Death Valley '19

[Day 1: Friday - April 26, 2019 ]

Time: ~7 hours

A blink of an eye, a flick of the wrist, a drop of a hat ... so on and so forth.  With those anecdotes, 5 years have passed since the last visit to Death Valley.  A sign that we're all aging a lot faster than we would like to think or want.  To me, it felt like it was just yesterday that we rested at Beatty, NV to get a small respite from the oppressing 126F degrees Death Valley heat.  Amazing, five years.

This is the first long trip on the GSW after the transmission correction.  With 3 months riding the Scooter (F800R), I have forgotten how the GSW is suppose to feel.  The last curry run had the GSW being really vibey at 70-75MPH on the freeway.  I don't recall feeling this much vibration but then again I'm not sure this is how things are suppose to be.  Perhaps the GSW needs a tuneup?

Having been to Death Valley so many times, I have a good sense of what routes we want to take.  210 to 15 to 395 to Trona road onto Panamint Springs and Death Valley.  Let's just hope that Trona road is finished with the repaving.  5 years ago the tarmac was all pulled up.  It was all dirt with a lot of tire tracks.  I think 5 years is long enough for a road to be fixed.  Scanning Google maps shows it's fixed, but one can never be too sure.  Google doesn't have all of the answers after all.

So we set out at 8:00am on a Friday.

Proverbial bike loadout picture.

It's a beautiful day.  The sky is blue and the temperature is a mild 70F+ degrees in the morning.  Traffic is present but not oppressive.  Things are going well until we near Kramer junction (58 & 395).  Construction.  Agonizing constructions.  We were routed from the right side of the HWY to the left side of the HWY while heading north.  It's like driving in New Zealand.  I guess I shouldn't complain because we're moving and the people heading south are a dead stop.  I can only guess as to how long they've been stopped.  I see drivers reading books as I pass them ever slowly.

Once we're pass the junction, things started moving again.  It's not bad but there's traffic on the 395.  Once we make that right turn onto Trona road, we're no longer in southern California.  We're alone.

As far as the eye can see, there are no cars in front nor behind.  At long last, this is the way it's meant to be.  The weather is beautiful and the road is smooth.  For miles upon miles, I was riding in New Zealand.  Ninth heaven.

The small town of Trona.  A U-turn to get back on the right track.  Amazingly, when we got to Panamint Springs, the fuel light finally came on.  I has 47 miles left and had already covered 200 miles.  All this with side bags and a trunk.  Fueling up was 4.2 gallons.  Later Minh said he was wondering if I was going to stop.  We just kept going and going.  Once again, a 12 that behaves like an 8.

We get into the park.  Even did a little bit of off road on the 190 HWY due to road construction.  I was proud of Minh.  Going off road on an FJR.  Of course the GS didn't care.

We checked into the motel and ended the ride for the day.  We didn't feel tired at first, but eventually the fatigue caught up to us.  We were snoring loudly that night.

[ Day 2: Saturday - 27, 2019 ]

Miles: 237

The next day, we got breakfast at the Denny's in the Stage Coach Casino Hotel and then set off.  I lighten my load drastically.  Both bags stayed at the motel.  I only took the tools and what was needed for the roundabout trip within the park.  We head west towards DV.  Minh signaled he needed to pull over.  He forgot to strap on hist helmet.  No problem, this also give us an opportunity to stop and take some pictures.

Taking turns...

... being tourists

The desert is so green.  A we head back into the park, we're confronted with an ocean of butterflies.  I'm surprise my suit isn't as yellow as it should be.  Then again, the GS turned yellow and brown.

Badwater is down there somewhere among the white stuff.

East entrance and kiosk.

