Spring 2006 Death Valley Ride: Marc's story
The last time I went to Death Valley I was on an R1150RT. It rained. This year I’m riding an R1200GS. Changing bikes didn’t help. It rained again! The rain didn’t happen until leaving Sunday, though, and did nothing to affect the enjoyment of the ride.
The ride for the group I was with left the parking lot on SR 84 just west of I 280 at 6 AM. Ted, Hao, George and Sachi, and I headed to the Cozy Cup in Hollister. Dan and Lorraine were missing: they knew where we were going. Fred and Irma would meet us there as would Ted’s son-in-law, Steve. Dan and Lorraine weren’t that far behind.
After breakfast we stopped for those who needed to top off their tank then headed down SR 25 toward SR 198. The group spread out over the 60-something mile run under overcast skies. There was a brief pause at the intersection of SR 25 with SR 198 to allow everyone to catch up.
Once the group was back together we were off to Coalinga for a gas and rest stop, then down SR 33 to SR 46 and over to SR 99. At SR 99 some of the group headed south to Bakersfield to pick up SR 178 and ride through the Kern river canyon. Ted, Steve, and I headed east over Famoso road to Granite road and SR 155 over Greenhorn summit to Lake Isabella through Wofford Heights. The overcast had turned to blue skies and road conditions were excellent save a little bit of sand at the top of the 6100 foot summit.
We stopped for lunch in Lake Isabella where I took these pictures of Ted and Steve.
As we were leaving Lake Isabella we saw the group that had split off at SR 99, but lost them as I stopped for gas. Ted, Steve, and I stopped at Ridgecrest where Ted and Steve filled up. Ted said “Go ahead, I’ll catch up” so I did. I saw him in my mirrors going through Trona, but lost him as I left town. I took Wildrose (a little bit of dirt, not much) to SR 190 and Stovepipe Wells. Total milage for my day was about 425.
I went to bed early, skipping dinner as I’d filled up on
too much beer and snacks. Saturday morning started with a ride to
Beatty, Nv. This took longer than expected as the Daylight pass road
is closed. I had to detour toward Furnace creek to pick up the Beatty
cut-off toward Daylight pass. Then there was the 10 minute wait for the
“follow me” truck over the section of road under active construction.
I saw Jerry Grey waiting to go the other direction as I left the construction area.
I stopped at the Stagecoach in Beatty where I saw Ramon. He said most of the Beatty contingent went to Scotty’s Castle. Not wanting to handle the Daylight Pass hassle again, I headed north on US 95 to the Scotty’s Junction, then over to Scotty’s castle on SR 267.
Most of the group was at Scotty’s. Rob tried to figure out just how many SMBC members and guests were on this trip; I think he counted at least 22. There were probably more.
I had a cup of coffee, chatted with people for a short while, then headed off to Ubehebe Crator to pick up the road to the Racetrack. I’d never been there before and thought that it might be a nice thing to do before heading to Furnace creek where the group was going to meet for lunch/whatever around 1 PM. I expected to be late, but that’s OK.
The sign at the turnoff for the Racetrack said 27 miles.
Hmmm… this might be a problem. For some reason I had 12 miles in my head. Even going very slow over dirt/gravel roads I figured I could get there and back in 2 hours or less. I’d have to make a very good pace to do that for 27 miles. One way to find out if I could do it was try.
The road starts with some small volcanic gravel and immediately turns to bone jarring washboard. Every time I sped up to minimise the washboard effect I’d hit a soft spot that had me feeling like the bike was going sideways. With next to no dirt experience I just slowed down. About a mile in the road turned from dark, small volcanic gravel to large gravel. The soft spots were where the gravel was 3-4 inches deep.
Did I mention I have minimal dirt experience? The 4th time the bike started to slide as the front hit the deep stuff and I found myself in the opposite wheel rut I pulled over to take a break. I’d been on the road about 35 minutes and had not gone even 8 miles. I was not going to make it to the Racetrack and back in 2 hours. Maybe in 5 hours. Maybe next trip. I turned around to head to Furnace Creek and the rest of the group.
