Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

At about 2PM today I left to re-ride yesterday’s loop including the road we didn’t get to ride yesterday. It was in the mid 90’s and hot. The roads were great but I couldn’t wait to get into some higher elevations and cool off a bit.

I did the route backwards because at 5PM I was meeting Mike somewhere in Estes Park. The Rocky Mountain National Park was only 50 miles from here and we wanted to ride it on a week day when the roads weren’t too busy at the park.

From Poudre Canyon Road I took Stove Prairie Road to 56 South to 34 West to Estes Park. By the way, I really liked riding Stove Prairie Road south from Poudre Canyon Road (14) the views of the mountains seemed better and I could see through more curves.

34 heading to Estes Park

This pipe above 34 carries water to the nearby towns

I love canyon roads, 34 has nice curves and pavement

34 to Estes Park is a fun road with many curves but there was also a lot of traffic on this road. I arrived in Estes Park got gas and checked my phone. There was a text message from Mike on where to meet him. He was in down town Estes Park parked in front of Bob & Tony's Pizza. I got there and parked. Since it was dinner time and I only had lunch and we didn’t make any plans for diner, we both grabbed a slice of pizza here.

Downtown Estes Park: grabbing some dinner at Bob & Tony's Pizza

We continued in to the park on 34. It was 6PM now and a bit cloudy up here, the temperatures here were only in the high to mid 70’s. With my mesh panel jacket it was a bit chilly, so I had to put one extra layer on before starting the climb.

Beautiful tall evergreen trees along 34 in the park

Rocky Mountain National Park has the highest paved roads in any National Park in the United States. The Trail Ridge Road crests at 12,183 feet. Because of the high elevations in the park the weather can change quickly and storms accompanied with lightening and very strong winds can occur. It’s very dangerous to be above the tree line when lightening strikes, because you are the tallest thing around.

Above the tree line on 34

You can still find patches of snow here at the end of July

We continued West on 34. We knew we wouldn’t be able to ride through all of the park today, it was way too big and we wanted to be back at the house before it was totally dark, since there are a lot of deer on the roads here at night.

At 10,000+ feet Mike pulled over at one of the scenic overlooks, shut his bike off and immediately a stream of antifreeze started to pour out of his overflow hose. We looked at the overflow container and the antifreeze looked like it was boiling inside.

At around 10,000 feet the Tiger decides to purge some antifreeze

Views of the mountains and roads below

One more picture before climbing another 2,000 feet

We continued for a bit and reached 12,000 feet in elevation but turned around before the highest part of the road. That would have to wait until we had more time and more daylight. At this point the clear helmet shield was required and more layers, it would be dark by the time we we got to Estes Park and I didn't want to stop.

No guard rails here

About 12,000 feet is the highest we got today before turning around

We rode back through the park toward Estes Park. 34 East of town was still crowded with vehicles. There are no hopes of passing on some of the sections of the road as the slow cars bunch up and toward the end you are following a caravan of 10 - 15 slow vehicles. We rode back to 56, then turned right on 38E and rode around the Horsetooth Reservoir. The lights of Fort Collins were shimmering in the distance as the road makes it’s way down into town. We arrived at the house just after 9PM.

My 180 mile loop

I really liked riding 34 through the Rocky Mountain National Park. The road had great pavement, great views and some awesome curves. Jim told us of another road to take when going to Estes Park or the Rocky Mountain National Park which has less traffic on it called Devil’s Gulch Road or 43 on the map. Mike took that road up to Estes Park and said that the twisty sections were so tight, banked and steep, that he almost had to stop in a turn before continuing on. I’m glad I didn’t take that road, I'm not in to the super tight and technical stuff. I was actually planning on taking that way, but didn't mostly because I was running late to meet Mike and thought that this road would take longer.

43 or Devil’s Gulch Road runs north of 34

The arrow on the above map points to these very tight and steep curves

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