All set in National Colors

54 different diverse locations in five Colorado counties the Premier Winter Census Rally got under way
on Monday morning with blowing wet snow to go with the 3″inches already on the ground from the
overnight fall. First leg to Durango and then onto Bayfield before the first special stage up to Vallecito
Lake. Speeds are down due to the slushy conditions and particularly nasty going by Summit Lake
before picking up 160 in Mancos. On arrival in Durango the roads are dry and they seemed to have
escaped last nights batch.

Another slush filled drive up County Road 501 through the narrow twists with some deer spectating
and on to Vallecito Lake. Everything is closed up here with 4′ + of snow lining the road and the last
part of metaled surface gives way to mud, dirt , snow, ice and puddles. At the check in at Blue Spruce
RV Park there is no sign of life and not a chance of occupation until mid May by my guess and you
won’t be getting any big rigs in there for quite a time! My last port of call would have been another 40
mile leg down into Archuletta County on the Indian Reservation but I’m called on the cell by Head Office
to say that stage has been canceled due to lack of permits. A pit stop in Bayfield for refueling and then
back into blizzard conditions for the 75 mile leg back to Dolores.

Mud and ice from this point on……

Day 2 and yet more overnight snow so another treacherous start heading out on the 40 mile loop to
the back of Mcphee Reservoir where the side road will most likely not have seen a plow. A pretty drive
and I don’t expect to find anything when I get there either. From the start point at CC over the road to the
Outpost Motel and can’t find the unhelpful owner who is downright rude on the phone. No matter, on to
McPhee and all goes well up the hill in the melting snow but 5 miles in and the road is only single track
where a scraper has been and there is 9″ on the unplowed side. Eventually catch up with the Scraper
and decide this is in the “too difficult basket” and turn round and off to pastures greener. With melting
snow and thawing mud tracks things are a real mess any time I venture off the main highway, bit like
trials really !!

A half plowed road to McPhee Reservoir

Too Difficult ! time to come back

Through two more ports of call and down into Cortez for a batch there where most of the snow has
been removed thanks to overnight rain. Mud, mud and more mud on the county roads but with another
65 miles done I’m back in Dolores for lunch and ready to map out the afternoon adventure through
Mancos and up to Bauer Lake.

The afternoon stage starts well after a slippery off road excursion and soon I’m in Mancos and turning
onto a very wet CR 41, just got the braking done before a nasty “yump” over a waterfilled drainage ditch
and rounding the next turn of the ever upward track there are about 40 turkeys scuttling across the track.
All very big birds and clearly well fed despite all the snow. Past the last dwellings and at this point the
plow driver had decided that civilization stopped here and had just pushed everything into a huge bank
across the track. A bit of slipping and sliding but finally I’m back on a solid surface and complete the
loop knocking up 130 miles for the day.

The return run of the Special Stage to Bauer Lake

Wednesday, THE BIG ONE!……. today its another mountain stage with a hill top finish and night stop
in Silverton. Looking out the window another dusting of snow which will melt, I hope,  before my 0900
start time. I see there is a severe weather alert, right across today’s route, so this may take longer than
expected. Routing today is up the 145 over the Lizzard and into Telluride for a quick stop then downhill
and out to Norwood before turning and coming back up the pass to get over the hills to Ridgeway.
Then things could get really interesting with the run through Ouray and up and over the mountains to
Silverton. No guard rails up there and a pretty hairy ride on a bike in the summer if you don’t get the
corner apex bang on ! Not any different in the car but a scary drive as there are horrendous drops and
no guard rails, huge over hangs of rock and snow with lots of avalanche signs along the route. I’m in
and out of heavy snow showers all the way but eventually I’m in Silverton. A sign at the Motel says they
won’t be open for another two hours! All the fun venues I saw here in the summer are closed as is just
about everything else. My task is soon completed as most of the places I’ve come to inspect are closed
so back to the motel and wait.

5 miles in and it starts snowing big time!

In the clear again but this venue is definitely CLOSED

The Start of the Ouray-Silverton afternoon stage

No guard rails and some huge drop offs !!!!!!!!

The room is little bigger than my garden shed, no coffee, not a plug in sight for the computer so they
lend me an extension cord and at least I can check my email. Venture out in yet more falling snow and
find somewhere open for a bite to eat. In hindsight I think I would have been better moving on and
staying at Purgatory Ski Resort as this is low budget at 5 star prices! Oh well, I hope the roads will be
clear as I have a 50 mile drive down to Durango this morning.

The less than perfect night stop

Thursday Morning and much early activity through the paper thin walls as all and sundry are up and off
to the slopes. I venture out but man it is cold and a crisp -2F along with 3″ of fresh snow and a gusting
wind that chills the very marrow of the soul! As I see no future in this establishment I may as well press
on as its bright and sunny and I could use a coffee. Outside big engines thunder into life as motors are
warmed and ice and snow are scraped away. I take the key back and find,much to my surprise that there
is some coffee and a few bagels and fruit. Start time comes and I venture out onto the very cold ice and
snow covered road. First “Special Stage” is up and over the Molas Pass to 10910′ and flashing lights
say chains are required for all commercial vehicles. Another slow, winding uphill with no guard rails
and huge drop offs and a load more on the downhill. A 20 mph average is the speed for this portion
and although I got overtaken early in the stage I passed him later as he had spun out on a bend.

On the climb to the Molas Pass with Silverton in the sunshine

I’m glad you are working

Another “glass” descent in the shade without guard rails

The start of the last Pass, big drops and no rails

Another pass and then down to the ski area at Purgatory where I have a few calls. The sun is up, a very
beautiful winter ski scene everywhere and at Purgatory no wind so very pleasant. From Purg, a straight
shot on melting roads down to Durango but I miss a couple of my calls and I’m forced to go back and
cover the ground again and in the process stumble across the Silverton-Durango steam train which is
still running despite the conditions up the Valley and over the passes.

Here come de train

Wooo, ah wooooo

By the time I’m in Durango temps are up to 45F and its positively spring like. Through Hotels, Motels
and boarding houses and one final call at some cabins 12 miles out of town on a good winding road.
(this will be nice on the Beemer in the summer!) The cabins are vacation rentals for those that like
snow shoeing ?

The day is done, the Cadillac is filthy, I’m hungry and so its homeward bound with close on 700 miles
driven in the Census Rally, make some sense us outta dat !


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