Well, I just got back this afternoon from a kick ass trip. Tony and I had originally planned on going up Highway 1 past San Francisco and up the Lost Coast. By the time we got to Cambria it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. The weather was a complete mess in Northern California. So Friday night we decided to head east and visit Death Valley instead. Turns out it was the right choice. We hardly saw any rain, had sunny 85 degree days, and saw some stunning landscape.
Santa Monica to Cambria via 101 & 1
We left from Santa Monica at about 2pm. This is a part of the ride that I’ve seen a million times. We took PCH up to Ventura and then cut over the 101. Just went a couple of miles up 101 to Carpinteria where we got off and took the 198 over to the 154 and up over the pass. It was great up there. The sky had been dark and cloudy all day but when we got up by Lake Cachuma the sun broke through the clouds for a while. It was so refreshing to have the crisp sunlight beaming down. It really gave us the gas to keep on it. By the time we got in to Cambria we could tell that the coast just wasn’t going to work. Tony’s aunt and uncle let us stay at their house Friday night. They live down a dirt road which had seen some rain on Friday.
Cambria to Lone Pine via 46 -> 101 -> 58 -> 178 -> 395
So we got up to a great sunny day on Saturday. Rode up into the town and had some coffee before hitting the road.
Highway 58 was just beautiful. Rolling hills that led us up from the coast over into the central valley. The 46 is the heavy traffic road out this way and we were pretty much alone on the 58. Saw a few guys leathered up and hitting the road pretty hard. Easy to see why.
One we got to the valley floor it was a trudge to get across Bakersfield to the next range of mountains. There’s not much to say about it. The 178 up to Lake Isabella and down to the 395 was another spectacular road though. The Kern River runs alongside the highway all the way up to the lake.
We stayed at a motel in Lone Pine on Saturday night. It was pretty cool to look up at Mt. Whitney, which at 14,494 feet is the highest point in the lower 48, knowing that in the morning we’d ride about 100 miles to Death Valley, which at 282 feet below sea level is the lowest point in the western hemisphere.
Lone Pine to Furnace Creek in Death Valley via 395 -> 136 -> 190
Furnace Creek to Beatty, NV and back
We got on the road pretty early on Sunday. These Firstgear suits we got are just awesome. They’re like wearing windproof, waterproof sleeping bags. The only thing that got cold were my hands and I had heavy gloves on. We also wore Bohn body armor underneath the suits. We started off at the Ranger station on 136 just outside Lone Pine. Got Mt. Whitney in the background there.
The pass over the east mountains was gorgeous and there were barely any other cars on the road. At the top there’s a turnout with a great lookout into the Panamint Valley, which is the entrance to the park.
We stopped in Panamint Springs and got some breakfast. The we headed over through Stovepipe Wells and on down to Furnace Creek. We got ourselves a campsite at the Texas Springs area, dropped off our gear, and hit the road for the Rhyolite Ghost Town. Man that was one of the weirder things I’ve seen. The town itself was kind of just what you’d expect, but there was some kind of sculpture exhibit just before it on the hillside. This one was about 25 or 30 feet tall. Just about the only thing you can see as you approach.
In the town itself there’s this crazy little house that’s made mostly out of beer bottles. I guess it was expensive and difficult to get construction materials out here, so this guy made do with around 30,000 beer bottles.
After we were done here we headed into Beatty, NV. The highway out there is pretty desolate.
We went into this tavern to grab some lunch. Man, that place was a trip. Which of these things is not like the others… It had a horseshoe shaped bar. One side was the Harley crew. Chaps, bandanas, lound drunk chicks and all. They were sucking down the tequila like it was about to run out. The other side was the Cowboys. Denim, Stetsons, mustaches and Coors. We sat in the middle and had a pizza. On the way back we went down the road past Furnace Creek a few miles and did the Artist Drive. It’s a section of the mountain where the mineral deposits have given the earth rich colors. Red, blue, purple, green, gold. It’s pretty amazing.
Furnace Creek to Scotty’s Castle and back
Woke up with the sun on Monday and had the treat of a coyote poking around. We had heard them going crazy during the night. They must have gotten a kill. That was pretty cool to hear.
There was a chance of rain for Monday night so we packed everything over to the hotel in Furnace Creek and got a room. Once we had loaded, hauled, and unloaded, we set out on the 80 mile ride up to Scotty’s Castle. Overall an underwhelming experience. The ‘Castle’ was the summer home of some rich dude from Chicago from the 20′s.
The news about that part of the trip was that Tony had a spill. Scotty’s Castle is about 3 miles up off the main highway and it’s a narrow twisty road. On just about the last corner, which was marked 15 MPH, he hit some gravel that had spilled across the road and fell. He banged his hands up a little, but he’s fine. The bummer was that a hole got punched through his alternator cover. With the motor running it was just spitting oil out the hole. The staff up at the ‘Castle’ were really helpful and gave us a roll of duct tape. A little gas on a rag and the cover was cleaned up. We taped the hell out of it and that got us back to Furnace Creek. Luckily, the mechanic at the gas station there had some JB Weld and was a biker, so he was very sympathetic. That evening we got the case all patched up and in the morning it held just fine.
Furnace Creek to Mojave via 190 -> Panamint Valley Rd. -> Trona Wildrose Rd. -> Trona Rd. -> Searles Station Cutoff Rd -> 395 -> Garlock Rd. -> Redrock Randsburg Rd. -> 14.
On the way out of the park we had to stop and have a picture by the lowest point on the California highway system.
Mostly Tuesday was just an attempt to get as close to Los Angeles before we ran into the storm that was raging there. We took all the byways and frontage roads we could. The Panamint Valley Road was pretty cool. It’s about 50 miles straight through a completely uninhabited valley.
Trona was one of the weirdest towns I’ve ever seen. The only reason it’s there is a mineral processing plant. Supposedly they have over 30 churches. We stopped for a smoke and kept on rolling. We made it to Mojave before it looked like we were going to hit the weather. Grabbed a motel room at about 4pm, bought a 12 pack and turned on HBO. It’s a good thing we did because the storm was a big one.
Mojave to Van Nuys via 14 -> 5 -> 405
Finally a quick ride back into Los Angeles. It was so much easier than I thought it would be. The storm had totally broken up and it was dry for 90% of the ride home. The wind was pretty gusty through a lot of it, which sucked, but overall not bad. We had hoped to take the Angeles Forest Highway over to Pasadena from Palmdale but it was washed out from the rains, so the 5 it was.
I had such a great time on this trip. It was awesome to spend just a few days worrying about nothing but where we’ll be able to get gas and whether or not it would rain. The Triumph was a champ and I’ll never do a trip like this again without some JB Weld and duct tape in the emergency pack. There are more pictures in the gallery.