2002 Death Valley Ride
Friday–Monday, 5–8 Apr 2002
Anyone who has ridden with the breakfast club for any length of time is well aware of our motto: when you ride with us you ride alone. Sometimes the reason is individual choice; other times the vagaries of happenstance. In my case: karma.
I neglected to make any reservations in Death Valley because “the Stagecoach always has room”. The Sunday before the Death Valley ride several comments were aimed at my direction regarding the fallacy of that notion. Sure enough, after an hour or so on the phone Monday I found that the Stagecoach was full, as was the Explorer Club, the Burro, Stovepipe Wells, and the Furnace Creek Ranch. I could get rooms at the Inn, though. Of course I would be the only one there; riding alone, so to speak.
I found Dennis, Ramon, and Jill in front of the donut shop a little before 6:00 AM Friday morning. Mandy pulled up at about 5:59 and wondered if he’d made us wait. Nope. I assured him that we’d have left at 6:00 AM, regardless. That’s just another way we help members ride alone.
The morning route was US 101 -> Ca 25 -> breakfast at the Cozy Cup in Hollister -> Ca 25 -> Ca 198 with a stop at the 25/198 junction to regroup, and then into Coalinga for gas and a rest stop. From Coalinga we took Ca 33 -> Ca 46 -> Ca 99. At 99 I split off from the group. I’d planned on taking an interesting route a few weeks back and published my itinerary on the mailing list. The others decided to go the direct route, possibly scared off by Dave G.’s comments about sand and snow. So off I went by myself; when you ride with the breakfast club you ride alone.
Before starting on my interesting route I stopped at a mobile station just across highway 99.
“Going to Death Valley?” the attendant asked.
“Where’s the rest of your group?” Now how did he know I was with a group?
“Going the easy way,” I replied.
“There was a guy here on a GTS about an hour ago” he said.
“Ahhh, I probably know who that was.” Golly Dave had read my itinerary and mentioned in email that he’d probably do the same route.
“His name was Dave, uh, something that starts with a G.”
So now I know Golly Dave is about an hour in front of me, also riding alone.
From the gas station I headed east on Famoso-Woody road until the Granite road Y. Once on Granite road I knew I’d made a good route selection. The views were excellent. The road was 15-20 miles of sweepers with some tight turns thrown in for good measure. Recommended. Granite road ends at Ca 155 near Glennville. It’s about 31 miles from Glennville to Wofford Heights over Greenhorn Summit at 6000 plus feet. I stopped in Glennville to put on my liner and warm gloves. That turned out to be a good thing.
Ca 155 quickly turns into tight turns. I think I kept the bike in 2nd gear most of the way up to the top. As the road went higher and the turns got tighter the fog got thicker. Visibility was good enough to see the road, but I can’t tell you what the scenery was like. The fog was thick enough at the summit that I did get off the bike to read a road sign at a cross road. On the plus side there was no sand nor debris on the road. The only patch of snow I saw was a small, melting pile where it had been shoveled, probably a week or two earlier. On the way down from the summit the fog dissappeared within a mile or two. I stayed on 155 until Lake Isabella where I stopped for lunch.
A CHP drove by on Ca 178 just before I merged onto the road leaving Lake Isabella. Luckily, he pulled off the road a few miles later giving me a chance to pass the cars in front of me. That worked for a few miles until I hit a group of 40-50 Harley’s followed by a chase van pulling a trailer. The trailer was empty. The Harley’s were slow. It took several miles and four passes to get by all of them. From that point on it was smooth riding until Ridgecrest.
Going through Inyokern on the way to Ridgecrest I noticed some familiar bikes at a restaurant. Seems like I’d leap-frogged ahead of the group that took the highway 99 direct route. Either I eat faster (possibly) or the route isn’t so direct, after all. I waved in the general direction of the restaurant, but I apparently no-one noticed. That’s what happens when you ride alone.
At Ridgecrest I stopped for gas and a rest break. There was a rider at the station on a GTS. He’d passed me earlier. We started talking about my Schubert helmet. I mentioned that a friend – another GTS rider – had ordered it from Europe before they were imported here. Yep… someone else knows Golly Dave. Apparently a GTS owners get-together is happening in Beatty.
After a suitable break I left Ridgecrest for the ride past Trona and into Death Valley. Perhaps my timing was different this year, perhaps it was just a nice day. Whatever the reason I saw more signs of human presence in Trona this trip than in any other three trips combined. Strange. When Trona was behind me I twisted the grip a bit more and found that the bike loves being at 5000-5300 RPM in 6th gear. I kept it there passing another vehicle every 10 or 20 miles. At one stretch I passed an SUV following a bike. I should have looked closer at that bike.
I made it into Stovepipe Wells about 5:00 PM. I headed toward the bikes parked along the “Dune view” cabins where Carl, Tom, Fred, and Jessica had a cold beer for me. What a great way to (almost) end a ride. While enjoying the companionship (we don’t always like to be alone) Golly Dave rode up – he was the one I passed. I guess I was going fast enough that I didn’t have time to notice who it was. Soon Jill and Dennis joined us. Ramon and Mandy started to take Wildrose, then back-tracked and went directly to Beatty, not stopping at Stovepipe Wells.
