Death Valley '09 - Day 2
He needs a SPOT.

Total: 137 miles
Estimated travel time: 2:52 hours

[Saturday - March 14, 2009]

This is one of two sun rises that the Captain gets to experience in a long long while.

I hear a lot of laughing.  It's that distinct laughter that can't be anybody else other than the Captain.  I'm half asleep but I can hear another voice.  Then I start hearing mention of topics related with work.  At this point I'm curious enough to find out what's happening that I get up.  Oh man, last night's sleep wasn't so good.  It was so cold that even the 30 degree bag is failing to keep my body temperature high enough for a comfortable sleep.  I'm up and I distinctly notice an itchy throat.  Oh no.  This isn't good.  I don't want to get sick while on a ride.  This stinks.  Oh well, I just have to deal with it.

As I climb out of the tent I see the Captain having a conversation with someone.  The first question that was asked of me, "Do you know David?"  I don't recognize him.  David goes on to mention a couple of projects that he's been on recently.  I recognize the project names, but I don't remember seeing David.  He knows the service organization that I work in, but I don't recall working with him.  Then again I meet so many different people at work every day that I can't say that I can remember all the faces.  Bottom line, we can't get away from the people at work.  They seem to proliferate the planet when it comes to vacation spots.  Here we are, at least 250+ miles beyond LA, and as yet we have a neighbor that works within a 2 square mile facility.  How much more coincidental can it get?  Still, it's always good to see a friendly face.

David and the Captain.

At last we get to see the cause of our rude awakening last night.  Yup, it's a typical Harley group.  Leather vest, chaps, tank top, bandannas, etc.  You name it, they look it.  What's even better?  Guess what they're having for breakfast?  A couple of bottles of beer.  Oh yeah, nothing like a little alcohol to get the dehydration started.  Hey, maybe they're functioning alcoholics that need beer in order to ride their bikes.  Sounds like a disaster ready to happen, but then again what do I know.  Not much apparently.  While Nu and I went to the restroom to wash up, a gentleman walked along with us while commenting on last night's disturbance.  It seems like the bad ass dudes are truly making a good name for themselves.  Eventually they clear off with their support SUV in tow.  Remember, it's all in the looks and attitude.  Once they're gone, only the dirt bike and ADV riders are left behind.  In other words the fun and friendly group.

David is on his way to check out numerous sites (e.g. Devil's Racetrack, Wild Rose, etc.).  As for us, we're getting our coffee and doing the typical maintenance on the bike after 300+ miles of riding (e.g. lube the chain).  Suffice to say, we're not in any real hurry today.  It takes us a while to get around to doing anything.  We're greeted by Dennis and Bob this morning.  Both of whom are out here for about a month, perhaps longer, to enjoying the road and off road riding.  Bob has a KTM 990 Adventure and a Suzuki DR400 (sorry Dennis, I don't remember what type of ride you have).  We compare notes and exchange experiences.  What can I say, they are how bikers should be to one another.

"What do you guys use as lubricant for your chain?", ask Dennis as he looks at Nu using his ketchup bottle to lube his chain.  Uh oh, now the conversation is going to go to hell.  "I just use synthetic motor oil," says Nu.  I then whip out my Balsamic Glaze bottle and advertise, "I prefer balsamic vinegar myself if you ask me."  I also use synthetic motor oil.  Then the captain whips out his wax and Teflon spray bottle.  "I read about this on a forum.  A lot of people are saying this lubricant is really good and it's much cheaper than the motorcycle lube," says the Captain.  Then Dennis walks off and comes back with his version of lubrication, "This is what I use."  Dennis flashes a spray bottle with Teflon in the lubricant.  It's really no different than what the Captain is using.  The only difference is it's not wax based.  "This has to be better than your lube," as I look at the Captain.   "Yours doesn't have PTFE on it."  I get a giggle out of everybody.  We converse a little longer until we're all done and ready to head out.

