The Breakfast Club: Death Valley, Fall 2015

Pictures start here.

Thursday-Monday, October 8-12 2015

Alberto writes

THURSDAY

No doubt about it. I am getting better at this. Without effort and hardly caring I packed my bike late last night. I had only one concept in mind: Take less than what’s need and probably be surprised that I took too much!. All packed in 25 minutes. That is a record !

Many at SMBC seem to be busy this year. Few are coming. Seems like a replay of the trip in the Spring, where no one made it to Death Valley, but , get a load of this… many did return from the Death Valley outing. Seems clear as mud to you? Well, last year many agreed to travel only as fas as San Luis Obispo on the last day, Sunday, they all “returned” from Death Valley. Seems this October outing will be similar.

No matter. Carl Tyler will go. And I had decided to go no matter what. We may bet he only ones…. Possibly Jerry Granger, may come… But what do I know.

Carl planned on Friday. I planned on departing the Bay Area on Thursday. For me, a small problem, I have no reservations, and calling Pipestove Wells gave no results… They are sold out, but they would be willing to let me have a room for $249 per night. Gee, how lucky clan I get, no thanks!!

Emailing Carl, to get suggestions, he recommended Beatty, just 60 miles away. Goggle yielded many motels, so I did not bother making a reservation deciding to just-wing-it.

“You know Alberto” emails Carl, “I have Thursday open, and could amend my plans… I’d be happy to ride along with you… Interested?” This is Carl in his polite yet assertive way. Inside my head I go: “how lucky can I get?!”

Quickly Carl amended plans. Faster than quickly, I pestered him for the arrangements. A few emails later, Carl had secured accommodations at the Econo Lodge in Bishop. The plan: Go via highway 120 to Yosemite, visit a while and continue through Tioga Pass and stay in Bishop .

Plans set, we agreed to meet Thursday at the Black Bear Diner in Tracy at 6:00 am.

I do not know about others but riding at night freaks me out. I get the feeling the cars about to pass me have every intention of running me over - I can see their enormous shadow coming at me, I know, an irracional feeling. I just have to trust trust they will not, while the adrenaline shoots high. 5:58 am and I was taking pride on my penchant to be on time … Carl, you guessed it, there already! What a guy! Breakfast, the usual fare, plus lots of coffee… Pit-stop and head on out!!

The morning is crisp, the traffic East is light (the traffic West is unbelievable! Why do these people live like this? or, they are escaping something and we are heading right Into.

Topped off the gas at Escalon, lesson from my first trip… Never, never pass an opportunity to top off (lesson, compliments of master teacher Markus Baur).

Our road is Highway 120 - take the Old Priest Grade and shave 20 miles, rejoining 120 way ahead. If you ever go this way, take it! This short cut I beautiful, climbing probably at an 8% grade… Hold on to the handle-bar or your seat!!

Yosemite. The gigantic rocks sure leave you in awe. Kind of strange but a pleasure . No people! Deserted! We whizzed in and out like the wind.

Tioga pass is a road in good condition and you can quickly make miles. Tioga pass while interesting It was too sedate. The idea of a “mountain pass” - narrow and twisting - is not there. Think Sonora Pass, which is a mountain pass with drama!

Once at the bottom of the pass we ate at a nondescript (is this a word?) restaurant at some place by a lake… Mono lake? Soon, Bishop. Unloaded the bikes, went for a walk to stretch Carl’s skeleton. Listen, the guy is thin as a rail. ( * note: Carl tells me the restaurant was Nicelees and the town Lee Vining, at least I got the lake correct !).

We tried to find a place to eat. The old restaurant Carl knew “whiskey something” is closed and out-of-business-for-sale. While passing a supermarket, “I think I’ll get myself a banana to keep me until dinner”, that was Carl. Trisquits, cheese and smoked turkey did the rest for me. We ate in the motel amid great gossiping (Carl’s good at it, and I do not fall too far behind).

We both went outside to cover our bikes. This by taking the example from our neighbors, a bunch of Harley riders… Great guys, pity - Harleys, they could step up to BMWs - oops, sorry to some of you guys!

We closed the day by 8:45 pm. After having been up since 4:00 am that morning. Carl puts his ear plugs… And I, snored. Great company!

FRIDAY

One advantage we realized, was that we have a short distance to Stovepipe Wells and for this we can improvise and take it as easy as the spirit calls.

Breakfast at Jacks. Packed the bikes, and headed to Death Valley.

