Death Valley '07
Day 3

[ Sunday - March 18, 2007]

Last look at the Hotel-Casino.

Today promises to be an easy day.  It is just a matter of getting home.  I anticipate that everybody has had enough of these long rides so they'll be wanting to get home fairly quickly.  I had plotted the course the night before and came up with 266 miles for today.  There are only two sight seeing stops for today and the rest of the time will be spent on the road heading home.  The first stop is the ghost town just outside of Beatty and the second stop will be the dunes at Stovepipe Wells for a quick hike.  The morning starts off slowly enough.  I had just gotten up when Minh was at the door, again.  For today I'm going to have breakfast here regardless of complaints.  Russ and Minh also agreed with me so we all head down to the 24 hour cafe for breakfast.  Sure enough we invited Kevin and Primo.  Just like the dinner the night we got here, breakfast wasn't five stars, but it wasn't bad either.  We all got eggs of one form or another.  I had 2 eggs, hash browns, sausage, and toasts.  Tabasco for me please.  We all pretty much finished up when Kevin and Primo appeared.  Russ, Minh and I paid, and tipped while Primo and Kevin are eating their breakfast.  The three of us got back to our rooms to clear out.  This time around the bike is a little lighter because the MREs are all spent.  MREs don't weight much but carrying 5 of them still added up to something.

Wow, we've done 500+ miles so far.  We've been on long trips before but nothing with this type of distance.  The estimate is we're going to be over the 800 mile mark by the time we get home.  Sure there are guys in the IronButt who rides 1000+ miles within 24 hours.  We don't have any iron butts.  We don't even pretend to have iron butts.  Plus most of us are still relatively new to the motorcycle scene.  This is only my 3rd year on a motorcycle.  So far so we're doing alright.

I had pretty much finished packing and am waiting for everybody else to finish.  I was still walking back and forth between the bike and the hotel room because I kept on forgetting little things like my toothbrush.  Eventually I spotted the same guy that was making comments about me needing to put knobby tires on the GS and taking it off road.  I walked over and asked him about this group of bikers.  He mentioned that they are a bunch of guys getting together every now and then to do a rally style ride.  They're averaging about 300+ miles a day off road.  Today is their last day also.  He was part of the AMA and one of the guys in his local district had organized the ride.  He said I should try it as it's a lot of fun but not on the GS as it's really not a true off road bike.  Ah, at long last, admittance that the R12GS is really not a dirt bike.  Of course he's sitting on his KTM 450+cc Enduro, covered in dirt, the entire time he was telling me all this.  If I were to try and ride something like that, my feet wouldn't be able to touch the ground.  I'm having plenty of fun on the GS as it is let alone a real dirt bike with 10+ inches of travel.  I wished him luck and happy travels.  Off he goes with his bunch of dirt bikers.

I then went and got all the hotel keys from everybody and checked us all out.  Now it's just a matter of fueling up and go.

This time around we're not picky and will fuel up at the gas station just across the parking lot.  This will make life a lot easier than driving all the way into town to fuel up at the 76.  Slide the card, punch in the grade, squeeze the nozzle handle, put it away, and answer yes to "Do you want a receipt?".  I am still experiencing problems with the electrical.  The GPS would cut out several minutes after starting the bike.  As a result, once I got the Nav III working, I didn't want to turn the bike off.  So as Russ walk into the mini-mart to get some cold water, I was sitting idling away just so my Nav III doesn't get stupid.  I know this has nothing to do with the Nav III and all to do with the accessory power grounding problem.  No matter how you cut it, it's a pain.

OK, we're all done.  Off we go.  The first stop is the ghost town.  Of course Minh made sure I don't forget this time around.  He kept on asking me to make sure I don't forget.  "Yes Minh.  That's the first stop."   To which Minh replies with a, "It's not too far outside of Beatty."

