Wait a minute! The road is closed..!! (Screw that! ;-) We've been on paved park roads long enough now..
Little did I know this would be one of the last times I will see my left mirror. ;-(
Death Valley dirt roads are good fun, and as mentioned, I was quite ready for the break from paved roads. We had a plan of how to get through, the points marked on the gps (as well as paper map as usual). But in the back of my head, I had just heard a story from somebody at the Horizons Unlimited meeting that a couple went through the dirt roads of Death Valley using their gps, relied too much on it and eventually got lost and died. I have no idea if this is true, but it is something I kept in mind during the day, as it's called "Death Valley" for a reason!
The goal is to ride to the "Racetrack". We know that getting there will be fun for us because it's a 4WD track only, minimizing the amount of tourists. Add to that and it's a place that is unique to anywhere in the world, which I will explain more when we get there.
So off we go..
I didn't get to stop and take photos during the hairiest part though. We must have gone through a downhill river bed, the rocks were crazy big and thick. One of those times on a motorcycle where "momentum is my friend" thanks again Walter! ;-) And no consideration for pulling the camera out, the only goal is to get through it.
But it didn't last too long and we were on good dirt again.
This is so cool... really good fun. We are really out here, a long long way even on a motorcycle. So, I can't help to think of the Wild West films.. and the cowboys riding across the desert, no food, no water, collapse under the hot sun, the raven circles and screeches while the cowboy is dreaming of the oasis... Right, a bit carried away as usual ;-)
"Y" up ahead !!! Adam, are you sure you took the right/correct fork??? Where's my paper map, I'm not looking at the gps!!
Adam stops to tell me something. As he does, I realize something is wrong. What is wrong?? Can't work it out.....my bike doesn't look right. I can't concentrate on what Adam is saying.
Crap! The left mirror is missing.. dag gone it.. rough road! I think my brain was still jiggling inside my skull even as we were stopped, so I was slow to work that one out.
James was riding behind me, and by time he caught up, I asked if he'd seen it in the road and he didn't. I wasn't bothered enough to go back and look for it as it had been a long time since I was last sitting and saw it. It wasn't the screws, the metal actually snapped part way up, leaving the screws on. Geez!
We finally get to a properly marked fork in the road and a point we hoped to see... 'Teakettle Junction'. There's a couple theories to how this intersection got it's name, but the one thing you can't miss is all the teakettles! Many people write messages and leave them inside. To me the message looks like, 'Hey, you are in DEATH VALLEY.. there is NO water here.. it's too hot to drink tea anyway... duh!!!' ;-))
So here on our well marked paper map is where we turn left to the Racetrack.
Even though the 4WD track discourages a lot of tourists in cars, there are still plenty of travelers who come in 4WD from the main road at that intersection, and for this I think they really juiced up the amount of loose gravel to drive on. Not nice!~ So slippery!!
The story about the 'sailing stones' of the Racetrack as worded on Wikipedia:
The sailing stones are a geological phenomenon found in the Racetrack. The stones slowly move across the surface of the playa, leaving a track as they go, without human or animal intervention. They have never been seen or filmed in motion. Racetrack stones only move once every two or three years and most tracks last for three or four years. Stones with rough bottoms leave straight striated tracks while those with smooth bottoms wander.
The sailing stones are most likely moved by strong winter winds, reaching 90 mph, once it has rained enough to fill the playa with just enough water to make the clay slippery. The prevailing southwest winds across Racetrack playa blow to northeast. Most of the rock trails are parallel to this direction, lending support to this hypothesis.
Adam and I set to "race the rocks"!!
We had to make a decision now. It really was starting to get dark, and we have a long ride ahead of us. Should we camp here or make it back to the main road. The problem was, we still didn't have enough water to drink and cook.
James has the biggest bike, a BMW 1200gs. Adam is a superstar on the dirt and gravel, as it's most like his homeland Israel. I am not particularly good at it, but I've learned enough to keep me upright (most of the time). James having the heaviest bike and smoother tires was struggling in this section a bit. Adam reminded him that the faster he goes, the easier it should be.
I'm ahead of the guys and I ride standing up in this stuff. So I nearly fell off the bike when James put that "go faster" into play and went flying past me at top speed! I didn't see or hear him coming! I remember thinking when he passed 'that boy's going down'. I feel bad I thought it, but I did!
Sure enough, not long, I see in the growing darkness a bike down.
Before I check on him I made sure to get a photo.. ha!
He was all right, and laughing his head off. James is a strong guy, but he still needed our help getting the bike upright again in that soft stuff.
The road was super tough obviously, we've been standing all day, sliding all over the place and add to that I couldn't see much when it got dark to make the best decisions. As you know on rough difficult surfaces, taking full concentration to pick the best part of the road to keep upright in daylight. It's much much harder in the dark since I have pretty well worthless headlights.
So then I was only TOO HAPPY once we reached the pavement again. It deserved a repeat of the kiss I gave to a better road in Russia.. however that kiss was being happy just to reach a DIRT road.. that's how bad it was! Here is a nice pavement, we can move on and sit down for a bit! ;-)))
Even though this day has been long, can you believe there is still one more thing we want to see?? Ubehebe Crater.
"Ubehebe" (pronounced YOU-bee-HEE-bee) is a Timbisha Native American word meaning "Big basket in the rock." It's a large volcanic crater created by a powerful volcanic steam explosion.
It was a very cool stop and I would love to see it better, but it is now DARK. We know from our map that we are very close to a park campsite. Thank goodness!! Since we set up in the dark again, I've only got views with the morning light.
Don't mind the bottle, Adam wasn't drinking wine at 8 AM... it's from the night before.. promise!! ;-)
Another top spot to spend the night.. just gorgeous! You can really feel how special it is to camp on this land. I know I've said it far too many times..maybe a million times, but I love my life!!
Now, back on the road... moving on, moving on, as we do.
We knew this was coming, the very unique part of the world where you are actually on dry land at 100 feet BELOW sea level. Amazing!
It doesn't happen often, but after lunch, we just stayed in one spot for the rest of the day. Set up camp in the local camp ground, had a SHOWER!!!!!! For the first time in days.. passed out early in our tents.
The next morning we took the highway west to go back out of the park the same entrance we came in. However on the very paved and faster road. We chose to do this for all of our sakes. Adam, who just recently arrived America from the south (Mexico) wants to head up the west coast to Seattle Washington.
James and I have plans on going south TO Mexico and beyond. And for me, I want to stop in to visit my family near the coast in southern California.
By the time we made it out of the park, we head straight back to the camping place we found a few days before. Except this time, we chose a legal and even more beautiful spot!
Really special place in the world, I have loved every bit of it. And now that we are back to civilization, we track down a McDonald's. A true friend on the road when you need some free wi-fi!
A quick catch up with the world, we say a heartfelt goodbyes and all 3 go in separate directions. James and I intend to catch up in a couple weeks after I've had my family visit.
Until then, see you!!