6 Days of Living Death...Valley :)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by liv2day, Apr 19, 2019.

  1. liv2day

    liv2day Life is all about how you handle plan B Supporter

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    My first ever adventure ride was on a Katoom 690 in Death Valley back in early 2016. Had to borrow luggage, my incredible wife gifted the 690 to me, and I joined a band of misfits who'd been hitting DV for some 13-odd years. I was talked into it by a good buddy who's had to take a hiatus from this kind of riding (though ironically, the Katoom 500 you'll see in this report is the same exact bike we spent ~2 hours diagnosing a fuel-pump issue at Barker Ranch in '16).

    Instead of a group of 10-12 yahoos during my introductory ride in '16, this ride would only consist of 2 nutballs, yours truly on the little WR250 and my good buddy JP on said Katoom 500 (which would once again prove to have a niggling issue - no reflection of my buddy JP though :-)).

    Our plan of attack was 6 days of riding with a base camp at Panamint Springs, several nights at PSR and several nights out in the park. Though my wife questioned my mental capacity at wanting to drive the entire haul there and back in one day on each end of the trip (JP too), I didn't want to blow an extra vacation day on both ends. So, at stoopid early on Friday, April 5th, we jumped in my truck and started our slog southeast.

    Our adventure included a bit of everything, with a few things I'd be mighty pleased if Murphy decided to skip on our next journey. To build a bit of interest, a brief synopsis of that "bit of everything":
    • Great weather most of the time
    • Awesome people
    • Fantastic riding
    • Amazing scenery
    • Rear flat
    • Puking coolant
    • 65mph winds & a sandstorm
    • Empty fuel tank 42 miles from gas
    • A10 Warthogs ripping through a canyon
    • Killer hot springs
    • Super cool cabins
    • Sand & rocks galore
    • Great beer
    • Good campfires
    • Perfect riding buddy
    I have a whole ton of video footage to sift through and plan to create video(s) for each of the day's rides (those will come after posting all 6 days with pictures). I tend to take a bunch of pictures, so this is going to be a photo-intense report (and I'll only post 1/5th of what I took...lol).

    I did grab clips from each of the days and threw a trailer together, that's posted below. Please note a disclaimer as I don't want people to get all up in arms when they see some of the footage. There's drone footage, it was only out when we were completely alone and it never hit questionable altitudes. Based on feedback from @Plawa, I upgraded to the GoPro 7 and wow - the footage is incredibly smooth compared to previous iterations. Well worth it given what we rode in.



    A few teaser images to whet the appetite.[​IMG]

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    #1
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  2. avejoe

    avejoe Long timer

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    Awesome picture of the A-10. It had some ordinance (or at least dummy ordinance) loaded.
    #2
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  3. larryboy

    larryboy Stable genius.

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    Cool video!!

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    #3
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  4. Moto Vaquero

    Moto Vaquero Trail less traveled

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    Warthogs in Death Valley!

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  5. Yellowjacket

    Yellowjacket Been here awhile

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    Good stuff!
    #5
  6. black 8

    black 8 coddiwompling motographer

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    I love DV... very nice...
    #6
  7. seaduck100

    seaduck100 You just got smoked by an old guy on a cb500x

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    Those are some incredible photos. Looks like you guys had plenty of space out there.
    Do you run and many state troopers or can you open it up and go as fast as you want?
    #7
  8. JP Rider

    JP Rider Let's Just Ride!

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    Great preview BA, that was an amazing week!

    Looking forward to the rest of your report! ... I'll admit, despite the few setbacks we had. that was an awesome ride!

    And PS: Yes I'm working on those "niggling issues" with my 500 for next time, HAHA!

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    #8
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  9. liv2day

    liv2day Life is all about how you handle plan B Supporter

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    Given the lack of power on my 250, I tend to stick to the posted limits on all the asphalt...lol. Off-road, I suppose you could open 'er up and go as fast as you want. Have to keep in mind there's traffic on the roads, not to mention the obstacles that come quickly when you're hoofin' it. Between washboard and baby heads, we kept the pace relatively sedate.

    Definitely lots of space in DV, and a whole ton of cool stuff to explore. If you haven't been before, I'd suggest adding it to your list - great place to see :D
    #9
  10. liv2day

    liv2day Life is all about how you handle plan B Supporter

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    So, onto Day 1. Before diving into the day's route, here's a shot of our tracks for the 6 days we rode. A couple of slight modification to what was originally laid out, one due to road closure, one due to being a bit tired the first day, and one fun out-and-back.

