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Into the Valley of Death

Les is more

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Well, Death Valley anyway.


What a grand weekend! We watched and waited and checked the road condition sites right up until the last minute. The skies cleared, the weather warmed and the MLK Death Valley trip was a go.


Six of us met in Santa Ysabel for breakfast. The company included Phil Degnan, Barry (Copeland) Beemer, stanf (Stan Fleener), Dennis Andress, Jamie and me. Dennis came just for the breakfast, the company and part of the ride.




We took a relaxed pace through a preternaturally green San Diego back country and down the "glass elevator" of S22 whose curves cantilever you out over the expanse of the Anza Borrego Desert. The road rises and curves out to the Salton Sea and as it dipped into the desert wash crossings, it became clear that the road crews had been busy and that the sailing would, for the most part, be clear.


The one question mark on our route was Box Canyon out of Mecca at the north end of the Salton Sea. It's a beautiful winding route through expansive washes and gnarled mud hills but since we knew it had been reported closed by floods as recently as the day before our ride, we chose discretion over valor and followed the 86 up to the I-10. The turn off for Joshua Tree National Monument marked our return to the back roads that make the trip to DV so much fun.





We enjoyed more "getting acquainted" palaver over Mexican Food at Edchadas in Twenty-nine Palms before heading out Amboy Rd. toward Kelbaker Road. That's a red rollercoaster of a route but again we took it fairly easy as the road surface had been pitted and roughened by the recent rains. The road between Baker and Shoshone is string straight and the pace quickened there. The V-1 performed admirably, alerting Jamie that thar be a shark in these waters. We slowed accordingly and were somewhat taken aback that this LEO was giving us a full light show for our sedate 70 MPH. We all pulled over and he went to the front of the line, wagged a finger at Jamie and informed him that the road was posted 55! DOH! Stan, a new rider, was the only one without radio. I was right behind him and I swear the air between us crackled with his apprehension as he wondered if we were all getting a ticket. I could also sense his bafflement as the cop sent us on our way unscathed.


The sun was outpacing us and we opted to head straight for the 95 and Beatty instead of dropping into the valley first. We came to the Exchange Club at about 5:15 to find that the management had thoughtfully roped off the parking to save it for the bikes.


Our room was quite large, clean and comfortable. Quite the nicest $35 room I've ever stayed in! It had a couch with a coffee table, a desk, a table with two upholsterd chairs, a refrigerator and an addtional "dressing table" with a mirror in addition to the king bed and dresser. Did I mention the broadband Internet access? I'd say that the only problem was the rather loose interpretation of what constitutes "non-smoking." That seems to be a characteristic of most of small town Nevada and not just peculiar to Beatty or the Exchange Club.


The Club itself had set aside an area for us to enjoy the reception that Phil had arranged (thanks again, Phil!) They really aimed to please with a very nice spread. There were roast beef and cheese roll ups and the same made with ham. There was a platter of sliced turkey and one of sliced smoked salmon. They served brie, a vegetable platter, rondele, sliced bread and a variety of crackers. Mind you there is no market in Beatty. They imported most of these things from Las Vegas! There was also a full bar with $1.25 drafts and possibly the most enthusiastic and interesting bartender ever, Who will tell you in a hurry that hte name of the place is Beatty with a long "A" sound!.





Jim (the bartender) is a mover and a shaker in the local historical society and has an amazing enthusiasm for this funky little town. He'll regale you with Beatty stories with a smiling face and a generous sprinkling of "interpretation." His goal was to please and make sure that we knew we were welcome and that he accomplished quite handily.





After an evening of greeting old friends and meeting new ones and generally having a great time (something the people on this board really know how to do), we agreed that the morning sun should be given a little time to warm things up. Therefore, we decided that it would be only right to sleep in and allow Old Sol to do his work without our interference.


The ride to Death Valley out of Beatty winds over Daylight Pass and down through gorgeous, rugged and rocky terrain. Still high above the Valley, you turn to the left and hold your breath for what you know to be a spectacular view. The expanse of desert stretches out far below and the snow covered peaks of the Panamints tower over the far side. The sky is brilliant blue and the desert floor is...what?...filled with water? Suddenly, there is ancient Lake Manley reflecting the sky for as far as the eye can see. Marvelous! There is something so precious about seeing this much water clear and still, covering a great portion of what you know to be one of the driest, most inhospitable places around.





David Adair (Red is his uncle. I asked), Mark Davis and his friend Karl (the two Harley dudes), Paul (friend to Roburt Waldow), Russ Smith (RCS), John K, and Jamie and I continued on to Furnace creek. Arizona Al and Harold split off and headed up toward Panamint. We spent some time at Furnace Creek Visitor Center to let Mark and Karl learn a little about Death Valley. They had come into Las Vegas for a business meeting and rented Harleys in order to make this bash. We wanted to be sure that they got a feel for this unique area. Richard (Benicia RT) joined us in (yes in, not on) his BMW. Two wheels or four- we were just glad to see him and he really immersed himself in the local color this trip! Of particular interest in the Visitor Center were the slides showing the power and devastation of the incredible floods of water that poured out of the mountains and through the canyons. Canyon walls, boulders, cars and roadways were scoured, displaced and destroyed by the churning, rushing torrent.