Again the day is crisp and a great ride all the way to Crowley Point were Carl told me the story of fighter jets buzzing at eye-ball level into the canyon. Easy to imagine.

Crowley Point is at 4,200 ft of elevation and the temperature was a comfy 82. Why am I telling you this? Read on… Hells about to… well read on

3,000 ft and the temperature rises to 88. 2,000 ft and the temperature… 94 1,000 ft … 98 Stovepipe wells … ZERO feet of elevation, and the temperature 106 where Satan tells me… “Sorry, we have only one room for $180 bucks!”

Yaips!! Did I break anything? “Nope. We are simply sold out” … But, Satan, she goes by the name of Betty, goes on, “you can go to Beatty. There are lots of rooms for only $66 bucks”. Really! “How far is Beatty?” I asked. “33 miles and the road is open” responds the fallen angel… As I see her wings and the glow of a halo upon her five foot frame.

She indicated that she lives in Beatty and it is a short easy ride. I thank itty-bitty-Betty-from-Beatty and decided to follow her advise. I am truly winging it now.

Carl’s room is not ready for another couple hours and he is certain that Jerry will come, but he anticipates not any earlier than 7:00 pm. He suggests: “why don’t we go to Beatty and get you settle, and also see a couple of things while there”. Sound good! And off we went.

The road to Beatty is actually interesting. Having to go up to 4,000 feet and a mountain pass, the road is twisty but not a challenge… 33 miles later we are at Beatty, Nevada.

There are many options available, I decided on staying at the STAGECOACH CASINO AND MOTEL. Carl warns me: “careful, plenty of smoking odor from the gamblers”. Actually, I chose it for the adventure… A CASINO. Wow! That is, in the least, for grown-ups; and, at most, for James Bond. I am truly improvising and getting further experience to travel on my own.

The room turns out to be great… No smoke. Out of the way. No problem, improvising sure paid off.

Carl and I head back to Stovepipe Wells. Stopping at some ghost town called Rhyolite. Truth? An old dilapidated building from the early 1900s that served silver miners until the mountain ran dry. Everybody left and the buildings went to pot. The best thing is that Carl and I decided to take “artistic photos”… He knows a lot about photography, I know nothing - willing to learn… The perfect pair! To me, this was the highlight of the day.

We started to PipeStove Wells arriving there by 5:30 pm… At registration Carl gets his room… We lollygag for a while, noticing the sun is setting, “Carl, is there a moon tonight?” I ask hoping for some moonlight to illuminate the road back to Beatty. “Nope. Zero moon”. Ouch! The sky is closing, it is now 6:30 pm. Quickly I say good bye and take off with the last rays of daylight.

6 miles later the road is dark. The bike headlamp and the bright “road” on the GPS are my only guide until…

Behind me is a car gaining on me fast. Catches up to me and I get an idea. Let him pass me, and have him pilot my ride. I’ll follow him. Great, he passes me and floors the accelerator. Holly Cr-p! Too fast. But I already have traveled this road, for the moment it is straight and I choose to stay close to the car despite the speed. He will have to slow down on the curves. And he did, Ha! I look at the speedometer… A comfy 50 mph. I can do that, but only if I stay close for him to show me the road ahead… If he gets too far, that’s it. I will not know which way or how sharp the road turns. This held true all during the mountain pass after which the road becomes straight as an arrow and I loose him in the distance, for, surely he must be doing over 80. I let him disappear far ahead and six miles later, Beatty.

Citizens, fellow SMBC, comrades… Thank you all. I have learned to take the turns with you. I am comfortable with what I have learned.
There is no doubt, technique counts for a lot, or so it seemed to me this evening. One more thought, faith in the technique may count for a lot more than the technique… You gotta believe! Or you are doomed! It was dark, it was fast and I believed in my ability.

SATURDAY

It is 5:25 in the morning. Chances are Carl will get up early and go for a run. He had said so. I do not know if Jerry made it last night, assuming he did, he will not get up early. No point on me rushing to get to Stovepipe Wells.

Lazily I load up the bike. Checked out of the Stagecoach Hotel & Casino.

Last night I had a gourmet dinner at Denny’s which happens whenever you are hungry. Anything will do, and to top it, it will be perfect! Now you know “Gourmet dinner at Denny’s”. Breakfast this morning, will be another gourmet thing.