Beatty is ridiculous.  Posting a 25 MPH speed limit in a town where there's hardly any people and out in the middle of nowhere.  Boy do they really want to catch people speeding or what.  We putt along, pass two stop signs, and slowly get out of Beatty.  Once we get to the long straight before we hit Death Valley, I told Minh to lead as I have no idea which street to turn down to get to the ghost town.  Through all this Russ and Primo had managed to fall behind for some reason.  Minh, Kev, and myself had turned right onto a small street and are waiting for Russ and Primo.  Primo over shot when he finally saw us as Russ slowed down and turn onto the street to meet up with the rest of us.  Primo turned around and caught up.  Off we go to the ghost town.

For a town that is suppose to be the turn of the century, early 1900s, it look remarkably modern.  The brick and masonry/concrete is pretty much the same as what we use today.  I swear that some of the brick looks like cinder blocks.  I thought cinder blocks are a recent development.  Perhaps the texture of the brick or stone makes it look like cinder blocks.

Mother nature can be very harsh.

Yes, it's hot.

There was a cool house just on the outside of the main ghost town.  The walls are all made of unbroken empty glass bottles.  Unfortunately, the house is boarded up so we couldn't go inside to see what the lighting was like from the inside.  Minh and I finished checking out the glass bottle house and proceeded to catch up with the rest of the crew.  I did a little bit of off roading on the Anakees.  Squirly for sure.

We proceeded to the abandon rail way station.  Again, it is remarkable how little things have changed.  The architecture is the same as a modern Spanish villa.  I guess we do a good job of copying/retaining older architectures.  The railway station itself is very Spanish looking.  It gave me the impression that we can buy the place and flip it.  I don't know that anybody would buy a modern Spanish villa out here in the middle of nowhere though.

That's it to the ghost town.  Just a lot of ruined buildings.  There's nothing much left to look at so we all headed back to the highway.  Next stop, the dunes on the outskirts of Stovepipe Wells.

While we're heading back to Death Valley, Russell decided to have some fun.  He zipped pass me and turn into a little dot.  I don't know how fast he was going but once again it feels like I'm riding a 50cc Vespa.  Next thing, Primo zips pass me.  Minh was still behind me but I know what he was thinking.  I wave for him to go on ahead.  Sure enough a nod and a zip.  He's gone too.  Kevin and I are once again the last two remaining.  No matter and no mind.  It's all perfectly good as I was enjoying the scenery anyway.  This will be the last time we see this sight if we don't come back to Beatty.  Most likely we won't come back to Beatty unless we can't get rooms in Furnace Creek in future DV trips.  There is talk of coming back next year.  If we do, I'll make sure we stay in Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells.

As we got back into Death Valley, on Daylight Pass Rd, The turns were sweeping and fun.  I relaxed by plopping my legs up on my cruiser pegs just right over the GS's heads.  A roll here and a roll there.  Kevin was following right behind me.

We made it to Stovepipe Wells in relatively good time.  The intention is to hike the dunes but I can tell Minh is really not up to it.  The previous days' long rides have taken a toll on everybody I think.  Either that or Minh is just not interested.  As a result, I decided to make the stop a short one.  The highest peak on the dunes is a good 1 to 1 1/2 miles in.  If this was hard packed terrain, it wouldn't be a problem to hike in.  However, this is loose sand and it's hot.   On top of that, we don't have the proper hiking shoes.  Long story short, we did the 100-150 yards to get to the very edge of the dunes.  Minh stayed behind to look after the bikes.  As usual, we made a spectacle of the situation.  Everybody took pictures and Russell had to reenact what I swore to be scenes from a spaghetti western, perhaps "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly".  15 minutes is up, it's time to head back out and make sure Minh hasn't turned into a roast turkey sitting on side of the road.  Fortunately Minh was still OK.  He wasn't doing something like lying on the ground convulsing from a heat stroke.  In fact, he was having fun taking pictures.

As a last gasp, Kevin's suggested we take a last group DV picture for this year's trip.