I was too late for the group lunch at steak house buffet.
Good. I went into the coffee house planning on eating alone but found
Dan and Lorraine had also missed the group, so joined them for lunch.
After lunch the group loitered around the parking lot for a while. I left early, heading back to Stovepipe Wells, planning on spending some time at the pool.
Back at Stovepipe Wells I found Rob, waiting for Jerry Granger to show up and let Rob into his room. Rob spent the first night in Beatty, moving to share a room with Jerry at Stovepipe Wells the second night. Soon enough people started arriving, chatting, drinking, snacking, telling good lies, and generally having a good time. After a bit some went for a nap and others finally got to the pool where in addition to getting wet a mini ping-pong tourney was held. I won Dan’s bike, but couldn’t ride both bikes home and don’t have room in the garage so decided he could keep it after all. I think the eventual winner was Rob, having defeated Jerry in a very close game.
When we left the pool Irma demonstrated the proper method for peeling an orange and I gave lessons in finding the north star, Polaris.
I woke to the sound of raindrops on the tin roof.
Raindrops? In Death Valley? Again? Oh well. I removed the cover from the bike so I could shake/dry it out before packing it for the ride to Paso Robles.
The original plan was to leave at 9:00 for breakfast in Panamint Springs. About 8:45 most decided to have breakfast at Stovepipe Wells, hoping the rain stops before hitting the road. Not me. I’m in the breakfast club. I ride alone.
After breakfast I continued on SR 190 until US 395 then headed south to pick up SR 14 to SR 178. It was cold enough that I stopped in Olancha to put on my heated liner. Temps had been in the 40s. I gassed up just east of Lake Isabella. The rain had stopped by then and it looked pretty good toward the west. After a a lunch break at the I5 Buttonwillow exit I headed for McKittrick and the fun part of SR 58.
Fun it was. Even after the tight turns and whoop-te-dos the views of California Valley were fantastic. I suppose I should have stopped to take some pictures; I was having too much fun on the ride. Things went so well that I didn’t even get lost the last 2 miles to the motel as I usually do. I’ll thank my GPS for that little miracle. I got to the motel a little before 4 PM. 320 miles in about 7 hours including breakfast and lunch stops. Not bad.
Carl and Tom were the first to follow me in to Paso Robles, about an hour behind me. They didn’t leave Stovepipe wells until late but also didn’t stop for lunch. By 6:30 most of those who were heading to Paso Robles had arrived… guess who was the last to arrive just as we were ordering dinner?
People either socialized after dinner, spent some time in the hot tub, or made sure to catch the Sopranos – yes, the motel has HBO. After much discussion it was agreed that there were no strict plans for the ride home Monday, but that most felt they’d be leaving around 8 AM.
I left a few minutes before 8 and headed toward the coast by taking Naciemiento Lake Dr to Adelaida Rd to Vinyard Dr to Jack Creek Rd to SR 46 to Santa Rosa Creek Rd into Cambria. I came upon Dan and Lorraine in Cambria who had spotted Carl and Tom at a restaurant. We stopped at the same place. Just as Carl and Tom were leaving some of the others had spotted the parked bikes and joined us.
I left the restaurant slightly before the others and headed up the coast. I found Carl and Tom at Nepenthe. We waited a bit for the others to catch up. Didn’t happen. I suspect they stopped to take pictures as it was quite nice at the coast until a few miles before Nepenthe. We left and I followed Carl and Tom as far as SR 156 where they cut off toward the east. I stayed on 1 until Santa Cruz where I gassed up then came up SR 9 to SR 35, SR 92, and home. There was zero traffic on highways 9 and 35.
My odometer says I went about 1248 miles. My GPS says I went 1261 miles with a moving average speed of 56 MPH, total average of 47 MPH. How about that: assuming the GPS is correct my odometer is under reporting miles.