Wherever I May Roam - One Woman Livin' on a DR650

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Feyala, Jun 26, 2012.

  1. Feyala

    Feyala Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2011
    Oddometer:
    358
    Location:
    Wandering...
    I awoke at a decent time for once, and busied myself with packing. And repacking. The new compression sack was wonderful, and I was downright giddy about it. Unfortunately, the resulting cylinder, while smaller than my dry bag, was too oddly-shaped to fit inside it. Boo! Eventually I gave up and left the dry bag with Ramsey. I'd need to find another way to keep my clothes dry. He suggested that I seek out a waterproof duffel bag from a military surplus store, and thus I gained a quest for the day.

    I left later than I had planned to, and scampered over the hills and down into Fresno. While there, I grabbed some toe socks, a spare tube and patch kit, and a waterproof duffel bag at various shops. I figured that these things wouldn't be too common in small towns. It was late afternoon by the time I left the city.

    After a few hours of boring highway, I found myself at the entrance to the Kern River canyon. The hills were on fire with the setting sunlight.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/kernsunset.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1015__320x240_kernsunset.jpg" /></a></center>
    I was excited to be on the road to Lake Isabella, and happy to be off the 99. This road snakes along next to the Kern River and is quite fun!

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/kerncanyon.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1014__320x240_kerncanyon.jpg" /></a></center>
    Darkness was looming, and fell before I reached the town. I stopped for a break and texted Pete to let him know I'd be in quite late. I loaded up the directions to Nip's place in Lone Pine and headed out. Creeping over Walker Pass in the darkness, there were lots of sharp, slow corners. It was cold at this elevation, even this far south! The nearly-full moon illuminated countless peaks all around me. It was surreal.

    I was grateful when the road made its descent into the valley and joined up with the 395, the air warming considerably. A brisk hour of riding later and I found Nip's place, pulling in around 11 PM. I was given a quick tour and was quickly overcome with sleep. Nip had even made me a bed! Awww.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/bed.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1013__320x240_bed.jpg" /></a></center>
    The next day, I awoke fairly early, although both Pete and Nip were up far earlier. I heated up some soup I had with me for breakfast. Delicious!

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cbreakfast.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1016__320x240_cbreakfast.jpg" /></a></center>
    Stopping at a visitor center on our way out of town, we checked on road conditions and grabbed a map of the area.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/nipbikes.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1017__320x240_nipbikes.jpg" /></a></center>
    We took off across the highway, past nearby Keeler, and stopped to air down our tires once we left pavement. We commented that Pete's rear tire seemed to lack knobbies. He called it an experiment. Fair enough! Looking back the way we came, Owens Lake glinted in the distance.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/owenslake.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1018__320x240_owenslake.jpg" /></a></center>
    I wasn't sure what to expect from this ride. Pete had said that it would follow a dry wash and I said that this "did not inspire confidence." But, you never know until you try! The road wound up into the mountains.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerromnts.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1020__320x240_cerromnts.jpg" /></a></center>
    The road was washboarded but fairly gentle, evenly-graded gravel. A bit steep.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ccurvegravel.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1019__320x240_ccurvegravel.jpg" /></a></center>
    We stopped for a quick break, and enjoyed the nearby derelict mining structures.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerrobreak1.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1021__320x240_cerrobreak1.jpg" /></a>

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    At one point I stopped and had no front brakes. I was so startled that I just slowly slid backwards a few feet until I stopped. Thinking that maybe the vibrations had somehow introduced a bubble into the system, I pumped the brake a few times and it started working again. Just... not very well. Well, I'd check it at the top.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ccurvegravel2.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1023__320x240_ccurvegravel2.jpg" /></a></center>
    We pulled up to Cerro Gordo and I checked my brakes, immediately discovering the nature of the problem. A bolt had shaken loose on the washboard and was lost to the desert. Without the bolt, the caliper had slid half off of the rotor, which was why my brakes had felt spongy. The caretaker, Bob, rolled up on an ATV and Pete and Nip chatted with him a bit.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/caretaker.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1025__320x240_caretaker.jpg" /></a></center>
    I explained my problem to Pete, who asked Bob if he had any bailing wire. Sure enough, he came back a minute later and generously offered us the use of a big roll of it and some pliars. Pete set to work.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/petefixing.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1026__320x240_petefixing.jpg" /></a></center>
    Before I had too much time to consider whether this was a good idea, Pete was done! The caliper seemed to be solidly attached with the thick wire, and everything cleared the rotor. Pete said that he didn't think I'd have any problems until I could get back to Lone Pine and pick up a spare bolt for it. Thanks Pete!

