On Tuesday I decided it was about time I visited Fairplay, Colorado, the real South Park. I’d been to Colorado four times now and still hadn’t visited, and last year I actually passed right by it on my way to Weston Pass but had no idea at the time. So I went.
I knew ahead of time that the weather was going to go south on me later in the day, but given how quickly the weather changes around here and how quickly it passes over you, I decided to risk it and try and get to South Park anyway.
For the first half of the day my decision seemed like a great one, the weather was perfect. I rode from Sedalia along CO-67 to Woodland Park. The road was great, until one point where it wasn’t, after that it was great again. That one point however was a bit of a mix up, I stayed on CO-67 the whole time when instead I should have turned on to West Pine Creek Rd and headed towards CO-97, which would then meet up at CO-67 again where it would be paved. But no, I stayed on CO-67 because the information I’d had at the time seemed to indicate the entirety of the road was paved. So at approximately 24 km down CO-67 the road became dirt, and that dirt lasted about 14 km. And that’s fine, I’ve ridden dirt roads before, especially in Colorado, and I’ll be honest this one wasn’t particularly bad, and was quite beautiful.
Or rather, it wouldn’t have been had they not just freshly graded it with a nice soft layer of dirt. And even that would have been ok, I’ve been through that in Colorado before as well, but no it couldn’t just be that, it also had to have lots of tight corners and steep grades. However, I wasn’t the only one to have made this mistake, there was a man riding a Harley on the same road and damnit, if he could do it on the Harley I could do it on my V-strom. Then he stopped and let me pass him, so I did. As it would turn out, he stopped to let me pass because after that bend was a particularly steep and long section of the road which I think he wanted to take at whatever the slowest pace he could was and didn’t want to hold me up. Which was nice, though it meant I got to be the guinea pig. We both made it safely, the road became paved again after a ways and I stopped somewhere further along CO-67 to take some photos and saw him pass by after a great length of time.
Ever since getting that one outfit that Alice wore to Mt. Evans I wanted to get something where she’s hiking. I still don’t really feel like I’ve nailed it, which means I’ll just have to give it a go again sometime in the future.
After taking those photos I climbed down the little ridge I’d climbed up to capture those photos and hopped back on my bike and headed down CO-67. The day continued to be beautiful, and the scenery was quite interesting as well. Kilometers of dead trees mixed with smaller sections of living trees. I speculate it was part of the fires that burned a good portion of the state a couple years ago. It’s hard to see in the following photo, but everywhere you don’t see living trees, are dead trees. Even up those hills and mountains in the background. The second photo shows a bit more clearly a small section of it.
After such a great morning it was time for lunch. I stopped at a Wendy’s in Woodland Park, which is a neat little town as well along US-24. It was about now that I could start the see some darker clouds moving in, the rain was coming. Big deal. After lunch I got back on the bike and headed for CO-77, also known as Tarryall Rd, this would take me up to Jefferson, where I’d catch US-285 down to Fairplay. Just outside of Woodland Park, at US-24 and CO-25 I texted this photo to Gibwar saying “Definitely going to rain.”. Just as I did that, a sport bike races by me in the opposite direction, engine wailing, riding in a good tuck… and he passes a cop. Unlucky.
After making my turn on to CO-77 the clouds continued to get worse, but it still hadn’t rained much. About 18 km down Tarryall Rd just next to China Wall, I could definitely tell I was in for a bit of weather. Lots of lightning, lots of thunder. Thunder is pretty cool when you hear it echoing off the mountains. Didn’t catch any lightning in my photos, I was in a bit of a hurry.
I don’t have any photos during the weather so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Thankfully the weather didn’t last long because it was a bit more than I could chew. The temperature started to fall rapidly, not that I noticed initially, falling from 22°C (72°F) to 6°C (43°F), over the course of this dramatic drop it went from rain, to heavier rain, to hail, to freezing rain, and then to huge chunks of snow. They were certainly not snow flakes, and they were not hard enough to be hail, they were quite soft, but huge heavy chunks of snow smacking against me. I of course slowed way down, so worried about the condition of the road. I touched the rear brakes to gauge how much traction I might still have, ABS didn’t kicked in, so I really reefed on the rears to see if I could get the ABS to kick in or not, and I could, I definitely could, but I still had a lot of traction. This was good, it meant that everything falling on the road wasn’t immediately freezing. I continued on with this extra little amount of confidence, however as the snow/freezing rain/hail continued I started to look for places to turn off and get shelter. Having weather radar information on my bikes GPS I knew that the storm would pass over and in the end opted to continue riding so that I’d exit the storm as quickly as possible. This meant I passed a couple rather bewildered drivers going the opposite direction, probably thinking I’m a bit nuts. They’re probably right.
Mother nature however didn’t think that weather as enough for me though. After the storm passed, the roads dried up remarkably fast and I sped back up to a usual pace. When seemingly out of no where a mountain lion jumped out in front of me and runs across the road. No harm done, slammed the brakes on for a short second to avoid hitting it, then continued on down the road. By this time it was getting too sunny and I needed my sunglasses again. So I pulled over to the side of the road to put them on, did so, and then heard a growling sound somewhere behind me. I couldn’t see what it was, my mind raced and immediately assumed it was another cougar, I very very very quickly took off onto the road again and looked back, but saw nothing. After arriving home later that day I YouTube’d what cougar sounds sound like and for sure that is what I heard. But the mind is also quite good at making things fit retroactively, so who knows. I really should start riding with my GoPro again.
The weather as I entered Jefferson, Colorado.
Finally I arrive at Fairplay. I have to say, the journey there was for more interesting than Fairplay is. I couldn’t find anything to take a photo of, though I didn’t spend long since more weather was moving in and I’d be going over another mountain pass north out of Fairplay. So this is what I got… I’ll have to go back.
I didn’t take any photos over the remainder of the trip, I was tired of the weather and tired in general, I crossed over the mountains from Fairplay, through Breckenridge which is a really nice little town, and just before I got to Frisco I took Swan Mountain Rd over to Keystone and then once again up over a mountain pass, Loveland Pass. Then back down to I-70, stopped in Idaho Springs to let the storm continue on ahead of me so that I could ride in the dry all the way home.
It was an interesting day, I experienced pretty much the full gammut of weather, ignoring truly severe weather like tornadoes, hurricanes and such. What I found more interesting was that the worst of it came at 2,600 m (8,500 ft) and not on the 3,400+ meter (11,150+ ft) passes I rode over in bad weather as well. Another interesting bit of information I noticed, I got amazing fuel economy the entire day. I managed to ride 446.1 km (277.2 mi) with an average fuel economy on the tank of 27.1 km/L (63.7 mpg). Which meant that if I did indeed put a total of 20 L in the tank, I could still ride a further ~95 km (59 mi) before running dry!
Colorado’s weather hasn’t been as good to me this year as it has in the past…