Now that our smiles are forever immortalized on digital media, we're off and running.  The route home is to reverse the same direction we made two days ago.  We go back out via the Death Valley Scenic ByWay until we reach the Panamint Valley Rd turn off.  The next fuel stop is Panamint Springs in the hopes of stretching out fueling interval.

The ride was fun and pleasurable.  As like the days before, it's once again BMW alley.

Admittedly I'm no expert biker.  I still recognize that I have a lot to learn and need to build more confidence.  However, I'm about to be taught a lesson on what it like when someone has little motorcycle etiquette.  When I go riding with Minh, Russell, Kevin and/or Eugene, I don't have any problems.  We all pretty much stay in formation and take our time getting to where we're going.  Safety is the highest priority.  Thank the gods that there is very little traffic this day.  If there were more cars on the road, I wouldn't be sitting here putting these words down.  All this happens towards the upper part of the Panamint Range.  The 190 is winding back and forth and turn speeds average about 45 to 50, for a GS at least.  The turns are tight enough that apex riding would be preferred.  Minh and Russell had already passed me and Primo was directly behind me.  I know Primo wants to pass me but there is a turn coming up.  Primo decided he couldn't wait 2 seconds until we finish the turn to pass me.  As a result, he passes me in the turn on the outside.  This surprises the heck out of me.  I'm also forced to take the turn late.  Lacking the experience with people passing me in the turns, I didn't slow down enough and ended up crossing the double yellow and landed myself in the opposing traffic lane.  If there was a car, bus, truck, or biker I would have been creamed.  For that fact, if there was a little red toy wagon I would have done the superman.  To say the least, I'm not the happy about this.  What in the F'in world is Primo thinking?  The GS is a nimble bike but it's not that nimble when you're full up with gear.  If I had made that mistake myself, fine.  In this case it was coerced.  Damage done.  There is no on coming traffic so I break and reposition myself.  Through this entire trip, there is only one word that describes Primo, "SQUID!"  Don't get me wrong, he is a nice enough guy but when you start doing things that cause others in your party to get into an accident, you're asking for trouble and to be rejected.  As for me, I don't much appreciate a person who doesn't respect the safety of others.

Now that Primo has passed me, the rest of the way to Panamint Springs is without incident.  Minh, Russell, and Primo is nowhere to be seen.  I don't know how fast they were going but I don't have visual of them.  In fact, Kevin was not visible in my mirrors either.  Eventually I pass up Minh, Russel, and Primo.  They stopped on the side of the road to take pictures.  I figured they can catch up since they had fast enough bikes.  Once I got into Panamint Valley, I pulled off to the side of the road to let the group catch up.  Again, we detour off route a bit for the sake of fuel.  We go pass the Panamint Valley Rd, our turn off, and head towards Panamint Springs.  Once there, we all pull to fuel.

The first thing I did is to talk to Russell about Primo's behavior.  I mentioned to Russ that Primo had passed me in the turn a while back and forced me to end up in the opposing traffic lane.  The funny things is, Russell wasn't surprised and said Primo did a similar thing to him.  "It appears that he likes to pass people in turns.  Maybe he thinks he's racing or something," said Russ.  This is very dangerous as most people are not use to being passed in the turn.  When they're surprised, there's a possibility of an accident occurring.  In Russ' case Primo passed him on the inside and forced Russell to take a turn late.  Russell had to straighten up to let Primo pass, ran out of road, and ended up making a really late deep turn to compensate for the lack of apex.  Not cool man.  You're out here riding in a group and you ignore everybody else's safety in favor of your thrills?  Come on folks, we're on public roads here.  This is no race track.  It should never be treated as a race track.  A mistake here could spell doom.  If it doesn't kill you, it will at least really hurt you.  No to mention the possible monetary cost involved with the event.  I also mentioned this event to Kevin.  Kevin said that Primo had passed him in the turn also but it wasn't a big deal as he knew it was coming.  Kevin is more irritated about Primo riding in his blind spots.  Russ agreed to Primo's behavior.  Eventually Kevin mentioned the poor passing habits to Primo and he didn't see that he did anything wrong.  In his words, "I was just passing."  Hm...

