Las Vegas - Death Valley Loop

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by jbean114, Apr 13, 2019.

  1. jbean114

    jbean114 4 wheels moves the body, 2 wheels moves the soul

    Apr 15, 2014
    Day 1- Leaving Las Vegas

    Our tour started with a scenic stroll through Red Rock canyon which spit us out on 160. We headed West for a few miles and cut south through Cottonwood canyon to intersect the NVBDR at the Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings. Cottonwood canyon was a chunky Jeep two track that wasn’t overly technical, but had some soft-ish stuff that made me glad I was on a 525, and not my normal GS. Over a couple of cold ones at the saloon, we learned of the historical significance of the place. One interesting pieces of history involves the fatal shooting during a game of cards in 1915. The saloon keeps a framed picture of the coroners letter to the victims brother immediately above the three bullet holes in the wall of the joint.

    After settling up with the bar keep, we saddled our steeds and headed north following the NVBDR towards Pahrump. The roads were wide open graded dirt roads that finally gave way to a little nicer two track that had some fun spots. We came across a shooting range and a little dirt playground full of small hill
    climbs for us to play around on right before we hit tarmac again.

    We grabbed a quick bite in Pahrump and again headed north. This section was more of the same long, wide, straight dirt roads that are great for a bigger GS, but left us questioning if a 525 and a 701 were the right choice for this trip... then we hit Big Dune, and knew we made the right choice. We spent the next hour running in, over, around, and through all the pristine soft stuff on the bikes. For a Saturday, I thought we would have more company, but we only saw maybe a half dozen Razors and a few bikes. It felt like we had the place to ourselves! It would be a pretty cool place to camp too. These dunes seem to bubble out of nowhere in the middle of these rocky canyons... really cool.

    On our way out we collected some trail karma by helping a young couple get their Kia sedan out of the deep sand. Now that we had our fun, we left Amargosa Valley and got back on track and had our sights set on Beaty. The last part north of 95 had some washed out sections, but nothing impassible. Again, I was happy with my choice of a lighter bike as it made the travel time substantially less and reduced effort. We crosse through Secret Pass and climbed up to the top of the radio towers, but didn’t loiter long. We pulled into Beaty with plenty of light to spare, gassed up, checked in, and hit the local VFW on the recommendation from the motel staff. Seriously, if you’re in Beaty, and looking for good food, friendly folks, and a good time... go check it out.

    Tomorrow we cross into Death Valley.
  2. jbean114

    jbean114 4 wheels moves the body, 2 wheels moves the soul

    Apr 15, 2014
    Day 2 - Head west young man

    After the morning coffee and omelettes at Gemma’s Wagon Wheel Cafe, we set out west along the CABDR. The first stop was a short stroll through Rhyolite; a long forgotten town that boomed during the gold rush and was deserted just as fast. Now it plays host to eclectic works including ghost sculptures and The Lady of the Desert.

    We found a small two track to keep us off the highway that intersected the entrance to Titus Canyon. We were pretty lucky as the road closures had just been lifted a couple weeks before. It made for easy riding due to the fact that a grader had certainly passed through recently. However, the canyon vistas did not disappoint.

    We made a quick stop in Leadville and chatted with a few locals on the trail and exchanged war stories. The bottom section of Titus with its narrow canyon and sheer rich walls reminded us how powerful of a force water truly is. We were spit out into Death Valley and heading north to Ubehebe. The volcanic crater was massive and has a rim trail, but we didn’t think hiking in motorcycle boots was the smartest idea. Okay, maybe it was closer to laziness, but whatever... off to the Racetrack. On the way, we stopped at Teakettle Junction for the obligatory picture.

    We met a really nice guy from Wisconsin on a solo trip on a Ural. A sidecar always draws a conversation. At this point we also dumped the extra gallon of gas we brought with us for the day knowing full well our bikes would never make the 150+ mile range... maybe on fumes, but we certainly didn’t want to risk it. Riding up to the Racetrack was an interesting sight to behold. The color of the arid lake bed contrasted starkly against the rocky terrain that surrounding it. We climbed off the bikes to search for the famous moving rocks that leave mysterious trails through the muddy lake bed. We didn’t see much action or traces of movement, but the landscape was so wild that we didn’t care.

