When we first moved to Colorado in 2001, I wanted a way to explore trails. Running didn’t come along for 4 more years. So we bought ATVs and moved about Colorado on 4 wheels. Kim and I had some great times. They also worked well for people who visited from out of state. Lots of fun doing tours around my favorite local spots.
However, some combination of having kids, running, and rolling the ATV on top of myself a few times, made me put the ATVs up and not use them much. They were sort of rotting. Well, when the cabin came into the mix, I knew that they would be back in action from time to time. There are miles of trails ready for OHV riding just outside our door! Well, legally I can’t ride to them because its a county road but the police seem to be lenient up in them thar parts, especially in the winter. So I took the ATVs up to the cabin this weekend for their homecoming. Sydney and I took a ride from the house out to Turquoise Lake on Monday before heading home.
A quick mile down a paved road to the Leadville Junction. Then we jumped the snow ramp up onto the packed roads of Turquoise Lake. It had snowed all night and all day and there was a pretty fluffy cover on the road. A change from the hard snow pack from weeks prior from the snowmobiles. We drove around the lake to the Tabor Boat ramp. Things were starting to get thicker. I have been stuck in the snow before and wasn’t interested in that today with a kid, cold weather, only one vehicle and miles to walk back. So we turned around from there. I did go a little off the road and buried the left side and we had to work it out. ATVs aren’t made for snow. They do OK in some packed conditions but powder is bad news. But for a nice kid ride, they work just fine. Got them both back to the cabin and parked them in my makeshift garage beneath the house AKA the basement.
The real ATV project of the weekend was my Xmas present to myself. A winch for my ATV! My winch on my Hummer has been a life-saver in the snow. I have used it a bunch of times to un-stuck myself. The ATV was lacking this feature and I knew if we were going to be in snow now and then with only one ATV, this was a must.
I installed my own winch on my Hummer. It was a decent day’s work. I knew this would be tougher. Like working on a miniature car. Had to pull the front fascia off to get to the bumper. Then pull off the bumper to install the mount. Kind of a puzzle.
The winch is a Warn XT30. I love Warn products. Expensive but always top of the line. The winch has a synthetic rope line as opposed to the cable on the Hummer. Says its good for 3,000 lbs. My truck weight 3x that so this makes some sense. Warn always has a purdy looking case but unfortunately this one is buried up in the front of the ATV and you can’t see anything but the rollers and line.
Got the winch in there and then the wiring began. That is the true test on winch installed. Getting the winch in place and tight is OK but you have to run 2 thick lines to the back of the ATV into a control box. 2 more lines to the battery. Then 2 more lines to the wireless controller. Yes, I can operate it with a remote control! Another set of lines up to the steering wheel for the manual controller. Then another line to the ignition key. You end up running cable everywhere. Then you have to snug it all up so its not touching or rubbing or against anything hot. For my mind that works on 1s and 0s all day, this is fun but challenging work. Finally, got it all wired up and….its was dead! Fuck me. What’s wrong? Back over it all and I finally figured out that the line I grabbed that I thought was hot by the battery for the fuse wasn’t. Need a test light! So I swapped to another and the winch fired up! Sounded like music…strong music!
Demonstrated it to the kids. My girls were impressed for 30 seconds. Its a movable rope! Boring. It won’t be so boring when its pulling us out of a river or a snow bank. Girls just don’t understand. All in all, took me way too long to install this thing and I was about done with it. I hated wasting away on it all weekend but its done now and working. I just hope I safely installed all the components. Forgot to snap a photo of the final product. One of these days. Looks great though.
As it was time to head home, I departed Leadville with an empty trailer. Going to put it back in storage until summer. Then I can bring it back and park it in the trees out in the yard where no one can see it. Then it will be handy for a quick mount so we can go ride the hills surrounding the cabin.
On the way home, the weather hit. 91 was awful. I couldn’t see a thing. Total white out. I had to stop on the road and wait for visibility. They were not plowing so there was about a foot of snow. Not sure how any passenger type cars were even making it. Its never fun with a car full of kids and a trailer to drive in those conditions. Kim had to keep looking out the window for the guardrail and telling me how many feet away I was from it so I could sort of follow the road. I figured I-70 would be better and it was. Not great but you could at least go 20-25 MPH. We are flying now! Got to Dillion and looked up at the tunnel. Red lights as far as you can see. As I saw online, the tunnel was being metered and it was projected to take 3 hours to make the climb from Dillion to the entrance. They have a traffic signal at the entrance to the Eisenhower Tunnel to meter the traffic. I guess the main reason is not to get people stopped in the tunnel because its like a CO2 death trap in there I saw on TV I recall. So we grinded up the hill for 3 hours in heavy snowfall. People were out of their cars peeing, walking dogs, etc. One lady next to us was reading a book while driving! Whatever it takes to pass the time.
Finally, got to the tunnel and started the descent on the other side. It was slick. I was driving in 1st gear just rolling slowly. I was talking to Kim and noticed a trailer in my left side mirror. That kind of looks like MY TRAILER! Ooops. My trailer had swung around and was 90 degrees turned and maybe was going to keep coming around. WTF. This hasn’t happened before. Luckily that lane of traffic was either back far enough or saw this and stayed back. So my brain worked fast and I quickly figured out what to do. Brake? Fuck no. I shifted back up into drive and let things speed up. Feet off the brake. The trailer came back around behind me. Then I tested it, back on the brake, trailer started coming back around. Shit. So I can’t stop and I am going down the mountain. This isn’t good. What’s different? Why hasn’t this happened before? I quickly realized that I had no weight on the trailer and that was messing with my trailer brakes and their adjustment levels. With the ATVs on there, I adjust my trailer brake so that the trailer is just yanking back on the truck when I stop then I let it off another notch. Now I had no weight on the trailer so those heavy brakes come on and are sliding. Normally, on dry pavement with weight, it would pull my Hummer backwards but today, they just lock and skid and slide whatever direction seems best. So I quickly dialed down the trailer brakes with my thumb controller under the dash and the trailer went back to behaving normally and life was good.
So after leaving Leadville at 4:30 PM in a snow storm and an hour stop for dinner in Dillon, we made it home at 11 PM safe and sound. Pretty much all the big time spent on the crawl to the tunnel. I have never been backed up that far before and now I know what its like. Probably won’t suffer through that one again. Wasn’t terrible for myself, but baby Kayla was confused and mad about being in the car that long with no apparent movement going on outside. Probably was still the right call for yesterday because the kids had school, Kim had to volunteer, and I had rehab in the morning. Found out this morning that they closed I-70 later into the evening as well. Not quite a sob story because we had a great weekend up high but just learning the ropes on what its like to commute to the mountains each weekend no matter what the conditions are. Back again soon.