PeakSC Mountain Ride
by Michael McWilliams
September 1 - 4, 2006
My wife's family has a cabin in Eldora, Colorado. Leta Easterday built this cabin in 1938 to serve as a cool getaway from hot Nebraska summers. This fabulous retreat has hosted many friends, yet none have arrived by scooter.
Fellow Peak SC members JB and Simon spent a short weekend with us in August. This visit was their first to Eldora. We ate one of our breakfasts at the Sundance Cafe in Nederland, Colorado. The Sundance has breathtaking views of the Indian Peaks as well as a front row seat on Highway 72 aka "The Peak to Peak Highway."
Highway 72 is a favorite route of Colorado motorcyclists. It begins near Central City and ends at Estes Park. In between, one can see Long's Peak, wildlife and Rocky Moutain National Park. In the fall, the Aspen trees provide another visual treat - their golden leaves.
Simon and I decided that PeakSC needed a multi-day mountain camping ride, and we were determined to ride it this year.
Our plan was to ride from Colorado Springs to Eldora, and then North to Estes Park. From there we knew we wanted to ride in Rocky Mountain National Park, especially Trail Ridge Road.
Simon would ride his 1963 Vespa GL, and I would ride my 1960 Heinkel Tourist. Both were able scooters. The trip would occur during Labor Day weekend. This wouldn't be a Cannonball type of ride. We wanted a relaxing ride through the Colorado high country.
Friday: Colorado Springs - Eldora
Our weather was pleasant - 80 degrees or so. We wanted to leave as early as possible because the Rocky Mountain Front Range had plenty of afternoon rain. Somehow we missed all of the rain, but entering Coal Creek Canyon, the air temperature dropped to a crisp 45 degrees.
We arrived at the cabin approximately 4 hours after our departure. With a little more than an hour to kill (my family was on their way), we decided to ride up to the Eldora ski area and then head to Nederland for a beer.
The road up to the ski area climbs 800 feet mostly along a shelf road. By now, the clouds were rolling in and it was misty. We worried that tomorrow's ride to Estes Park might be wet.
Saturday: Eldora - Grand Lake
The next morning was very wet. I was surprised that we didn't have snow. Snow is fair game this time of year.
Simon and I departed with sunny skies in our minds and drizzle on our headlights. Our first stop would be Brainard Lake. I wanted Simon to see the Indian Peaks.
Brainard Lake recreation area contains several lakes and trailheads. The first lake you see is Red Rock Lake. Red Rock Lake is covered in lily pads. As we approached Red Rock Lake, you could scarcely see the lily pads because of the fog. Further West, we could see blue skies covering Brainard Lake. We traded the lily pads for much needed sun and headed West.
The sun warmed our bodies and dried our scooters. Unfortunately, this weather pattern did not mean clear skies for the remainder of the day. We headed East back to Highway 72 - and back into the mist.
The sun burned off the morning clouds within 10 miles from Brainard Lake. Our remaining day was spent under blue skies!
We arrived in Estes Park along with the holiday tourists. Labor Day weekend must be the last hurrah for weekend camping. The Rocky Mountain National Park gate attendant informed us that all campgrounds were full with the exception of Timber Creek campgrounds. "They had 20 open spaces as of an hour ago."
Timber Creek was at least any hour away by car. The route crosses Trail Ridge Road and we knew our scooters would require much more time. The hills are high, and oxygen is sparse. Trail Ridge Road is 40 miles long, and about 8 miles of it is above 11,000 feet (3,352 meters). This is a beautiful place to travel on scooter.
Simon's Vespa did far better on the hills than my Heinkel. The four-stroke 175 cc motor is not enough for Colorado terrain. It took us nearly 2 hours to complete the route.
We found a fabulous campsite in Timber Creek. The temperature on the Western side of the park was nearly 70 degrees. We setup camp and then drove 10 additional miles to Grand Lake for dinner.
Sunday: Grand Lake - Eldora
A herd of elk greeted Timber Creek campground on Sunday morning. We knew they were nearby, because they bugeled most of the night.
Simon and I originally discussed riding to Winter Park and returning to Nederland from the South side of Highway 72. Since we had little opportunity to take pictures on our way to the campground, we decided to head back the way we came, and spend more time behind the camera.
Our entire day's ride was under the warm Colorado sun!
Monday - Eldora - Colorado Springs
Our journey home was quick.
During this 500 mile weekend, we had no troubles. Until we were 11 miles from home. Simon's bike stopped running. The engine rattled, he pulled the clutch and stopped the scooter. At that point, you could not kick over the engine. It was stuck. He has not yet diagnosed the problem, but it seems like he broke a ring.
We plan to make this an entire club function in 2007. The only thing we will change is the number of nights under the Colorado skies.