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Thread: Schofield Pass, for the GS riders, maybe...

  1. #1
    Airhead GS convert...
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    Schofield Pass, for the GS riders, maybe...

    SchofieldPass on Streetbikes

    This story was originally written and posted to the Internet BMW Riders, the Long Distance Riders, and the Concours Owners Group e-mail lists in March, 2000.

    The following is a little long. Some BMW GS riders will probably relate, everybody else will just think my brother and I were crazy and stupid. I think we're outgrowing both, but slowly.

    I was 17 years old, and just out of high school in August 1980, when my older brother Ken and I took a motorcycle trip from Ohio to Colorado. Ken rode a tired 1976 Honda CB-750 that he'd bought used from a brother-in-law, while I rode my new , 1979 Kawasaki KZ-650 Custom.

    I had two weeks, Ken had only one. So I rode solo to Colorado, stayed with my sister in Denver, and did day trips up to Central City, Estes Park, and Pike's Peak until Ken arrived.

    On one of the day trips, in the gift shop at the summit of Pike's Peak, I bought a book on Colorado ghost towns, complete with maps. After reading it, I suddenly just had to go see some of these towns, in the worst way.

    When Ken arrived in Denver a few days later, I showed him the book. He said visiting ghost towns sounded like a good time to him. Several of the trails were marked "4WD Only" in the book, but we figured "How bad could it be?"

    The first pass road we took was Tincup Pass, marked 4WD on maps, from St. Elmo to Tincup. Both are former mining towns, now ghost towns. Though we were on large streetbikes, we were able to take narrow lines past the large mudholes up in the pass, and dodge all the nasty stuff easily. Our confidence soared, and we laughed at the author of the book for being overly cautious. Who needs 4WD? Not us..!

    We learned much later that Tincup Pass is about the easiest pass road in the state that requires 4WD.

    The next place that we thought would be fun to visit was the little ghost town of Crystal, near the headwaters of the Crystal River, upstream of Marble. We were in Crested Butte, and Schofield Pass (4WD Req'd) went from Crested Butte to Crystal. No problem, we thought.

    Turns out that Schofield Pass is at the other end of the scale, compared to Tincup Pass. It's a tough 4WD trail, for Jeep enthusiasts. We had no idea...

    We naively started over Schofield Pass on our two streetbikes, with several nylon duffel bags bungeed to the seat of each bike. Too many, really, but we'd never been motorcycle touring before - what did we know?

    Leaving Crested Butte, the Schofield Pass road is like a nice country lane. The actual transition from one drainage to another is low, and idyllic. Very pleasant, and the perfect place for a picnic.

    A group of dirtbikes approached us from Crystal, and waved. Every rider was wearing full armor, and riding off-road machines. That should've been a clue, but it wasn't. I simply thought "People out here sure do dress up for a ride down a country lane."

    Then we went down a ledge / incline that had the undersides of both bikes scraping and banging on the rocky outcroppings. We thought: "Ah! That must be the part that requires 4WD. Well, we handled that alright..."

    We forged ahead. The pleasantness returned, and we were very glad to have the hard part behind us, as that ledge looked like a it would be a real bear to get back up with a street bike. Incredible scenery, perfect weather, beautiful day - all was right with the world.

    Then we came to the Crystal River. The bridge was out, and looked like it had been out for at least 50 years, only the log foundations remained. So we forded the river on our streetbikes, and then looked at the next phase.

    Holy Crap......!!!

    Have any of the GS or dirtbike riders out there done this road?

    After the river crossing, Schofield Pass is a shelf road hacked out of the side of the mountain. The mountain (and road) is comprised of sharp, layered rock. The road is off-camber, tilting toward the river in many spots, and extremely bumpy. The road is just wide enough for a Jeep, with loose gravel all over the place. As the Crystal River to the right descends rapidly alongside, the road keeps up with the river's descent - I've read since then that it's a 27% grade going into Crystal. For reference, I think the steepest paved road I've ever seen has been around 9%.

    Thinking "This must be the bad part, once we're through this all will be well....", we started down. It took forever, it seemed, to get to the halfway point. At the halfway point, there was a crude log bridge, so that the road crossed from the left side of the river to the right. That's when the road got even worse, steeper than the upper half, with some big rock ledges to go around or over.

