The Death Valley Not Much of a Trip Report

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Rob.G, May 30, 2011.

  1. Rob.G

    Rob.G Mostly Harmless

    Joined:
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    I wasn't going to do a ride report for this trip, since it was so brief, but since I wrote up a long story about it to a friend, I figured I might as well re-edit that and include photos.

    The plan was to ride up to Death Valley Friday afternoon, and return home Sunday evening sometime. I couldn't decide between camping and moteling it, and I knew if I left my camping gear behind, I would regret it, so I took everything, and figured I would decide en route.

    So, I left Friday around 12:30. I stopped for lunch at Inn-N-Out in Hesperia. A guy in line asked me if that was my Suzuki. I said yes. He told me he had a KLR650 for sale on Craigslist. I asked what year. He said 2008. I said nice bike, how much oil does it burn? :)

    After gassing in Baker, I headed up 127 and passed by Dumont Dunes. I was going to take the access road and ride up closer for pix but never did find it. I later found out that I rode right by it. D'oh.

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    There was a strong tailwind on the way up I-15, and the bike was wobbling a bit above 65 mph, so I took an exit at Yermo to stop and repack my load a little. I stopped at this old, abandoned gas station and parked out of the wind so I could readjust things.

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    Given the time of day, I decided to do the motel thing, so I rode on up to Hwy 95 and went to Beatty.

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    As I pulled into the Motel 6 parking lot, I saw four Harleys parked nearby with their owners standing around talking. I parked next to the door, and am removing my gear to go check in. RIGHT as I start to the door, all four of the Harley riders walk in in front of me, and take over the counter and BOTH of the available clerks. They don't even so much as hold the door for me going in. I walk outside, get out of the phone, look up the number to Motel 6, call and cancel my reservations. I left and headed for the Mesquite Spring Campground up near Scotty's Castle.

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    I get there about an hour or so later. It's a really nice campground... nice and big, very pretty. It has two big, full-service CLEAN restrooms with flush toilets and a separate big sink with running water, like for washing dishes and stuff. I case the place and note the locations of the other three parties, and pick a spot out of the way of everybody, and setup camp and make dinner.

    The temperature is nice, and there's a light breeze from the NW. The stars come out. It's awesome. I have my iPad out and am checking out the "Star Walk" app, where you hold it up in front of you, and it tells you what all the stars are that you're looking at. Very slick.

    Then I hear noise. It's a car coming in. It drives in and parks in the SITE NEXT TO ME. What the hell? It's 9:30 PM, it's dark out, it's a huge campground, and they have to come in and park right next to me??? I nearly went over there to say something, but heard them talking and it wasn't English. Lovely. Some foreign assholes. I ended up moving all my stuff up one site to try to get away from their noise and their campfire (it wasn't even cold).

    The wind kicked up during the night and was shaking the tent, so I don't get much sleep. I awoke at 6:30 when the tent got warm from the sun beaming on its backside.

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    Finally up around 7:30, I go over to the restroom and brush my teeth. I see the license plate on my "neighbor's" Jeep Liberty -- CANADIANS. The guy looked like a stoner and the girl looked like a butch dyke but with peroxide blonde hair.

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    Next, I set to loading my tent with stuff that's staying behind, and repacking the Motofizz with just what I needed for the day. I also filled my 2-gal Rotopax water pack with water and bolted it to the bike, then put the 2-gal fuel pack on top.

    I made breakfast (those Mountain House meals are really very good, btw), and got dressed.

    As I finished packing the bike, I noticed my so-called neighbors were also packing up to leave. I was determined to leave before they did, figuring they were likely going the same way I was.

    Away I went, up to Ubehebe Crater for a few minutes. It was nice because the wind wasn't blasting there like it was when I was there briefly back in March during the Noob Rally. The light direction was wrong, but the photo didn't come out that bad.

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    I was getting ready to leave, and sure enough, here comes a Jeep Liberty. I made a point of getting out of there because I was likely to say something I might (not) regret otherwise.

    Now it was time to head out to the Racetrack. I aired down the D606's back at camp so I'd be ready for dirt. The road wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Yeah there were some soft spots, but after a while I got used to the front end acting goofy in it, and tried to just stay out of it. The washboard wasn't bad either. I ran around 30-35 mph for most of the time.

