2 day trip, 2 up and 700+ miles.
Michael, The Old Bald Fat Guy
Death Valley CA
We started off on Saturday morning following a really miserable riding day on Friday, our original departure day. It was snowing in the morning on Friday and the weather wasn't really getting better. It was cold and windy. The outlook for Saturday didn't look wonderful either. But the weather broke enough for us to bundle up and take our ride 2up on Saturday. We packed really lightly as we wore most of our clothes as we mounted up and head down the road.
We only got about 6 miles from the house when the timing between, me, having my camera and our local celebrity hanging out on their favorite perch with their commanding view of the lake.
Can you see it? Okay, how about a close up.
Hey turn to the camera; I'm taking your picture!
Thanks! That's better.
Yes, that is one of our local celebrities. We have a pair of Bald Eagles in our valley and people are coming from all over to take their pictures. Today it was just Debbie and I and some other lady who pulled over to take a picture with her cell phone. Yeah, you know it’s going to be a good ride when you get a start up view like that.
So heading out of Carson City and south on 395 it is a little cool still and we are dressed in layers and I have my leathers on. Debbie only has a jacket and no chaps yet. But she took my advice and wore her insulated jeans with tights underneath so she is staying warm as long as I am in front breaking wind.
Not that kind!
I hope Debbie soon gets chaps as they don't just block out the wind but offer better than jeans protection, just in case. The problem is that Debbie has had many bouts with cancer and some more in one leg and not the other, that the one leg is significantly different size than the other. So off the shelf chaps will not do. We hope to meet up with a lady that does good and custom work in June at the Street Vibrations in Sparks, NV, Spring Fever event to see if she can help Debbie out and her quest for some chaps.
They would have been nice for this trip but she is staying comfortable or comfortable enough to not complain about the chill as we ride through the winding mountain curves and up through the summits and then back down into the early spring green meadows. We stopped in Bridgeport, a sleepy hunting and fishing community that lives mostly off of the “turistas” that come their way. The local gas station seriously lives off of the travelers. Well it’s not like you have a bunch of choices so you either have gas or you buy gas. In our case we had gas but stopped to stretch out and warm up as it is a little cool with ambient temps in the mid 40's to the low 50's. I snapped this picture of my bundled girl.
Heading further south down 395 the temps begin to warm the further south we went. Still we were hard pressed to find "warm" weather and our ride begun as a journey to Death Valley become more of a quest for some really nice riding weather. We had very little traffic and really only had one idiot and that was only just before Lone Pine. So for me the ride was as most rides are, awesome. Even with a little chill in the air, I didn't mind and really focused on the ride, plus having my passenger was an added bonus. I am one that really likes riding solo but there is times and today was one of them that riding 2up was part of the fun of the trip. And with Debbie really being the trooper she was made it all the sweeter. And I have to tell you about a steal Debbie found in Bishop. Debbie was talking about the downdraft that was coming from her jacket and making her chest cold. She said she wanted to stop at some store and find something to block the draft. So in Bishop we stopped at the Kmart where Debbie found a scarf made of the faux sheep wool like material from some designer lady. It was on the clearance rack for 99 cents. This was marked down from 12.99. What a find! I told her to get two. I don't care what you say, it was really nice having this scarf on and it really kept the drafts out. What a sweet deal it was and mine is now in my riding trunk for whenever use. Truly a steal at 99 cents and it works really well too.
When we made the turn off of 395 towards Death Valley the temps were a little warmer. But still we were bundled up. I pulled over and asked Debbie for a picture as all of you have seen pictures of the bike, not the old bald fat guy that rides it. So here you go.
Yeah I should have posted a warning first huh. Oh well the damage is done. I am not responsible for any long term damage. (LOL)
To help your eyes recover from the shock I took the camera from Debbie and looked back to Mt Whitney and the Sierras.
Oh and a picture of the map of our "destination".
What do you mean you want a better picture of me? This is a tough crowd. (LOL)
Ok but you may want to have a bag handy. You know just in case.
I warned you this time. It’s not my fault that you have to clean that up.
So here we are on the cusp of Death Valley and ready to head down to some of the most interesting display of folded geology and frozen evidence of plate tectonics on the planet. I have to warn you though, if you come to Death Valley, and I hope you do, this route can be a little nerve racking if you have any fear of heights at all. I personally don't. Debbie on the other hand..... Hey I was nice and took it slow and easy and took in the scenery all the way down into Panamint Valley, one valley this side of Death Valley and just as pretty. Just don't tell anyone. I spent two weeks in this valley doing some survey work. It was really nice. Definitely a rugged experience and everything seems to want to bite, stab, poke or sting you. It’s all part of nature’s defenses and survival of the fittest in one of the most demanding environments on the planet. But the next valley over is Death Valley and were we had pointed our wheels at the onset of the journey. The temps had climbed as we headed into the valley where upon reaching Stovepipe Wells the mercury was steady at 85*. What a really nice change and we sure looked strange all bundled up standing next to people wearing flimsy tee shirts and shorts with a pair of flip flops protecting the bottom of their soles. Debbie was so pleased with the temps that she offered to spring for a room in the valley, which is 3 times or more the price of most rooms outside of the park. So we made our way wearing all our clothes past the casually dressed tourists into the registration room.