As if the incident with Primo wasn't bad enough another idiot shows up on the scene.  Several Enduros was pulling into the gas station to fill up.  Since we're all done with our filling and our bikes are taking up space, I mentioned to the guys to pull out of the way to let the others have a go at the pump.  Common courtesy.  First up, a guy on a BMW HP2 pulled up to fuel.  I'm surprised that he doesn't have any armor on.  He's either brave, stupid, or both.  His Rally 2 Pro jacked was stowed away on the back of his bike via a cargo net.  I guess he doesn't care about coming off and landing hard.  Since I'm on vacation and it's a fellow Beemer what do I do?  I try to start a conversation.  It was an odd attempt at a conversation.  I ask him a question and he acts like he doesn't hear what I'm saying.  I find myself repeating my questions several times.  I eventually figured out the guy is a prick and left him alone.  While he was fueling he eventually took notice of my GS and started making snide comments.  Something to the effect that it's oh so clean.  No shit Sherlock, I haven't gone off road because of the company I'm with.  He also claimed my suit wasn't dirty.  Well if he had looked a little closer he would have noticed a giant oil stain on my left leg's padding, but this matters not.  The guy obviously has issues.  Be it that he has pennis envy or that he's lacking something upstairs.  Perhaps all that jarring from the off road ride shook some bolts loose in the noggin.  Any way you look at it he did a good job of pissing me off.  Once he was done with me, he's going off on Kevin.  For a guy that has so much money that can afford an HP2, he sure doesn't seem to know a lot about the Dakar bikes.  He plays it off as an old bike when in reality Kevin's bike is an '06.  Not only that, the Dakar series of bikes has been raced in the Paris-Dakar for numerous years by both sponsored Paris-Dakar teams and also by privateers.  To talk down about a Dakar just show his lack of pedigree.  You can talk down about the 12GS but don't even try to talk the Dakar down.  Then again he probably doesn't even know what the Paris-Dakar is.  Perhaps he thinks he has the one up because he has an HP2.  I don't know about him but the GS is a more practical bike.  Anyway, Mr. Wonderful is done and rides off.  The reality is, if I had really wanted an HP2 I would have gotten it.  The pricing is higher than the 12GS but not by much.  I originally wanted an HP2 but the way BMW originally marketed the bike made it unattractive.  As it stands there is still at least one HP2s sitting in the showroom floor at Brown Motor Works in Pomona.  For me the primary problems with the HP2 is the seat height.  The R12GS in 32 inches and I'm already having problems let alone having to worry about a 36 inch high seat.

Once again, we double back on Death Valley Scenic ByWay to get on Panamint Valley Rd.  We make our right turn and head south east.  I'm doing a steady 80 MPH on the road and my handle bar is buzzing like I'm holding a brass tumbler.  My hand goes to sleep even if I use the throttle lock.  This sucks.  I notice that the handle bar is a little better when the throttle lock is off.  I switch back and forth between locking and unlocking the throttle.  Still my hand is asleep.  It still sucks.  I just put up with it as there's nothing else I can do.  As the road changes from Panamint Valley Rd to Trona Wildrose Rd, the throttle hand does no better.  When we get close to Trona there is a bit of wind to contend with,yet something else to deal with.  Again, Russell, Minh, and Primo are far ahead and I'm leading from behind with Kevin in tow.  When we do see the fast bunch, on the side of the road, we don't stop.  We might as well put as much distance between them and us as they'll catch up to us in no time.

When we get to the north end of Pioneer Point, a small town north of Trona, Kevin and I pull over to wait for the others to catch up.  During the course of getting to this stop Kevin and I had passed a couple of Enduro bikes really fast.  I was doing something like 80+ to pass them.  Kevin thought I was passing them fast as revenge for the idiot at the Panamint Springs gas station.  Nope.  I was passing the Enduro fast because a turn was coming up and I don't like to be on the opposing traffic lane where opposite traffic can appear.  Who knows what's heading down that road acting as a road kill meat grinder.  This is especially the case where I would be considered to be the road kill.

