grew larger and soon the rain stopped. I made a stop at a roadside pullout and wrung the water out of my gloves, poured the water out of my boots, and opened up all the vents of my jacket. By now the temperature had warmed up and the ride became more enjoyable. Riding through the dry canyon, I even started drying out.

US34 through Thompson Canyon from Estes Park to Loveland is a great riding road that has to place high on my favorite road list.
Leaving the Rockys behind, I set my sights on getting to the other side of Colorado before stopping for the night. It was about 4:40pm when I came into Greeley. The traffic quickly became thick as US34 hit one light after another. It was rush hour traffic at what I later learned is the worse intersection along highway US34 in Greeley. Everyone hit their brakes...me included. No ABS on my bike, I locked up and skidded...I wasn't going to be able to stop before hitting the bumper in front of me. I released the brakes, and angled for a glancing blow to the left side of the bumper and aimed for the ditch. I landed on the highway shoulder flat on my back with my left boot trapped between the rear tire and saddlebag. The guy directly behind me got to me first. I told him I was okay, but if he would kindly lift the rear an inch or so I would be able to free my foot. He did, so I slid my foot out. I got up and I was fine. Then he, me and another guy lifted my bike upright to check it out. The right highway bar was bent back about 40 degrees into the brake peddle. The right driving light was knocked off, and the left mirror knocked loose. That seemed to be the extent of it, but the highway bar and brake peddle would be the problem. But I'm okay with that -- if not for the highway bar, it would have been my knee and leg taking the hit. I re-adjusted the mirror then and there -- it was fine. Fleeter was towed to the Yamaha shop about 3 miles away and they kept the bike for a day. The dealer called late the next afternoon to let me know Fleeter was ready to go. They even sent someone from the dealership to come pick me up.
When I picked Fleeter up, I was surprised that the service manager, Cole Kralik of Wild West Yamaha turned Fleeter over to me -- no charge. What great service! They bent the highway bar back and checked the bike out for any other damage -- all for no charge! He even apologized that he had been too busy to get to the bike earlier and ended up keeping it all day.
Not bad, could have been lots worse. I have a slight bruise on my right wrist area and my back feels a little sore from slamming the pavement, but I think it is still all good! The guy behind me saw the whole thing and I was glad to hear he thought I did a good job avoiding a worse accident. He was rather surprised that I kept it upright long enough to aim for the glancing blow rather than square on to the bumper.
The girl whose car I hit was very concerned and nice about the whole thing. She even gave me a ride to the motel and offered to give me a ride to pick my bike fro the dealership! I'm glad I was wearing all my gear, boots protected my foot and ankle, jacket, pants and, of course, helmet all did a great job. All in all, for a bad situation...it's worked out rather well. Just an unscheduled stay at the Days Inn in Greeley, Colorado. I decided to stay in Greeley for a second night since it was so late and raining off and on. I could get a clean start the next morning.

No comments:

Post a Comment