Baja, the Long Way

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by HardWorkingDog, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. SFMCjohn

    SFMCjohn 13

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,006
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA, 94102
    Hey HWD,

    Everything I know about routes, I learned from ADV (cough-larryboy-cough), so I was just paying it forward ... ha. :ricky

    It has been great fun watching the progress of both of you on the GPS links you posted in BAARC, especially around your Laguna Salada adventure ...

    I've seen a bobcat down by Clear Creek, too, recently ... fun!

    Great job so far here in Ride Reports with the big dogs ... :clap

    On my way to click on Bronson ...

    see you around the campfire,
    -- SFMCjohn
    #21
  2. WoodsChick

    WoodsChick Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,679
    Location:
    Oakland, CA
    No photos? Not even of the hot springs??

    :ddog

    You're fired!




    IncredulousChick
    #22
  3. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,131
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    I know, this report SUCKS :eek1

    But did you like the Bronson clip???

    Just wait, there's even moar cool stuff that i didn't get photos of!
    And dangling participles at no additional cost.
    #23
  4. nomad guy

    nomad guy A legal alien

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2008
    Oddometer:
    914
    Location:
    Stranded in Berkeley, CA
    in :lurk
    #24
  5. WoodsChick

    WoodsChick Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,679
    Location:
    Oakland, CA
    "That's a fast bike, you know? Hey! you know, heh...that's a lot of bike! I just wanted to see how she'd go, you know?" :lol3 Yeah, I watched it :1drink
    We watched that show in my house! My mom liked motorcycles.




    WoodsChick
    #25
  6. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,131
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    We've been home almost 2 weeks and I woke up early today, before the sunrise, thoughts of our trip filling my head. I miss seeing the stars fade,
    watching the sun rise over the Sea of Cortez, the quietness.




    [​IMG]


    I get up and make coffee, walk out the front door to see the dawning sky, see streaks of color that remind of waking up in the interior of
    Baja California Sur where we'd spent the night at Rancho Piedra Blanca. The cows were impatient, time for milking, and the family
    came out to start their chores while it was still dark.


    [​IMG]




    Standing on my porch I hear the dull background roar of commuter traffic.

    I am very grateful to have experienced this place.
    #26
  7. Bgunn

    Bgunn Mucha distancia

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,556
    Location:
    Rockford Wa

    Baja trips are good for the soul....Looks forward to the rest of this journey.
    #27
  8. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,131
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    I got ahead of the story. Back to Day 3, we're still in California, the not-so-secret hot springs along the Kern River.

    We'd had our morning soak to take the chill off--temps dropped below freezing again last night, water bladders froze--hiked back and made breakfast, packed up, anticipating rolling into Death Valley that afternoon. Bryn had never been there before and this was something I was eager to show him. We make last minute checks of our gear, swing legs over the bikes, and I hear.............nothing as he punches the starter.

    Crap, dead battery on the DR. One of the things I'd worried about before the trip was the battery. The bike was 5 years old, a well cared for battery normally lasts no more than 4-5 years. I'd checked it, seemed strong, it wasn't the original battery and there was a charger pigtail on the bike so I figured the previous owner had taken normal care here.

    Wrong.

    (Note: a recurring theme here...guess what? No photos of this day's struggles. I realized much too late in the trip that my camera stayed in my jacket pocket at all the best opportunities, i.e., when things <strike>went to hell</strike> didn't go according to plan. Which was Most of the Time. I guess my only excuse is that I cut my ride report teeth on rec.motorcycles.dirt which is(was?) a text-only usenet news group. Yeah, like WoodsChick would ever buy that excuse...)

    We did manage to get it bump-started but the DR was running like crap. Wouldn't idle, poor acceleration. Figuring we could at least ride the bikes to the nearest town to look for a new battery we headed for 178 & the town of Lake Isabella. As we made the turn from the frontage road onto the crossover Bryn almost high-sided--the engine died in the middle of the turn and he left a 15 foot arcing skid before he got the thing under control. Hmm. Maybe there's something more here than a dead battery?