I don't know who's the last one to stop but we're all gathered up.  What comes out of Primo's mouth?  "I'm hungry.  We should find somewhere to eat."  I agreed, "We'll stop at one of the gas stations to check and see what type if any restaurants exist around here."  Driving between Pioneer Point and Trona yielded nothing.  Eventually I stop at one of the two gas stations in Trona and ask if there are any restaurants within the area.  The clerk said, "No, you'll have to head into Ridgecrest."  Bummer.  This means we're going to deviate from our route again.  Oh well, we don't have a choice.  This adds a good 10-15 miles to the original 266 miles we have to travel to get home.  Yet again, I lead from behind.  Minh, Russ, and Primo are out ahead racing towards Ridgecrest.  Kevin and I are putting along at a steady clip.  About 10 miles out we pass our original intended turn off, Trona Rd.

Now we have to decide what we're going to eat.  As we come into Ridgecrest highway 178 is renamed to Ridgecrest Blvd.  At the corner of Ridgecrest and China Lake is a Denny's.  Some said yes, some said no.  I don't mind Denny's but because of some opposition we go on a little further to see if there is anything else.  We make a right turn onto China Lake and see nothing else but fast food restaurants.  At a light I decided to make a U turn and head to Denny's.  It looks like it's the only truly viable restaurant around, and the most convenient.  Primo said he saw an Italian restaurant on the way into Ridgecrest before coming to the Denny's.  "OK, you lead the way since you saw it," I said.  We all made the turn and follow suit.  No joy.  The restaurant is closed on Sundays.  In the end we all gathered at the Denny's.

During the meal we all discuss the overall distance covered for the entire trip.  I had originally estimated 850+ miles.  To this Minh and Russell disagreed and said that it will end up closer to 950-1000+ miles.  I finally remembered several stretches of the trip where my Nav system was off because of the bike's accessory power issue.  This is the reasoning for my shortfall on the overall estimated trip distance covered.  Of course silly me didn't think to look at the trip odometer to see what distance had been covered.  Anyway, if we ended up in the 900s, this means we're averaging about 300 miles a day.  Wow!  The most I've done is 280.  I guess 20 more miles is really not that big of a deal.  We also estimated we'll all be home around 6:00-7:00pm.  That's pretty good.  This means we'll still be riding in daylight.  We finish off our meals and prep ourselves to get back on the road.

As we leave the Denny's we turn right onto China Lake Blvd to head towards highway 395.  The entire time we're heading out I'm hoping traffic will be light.  All hope is dashed as we make our left turn onto the 395.  No choice, it's a Sunday and everybody and their mother and dog is heading south to get back home from their excursion.  We're no exception and fall right in along with the masses.  It's slow going as this stretch of the 395 is two lane with bi-directional traffic and minimal opportunities for passing.

No matter how far you go to all corners of the Earth there is always a guy with a small downstairs department that has to compensate with a big truck.  For some reason they feel the need to  prove their manliness against a motorcycle.  Just because they have a massive engine block under the hood, they think they can out muscle a motorcycle.  Yeah... sure.  It's always the truck drivers and the SUV moms I tell you.  We all have a run in with this idiotic trucker but Kevin is the one who experiences it the most.  The truck kept on tailgating him.  Tries to pass him and can't pass him.  The road is not for games people.  Cars are just as lethal if not more lethal than a 45.  Freakin' idiots.

Here it is again.  Not too far into the ride on the 395 we're confronted with windy conditions.  I know the 395 is set in the high desert so windy conditions is just a part of life here.  Fortunately it's nothing like last year.  Nonetheless, it's annoying.  I do my usual dance to stay on the road.  Having experience this last year.  I know I can improve the situation by ducking behind the windshield.  Yup, much improved.  However, I can only hold this position for only so long.  This time around my world is leaning toward the right.  In reality, I'm leaning a bit but don't really notice it as much as last year.  When we pull off at the Asto Burger, at Kramer junction, Russ and Minh are telling me they see me riding at and angle.  They also experience the wind but don't have the same predicament as me.  The faring on their bikes acts like a sail, but fortunately for them they have a smaller profile.  My height is killing me.