This year's DV weather has been extremely mild.  Even yesterday it was only 104F at Stovepipe Wells.  Given the mild weather, I decided that we go to Badwater (-280 feet below sea level) and hike out the the salt flats.  It's only 10:30am.  It's won't be that hot at Badwater.  By the time we get to Badwater, it's almost 11:00am.  It was 97F.  Not too bad.  Minh wasn't joyed about the hike so he stayed behind.  As for me, I didn't bother taking the suit off because I need the hydration bag on the suit. Plus, the suit does an excellent job of holding moisture and cooling me off.

Minh's trying to keep cool.

It's funny on the way out, people were in shorts and T-shirts or were simply shirtless.  To them I'm the only nut case crazy enough to walk out with the full suit on.  Well, I probably should have taken the sleeves off but I didn't think to do so at the time.  On the way out, there was a fairly stead breeze so I was very comfortable.  The suit did it's job by capturing the 97F+ breeze and cooled me off inside.  Here's what it looks like:

Look at the snow covered caps of Telescope Peak (the highest location in DV, 10K+ feet).

If you zoom in enough, you'll see all the people.

It was easy going out, it was hard coming back.  As it turns out, the pace at which I was walking back in, it roughly the same speed at which the breeze was blowing.  So there was no air flow to cool be off on the way back.  Fortunately I'm an experience enough hiker that I can recognize when I'm starting to over heat.  I slowed down my pace even further and turn around to face the salt flats, occasionally.  Cooling down ever so little with breeze.  Eventually, I took my cap and bike coat off.  I make it back to the bike with very little water left.  It's time to head toward Furnace Creek to cool off, and get some lunch.

Over lunch we talked about how dangerous DV is.  How a small family from Europe was here to experience DV.  They rented a minivan and went into the back country somewhere.  They didn't notify anybody where they were headed.  After several days with the rented minivan still missing, the car rental company notified the park rangers.  The search was on but they were never to be found.  Only by happenstance the following year, an experienced DV hiker discovered the minivan.  Long story short, the vehicle was found with a flat tire.  The skeletal remains were eventually discovered not to far from the van.  I myself have attempted to back country camp at DV a couple of times.  The problem with DV is that, you have to carry all of your water.  Any water found in DV is so tainted with heavy metals from all the mining that water filtration can't be used.  The rangers regard 2+ miles from the roads as back country and they will not go after you.  They are short staffed and the park is so big.  While we're on this topic, I didn't even see one park ranger when we're in the park.  Only the ranger that we paid the park fees to the previous day.

Stovepipe Wells dunes.  Ugh too many tourist.  So we decided to go to the crater near Scotty's castle.  Most of the way out to the crater, the bike hit three bars left of fuel.  Crud.  There are no gas stations at Scotty's castle.  Not to mention Scotty's castle is closed due to flash flood damage.  So we make another U-turn and to head back to Beatty.

When all is said an done, just outside Beatty, my gas light comes on.

Holy cow!  54.7 miles to the gallon.  237 miles to the tank.  4.5gallons to fill the tank.

We spent the rest of the day at Beatty.  Eating ice cream and relaxing.

[ Day 3: Sunday - April 28, 2019 ]

I generally don't like freeways, but there is little choice since we decided to avoid the 395 construction at Kramer junction.  The other alternative is the 14 freeway.  It's a longer ride, but no construction.

The 190 HWY is a beautiful or more beautiful.  If only the rest of the way back was like this.

Somebody lost their trailer.  There's an axle and containers down there.

On our to merge onto the 395 HWY, I can't help but notice the peaks of the Sierra Nevada's.  The mountain tops are completely snowed over.  It's all white from north to south.  Amazing.  I haven't seen the mountains like this in ages.

Fueling up one last time at Mojave before reaching home.

We avoided the construction, but we forgot how bad the wind can be on the 14 freeway.  This is especially bad between Mojave and Rosamond.  We eventually diverted onto Sierra HWY, until we pass the bad sections and then get back on the 14 again.

In the end short trip end at around 4:30pm as I pull into the house driveway.

Written on: May 4, 2019 (May the 4th be with you)
Last modified: May 9, 2019