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The Not-Klondike Writeup

Thanks to some meddling from the weather Gods, this year’s Klondike Derby turned into the most epic road trip to nowhere. Our tale begins around 2:30pm on Friday when the expected 1-3 inches of predicted snow began to fall. It quickly developed into big, thick, wet, heavy snow which covered metro area roadways as the temperature hovered around freezing. We met at the church, as planned, at 4pm, determined to head up to perfect conditions for any Klondike Derby – fresh snow to cover the campsites with a beautiful snowbird day to mush the sled around to various “cities,” earning our hard earned points and learning a thing or two along the way. But we must get there first!

Our destination was Reverends Ridge campground in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. For those uninitiated, this is located just off the peak-to-peak highway, about 9 miles North of the gambling mecca known as Black Hawk, Colorado. Normally, we could venture up the Golden Gate Canyon Road just North of Golden, but with the weather coming down and towing Big Blue, we decided the safer route would be up Clear Creek Canyon where surely the gamblers could find a freshly plowed road. Little did we know that everyone was just as determined to play the one-armed bandits and traffic was plentiful. But to keep the story complete we should back up.

The view as we headed out of town

As we ventured onto C-470, Mr. Bielkiewicz noticed something wrong with the side door of the trailer. So we pulled over safely on the highway to discover that the side door had not been fully secured. Thankfully all gear was still accounted for and we didn’t leave a trail of tents on the highway. Once we secured the door (and verified everything else was still secured), we continued up the hill towards Golden. As we crossed Alameda, we discovered how the Colorado Avalanche feel on a given night as we skated our way up and over I-70 on what we figured was a new training area for the local hockey teams, aka C-470 covered in ice. We creeped on down towards Golden, testing out the Anti-lock Brake systems frequently, and approached the turn into the canyon. Unfortunately, due to the angle of the roadway and in honor of the Olympics, Mr. Ross decided to see how his car would fare as a bobsled and slid himself sideways ensuring he couldn’t make that left-hand turn. Forced to turn right instead, he quickly realized that bobsleds (and cars) don’t travel uphill on ice very well and, in spite of attempts of local good samaritans, decided to turn around and make another attempt at entering the gates of the canyon, attempting to catch up to Mr. Bielkiewicz, the trailer, and our Scoutmaster as they crawled along. The road actually seemed better once we were in the canyon…until…..

BOOM! Fishtail! Thump…thump…thump…thump….

Mr. Bielkiewicz thinks we hit something in the road and claimed “the car just isn’t riding right” – so he did what any logical driver would do – asked his passenger to roll down his window as we passed through a tunnel to assess the situation. Sure enough, our SPL confirmed our worst fears – the right trailer tire blew up and we were riding like a train on a track…metal rim on the road. We alerted the Scoutmaster behind us and found the first possible spot to pull over – not an easy feat in a narrow canyon with thick snow filling the shoulders. The location was safe, especially considering traffic was moving quite slow in a long line on the road. Thankfully the questionable tire was away from the traffic. The only issue now was that we had no idea where the jack was for the trailer and surely underneath all the well-prepared gear brought along. So we pulled out Mr. Bielkiewicz’s jack and hoped it could lift the trailer high enough. So we cranked. And cranked. And cranked some more…until…success! We got the shredded tire off the trailer and grabbed the spare only to realize….we couldn’t fit it on. And the jack was at it’s limit. Around this time, someone screamed at us from the road “we aren’t stopping!” and we realized that the Ross Bobsled was continuing ahead, fearful of emulating the Jamaicans in Calgary circa 1988. Meanwhile, it was time for the boys to jump into action and find us some flat rocks! Then, Mr. Strauss and Mr. Bielkiewicz realized they had emergency shovels and started digging under the wheel well into the dirt. Fortunately, we were able to dig deep enough to slide our savior onto those five bolts and were able to leave those flat rocks retrieved by the boys for the next schmuck unfortunate enough to need them.

Caleb tightening lug nuts
Jacob tightening lug nuts

We tightened all the lug nuts super tight, repacked up the car, and continued on our way. Mr. Bielkiewicz commented how it barely felt we were towing anything (a good thing) and some, not-to-be-named Scouts made such comments like “wouldn’t it be funny if the other tire blew?” Ha. Ha. Ha.

The view as we continued up the canyon, after changing the first tire

7.5 miles later, as we were just a few short miles from Black Hawk, Mr. Bielkiewicz noticed something fly off the left wheel well of the trailer – thinking it was a puff of snow. Alas, the trailer started it’s now familiar sway and he realized we blew the left tire. Called Mr. Strauss who simply answered “YEP!” Once again we are tasked with finding a safe place to pull over in the even more narrow canyon near Black Hawk. Less than a mile later, we found our oasis where we could assess the damage.

