Death Valley '09 - Day 1
Lake Isabella / Fairview

Total miles: 331 miles
Estimated travel time: 6:05 hours
Real travel time: 12 hours

[ Friday - March 13, 2009 ]

7:30AM already?  I can feel the strain from having very little sleep and also a sleepless night.  I guess the anticipation got to me during the course of the night.  Still I'm able to get up with relative ease.  Now I have to finish off the packing by grabbing a handful of rechargeable and alkaline batteries for the trip.  Into the Bavaria bag they all go.  Looking at the clock it's already 8:10 AM.  This puts me very close to the "being late" catagory.  I had contacted the other two amigos last night to let them know we're going to start at a later time.  Between 8:00-8:30 AM.  So technically speaking, I'm still on time.  I didn't realize it at the time but I forgot to grab the Canon Elura 100 to hand to Nu for video and additional photo taking.  All that time making sure the batteries are charged ended up being wasted.  Oh well, next time.  It's too late now as I fly out the door.

I push the 8GS off the center stand and it's noticeably heavier.  Yup, all this gear is weighing it down, but when I go to climb on the bike the suspension hasn't compressed any more than with just the panniers on.  Whatever, I'm out of here to go get some cash and meet up with the others.  I can picture it in my head already, the Captain is going to be there and tell me he's been waiting for the last two hours.  Arg!  I rush over to the ATM kiosk, grabbed $100 and headed straight over to the meeting location.  Starbucks.  Hey!  It's as good a spot as any to start off a trip.  Plus, I need that aromatic abusive substance so I can survive today's ride.  As I pull into the parking lot I see Nu standing on the sidewalk talking to a lady.  I dismount and join in on the conversation.  Hey, no Captain yet.  This is unusual.  Then again he has to contend with the rush hour traffic.

It's unfortunate but it's a clear sign of the times.  The gal's name is Linda and she has recently been laid off from a paint store.  They're scaling down due to the bad economy and Linda gets to be one of the victims.  The unfortunate thing is Linda has also been diagnose with some kind of intestinal or colon ailment.  It's so sad to hear.  At least she has the brains to come up with a bake sale to offset her financial situation and hopefully generate enough money to go under the knife.  Good luck to you Linda.  It's always sad to see common people like us having to suffer because the bigger fish can't seem to get their jobs done right.

Linda is having a bake sale in the hopes of making ends meet.
***ALERT*** Linda makes excellent cookies folks!  Contact me Linda so I can purchase more from you and
perhaps even advertise for you.  I'll slap a sticker or two on the side of my panniers and ride around town for folks to see.

Finally the Captain arrives.  What was the first thing I said to him?  "Where were you?  I've been waiting here for three hours!"  to which he replied, "Bullshit!"  We know each other all too well.  Now the party can start.  Well, after a cup of coffee.  I order two mochas and what did they charge me for?  Three mochas.  Oh man, what am I going to do with this extra coffee?  Nu said, "Give it to Linda."  "OK.  I can do that."  I walked out and asked Linda whether she likes mochas.  She said yes.  Voi la!  Instant coffee, kind of.  No problem, always glad to be of help.  BTW, we purchased two packets of oatmeal cookies and one pack of lemon cookies form Linda.  We're going to need it on the trip.

The three amigos.

Off we go.  I originally wanted to top off the tank, but opted to just get going.  We can always fuel later on the road.  We climb the on ramp and head west on the 210 freeway.  It looks open enough at the street level, but once we got on the freeway it was starting to plug up after just 2 miles.  Figures, LA rush hour traffic.  It always sucks hard in the morning.  We pulled off, ride the side streets for a while until we noticed the freeway was moving again.  For some odd reason the freeway always seem to stall at this one bend for no apparent reason.  Oh well, at least it's back up to speed.  It's a straight shot, relatively speaking, until we reach the west end of the 210 freeway.  We're fortunate enough to touch only one freeway today.

Oh man, I'm going to hear about it now.  I'm making the pack do a U-turn because I missed the left turn.  Oh wait, the GPS is telling me otherwise.  Oh crap, I didn't have to make that U-turn after all.  Oh well, we'll just stick to Newhall as it will eventually lead us to Bouquet Canyon road anyway.  It's not as easy as it appear to navigate by GPS.  This is because the GPS will only tell you the general area and not truly give specific information.  Sometimes it's even behind in terms of information and location.  It seems I'm always doing some type of interpretation or other.