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    Aside from being slightly wrecked from driving ~15 hours the day before and not really getting good sleep with our base site so close to Hwy 190, we were both amped to get on the bikes and ride. The general route for the day would take us down to Ballarat for a quick stop, then through Goler Wash, by the Barker Ranch, by Stripped Butte, and then up Westside road to Furnace Creek. Our originally planned to make the ride slightly longer and head up Furnace wash, but we decided it was better to get to camp early and relax than add more miles. Here's the actual track for day 1.

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    Took our time getting packed up and out of base camp in the morning, enjoyed, eggs, bacon, and some good french press coffee since we wouldn't have this luxury at camp in Furnace Creek. Rolled out of Panamint for more miles of asphalt than I remember, but were soon on a very nicely groomed gravel road that took us down the range to Ballarat.

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    Mascot was along for the journey - as always.

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    The backdrops Death Valley affords photohacks like me are truly stunning.

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    Not that we needed a break (lol), but we stopped in Ballarat to take a look around. And since it was after 12 somewhere and they had Tecate, figured we'd channel the Baja spirit, thus enjoying a cerveza.

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    Turned off to start the fun of Goler wash, the entrance into the canyon is killer - like you're literally riding into the mountains. And the recent rains brought out some colorful bits to the desert landscape.

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    The steps looked more intimidating than they actually were, stayed out of where the water was flowing over the rocks and we made quick work of 'em.

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    One of the things I enjoyed much more during this trip was stopping to check things out. I hadn't noticed this cabin/camp when we rolled through back in '16, mostly because I was trying to keep up with the rest of the crew. We stopped at this cool abandoned camp and took a look around.

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    We next made our way to the Barker Ranch, wish I could have seen it before the fire.

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    Back on the main track and we kept heading east, cresting Mengel Pass and making our way to the geologists cabin. Again, so glad we stopped to check out the cabin as I didn't do that last time. Could see staying there for a couple nights as base and heading out to explore the various tracks around.

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    Was a good break at the geologists cabin, jumped back on the bikes and kept making our way toward Furnace Creek, with a stop by yellow camp.

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    Dropped down to Westside road and the temps shot up, awesome views.

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    JP was smart and grabbed a shot of his GPS showing the elevation at one point along Westside road. How nuts to be ripping along something that's 229 feet BELOW sea level...lol.

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    Really neat memorial, the folks from back in the day had it damn hard.

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    We made it to Furnace Creek without issue and had a beer outside. The place looks way different than it did back in '16, the restaurant is completely changed and looks much nicer now - albeit stoopid expensive. And I'd forgotten about how ridiculous fuel prices are in the park. CA prices are bad enough, hard to pay $5.30 a gallon when it has ethanol...lol.

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    The visitor center campground was chocked full of people, so we had to go across the street to sunset - love camping in a giant parking lot without any shade...lol. We setup right behind the bathrooms, figuring some shade was worth the occasional odors.

    All in all, a great first day of riding. We only logged 123 miles, but stopped at a bunch of cool spots and got to enjoy setting up camp in daylight.

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    We also ran into folks we'd initially met at Panamint, great family from Germany out exploring the west for 4 weeks in a RV. Husband & wife are riders who've toured Europe on Beemers, the husband was quite keen on our setup and said he'd love to explore on smaller displacement dirt bikes. They were kind enough to offer us a cold beer, which was great given the temps were in the 90s when we arrived.

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    Some chicken teriyaki out of a bag for dinner, and then it was lights out.

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    #10
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  11. V1ROT8

    V1ROT8 Adventurer

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    Sweet photos! Great catch of the A10.
    #11
  12. JP Rider

    JP Rider Let's Just Ride!

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    Yes, that was a great first day of riding! Being my first time down there, I was amazed by the incredible scenery of the area, and the diversity of the trails! Those Goler Wash steps were a challenge, but I'm glad we made it through (although, that would've been nothing on our trail bikes, haha!).

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    And of course I brought my own mascot, good ol' Homer S. to guide me through the week ... I figured depending on my riding at any given time, it would either be "Whoo-Hoo" or "D'oh!" :) Fortunately, it was mostly the former, with a couple times of the latter (one of which was in the preview video)! :lol3
    #12
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  13. trailwerks

    trailwerks Missing Two Wheels Supporter

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    Absolutely "in" for this one. Loved DV when my wife and I were there in late 2017 (on a pair of WRR's) but I had tire issues to the point of it impacting how much we were able to ride. DV is on the docket for a return visit this coming winter.

