Monday, January 6, 2014

Tribute to Mom, six days of desert riding; Day five, down to Yukka Valley

Lone Star proved to be an interesting area for those old time movie buffs. Apparently the majority of the old westerns were filmed in this area. When you see a movie with lots of boulders and John Wayne, this was the area.
I enjoyed old Movies but I am honestly one that really does not care about the making nor am I one to go out of my way for movies so I decided rather than tour those sites, I would simply head south.
Provided it warmed up enough.

I would venture out at around 8 in the morning after checking my Email again to see if my new friend had mailed me, it would be empty. I began to load my bike as normally I take in my tank bag and tail bag locking my Panniers (hard side luggage)It was cold, I was only in my shorts and flip flops, I could see my breath uhgg I didn't want Montana style weather which is why I headed south.
I continued to load, being a somewhat disorganized person I have found that it took me about an hour to gather up my scattered gear and clothing in the room, to pack and load everything securely and to make a double check that I had everything.
I inquired at the desk as to the temperature and the response was a nice brisk invigorating (23 degrees one hour ago) ok this sucked but I could not see my breath so I assumed I was now in the 30s for warmth.
With a request I believe the hotel manager came out to help get my bike on its rear stand. Now mind you I can get the bike on the rear stand fine when it is empty, but with Panniers and loaded it has proved a chore. I have found that a 2x4 with a 45 cut in one end would help, but that required the stand to still catch on something and that did not always happen.
I would inspect and lube my chain, doing a quick once over on the bike and wander in to put on my gear, at this point I was only wearing full base layer style gear as I did not want to work up a sweat which would cool me while riding.

10 am I would depart, I found this to be a good time as everything seemed to warm up and I wanted to be in Yukka valley in five hours to give myself some evening time.
There was only one other motorcycle and he had not started it yet so I assume he was waiting for it to warm up further, wuss!
I was excited to this leg as Mom had spent a good deal of time at Joshua Tree National park, she had a inherent love for the place and talked about it often. IT seemed to have something special for her in a few hours I would be closer to knowing why.

A half hour later I found the town of Olancha, the little rustic town the man had told me about the day before. Could it really be called a town? The first building I saw was a cafe, I decided since my bum was sweating after gearing up (I know you wanted to know that)the cool air made me a bit chill so I thought I would stop at the next cafe, it was boarded up.
I found the shell station which was something I was concerned about the night before which was before the junction which would have brought me to the town, there is no way I would have found that. I turned around and stopped at the cafe.
now let me be clear, you know you took a wrong turn when cars in the area have ski racks on them.

I would chat a bit with this fellah who did not seem to be the sharpest tool in the shed, he would as " why do you have a helment cam?"
This took me back a bit, "why do you take any picture" he really could not answer, but was happy to pose for a picture, whatever.
I went in filled my coffee mug, used their facilities, had a cup of coffee, tried to use the internet, checked the temp, it was now up to a balmy 48, perfect for heading down the road. I would spy an elderly lady checking out my ride, since I first took off at the ripe age of 19 on my cruiser Easy Rider style people have always been curious as to my bike and gear. It always is a conversation piece and I guess everyone knows you will have a story and you are doing something most only dream of.
I saw this hotel shortly after the junction and it saddened me that I had not stayed at this wonderful little place. How much a person misses of the true traveling experience by staying at chain hotels which I was guilty of the previous nite.

It would warm up quickly and soon as I headed south and dropped in altitude the snow would completely disappear.
The more I headed back into the desert the more off road riders I saw, it seemed there were trails absolutely everywhere outside of the towns. This reminded me of what a fellow wild land firefighter from Cali had told me a few years ago on a fire " California has a reputation for being a tree hugger state, I am here to say that we have nothing on Montana"
This is true, OHV use (off road motorized vehicles) are severely limited within Montana.
There were plenty of police around the area so I doubt these people riding were poaching the trails.
I also noticed a huge disparity of income which I often hear about, it seemed most people were living in ratty houses and driving older patched together cars. Possibly this was merely a priority problem most of the Dirtbikes/fourwheelers were worth more than the trucks towing them.

I would stop soon after I reached these areas to take out the liners in my pants and jacket, my liner in my pants was soaked, and while I needed a bathroom break that was not the cause he he.
This was an interesting place I am not sure exactly what it was, an observatory of some sort? Radar? I simply could have read the sign but that would have been to easy.

Had I waited five minutes I would have been in the next town, oh well thus is life, the bush thanked my nitrate contribution.

I stopped to get gas in some little slice of hell, the most noteworthy aspect of this town was some guy with an early 1960s car pulling a 12 foot trailer with a stove pipe sticking out the top, it was like going back in time. I took a video with my helmet cam but it did not come out clearly.
The Gas station turned out to be a lesson in survival itself, most pumps were filled when I pulled up, as I began to fill they would open up yet some man insisted on squeezing between me and the car across from me with his SUV. I had to press close to the bike to avoid being sandwiched. Amazed by his poor driving I would start across the parking lot to pre pay as my credit card still was not working I had to avoid some woman who was texting, this place was crazy!