"Should we leave the tents here?" ask the Captain.  "It looks safe enough.  It looks like everybody else is leaving their tent behind.  Even David's tent is just sitting there," I yelped.  As a result we travel just a little lighter today.  Essentially we leave the tent, bed roll, and sleeping bag behind.  Everything else is coming with us.

Hah!  Both the Captain and Nu have their SuperChunks hat on.  Cool!

Bob's Suzuki DR400.

Man it's already 11:15am.  Time sure does fly when you dilly dally.  First order of business, we need some food.  We're hoping for some breakfast but I'm not sure the restaurant across the street is serving breakfast this late in the morning.

Ack!  Breakfast ends at 10:00am.  At this point we might as well get lunch.  We just have to wait another 10-15 minutes before the place opens up.  By the time I get back to the bike and we pull any necessary items off of the bike, it's 11:30.  OK.  Lunch it is.  Hot dog with chili fries (Nu), Hot dog with fries (Captain), and a BBQ 1/2 lbs burger and chili fries.  Man this stuff is excellent.  It's not that far short of the steak house in Furnace Creek.  Once again Nu checks to see if he has cell phone signal.  I look at my phone.  Nope.  Again, the Captain offers to let Nu use his phone at $5 a minute.  Once again he claims he has cell phone signal and Nu almost bought it.  Fortunately for Nu he learned from last night's incident and is a bit more cautious to the Captain's claims.  Ultimately, Nu ask the waitress if there is cell phone signal here.  Her answer ... "Chuckle!  You go 90 miles west pass Panamint Valley over the mountain and you'll get cell phone reception.  You go 50 miles east to Beaty and you'll get cell phone reception.  You can also go about 75 miles south to Ridgecrest and you'll get cell phone reception."  In other words, don't bother.  In the end the Captain and I come to the conclusion "He needs a SPOT."  I bought a SPOT for this trip, but I didn't bring it because I haven't installed the platform for the SPOT.  Plus the on-line account is not fully configured.  They're only so much I can do before a trip.  Next time I will bring the SPOT.

No I'm not trying to scratch my butt.  I'm trying to put away the video recorder.  At least that's what I like people to believe.

The food is good.  The hostess and waitress are extremely polite.  Now it's time to make ourselves legal.  We need to get National Park passes for the time we're here.  It's off to the ranger station we go.  It's an entire 100 yards away.

Paying National Park fees.

Knowing the Captain's picky nature, in terms of fuel, we're not going to fuel up in Stovepipe Wells.  They only have 87 octane at the convenient store.  For the full range of different grades of gasoline, we have to go to the Chevron at Furnace Creek.  It's only 30 miles away and we have at least 76 miles left to the tank.  No problem.

Simple enough, we're at Furnace Creek.  We pull into the gas station to fuel up.  We end up waiting for a Hummer to finish it's fueling process.  They're taking their sweet time fueling and cleaning their windshield.  My comment to Nu was, "Man they sure are taking their sweet time."

OK I don't' get this.  What's the deal with some lame BMW idiots and their stupid ass attitude about a GS that has to be muddy in order for it to be effective?  This one old fart on a R1150RT comes up to me and ask me why my GS is so clean.  What's it to you buddy?  If you're jealous because you can't afford a GS, then sell your 1150RT and get yourself a GS.  Oh wait, maybe it's because you're 1150RT isn't worth squat!  If you like to see my 8GS dirty, then buy it off of me with cash and get the dam thing dirty yourself.  What a prick!  Just because your sorry ass can't handle the wind and you have to ride something with a big ass fairing that you're sorry prune ass can hide behind is not my problem.  The next idiot that comes up to me and ask me "Why my GS is so clean" is going to get a pounding.  Trust me, carbon fiber is much more resilient than bone.

I thought the Hummer folks were bad until a group of Harleys decided to show up.  They start swarming the gas station without consideration for others.  I jump in to grab a spot before these idiots can preempt me.  Yup, another bunch of loser Harleys.  They definitely give bikers a bad rap.  Them and their adolescent noise making machines.  Hey, maybe one of their annoyance machines will burst their kidney(s) from noise and vibration.  I can only hope.  Suffice to say I was ready to pulverize somebody between the idiot Beemer and Harleys.  In the end I had to let it go.  I'm not going to let ass holes ruin my day.