    It's actually a very pretty ride down this road. You go through a big valley full of Joshua Trees, there are some nice mountains and stuff.

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    So after a while, I make it to Teakettle Junction and get the obligatory photos. A white Chevy Traverse was there as I arrived but left.

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    I caught up with the Traverse at the first parking area at the Racetrack, on the northern end nearest the Grandstand (the big rock formation protruding from the playa). Two guys hiked out to the Grandstand and climbed up on the rocks to take photos.

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    I walked around the grandstand, took pix, looking for some of the moving rocks. Found one. After about a half hour, I got back on the bike and headed down to the southern end.

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    At that end, I promptly found several of the "moving" rocks.

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    From there, I continued south. I wanted to check out Homestake Camp for future camping possibilities. It was small, not particularly attractive, but it would work.

    Next, I rode out to the Lippencott sign. I looked down the trail. On a quad, or on my smaller and lighter KLX250S, I would have gone down it without hesitation. On the DR650, I said screw it and turned back, and decided to do the Hunter Mountain route instead. In hindsight I think I should have tried it.

    So back up and around, past Teakettle Junction, and down to the east of the playa (on the other side of the mountains from it). Easy enough road until you get to the 1/8-mile (approx) long silt bed. My mistake was not stopping when I saw it. I just prepared for it and dove in at about 25 mph. I made it probably 50' before the front tire caught a rut and down I went! What a mess. I was covered in silt from head to toe, and the bike was now tan.

    It took a little work to get it upright, but I got it back up. About then I noticed my camera dangling from my pocket (secured by my Gear Keeper), covered in silt. It was dead thanks to the silt. Fawk.

    In hindsight, I would have gotten off the road and gone around the silt bed. Now I need a new camera, and not having a camera basically meant the trip was over. Without the ability to take photos and document the ride, to me, there was no point. At least I got the replacement insurance for it. I did manage a couple more photos from it, but the zoom portion no longer worked.

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    This is Panamint Valley from the South Pass area. I didn't realize it until later. It's a cool view of it. Hwy 190 runs from right to left, and the road up Towne Pass is on the left side. The road passes just on the other side of the "mountains" sticking up out of the playa, and those are the Panamint Dunes in the foreground. They look a LOT bigger than from PSR.

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    Anyway… I made it on down to Hwy 190 and rode to PSR for gas and lunch. The wind was now starting to whip up pretty good.

    It was already 3 PM, so I decided to head back to camp and relax and try to clean up my gear from all the silt. The wind was from the north and was at least 20 mph.

    Some 70 miles and an hour and a half later, I get back to camp and set to work cleaning things up. I rinsed out my jacket and pants, all my other gear, and laid it across the picnic table to dry. The wind was fairly strong, now coming from the south. I put rocks on my stuff so it wouldn't blow away. As expected, everything was dry within an hour.

    My tent had blown over. I didn't realize it at the time, but my tarp had blown away. So no more "footprint" for the tent. I just got the tent upright, turned it to be at a right angle from the wind, and re-staked it with the lame-ass stakes included with it.

    With all that done, I was beat, so I took a nap in my chair for about an hour, as I tried to decide what to do. I didn't want to stay there another night if it was gonna be super windy, and didn't much want to be riding in it either.

    I got up, and that was when I realized my tarp was gone. I didn't want to try to sleep another night in the tent without the tarp, as it would likely ruin it with all the little rocks on the ground. I started packing up.

    Not long after, two more cars arrived at the campground. One parked two sites down from me, the other ONE sight up from me. WTF? I was one of two people in the whole campground, and these idiots have to come in and park right in the same place as me? I don't get it. And the group parking right next to me had a bunch of kids too. I had definitely had it.

    So I packed up and got the hell out of there. Because of the wind, my plan to ride back over Towne Pass and head south to Trona was scuttled. I decided to head to Beatty for more gas and dinner.

    So I got there, gassed up, and asked for a recommendation for someplace to eat. The place across the street sounded good, so I went over there and had a very nice half turkey sandwich and cup of turkey soup.

    The wind wasn't bad at this point. But about halfway down Hwy 95 to 373, it picked up and was coming from the south. So once down 373, it was a headwind again... a strong one. The best speed I could manage safely was 50-55, and I had to keep it in 4th gear just to maintain that speed.

