The Second Annual Death Valley Daze
Death Valley, California, January, 1997
From: Darryl Richman
Here I am, back at work. Sigh.
But I had a great time, even if the commute wasn't so fabulous. I took 5 days to get down to LA, from Saturday to Wednesday. I left with the usual PNW sendoff, riding in cool, wet weather.
I got down to Grants Pass in the dark and the fog, with some bozo cager hanging with me in the pea soup. As I'm heeled over, there was a >FLASH<. This idiot (note: little "i") had taken my picture, and when I got a chance to sneak a look over my shoulder, he was wrestling the camera into something on the back seat..
The next day was clear and cold, and I camped in the redwoods. I had the place to myself. Then I stopped in with my brother- and sister-in-law in Sunnyvale. I made the obligatory visit to Mecca...err, Cal BMW, and Kari suggested I might camp in Big Sur.
So, I rode down to Santa Cruz and along CA-1 towards Monterey, but the further I went, the colder and windier it got. Then I saw the sign saying that the highway was closed beyond Big Sur, so I cut back inland and camped at the Pinnacles. I enjoyed the evening, which was mild, but awoke to pouring rain. I stuffed my sopping rain fly and tarp in their bags and beat feet down to Solvang, where I bought a tub of butter cookies for my mom at Birkholm's bakery. (Oh, and I had one of their fabulous elephant ears.) It was begining to clear up when I finally made it to my folks place in LA.
Thursday was clear and nice, in the 70s, and I rode around a bit and visited a bit. The beaches were deserted, but you could see Catalina clearly.
I met Mick and Linda McKinnon at the appointed spot Friday morning and we rode out to Death Valley. Laurie at West Valley Cycles had shown me a few roads that avoided Ridgecrest and a couple other towns on the way in. Townes pass (elevation 4950) had a bit of snow on the sides of the road, but was clear and dry, and Death Valley was comfortably warm.
It was nice to meet so many of the faces that go with the names. And all of those bikes lined up while the group photo was being taken! Thanks to Tom Childers for the site reservation where I pitched my tent, and to Joe Denton for supplying such vast quantities of food! Also to everyone who brought beer!
I left Sunday morning, riding with Roozbeh. At the top of Townes pass was the completely burnt out hulk of a large motorhome, that Alice had been talking about. All was ashes except for the frame. Walker pass was clear and we had a good run, eventually following the Kern river through its narrow gorge before we got to the flatlands and Bakersfield.
Rooz planned to take 198 to 25 and into the bay area, which are both really great roads. But I knew I had a lot of miles to go to get back to Seattle by Monday night, so I told him I didn't think I'd follow him when he left I-5 at Coalinga (named because it was founded as a train fueling depot, marked as Coaling A). My plan was to avoid the bay area and catch US-101 north. But as Coalinga approached, a Tule fog set in, and so I was forced to follow when Roozbeh made his move.
It was dusk at Hollister and dark by Gilroy, and after I split from Roozbeh near Berkeley and got onto 101, I could feel the tiredness creeping over me. I camped with Tom Bodet in Santa Rosa.
I was up early on Monday and got off by 6:30. I had a long pull ahead, about 850 miles, and the weather didn't look like it would cooperate -- rain and winds being predicted all over the northwest.
I retraced my steps along 101, 199 and I-5, stopping for breakfast in Willits, and dinner in Eugene, with gas in Santa Rosa, Willits, Trinidad, Grants Pass, Vancouver, and Tacoma. I rode from tankful to tankful. At least, I did until I left Trinidad, where the speedometer cable broke.. I got home a bit after 10pm and fell into bed, and dreamed of the open road.
If you reserve the campsite, they will come!
- --Darryl Richman
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