Now the 2 older guys (my age) that were working at the counter clearly broke out in controlled hidden laughter when we asked about a room. They replied “this is the height of our busy season and unless you have a reservation there are no rooms”. I asked about Furnace Creek and the guy just looked at me for the moment and then, replied, “They are full too”. We got the hint. (LOL)
Still it was Death Valley and it was warm and we had just ridden nearly 400 miles to get to this point. Debbie had to go to the gift store and I could really use a cool drink. Inside the gift store there was a really cool long sleeve black T that had a skeleton riding a bike with flames coming off the wheels and it said something clever about riding in Death Valley. I would have remembered what it said but I am still in sticker shock over the price tag for what was just a silk screened shirt. Yeah it was a nice shirt, but not that nice. They had a big stack of them, geez, I wonder why? (Big Grin) I told Debbie we should head back in November at the end of the year when they are trying to blow this seasons stuff out before the date changes. Then I can get one for half price.
After recovering from sticker shock we sipped our cool sodas and continued through the gift shop. After a long drawn out 5 minutes I was ready to stand outside and enjoy the temp, the scenery and the well, ok the curvy scenery. A bit later I go back into the store to drag Debbie out. We needed to discuss our options. Beatty, NV is the next closest town at less than 40 miles away and the reservation dudes in the park were already sending people that way so I told Debbie we should call ahead and make sure we get a room. I found my cell phone and powered it up and, and, and, and no service. Oh yeah, this is Death Valley. So we found the pay phone, how novel, and went to place a call. Did you know that pay phones require money, no, not a debit card, money and not the paper kind either but coins to make telephone calls. I had completely forgotten as it has been like forever since I made a telephone call with something that uses a cord, much less a coin operated machine. So after digging through every pocket I had and dumping over Debbie's purse we found enough coin to make the call. We got our reservations and breathed a little easier as it was getting late in the day and the thought of ridding, at night, in what surely would be a nippy ride, after our already cool ride down wasn't sounding like a wonderful prospect. We got ready for our run to Beatty but before leaving Death Valley, I snapped some pictures.
And here is another picture of my trooper.
I never mentioned that Debbie is a planner and I am one of those off the cuff, spontaneous kind of guys. But after nearly 20 years together we are rubbing off on each other and she is starting to almost enjoy my totally unplanned, let's see where we go, get-a-ways. Mostly it works out for us and this time was proving to be no exception. Well at least so far.
Arriving in Beatty at nearly 8pm it was still pleasant out. We got to the hotel, the Death Valley Inn, and checked in.
This hotel has been under construction for what seems like forever, so when we walked into the lobby and saw lots of evidence of unfinished construction I was a little surprised, but I didn't really care as I don't drink enough to miss a bar. But I should have paused at the unfinished complimentary breakfast dining room. Heading out of the lobby and back to the bike, Debbie walks off to the upstairs room and I fire up and ride the bike to a nice parking place. There was many to choose from. Another subtle clue. The room was nice and big. But closer inspection revealed some oddities like no caulking on the floor tile where it meets the tub. Then in preparation for sleep the fact that there is no clock in the room, at all. And the kicker of the night was that the new hotel had a CRT television. Who in the heck buys a new CRT television when flat screen TV's are a dime a dozen. Oh well I didn't come to watch TV.
But before I forget and if you ever get in Beatty, there is this dive looking diner like place called the Ensenada Grill. Out-freaking-standing food if you like Mexican styled food. More based around lime and citrus than peppers. Not really spicy but robust in flavor and with a very fresh taste. It is inspired by the flavors from the Gulf of Mexico and I will go back again and again.
Ok, back at the hotel only now in the morning. I awake at 6am and begin the search for coffee. There is no in room coffee. Ok. I call the front desk, no coffee. What? The clerk says; “go across the street” (indicating to the Ensenada Grill). Ok, I get half way and see that they open at 7. It is 6:15. I go back to the room and tell Debbie I will be going for a walk as carrying two cups of coffee and riding a bike usually doesn't end up well for either the bike or the rider or both plus the coffee. I walked to the nearest open store and got some coffee to carry back to the room. It wasn’t really a problem to walk the quarter mile to the store but at 6:30 in the morning not really good for the opinion builder, especially without warning. Needless to say, I don't have a lot of positive things to say about the Death Valley Inn. It has a great curb appeal and the mattress was nice and firm but after discovering the sprinkler system wasn't yet connected amongst many other building code violations I won't be going back and will probably have to mention this to some "people" at the State.