The Road construction south of town was something else. They were widening the two lane highway but had the concrete barriers on the white line. I do not know if it was on purpose or not but there was what looked like transmition fluid spilled in the center of my lane, oil on the road just what every biker looked forward to. I would ride in the right tire tread near the wall but I found it unsettling to ride so close to the barrier. I found the left tire groove more comfortable for me and Is where I normally choose to ride anyhow to allow myself more road for maneuverability. The construction would continue for roughly 30 miles, I did not pay attention, I simply tried to focus on staying on the dry pavement and to not cross the spilled fluid anymore than I absolutely had to, it would end at the next stop light.

I was getting dehydrated and starting to make mistakes. The Camel back while convenient was starting to have a plastic taste, I am not surprised it had water in it for five days solid. I would change it out daily but it undoubtedly needed to be cleaned and aired out, I quit drinking from it on this day.

I stopped at a gas station and asked a girl how far it was to Yukka valley, she did not know and had only left the town once to fly to Guam. I found this to be common in my travels, it seems locals often have a limited knowledge of what is outside their town. The area I am from in Montana has more people familiar with the outside of town as there are so few Amenities in most small towns you had to travel to get what you wanted.

Refreshed I continued on, I was tired of the traffic, tired of the poor careless driving, tired of having to take off my GPS and helmet cam at each stop. I was admittedly getting lonely, I like traveling on my own but I enjoy sharing my adventures so I called a couple friends regularly, one is reading this now. Thanks for you tolerating my lonely ramblings.

I assumed the Yukka valley was a little over an hour ride provided the traffic ended, which according to the map and my GPS civlization should be ending shortly.
I passed a cute little blue hotel which was fenced in with chain link and vines climbing the fence providing some privacy. I thought it would be a nice place to stop for the evening but I was so close to my destination I decided to continue, I could not have more than an hour left judging from my map and handheld GPS.

Not five minutes later I felt the strain of five days in the saddle, with consistent five hours plus riding each day.
I really contemplated turning around but again, thinking I was so close what was another hour? I spend so much time on the road with my job putting in 11 hours of solid driving I was not worried about it. But driving a truck is different, you can stretch, move your ass, and be a bit more relaxed. Riding a bike seems to take more energy, more stops and a bit longer time to get from point A to point b.
I love the KLR but it by no means is the Ideal Road bike, you notice the single cylinder while climbing any incline at all as it seems to vibrate more than on the flat. My padded seat cover was still working well and even though I had no throttle locker I found my right hand comfortable, my left was another story. I am not sure what made my left hand so sore but my forearm was throbbing and my hand going numb. I would squeeze the air and think that maybe I should carry an exercise ball :P

The road sucked, it was straight little changes in elevation. The homes became more ratty and sparse and reminded me of the Blackfeet reservation, before you get offended know that I operated a business outside the res and I knew many of the prominent members of the tribe. but it really did remind me of that area, houses that were near shacks, plywood signs with misspelled words announcing some business spray painted on. There was not much for homes, they were few and far between, but I was becoming so tired I was thinking of stopping anywhere to pitch a tent. I came to a small town, I do not know what it was, and I saw a RV dump sign, the next sign was dirty and faded and I thought it said RV park but could not be sure.
The houses after got nicer and I really Imagined myself walking up, knocking on the door and asking if I could sleep in their yard. I started to get short on breath, I think it was stress I dont know but it was there, maybe the hotter air? I dont know.
Suddenly I would go up a steep hill, there was a speed sign telling me how fast I was going at the top, I passed it with only a vague realization I was going slightly over the posted speed.
Suddenly I was in a town, houses and businesses opened up before me, I was in Yukka Valley!

I did not know which way to turn, and my handheld GPS does not show Amenities on it. I would turn left and a block later I would see a pretty girl holding a XXX sign with an arrow, perfect she should know the closest hotel.
She visibly was surprised when I asked her where the closest hotel was, quickly she figured out I was just a weary traveler wanting a nice place to stay.
"What are you looking for?"
Someplace nice I would reply
She said there was one of those number 8 motels up the road and a travel lodge beyond it, that was all I needed to hear and I flipped a u turn and Immediately found the super 8. They did not have a hot tub or a pool, something I desperately wanted and needed. Damn it I had visions of a nice cold drink soaking up the sun alongside a pool with bikini clad women!

The Best Western was a few blocks further, the woman at the counter assured me they had a hot tub and a pool, perfect I will take it. Honestly I was so exhausted I would have parked next to garbage can at this point.
I unloaded, grabbed some chow at the fast food Mexican restaurant next door, an over priced beer, water and vitamin water at the curious gas station across the street which did not have working pumps. I dont get it.

I would belch loudly, send a message to my gurl and sister letting them know I was safe, grab my swim trunks, walk up and down the first floor trying to find the pool and hot tub. "It is at the other building across the parking lot" I was informed by the woman working the desk.
The sun was down, the temp dropping, no bikini clad women at the pool and it was cool enough they probably would have been wearing a sweater anyhow.
I settled for a warm bath in my room after shivering across the parking lot after a two minute dip in the hot tub.
Today was not enjoyable at all, yesterday only the first half, and my lack of pictures today reflected it. The next day I hoped to find moms fascination with this area.

I was in bed by 8:30 and fast asleep, happy New Year was my last thought.

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