7:15 am, time to head out and meet Carl, and maybe Jerry. As I arrived, 45 minutes later, both were up and about. I learned that Jerry made it by 7:00 pm yesterday. Wow, that takes fortitude… Solo ride from the Bay Area to Death Valley. About 470 miles… Finishing in the dark! Not for everyone.

Breakfast for the “boys” and ready to get going by 10:15 am.

“I’ll just stay here, rest and just read all day”. Gee, what a surprise. I am amazed that Jerry is even awake. “Carl? - What’s your flavor, stay … go?” Enthusiastically Carl suggested, lest go to Scotty’s Castle and the Crater thing some fifty miles away.

Scotty’s Castle. We took the tour, seniors as we are, we both got in for half price. If you have not taken the tour… Reconsider! Go to Death Valley and take it. It is worth every second. If you think I will write about it here… Forget it! Try Wikipedia. They’ll do a better job than I would, and worth the read about Scotty and Johnson.

The crater. It is but five miles from Scotty’s Castle. A hole in the ground as interesting as a hole in the head. But, since we are so close already it is a fun ride and the plaque there tells you something about the geological formation. So you are all the better just by going. A feature of interest, here the wind must have been blowing 40 mph. Not easy to stay upright. Will the valley be the same? I was a bit worried.

Sometime around 3:00 pm Carl and I get back to Stovepipe Wells, we find Jerry exactly the way we left him… In his shorts doing the crossword puzzle. Jerry gets up and puts it this way: “I have got relax, I think I’ll go to the pool” - after a rough day of doing… nothing! I wonder what does he do after a busy day! Stout Carl… stout no more. He sat on his bed and summarily started snoring. Wow! Death Valley Days sure is unique at removing stress, particularly if you are retired!! Well, Carl and I are. Jerry has a “failed retirement”, his words. He retired once and failed, finding that he liked his work.

Some time later, dinner. Nothing special, and I truly mean that. Stovepipe Well has a pretty poor menu. Probably the best were the corn muffins… Does that give you a hint?

Went back to the room and by 5:00 pm I start getting ready to go to Beatty. I assure you that last night’s episode will not repeat. As I am loading my bike, Carl and Jerry come out suggesting: “if you wanna stay? You are welcome”. I think it over about one milli-second and “okay, but… Only if you accept my paying for my thirds of the cost”. Neither objected and I saved myself having to ride 33 miles at night and 33 miles in the morning.

Plunked my pad and sleeping bag on the floor… Thirty minutes later we were all snoring. Carl, because he had been up since three in the morning (he went running 16 miles). Alberto because he had been up since five in the morning. Gerry, well, he must have been tired from resting all day. Way to go champion!

SUNDAY

The morning had a lazy rhythm to it. Carl performed his morning ritual: grounding coffee beans, heat the water, just so, and French press himself a fine cup of coffee - I may add, he generously made one for Jerry and myself. Delicious! Carl and I departed by nine, Jerry has a different pace… Easy does it. Admirable.

Some 80 miles away. Breakfast at the Alabama-xxx-Something cafe in Lone Pine was magnificent. Carl downed a triple stack of pancakes. I swear he must have a hollow leg.

Today we started on highway 395 deviating to highway 6 and later highway 120 to an 8,000 ft pass heading West to Mono Lake and rejoining highway 395 North. No doubt, this is the best way to Lee Vining and the Virginia Creek Settlement (short of Bridgeport), it may add 20 miles but the views more than compensate this minor inconvenience.

At Virginia Creek Settlement we are meeting with the rest of the crew - Tom Martin and Markus Baur, who have come up from the Bay Area to complete a new tradition I guess: The returning group from the Death Valley trip that never makes it to Death Valley. Sounds good to me!

The Virginia Creek Settlement is a facility amid trees, a meadow, mountains , a creek. Truly a nice setting. It has a conventional motel accommodations, tent cabins and covered wagons for those wanting the Old West experience. Markus and I chose the covered wagons last year… Once is enough! At over 6,000 ft of elevation - it gets cold here!

Once we arrive to the Virginia Creek Settlement and I start thinking… Where we will stay tonight? Tom, Markus, Carl and Jerry had made reservations. The place is SOLD OUT. As I am organizing my thoughts a new motorcyclist, riding a BMW 1200 GS, arrives. Dismounting his six-foot-six frame from his “iron horse” approaches us, after some minor conversation asks: “are you guys staying here tonight?”.
“Well”, I respond, “they are! Me? I am hoping to stay here, they are sold out and I have no reservation”. The stranger suggest: ” I have reserved a cabin for three people and two of my companions have gone elsewhere. You are welcome to share it, we can split the cost”.

