April 27, 2009 GMT
Death Valley

Sunday 26th April Ė Into the Valley of Death

Today is met with great trepidation. This will be the beginning of the next phase of the trip where I donít have Steve with the TomTom leading me through the cities and flyovers etc. It is also the first time that I will be travelling the big land on my own and without any support crew should something go wrong. So to say, that I am somewhat nervous could be an understatement.

What better challenge could I have set for my first day on my own, than Death Valley. I have been on Google Maps over night to get my driving directions from Vegas to Bakersfield, California. These now are written out and sitting in the clear Perspex window of my tank bag, sitting on top of the fuel tank. I made my way out of Vegas and finally onto the highway leading west. There is a huge mountain range in front and as I begin the climb, I can feel the temperatures of the desert starting to rapidly drop. There is still snow sitting on top of some of the peaks.

From Death Valley
This is at last some great riding. The road winds around the mountains and I can start to get into it. This is better. No winds either to fight.

This day turns out to be one of extremes. Extreme temperatures and landscapes. Nice and cool in the hills and then dropping into the openness of the desert and the searing heat. Heat hazes are coming off the road and in open spaces of the desert. Nope, I didnít see any tumbleweed. Hopefully, some of the photographs Iíve taken will depict how varied the landscape is. This is true desert. On first looking at the photographs, they'll all look similar but watch the changing composition of the mountains

From Death Valley
From Death Valley

On the way through I pull up at to pay my National Park entry fee. This is on an honesty system where you pull off the road put your money in the slot and it issues you a ticket. There is nobody to check to see if youíve paid it.

While Iím there 5 Harleyís ride in. One bloke says ďgidday mateĒ...... huh?? I reply, thatís a strange accent youíve got mate. Bloody five Aussies with flags flying off the back of the bikes. We stand around and have a yarn for a while. Theyíve been to the big bike rally at Laughlin (pronounced Loflin). They are heading up into the north west corner of the country.

I head out through Furnace Creek, though there isnít a drop of water to be seen. All you can see in the lake beds is salt. Think about it... Salt!! So far from the coast?? And at 2000 feet above sea level. I didnít have time to stop and question it.

From Death Valley
The ride through here is great fun. The roads department has even thrown in lots of dips, some of these are really cool because as I go over the apex, it drops suddenly away and Iím often times nearly airborne. Throw in all the twisty bits and Iím having a great days ride.

I miss a turn off and finish up doing about an extra 50 miles. I head south on Highway US-395. They have a great highway numbering scheme. All highways that run North Ė South are odd numbers and those running East Ė West are even numbers. After an hour, the winds start to pick up again. Man, canít I get a full damned days riding in without these suckers!!!! I really had to work hard, I donít know what the capper is with all these winds, but hell they are ferocious and extremely draining.

Around 6:15pm, Iíve had enough and see a sign to California City. You beauty. Iím packing it in for the day. I take the exit and head towards town...... or city. Where the hell is it??? I drive down the main street and thereís a few shops and a garage. No high rise here. I pull over where I see three fellas standing around talking to ask where there is a hotel. There isnít one. Can you believe it?? Not one hotel in the whole place. But one bloke is heading towards some other place that has one and offers to guide me. They all let me know that they love Aussies because we are their greatest ally. I didnít tell them I did 21 years in the Army. I wanted to get to hotel. So I follow Chucky back out onto the highway and after a while pulls over and suggests that I continue down the highway to Mojave because he thinks the winds up to the other place will be far too dangerous. Iím prepared to take his advice and so bunk down for the night at Mojave.

Posted by Paul Brealey at April 27, 2009 03:39 PM GMT

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