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  14. liv2day

    liv2day Life is all about how you handle plan B Supporter

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    Thanks @trailwerks! Great shot from the hot springs, and really cool you were there with your wife (I'd love to get down there with mine, though I'm not sure she'd enjoy the ride from PSR...lol).

    WRT to tires, I know there's a ton of opinions and plenty of good options, but I had great success with the Pirelli MT21s (rallycross). 2600+ miles in Baja w/o issue. I replaced the rear with a new one for this trip, and added another ~750 miles to the front (and it still has plenty of life). UHD tubes and high pressures (26ish up front and 25ish in the rear), the only problem I had was a frickin' nail picked up while riding into base camp at PSR. JP's torquey 500 gobbled up his MT21 rear, but mine will go another thousand miles no problem.

    Have fun hitting DV in the winter, I've heard it's not quite as windy then? It's a damn cool place to go.
    #14
  15. liv2day

    liv2day Life is all about how you handle plan B Supporter

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    Though it's hard to pick one day as being better than the others, I knew Day 2 was going to be a highlight of the trip. I'd been worried about running Titus canyon as it was closed by the park service and knew it was something I wanted to fit into our ride. As such, I was seriously stoked when I checked the national park service site before losing cel reception and saw that it was opened the Friday we arrived - perfect.

    Our route for the day would get us out of negative elevation (:lol3) and take tracks to a neat ravine, then onto Chloride Cliff, over to Rhyolyte for a quick stop, and then through Titus. After exiting Titus, we had planned on taking Emigrant canyon, but that was still closed, so we decided to check out Marble canyon for a quick out-and-back before slabbing it back to PSR. Marble canyon was pretty cool, and I know JP enjoyed the soft sand on the way to it...not...LOL.

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    Though I'm not particularly fond of early mornings, I'm always up before the sun on these trips. On the bright side (see what I did there), I do get to enjoy the relative quiet that goes along with it. Break out the camp chair for some instant coffee and oatmeal - fine cuisine in the parking lot that is Sunset campground.

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    Packed our $hit and said adios to our bathroom shaded camp spot, we had cool stuff to see!

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    Not sure what the name of this overlook/canyon is, but it's cool. Stopped here in '16 and had to show it to JP.

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    We had a great time ripping the track from here to Chloride Cliff. JP had one minor tip-over after getting stuck in a hole (damn tall Katooms), but the rest of it was a great combination of fast, flowing stuff with some technical rocky bits thrown in for good measure. The approach to Chloride Cliff was completely different than I remembered in '16. So much so, that we sat there and contemplated not making the run up it. After hemming and hawing some, I said eff it - it's not like we'll be back here anytime soon. Revved the crap out of the little 250 and it was much easier than it looked from the bottom...lol. I cajoled JP and after he let the 5-hunny cool, he bombed up it without a problem too. Good thing as the views are truly spectacular.

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    Click the full-size image for this one - cool pano from the Mavic.

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    We made our way for our tourist shot in front of the sign and ran into another really cool family that had driven all the way from Virginia. Parents likely our age who'd taken the year off to travel with their kids and explore the US - seriously frickin' cool. They took our shot after we took theirs and then did the quick ride-by of Ryholyte before hitting Titus. I wish the photos captured the incredible colors of Titus canyon. I would have really liked to get the Mavic out and chase us as well as get some aerial shots, but didn't want to offend anyone or deal with angry peeps. So, the point-and-shoot would suffice.

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    We stopped in Stovepipe Wells for a quick cerveza and break, then ran out to Marble canyon and back. Glad we chose to do so, neat wash and canyon to rip through.

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    Back to base camp for ice cold Pacifico, some grub, and a small fire while the sun hit the range to our east. And after the Pacifico, some whisky...perfect way to end the day's ride.

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    #15
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  16. trailwerks

    trailwerks Missing Two Wheels Supporter

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    Oh yes, I was just cursed that trip. I had more flat tires (3) in two days than I have had in the past five YEARS. And that included a 3,000 mile loop in Baja, and literally thousands of miles in the western US running country that is very nearly identical to terrain in DV. And BTW, it happened to be an MT21 with HD tubes and Quadboss in the tubes. No mere thorn puncture or even a pinch flat. No, all three of these flats were full-on tears in the tube. I finally decided that it was a thorn or blade or something sharp embedded in the carcass of the front tire that, try as I repeatedly did, I could not (and never did) find. And believe me, after the 2nd flat I spent a long time inspecting and fondling the inside of that tire.