    I got to Baker, got more gas, and hit I-15 south. The wind was getting worse. I was running 60 mph in the right lane, in 4th gear. It was getting cold, so I stopped at a rest area and added all of my layers. I was still freezing. I knew I had to get a room, there was no way I could make it home tonight. Finally I got to Barstow just after midnight and got a cheap room at some place I don't even remember the name of... it was good enough. Took a hot shower and went to bed around 1:30 AM.

    The next morning, the wind was even stronger, and coming from the west, so it was a crosswind. The weather report in my phone said 35-45 mph winds with gusts to 60.

    I stopped in Hesperia to warm up a bit before heading over Cajon Pass. I had breakfast at an IHOP. The food was good but the service sucked.

    Getting over the pass wasn't as bad as I'd feared. The wind let up and it wasn't THAT cold. Once down the other side, the wind picked up again, but wasn't as bad. It warmed up too.

    I got home about noon. I unloaded the bike, and lay down for a nap around 12:30... and awoke at 4 PM!! I was beat.

    Two things I learned from this trip:

    - If I ever camp again, it will NOT be in a campground
    - I'm done with riding in heavy winds
    - Harley riders suck even more than I had previously though

    So there you have it -- my first ride report, all in one post. Way more wordy than I would have liked, and not nearly enough photos.

    Rob
    #1
  2. Jedi5150

    Jedi5150 Road Warrior

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    Central California
    Haha:lol3. Great ride report Rob! I'm sorry your trip turned out the way it did but I think we've all been in your shoes at one time or another. I agree with you about people setting up camp right next to you. I have no idea what makes people do stuff like that.

    Your pictures were great. I always like seeing Death Valley since I've never been there myself (been close...but not to it).

    I've got a silly question for you. How do you change the name of your link to actually be the title of your ride report (like you've got in your signature) instead of just the website address and numbers?
    #2
  3. Rob.G

    Rob.G Mostly Harmless

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    Thanks!! I appreciate the kind words. Death Valley is a really neat place. It's too bad it's taken me til this point in the year to get "into" it, because I could spend the next 6-8 months going there and exploring. I'll have to wait til Fall to attempt it again.

    The link... do it like this, but replace { and } with [ and ] (I have to do it that so the site doesn't translate it into a real link)...

    {url=http://whatever.com}My Title Here{/url}

    Make sense?

    Here's a link to the site docs on it too. url

    Rob
    #3
  4. Jedi5150

    Jedi5150 Road Warrior

    Joined:
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    Excellent, thanks! I'll give it a shot.

    As soon as the Sierra passes open up for the summer I'm going to get to the back side and 395 again. I did it last year and the scenery is just awesome out there. Hopefully I'll make it all the way to Death Valley this time (but maybe late season to avoid the scorching temps).
    #4
  5. Rob.G

    Rob.G Mostly Harmless

    Joined:
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    I'm waiting on Hwy 4 to open. That road is a BLAST in my car (WRX) but I bet it'd be even better on a bike. Plus there are lots of little trails off to the sides to explore. That plus the neat lakes too. It's a bit far to ride up to from SoCal, but I'm anticipating being back in the Reno area sometime this Summer, so it'll be a lot closer.

    I LOVE the Sierra-Nevadas. Such a cool mountain range. The desert is neat too, but there's year-round fun in the Sierras. Awesome trails to explore in the Summer (along with cool temps), and tons of snow in the winter for snowmobiling.

    Rob
    #5
  6. motowest

    motowest Two-wheeled Adventurer

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    A memorable adventure, for sure! (Despite the Harley riders, the wind, and the car-campers.)
    #6
  7. kj7687

    kj7687 KJ - just KJ - okay :)

    Joined:
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    SoCal - Inland Empire
    Looks like you had fun man! I've been thinking, some time in the next few weeks here, I'm just going to throw my tent and sleeping bag on the back of the Ninja, and go camp at a park or something somewhere in Arizona for a couple of days. Going to do it solo (no offense to anyone lol), just me, my bike, and...maybe hit on some cute girls if I can find any over there in AZ ;-) I just need to get the fuck out of SoCal for a bit. I realize that I pretty much never do that and it's driving me insane. Sick of the same old scenery every day. Need to see something different for a change. I'm making some lifestyle changes right now and a good little solo vacation for a day or two I think is going to help me out a lot, some time to contemplate, bs, chill, repeat. Your ride report here is getting me even more psyched up for this!