Just South of Black Hawk, blow out #2 and Big Blue’s resting place for the night
The 2 locations of our blowouts

Unfortunately, it was hopeless. We had no more spares and no one seemed to have the Tire Replacing Merit Badge, nor the more important Tire Making Merit Badge. We decided to abandon Big Blue on the side of the road, retrieving anything we couldn’t leave overnight and take the multiple signs given to us that we just weren’t destined to attend 2022 Klondike Derby. We called the bobsled team ahead of us and they agreed to turn around and attempt the trek home. Coincidentally, Mr. Yexley from the Council was heading up behind us and pulled over to inform us that a truck was blocking one of the tunnels we just came through and recommended a different route home. The only other option would be to head towards I-70 and the infamous Floyd Hill to double back to home. A command decision was made by Mr. Strauss and Mr. Bielkiewicz to treat the Scouts to some well earned Beau Jo’s pizza in Idaho Springs. Mr. Ross was content to find that finish line as fast as possible and headed straight home…fortunately, he braved the return through the canyon and was able to avoid any further incident (including the truck in the tunnel) and slid across the finish line around 9:45pm.

Our alternate crew saw a cruel future fate as they proceeded a few miles West on I-70 when they saw the Eastbound lanes looked like the parking lots around Mile High Stadium on game days. Nobody moving at all. Flashing lights everywhere. They felt like they were in the Giant Slalom, swerving around crashed and disabled vehicles while navigating the still heavy snow. They rolled into Beau Jo’s without further incident and enjoyed the best pizza in Colorado just before the kitchen was closed. We took our sweet time, savoring every bite before we realized we were the only customers left in the entire place. We slowly walked on out, delaying the inevitable slog that waited for us ahead.

Beau Jo’s fun!

We departed Beau Jo’s at about 10pm. As we brushed off the several inches of snow that gathered on our vehicles, we were sitting front row to a figure skating Volvo who spun circles in the parking lot better than Nathan Chen winning gold the other night. We saw some traffic on the highway so opted to drive through town and re-enter I-70 on the East side of town…only to become stationary before we could even merge. Cars looked like they were shut off. People were walking their dogs. Snowball fights ensued. All on I-70. Some drivers became impatient and turned around illegally to drive past us the wrong way up the on-ramp (perhaps to enable their airplane mode on their cars to magically fly over the traffic?) while we just sat. And sat. And sat. And……sat. We spied someone draw something on a snowbank ahead of us and eventually, when we passed it, read aloud “Ran out of gas, now what?” We think they joked as no appeared fully stranded. We updated parents who were wondering worriedly when we would weturn. Uh, return. We did not move significantly until apparently some magic switch was thrown and I-70 resumed a snowy version of a Nascar race. The snow seemed to have finally stopped, the clock was nearing midnight and we proceeded (with caution of course) to the thrilling climb up Floyd Hill, spying semis and cars who clearly lost the battle. We survived and were finally well on our way home.

View of Mr. Bielkiewicz’s car and our potential transport on the roof as we waited for traffic to move

Rolled over vehicles were the norm. We saw one car perpendicular to the road in the ditch with it’s hazards on whilst coming up the canyon. We saw a pickup truck completely upside down off of I-70. We saw many cars, who clearly should not have been out on a night like this, leaning on guard rails. We slalomed around snowbound cars that plows decided to cover. We even considered pulling down the sled on our roof and mushing our way home (this idea was not deemed “Scout-safe” but we thought maybe it would have made a good fundraising opportunity?). We made it down the steepest parts of I-70 just West of C-470 at a cautionary pace and as we got closer to Bowles, the road even cleared up a bit. We saw night blue sky over the metro area as the storm had moved on. And we finally made it back to the church around 12:30am.

There of course was talk of attempting to return to Klondike for the day only on Saturday, but everyone was simply too tired to entertain such thoughts. So instead, Mr. Bielkiewicz and Jacob borrowed Mr. Strauss’s floor jack, grabbed the white trailer’s spare tire (fortunately the same size as Big Blue’s tires) and ventured back up to retrieve the disabled trailer. Of course as we approached the turn into Clear Creek Canyon, we were deflated to discover that the canyon was closed. The roads were clear as can be…but we figured they were retrieving all the disabled vehicles that littered US 6. So we drove back to Floyd Hill, a completely different experience than just 12 hours prior, and found our trailer exactly where we left it. We quickly changed out the bad tire and returned the trailer to the church (US 6 had opened while we drove around it, of course), where it currently sits, still loaded with gear to be retrieved Monday night at the meeting.

Disabled Big Blue, the next afternoon
Jacob, once again tightening lug nuts

In all seriousness, we of course took the utmost care to be safe. I joke about cars sliding and anti-lock brakes. And, while yes, it was some treacherous driving, we always felt we were safe and we did our best to keep your boys safe and happy. In spite of not attending the actual event, the Scouts on this journey will have a story they can re-tell for many years. “Do you remember the time…” Those are the best stories. It builds camaraderie and I think the boys were entertained…and some even learned a little about how to change a tire. In a snow storm. In a narrow canyon. In the dark. We were prepared. And because of that, it made the adventure one they can look back on in a positive light.

-Mr. Bielkiewicz
ASM of Can’t Wait Until Our Next Non-Trip

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