We dropped down a sweeping road to Badwater and got off for the usual pics of the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (-282 feet) and a walk to the edge of the not so usual amount of water that filled the salt flats.





To reach our next destination, we crossed part of the Valley and turned toward Panamint, enjoyed the long sweeping turns and undulations of the road as it took us past the dunes and into Stovepipe Wells. We had a very good lunch ranging from chicken walnut salads to massive chile burgers smothered in ketchup.







From here we turned back to the road that traverses the length of the Valley and headed for Scotty's Castle. This is a large Spanish Villa built by Death Valley Scotty, a prospector and Albert Johnson, a Chicago millionaire. There are many legends surrounding this castle in the desert and the rangers give tours daily. It's really a remarkable building with massive wooden doors, ornate iron work, hand painted tiles, a clock tower, a huge swimming pool and red tile roofs. Scotty is buried on the hill above the castle.


The day was just about over and Benicia RT led us out of the Valley and back toward Beatty. Richard had a radio and used his four wheeled stability to guide dog us through any sandy patches that remained on the roads. On our way back to the hotel, we were mentioning the presence of brothels along the route when suddenly we were interupted by a woman's voice over our radios.


"So, y'all just saw our place?" "Uh, yeah." "And you drove right by?" "Uh, yeah." "Well, y'all need to turn around and come on back." "Uh, no." Then I radioed "You boys go on ahead. I'll see you back at the hotel." I don't know what she made of that but I'm sure she gets plenty of truckers to make that little U-turn!


For dinner that night we tried the Burro Inn. We threw them into a bit of an uproar since we probably filled the dining room about ten times as full as it would have been ordinarily. The food was OK and the service was pretty darned good considering that about 25 of us descended on them like hungry locusts.





The social portion of the night split itself between the Club and Al Schibi's room with the requisite ear plugging party and viewing of some great video that Al shot on the road past Panamint Springs where the twisties tighten up and bite their own tails.


On Sunday morning, some had to leave while others rode out to experience more of the variety and beauty of the area. Jamie and I turned our focus to learning more about this little town and its residents. Part of our day was spent with Bob Palin and Rodger and Sue Blakey exploring an old mining area called Pioneer. There is a decorative rock mining operation there now and it's the new gold of the area.





We parted company with the others at the north end of town at the new candy store and "most beautiful gas staton in the world" This property adjoins and is owned by the same company that runs the Stage Coach Motel and the Motel 6.





As we went into the various little businesses along the 95, going from north to south, we spent time speaking with propreitors and residents. It seems that the portion of town south of the Stage Coach - Motel 6 area is the old part of town. The people there are very unhappy with what's going on in the North. According to the town's people we spoke with, the owner of the land in that end of town has no love for the place and is only interested in what he can buy up. If he can drive the old motels and businesses under, he will be the only one left to profit from the traffic passing by on the 95. To that end, he has bought properties, half demolished what was there and left the rest to rot. He has also erected numerous obnoxious billboards around town. We could find no one who had a decent thing to say about him.


The businesses in the older part of town are standing by each other and are really grateful for the trade that comes their way. We got so many sincere thanks for choosing to stay in and eat in that older part of Beatty. It was really interesting and moving to see the loyalty that these folks have for this odd little desert place. It made us glad that we chose the Exchange Club for our gathering and their gratitude was evident in their friendliness and desire to please.


Sunday night, a few of us rode 60 miles south to the town of Pahrump because we heard there was a good rib place. Nobody knew the name. They just said, "Look for the big pig." Little did we know what the big pig held in store! This place was owned by the feistiest gal this side of the Rockies. A dyed in the wool Vikings fan, she quickly informed us that she wasn't happy because her team had lost. Roburt (side to side), his wife Kristen, his brother-in-law Nathan and his buddy Paul had gotten there just before us, or so we thought. We all ordered our food and I couldn't figure out why none of them wanted to share the appeteizers we ordered. Turns out that these guys who had already been ther for a good hour, were in cahoots with the owner and that they were ordering a second dinner!! She loved that and made sure that we knew we'd been hornswoggled. She had a non-stop stream of banter and was really funny. She insisted that we not tell anyone else about the place because she was "Too old to be runnin' around like this!" When Don, one of the riders from Bakersfield, declined a taste of the pierogi, she told him it was good and he needed to try it. She loaded up a fork and fed it to him herself. Priceless! The food was great and the decor was unmitigated country kitsch and then some. She and her husband only keep this little 8 table place open until 8 PM.





Jamie and I left Monday in the early afternoon and rode back down into the Monument where we stopped at the 19th Hole of the Furnace Creek Golf Course. They served up the best burgers I've tasted in a very long time and the folks were warm and funny and friendly.