    We limped back to our campsite and removed the battery. I packed it up and rode to town and found a Carquest auto parts store. They tested the battery, the tester indicated it was good, but just undercharged so they put the battery on a charger. An hour later we put the battery back in the DR and headed off. Still ran like crap.

    WoodsChick, right before we left, had offered her and her husband's cell phone numbers...just in case...and I swallowed my pride and gave Eric a call. Eric is pretty much a motorcycle genius. 'Nuff said. Could a bad battery make the bike run like crap? Well, yeah it could, but maybe it's a fuel issue. He knew about the ridiculous in-line filter Suzuki puts in the carb inlet (hadn't noticed that before), advised me to drain the bowl, check the filter, make sure it was getting fuel. Everything checked out fine, but it still ran like crap, and by now the battery was dead again.

    OK, the most obvious problems were 1) a bad battery or 2) a bad charging system or 3) both or 4) entirely something else. I went with 1). Now, where to find a battery. Found one at CycleSmiths in Kernville. (HIGHLY recommended, btw.)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    By this time we were resigned to spending another night on the Kern River, so we filled the battery with acid in the parking lot of Carquest (Cyclesmiths was actually closed when I rode up, but by coincidence they happened to be driving by and saw me forlornly looking in the shop window puzzled by the OPEN sign they'd forgot to shut off; they opened the shop for me on their day off and sold me the battery!), got Carquest to do the initialization charge, and while we waited bought some groceries and then limped back to our same campsite from the day before. It wasn't quite so much fun setting up camp as it had been yesterday but we had food and beverages and a hot spring. Poor us.

    Luckily we had cell phone coverage even at the campsite and were able to let everyone at home know we were OK and what was going on.

    The next morning the bike fired up on the first try with the new battery despite the freezing temperature, and seemed to run perfectly. I was still concerned there was a charging issue so we rode out to Kernville where Wendy at CycleSmiths tested the voltage--14.4 VDC (gear lesson #2, a small voltmeter is a good thing to have in the tool kit)--so I put that worry out of my mind and we were off to Walker Pass and Death Valley.

    At last.

    We rode around the north side of Lake Isabella since we'd made the detour to Kernville.

    [​IMG]

    Saw people playing golf outside Kernville. They were------determined. 45°F, 30 mph winds, and the greens were the color of, well, dead grass.

    The road up and over Walker Pass is a great twisty piece of tarmac.

    [​IMG]

    Of course as we climbed to the pass at 5200' we were riding alongside snow--

    [​IMG]

    --yeah, it was cold of course. We were just warm enough to ride thanks to our grip heaters, the only piece of electric riding gear we used. A heated jacket would've been nice but having warm hands was a necessity. Just to have one warm place to focus on made all the difference.

    We dropped down onto highway 395 and turned north to reach 190, the western entrance to Death Valley.

    [​IMG]

    The road winding down through Rainbow Canyon is one of the top bits of twisty tarmac that I've ever ridden.

    [​IMG]

    As we got closer to our destination we could feel the air warm up and by the time we reached Panamint Springs it was, for the first time on this trip, downright comfortable.

    [​IMG]

    I love this place.
    #28
  9. akaDigger

    akaDigger Amateur Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2013
    Oddometer:
    734
    Location:
    Evansville, Indiana
    Hey, I've been watching.

    IMO, the park vehicle outside on a freezing night battery test is the most foolproof test there is. A garaged and tended battery can deceive long after it's days are up.

    Enjoy your trip. I'm sure I will.
    #29
  10. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,131
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    Amen.

