Back in 2012, I ventured to Alaska on a Yamaha Super Tenere. On the way back, I'd planned to see a number of sites out west, including Pikes Peak, but I bombed out in Moab, Utah after 36 days and nearly 12,000 miles and headed back to Florida.
The moral of the 2012 story perhaps is to take these things in smaller, bite-sized doses.
Ascending Pikes Peak, in Cascade, Colorado, near Colorado Springs, was one of the greatest experiences that I've had on a motorcycle. I'm glad to check it off my bucket list.
The summit of Pikes Peak sits at 14,110 feet above sea level. Considering that I live somewhere in the vicinity of 100 feet above sea level, making a mad dash up the mountain when I got to Colorado could bring about Altitude Sickness (occurs when you can't get enough oxygen from the air at high altitudes; becomes a threat at 8,000 feet above sea level). So rather than do something so stupid, I chilled out in Colorado Springs (about 6,700 feet) for a day letting my body acclimate.
When I was ready, I headed over to Cascade to pick up the Pikes Peak Highway, which is a toll road to the summit ($12.00 per person). The Gateway onto Pikes Peak Highway is at 7,800 feet above sea level. Accordingly, at the Gateway, the summit is somewhere around 1.20 miles straight up. However, it's a 19 mile highway to get up there!
It took me quite awhile to ascend to the top, but I stopped quite a number of times. Every corner you turn (and you turn a lot of them) you turn into a magnificent view or scene that requires a few minutes. The whole ride, top to bottom, was over three hours!
I would say that all was well and good until about 11,000 feet when it started to get really cold and really windy. Fortunately, I was warned that it would be cold and wore my base layers. The wind was another story. Starting at the Gateway, the road is mostly tree lined as you can see from the above photos. Yeah, you're on the side of a mountain but there's a good deal of obstruction between you and the bajillion foot drop off down the mountain side.
Then, around 11,000 feet, there aren't any more trees ... no shoulders .... hardly any guardrails ... snow ... and the switchbacks are so tight you have to actually counter balance through them! Man, you are out there ... in the wind! A "white knuckle" experience, indeed.
When I finally got to the Summit, I got a cup of coffee and a couple freshly made donuts in the Summit House Cafe/Gift Shop and then proceeded to become extremely ill. Oh yeah, the signature indication of altitude sickness is nausea ... a fairly good indication that I might want to head down the mountain, which is exactly what I did.
I was really glad that I took my time heading up Pikes Peak to see the sights it had to offer because I was in somewhat of a rush getting back down. The good news was it wasn't long after arriving at the Gateway that I felt perfectly fine and ready to continue on my journey. But first I pulled out the Bucket List and checked off a big one!