OK, first stop is Badwater.  Then we'll swing back for the Artist's Palette.

Can you spot the Sea Level sign?

Is the Captain looking out for crows to avoid any potential down fall?  Nope, he's looking for the Sea Level sign.

Hey!  It's kind of chewey and rubbery.

Here it is.  What can I say.  It's just another spot in the world.  There's nothing that spectacular here other than the fact that you can claim you've been to a spot that is 282 feet below sea level.  Other than that you can just look at a lot of crystalized salt.

Now is the Captain really taking a picture of the sign?  I'm not sure.

OK, so he was taking a picture of the sign.

We double back north to check out Artists Palette.  I've head of it, but have never traversed it.  It's an interesting road.  A single one way road.  From a distance I can see why they call it what they do.  A lot of brown and tan.  Mix some rust in and you have the Artists Palette.  Once we get to a valley over look, we have to stop and be like the rest of the folks, tourists.

1, 2, ...

... 3!  A magic rabbit comes out of the hat.

Oh, there's the magic rabbit.  Now you can see him in full form.

"Keep looking" they both said.  I knew they were up to something.

Too lazy to turn around for a photo.  However, I think this photo is just as good.

Later sections of the Artists Palette is really cool.  When the sign indicates there is a dip, they're not lying.  It's a regular nature made roller coaster.  I feel compression and negative Gs as I hit the valley and peak.  You definitely don't want to catch air because you'll end up off the road and into the boulders.  Maybe even over a cliff.  There are even a couple of hairpins that is sufficient to challenge a motorcyclist.  If concentration is lacking, you'll find yourself in the dirt and sand.  It's a fun little road.  As usual it ends all too soon.  If it hadn't been for the fact that I feel lousy, from the cold, I probably would have headed south and did the little loop again.  Having no water doesn't help the situation much either.  I'm starting to cough more and more because of the extremely dry air.

Much has changed in Death Valley even as of two years ago.  The park is making a concerted effort to modernize and touristize the areas of interest.  I remember three years ago Badwater didn't have a parking lot, concrete ramps, nor wood decking.  All I remember is a turn off and swamp land all the way up to the road.  A kind of "pull over at your own risk" type of thing.

From here we're suppose to head to Dantes View but I don't think I can make it without something to drink.  We can go back to Furnace Creek, but let's have a look at the Furnace Creek Inn.  This is the first time I've seen it open.  Every time I've been in DV, the Inn is closed for the summer.  We go up to have a peek and maybe get some water and/or other drinks.  The Valet tells us there is a store where we can buy water.  Once into the lobby, there is no such place.  Ritzy!  A little too fancy for my taste.  The gift shop has nothing other than fancy clothes and jewelry.  The only source of water is the inn's bar.  It's definitely better than nothing.  A Shirley Temple for me, a Coke for Nu and the Captain.  Oh it hits the spot.  The additional glass of water also helps.  I didn't realize how dehydrated I was until I started drinking.  The bartender tells me that fruits and food items don't last very long here.  The air is so dry that it pulls moisture out of everything.  A lemon, once cut, will last no more than one day.  It's a wonder how human beings are able and willing to live in a place like this, but they do.

OK, let's see what Dantes View is all about.

A quick rest at the Furnace Creek Inn for some refreshments.

Yes the fountain look inviting and Nu might have had thoughts of jumping in, but he didn't do it.
Tust me, it looks a lot better than it smells.

The temperature climbs and falls again.  OK.  If it gets any lower than 53F, we're going to pull over and put some clothes on.  Sure enough, it hits 51F in no time.  Alright, it's time to find a spot to pull over and put on pants and coat liners.  Oh that's much better.  It's about 5:00pm so the Sun is also less effective in generating warmth.  According to the time we about 1 1/2 - 2 hours of day light left.