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/bailingwirebrakes.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1024__320x240_bailingwirebrakes.jpg" /></a></center>
    We looked around at Cerro Gordo for a bit. Silver was discovered here in 1865, and it led to a small, bustling little town which survived until the 1960s, when the machinery was removed. In its heyday, $13 million in silver and lead made its way down that dirt road we'd just come up, making it the most productive silver mine in California. A few of the original buildings remain, and they appear fairly well preserved, no doubt a testament to the hard restoration work of its caretakers. As it's private property, you can rent out some of the buildings, including a restored hotel.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerroblue.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1027__320x240_cerroblue.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerrowagon.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1028__320x240_cerrowagon.jpg" /></a></center>
    I love ghost towns, so I would have liked to spend more time exploring, but we had a lot more riding in store!

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerroview.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1030__320x240_cerroview.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerrotwisties.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1029__320x240_cerrotwisties.jpg" /></a></center>
    I have to admit a bit of trepidation. This looked really steep, and according to Pete, this side of the "road" never gets graded, so it would likely be worse further on, due to erosion. This was going to be the wash he warned me about earlier. With my front brake held on by bailing wire. Well, I suppose we would deal with problems as they arose...

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerrorwashbike.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1031__320x240_cerrorwashbike.jpg" /></a></center>
    The road quickly degraded, filling with large rocks and ruts to avoid. I stopped frequently to give myself a chance to decompress, and attempted to mostly use my rear brake to slow down. This wasn't always an option, as the road was quite steep in places, and to be frank, I was often so concerned with making sure the bike stayed upright and not wrapped around a tree that I completely forgot about the bailing wire. Some parts had sandy gravel, and I began to miss the large rocks.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerrosandygravel.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1032__320x240_cerrosandygravel.jpg" /></a></center>
    I was terrified. There was a lot of cursing. It was usually repeated, chanted as if a mantra: "Shit. SHIT. Shit! No. Nonono. Left. GO LEFT! Okay. We're okay. Good bike. No. Slow. Go slower. <strong>THIS IS NOT A ROAD!!</strong>" I feel that letting this out helps to release stress, so I don't attempt to censor it, but Pete seemed to find it amusing when he noticed it.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerrowash2.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1033__320x240_cerrowash2.jpg" /></a></center>
    Eventually, I started to get the hang of things. I started to relax in the few spots where I had the opportunity to do so. Things got a bit easier. However, I was still pretty relieved when we finally reached the bottom. Pete made it look easy, even without knobbies. I was jealous.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerropete.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1034__320x240_cerropete.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerrosign.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1035__320x240_cerrosign.jpg" /></a></center>
    The landscape around us was scrubby desaturated desert, small bushes and Joshua trees were the only vegetation for miles. After a quick break to rehydrate and have a snack, we were off again. The less severe grade allowed me to actually use the throttle for once, and I felt like I had more control. The trail seemed to get better for a time. I secretly hoped that the washes were behind me.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerrowash3.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1036__320x240_cerrowash3.jpg" /></a></center>
    "At least this part isn't steep!" I muttered to myself. "I'm sure it will be much better from here!"

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/notaroad2.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1037__320x240_notaroad2.jpg" /></a></center>
    ... Damnit.

    Erosion had reduced the trail to a cavernous rut. I stopped to consider my options, and yelled out to Pete, "How do I do this?" I had never dealt with this kind of problem before. He explained that I could either hug the side of the trail, and not stop, as there would be nowhere to put my foot down, or sometimes the better method is to just ride in the rut and hope for the best. It was nerve-wracking to be unable to stop, but I made it through without dropping it. This was not the only one of these that I had to deal with this day, and it never got any less scary. I frequently had to stop and consider my options, or wait for Pete and Nip to pass me so I could watch the routes they took.

    After some scary sand patches, we stopped to look at the map. Nip and Pete had a difference of opinion about what direction we should be going.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerrodirections.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1038__320x240_cerrodirections.jpg" /></a></center>
    At one point the road was straight-up missing, a 5-foot chunk had washed away, and we had to go around. We followed tire tracks up the trail, as it seemed to get increasingly narrower, tree limbs occasionally smacking my bike. I mentioned that I didn't think this was the right way, when we stopped next. "Trucks wouldn't be able to get through here, it's too narrow." Nip insisted that we were going the wrong direction. We doubled back and tried a different route, going up the side of the mountain. This was steep and felt especially treacherous, with the rocks, ruts and long drop off to the side.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerroridge.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1039__320x240_cerroridge.jpg" /></a></center>
    It was getting late, and Nip was concerned that we wouldn't get out of the valley by sunset. Pete consulted his GPS, which suggested roads further ahead. We took a look, and they were even more steep and treacherous than the ones we'd been on. No thank you. Eventually we decided that we'd taken a wrong turn further back, so we carefully picked our way back down the mountain and back a few miles the way we'd come. This time, we found the correct route.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cerronip.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1040__320x240_cerronip.jpg" /></a></center>
    Ahhh. After the day's tribulations, finally getting into second and third gear felt like a breath of fresh air. This road was well-graded, and even though I had to be careful of the occasional sandy spot, I stood up and managed to maintain a pretty quick pace (20-30+ mph) as we raced the setting sun.