    P.S. Try riding a DR200 INTO a STRONG headwind on an open highway ;-)
    #7
  8. macadamia

    macadamia XK Red 27 Technique

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    Excellent rr my friend... I'm glad you got some riding in and made it there and back in one piece.

    I recommend for a replacement camera the Canon S95. I have one and love it. the photos are very crisp and it even takes video. The videos I took of the water crossings at the mendo rally were taken with that camera.

    Some still photos...

    Some more still photos and videos...
    #8
  9. macadamia

    macadamia XK Red 27 Technique

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    another way to do it is using the forum tools in the reply to thread. Put what you want the link to be called in the post, highlight those words, then click on the blue globe icon with the chain link below it. This brings up the hyperlink tool with http:// already there. Delete the "http://" and paste the link you want to use in the post. Continue this until you have completed all of the links you want to create. Then click on submit or preview post and check out your handywork.
    #9
  10. cinghiale

    cinghiale Been here awhile

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    rainingham, WA
    Thanks for the report. Heading to DV in about a week. Thanks for the current photos and repot. Stay safe and remember 10% of situations we have no control over 90% is attitude towards those situations, like Harley riders and close campers, most are in their own world and care only about themselves,

    Peace
    #10
  11. airborndad

    airborndad Long timer

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    Montclair Ca.
    well said cinghiale
    hard to comprehend why some people act they way they do,
    but on the other hand Rob
    you could have had a little fun and made them regret camping so close a lunatic solo motorcycle rider

    BTW
    Super Nice 1st RR Rob :freaky:clap
    #11
  12. jmcgilroy

    jmcgilroy 1foot in grave

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    Help me out here, mock the guy with the KLR, Harley riders are all a-holes cause they didn't hold the door for you, Canadiens are assholes, and the waitress at IHOP didn't please you. Anybody else piss in your cornflakes? (other than Mother Nature blowing up some wind).

    I'm guessing that there's a reason you ride alone!

    Seriously, this is one of the most negative, sourly written R/R's I've ever read. Take a smile break.
    #12
  13. Cowgirl

    Cowgirl Cougar on the prowl

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    +1
    DV was one of the most amazing places I've ever been and it seems like you completely missed it!
    #13
  14. AZ_ADV_RIDER

    AZ_ADV_RIDER Demons In My Helmet

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    Rob great pics - I for one actually like the "negative attitude" RR's on occasion :clap :lol3 :thumb
    #14
  15. little_twin

    little_twin Been here awhile

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    I feel that everybody makes Lippencott sound worse than it is. There are one or two steep spots where proper line selection and throttle control are a necessity, but other than that its not that bad if you just take your time. I have ridden up and down it on a loaded DL-650 with Conti road attacks with no issues.
    #15
  16. aiMhi

    aiMhi Roostafarian

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    Yeah man I agree, enjoy the people around you when you ride. Some of the best travel tips and positive memories come from people that travel "around" you. 1/2 The fun is meeting the people that are out to have some fun as well. Heck you never know if you bike pops a head gasket and you are sitting out somewhere in Death Valley!
    #16
  17. gogogordy

    gogogordy Long timer

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    Awesome write-up on an awesome trip! Thanks for sharing.

    (We were there in mid-April, will stay away till it cools off in the fall)
    #17
  18. ShadyRascal

    ShadyRascal Master of None

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    What's the deal with those "moving rocks"?
    #18
  19. Dolly Sod

    Dolly Sod I want to do right, but not right now

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    Holden Caufield, c'est moi..


    I've been to Death Valley many times by car, never gotten to do it by bike. It's one of the biggest "To-Do"'s by bike I've got.

    :thumb
    #19
  20. redog1

    redog1 KTM 690R

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    He's told the "real" story and frankly I have to agree with him regarding the Harley ridin' assholes (no, they're not all a-holes but so many are and that's the persona they want to project), riding in the wind sucks but sometimes you have to just endure. I also experienced the campground assholes at Panimint Springs when I was there in mid April. People have become inconsiderate a-holes. Don't beat the guy up for telling HIS story!
    The world isn't all sugur and honey as some of you would like it to be.
    I like reality. I and my riding partners had a great time. Lippencott was not a problem. Rocky but doable on a heavy KLR.
    #20