June 12, 2009

Wired in from the road...

The Boulder Daily Camera

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Motorcyclist killed in Peak to Peak Highway accident

It wasn't much of a newspaper story. Just 56 words, and I imagine it was buried somewhere in section B along with other news of local interest. I decided to scan the online archives after taking the route myself today.

The Peak to Peak Highway is Colorado Hwy. 72, and it runs from Estes Park southward to Nederland where it joins with Hwy. 119. This is a ride with which I am familiar, although it has been many years since I last cruised these roads on a scooter. It is a lovely ride alongside the eastern boundary of the Rocky Mountain National Park, passing thru little villages with names like Peaceful Valley and Sugarloaf.

The traffic wasn't always like it was today. I remember riding that road and never seeing a vehicle, but today the cars and campers were running as if in caravan. They would stack up behind the slowest moving vehicles a couple dozen deep. I would imagine it might have been that bad or maybe worse last Sunday. A dude trying to take it easy on a scooter might find it difficult to go as carefully as he would like with a string of four wheelers stacking up behind him.

The road is full of steep grades and switchbacks, and there are numerous unpaved side roads and blind driveways. Vehicles entering the highway from these bring gravel and sand onto the roadway. This is early spring and there is still a good bit of the sand laid down by the snowplows still on the asphalt as well.

It is easy to lose it on roads like the Peak to Peak, especially if you are unfamiliar with the hazards, and possibly pressured by folks in four wheelers wanting to go a little faster.

Of course I have no idea what happened to cause the accident, but what I came upon today, and my knowledge of this particular road, gives me a fair idea.

It is a true rush cruising those mountain curves at speeds higher than the posted limits, but signs like this one are found in several locations along the Peak to Peak Highway for good reason.

Wherever a side road or driveway intersects with the paved road, and in many areas where runoff from snow melt of rain crosses the road, you'll find this stuff. On a switchback curve it can be hazardous.

It was just a couple miles south of Ward, just past the apex of a 30 MPH switchback, where I found these paint marks on the roadway.

Then just off the pavement, in a direct line with the paint marks, there were these busted off lodgepole pines.

It was this little memorial on the narrow shoulder that caused me to stop, and that caused me to search the Daily Camera archives once I got back to my hotel.

From what I coud see, the dude amost made it. There is straight line blacktop just past where he went off.

Cause for pause.


Old NFO said...

That is one of the saddest posts I've read in a long time... So close, yet so far. Hopefully he went quickly.

Mule Breath said...

The photo of the busted trees does a poor job of telling how I felt as I viewed the scene. In a few weeks all of the evidence of this will be gone and all but a small group of the rider's friends will have forgotten, but I will probably feel the pain I felt while looking at those busted trees every time I look at that photo.

Jay G said...


There's a very good reason I have an Electra Glide and not a sport bike...

Rogue Medic said...

Always leave yourself some way out. If I am being pressured by cars from behind, I pull to the side and let them pass. This is not really my riding style, but sometimes even I take it easy. I do this even in a car.

One of the most important rules of the road, let the more aggressive drivers/riders go ahead of you, because you will not help anything being by keeping them behind you. Keep the less aggressive drivers/riders behind you.

Jay G.,

Scroll up and look at the picture. It seems that he had the same philosophy. Also notice that the bike took down a few pretty healthy looking trees.

One Fly said...

MB-I saw this story and know this road well. People behind you just won't give you a chance. It's not all that easy on these roads at times to find a place to pull over quickly. I hope he didn't feel pressure to go faster and that turned out to be the cause.

Mule Breath said...

Jay, from the photo it could have been an Electra Glide the dude was riding.

RM, pulling off isn't always an option on these mountain roads. You do it when you are able, but the trick is to just not let the pressure bother you.

Fly, I have no real reason for it, but that was my assumption. Looking at the investigator's paint marks make me think he went off the road in a fairly upright posture. If you were going into a curve and started to slip, the first reaction is to stand it up, which straightens your path.

There may have been witnesses, or not. The newspaper never revealed one way or the other, so I will never know for certain.