    We met up with the arterial road in this part of Death Valley, Saline Valley Road. This too was fairly well graded, and standing up became a necessity as we jostled over big chunks of what looked like decrepit asphault and through dips and potholes. All too soon, we found pavement once more.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/chwy190.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1041__320x240_chwy190.jpg" /></a></center>
    Pete and Nip were in more of a hurry than I was, and sped along Highway 190. I hung back and went at a more leisurely pace, enjoying the setting sunlight on the mountains.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cpanorama.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1042__320x240_cpanorama.jpg" /></a></center>
    One thing that Pete said really stuck with me.

    "I'm having a really hard time figuring out where to aim. I've never had to do this before! Usually there's... a road."

    "Do you know what technical riding is?"

    "... Riding in difficult terrain?"

    "Technical riding is putting the tire exactly where it needs to go. Not where it wants to go, but where it needs to be to navigate around obstacles. You need to look further ahead and start making decisions faster to line that up."

    This was by far the most challenging riding I'd ever done, and I was proud that I didn't drop the bike, crash, or give up out of fear. I may spend a lot of time being terrified, but that doesn't mean I'm not also having fun (roller coasters scare the crap out of me too), and over time as I get more skilled, the terror will become blunted through gaining confidence and sheer desensitization. This day re-calibrated my concept of what I was capable of riding on, and I never would have attempted anything remotely like this solo.

    All in all, it was a good day!
  2. Feyala

    Feyala Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2011
    Oddometer:
    358
    Location:
    Wandering...
    Hey everybody!

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!

    ... Or whatever you happen to celebrate!

    Thought I forgot about you? Thought you could escape that easily?

    WRONG!

    I have been busy with holiday stuff and also some sort of projectile vomiting flu plague thing which I am now finally getting over. I've heard it's been going around. Beware!

    I'm closing in on updates, I've got a few more from death valley, then saline and manzanar and I'll be to the accident, which is just in time, because my wrist is getting pretty close to healed and I'm more than eager to get on the road again. I need to fix stuff (it's kind of hard to work metal with a gimpy dominant wrist), apply for passport renewal, bla bla bla. I'll be in Phoenix until at least the new year I think, but I'm hoping I'll have my shit together enough to leave shortly thereafter.

    I'll do replies and another update in the next day or two.

    Anyways! Hope you are having a good time of it, and try not to get too drunk. :freaky :lol3
  3. WeazyBuddha

    WeazyBuddha Carbon-Based Humanoid

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2008
    Oddometer:
    5,723
    Location:
    RGV Texas
    :lol3

    Enjoying the RR, you have guts venturing "out there" with a thin safety net.

    Missing brake bolts, rough running motor, you keep moving along. Admirable.

    :thumb
  4. Ratman

    Ratman Lucky Rider

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,243
    Location:
    Baja is good
    Well reported, Fey. She's not lying. That's what it was like.

    I was surprised that she didn't drop her bike at least once. I thought that Fay being short would cause her problems at the super careful slow speeds. In her favor is that she is strong so when the bike is a little tippy she can keep it up with just a tip toe on the ground.

    I really enjoyed my day with her and Nip.....and I should have listened to Nip a lot sooner on routing directions, after all Nip lives there and has a very good instinct about the geography. He kept saying that, if the suns over there then we need to go that way. And he was right.

    I hope to be reading RRs soon of you burning up new roads to write about, Fey. :clap:clap
  5. rugbyrtcwka

    rugbyrtcwka railroader

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2010
    Oddometer:
    517
    Great RR Fey! I'm in for the long haul now. Lot's of poeple made great comments about you tank slapper situation with respect on how to fix it. One thing no one said (I think) was that, you can make all the adjustments in the world to fix it, and it may be fixed for a time, but, as soon and you change your loads weight distribution ( ie take the cans off, add tank bag, fork bag, etc) you change the geometry of the bike and you will be back to square one.

    Bottom line, you tank slapper happened at 80 MPH. Even though those bikes are capable of that speed, they were never designed to do that speed. All the TS's that I have been made aware of ( and I've seen and heard many) were made at speeds in excess of 70 MPH.

    I suggest you find a good set up that balances you harmonics for the bike while loaded ( after you find the best way to load ) and keep your speed to the limit or below, and you will never have another TS again.