We decided not to go back into Death Valley and instead head up 95 in Nevada towards Tonopah and closer to home. Even though it seemed as though we are ending our travel we still had the whole day to discover.
Now with today being Sunday it was also the day many were heading back from the River Run in Laughlin, so the road was packed with streams of bikes also making their way back to home. We got a chance to meet and talk with several of the people that attended the event or where just out for the ride and as usual you really can't ask for a better group of people than those that truly love to ride. We met a guy in Tonopah that lives in Chico that was riding his dresser Harley down to some HOG event in Tucson. He was asking about the weather which was the big to picture of the day as the temps were falling and the wind was rising and we had just been where he was about to go. "Sarge", who lost his wife 2 years back and had buried her in NY, her home state, last year put 12,000 miles on his HD Dresser as part of a round trip to NY to as he said "dry his eyes". He was a great guy. Another guy we met was part of a trio and they all hailed from Winnemucca. They just came back from the River Run and where spending their time putting on everything they owned to combat the cold and the wind. One guy was riding a 05 V Star 1100 that showed the miles the two had shared. I asked them if they were going to Run-A-Mucca and they just laughed as it was in their home town and pretty much a no brained answer. The Star rider, whose name escapes me, (I'm not good with names anyway) told me about his trip with his friends to Sturgis last year and how they were all looking forward to the trip again this year. Once it warms up. LOL I also bumped into this nice lady on a quest for food that was wearing a River Run shirt and I asked her how she liked it and she said it was great and asked if we attended. I told her it was too rich for my blood. She said for them too, they stayed in Henderson and took the 80 mile trip one way every day into Laughlin for the fun and festivities. Hmm, maybe next year that will be my plan as well.
Heading out of Beatty, north on US 95 the temps quickly went from ok to cool in short order. By the time we hit Goldfield Summit we watched the temperature drop 10 degrees to a brisk 50-something. And the winds kicked it up a notch to boot and added in some nice strong gusts. It was time for a ride break and put on my sweatshirt under the jacket. So we stopped in Goldfield and got off the bike to stretch out and walk around the Goldfield Hotel. The Goldfield Hotel has been "investigated" by almost every ghost hunter group you can imagine and all have said "the place is haunted". Me, I can't walk away from a good ghost story and the prospect of seeing anything has me "checking in". One day I'll tell you about my paranormal childhood but to say I love this stuff is an understatement. But I am also a realist and can easily dismiss or accept the normal and not assume everything to be paranormal.
But I got some cool pictures of this old hotel. Here is the outside.
Back in the day, this hotel was swank to say the least. Heck it even boasted an elevator! And this is back when Virgil Earp was Sheriff of Goldfield!
And here is my girl talking with one of the locals.
We found out that the current owner of the hotel will give tours to people if they arrange in advance and there is a big enough of a party. Who wants to come? How about spend the night? There is a video on YouTube of a brick flying that one of the ghost hunter groups caught on tape, just before they screamed like little girls and ran to break out of the hotel before the night was done.
And the parting shot of me on the bike on a dirt road we went down to find a survey point for some work that Debbie will be doing.
If you ever find yourself heading north out of Tonopah in Nevada and need a scenic diversion, I recommend you take 361 off of 95 towards Gabbs. Gabbs is a large mine site and the town is a little depressed. We went down into town to get some gas only to find the pumps locked up. I figured we had enough gas to get to Highway 50 but since we had been pushing 75 on 95 it might be tight. The trip from Gabbs towards Middlegate runs right past the turn towards Berlin and Ione Nevada. Berlin is an old ghost town and we will have to come back and show you this town/mine site in its state of arrested decay. We didn’t go that way this time as it was getting late in the day and we needed go get home. Not to mention the temperature was only barley holding and the clouds were moving in as a new front was making its way south and coming in over us. I think on the entire run on 361 we saw 3 other vehicles along the entire 60 mile stretch. So when I had to switch over to the reserve tank I thought about the possibility of a walk. Fortunately that didn’t happen and as we rolled into Middlegate it was relieving to see the old school pumps ready to go. If you ever come this way, do yourself a favor and stop in the bar/gas station/motel/restaurant and order yourself a cheeseburger. Then sit back and read all the defaced dollars on the ceiling while waiting the best cheeseburger in Nevada.
Well I hope you liked my story.
The Old Bald Fat Guy,
It is not the planning or the destination, it is the journey. Sometimes you don't end up where you think you are going, but most of the time you end up where you need to be. Ride hard.
Mapquest map of the 700 mile route
The Old Bald Fat Guy