    After taking a long break at the bridge, we started down the second half. Going up would've been impossible. We were crawling downhill, feet down for stability, using the brakes constantly. At one point, each of us got our street bikes stuck between rocks on the exhausts and frame and engine.... The bikes just stood there, and we climbed off and kicked ourselves for being so stupid, and then wondered how in the Hell we're going to get a couple 500 lb. streetbikes unstuck from the rocks at 10,000 feet.....

    Guardrails?

    You've got to be kidding.....

    And did I mention we were starting to run out of daylight? It was late afternoon at that point, in a canyon, and we had no idea how far to Crystal, how long the road might stay bad, or where in the heck we were going to eat supper or sleep.

    And then I fell down. Minor in retrospect, but not minor at the time. My bike got rolling too fast downhill, hitting maybe 5 MPH, out of control and headed for the dropoff on the left, all in a helpless slow-mation. Going off the shelf road would have been fatal... I fell before I got to the edge. When the bike went over onto its right side, its tires about 2' from the edge...

    At that point, I was a scared 17 year old kid far from home. Big brother Ken was putting on a brave front, much more mature than me since he was 23 (nearly 24), but I could tell it was a front. Truth be told, we were both terrified, with the river far below on our left now. We picked my bike up, and Ken came up with a plan.

    We killed the engines on both bikes, and used the clutch as a back brake. That way, we could keep our feet down for stability. And that's how we descended Schofield Pass into Crystal...

    Arriving at dusk in Crystal, we went to a small gift shop run by a little old woman named Dorothy. She sold us pop that she kept cool in the river, and offered to fix us supper in her cabin when we tried to buy hot dogs from her. Her response at our trying to buy hot dogs was "Now how're you boys gonna cook 'em if I sell 'em to you?" At which point she had us, as we didn't actually have pots or pans, and figured we'd have to build a fire to cook the dogs.....

    So our evening was spent at Dorothy's cabin, in the ghost town of Crystal.

    Turns out Dorothy owns the town. Her father bought up the mining claims in the area when she was a girl, hung onto them, and when he died she and her sisters inherited the town. She winters in California and summers at Crystal. She told us of the history of the town, about several of the buildings, the area. I don't recall what she fixed us. Maybe hotdogs. She simply said that her grandkids had gone home, and that she had all kinds of extra food. She told us of a horrible (and fatal) accident a few years back in Schofield Pass, a family headed up that road in a Suburban, drunk, in a thunderstorm, slid off the shelf road and into the river If I remember the story correctly, all were killed.

    She also mentioned that conventional cars sometimes make the trip down Schofield Pass, but I still doubt that it happens very often. I also bet they don't come through unscathed, and that none go up the pass.

    Then she told us where to camp, just upstream of the town... We only had one water crossing to deal with to get there, though it did have a log in it. We slept that night on the banks of the Crystal River, thankful for how well things had gone that day.

    I've been back there a couple times since in a 4WD vehicle, and I've even ascended Schofield Pass in a 4WD. It's not an easy road, even with a 4WD. The bumps knock the wind out of you, and in places I remember the vehicle shuddering, shaking, sliding, and bumping so bad that my vision blurred. I had to keep my foot hard on the gas, and steer away from the edge.

    But the story above is still vivid in my mind. It was my first big trip on a motorcycle, and an example of how things can go really wrong, and really right, all in the same day. And of using a motorcycle in totally inappropriate ways.

    Oh, on getting out the next day - we continued west to Marble. Not for street bikes either, still a four-wheel-drive road, but seemed like a highway compared with where we'd been.

    I'd really like to do this again someday, on a suitable dual-purpose bike, or a mountain bike, or on foot. Probably uphill, to keep speeds down. But I'm really not in any hurry...

    Doug Grosjean
    Luckey, Ohio

    PS - Yes, of course I have photos. One of my favorites is my KZ-650 crossing the Crystal River, water up to the points cover. Will post here if folks are curious....
    Best,
    Doug Grosjean
    Pemberville, Ohio
    douggrosjean@gmail.com

    Author of "Wheels"
    http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore...kid~32002.aspx

  2. #2
    Registered User Win3855's Avatar
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    I know I would like to see photos,please do. I envy some peoples adventures. For me to get involved in something like that, I need to be dragged kicking and screaming towards fun.
    I ride therefore I am 97 R1100RT, 83 FLHS,04 DR650, IBA 19022

  3. #3
    Focused kbasa's Avatar
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    Check these guys.
    Dave Swider
    Marin County, CA

    Some bikes. Some with motors, some without.

  4. #4
    Airhead GS convert...
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    Dave,

    Isn't that nuts..?