    Looking forward to reading more of your life onthe road. Stay safe, and happy new year.
  6. PHOTON PHIL

    PHOTON PHIL THe REAL poser

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2005
    Oddometer:
    275
    Location:
    Green Township N.J.
    Have a happy new Fey and safe riding. I am really enjoying you ride report and so is my 15 year old daughter:clap
  7. NomadGal

    NomadGal Esther

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,133
    Location:
    Everywhere and Nowhere
    Hey Fey, how are the tank bags coming along?
  8. Warin

    Warin Retired

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2012
    Oddometer:
    3,420
  9. Feyala

    Feyala Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2011
    Oddometer:
    358
    Location:
    Wandering...
    Hey lady! I figured out the design I wanted finally. I'm doing this the clunky way, so I'm making prototypes (out of old phone book paper and masking tape lol) to make sure they aren't going to hit my knees when I'm riding close to the tank, should be done with that tonight. Then I need to cut some scrap fabric (old pants) in the shapes I want, see how it fits on the prototypes, and then take it apart to use as a pattern. I'm sure there's probably an easier way to do this, but I don't make stuff out of fabric often, so I'm sure it'll be a learning process!

    Sure, I could just buy some atv panniers but where's the fun in that? :lol3 I like the form factor of these ones but they aren't as deep as I'd like, and the zippers seem to invite water in, I'm probably going to inner line my bags with a shower curtain type material and fold it over at the top ala drybag to help keep it water resistant.

    My new rear tire arrived today, tube should be in tomorrow, I've got pants coming from an inmate, and a new years resolution type gift to myself.. some resistance bands so I can work out while on the road and be less of a weakling. Still need to fix the box and get the rack straightened out. Too much shit to do, lol.
  10. Feyala

    Feyala Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2011
    Oddometer:
    358
    Location:
    Wandering...
    I was watching that entire video with a ":eek1" type expression, because augh sand.

    I can see what you mean, but. Yikes.

    Maybe someday I'll be that competent. :rofl
  11. just jeff

    just jeff Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
    2,503
    Location:
    LacLaBiche Alberta Canada
    Hmmmm....Sounds like a Rear Tire Change Shootout competition coming up between you and Nomadgal!!:evil
    Regards....justjeff
  12. Feyala

    Feyala Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2011
    Oddometer:
    358
    Location:
    Wandering...
    :lol3

    Yeah I suppose. I have a bit more experience on that end than she does though, I've done or helped with 8 tire changes/flats in the last year or so... this will be my 9th! I did the Rebel once, the DR twice, helped with Nip's flat rear and fixed my own flat about a month ago when I ran over a really nasty nail. I'll be swapping the rear and changing the front's direction once my tube gets here. I'm certainly not the fastest at it (I think Jim can change a flat in like 15 minutes), but it gets done.
  13. Feyala

    Feyala Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2011
    Oddometer:
    358
    Location:
    Wandering...
    Pete assured me that this would be a relatively easy day, a fairly short ride with about 5 miles of dirt. We hit the road, heading toward the sierras.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/road2ashram.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1066__320x240_road2ashram.jpg" /></a></center>
    Eventually we reached the turnoff and it was just... sand. Oh great. My arch-nemesis.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ashramsand.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1049__320x240_ashramsand.jpg" /></a></center>
    I crept along slowly, "landing gear" extended in some of the particularly hairy parts. For a while it was fine, but then the road started getting more steep. The incline by itself wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the camber of the road, slanting off towards a cliff. I didn't take any photos, because momentum was a necessary component of most of this route, and stopping didn't feel like a safe idea at the best of times.

    At one point I took the low route when I should have taken the high one, and my bike started digging into the sand. I rocked forward and back, trying to keep it up and keep going, but it was a lost cause by that point. I ended up backing up onto slightly more solid ground and going the other way instead. "The other way" was a very narrow strip of dirt with tree branches to smack me, which made me nervous.

    Eventually we made it to the top of the hill, an area I will generously call a "parking area". I gladly stripped out of my heavy gear and changed into my toe shoes. I cable locked everything to the bike - not that I expected to see anyone this far out of the way, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/peteniphike.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1065__320x240_peteniphike.jpg" /></a></center>
    We started up the trail to the Ashram. The first part was really steep! Nip stopped now and then to gather pine nuts, pointing out the hundreds of cones littering the ground and offering us a few nuts. He was also a bit of a showoff, walking backwards and talking to us along the way.

    We stopped from time to time to rehydrate and enjoy the views. And boy, were the views worth it.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ashrammnts.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1046__320x240_ashrammnts.jpg" /></a></center>
    I loved the trees, clinging to life. I wonder how long this one's been there?

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ashramtree.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1055__320x240_ashramtree.jpg" /></a></center>
    As the trail crept upwards through the sandy terrain, winding around manzanita bushes and hugging the side of the mountain, we discussed the people who built this path, shoring up the sand with rocks to prevent erosion, and hauling up all the materials they'd need to build the Ashram. They must have been pretty devoted to their cause!