As we sit at the intersection of Bouquet and Newhall Ranch, I get a funny shake to my bike.  At first I thought Nu was being funny and was bumping my rear tire.  I was wrong.  Nu came on the radio "Hey, it looks like the Captain wants to stop.  I think he wants something to eat."  I gestured to the Captain and sure enough, he want to stop somewhere for breakfast.  I forgot to mention earlier, he was so glad to be going on the trip that he offered to treat us to breakfast.  There is a condition with that.  Nu and I aren't allowed to starve ourselves last night by not eating dinner.  Hah!  Whether I wanted to or not, I didn't have much of a dinner last night.  I was too busy trying to figure out my packing configuration.  Nu was in the same boat.  The Captain's in for it.  We pull into a shopping center and start searching the GPS for the nearest place to eat.  IHOP pops up as a via solution.  0.7 miles back in the direction we just came.  OK, we double back and searched for the restaurant.  One again the GPS strikes.  When we got close to our destination, the GPS yelps, "Arriving at destination ... bla bla bla."  Hey!  Where is the info about which side of the street it's on?  The Captain and I were looking frantically left and right to see where the place is.  At last, we find it!  It's on the right side.  Sheesh!  It would have been nice if the GPS would have just said, "On your right."  It goes to show, it's still not a perfect navigation system even when it does know what side of the street it's on.

OK.  Time to order up!  That means 3 omelets, 20 pancakes, and 15 sodas for each.  That should kick the tab up a sufficient level for the Captain.  Now if only I can really eat that much.  No really, it is awfully generous of the Captain to flip the bill for our breakfast.  Thanks Captain.  We should do this more often to we can get more free food.  After a good grease filled breakfast, it was time to keep movin'.  As mentioned by the captain, "Let fuel before we get into the mountains."  Sure thing.  I can accommodate that.  120 miles.  2.6 gallons.  Wow!  That's pretty decent considering I'm carrying a wide load.

As expected, because the 8GS is such a new piece in the arsenal, this is the first for the bike on Bouquet.  Of course it handles everything with relative ease.  The bike makes it all look and feel so simple.

Spunky Canyon road, San Francisquito Canyon road, Elizabeth Lake road, Johnson road, and there you have it.  We're in the extreme west side of Lancaster.  We go up 110th west to D, hang a right then left onto 90th west, and take the road all the way to Tehachapi. I've never been up this way before.  It's boring as hell, but it's all part of the adventure.  Once we reach the mountains, following a very slow construction pickup truck, we're greeted by objects that we have only seen from a distance.  It's a wind farm.  Man these things are huge.  I've never been up this close to one before.  The blade itself must be at least 60 feet tall.  They're all slowly rotating but if you get whacked by one of these guys, you're toast.  The cars are starting to pile up behind us, but that's not our fault.  Ease off people, this guy can't handle the slope.  What's your hurry anyway?

I don't know when was the last time I've been on this stretch of the 58 HWY.  Most likely I haven't been on this road ever since I live in Fresno.  That's at least a good 15-16 years ago.  It's a welcome sight despite the crazy driver out here.  I remember it being difficult driving stretches of this road because of the G forces in the turns.  It all seems so easy on a motorcycle.  The cars can't keep up with us as we descend and the HWY start curving back and forth.  That's good.  I much rather be out from among any four wheeled crowd.  15 or 20 miles later, we pull off onto an Bealville road.  I've driven this the 58 HWY many times and see many turn offs but I have never taken any of them.  Once again it's a first.

It's so green!  And the country side is simply gorgeous.  The 58 HWY has been known as one of the most scenic HWYs around.  Today it is flaunting it's grace/beauty to us once more.

Bealville Road.

This is when we discovered how good Linda's cookies really are.  We pull out one oatmeal pack and a couple of the lemon cookies.  Holy cow!  These cookies are sensational.  I have to get some more when we get back.  We're standing here chewing on cookies and waving at the cars passing by.  For an off of the beaten path road there sure is a lot of traffic.

Once done with all the pictures, onward we go.  I distinctly/instinctively remember not tightening down one of my panniers.  I took a quick head dip and notices the right pannier's lid is off kilter.  Oh #$*%&@!  I don't have a retaining strap for the pannier lid so it could go flying off and hit one of the others behind me.  I pull over to secure the lid.  Just then I noticed a big pickup truck behind us pulling over also.  As I got down, the driver got out and started walking towards my direction.  Being a suspicious big city folk, I was a little apprehensive.  When the driver started asking me if I know the area and whether I know what roads to take, I started rethinking that thought.  It's just a nice guy trying to help out.  when he started mentioning paths to take and offered us the option of following him, I consulted with the Captain and we both decided to take him up on his offer.

