Part 2 - DEATH VALLEY RALLY - FEB 18 - 21 ‘ 2011

Friday - Feb 18’ 2011

Have you ever notice how riding on new roads you have never ridden on before and meeting new people you have never met before have a lot in common? New roads are exciting but you have to proceed with caution because they are new to you. Same with people ... its fun and exciting to meet and get to know new people but it takes time and caution should be observed until familiarity begins to breed and friendships are born based on mutual respect. Repeated exposures to new roads and new people in our lives keep us fresh and is often rewarded with lasting friendships. This is how I viewed the Death Valley Ride in Beatty Nevada as I was getting ready to depart for this morning ... as an attempt to make new friends both road wise and people wise.

As with any good ride there was just a hint of uncertainty in the air as I stir around in the am getting ready to leave and as usual it revolved around the weather. How appropriate that a ride named after “Death” should have some ominous predictions regarding the weather. Without going into detail suffice to say the words “Rain” “Snow” “Wind” targeting our cherished destination it was enough to make a grown man cry. For many it was to much and it made sense to them to cancel and wait for a better day. For others, myself included, it was a “let’s go for it” moment. I cursed the weather under my breath and donned my armor and headed up Vulture Mine Road to meet up with the Arizona group in Wickensburg at 9:30 and then continue on with them from there to Beatty Nevada.

We gather together all on time and tanked up (meaning gassed up not the other one) and ready to go. After sharing a quick few words we were zipping down the highway like a precision riding team. It was if we had been riding together for years. We were able to make excellent time thanks to Wayne’s (OldGuy) leading the way with his radar detector. The day was spectacular and not a drop of rain fell this day. We did manage to take a quick stop at the Hoover Dam and snag some pictures of the group and the dam.

After leaving the Hoover Dam we hooked up with Matt and we all stopped just north of Vegas to get a quick bite to eat. We then continued on north into Beatty arriving at around 3:00 p.m. and were greeted by local law enforcement. He was sitting on the one corner that comprises the one intersection that is Beatty Nevada and was checking to make sure no California rolls were made during our turn. Every one passed the test successfully and proceeded a short distance down to the Motel 6 for check in.
After meeting a few other riders it was time to get cleaned up and check out the Casino and restaurant to relive today’s ride and remove some of the day’s trail dust by having a drink or two before dinner.
We all chatted and drank for a while and after a respectable time we found our way to the dining area and enjoyed a surprisingly good meal. After returning back to the motel we all had to check our bikes and make sure they were batten down for the night. It was just starting to sprinkle just a little and we were all hoping tomorrow wouldn’t be as bad as the prediction had made it out to be. Bad news is I can hear the wind howling outside now and the rain is coming down pretty good. Hummm wonder if this will have all moved out of here by morning. Let’s hope so or Gas money may turn into beer money pretty quick. Stay tuned.

Saturday - Feb 19’ 2011

OK ... as it turns out .... we need both gas money and beer money ... and that’s a good thing to be sure. That means the weather this morning was absolutely AWESOME. Check out the pictures below ... it was time to ride ....
Leaving Beatty around 9:00 a.m. temps were chilly but as our 10+ Wings roared down into Death Valley along highway 374 and eventually Daylight Pass Road temps rose to the peek perfection of riding bliss. From the 40’s quickly into the 50’s and 60’s toping out around 72 degrees by early afternoon. We made out way to our first stop ... Badwater Basin 282 feet below sea level.
Strangest thing about these photographs above is the mysterious absence of any ominous weather phenomenon such as rain or snow clouds that had been forecasted. The storms had passed in the night and the stage had been set for a wondrous day of exploration and riding. The winds were strong and at times surprisingly fierce but never a large concern as we rode the length of the valley of death ... we feared no evil. (Sorry I couldn’t resist). This was truly motorcycle wing riding at it’s finest and many participants were ready for the run. Speeds up to 132 MPH on GPS were noted and others, including myself, set new speed records for our respective bikes and the way we ride. Long stretches of asphalt with sweeping wide turns contrasted by sharp twists and challenging turns as we raced up Dante’s Peak ... Check out the view from our perch at Dante’s Peak approximately 5,700 feet in elevation.
Temps can vary as much as 20 degrees from this location to the valley floor below. It was a sight to behold ... speaking of another site to behold ... here’s the gang of 10 at Dante’s Peak
No ... it doesn’t get any better than this .... wish you were here .... NOT .... Just kidding .... Remember there’s always next year......... if it doesn’t rain.

The 9 mile stretch of road up Artist’s Drive was open so we were also able to make a nice little run up along the ridge and observe one of the most famous sections of Death Valley that leads to Artist’s Palette which is a stretch of clayish rock in all sorts of cool colors. We stopped here for a while and marveled at the formations and colors. Check it out
One of the sad things about riding a Wing is that it’s almost impossible to tear yourself away from riding sometimes to take the time to eat. I know it’s an addiction that we bear the burden for riding this great bike but we did manage to be responsible this day and replenished our bodies with good food and gassed up the Wings at Furnace Creek ( $ 4.87 a gallon at the Chevron station there ... thank you very much). From there it was off to Scotty’s Castle up north for the afternoon stop. More great roads and awesome scenery along with warm temps. Here’s a pic of Scotty’s Castle below ...
We took a quick stop here and after chatting a while we were back on the road to Beatty, and a cold road it was. I believe it was here we experienced a taste of what might be in store for us tomorrow. As the sun dropped and we headed north before dropping back south to Beatty the temps started to decline rapidly. It was into the upper 40’s as we approached Beatty signaling an end to today’s riding.

