Spring 2003 Death Valley Ride
Carl’s pictures can be seen here
The alarm/radio turned on about 5:20, waking me for the final time Friday morning. It was still raining, but not as hard as it was at 3:30 when I was awakened by the sound of rain on roof. I turned off the radio, got up, washed, dressed, and packed the toiletries I’d just used. The now full saddle bag liner was stored in the left saddle bag. Everything else was packed Thursday night.
I opened the garage door and picked up the newspaper before putting on my gear. There’s less rain than 20 minutes ago; a good sign. I’ve plenty of layers so should be nice and warm. Rain gloves are the last bit of gear to put on and I’m off. I’m riding alone by intent this year. A few people have asked me for my route and I’ve shared it with them, but I don’t really expect anyone to join me. That’s fine.
The traffic on 101 is light before 6:00 AM. The first leg, my house to Hollister, is uneventful. 101 is wet as light showers follow me to breakfast. I seem to have outrun the showers by the time I hit Ca 25 into Hollister. It’s dry when I arrive.
I told a few people I’d be at the Cozy Cup between 7 and 7:30. At 7:25 I have one more cup of coffee on the off chance that someone will join me. Nope. Coalinga is only 90 miles and there’s still plenty of gas in the tank. I don’t bother getting gas in Hollister. The rain caught up with me when I was eating breakfast. This leaves the tar snakes on the northern end of Ca 25 slippery. I reduce the pace a bit. 25 and 198 are great roads, even in the rain.
I stop for gas in Coalinga and then wheeled the bike over to the parking area for a rest break and a cup of coffee. The rain has stopped but the ground is still wet and slippery. That’s not all that’s slippery: as I go to put my bike on the center stand my boot slips and the bike, not yet on the stand, lurches forward and then falls to the right. Damn. Some bystanders helped me get the bike on the side stand so I could assess the damage. A scratched valve cover and mirror assembly seem to be the result.
Fred was kind enough to provide extra pictures of the damage once I got to Stovepipe Wells.
I’m ready for the road a pit stop and a cup of coffee later. The next stretch will be south on Ca 33 and then east on Ca 46. The roads are straight and boring, but I’ve outrun the rain so the roads are dry. There’s zero traffic, I make good time.
I stop at the Mobile station the east side of Ca 99 for another pit stop and cup of coffee before heading off to Lake Isabella. The route is the Famoso road to Granite road to Ca 155 near Glennville. These are great roads with wonderful scenery and little to no traffic. The roads were dry until Ca 155 when I run into showers again.
Ca 155 climbs to about 6000 feet before heading down into Wofford Heights. At about 3500 feet I notice snow flurries in the air. Cute. At 4000 feet it’s snowing. At 4500 feet I notice patches of snow along the sides of the road. The fog I ran into last year is looking better and better. At 5000 feet the snow is beginning to accumulate on my windshield. The road is still wet, not icy. I’ve not lost traction, yet.
As the road goes higher snow starts to cover the roadway. How far is it to the summit? Where’s a snow plow that I can follow? If I have to backtrack how the hell am I going to turn around without dropping the bike a second time this trip? The snow in the roadway is a about 1/4 inch deep and I’m looking for places to turn around when I hit Greenhorn Summit (at 6100 feet). Just as I cross the summit the snow plow passes me going the other direction. I can see far enough ahead that I pull into the freshly plowed lane for about 1/8 mile. Another 1/4 mile and the snow is gone. Two miles from the summit and the road is dry. Phew!
Ca 155 brings me to Ca 178 and Lake Isabella where I stop for gas, a snack, and a turn signal bulb. Seems I broke the bulb when I dropped the bike in Coalinga (even thought the bulb looked fine). The new bulb solves the problem and I’m ready for the next leg.
These are pictures of Trona. I took 178 from Lake Isabella through Onyx, Inyokern, Ridgecrest, and stopped at the rest stop in Trona partially because it was the half way point between lake Isabella and Stovepipe Wells and partially because I’d never stopped there before. The rain had caught up with me as I left Lake Isabella and I ran into snow flurries, again, at Walker pass on 178. The only weather in Trona was wind. Lots of it. I kept the rest break short.
The final leg was from Trona to Stovepipe Wells. I got there about 4:30. Carl, Tom and Gloria, and Fred were already there. Jerry showed up about the same time I did. Jessica and Paul were visiting before heading over to Beatty. I checked in, unpacked, then joined the group in a round of beer drinking and lie telling. I don’t think it took Fred 10 seconds to start snapping pictures of my parking lot mishap once I mentioned it.
The last picture above shows one of the differences between a deluxe room and a normal room at Stovepipe Wells – the deluxe room has potable water. If you count the beer bottles around Fred you may understand why he complained of a headache, Saturday.
