The Breakfast Club: Death Valley Daze

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Pictures start here

Thursday–Monday, October 5–9 2017

Carl writes: Death Valley Daze -or- It’s Not My Bag

The Plan: Add an extra day on the front end to make for a later start and more relaxing ride. First night will be Virginia Creek Settlement (just below Bridgeport) – about 230 miles.

Thursday, October 5

Meet at the Black Bear Diner in Tracy at 10 AM; allow 30 minutes extra time in case of lingering commute traffic – expect to arrive early. Clear sailing until the 238 split … then LOTS of lingering commute traffic. Arrive at the BBD right at 10 AM. Already there are Marcus, Rob and Jerry Moody (for a short visit and then back to the world of commerce). Russ had been there and gone – back to search for some luggage which took an unplanned exit along the freeway. Good luck, Russ. By the time everyone was done with breakfast, Russ returned – safe, but without the lost bag.

The plan had been to go over Sonora Pass, but the latest highway update is that the pass is closed. Discussion in the BBD parking lot is to go via Ebbetts Pass. My plan is to take 120 to the 108 split and see what the electronic sign says. If 108 (Sonora Pass) is closed, I’ll take 120 through Yosemite and go over Tioga Pass. With Marcus in the lead, I take the 120 off-ramp in Manteca. Marcus, Rob and Russ continue toward Ebbetts Pass and lunch in Arnold.

The first advisory sign I see on 120 says 108 remains closed at Sonora Pass. Whoops! Oh, well … carry on and see how things look at the 108 junction. AND, by the time I got to the junction (about an hour later), the sign said the pass was open. Hooray! On I go. After a brief stop at Strawberry for a snack, I continued to Sonora Pass. The road was beautiful … very little traffic and only a few damp spots in the shadows. The temps were in the 50’s all the way to the eastern side of the pass and Hwy 395. After a brief stop in Bridgeport for gas, I made it to Virginia Creek Settlement about 2:30 PM. A bit later, Tom arrived solo (having spent the morning at the office), and Marcus, Russ and Rob followed about an hour after that. All safe and well, and ready for a pleasant evening.

Good eats at the Virginia Creek Settlement for both dinner and breakfast. I could finish neither due their grand size. Nonetheless, I was well satisfied with both, as was the rest of our crew.

Friday, October 6

Leaving Virginia Creek, Friday morning found us rather chilled. Russ saw 17 degrees as he rolled back to Bridgeport for gas. I needed to give my battery a boost with my new jumpstart kit. In the meantime, we also met Glen who came down from Carson City with the ultimate motorcycle heater accessory … a pickup and trailer. Onward we rolled southward … Lee Vining, Bishop and Lone Pine. Then, 77 miles to Stovepipe Wells with a stop for lunch at Panamint Springs. The folks at Panamint have a new tour-bus-friendly business model. We had quite a wait for lunch.

The remaining 30 miles to Stovepipe were as they always have been … a fun ride through the sweepers up Towne Pass and a brisk ride down the other side with a number of opportunities to unload your suspension along the way.

It was just Tom and me at Stovepipe. Marcus, Russ and Glen were staying at Beatty, and Rob was on his way home – an abbreviated ride for him this year. As for Stovepipe activities, it was the usual routine … passing the time at sunset, watching the shadows change on the dunes and mountainsides. An early-morning run for me under a few stars and nearly full moon.

Saturday, October 7

At 8 AM, Saturday, Marcus and Russ came back via Daylight Pass to join Tom and me for breakfast and a hike to follow. Ah, the best laid plans … The Stovepipe kitchen was closed due to a water supply problem. As an alternate, we went to Furnace Creek. Nope! Both Furnace Creek locations were closed due to major construction and remodeling. Back to Beatty! Marcus found a little spot that served us well. I might add, however, that while waffles were featured on the menu, there were no pancakes. Complicating matters was our waitress’ limited vocabulary … which did not include “pancakes” nor “oatmeal.” After getting a look like I must have been from outer-space, our server said, I’ll try. One order of Kitchen Surprise coming right up! And the surprise was they were pancakes … and good pancakes at that! Conversation was quite limited after we were served, so I think the other guys likes their breakfasts too.

Post breakfast, I wasn’t feeling well, so decided to go back to Stovepipe while the guys headed for adventure on southbound U.S. 95. Glen decided to head home from Beatty. My ride took me toward Daylight Pass. Passing Rhyolite, I noticed a motorcycle headlight behind me; then, two additional bikes. Keeping my speed down, I pulled to the right and soon three vintage Indians were passing me. I recognized the bikes, as their riders were staying at Stovepipe Wells and planed on participating in a vintage event in a few days. What a scene it was: three vintage bikes heading up and over Daylight Pass … the sight, the sound, the smell … all perfect!

After a few hours of R&R I was feeling better, and Tom returned from a day of good riding (and lunching in Shoshone). At dinnertime, the Stovepipe bar and kitchen were fully functioning and served us well. Later we walked to the end of the airfield to watch the last of the sunset and first of the moonrise. A beautiful evening in Death Valley.

Sunday, October 8

Sunday’s plan was simple: 80 miles to Lone Pine and breakfast at the Alabama Hills Café; then another 60 miles to Bishop to spend the evening. Unlike some of our other plans, this one came off without a hitch. Tom and I were even able to check in to our room at the Travelodge at Noon. Other activities included a tour of Laws Railroad Museum by Russ and me, and dinner for the three of us at Whiskey Creek. And while the weather had been perfect all weekend, the winds came up with a vengeance in the afternoon. Good that we were done riding, though the bikes got filthy just sitting in front of the motel room.

Monday, October 9

Monday’s ride home more-or-less followed recent tradition: breakfast at Jack’s and an 8:30 AM start north. Gas at Lee Vining and Oakdale, and home by 3:30. Looking forward to our next ride.

Pictures from Carl


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