    Lippencot was the next challenge at hand and neither of us knew what to expect. At this point I was having trouble with my carb and would stall out at low speeds even with the clutch fully engaged (or just keeping in neutral for that matter). Let’s say there were a couple pucker moments stalling out as I tried to pick my downhill lines through some pretty gnarly sections. No drops to report as we joined up with saline valley road. The desert was definitely in bloom this year with the super bloom in full effect. Wildflowers everywhere and quite green by desert standards. It was my first time traveling through, so I can’t say for sure, but it sure seemed like this was greener than normal.

    With Lippencot in the rear view, we were looking forward to the climb to Cerro Gordo mine. The road was in good shape and we both had no troubles on the accent. We must have arrived during siesta, because the caretaker was nowhere to be found. So, we poked around in the antique store and checked out the visitor cabin to entertain ourselves while we quenched our thirst and hunger.

    The decent from Cerro Gordo to Keeler had incredible views of Owens Lake, the valley floor, and snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains. It also passes through some wild rock formations with razor edges. Once on 136, we slabbed it to Lone Pine to unwind over a couple cold ones and Bar-B-Que. Cheers!
  3. jbean114

    jbean114 4 wheels moves the body, 2 wheels moves the soul

    Apr 15, 2014
    Day 3 - Snowed out

    I guess I should have mentioned on Day 2 that we were having troubles with our bikes. My 2006 525’s carb was having trouble at low speed revs and would stall if coming to a stop with a fully engaged clutch, of even idling in neutral. It makes the descents and technical parts more of a game to keep the rpms high and major clutch control. I tried several things including adjusting the idle setting and the mixture, but neither had much affect. After further consultation and diagnosis with my father in law, we think it may be a clogged pilot jet. I’m no mechanic and this is a bit beyond my skill set, so I’ve decided to limp along for another day. The 701 has other issues. It seems to have forgotten that it has gears above 3rd. My buddy tried to troubleshoot in the parking lot with his mechanic over the phone and no luck. The mechanic even contacted Husky and they don’t understand either.

    So now we have a bike that stalls at low rpms and one that can’t go over 40mph comfortably! Ah well, onward! We set off from Lone Pine through the Alabama Hills. Beautiful country and a place I would certainly love to camp in.

    Being at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas is breathtaking. After you leave the Alabama Hill country, the CABDR leads you across 395 towards Reward mine. We climbed the short, rocky two track and entered the mine. The mine shaft is drivable into the mountain for about a quarter mile, and there you can truly experience complete darkness. We shut off the lights and it was eerie.

    After a few minutes we made our way to the light and back on the trail. We began to climb and eventually hit snow pack at 8500 feet. We broke trail to try and skirt around, but I stalled out again and this time it was fatal. The 525 couldn’t breath up there! At least not with a carb which was already on the fritz. So we had no choice but to head back to thicker air. Only problem was that we had a dead bike and no tow strap... Doh! We used what we had to fashion a makeshift tow strap to at least get us out of the muck and on a downhill line. The it went from bad to worse. We had an accidental tip over that resulted in a helmet caught between the bike and the ground. Crunch. Just as we got righted and set to see if our MacGyver rigging would hold, we hear a vehicle. Down the road lumbers a big flatbed tow truck with two big KTMs loaded on the back and a small pickup in tow. Guess we weren’t the only ones having trouble today.

    John, the driver, helps up with a tow strap and we let the 701 drag us out of the altitude and down the hill back to Lone Pine.

    We regroup and decide this is just not our day and book it (at 40mph) to Panamint Springs. Shit happen, stuff breaks, and plans change, but spirits remain high and we are optimistic for tomorrow... off to Goeler Wash and Barker Ranch!
  4. jbean114

    jbean114 4 wheels moves the body, 2 wheels moves the soul

    Apr 15, 2014
    Day 4 - Up, over, and out

    Panamint Springs campground is strategically placed on the western edge of Death Valley and gives spectacular views of the valley. I’m sure there are nicer campgrounds in the park, but this one has a gas station and a restaurant. We also chose it because of the location. It was the perfect starting point for our last day. Fully caffeinated, we set out for the gone, but not forgotten town of Ballarat. It was an easy ride down a two lane highway that eventually gave way to a dirt road. As we rolled up to check out the town and chat with the caretaker, we caught sight of the old Dodge Power wagon that was owned by the infamous Charles Manson.

