We planned a ride to Death Valley last year in April but a storm came up so we changed our destination to Northern Nevada and Northeastern California. This year we planned a trip to Death Valley on the same weekend as last year and the weather cooperated. There were 5 of us planning to go – Bob (BMW k1100rs), Randy (GS1150) , Rich (GS1200), Norb (V-Strom 650), and Steve (V-Strom 1000). Go here for all the pictures.
*click on the itty bitty pictures to see big ‘uns
Day 1 – Thursday, April 2 Chico to Bishop ~ 400 Miles
We planned to meet at Randy’s house in Stilson Canyon at 7:00 AM and have breakfast inGrass Valley but as usual plans are made to be broken! Wednesday evening Rich discovered that his battery had gone south so he would have to wait for Ozzie’s (the local Beemer store) to open so he could obtain a replacement. Since we had some time to kill, the rest of us went to Scrambles for some breakfast. While waiting for Rich, the UPS delivery man called me on my cell and said that he would be delivering my new camera that day – well, nobody was going to be home and the delivery required a signature so I made arrangements to have them hold it at the UPS terminal and I would pick it up on the way out of town. Meanwhile, Norb remembered that he forgot something at his house in Durham (which is also on the way out of town) so he went home and we arranged to meet him there. So, here we are, Rich is at Ozzie’s, Bob and Randy are at Scrambles, I am at the UPS terminal and Norb is at home – What a start!
We all finally got back together at Norb’s house and we were on our way! We had a nice ride up I80 to Truckee when the fun (?) started again. Bob was leading the way and at the last minute we got off the freeway at what we thought was the correct offramp to cut over to Lake Tahoe – well, Bob was already past the offramp and he went on to the next offramp and we finally got on the right road for Tahoe and stopped to wait for Bob who had gotten back on the freeway and was looking for us. Long story short, we finally found Bob and continued on for a beautiful drive through Lake Tahoe and down to Carson City. We stopped for lunch at Round Table in Minden, NV where I finally could open the new camera and set it up and snap a few pictures. Cool camera!
After Minden/Gardnerville we aimed the bikes down hwy 395 for one of the most picturesque drives that I have ever seen. 395 in the Spring can’t be beat. With the snow covered Sierras on our right and the White Mountains on our left it was one of the prettiest rides I’ve ever taken. Every bend in the road uncovered another breath-taking vista. We stopped frequently to take pictures and to generally ooh and ah over the sights.
Day 2 – Friday, April 3 Bishop to Stovepipe Wells ~ 200 Miles
We got up and took our time having breakfast waiting for it to warm up a bit. There were signs of the strong North wind that would plague us for the next two days. We were initially heading south so the wind would be at our backs for awhile – we followed 395 to Big Pine where we turned East on hwy 168 – yes, I said East, now we had a taste of the North wind slapping us in the side of the helmets for most of the rest of the day.
After a few miles we turned on to Death Valley Road which was a nice gravel road with some really scary patches of sand with which all of us except Rich had brushes with tank slappers – kind of scary as the sand looked the same as the rest of the road and we would hit them with no warning.
Death Valley Road brought us into the Park very close to Scotty’s Castle – boy were we ready for pavemant by then! We headed East a few miles to visit Scotty’s Castle. Scotty’s Castle is a very ambitious home/mansion/villa stuck in the middle of the desert. In the early 1900’s a charecter known as Death Valley Scotty was rumored (rumor fueled bu Scotty himself) to have found a secret Gold Mine in the desert. He promoted funds from unsuspecting investors to develop the mine. All he seems to have developed is a nice living for himself. One of the investers, Albert Johnson of Chicago struck up a friendship with Scotty and even though Mr Johnson knew there was no gold mine, he continued to “grubstake” him. Mr Johnson funded the building of the “castle” as a retreat for he and his wife. Here is a web page with a nice write-up of the life and times of Walter Scott “Scotty“.
The Ranger Lady, upon noticing our wierd clothes (riding gear), asked if we were on motorcycles and we said yes, why? She said that they have had Coyotes and Ravens getting into saddlebags looking for food. The Coyotes just chew through leather or textile bags but the Ravens were smarter and opened zippers. We thought “sure, sounds like an urban legend”. Norbert and Rich decided to take a walk to the parking lot and check out the bikes – they found Randy’s tail bag opened and stuff strewed on the ground! I guess it wasn’t an Urban Legend after all.
After grabbing a bite at the snack bar at Scotty’s and gathering Randy’s stuff, we headed south to see what we could of the area with the time we had left in the day. We had an eyefull of fantastic desert vistas and different colored landscapes. Several times we spotted sand storms in the distance – once near Stovepipe Wells it looked like we were riding directly into the sandstorm but at the last minute the road veered around it. We arrived at Furnace Creek and visited the Death Valley Museum. The museum is a very interesting place certainly with lots of facts about Death Valley and a WONDERFUL place to get out of the wind for a few minutes!
We then decided to visit a “must visit” spot, Badwater where the lowest spot in the US happens to be. Randy’s GPS elevation reading seemed to be right on the money, mine seemed to read about 20 feet low – shucks!