What a ride it was .... Wonderful riding ... great people and good times ... hoping for encore performance tomorrow.

Sunday - Feb 20’ 2011

It’s hard to imagine a forecast for this area for this weekend that could have been more wrong. Maybe we were just lucky or Death Valley does have the magic touch that keeps moisture and rain at bay and temps moderate this time of year regardless of the weather pundits predictions for doom and gloom. What ever the case we were all happy to get up this morning and discover yet another beautiful day with blue skies as far as the eyes could see.
As we gather around our steeds in the crisp morning air the decision was made to try and make it over to “The Road” as everyone who has been on this ride before calls it. Highway 168. Once again weather forecasts showed the road and passes we so desperately wanted to ride may not be in a condition to do so. However, we were not going to be deterred so easily. We had to see it first hand to believe it. We decided to leave Beatty around 8:30 a.m. to head toward Bishop through Death Valley ... thinking that the road north out of Beaty might not be passable. This route was a safer sure way to get up towards Bishop and see for ourselves the conditions there before attempting “The Road”. Once again the scenery did not disappoint. Death Valley is an awesome place to ride with constantly changing vistas that really reflect the desolation one can feel here when you roll to a stop and turn off the engine.
We proceeded along 190 and stopped at Panamint Springs for some pictures and a brief break. Then it was time for the first test of the roads at elevation. This occurred just after departing from our stop as the road quickly climbed to around 5,000 feet and the temps, although cool, were warming up nicely. We stop along the road to gather ourselves together as a group again. When Wing’s travel in herds (2 or more) this is typical behavior as there has to be some semblance of order. A ride like this just doesn’t happen. Special thanks should go to OldGuy - Wayne for leading this ride and encouraging everyone to ride their own ride. Many have done just that and it’s made for an enjoyable and safe ride. We decide to continue and the roads were wet with small gravel in places but really nothing to be of concern yet.
We quickly hooked up with 395 north and with the Snow covered mountains on our left and blue sky above we rolled all the way into Bishop. We passed the turn off for 168 but can’t tell much about the condition from there. We were headed for lunch at Erick Schat”s Bakery in Bishop and would fill our stomachs and then decide.
So we’re sitting there solving the worlds problems as we also mull over whether or not we should attempt “The Road” or not. As we discuss this the gentleman you see in the picture above sits down next to us and over hears our conversation. He quickly confirms the road is fine as he just travelled down it early today in a car. There was no snow on the road over the pass on 168 he said. Made our day and solidified our route back to Beatty would encompass “The Road”.
After lunch and the good news we gather again before heading up highway 168. Check out those snow covered Sierra Mountains in the background. Now that’s the kind of snow I like. The kind you can see in the distance :-)

“The Road” was all that everyone said it was and more. I personally loved it! It’s the type of road that just begs to be ridden over and over again. Today, however, wouldn’t be that day. We were just happy to be able to ride it. Although it was pretty dry for the most part there were spots in the shadows to be observant of and loose gravel and dirt discounted any serious attempts to raise one’s speed through some of those twists and turns. We paused at Lida Summit ... 7,400 feet.
Snowball fight .... Anyone? No audio for this picture but trust me they were all saying .... “Wish you were here” ... are they really waving?

We finally tore ourselves away and traversed back down on to highway 266 and then over to highway 95 ... and finally South into Beatty... rolling in to town by late afternoon.
Heading back to base with a “Peaceful Easy Feeling” ...... isn’t that a song? ... Gotta get that one ... perfect fit for that last stretch of road back after a days ride.

The Death Valley Ride is over for now but it’s already one of my favorites and I think I speak for everyone that attended when I say .... we had a great time and “We Shall Return”. Oh Yea .... if there isn’t rain/snow in the forecast :-)

The thing I like best about this ride was the informality of it. I think most motorcyclists are loners first and social second and they relish the fact there was no plan ... Just a bunch of guys that want to ride and I’ll add .... know how to. A most enjoyable time. Thanks!

For myself ... I find that at the end of a days ride or an event or rally like this is when I feel the most tranquil and relaxed? I have such a sense of wonderment as to what I just did on the world’s greatest invention ... the motorcycle.

Gotta Love it .... I Sure do ...

Monday - Feb 21’ 2011

Talk about your Blue Monday. Sad to see everyone gather and pack up to depart Beatty for home but that’s what we did rolling out just prior to 7:00 a.m. Many of us traveled together as far as we could each headed for the comforts of home. As the herd thinned out then there was one ... Me. I decided to break with our group, that was heading back to the Phoenix and Tucson area, just past Wikiup, Arizona. As we ate lunch at “Eat At Joe’s” Bar-B-Q there I figured since it was still early afternoon and I was already up this way why not ride some to the great winding roads out towards Bagdad, Arizona on Highway 97 and 96. I said my good-byes to my new Wing friends and rode off towards the Highway 97 cutoff and stopped briefly to appreciate the day and what was to come.
Yes it was the long way home ... Yes I had just rode over 1000 miles just in the last few days alone ... and finally Yes I still felt like riding some more!

Pulled in to the driveway of my Daughter’s house in Buckeye, Arizona around 4:30 p.m. wondering the same thing I always wonder after just returning from a great Road Trip and Ride and that is ......

When can I do this again? :-)

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