    The caretaker was very friendly and chatty and offered us some moonshine, but we had to decline... I had just brushed my teeth. We left Ballarat behind and focused on making it to Roger’s Pass. The carb on the 525 was still angry and I knew another high altitude assent could spell trouble, but I couldn’t stop myself... it was our last day of riding! After a long climb with a couple technical spots, we summited Roger’s. However, I knows that if I let off the throttle, the 525 would stall, and there would be no hope of turning her over agin at 7,000+ feet. So, I made Shane hold the throttle while I snapped a pic.

    Instead of heading back the way we came, we followed the dirt road south along the ridge line. This was where it got really gnarly. Several steep climbs with loose rock and off camber tested our will, and the steep declines tested our nerves (and breaks). The 525 eventually gave up and stalled out, but luckily, it was at the last hill climb, so all downhill from here.

    We finally joined back up the main road and headed to Goeller Wash (Coyote Canyon Road). Not more than a mile into the canyon is a very technical spot that is a bit of a rock climb. To make it a bit more challenging we had a steady trickle of water flowing over the rocks. I picked a line and charged. Past the first big step, but didn’t make it completely, so I walked the bike the remaining 20 feet and went to assist for Shane’s attempt. Neither of it cleaned it perfectly, but Shane faired better than me. A Tacoma and a 4Runner were headed down and the driver mentioned that this is the worst they’ve seen it. I guess normally the mine pays to have that section smoother over with dirt, but the recent rains washed everything clean.

    Egos in tact, we pushed onward. We eventually came across Barker Ranch where the owner of that Power Wagon in Ballarat was finally captured in 1969.

    There are several abandoned cabins in and around Goeller (Barker being the most famous). However, the one that surprised us the most was Geologist Cabin. It sits alone perched on the hillside facing east. It is a small one room cabin, but if I was ever stuck out here, this is the one I’d choose to stay in for the night. Travelers have donated almost any item you can think of to this cabin. It was stocked with food, water, firewood, board games, chairs, a radio, tools, jumper cables, and on and on. We made our donation to the cause with some jerky, toothpaste, Jameson, and Motorcycle Oil.

    The Eastern section of Goeller tested how secure our fillings were. It seemed like a never ending exercise in avoiding sharp rocks and giving into fatigue. After an eternity, we hit solid ground and made our way the Shoshone for our last fuel up before Vegas. And it wasn’t just the bikes that needed fuel; we also needed sustenance and headed to the Crowbar Cafe. I’m no connoisseur, but the French fries were awesome!

    By this time, it was late in the day, so we slabbed it back to Las Vegas to reunite with friends and family. It was a great 4 day adventure and we saw some really cool stuff along the way. I’m a little bummed we didn’t make it to Bishop as originally planned, but regardless, it was a blast! Thanks for reading. If you want any of the tracks from this trip, feel free to PM me.
  5. RonSJC

    RonSJC Been here awhile

    Nov 1, 2012
    Great RR. Let me know if you figured out what happened to the 701. I've got a '17 and that's the first I've heard of that issue.

  6. El Pacifico

    El Pacifico Been here awhile

    Jan 17, 2012
    Hood River, Oregon
    Thanks for sharing.
    PM inbound.
  7. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Nov 27, 2009
    Edmonton, Alberta
    I sure miss the desert. Thanks for taking me back.
  8. Todd157k

    Todd157k Long timer Supporter

    Aug 14, 2012
    Ventura, CA
    Sounds like a great ride. I too have a 701 and my brother a 525. First off, I've never read anything about trans problems with the 701/690. You have a unique situation there and I'm also curious what went wrong. Secondly, the 525 carb problem would have been pretty simple to fix. I hate "limping" home from a ride. I'm sure you got that sorted already.
    Those steps up Goler Wash change yearly. It's always a crap-shoot. You didn't get either end of the spectrum. I'd say you got it "in-between" good years/bad years. I love the DV area for riding. Something for everyone, and no side-by-sides. Jeep guys are usually cool.. SxS guys I've come across aren't. (going way too fast, take up the whole road, etc).
    Davethestick likes this.
  9. dezertpilot

    dezertpilot Been here awhile

    Oct 13, 2008
    Conroe, Texas
    Awesome RR! Thanks for sharing.