We rode on past Badwater and through to Shoshone. We rode past incredible rock formations and hillsides that appeared to be covered in green velvet. The road cuts and alluvial fans were filled with flowers which had sprung up to take advantage of rare water soaked earth and early spring temperatures.





We retraced our steps back toward home and stayed in Baker for the first (and last) time. The best thing about Baker was our most amazing chance encounter with Patience who was on his way back to Denver.





On Tuesday morning we headed back to San Diego still totally enchanted by a great weekend with wonderful people in one of nature's finest creations.





We look forward to many more Beatty (rhymes with matey) Death Valley Rides and hope that even more of you will join us next January on Martin Luther King Weekend.

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Leslie, glad you enjoyed the ribs in Pahrump. I will be dinning there in two weeks during the Village Idiots gathering. You forgot to mention eating second breakfast with a hobbit Sunday morning! grin.gif It was nice meeting everyone and I will see you again next year in Beatty, if not sooner in Lone Pine.



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Dennis Andress

So that road has a 55 mph speed limit? Boy would I be in trouble. Nice pictures and story Leslie. I should have stayed with ya'll and made a weekend of it but I did the manly thing and sprayed Roundup on my weeds.

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Les, BRILLIANT riding tale, great pictures and wow.. I could easily ride 3 days on that one burger !!!! (or did you use a tele objective? grin.gif ).


So nice to learn about the places you all ride and to see them is 'golden' !


Thank you ! thumbsup.gif



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Truly, Les IS more. What a great ride report; I enjoyed reliving the weekend very much. It seems everyone had a great time--I know I did. Can't wait to do it again.


I can't BELIEVE you guys ran into Patience. What are the odds? Wild.


Thanks for the great pictures and such a thorough and enjoyable-to-read report.



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Truly, Les IS more. What a great ride report; I enjoyed reliving the weekend very much. It seems everyone had a great time--I know I did. Can't wait to do it again.


I can't BELIEVE you guys ran into Patience. What are the odds? Wild.


Thanks for the great pictures and such a thorough report.



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So that road has a 55 mph speed limit? Boy would I be in trouble. Nice pictures and story Leslie. I should have stayed with ya'll and made a weekend of it but I did the manly thing and sprayed Roundup on my weeds.


The road between Twenty-Nine Palms & Amboy (Amboy Road) is 55 too. Got a ticket there last year in the middle of nowhere clocked for doing 82 (written down to 70). Absolute nonsense.


But I was lucky too because coming out of Twenty-Nine Palms I had entertained thoughts of letting my KRS 'breathe' but then changed my mind and decided to put it in laid-back cruise mode.

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I'm glad you are enjoying the tale! I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this was a collaboration. Jamie's wonderful pictures punctuate the story perfectly!

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Terrific account of the weekend...."almost" as much fun reading about it. I can't believe I was on part of that ride !


....and you're absolutely correct about my "bafflement"..you are the vibe-meister(ess)....I've gotta get into the bike radio stuff so I can hear all the jokes...or maybe not thumbsup.gif


Thanks for the photos, Jamie clap.gif

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Thank you very much for the write up on Death Valley and the great pics. As a new member I really would have liked to have made that trip. Here, in Salem, and the surrounding few hundred miles, there was quite an ice storm that week and weekend. Temps about 30 degrees and freezing rain---maybe next year! Again, thank you for taking the time for the recap of your trip.

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Great write up..Leslie, and pictures..Jamie!!

Thanks so much for showing us around, and not giving us too hard of a time about our Harley's. Sure was nice meeting a bunch of the West Coast folks!


I'm afraid my camera drop at the Death Valley Museum, took a big toll...all my pictures look like crap frown.gif . I'll see what photoshop can do to them.


We had a great ride back to Vegas on Sunday. Both Karl and I had a hard time adjusting to the crowds back in Vegas after a day of riding in near solitude.


Looking forward to riding out west again later in the year!

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Thanks Les and Jamie. Great report as always thumbsup.gif


Looks and reads like a whole heap of fun. It's reading reports like this that makes me want to roll up the swag and join you guys (as in the BBS non-gender specific "guys" smirk.gif) for at least one of these trips - Unrally, El Paseo, DVD/MLK, Torrey, "In search of" etc etc


I may not reply to many of these "Ride Tales" threads - but I read them all.


Thanks again

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Leslie and Jaime, what a great pictoral of the trip. I am still thinking about the pulled pork sandwiches, but probably not as much as Paul who ate 4 or 5 I think. What a fantastic trip and such good company. I can't wait for the next journey. clap.gifclap.gifclap.gif

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Okay, I finally got the rest of the captions up for the pics on the SmugMug site.


If you haven't already seen them, check them out here (click).


We sure had a good time riding and hanging with you all! And PigDog, any time you feel like coming "stateside" for a ride, be sure to ping us for a place to stay and company on the ride out! Who knows, in a few years after the Garage Mahal is finished, we might even have a bike to lend! Leslie's RT was supposed to be the "loaner bike", but that didn't work out too well! dopeslap.gif

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