    I saw that earlier today, looked at all the pics. Man, those guys do look like they're having fun though....

    Doug
    Best,
    Doug Grosjean
    Pemberville, Ohio
    douggrosjean@gmail.com

    Author of "Wheels"
    http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore...kid~32002.aspx

  5. #5
    Registered User ian408's Avatar
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    Dave/Doug,

    Those dudes are awesome! In some small way, it's like that
    big kick in the butt to get you going.

    Nice tail and post the photos if you got 'em!

    Thanks,
    Ian

  6. #6
    Turbo Fluffy-NY Chapter SNOONE's Avatar
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    I lived in Crested Butte as a ski bum in the mid 70's and I applaud your adventure. I've had a hard time hiking to some of the places you have described. Very rugged terrain .
    2002 1150GS



    "Some people will tell you that slow is good - and it may be, on some days - but I am here to tell you that fast is better. I've always believed this, in spite of the trouble it's caused me. Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba...." Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

    "They're not the best at what they do, they're the only ones that do what they do"- Bill Graham

  7. #7
    Airhead GS convert...
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    Hi all,

    Got some photos online of this adventure.

    Bear in mind most of these were taken with an Instamatic, are almost 24 years old, and I wasn't into photography back then.

    The others that are more clear and sharp (the Mill, Crystal main drag, and the Schofield Pass road itself), were taken with good gear a few years later. Nothing had changed, and the better pics give a more accurate view of what coming down that mountain was like.

    Me, Pike's Peak, 17 y/o and exhuberant. Not much has changed since then, I'm no smarter. Just more experienced, riding a bigger bike now, and I have less hair:


    My brother Ken and I, before visiting the ghost towns:


    This after Tincup Pass:


    River crossing with the 650, just before startign down the tough part:


    The Schofield Pass road, from the bottom looking up. Yes, that's really it, it's not a joke. In a 4WD going up, it's really something:


    Main drag of Crystal, CO:


    The Deadhorse Mill, at Crystal CO:


    That's it for now, back to lurk mode for a bit.

    I do wonder, though... why do the two most memorable m/c trips I ever took both involve crashes?

    Best,
    Doug Grosjean
    Luckey, Ohio
    douggrosjean@wcnet.org
    Last edited by Doug Grosjean; 01-13-2004 at 01:53 AM.
    Best,
    Doug Grosjean
    Pemberville, Ohio
    douggrosjean@gmail.com

    Author of "Wheels"
    http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore...kid~32002.aspx

  8. #8
    looking for a coal mine knary's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Doug Grosjean

    That's it for now, back to lurk mode for a bit.

    I do wonder, though... why do the two most memorable m/c trips I ever took both involve crashes?
    Hah!

    I know the feeling. My most memorable rides involve almost crashing.

    As always, good stuff. I remember that post from way back when. It's always stood out in my head. All those years of tire, oil, and "how do I beat this ticket" threads. Here and there a gem such as the one you've shared again.

    scott conary - BMW... err...umm... bikes are dangerous
    portland, oregon
    www.scottconary.com | new paintings

  9. #9
    Airhead GS convert...
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    Hi Scott,

    I know what you mean about endless re-runs of oil, tires, and whatever other common issues a particular bike has.

    Up-side is that consumers that sub to a list or forum can quickly have acces to more biek data than the dealers did before the Net.

    Down-side is it gets monotonous sometimes.

    On the tire and oil threads, I just don't post. It gets too much like a holy war, with the least-knowledgeable quoting magazines to justify why they spent the big money on *their* preference. And in the end, nobody changes anybody else's mind anyway.

    Well, I did post on an oil thread once.

    There was an oil thread going round, and as it happened I'd just changed my oil. On the way home from the shop, I ran into an old farmer pumping oil out of the ground into a 1950-something beat-up tank truck, hung with him for an hour or so, and we talked about oil. Just the basics, where it comes from, how to get it, etc.

    That was a grin, doing something different.

    I've included that incident in my book, and I need to go visit that old farmer and see about a photo of his truck, or him. The photo would really accent the words, words can only do so much....
    Best,
    Doug Grosjean
    Pemberville, Ohio
    douggrosjean@gmail.com

    Author of "Wheels"
    http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore...kid~32002.aspx

  10. #10
    Focused kbasa's Avatar
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    Hey Doug,

    I replaced all the /url tags with IMG tags and now the pictures are shown in your post.

    Those are cool!