It is a good pleasurable ride.  At times it is a little faster than we would like because this is our first time through.  Eventually we come upon an abandoned resort/home.  The Captain has to stop and take pictures.  He signaled Nu, Nu radioed me, and we all did a U-turn.  We all pull over and started snapping pictures.  What can you say?  We are tourists after all.

Lake Isabella - Part 1
(Thanks Douglas!)

Man that's a big truck.  It's surprising how fast he can drive it through these twisty roads.
We were barely able to keep up at times.

Not too long after, the gentleman in the pickup truck pulled up to check on us.  I told him we're all fine.  We just wanted to stop and take pictures.  With that I requested his name (e.g. Douglas), so I can write about him, and I pass Douglas this website so he can come and visit us virtually.  Douglas gave us some more local road safety tips and turn around to go on his way.  Thanks Douglas for guiding us.  Cheers and maybe we'll catch up with you again one of these days.

Rag doll.

Still rag dolling.

Oh look at that!  He's actually still alive.

Incarcerated for speeding?

Big dogs?  Hardly.  They're calves roaming the land.

A tourist's job is never done, but in this case, we're done with this location.  It's time to move on.  Back on the road we go.  I keep in mind and try to remember all the things that Douglas told me.  There's nothing like the guidance of a local person.  Not heeding such recommendations could spell doom for the arogant traveller.  Back on the road, the Captain decided to take these moving shots.  Considering he was wagging the entire session, I says he did a magnificent job.  Way to go Captain.  You've inspired me to get a small digital camera for on the move shots also.

Check out the camera arm extension reflection in the Captain's face shield.

We reach the meadow, turn right at the cell phone relay station, and nervously did several blind turns up hill on a single lane road.  Through out the sessionm until we reached the out look above Lake Isabella, Nu and I kept on saying, "This is what he must have been talking about."  Referring to the pointers that Douglas gave us.  We had to stop for pictures when the below view was sprawled out in front of us.  Once again, the tourists are back at work.

It's much later than I had hoped.  It's already 3:30pm and we haven't even reached Kernville yet.  It looks like we might have to skip the search for Fairview (Road's End) once more.  If we attempt to find fish fillets this late in the day, we probably won't get to Death Valley until midnight.  I poll the Captain.  "I'm OK with skipping it.  It's too hard to find anyway," says the Captain.  We skip Fairview once more in the interest of time.

We make it down to Lake Isabella, fuel up, and decide it's time to stop for a lunch break.  It's not the most gourmet of food, but at least it satisfies our hunger.  We stop at the local Burger King.  Comments made in the parking lot of the Ralph's Supermarket about a helmet camera, and a shot of Starbucks coffee later, we're back on the road.  I haven't been on this stretch of the 178 HWY south of Lake Isabella.  It's a really good road.  A bit on the windy side, but nothing overly scary.  The only other time I've been on this road is on the Death Valley '07 trip.  I can't believe it's been two years already.

Yeah I know it's all part of the adventure but I can't help but get bored when we're on the 14 HWY.  It's one of the straightest and most boring HWYs around.  The monotonic scenery doesn't help either.  As we reach the tail end of the 14 HWY before merging onto the 395 HWY I get a chime from Nu, "... the Captain was complaining about a sore wrist at the last stop..." was what I heard.  OK.  This means we need another stop before the last leg to reach DV.  We pull into the Shell gas station at Pearsonville.  Since we're here, we might as well fuel up one last time so we don't have to worry about fueling again until tomorrow.  Nu makes a check in call to his significant other as there might be zero cell phone signal in Death Valley.  It's been two years since I've been in DV so I don't remember whether there is cell signal or not.  As for the Captain and myself, we've been at it for too long so we not going to bother to check in.  Something in the neighborhood of 10+ years just makes you say... oh whenever whatever.  Yes, boys on the loose.

There's only 110-120 miles left to reach Stovepipe Wells.  That means we'll reach our destination around 9:30-10:00pm.

Admittedly this is stupid.  What?  Taking the 190 HWY (e.g. Death Valley scenic route) when it's 8:00pm at night and all you can see is pitch black.  Who was the one that came up with this brilliant idea anyway?  Would it be the writer of this article?  No.  Never.  I wouldn't do something like that.  Not!  I have to remember not to take this route to DV if I know I'm going to be riding in the dark.  What good is a scenic route when you can't see anything.  What's even better?  The temps are freakin' cold.  The highest is 56F and it dips all the way down to 38F.  Oh man!  That's just what I need.  To also worry about icing conditions in this dark.  We tough it out as long as we can until the Captain signals to get over.  OK, this is as good a time as any to say "I give up" and stop to put warmer clothing on.  We stop at the Death Valley entrance headstone.  It's cold!  When we turn the lights off, we can't even see our hands 5 inches in front of our face, but the beauty is above our heads.  The stars are spread out above us like lights of a city's streets.  OK, night time sight seeing is over it's time to address the cold.  We all strip down to the essentials before putting on liners and heated vests.  Much better.  Now I'm nice and toasty.  I should have changed out gloves too, but I was just too lazy.