    It finally necessitated a trip out to Pahrump for some new tubes AND a new tire and...."Shazzam!" No more flat tires for the rest of the trip including the long run out and back to the hot springs. In fact, we have not had a single flat as of this date on any of our five motos including many more thousands of miles in the desert SW and another big loop on both bikes in Baja this spring.

    But I did leave unfinished business in DV, specifically Goler Wash/Mengel Pass et al. Maybe this coming winter as part of the southern CABDR....

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    Looking forward to hearing your impressions on some of the other routes we didn't do like Steel Pass and Lippincott Mine Road.
    #16
  17. liv2day

    liv2day Life is all about how you handle plan B Supporter

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    Day 3 was going to be a short day; with a simple, 68 mile ride from PSR to the upper springs in Saline Valley.

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    We took our time getting packed up and ready to go and as Murphy never misses a chance to screw with plans, I noticed something a bit off as I went to throw some lube on my chain.

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    Hmm...pretty sure there was air in that tire when I went to sleep last night :dirtdog :dirtdog

    Time to unload the camp gear and get the tire spoons out. We found the culprit immediately - anyone figure the odds of running over the stoopid nail in the image below where it goes directly through a big, central knob virtually straight. At least it happened at the end of the ride from the previous day and we had the luxury of a picnic table for a work surface. Swapped out tubes in relatively short order.

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    BTW - the enduro star stand is a great piece of kit to carry.

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    We made our way to Father Crowly and had the awesome experience of watching Warthogs rip through the canyon. JP captured some video with his GoPro that I'll add at some point.

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    After that show, we slabbed to the Saline Valley turn off and decided to stop by the Boxcar cabin. So glad we took the time to check this cabin out as the A10s were still doing maneuvers and ended up flying over us again.

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    The ride up and over the pass was uneventful, had a coyote amble across the track in front of me. The views back toward Panamint valley were great though.

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    The road wasn't in too bad of shape, but you definitely needed to watch for baby heads as there were plenty. And once we descended into the valley - holy hell was it hot. JP was feeling his inner desert racer and took off on his Katoom, I plodded along on the little WR thinking of all the pinch flats I was avoiding...lol. It did afford me the opportunity to snap some shots on the way to the turn off.

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    That spec you see in the distance is JP.

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    We made it to the bat sign without incident, took a few pics, and continued to the upper springs to setup camp.

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    Did I mention it was hot? We peeled out of gear and had our tents setup in relatively quick fashion. Even going pretty quickly, we both regretted not having a t-shirt or something on our shoulders - burned in 20ish minutes under that intense sun. Wanna know how fun wearing full gear with packs is when your shoulders are the color of boiled lobsters? It's not. Not even a little. Lesson learned for next time.

    The sun and heat had us hanging in the shade of the great palm trees by the pool, until the sun finally went behind the trees and cast this pool into shade. Even with the water being damn hot, it was so frickin' awesome to soak in the spring.

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    This view would change for the worse this same time tomorrow afternoon :(

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    A good soak, some grub out of a bag, and a perfect evening for hanging out.

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    #17
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  18. -E-

    -E- Klaatu barada nikto Supporter

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    Fucking Epic. Great pics.

    Where is the bar where you guys are holding the shot glasses?
    #18
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  19. JP Rider

    JP Rider Let's Just Ride!

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    That Air Show was AWESOME!!!! The sound of those A-10 Thunderbolt/Warthog Jet engines bouncing off the canyon walls was something I'll never forget! :clap

    "Feeling my inner desert racer"?? Yeah I was in the groove that day and trying to do my best Johnny Campbell Baja Racing impression ... although at about 1/2 his speed, haha!

    But yeah, that Monday was hot as heck (100+?) and I couldn't wait to get out of all that riding gear at the Springs! It was so nice after cooling off in the shade for a while to get into the tub and soak off the last 350 miles of riding! :) Although, the subsequent sunburn after that day was not very enjoyable for the rest of the week!!!

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    And here's some cool history of the Saline Valley Hot Springs:

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    #19
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  20. Unclescar

    Unclescar Adventurer

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    I thought "dummy ordinance" was all blue tipped?
    #20