    :rofl

    Glad I dragged you out of lurk mode :wink:
    #30
  11. akaDigger

    akaDigger Amateur Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2013
    Oddometer:
    734
    Location:
    Evansville, Indiana
    I'm new here and a little shy
    #31
  12. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    18,478
    Location:
    Burbank CA
    hwd, glad to see your home now and your RR in progress.

    i knew you were going to baja as we were heading back home. thought maybe we might see you there.

    brung it!

    :clap
    #32
  13. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,131
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    Hi NSFW--I've lurked in a few of your reports here, glad to have you along :wave
    #33
  14. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,131
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    We'd cooked all our meals up to that point, but the Panamint Springs restaurant was calling-------couldn't resist. For weeks I'd been raving about the selection of ales at PSR and I don't think my son quite believed me until we walked in the door and I showed him the refrigerated cases. Enjoyed burgers and a couple nice ales and crawled into the bags.

    For the first time on the trip we woke up to make coffee and didn't have to chop through ice. :lol3 Didn't take much discussion to agree that we're going to stay here another night and enjoy the warmth.

    I'd never been to Saline Valley Hot Springs so we unloaded the bags and headed back up 190 a bit to catch Saline Valley Road, climbed up over South Pass

    [​IMG]




    and found our way to the springs. Bryn got to stretch out the fire-breathing DR650 a bit--he's an off-road racer at heart

    [​IMG]



    --and I just tried to keep within sight of his dust cloud. That was hard enough, too.

    [​IMG]



    Many of the roads in Death Valley had been hit hard by flooding last fall and I wasn't too sure what we'd find. There were a couple rocky areas, a long stretch that was still snow and ice covered and a few washouts but nothing impassable, at least for motorcycles. I wouldn't want to take a passenger car over that way.

    [​IMG]



    The hot springs were great.

    [​IMG]



    Very clean, an oasis of palms and green plants, with some great choices for soaking. We took advantage of the lower pool and enjoyed watching the fighter pilots practice low altitude runs right over our heads.

    [​IMG]



    That evening we were invited to share the campfire with a couple a few sites down. They were traveling in their "land yacht" a very cool home-built rig complete with blacksmith foundry--he gives historical demonstrations for schools--and a boom for loading his TW200.

    [​IMG]



    We'd met him on the road to Saline Valley along with his friend, both riding TW's. Lots of great stories, and photos missed. The land yacht was created because they'd had a dream of sailing around the world, started their voyage, and discovered he was highly susceptible to seasickness. Now, they're pursuing their dream--on land.

    [​IMG]



    We could have spent weeks exploring Death Valley but Baja was calling, so up the next morning and set out for a place that many Death Valley travelers had highly recommended: Tecopa Springs.
    #34
  15. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Oddometer:
    5,746
    Location:
    Mt. Vernon, Illinois
    Awesome hard working dog.

    Yeh---me and ole' Dingleweeds will be camping on this ride report till it's done.

    You have a very good knack of describing your ride------you described being cold so well it had me shivering
    here in my warm office :D:D:D:D

    Thanks so much for posting your ride-----just the right amount of pics and text.

    Really liked those springs you found.

    And good on you riding down there from home.

    BigDog
    #35
  16. Butcho

    Butcho Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2008
    Oddometer:
    329
    Location:
    Wisconsin SE
    Enjoyed my Sat. morning read :D In..
    #36
  17. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,131
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    Glad you've enjoyed it. I'm getting into the habit now, I hope I can keep the updates rolling in.


    Hi DingWeed, we had more trouble from El Chupacabra, the donkeys left us alone on this trip :evil


    Glad to hear! Guess what--the coldest part is yet to come :eek1
    #37
  18. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Oddometer:
    5,746
    Location:
    Mt. Vernon, Illinois
    I'll get my fuzzy slippers on :D:D:D:D
    BigDog
    #38
  19. Mcgee

    Mcgee Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    Oddometer:
    538
    Location:
    Pacific NW
    Great ride report. I too was getting a chill with the description of the cold sunny weather. Looking forward to warming up a bit. I'll be riding along, thanks.
    #39
  20. HardWorkingDog

    HardWorkingDog Harvey Mushman

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,131
    Location:
    Walnut Crick, Cal.
    This trip was quickly turning into a reprise of my favorite ride report on advrider: In Search of Water in the Desert--we were jumping from hot spring to hot spring, but that was the best way to cope with the cold weather we chose to ride in.

