Fall '99 Death Valley Run

Picturess start here

Marc writes:

Another fall, another trip to Death Valley. This year was slightly marred by bike problems. Not too serious, though – all bikes made it home.

It’s rumored that the 2nd group actually left 2 minutes late. Mac hadn’t made it to the donut shop by 6:00 AM yet people were sure he was going on the ride. Since Mac is usually early there was some discussion that maybe Mac and Pete met 5:30-ish and left together. All I can say for sure is that I was surprised when the group caught up with me on the San Mateo bridge – I usually have to chase them down.

We got to the Orchard in Tracy for breakfast just as the first group was leaving. Pete and Yvonne got to the donut shop early enough to join the first group. No Mac, though. Still no Mac after breakfast. A call to his house revealed the reason: Mac over-slept. He blames it on the cleaning lady. Sure, Mac. He finally caught up with us just outside of Oakdale.

Mac wasn’t the only late arrival. Jerry Grey hadn’t made up his mind if he was going to join us or not until Thursday evening. I guess it took him longer to prepare than he expected (Dave says he was changing oil on his bike 9:00 PM Thursday night). He got to the Orchard just as we were about to leave.

Group 2 (heading for the Stagecoach Motel/Casino in Beatty, Nv.) maintained a leisurely pace to and through Yosemite. Once we turned onto 395, however, a Harley rider passed us. That was a challenge Dave couldn’t ignore. The group split into two. Just as the leaders decided to keep up with the Harley my radar detector started letting me know we were not alone. Apparently a CHP going the other direction did pull a U-turn. We were saved when he pulled over a red car that was quickly catching up with us from the rear.

We all got together, again, at the Bishop lunch stop. The Harley rider, John, joined us. John and Jerry Grey had a chance to compare notes on their bikes after lunch. Rich, the last rider to join the group, caught up with us at this point. He got a late start due to his work schedule. He decided to stop for lunch and meet us at the motel.

Group 1 left Bishop shortly after we arrived. Tom, Carl, Gerry Grainger, and Walter were heading to Stovepipe Wells. Pete and Yvonne joined the second group at this point: our route was over Westguard pass to Beatty, Nv. 100 miles into that ride was the obligatory stop at the parking lot of the Cottontail Ranch. Well, most of us stayed in the parking lot. Females are not allowed in the Cottontail and there are no other restrooms available. Perhaps that explains the mad dash down 95 to Beatty.

I didn’t hit tripple digits trying to catch up with Jessica and Paul, but came pretty close. Dave passed me, so perhaps he did. Jerry Grey was going fast enough to see his gas gauge move on his Harley. He ran out of gas at the Beatty border.

The hot tub was working although the pool was quite cold. Pete had a chance to show off the appropriate footwear for motorcycle riding hot-tub users. Plenty of beer and tequila was available (and consumed).

Saturday morning at 9:00 a group left for Scotty’s Castle. Part of the group decided to be lazy. The others had had never taken the tour so we did so. It’s well worth the $8.00. After the tour we then rode down to Furnace Creek to meet the others for lunch.

Group 1 had checked out of Stovepipe Wells as they were spending the 2nd night at another location. This removed the option of spending the afternoon in the pool at Stovepipe Wells. Some of the members returned to Beatty, others rode up to Dante’s View, and group 1 went to Rhyolite. After visiting Rhyolite Tom joined us at the pool in Beatty and Jerry Grainger stopped by long enough to have lunch. Saturday evening was more beer, tequila, and hot tub time.

On Sunday group 2 left for Bishop via 190 through Panamint Springs and up through the Owens valley. A beautiful ride. However, as we hit a stop light in Bishop Jessica noticed a lot of noise coming from the left cylinder. Oh oh. She checks the oil after letting the bike sit for a while in the motel parking lot. It is low. She buys a quart of 20w50 and about 3/4 of that brings the oil level to where it should be. The noise goes away – for a little while.

After lunch it’s time for a look. Both valve covers are pulled so we can compare the valve adjustments. Her owners manual doesn’t say what it is supposed to be and we no-one had a feeler gauge in their tool kit. Pete found a Napa store which solved the feeler gauge problem. But the tappets were pretty close between the “good” and “bad” sides. Guess: it’s timing chain slap. Perhaps a tensioner isn’t doing its job?

Carl arrived in Bishop about this time and we compare the sound of his R-1100 to Jessica’s R-850. Similar sounds. Jessica’s bike is just louder. The bike will probably make it home, but no more tripple digit dashes.

It was getting close to dinner time before Tom and Jerry Grainger showed up. Tom’s bike dies every so often. It’s acting as if it is out of fuel. After a short wait the bike is good for some varying amount of time. We suggest a new fuel filter. He’ll finds one before dinner, but wont install it until Monday morning. In the mean while there is more beer and tequila followed by a great Mexican dinner at the usual spot.

Monday morning Tom and Dave started working on Tom’s bike after breakfast. Carls also stayed until Tom got going. The rest of the group left for home about 8:30. We didn’t want to stress Jessica’s bike so I led at a moderate pace up 395 toward the 120 junction. Weather was warmer than in recent years. It was about 60 in Bishop, dropped to 44 about half way between Bishop and 120, and was back up to 60 at the base of 120.

We stopped for gas at the gas/coffee/gift shop and waited a short while for Tom, Dave, and Carl. They hadn’t shown up by 10:00 AM so I led the group through Yosemite, again at a moderate pace. There was very little traffic. By the time we hit the visiter center at the exit the temperature was in the low 70’s. We stopped to peel some layers. About 5 minutes into the stop Carl, Dave, and Tom arrived. Tom’s problems were with his fuel pump. Kicking the fuel pump gets it going again. It is kickable while on the bike. As he feels a drop in power he kicks the pump and keeps on running. This got him home.

Dave led the way from Yosemite to lunch in Oakdale. After lunch we rode about 20 miles to Manteca for gas. We said our good-byes in Manteca as the group started splitting up for the final leg home. Dave led the slower group with Jessica and Gerry Grey (who needed a new rear tire about this time). I got home just after 4:00 PM.

Marc’s Images

Carl’s Images

Jerry’s Images