We headed North with the goal being Stovepipe Wells where we had reservations for the night. We took a little one lane one way loop called Artists Pallette which turned out to be a stunning ride – every corner had another view of multicolored desert hills. We stopped at one spot and since the sun was going down but was obscured by clouds, we waited for the “magic” moment but the sun never really came out – it was still a fantastic scene. After the scenic loop we headed for Stovepipe Wells to get a room and dinner. Near Stopepipe Wells there is a large section of sand dunes. We realized when we saw it that one of the sand storms that we had spotted and skirted around during the day was at the sand dunes at which we were looking.
We checked in to our rooms – pretty nice rooms but they should have been plush for the 128.00/night that we paid. Randy and Rich shared a room and Norb, Bob and Steve shared another. While getting settled into the room and getting ready for dinner we had a scare – Bob couldn’t find his keys! With thoughts of calling his wife to bring a spare set of keys from Chico (~500 miles away!) we continued searching on the ground and all through his bags and pockets in his riding gear and finally found them where they had fallen down into the bottom of his fairing – whew, that was a scare.We all made mental notes to make sure we always had a spare key on trips like this. With the key scare out of the way, we met Rich and Randy for dinner and had a very pleasant and relaxing dinner. After dinner, I was sitting on the porch enjoying a cigar and struck up a conversation with a nice young couple in the room next to us. It seems that they were camped in a campgroundnear the motel when the wind came up and ripped their tent to shreds! They got lucky and got a room at the motel because someone had canceled their reservation due to the high winds. They were too late for dinner as the restaurant had closed so they were cooking their dinner with their camp stove on the porch – semi-roughing it! The next morning when the wind had died down some, we were able to have a nice view of the sand dunes out our window.
Day 3 – Saturday, April 4 Stovepipe Wells to Carson City ~ 400 Miles
We awakened the next morning to a much calmer day. The wind was still blowing but not so hard as to dominate our riding. At Breakfast we discussed which route to take that day. Randy, Rich, Norb and Steve wanted to make enough miles to give us a short day home on Sunday. Bob needed to be home that night as he had obligations at his Church on Sunday. We had discovered that we had riden right past the Ubehebe Crater which was up near Scotty’s Castle. We all wanted to see the crater before leaving the park so we decided to go North to the crater, then turn East and follow Hwy 95 North through the middle of Nevada before stopping at Carson City for the night. None of us had been up 95 before and that would be new territory for us.
After gassing up at Stovepipe Wells we headed North towords the crater. We were under the mistaken impression that the crater was a meteorite crater – we were wrong, it’s a volcanic crater. We turned off at the road to the crater which was a rough but paved road through some recent volcanic activity areas and arrived at the crater and our jaws dropped at the size and depth of the crater. It’s 2,400 feet in diameter and 500 feet deep! Here is a link with lot’s of info about the crater.
After oohing and awing at the crater and taking lots of pictures, we started East towards Hwy 95. We weren’t impressed with the ride up 95 as it’s a long straight road through not very interesting desert landscape. We were again experiencing strong North winds and we were headed into the wind which made for an uncomfortable ride. It was also cold enough that the 4 of us that had electrics were glad we had ’em. Since Bob had to be home that night, he took off ahead of us and that was the last we saw of him. We stopped at Tonapah for lunch at a casino where Norb and I took the time to put our liners back into our riding pants – did I say it was cold? A thermometer in Tonapah said it was 38 degrees. We had a nice lunch and had some fun asking our waitress about the area. We couldn’t see what in the world supported that town way out in the middle of nowhere. She informed us that there is an Air Force base there that conducts secret tests, etc – the locals call it Area 52.
Soon after Tonapah we turned west and eventually connected to Hwy 50 near Carson City. We had an uneventful grind across Nevada except for an event in Yerington – we stopped for an ice cream and to rest our butts at a McDonalds and when we were leaving one of us (who’s name shall remain anonymous) dropped his bike in the parking lot – right in front of a bunch of high school kids-a little embarrassing for ______ (fill name in here!). But he got up and brushed off his dignity and we continued on towards Carson City.
We arrived in Carson City and found a really nice hotel for only 49.00 a night – ya can’t beat that! They even had a place to park our bikes under a cover by the front entrance where we could see them from our rooms.
We walked a couple of blocks from the hotel to Red’s 395 Restaurant which was a really fun place with good food. It was full of antiques and strange decorations hanging from the ceiling which reminded us of Madison Bear Garden in Chico. Upon questioning the employees about the place it turns out that it is owned by the same people that own the Bear in Chico! No wonder it looked familiar to us. While we were eating, a young man stopped at our table and showed us some amazing card tricks. We were truly amazed that we could not figure out how he did it even though we were only a couple of feet away from him. Randy took some video footage of him in action – see below.
Day 4 – Sunday, April 5 Carson City to Chico ~ 200 Miles
In the morning we walked across the street and had a nice breakfast at the casino then suited up and had a nice leisurely ride through Reno, Quincy and home.
Thank you Lord Jesus for a wonderful trip – great scenery, great weather and great friends!