Markus starts laughing his head off, “that lucky Alberto, he always gets someone to get a reservation for him!”. Yep, lucky alright. I am all set with a place to stay, to boot, it happens to be the best cabin in the entire complex! $150/night - I offer to pay for one third…. $50 bucks later I am all set!

The stranger, Torsten Jacobsen, from Walnut Creek. A six-foot-six Dane with a penchant for story telling. Easy going, blended with the rest of us for dinner seamlessly.

It seems motorcycle riders have a natural camaraderie. Any one of us is a Universal Traveler comfortable with strangers, who are not really so.

Dinner, took an hour and a half amid gossip, story telling and eating food, mediocre at best… no one noticed.

8:30 pm. Meaning, this day is over.

MONDAY

At first I thought of returning to the Bay Area with Torsten. He intents to depart by 6:30 am. He is heading first to Bridgeport to gather other friends and ride at least an hour before breakfast. Just the way I like to start the day. Thinking about my fellow riders… I declined his company, staying to have breakfast with my crew. I know departure will be lazy at best… No biggie, I ride with my buddies.

We departed Virginia Creek Settlement a bit after 9:00 am. The five of us. Carl, Tom, Markus, Jerry and myself. Cautious Carl somehow found himself leading the group. It did not last long. Tom likes to crank it on the turns that Sonora Pass offers … Sure thing, passed Carl and along with Markus disappeared in the descending road. Carl, Jerry and I took it easy, just the pace I wanted on this beautiful day. In fact, I found myself falling further and further behind preferring a much, much slower pace.

By myself. 50 mph. No one else on the highway… I was learning to have “patience” with the road. Patience is not my forte, it is good to discover it.

The ride to the Bay Area was uneventful, boring if I may say. We parted company at the 560 and 680 intersection. 45 minutes later… Home.

Pictures from Alberto and Carl

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going to Yosemite

going to Yosemite

going to Yosemite
Going to Yosemite

Going to Yosemite

Going to Yosemite
Carl, a banana and some saw-dust for lunch

Carl, a banana and some saw-dust for lunch

Carl, a banana and some saw-dust for lunch
Just installed the cover - first time ever!

Just installed the cover - first time ever!

Just installed the cover - first time ever!
hmmm... did I install this correctly?

hmmm… did I install this correctly?

hmmm… did I install this correctly?
Yep, for sale a restaurant no longer

Yep, for sale a restaurant no longer

Yep, for sale a restaurant no longer
Carl heading to Death Valley

Carl heading to Death Valley

Carl heading to Death Valley
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Heading to Death Valley

Heading to Death Valley

Heading to Death Valley
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Getting there

Getting there

Getting there
Rhyolite

Rhyolite

Rhyolite
Rhyolite

Rhyolite

Rhyolite
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Rhyolite

Rhyolite

Rhyolite
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Rhyolite

Rhyolite

Rhyolite
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Alberto stays here in Beatty

Alberto stays here in Beatty

Alberto stays here in Beatty
Scotty's Castle

Scotty’s Castle

Scotty’s Castle
Part of Scotty's Castle

Part of Scotty’s Castle

Part of Scotty’s Castle
Scotty's Casthe

Scotty’s Casthe

Scotty’s Casthe
Just an artistic photo

Just an artistic photo

Just an artistic photo
This is that Packard

This is that Packard

This is that Packard
artistic photo

artistic photo

artistic photo
Artistric photo

Artistric photo

Artistric photo
this is what it was

this is what it was

this is what it was
Stovepipe Wells, Jerry taking it easy

Stovepipe Wells, Jerry taking it easy

Stovepipe Wells, Jerry taking it easy
Stovepipe Wells Dinner

Stovepipe Wells Dinner

Stovepipe Wells Dinner
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Ever seen such coolness?

Ever seen such coolness?

Ever seen such coolness?
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My friend Carl

My friend Carl

My friend Carl
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At Virginia Creek Settlement

At Virginia Creek Settlement

At Virginia Creek Settlement
not me... read the sign behind!

not me… read the sign behind!

not me… read the sign behind!
I have no idea what it means!

I have no idea what it means!

I have no idea what it means!
too early for Jerry... he is still sleeping

too early for Jerry… he is still sleeping

too early for Jerry… he is still sleeping
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