Mental SuperDork
2/11/09 12:36 p.m.

The Elephant Ride is a 'Merican version of this; Elephant Rally

Well it's not a big this (at least this year ) as the Euro version. But what a hoot, I saw this on the ADVRider and it sounded like my kind of crazy. I am after all Mental right?

The whole thing started as a tribute to Hannibal's crossing of the Alps on Elephants, hence the tie in. I have no idea how long the Euro version has been happening. I found some of the history of the US Version, and it has been happening since at least the early 70's if not the late 60s. It is always the first full weekend in February. I saw some pics from last year, dropped a few emails and I was in.

The Elephant Ride is over Guanella Pass, west of Denver, in a very small town called Grant. In the 80's, the powers that be elected to stop plowing it from November to May.

Several participants head up and camp in the park, several show up the morning of, but over the last few years, a guy known as Psycho Steve opens up his home for anyone who wants to camp the night before, and apparently, this is the way to go. So I emailed Steve and he gave me the quick low-down. Campout would be Saturday the 7th, ride on the 8th. There was a great debate on screwing your tires or not. Using small sheet metals screws to help bikes on Ice. Steve sent out and email;

Psycho Steve said: YES guanella IS gated on the other side `O the pass this year. ( I have a friend who shall remain nameless who got past the gate in a saturn but did a bit of damage in the process) --- While I havent been up the pass in several weeks , we have seen little to NO snow but LOTS of wind --- meaning , the road is pretty much clear , exept for the blown-over sections. so in my humble opinion that means that screwing your tires is a waste of time , money and tires.-----That sh** only works on the ice---- and if there are any spots , if ya cant get thru`em ``Open-tired` ` screws wont help .----hope this answers your Q.s as I`ve got a LOT of Emails to answer

So on that advice, I loaded up my Van, with my DRZ on unscrewed bald knobbies and left Saturday evening for the 2 hour drive to Grant.

Steve's place is literally across the street from the entrance. The previous year it had snowed and the 50's were out causing mayhem early into the drinking. This year it was eerily clear, but the campfire was going, Steve was greeting everyone and the beer amongst more foul things flowed.

Later in the night, after a few beers, the fun started. Steve's place backed right up to a beautiful flowing creek. After a few wheelie and stoppie contests on a 100, the idea to ford the river came up. That is a foot of running water in 17 degrees. What you don’t see is the 2 times he dumped it, and it kept running. After we got him out of the water and he changed and thawed, my go-ped was the next instrument of abuse.

My camera died before the jumping contest started. Somehow my case of beer was reduced to 3 by the time I went to sleep in my van, under 6 blankets and a heating pad.

Up the next morning, slightly hung-over, but thankful I had the pre-thought to avoid the hard stuff. I was one of a few. I walked to the store to get some coffee and saw this;

I bundled up and geared up as the day riders began to arrive. Some cool stuff. Steve builds trikes, this pic was an attempted to photograph his wheelie, but my camera is not the best;

Other hardware:

2 wheel drive Ural sidehack

Other Ural towing his Rokon, a 2 wheel drive, fat-tired scooter of sorts.

There were quite a few of those. Lots of dirt bikes, a couple of old Yami 500TTs, two old school 70's era bikes, some trikes, a 600 Yamaha sidehack, one big KTM, a four-wheeler (Cheater) and a squad of 100s.

At 10ish, they started leaving in groups, I followed some of the trail riders I hung with the night before. It was slightly overcast, but still not snowing.

I began to harbor arrogant thoughts I might make it to the top. Then I hit this;

The bike could go, but wouldn't stay upright and you ended up walking it by using your legs as outriggers. That started to hurt after a while.

Then it gets thicker, softer and deeper. I end up off the bike several times walking it. To the point I overheat the bike.

Its 9K feet, and I am feeling it. I take a break. You'll notice the bike is not using a kickstand.

After a time, I solider on and make it one more mile. I am beat. Another rider is stuck with me. We are in no hurry to get anywhere.

The Rokon guys pass us, we wave;

Then the two old school 360 Yamahas pass us. They have snow chains! We are content to stay there until we hear then round the corner and then run through the gears to 4th! Clear roads! We dig out and press around the bend following in the Rokon tracks. Its true! A set of switchbacks is clear. We get to an overlook where folks are pausing for a photo op.

Good idea

I press on. The road is clear, but the wind has blown snow drifts over sections. A handful of throttle and good balance can get you through it. Plus, if you follow the Rokons, they ride on top of the snow and pat it down sometimes. I regain my arrogant thoughts of making it to the pass. Then I come to a 150 long drift. Most folks have turned around and ask if I plan on heading through. "As far as I can." I reply. Its not very far; She's buried above the chain. I am cold. My under armor clothing is soaked and I look like I am on fire every time I unzip my jacket as the sweat mist pours off me. Not a good thing in the cold. I am hung-over. My lungs are physically aching; we are now at 11K. It takes two other guys on 100s that made it a bit past the 12 mile marker to get me out. I have had it, time to turn around.

Going down is slightly easier, with gravity, but you are still using your legs as outriggers. It gets tiring. I stop to help dig out and turn around the Ural with the sidecar. Great couple. The only off I have is coming around a corner and I see a couple snow shoeing with their two dogs. My street bike instincts betray me, I grab the front brake instinctively and lump it into the soft snow. I think about staying there for a few minutes and remember my carb will flood, even though the bike is still running in gear. I do not wish to push this to a place I can bump start it when i kill the battery, so I get it upright. The lady mentions how adventurous we are riding this pass on motorcycles, I reply it’s a fine line between adventurous and stupid.

I get farther down and return to hard packed snow. A Suburban with Kansas plates is headed up, flags me down and ask if the pass is packed like this part. "Nope, in about a hundred feet it gets deep and soft." Deep and soft, good to know!" She begins to turn around.

I hit pavement again, and grab a handful. All snow packed in my front wheel flies into the air, then into my partially unzipped jacket. Brrrrr. I zip back up, and then stop for a quick post-ride photo.

Back to camp, load up the van, say my thank-yous, good-byes and head out. I am exhausted, but have the same smile you get when you wear yourself out doing something fun.

So if anyone wants to head up next year, keep an eye out. I'll see ya there.

Grtechguy SuperDork
2/11/09 1:19 p.m.

looks fun... and I want to try one of those Rokons

Opus HalfDork
2/11/09 5:24 p.m.

my insanity level is rising. Keep posting pictures and I may go

pinchvalve SuperDork
2/18/09 2:26 p.m.

I never understood the Rokon. I do now.

Gearhead_42 Dork
2/18/09 3:01 p.m.

I'm thinking a TW200 might be the second best two wheeler for that job... I am SO tempted!

Xceler8x HalfDork
2/18/09 3:19 p.m.
Mental wrote: I reply it’s a fine line between adventurous and stupid.

Great ride report! I like the line I quoted. I felt that way on my motorcycle many times. Memories I wouldn't trade...

Opus HalfDork
2/18/09 11:52 p.m.
Gearhead_42 wrote: I'm thinking a TW200 might be the second best two wheeler for that job... I am SO tempted!

Would be good for the tires, but would need to be running perfect. My dads runs great down here, but at 10k feet, it coughs and sputters way too much.

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