The light management continues.  HID light switch and high beam switch.  On they go.  Off they go.  Who would have thought there is so much traffic at this time of night in Death Valley.  Well, "so much traffic" is a relative term here.  Basically, there is a car every 10-15 minutes.  That's a lot for "Out in the middle of nowhere".  I'm so glad I installed both HIDs right before this trip.  It makes traversing the turns much easier than with just the stock lights.  The soda straw is that little bit bigger.  Trust me, "a little bigger" is a vast improvement when you're driving almost blind.

The temperature climbs and dives.

When we reach Panamint Valley, the temps are up into the low 60s, but this is just a rouse to trick us into removing our warm clothing.  Not so my fine friend.  I know better.  Why?  Because in order for us to reach Stovepipe Wells, we have to make it pass one more mountain range (Panamint Mountain Range).  It's wasn't obvious that we went through a mountain range to get to Panamint Valley, but we did.  Having experience that, I don't want to make the same mistake twice.  We keep on chugging without wavering.

What is this car doing?  He's in the middle of the road and doing 25-30 MPH up the hill.  Not only that, he doesn't want to take the turnoff to allow faster traffic by.  Whatever, we pass him when we see an opportunity.  At last, Stovepipe Wells.  It's 10:00pm and everything looks closed.  It's expected when you're in the middle of nowhere.  As we pull into the campsite... "WOW!  It's full."  Let 's see if we can find a spot.  Driving straight into the back of the campsite we literally stop at a campsite that is vacant.  What luck.  Looking to the left and to the right, "This is as good a spot as any," I said.  "It looks like we've lucked out.  Let's setup camp here."  At last, we are here.  It's still freakin' cold.  We shutdown the bikes for the night and begin setting up our homes away from home.

I was hoping that the convenient store is open, but this is no big city and the people that work and live here have lives.  Yes, that means none of this 24x7 business hours bull.  Unfortunately this also means we can't get any type of purchased meal.  Hey!  That's what we get for dragging our carcass out here at 10:00pm at night.  However, that's alright.  We have an alternative.  We know better.  We have MREs.  It might not be the best meal in the world, but when you need food all you have to do is rip open a bag.  I correct that, cut open a bag.  Have you tried to rip open an MRE bag?  Good luck.

When the last Nu and I checked, we don't have cell phone signal here.  Death Valley looks to be a cell phone dead zone.  During the course of the meal, the Captain pulls out his cell phone and announces, "I have cell phone signal!"  "What service do you have?" asked Nu.  "T-Mobile," the Captain responded.  "How about I charge you $5 a minute?  You can use my phone to check in."  "Do you have cell signal?" asked Nu.  "No, I just wanted to check to see how dedicated you were." said the Captain.  Oh man, the Captain has both of us fooled.  Dam he's good.  The reason why the Captain got away with it is because both Nu and I have Verizon.  Nu and I both though maybe T-Mobile has reception.  Nope, it's all bad.  Wow!  Old dogs can still be pretty tricky.  Lesson learned.  Death Valley is definitely a SPOT location.

Now that we've wined and dined, it's time for bed.   We have a lot of sight seeing to do tomorrow.  Dam it's cold.

Talk about bad ass Harley's.  I don't know if I should ignore them or hate them.  It's after midnight and these idiots ride into camp with their straight pipe blaring.  Excuse me but quiet hour start at 10:00pm and lasts until 7:00am.  Of course, being the bad ass Harley's they are, they don't care about anybody else except themselves.  What a bunch of misfits.  However, one of the idle Harley's makes such a distinct and yet familiar sound to me that I had to comment to Nu.  "Why these guys are riding lawn mowers," I said.  The "putt, putt, putt ..." sound reminds me of the gardener coming to my house every Friday or Saturday morning to mow my lawn, while I'm trying to sleep like right now.  "Oh, it's the lawn mower gang.  Maybe they have a leaf blower too."  At this point Nu is hysterically laughing.  Eventually they settle down also and the rest of the campsite can go back to sleep.

The secret weapon for surviving endurance rides.
Can you see the MRE poking out from under the coffee bag?  Something like Meal No. 19 Roast Beef.

Pre Planning
Day 2- He needs a SPOT
Day 3 - Finally got cell signal

Written on: March 20, 2009
Last modified: April 2, 2009