We snake our way through the remaining 2 miles to Dantes View.  It's pretty technical.  I sure am glad I'm a motorcycle instead of a car.  I can see how cars would have a hard time climbing and decending this small stretch of road.  Indeed, it is a reward.  Look at this view.

The Captain says, "I don't know that guy!"

What does the Captain want to do now that he's finally made it to Dantes View?  Go to Disney Land?  Hardly.  When I ask him there was absolutely no excitement in his voice.  What is up with that?  Come on, we reach one top of the world and he just mumbles something or other.  I thought he would be simply delighted.  Then again, it's only a view.  Now if he were to win a couple of $K from the Beaty casino, I'm sure he would be jumping for joy.  Hm... maybe not.  But at least I know he'll be happier.

Alright, now that we're done with the viewing for today, let's get over to Furnace Creek for some water, gift shopping, and eating.  I'm looking forward to that the Filet Mignon that I had two years ago.  Hey, just because I'm camping out, who says I have to rough and tough it when it comes to food.

Disappointingly it looks like the steak house is not open.  It's completely dark.  The sign says it's open for dinner at 7:00pm but I don't see any signs of life inside the place.  Now the question is posed by the Captain, "Do you want to go back to Stovepipe Wells or head over to Beaty?"  There is gambling at the Beaty casino, but the food isn't so hot.  Plus it's another 30-40 miles to get to Beaty.  On top of that we'll be riding back in the pitch black.  Having the HID lights does help.  In reality if it hadn't been for this stupid cold, I probably would have gone for Beaty.  However, I don't feel up to it.  As a result I insisted that we just head back to Stovepipe Wells.  We fuel up one last time at the Chevron in Furnace Creek (they started closing down some pumps because they're running out of fuel), and head back to our home away from home for some dinner.

As we pull into the campsite, two things happened.  1) I can see that we forgot to put away some of our food and garbage.  Some of the crows had a field day.  They even pecked holes in the instant coffee thinking it's food.  We're normally not this bad.  It must have been all the conversational distractions that prevented us from cleaning up.  I distinctly remembered putting this stuff away.  I was wrong.  I'm sure the one, or more, bird(s) that had a taste of the coffee is quite spastic right now.  2) The Captain flags me down and ask why I didn't stop at the restaurant.  I said, "I was thinking we could walk over there."  David, back from his sight seeing and was setting up for dinner, laughingly mocked me, "You've got to be kidding me.  You're going to walk over there when you have motorcycles?"  I then turn to the Captain and said, "You decide.  Do we ride or to we walk?"  Indecision upon indecision.  In the end I said, "Alright, let's ride over there."  All three of us push our bikes out of the parking area, up grade, and rode off to the restaurant.  Perfect!  That's just what David wanted to hear.  As he said earlier today, "You get out here, set up camp, and you're going to go across the street and have breakfast?"  Oh yeah baby!  If it's there, why not.

Dinner was good.  It's a little slow in coming because the restaurant is really busy, but the food is good.  The onion soup was really tasty.  The spaghetti and marinara sauce is so so.  Hey!  I'm not complaining.  It's a real meal.  We finish up, head back to the campsite, cleaned up, started the lantern, fired up the stove (boil water), and downloaded images into the computer.  What is the conclusion for today?  The conclusion is I'm stupid.  Why?  Because I have all the clothing possible to keep we warm at night and I didn't bother using it last night.  Dam I can be slow sometimes.  Actually, it's been a while since we camped so it's easy to forget about these things.  For tonight I decided to wear the Kanetsu airvantage coat, fleece pants, pants liner (over fleece), winter buff, etc.  In other words, I'm well insulated.  Just like the kid in "A Christmas Story".  Well, not as bad as him, but at least I know this will help me sleep tonight.  Performing a little acupressure on myself also helps the matter.  Anything to help reduce the itchy throat.  It actually works.  Thanks to Nu.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day, in terms of this cold, and we can have a good ride home.  Bottom line, don't get sick on a ride.

Pre Planning
Day 1 - Lake Isabella / Fairview
Day 2 - Finally got cell signal

Written on: April 2, 2009
Last modified:  April 6, 2009