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ashrammnts2.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1047__320x240_ashrammnts2.jpg" /></a></center>
    A bit over an hour later, we arrived at a stream, coursing its way down the side of the mountain and cascading down cliffs to the valley below.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ashramstream.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1054__320x240_ashramstream.jpg" /></a></center>
    We balanced on the log and crossed over the water, finding a completely different environment on the other side. In the shade of the mountain, fed by the stream, deciduous trees flourished and carpeted the ground with their leaves, eventually forming soil. Small, delicate grasses found a niche here. It was a sharp contrast to the arid, sandy dust we'd just come through.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ashramshady.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1051__320x240_ashramshady.jpg" /></a></center>
    Not long after, we found the Ashram itself.

    "The history of this remarkable building can be traced back to 1928, when Franklin Merrell-Wolff and his wife Sherifa first visited the area west of Lone Pine, California. Here stands Mount Whitney, which at the time was the tallest peak in the United States. The couple had been told by an Indian philosopher that the spiritual center of a country was close to its highest point of elevation, and for this reason they sought a nearby location to work on several writing projects. Starting at the legendary Olivas Ranch, Wolff and his wife packed their typewriters and camping supplies onto burros and hiked up to Hunter’s Camp, a flat area at the base of Mount Whitney. The pair set up camp near a waterfall on Lone Pine Creek, and spent the next two months contemplating and writing.

    Later that year, Franklin and Sherifa Merrell-Wolff founded the Assembly of Man, an educational institution with a generally theosophical orientation. As part of this work, the couple decided to start a summer school near the area they had camped the previous summer. Wolff made inquiries to the U.S. Forest Service about a special use permit for the school, and was informed that in order to receive authorization for such an operation in the High Sierra Primitive Area, the Assembly would be obliged to erect some sort of permanent structure. Moreover, he was notified that building permits for the Hunter’s Camp area were not available. Accordingly, Wolff explored the next canyon south for a suitable site, and found a spot high in a beautiful piñon pine forest surrounded by two branches of a clear, cold creek. The founders of the Assembly of Man decided that the remote and quiet wilderness of Tuttle Creek Canyon would provide the ideal atmosphere for their summer school.

    Wolff and the members of the Assembly of Man received permission from the Forest Service to operate a summer school on Tuttle Creek in 1929, and the next year work began on leveling a site for a structure. Wolff handled all of the dynamite used to blast a flat area, and as rock began piling up, he got the idea to use it in the construction of the building. The structure was laid out roughly along the four cardinal points of the compass, and built in the shape of a balanced cross to symbolize the principle of equilibrium.

    Building materials such as lumber and cement were initially brought to the site on the backs of burros from Olivas Ranch, and the site was approached from the north side of the canyon. Later, Wolff cleared an access road on the south side of the canyon, which could accommodate a tractor pulling a flatbed trailer. Wolff and his students would spend the next twenty summers working on the ashram, spending their days engaged in hard labor and their evenings with music and study around a campfire. The group also held formal services at the site, with Wolff and Sherifa officiating." - <a href="http://www.merrell-wolff.org/tuttle-creek">Tuttle Creek Ashram</a>

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ashramexterior.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1044__320x240_ashramexterior.jpg" /></a></center>
    We explored the structure. It was pretty impressive! Very solid. It looked like other visitors used it from time to time. Were they strangers, like us, or part of the Wolff pack?

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ashramfireplace.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1045__320x240_ashramfireplace.jpg" /></a></center>
    Upon the hearth, tucked in a corner, I discovered a tiny statue. Shiva?

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/shivastatue.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1067__320x240_shivastatue.jpg" /></a></center>
    On one wall hung an owl pendant. It was gorgeous, but it belonged with the Ashram.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/owlpendant.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1064__320x240_owlpendant.jpg" /></a></center>
    A large altar was the only structure in the building. The surface bore these words: "Father, Into thy eternal wisdom, all creative love, and infinite power; I direct my thoughts, give my devotion and manifest my energy; That I may know, love, and serve thee. - Anon"

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ashramprayer.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1048__320x240_ashramprayer.jpg" /></a></center>
    The view was lovely. I would have wanted a much larger window if this were my project, but the reality of the snowy winters at this high of an elevation was probably more of a deciding factor.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ashramview.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1056__320x240_ashramview.jpg" /></a></center>
    We sat outside and contemplated our navels for a bit. I mentioned an interest of mine, <a href="http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html">Vipassana meditation</a>, and suggested that they focus on their breath, if they were interested in meditating. We spent a few minutes relaxing this way.

    Spying another building nearby, I decided to take a look, and found this creepy shed.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ashramshed.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1052__320x240_ashramshed.jpg" /></a></center>
    We had noticed that the roofing was... well, missing, leaving most of the wood exposed. Inside the shed I found some roofing tiles which suggested that somebody was (hopefully) replacing it. At least somebody cares about preserving this place!

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ashramshedinterior.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1053__320x240_ashramshedinterior.jpg" /></a></center>
    By this point, we had enough of the Ashram, and began our trek back to the bikes. I gathered some pine nuts along the way. They were surprisingly tasty! They made my fingers sticky and black with sap though, and I ran my hands through the dust to try to keep from sticking to myself. We made far better time on the way down.