    Dave
    Dave Swider
    Marin County, CA

    Some bikes. Some with motors, some without.

  11. #11
    Airhead GS convert...
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    Hi Dave,

    <<<< I replaced all the /url tags with IMG tags and now the pictures are shown in your post.

    That's very slick, thanks!

    Is that a trick you can teach me, or is there a FAQ on it, so you don't always have to clean up my messes?

    I'm guessing you just put a tag with the image URL in the post, and they show up, right?


    <<<< Those are cool!

    Thanks!

    I took an album of photos, all with that terrible Instamatic camera. But now, I have a good scanner. So I've been scanning in the pics, and hoping to give my brother Ken an album of this old stuff for Christmas.

    Related, and Scott would like this: have got enough pics on CDs now that for T-giving, we had the computer doing a slide show of family pics. My parents are divorced, but I've been borrowing pics from both to scan in, so I have a pretty cool family history now, one which really hasn't existed before as my family is rather fractured.

    I've got a hunch that as time goes by, I'll be burning updated CDs for my sibs now and then, maybe once a year. A couple sibs live out of state, so they don't see parents on regular basis.

    Doug
    Best,
    Doug Grosjean
    Pemberville, Ohio
    douggrosjean@gmail.com

    Author of "Wheels"
    http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore...kid~32002.aspx

  12. #12
    Focused kbasa's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Doug Grosjean
    Hi Dave,

    <<<< I replaced all the /url tags with IMG tags and now the pictures are shown in your post.

    That's very slick, thanks!

    Is that a trick you can teach me, or is there a FAQ on it, so you don't always have to clean up my messes?
    It's as easy as 1-2-3.

    Find your picture on the web and copy the URL. If the picture is embedded in a page, right click on the picture and select Properties. Highlight the URL and copy it.

    In your post, type your text and then click the IMG button on the vB Code panel. A window will pop up and you can paste the URL in there. Hit OK.

    You've now embedded a link to the picture right in your post.

    Alternatively, enter IMG (with brackets around the IMG part, the square kind of brackets), paste the URL in and close the tag by putting in a square bracket followed by /IMG and a close bracket.

    If you want to see how I did it, just click the Edit button on your post and take a look. The tags are pretty easy to insert.

    That's really how vB works to format text, it uses tags. If you want to see how someone inserted a neat formatting feature (BradfordBenn is aces at this), go to their message and select Quote in the lower right. You'll be able to see the tags they used to format the text.

    Nice pics!

    Take a look here to read some more about inserting pictures.
    Dave Swider
    Marin County, CA

    Some bikes. Some with motors, some without.

  13. #13
    Airhead GS convert...
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    Dave,

    Got it, thanks!!!!!!

    The part I didn't know was how to put in the tags. Everything else makes perfect sense to me.

    Doug
    Best,
    Doug Grosjean
    Pemberville, Ohio
    douggrosjean@gmail.com

    Author of "Wheels"
    http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore...kid~32002.aspx

  14. #14
    Registered User Win3855's Avatar
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    Doug,Thanks for the photos. I remember 1980. Its a good time doing stuff you like with family. I have 4 brothers,only one is a rider. But his 2 boys are also. Just a quick question. I see you posting on other lists and forums. Doing all the writing and riding you do . Do you ever sleep? Just curious.
    I ride therefore I am 97 R1100RT, 83 FLHS,04 DR650, IBA 19022

  15. #15
    Airhead GS convert...
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    You wrote:
    "Just a quick question. I see you posting on other lists and forums. Doing all the writing and riding you do . Do you ever sleep?"

    Not as often as I'd like.......

    I have some quirks. I have a high energy level, and I type fast. At work, a lot of stuff is done via email. My SO lives 90 miles away, so we tend to communicate the same way. So I get lots of practice typing....

    And since my SO lives so far away, we tend to be together only on weekends. Sigh... So you'll almost never see a post from me on a weekend. Usually, I only post on Monday and Thursday after work, because I have about 1.5 hours to kill before I work out at the Y on the way home.

    Oh, and you'll never see a Friday or Wednesday post, either. Wednesday is with my son after school, Friday is either picking up my son or heading up to SO's home.

    So sometimes, I have time on my hands. And I fill it with typing, and ideas.

    You're not complaining, are you?



    Best,
    Doug
    Best,
    Doug Grosjean
    Pemberville, Ohio
    douggrosjean@gmail.com

    Author of "Wheels"
    http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore...kid~32002.aspx

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