    We rode through the Panamint Valley, up over Towne Pass through the Panamint Range and dropped down 5000 feet in 15 almost ruler straight miles to Stovepipe Wells. Gas is cheaper there so we filled up and made some quick calls--hadn't had cell phone coverage since we left Kernville 3 days ago.

    [​IMG]


    The Spot Messenger was leaving tracks and OK messages, but everyone at home still worried a bit. Nothing like a phone call to ease their minds.

    We finally turned south down the long stretch of Death Valley itself, past Badwater Basin, and now South would be our heading until we hit the end of the Baja peninsula. I'd look at the map at the end of each day, kind of amazed at how far we still had to go. It's a long way down there, and back...



    We'd got a weather forecast from my wife, and it was calling for cold temperatures--highs in the mid 40's, lows in the upper 20's, and a chance of rain in the next couple days. We were prepared for it and just kept riding, although I admit I wasn't really looking forward to riding in the rain. We were planning on just hunkering down in our tents or even checking into a motel if it got bad, but for now it was dry and cold and we charged ahead.

    We stopped at the Famous Crowbar Cafe & Saloon in Shoshone to warm up with a cup of coffee.

    [​IMG]


    It was a friendly place, the food looked good, but all we needed was warmth. There was an old-fashioned gas fired radiant heater going and I stood next to it for awhile....ahhhhhh. Across the street was a small general store so we stocked up on supplies--they had what looked like homemade bread on the shelves, and it turned out to be amazingly good, glad we bought a loaf.

    Not much farther down the road we arrived at Tecopa Springs...after the way it had been talked about by other people we'd come across I'll admit I was a bit........underwhelmed by the place.

    Apparently there's some tug of war going on with the BLM, I don't know exactly, but while there are some natural open access springs nearby, the main attractions are the 2 or 3 competing private campgrounds that have their own gated pools. They charge for pool access, or it's including with the camping fee. We picked one, set up camp and made our way to the pool. I use the word "pool" as that's pretty much what we found--chlorinated indoor smooth plastered pools, no clothing allowed, men and women in separate areas. The water was hot and clean, but felt more like the local YMCA (from about 50 years ago) after experiencing Saline Valley and the Kern River. Not that I'm complaining or anything.

    And there's no way I was going to bring a camera in there, WoodsChick.

    The campground was your basic dirt field, with a numbered rock to indicate sites.

    [​IMG]


    No potable water, but the table was nice. I noticed that, in my mind, our tents looked like something out of Star Wars. Somehow, it had an expression that looked droid-like, or like it wanted to fly...

    [​IMG]

    Good think I had rocks to keep it grounded.


    Our neighbors were a trip, literally. They were there to take part in a dance to create the new paradigm as the the new year began. They invited us to participate and, still not quite sure what was going on, I asked if they were doing traditional folk dances......"No man, we're, uh, like you know,....shamans, man. We're bringing in the energy to like, create world peace, this is a very energy-filled location..." They were so sincere and well-meaning you just had to like them.

    It had been a relatively easy day.

    [​IMG]


    We'd been averaging about 200 miles a day up to that point, which was about as much as we could do in the cold and short days. It was nice to have pulled into camp well before it got dark and cold, and relax a bit. That night was clear and cold and Bryn & I hiked up the ridge behind our camp where there was a cross with a bench that looked over the valley. We enjoyed the bright stars and could hear the drums and guitars and singing from the large tent they'd erected for the dance. By 9 pm they were done, and we all slept well, new paradigm or not.
    #40