I left for the Furnace Creek Inn about 7:00 PM, checked in, and was in bed and asleep before 8:30.
My original itinerary had me leaving Beatty at 8:00 AM Saturday for Las Vegas and the Art of the Motorcycle show. Late reservations had me at Furnace Creek. Going to bed at 8:30 had me awake at 5:30. I got out of bed at 6:00 AM and watched the sun rise over the mountains while sipping on a cup of coffee. I was on the road by 7:00. The route was Ca 190 -> Ca 127 => Nev 373 -> US 95 with a stop at Indian Springs for a leisurely breakfast. I was hungry after skipping dinner. Lots of cops on 95, all heading toward Beatty. Jill later told me she counted 9. My RADAR detector went off for 6 different vehicles. I rode alone, doing the speed limit.
I left Indian Springs a little after 9:00 AM and was at the Venetian swapping motorcycle boots for Birkenstocks and securing my gear by 9:40. The group from Beatty: John, Rich, Dennis, Jill, Ramon, and Mandy, arrived just as I was ready to find the exhibit. The group from Stovepipe Wells, Carl, Tom, Fred, and Jessica arrived shortly thereafter and met us inside the exhibit.
We were finished around noon and headed toward a food court for sustenance. At that time the route back was discussed. Carl and Tom were going to Death Valley Junction by way of Pahrump. I was going to take 178 => Jubilee Pass Road past Badwater to Furnace Creek. Mandy had never been to Badwater, so was going to take my route with Jill, Dennis, Ramon, and Rich.
I led the group out of Vegas. Once on Nev 160 John and I got ahead of the group. We stopped in Pahrump about 1/2 mile from where I was going to turn off onto Nev 372. The group caught up about 2 minutes later – and rode right by. John got on his bike and was off in a flash. I took a little longer to get my gear on and got to the Nev 372 turn off long after the group had passed it. I guess I was going to Badwater on my own. After all, when you ride with the breakfast club you ride alone.
From Pahrump the route Nev 372 turns into Ca 178 and then hits Ca 127 at Shoshone. I stopped in Shoshone for a rest and fluid stop and wound up chatting with another BMW RT rider who saw me ride in. Ed had been to a wedding in Vegas and was on his way back to the Bay Area. While we were discussing the merits of tank bags, camp gear, and motorcycling touring in general when Dennis, Jill, Rich, Ramon, and Mandy rode by. I don’t think they would have stopped had Jill not pulled into the gas station. They’d realized they missed the turn to Shoshone when leaving Pahrump and turned around.
We left Shoshone going north on Ca 127 and turned off onto Jubilee Pass Road; AKA the road to Badwater, about 2 miles later. All but Jill stopped at Badwater. She kept going, in a hurry to get back to the hot tub at Beatty. I demonstrated my picture taking prowess by taking this picture of Dennis. The strange thing is that I noticed I’d left the lens cap on and took a second picture. It turned out the same way!
We left Badwater around 5:00 Saturday evening. They headed back to Beatty. I stopped to get Gas at Furnace Creek then headed to the Inn where I got out of my riding gear and enjoyed a beer while watching the sun set. I think I made it to 9:00 PM before I fell asleep.
The plan for Sunday morning was to meet at Stovepipe Wells at 8:15 then ride to Panamint Springs for breakfast. Carl and Tom were staying in Death Valley, the rest of the group would head toward Paso Robles.
I woke early and enjoyed another sunrise while sipping coffee. After checking out I rode to Stovepipe Wells, leaving the Inn around 7:00. DST was in effect, so the sun had just cleared the eastern range. Gorgeous.
We left Stovepipe Wells on schedule and nine of us had a buffet breakfast and Panamint Springs. Ed, the BMW RT rider I met in Shoshone was there, too. He left with words to the effect of “keep following me”.
After breakfast we were joined by Ramon, Rich, and Mandy. The route was Ca 190 to 395 at Olancha. We’d gas up at Olancha. Carl was telling John how much he’d like the road and that he should get out in front so we wouldn’t slow him down. I said to stay on 190 to Olancha. Seems neither Carl nor I told John that the road turns into Ca 136 and that you needed to make a left about 35 miles down the road to stay on 190. The group arrived in Olancha. No John. He didn’t make the cut-off and wound up in Lone Pine. John is a member of the breakfast club; John rides alone.
The remaining nine: me, Dennis, Dave, Jill, Mandy, Ramon, Rich, Jessica, and Fred, left Olancha going south on US 395 => Ca 14 -> Ca 178 -> Lake Isabella. The section of Ca 190 from Furnace Creek to Ca 178 just east of Panamint Springs and this section of Ca 178 are the only roads I rode in both directions. Perhaps it was the familiarity with the road, perhaps something else. When we arrived in Lake Isabella we were only 5. We’d lost Dennis, Jill, Rich, and Dave. On the other hand we’d picked up Ed about 10 miles outside of Lake Isabella and he rode with us until we turn off for gas.
