Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tribute to Mom, six days of desert riding; Day four, last trip thru Death Valley

I had stayed in the little town of Ambrossa, ok well apparently it was not a town but a single casino/hotel.
I had managed to score a suite for the same price as a normal room after laying on the "poor biker in the saddle and weather all day" story. It seemed like a good idea. The room was nice but the bed probably never changed out since the built the place, I would have been more comfortable camping. I woke with a stiff back but to an incredible view which seemed to make up for the hard bed.

With my fellow traveler the German on my mind from the day before I decided to cut back thru the park and see if we could meet up again.
The Mosaic canyon sounded pretty cool and the House where Charles Manson had staged his infamous brainwashing was also in Death Valley, so why not? Hell it is possible I would never go back and I learned a long time ago to take your time and never assume you will go back to an area as there is a good chance you never will.

I do not care how many times you see the view going into Death Valley it is always amazing. There was a lookout which was only 30 miles round trip out of my way that sounded pretty cool called Dantes View. I took the road and Immediately kind of regretted it, honestly I wanted to be thru the park and make a long day of riding but to make it to Yukka Valley.
Of course what I thought would be a 30 mile ride would end up being an easy hour round trip.
The last 5 miles were very sharp switch backs that said 15mph and they meant it.
Dantes View is located at the east end of the park, it is popular and as with most of the major sites in the area it was inundated with tourists, as with others it seemed most were from out of the country.
The view indeed was worth seeing as the peak itself offered nearly a 360 degree view.

But it would take an hour out of my day, at the time it did not seem like much, but in the end it would add up as time always does.

I would tool on down the road stopping briefly to grab some Vitamin water and use the eh ehmm fascilities in Stovepipe Wells. For future reference for those who may visit the area gas is significantly cheaper than in Furnace Creek.
As I was heading into the store I noticed these to Harleys stop suddenly, almost as if they saw my bike and pull into the parking lot, I thought nothing of it but coming back out they were parked on either side.

The White ride was super nice, I would eat a breakfast bar and chat briefly with the owner. He was in his early thirties, looked the part of a Harley Biker and talked like someone who had spent lots of time on the road. I was very impressed that he dared ride this low rider from AZ

Interesting thing after they left I heard the distinct sound of a snow plow, but what? I am in the desert! I look up the road and there was a pickup with a snow plow mounted on it pushing whatever sand had drifted across the road. I chalked it up to just another trick on the mind in the Valley.

From there I would head up the Mosaic canyon, a mere four mile ride off the tarmac. In a hurry as I knew daylight was running out I simply stripped my jacket, left my riding pants on and with my trusty track boots acting as Hiking boots I headed in.

I would not go far up as a Ranger had stated the first quarter mile was the best part of the Canyon. I did find it entertaining that in my stiff boots I would actually end up helping some hikers over some of the Marble. I guess there is no substitute for spending lots of time in the back country regardless of foot wear.
Thew view in the Canyon is quit spectacular, and if you are into such a thing, it certainly is worth the trip.

Now I certainly was cutting it close on time, and off I would tool to hit the 178 junction south which I would use to take me to Yukka Valley. Really an odd site again, you climb then drop into this strange flat I guess old Lake Bed

That was cool and I have to say that you can see nearly everything any desert has to offer in Death Valley, but my euphroia would quickly be stemmed by a flash flood which would have the 178 road closed I needed to take.
I rode past trying to Imagine in my mind how much farther I may have to I 15, it certainly did not seem so far this morning when I glanced at the map. As I passed Paniment springs I thought of a character I had ran into my first day in the park, some crazy wild looking man who had woopped out "We are camped at paniment springs" As he jetted away from me the previous day.
I thought of pitching the tent but I still honestly was not looking forward to it, even though it seemed wind free and quit quaint in the little area I continued on.
Now at this point you are wondering what do I have against Camping? Well nothing, it is quit fun but I certainly have had my fill growing up and camping at every chance in Montana. 9 years of Wild land firefighting and days, sometimes weeks on end would have its toll on my shoulders. So if I can help it, I try not to camp now days, I carry a tent and Sleeping bag only as a last resort or the perfect area.

The ride out of death valley is another mind bender, you go from -200 feet below sea level to rising a thousand feet at a time.
the road up is filled with switch backs made challenging with the sun glinting in my eyes.
As I neared the top I caught site of some snow covered peaks in the distance, ohh I will hit a valley I thought. But the road would continue to rise and rise and soon there was frost on the ground.
I pulled over and glanced at my map and my hand held GPS. It was about the same distance to I 15 now as it would be back thru the park to the 127 south on the east end of the park. As much as I enjoyed Death Valley I was ready for a change, and I continued on to the mountains. Soon though the road kept going and it was getting flat out cold, I would put my arm out to try and get a car to stop, he would slow, and as I flipped a U turn he woudl speed off, running from the obvious madman dressed in Hi Viz. Finally I would get a pickup to stop after I pretty much stood in the middle of the road.
"I thought you were broke down" he would state
No, no I replied "I just need to know if I am headed into snow or not"
HE would assure me I was dropping into a valley, and there was a little town at the bottom I could find a hotel at with "Quaint rooms"
"So what you are saying is they are dives" I replied
"I did not say that, but I do not know what your Idea of a Dive is, if you are worried about it about 19 miles north out of your way is a resort town with everything you need"
Now that sounded ripe good, the thought of a hot tub after the dropping temps and snow cap peaks sounded perfect.
I would find the valley as he stated, but the snow line from the peaks was maybe 800 feet higher, I was cold, and considering putting on my pants liners as I had already put on my jacket liner and two sweaters.
I found the resort town with my dirty lights casting a dim glow on the "Lone Pine" sign.
I stopped at the first hotel which was a comfort in, with a pool that was of course closed for the season. Ok whatever I needed a bed, I rode a half block to the gas station and the best Deli in the area I was told.
I grabbed a chicken salad sandwich and headed back, balancing the styrofom box on my tank bag, big mistake. It would ride fine until I went to get off the bike, at which time it would open just enough for half my sandwich to splatter all over the ground.
Frustrated but happy not to lose the hole thing I opened my tail bag for the small bottle of wine I had bought. It took a suicide dive and left its red blood upon the parking lot.
Yup I was ready to bed down, the sandwich was amazing and the bed one of the most comfortable I had ever slept in.
Before I drifted off I would check my Email again, hoping my fellow German Wanderer had messaged me, she had not, how disappointing but no surprise, I hope she made it safely.
Tomorrow I would finally make Yukka valley.

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