I had a few days free after Christmas so I decided to make the run to Saline Valley, where I've been going for about 10 years via 4x4 but never before on the bike. Winter conditions weren't exactly ideal for two wheels, but they weren't bad enough to turn me back. Either that or I just wasn't smart enough. A lot of the ride was what my brother and I called "Class III Fun" back in our mountaineering days -- hateful and regretful while you're doing it, but once you're home and warm you can't wait to start planning the next time.
The trip was about 550 miles round trip, pretty much exactly 80% pavement and 20% off road. My 80/20 tires should have been perfect then, right? Not by a mile (not that I thought they would be). Next time I'll be wearing TKC-80s or similar.
The 55 miles of dirt, rocks, sand, and silt (and this time of year, snow and ice) to get to the springs made for an incredible ride.
About 15 miles outside of Olancha, CA, overlooking Owens Lake and the east side of the Sierra Nevada range
Death Valley National Park boundary
Lee Flat -- Joshua Trees as far as the eye can see
South Pass, about 6000' of elevation, overlooking the famous Racetrack Playa
The sketchy part of the trip where I probably should have turned back. I don't know what tire would have been OK here, but it sure wasn't these.
Taking the ditch turned out to be the ticket. That innocuous-looking pile of rocks just ahead hung me up pretty bad on the way back up though and cost about 15 minutes.
High centered. Took a while to dig out.
The descent into Saline Valley
Mile after mile of grievous washboards
A fun rocky stretch -- it was steeper and rockier than it looks.
Soft, powdery silt. Also bad with these tires.
Made it to the springs!
Just enough time to set up camp before the sun dips below the mountains
The view from the tent
The intersection with Lippincott Mine Road on the way out. The weather is rolling in.
Lee Flat again on the way out
Overall it was an awesome trip. I spent two nights at the springs. Before I make the trip again I need to figure out how to carry additional fuel, as I had just enough to get in and out, and I would have loved to have been able to spend a day on some side trips.
I'll be heading back in the spring when things warm up with better tires and more fuel!