Day 3, Death Valley and Traffic Jams


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Early Saturday morning, as the light crept in my tent, I opened my eyes and relished the warmth of my sleeping bag.  I slept hard, even though I woke up once to pee.  Just before that, around midnight….I heard a strange noise.

I lifted my head to hone in on the sound.  Was this the infamous Yucca Man of Joshua Tree?  I quickly realized the deep, growling noises were Mike’s snores.  So, I did what any good friend would do, I recorded it.

In the morning, while exchanging niceties over coffee such as…”how did you sleep”? I told him that I came face to face with the Yucca Man in the middle of the night.  I then played back my recording and with wide eyes, Mike replied…”was that me?”  Yes.  Yes it was.  But I like the story of the Yucca Man better.

We broke camp,  then said our goodbyes to Guðmundur and wished him safe travels.  We decided to take our last 2 days to ride the scenic route home, rather than I-5.

This would route us through Death Valley and up the East side of the Sierras, which of course, is much prettier.  Our stop for the night would be in Bishop, CA–roughly 420 miles with the chosen route.  Below are a few parting shots of Joshua Tree.

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IMG_4996As always, after coffee, I needed to make a pee stop.  Not far up the road in Lucerne Valley was an odd and fun little place called Cafe 247.  I was greeted warmly, and noticed several of their employees outside firing up the huge BBQ grill, getting ready for the day while 80’s rock played in the background.    img_5019-e1512523412870.jpg

 

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We met the owner there, his name was Alan and he was a friendly guy with a handlebar mustache that told us stories about his place, and said we should come back for the Gambler 500 SoCal event.  It’s a mostly an off-road rally using cheap, crazy vehicles.  Here is Alan’s vehicle he bought for $40.  The tow to take it home cost $60.

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Participants are  to spend no more than $500 on their vehicle. Vehicles can be modified with no cap, but they are supposed to still be in compliance with the law (compliance is used loosely here).  If you’re interested in it, just Google it–it’s supposed to be a pretty fun time and I’d love to come back and see it.

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Photo courtesy of gambler500.com

Before we left, Alan gave us some Cafe 247 stickers and wished us safe travels.  We then headed off for our ride through Death Valley.

We were only on I-15 for a short time before we saw brake lights.  A lot of them.  It turned out to be the worst traffic jam I’ve ever been in.  It lasted about 8 miles at nearly stand-still pace.

We could not lane split due to our saddle bags making us too wide.  After sitting through it for way too long, we decided to ride up on the shoulder, slowly making our way through it.  We finally made it through, but that short 8 miles delayed us for an hour.

We kept on and arrived at Death Valley Junction, where we would pick up the 190 that takes you through the heart of Death Valley.  We stopped at the old Amargosa Opera House for a quick photo.  It’s said this place is haunted, but you can still take tours of it if you plan in advance (sadly, we did not).

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The sun was already getting low in the sky, and it cast an ominous and eerie light on the old abandon buildings here.

As we rode through Death Valley, the scent of sage was sweet and I was taken by the jagged mountains and the rocks that jutted out from the earth.  This is definitely a place to release the steam valves.

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Photo compliment of basicplanet.com

Luckily for us, the Super Moon was still full, and it started to rise over the valley.  It was one of the most beautiful sights I have seen in a long time.  The colors take on a new hue and the mountains look so majestic towering over the valley.  Photos just can’t capture it.

We kept on, still having many miles to cover, and because of the traffic jam, we would not arrive in Bishop until 7:30 pm.  This doesn’t sound late, but the desert is cold this time of year, and the temperature dropped quickly after 4 pm.

We still had 2 plus hours to go and I was starting to get really cold.  The kind of cold that seeps into your bones.  Mike has a temp guage on his bike, and I think I may have asked him every 10 minutes what the temp was.  It kept dropping every few minutes until we came to a low of 30 degrees (that is -1 Celsius for my European friends).  Also, riding at 70 mph brings the temp down 20 more degrees.

I was shivering so badly that I could see my headlight shaking but we had to keep on going, as there is not much out there and we had a room reserved already in Bishop.  Mike kept me going by telling me stories to distract me from the cold, even though I know he was as cold as I was.

We finally arrived and I have never been so happy to see a Super 8 in all my life.  We cranked up the heat, ordered a pizza and each had a long hot shower.  My shoulders were sore from being so tense from the cold, as well as the long miles we put in, but overall I had such an incredible ride day (minus the traffic jam).  I went to sleep quickly and slept hard, with visions of the full moon over Death Valley.

Stay tuned for the last day of riding when I’ll tell you about how Mother Nature decided to throw a wrench in our plans to get home.

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Photo courtesy of scpr.org

Categories: TripsTags: , , , , , , , , ,

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