Saturday the group staying at Stovepipe Wells and the group staying in Beatty met at Scotty’s Castle for the Technology Tour. This tour takes you into the tunnels below the castle to see how heating, cooling, and power were handled in the 1920s.
After the Technology Tour I mentioned that I’d never been to Ubehebe crater. That had to be rectified, of course. The Stovepipe Wells contingent joined me the short distance to the crater where some pictures were taken. After visiting the crater the group headed off to Furnace Creek for lunch or whatever
I wasn’t interested in lunch, so had an ice cream while wandering around Furnace Creek. After finishing the ice cream I decided to take a small ride. Initially I thought I’d go to Zabriskie point. I didn’t feel like stopping as I passed it, though, so continued on to the Dante’s View cut off and rode up to Dante’s View for some more pictures. The first picture is a bad attempt at a panorama.
After visiting Dante’s view I went back to Furnace Creek for some gas. Carl was at the pump as I pulled in and Tom and Gloria were waiting. The three bikes rode back to Stovepipe Wells with a stop at the store to replenish the snack and beer supply.
Jessica rode over from Beatty Sunday morning to meet us as we headed off to Panimint Springs for Breakfast. We left at 8:30 daylight time having remembered to spring forward an hour the night before. Jessica and Fred stopped with us to say good-bye as they were both heading home and had already had breakfast. Carl, Jerry, Tom and Gloria, and I had breakfast then I took off for Paso Robles. They were going to Darwin Falls and then return to Stovepipe Wells.
I took Ca 190 to US 395 at Olancha. I didn’t need gas and had only been on the bike 40 minutes or so since breakfast so I continued down 395 to 14 and then picked up 178, again, heading toward Lake Isabella. I stopped for gas and a cup of coffee in Mountain Mesa, just east of Lake Isabella. After the rest stop I got back on 178 for a wonderful ride along the Kern River. There was very little traffic until I left the river and started toward Bakersfield. I kept on 178 until it turned into 58 and then followed 58 until another rest stop at 58 and I5 (Buttonwillow).
Leaving Bakersfield meant leaving traffic and straight roads behind. I saw perhaps a dozen vehicles on the 70 or so mostly twisty miles between I5 and Paso Robles and half of those were going in the opposite direction. The weather was neither too hot nor too cold. Perfect.
I may have been alone in Paso Robles, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying afternoon snacks and beer. It wasn’t quite hot enough for the pool, so I read for a bit before having dinner. After dinner I read a bit more before going to bed. No alarms. I’d start the ride home whenever I awakened.
I was up at 7:30. The sky was overcast and the bike cover was damp. I removed the cover and packed up the bike for a leisurely ride home. The first leg was going to be from Paso Robles to Cambria, but not via boring Ca 46. Instead I took Nacimiento lake Drive (the road in front of the Motel) to Adelaida Rd to Vinyard Dr and then hop on on 46 heading west for 5 or 6 miles until I picked up Santa Rosa Creek Rd. The overcast disappeared within 2 miles of leaving the motel.
Santa Rosa Creek Rd is a cross between Stage Road and Tunitas Creek. It is a wide one lane, rough in spots and absolutely beaugeous (That’s beautiful and gorgeous, a word that was invented sometime Saturday evening). The hill were green and covered with blue and purple flowers. The pictures barely do the site justice. Santa Rosa Creek ends at the back of Cambria. I stopped for breakfast and a break, there.
After breakfast I removed a layer; it was getting warm. The leg was up Ca 1 from Cambria to Nepenthe, I make Nepenthe a stopping point as that’s where the traffic going into Carmel and Monterey tends to start. Ca 1 was in OK shape. Very little traffic. Only 2 or 3 spots of road construction and I hit each one just right: no delays. I stopped at Nepenthe for a cup of espresso. Another layer of clothing came off, too. I also switched to lighter gloves.
I left Nepenthe and continued up the coast with a gas stop in Santa Cruz. Once at Half Moon Bay I took 92 over the hill and was home around 2:30. A great trip. I think I’ll do the same thing next year. One of these days I’ll hit Ca 155 when it isn’t snowing or foggy and get a chance to see the scenery.
My GPS says that I went 1,239 miles with the bike moving for 20 hours, 13 minutes, and 14 seconds for a rough average of 61 miles per hour. That sounds right. The bike needs to be washed. I called CalBMW to schedule an 18,000 service, too. I went over 18,000 on the ride up the coast.
Fred sent me these pictures along with some from the Death Valley trip. The first is Carl at the all brit bike show with his newly restored Triumph. The second is Carl’s new Norton. At least I think it is Carl’s. As I understand the story Fred bought it at Carl’s urging and now Carl is relieving Fred of the burden. Or something like that, anyway.