    Back at the parking area, I geared up and maneuvered my bike to point down the trail we'd come up. I tried to hop on, and the camber got the better of me, sending me slowly flopping over onto my left side. D'oh! I had the bike back up before Pete could get out his camera, and with that indignity behind me, we began our trek back to pavement, Nip leading the way.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/ashramsanddown.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1050__320x240_ashramsanddown.jpg" /></a></center>
    This was better in some ways, but worse in others. On the one hand, I didn't have to worry about being unable to make it up the hill, on the other, I had to control my inertia while being cautious of my brakes in the sand. For the steep parts, the sand was thankfully not bad, and I was careful to mimic the path that Nip was taking, sticking to the high parts of the camber and out of the deeper patches.

    Back on pavement, I was thrilled to get out of first gear, and followed Nip through the back roads. He led us to an unusual place called the Alabama Hills.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/alabamahillsrd.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1043__320x240_alabamahillsrd.jpg" /></a></center>
    The rocks looked like something from another planet. Erosion had left many arch shapes and odd, lumpy oval boulders from the ancient volcanic rock covering the landscape. This is a popular movie filming location - everything from old westerns to Star Trek, Tremors and Iron Man has parts shot in this area. There is a movie museum in Lone Pine, but I didn't get a chance to check it out.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/moonrocks.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1060__320x240_moonrocks.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/moonrocks2.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1061__320x240_moonrocks2.jpg" /></a></center>
    Continuing along, we found this shack, carved into the mountainside. There were a bunch of holes, presumably for ventilation, and we speculated that it was probably used for dynamite storage originally. Nip mentioned that these sorts of places used to be called "hippie holes", because people lived in them back in the 60s. Seems like it'd be pretty cramped, but free rent at least!

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/nipshack.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1063__320x240_nipshack.jpg" /></a></center>
    We noticed how late it had become, and Nip decided it was time to hurry! There was a Halloween party in Keeler that he didn't want to miss! After a brief detour to Nip's place, he and I rode to Keeler in the setting sunlight. Pete decided that the day had gotten the better of him, and that he'd rather just relax instead. Fair enough!

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/keelerwitch.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1059__320x240_keelerwitch.jpg" /></a></center>
    I didn't have a costume, and figured that if anyone asked, I was a motorcycle nomad. Nip at least had a skull mask, and after chatting with some people, I found him cutting a rug with some of the local ladies.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/nipdancing.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1062__320x240_nipdancing.jpg" /></a></center>
    There were a surprising number of people for this event, given that Keeler is so small that it isn't even considered a town. It's apparently classified as a "census-designated place", but the whole town (as well as nearby Darwin) seemed to show up. There was quite a spread, people had brought tons of food potluck-style, which took up multiple tables.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/keelerpartyfood.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1058__320x240_keelerpartyfood.jpg" /></a></center>
    I wandered around aimlessly, talking to a few people. I am not much of a social butterfly at the best of times, especially not when I am a stranger, and have almost nothing in common with most folks. I met a few interesting characters. One bearded, crusty-looking mountain man with a large backpack introduced himself as "Paint Your Wagon", and told us stories of how he'd hiked up from Mexico and had been recently hiking in the Sierras in a snowstorm. He had nearly froze as he misplaced his camp in the low visibility. Another woman, Canyon, lived in nearby Darwin, and described herself as a hiker. "People ask me what I do, you know? And I hike. That's what I do, who I am, but most people don't get it." She'd come back to town after the recent chill had made her hikes a less positive experience. I relayed some of my adventures, to a fairly positive reception, although most people didn't seem too terribly interested.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/keelerparty.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1057__320x240_keelerparty.jpg" /></a></center>
    I ate, I watched people dancing, and eventually I decided that I'd done about as much talking as I felt like, and decided to take my leave. The ride home was brisk, to say the least, without my liner, and I was grateful when I escaped the wind. I had a good night's sleep in anticipation of another day of adventure ahead!
  14. smash81

    smash81 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    724
    Location:
    Denver, CO
  15. prsdrat

    prsdrat Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2008
    Oddometer:
    876
    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    I'll have to put the Ashram on my list. Can you PM me the route?