The trip theme question is asked once more, "How far until we fuel up again?"  From Kramer junction to Adelanto is only about 30 miles.  Primo is happy.  On our way from Kramer Junction to Adelanto we got stuck behind two big rigs.  When a passing lane came up, I got ready for the event.  Feeling the turbulence behind the truck makes me sensitive to what the truck's draft is going to do to me when I pass.  I was really concerned about being sucked into the wheels of the big rig.  I give the trucks a wide birth when I pass.  On the initial part of the pass I experience the vacuum created by the trucks.  I fight a bit to position myself so that I don't get sucked in towards the trucks.  The vacuum has me going from 65-80 MPH in zero seconds.  I try to make the most of the passing lane and see a third truck in front of me.  I gun it.  However, this situation is scary as hell.  I normally give the truck a wide birth when I pass, but there is heavy traffic in the opposite direction.  I know the turbulence from the two sides are going to cause havoc on my bike so I pass the entire situation as fast as I can to minimize the amount of time spent in the turbulence tunnel.  Sure enough, as predicted, my bike gets squirly from the eddies coming from both sides.  It's a split second of terror and I'm out in front of everybody.  Ducking down behind the windshield definitely made the situation better considering my overall height.  Don't tell me I should get a tinted windshield because I will never use it.  I use it all the time.

The rest of the pack passed all three trucks except for Kevin.  His experience with wind and the trucks has him hanging behind the third truck.  It's all fine as it's better to be safe instead of risking it for some stupid reason.  We make it to the Circle K on the corner of the 395 and Air Expressway Blvd and fuel up.  The wind on this stretch of the 395 is still ever present but not as bad.  Perhaps it's because we're driving slower due to the speed limit.  The openness of Kramer junction has the winds whipping at whatever speeds they feel like.

Rudeness is in order for the day.  I see a partial opening for this one pump.  However, there is a big RV sitting not too far behind.  I rode up and politely asked the driver whether he's in line.  He said yes so I scuttle away to another pump.  I was sitting behind a car and Russell waiting for my turn to fuel up.  Next thing you know a car drives up and pulls up in front of the RV.  The RV driver honked and flashed his lights with a few expletives to boot.  I don't blame the RV driver.  The car driver should have at least asked if the RV was in line.  Eventually the car driver also scuttled off to another pump.  The RV driver has been waiting for a good 20-30 minutes for his opportunity to fuel up.  Yup, people just don't want to care and think.

Since this is the last of the stops for the entire trip, we all shook hands and bid each other a fond farewell until we see each other again the next time.  For most of us it is at work in a couple of days.  Kevin was concerned about the wind and asked me to escort him home.  I'm probably not going to ride any faster than 70 MPH until we reach the outskirts of LA so it's not a problem.  We started off going pretty fast.  However, I remember Kevin's request and started hanging back.  Eventually Kevin and I loose sight of Minh, Russell, and Primo.  The ride was pretty much uneventful with the exception of a truck, SUV, and occasional idiotic sports car.  We all made it home without a problem.

The final count for the overall trip is between 925-1000+ miles.  Depending on where we live in the LA basin, our overall trip distance varies.  That's pretty good for a three day trip.

I know Minh wants to come back next year for the many sights that we have missed.  If we go next year I will make it a point for us to stay at Furnace Creek because of it's convenient location.  Due to the location requirements, next year's trip will most likely be in late April or early May.  That's DV's off season so rooms should be available and less expensive.  We'll have to put up with the heat but that's just the nature of Death Valley.

Pre-Trip [March 13-15]
Day 1 [March 16]
Day 2 [March 17]

Written on: April 23, 2007
Last modified: May 6, 2007