The remaining 5 had a drink and snack at a Taco Bell attached to the gas station while waiting for the stragglers to catch up. They didn’t. If they stopped for gas at Lake Isabella (as planned) they stopped at a different station.
In leaving Lake Isabella Jessica added a few battle scars to her bike. I pulled out of the gas station, followed by Fred and Jessica. I stopped to wait for Ramon and Mandy. Jessica hit her brakes… in a patch of sand/gravel covering the road and the bike went over. It looked much worse that it was. Luckily her speed was almost zero. Jessica and I got the bike righted and Fred helped straiten the windscreen. The only other thing that needed to be done was to adjust and tighten the right mirror.
We were soon on the road again, taking Ca 178 to Bakersfield where it turns into Ca 58. My plan had us stopping for gas (and maybe lunch) in McKittrick. There is no gas (nor a place for lunch) in McKittrick. Reminded of this by Jessica we stopped for gas at 58 and I5 just outside of Buttonwillow. Apparently the lost 4: Dennis, Dave, Jill, and Rich, and Lone Pine rider John believed my plan. We found them in McKittrick looking for a place to eat. Sorry folks.
The newly re-formed group of 10 left McKittrick and rode Ca 58 until the Paso Robles cut-off and then into Paso Robles. The first 15 miles or so out of McKittrick are fantastic. I was kept on my toes by trying to keep out of John’s way. This is difficult when you are in front of him! The last few miles before the motel is another story.
So it wasn’t the most direct route. I did keep them off the freeways, though. Everything was going fine until I needed to make a left onto a roadway that was 20 feet above my head. Didn’t notice on the map that the roads crossed, but didn’t touch. Three rights and about 1 mile later were were in the motel. Drink, story telling, pool and hot tub time, soon followed.
My plan was to take some interesting back roads to the coast. Fred, Jessica, and John were going to leave earlier and take Ca 46 to the coast. Dave wasn’t sure what he was going to do. The others didn’t want to leave until 9 Monday morning. Fine. 9:00 AM departure for back roads.
A little before 8:00 Fred and Jessica were packing, then Fred performed that bit of bike maintenance that beemer riders skoff at. Chains. How British! John, Jessica, and Fred left at 8:00. I packed my bike and sipped on some coffee, ready to hit the road.
About 8:45 I noticed that Rich and Golly Dave had already left and went over to talk to Dennis. The remaining four are going to go Ca 46. Seems they don’t trust my back roads. I don’t blame them. That leave me riding alone, again. I only wish I’d found out an hour earlier. In any case I’m ready to go in a few minutes.
The route is to take Nacimiento Lake road for a few miles until Adelaida Rd. At Adelaida the weather turns warm and I shed some gear. Adelaida road is a nice country road, two lanes. I pass Vinyard road and then hit Klau Mine road a mile or two later. Klau mine is a one lane road in so-so condition… for the first few miles. Hmm, the map didn’t say anything about a dirt road. Well at least it’s hard packed dirt. 500 yards later I read a sign that says “NO THROUGH TRAFFIC”. Sigh.
I backtrack the 2-3 miles to Vinyard road, take it to Ca 46, then jump on Ca 46 for the 5-10 miles to Santa Rosa Creek road. Santa Rosa Creek road is a one lane twisty road that ends at Main street in Cambria. The weather has turned chilly between Adelaida road and Cambria. I stop and put on my liner and warm gloves, then jump on Ca 1 for the ride north to Nepenthe.
There is very little traffic on Ca 1. Good. I find myself following another beemer RT rider. He’s faster in the turns than I am so I hang back and try to learn something by following his lines. It’s fun while it lasts, but after 10-15 miles the other rider turns off at one of the vista points. I keep on going until Nepenthe.
I see familiar bikes in the parking lot and go up to the cafe for an espresso and muffin. There’s a blue jay that nearly steals the muffin when I walk over to pick up the espresso. The muffin is only saved because one of the crows doesn’t want the blue jay to have it. I keep it close until done, then move the plate about 3 feet away. The blue jay jumps on the table and cleans the plate of its crumbs. No sign of my fellow breakfast club riders during all of this. I suspect they are in the restaruant where it is warmer (but not as much fun).
Yep, they are in the restaurant. I stop in to say hi and good-bye. I’m with the breakfast club; I ride alone.
The next stop after Nepenthe is Santa Cruz for gas. From there it’s up the coast to Half Moon Bay where I hit Ca 92 and the final few miles to home. I’m home a little after 2:30 PM.
In the 81 hours I was gone I went 1433 miles: 519 the first day, 306 the second, 356 the third, and 252 the fourth. The bike was in motion about 23.5 hours. I averaged a little over 60 MPH over those 23.5 hours. I’m not going to tell you what my top speed was. Those statistics are nothing for hard core long distance riders but are a great trip for me. It’s also good to come home: the cherry blossoms and wysteria in the front yard are in bloom.