    Keep it coming!
  16. NomadGal

    NomadGal Esther

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,133
    Location:
    Everywhere and Nowhere
    Hey Fey, almost ready to hit the road again?
    I'll text ya! near Apalachicola national forest now, gonna camp put for a few days, maybe a week.
    Tomorrow promises rain, just loaded up my Nook with library books! Bring it on rain!
    A day of being lazy! :clap
  17. Ratman

    Ratman Lucky Rider

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,243
    Location:
    Baja is good
    Nip had mentioned the Ashram house. I thought it'd be a great way to spend the day. Both Fey and Nip took to the hiking better than I did. The day was a beauty and the Ashram house was quite a rugged well built place. Here's where it is... http://goo.gl/maps/TnwJU

    Here's a marker for an important turn. We were heading about a 1/3 the way to the top of that canyon.
    <table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/gxjOuzYWqA15YNgW9toFatMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-n2irLn5RU6o/UIyWduyXLDI/AAAAAAAAVqg/YGeJfZGT1TY/s800/SAM_0654.JPG" height="600" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/105133432232392762779/DVOct201202?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">DV Oct 2012</a></td></tr></table>

    There's Nip with Fey in the background showing the ADV salute celebrating having attained the parking lot and getting off the bike.
    <table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/9xY4G-XbIw43gCYxCOFN6dMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/--IyT3R1cAsI/UIyVk6bI_dI/AAAAAAAAVuo/RGavx59bRAM/s800/CIMG1988.JPG" height="517" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/105133432232392762779/DVOct201202?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">DV Oct 2012</a></td></tr></table>

    We huffed and puffed toward our destination...
    <table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/vYvHHJx4ff07mVwY3J46xNMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Ys2LIMRJlmk/UIyWulioIcI/AAAAAAAAVq8/y9h_Tz1Nnks/s800/SAM_0660.JPG" height="600" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/105133432232392762779/DVOct201202?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">DV Oct 2012</a></td></tr></table>

    That's our skinny little trail...notice all the pine cones. They all had nuts in them, and others had a few nuts laying where they fell. There were so many nuts that the squirrels and birds couldn't eat them all.
    <table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/OcuLByh3J_8g1pbxQwFB_tMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-eje7or2NW_A/UIyW8W0zr1I/AAAAAAAAVrU/zM14aB6op9g/s800/SAM_0664.JPG" height="600" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/105133432232392762779/DVOct201202?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">DV Oct 2012</a></td></tr></table>

    <table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/vYsyknae8HNaVpJD_bPfStMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-S3KB8xp_RjA/UIyX3Wtb-KI/AAAAAAAAVs8/C1_63WO__uE/s800/SAM_0706.JPG" height="473" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/105133432232392762779/DVOct201202?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">DV Oct 2012</a></td></tr></table>
    The last 100 yards after crossing that stream...
    <table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/P510SM4ck4L8eJ5PmsNfadMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-cBOoholCnOs/UIyXOvQthkI/AAAAAAAAVrs/UT89nbR3rvA/s800/SAM_0671.JPG" height="600" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/105133432232392762779/DVOct201202?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">DV Oct 2012</a></td></tr></table>

    Finally the house..
    <table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/Ot2ixP2d74E3HtOihYiBXNMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-IN5K6FJUCq0/UIyXVjJtF5I/AAAAAAAAVr0/5j5HtR5ypfM/s800/SAM_0672.JPG" height="600" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/105133432232392762779/DVOct201202?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">DV Oct 2012</a></td></tr></table>

    <table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/amphGFzj5r373fuYAf-2rdMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-wyhuaSQdLPg/UIyXahIvT7I/AAAAAAAAVr8/-o_350isoOE/s800/SAM_0673.JPG" height="600" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/105133432232392762779/DVOct201202?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">DV Oct 2012</a></td></tr></table>

    Quite large and well built...The structure was solid.
    <table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/j7Lq8PNW-1v2W5zueJbvSdMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-JgCm2qDJnHs/UIyXdbDspHI/AAAAAAAAVsE/Z1kNp6bcZpM/s800/SAM_0683.JPG" height="348" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/105133432232392762779/DVOct201202?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">DV Oct 2012</a></td></tr></table>

    The Naval contemplating area....sitting down felt good.
    <table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/oAEPysssy0vlwvfOuTB7vdMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-VpvWyF8yedQ/UIyXfrM22hI/AAAAAAAAVsM/yJ0aMdvaU6c/s800/SAM_0690.JPG" height="600" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/105133432232392762779/DVOct201202?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">DV Oct 2012</a></td></tr></table>

    Up the Mtn from out back...
    <table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/5rxoSzq4c-naLFlEMcTqbtMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-ICsMYr8D1H8/UIyYXcJq3VI/AAAAAAAAVuM/CT0ExuLf4T8/s800/SAM_0686%2520Stitch.jpg" height="573" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/105133432232392762779/DVOct201202?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">DV Oct 2012</a></td></tr></table>

    Looking back at Lone Pine, a world away..
    <table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/vNpdyRbIdf6o0Vixki_HKtMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-vNkc7Lzqa4k/UIyYUA260GI/AAAAAAAAVuE/7VoGNjN_rm8/s800/SAM_0677%2520Stitch.jpg" height="307" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/105133432232392762779/DVOct201202?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">DV Oct 2012</a></td></tr></table>

    Fey adequately described the return trip to Lone Pine thru the Alabama Hills.

    Fey, how's the wrist feeling....any plans about getting out on the road?
  18. beemerron

    beemerron thoroughly screwed

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,871
    Location:
    Woodland, WA
  19. NomadGal

    NomadGal Esther

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,133
    Location:
    Everywhere and Nowhere
    LOL, I'd get killed! I'm a bit slow on the draw!
    At least I know now what to do, think it will be easier the next time, even though I am fervently hoping that there will be no next time. But then again, 9,000 miles from now I am going to need a new tire again.
  20. Feyala

    Feyala Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2011
    Oddometer:
    358
    Location:
    Wandering...
    We set out around eleven in the morning, aiming ourselves toward Keeler. Pete and Nip wanted me to meet a local artist named Craig. He was quite eccentric, but seemed to have a good sense of humor.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/craig.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1079__320x240_craig.jpg" /></a></center>
    Craig had carpeted his property with various assemblage sculpture. Some of which had a fairly obvious message...

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/sculpture2.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1109__320x240_sculpture2.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/fracking.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1086__320x240_fracking.jpg" /></a></center>
    ... while some were a bit more vague.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/sculpture.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1108__320x240_sculpture.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/arttrike.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1069__320x240_arttrike.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/cardoll.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1074__320x240_cardoll.jpg" /></a></center>
    He was also the proud owner of this bike, which I'd noticed at the Halloween party. The DIY square tubing sidehack with a plank for a seat must be interesting to ride on. And by interesting I mean terrifying.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/diysidehack.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1084__320x240_diysidehack.jpg" /></a></center>
    The tank bore a Banksy stencil of Mona Lisa wielding a bazooka.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/monalisabike.jpg" ><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1092__320x240_monalisabike.jpg" /></a></center>
    It was also decked out with other little touches, like this fringe and skull beads. Kinda ratty overall, but I like bikes with style, even if it isn't a style that I would go for personally.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/bikebeads.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1070__320x240_bikebeads.jpg" /></a></center>
    I thought this old car was pretty classy too, it's a shame it isn't properly restored yet, but maybe that's a future project? Gotta have something to do if you live in Keeler!

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/oldcar.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1095__320x240_oldcar.jpg" /></a></center>
    Eventually Pete and Nip grew tired of Craig talking their ears off and gently goaded me along to leave. We headed southeast towards our next landmark, Darwin! The landscape seemed to go on forever.

    <center><a href="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/deathvalley/road2darwin.jpg"><img src="http://www.feyala.net/wp-content/gallery/cache/1105__320x240_road2darwin.jpg" /></a></center>
    I didn't know much about Darwin, except that it's even more of a ghost town than Keeler, and is in the middle of nowhere. Several people had mentioned a "music camp" in passing. Once a year, folks gather in Darwin for a jam session, to see who they fit with musically.

    There was a documentary made about this town. I'd like to see it, the trailer expresses some of the beauty of the area far better than I could hope to.

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    We passed lots of buildings which looked abandoned or nearly so, rusted-out shells of broken vehicles, and the occasional sign of life.

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    This is probably the most photographed post office in the county. It's amazing to me that people manage to live in places like this, where there aren't any jobs, no stores, schools, churches, nothing to occupy your time but what you cultivate for yourself. It has a certain kind of monastic appeal: go to the end of the road, renounce your attachments, and live in relative isolation, unburdened by the demands of the world at large. Of course, the folks who chose to settle here did so for any number of reasons, and with working vehicles, fast food and entertainment are less than an hour away, but it must be interesting to live in a place where you have to work to seek them out.

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    On our way out of town, we spoke to some ladies (including Canyon!) who were tending a garden on the side of the road. They had heard that the road to Panamint was washed out from the recent storms and was impassable. Well, we'd see. We told them that we were going to go for it anyways and they seemed surprised.

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    The road was gentle at first, a bit sandy but not bad, and we were able to keep up a decent pace. As the road grew more sandy, we stopped to air down our tires.

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    Not long after, we came across some old abandoned buildings. These were remnants of the mining industry which, like most of the other small towns in this area, created Darwin originally.

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    Inside one of the buildings, there were still the remains of an old machine, which I believe was used to help pump water. The wires had been scavenged from the control boxes, but it was nice to see something intact.

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    The geology in the cliffs was fascinating. All sorts of multicolored rock formations, constantly changing as we went along.

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    The cliffs absolutely dwarfed us.

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    The road degraded into a sandy, rocky wash. It was difficult at times to see where the actual road was. Pete frequently took the high road and blazed his own trail across crunchy, undisturbed terrain. I tried this from time to time when the 'road' got really bad, but I didn't enjoy the occasional surprise when I would be faced with an impassable rut or a row of large rocks blocking my path. For the most part, I stayed in the wash and fought with the sand.

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    Eventually we reached China Garden, and I had to take a 'victory shot' of the bike and the canyon we'd just come down. I was more than ready for a break!

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