Death Valley adventures on R 1200 GS

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Well-known member
Jan 20, 2008
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Rosamond, CA
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone.

As some of you may and may not know and the rest of you most likely don't care, this was Kelly and mine first Christmas together so we decided to spend it in Death Valley National Park. Instead of boring you to death with the facts and figures of the sites we visited I will share specific events of our adventure and provide you with links to the places we visited during our epic trek through one of the driest , hottest places on Earth and the lowest point in the contiguous United States...

Our adventure started out the morn of 24DEC08 and was to take us through 28DEC08 and it all started in the little desert town of Rosamond . We rolled out of our little burg on the 8 AM hour, turned north on the 14 to our first stop the Trona Pinnacles We attempted to visit the pinnacles but were thwarted by the washboard road that made hauling the motorcycle trailer just an un-fun adventure but we did get close. You may recognize these land features as they have been in Skittles commercials and the last making of the Planet Of The Apes and many other movies. We were down but not out. We made what was probably an illegal U-turn in the desert and brought us back to the 178 and headed to the civilizations of TRONA. If you have ever seen the movie The Hills Have Eyes then you will know Trona. The mining of potassium and other sulfates make this a place you don't want to stay too long. Though I will have to admit, if the sun is out reflecting off the lake bed the sparkles are very nice. OBTW, this is where I took my children one day to show them just how nice Ridgecrest is. After a quick bathroom break in Trona we were off once again to the Panamint Valley. There is a lot to see and do in this valley, we chose not to stop at Ballarat as there isn't much there and once you have been to Bodie, no ghost town is ever quite the same. So we trek on up and over the Towne Pass and then down into Death Valley itself. The day was clear and you could see from one range to the other that lays across the valley. We arrived at our most "luxurious" hotel the Furnace Creek Ranch Nice place to drop your hat and your body for the night but don't expect anything like a Radisson. Then again, you are not in Death Valley to lay by the pool. Oh, there is a museum there and it is full of "old stuff". Some other neat stuff at the ranch, there is a pool that is heated by a natural spring to a little over 80 degrees. Two restaurants, one that was a cafe was reasonable. The steakhouse on the property was a little more pricey but nicer. The store was reasonably priced on all items and had souvenirs for those so inclined. BUT, we were not to be swayed by these luxuries at this time. While Kelly emptied the truck, I unloaded the motorycles. We then quickly dressed out for the chilly weather and for our protection. Just can't trust those people in cars you can't. Our first stop was Bad Water Basin. Here you are at the lowest point in the contiguous United States at -282 ft. If you recall back in Oct, Kelly and I were at the tallest point in the contiguous U.S., Mt. Whitney which by the way is just a little over 100 miles from Badwater. The place reaked of sulfer smell. While I was taking pics Kelly was on the search for the ever elusive Badwater Snail. Welp, the snail won that day because I don't think she ever found IT. We did venture out on to the lake bed as it was there and so were we. Its a different feel out there but worth the walk. Okay, saw all we needed to see there. Next stop, The Devil's Golf Course.'s_G...27s_Golf_Course (if you read over that wikepedia page, these are most of the places we went). Here once again my adventurous NO FEAR Kelly embarked on a walking tour of the course. She didn't make it to far out being as she was wearing her very fine dirtbiking boots. Those boots are not made for walking. She did however bring something out of there that she wanted me to taste. UMMM NO! We think it was a piece of salt but some things shall remain a mystery. Okay, enough here, we are off again to Artist Drive's_G...ive_and_Palette All I can say is pictures don't do this place justice. When we arrived in Death Valley it was overcast. Believe or not while we were in here and at the Palette the clouds parted and the sun shone. Definitely a must see while in the Valley. We actually went through this place twice. Oh and you need to know this for later. When we stopped at the Palette I parked my bike and Kelly pulled up about 4 ft away. I was thinking that is odd, why is she so far away? Welp as I was taking the pics I began to feel this pressure on my thigh, then on my knee and then on my shin. The freakin GS rolled forward off the kickstand and on its side. No damage. The engine cage I put on when I first got the bike saved it again. So Kelly goes, 'this why I never pull up close next to you because I am afraid something like that is going to happen". REMEMBER THAT STATEMENT. By this time the sun is beginning to set over the Panamint Mountain range, yes MOUNTAINS Telescope Peak is 11,000 plus ft. but, we hit the Harmony Borax Works Interesting place and if you read that article far enough down it will inform you on why the Furnance Creek Inn was built as well. It was here we decided to do our first off road excursion in Death Valley. Keep in mind you are not supposed to stray off the Fire Roads and we didn't. As many of you know we didn't get these GS's to be the pavement princesses that most people use them for. We use them for their intended purposes, off pavement and yes, off road excursions.

Day II

Day II were going to attempt Scotty's Castle, Ubehebe Crater and the Racetrack all in one day. On the way to Scotty's we somehow got the bug to check out Rhyolite. We made it over the pass and to the border and turned around. It was cold, damn cold in NV. So with that we headed back over and to Scotty's Castle's_Castle. Scotty's Castle is just an engineering marvel of its time. It has its own electricity, running water, heat, airconditioning and humidifier. You can read the rest on the website. If you do travel to Scotty's, pay the 11 bucks pp to take the tour of the Castle, you won't regret it. So after Scotty's we decide to hit the Ubehebe Crater The good story here was the wind, oh man was it blowing. It was blowing so hard that I had to actually hold Kelly up to read the placard as she was being blown backwards. Have been to this crater three times and never has the wind not been blowing. This was exceptional though, wow. Feeling that is enough for one day we head back to the "Ranch" everything was going along just fine until that sandstorm came into view. Oh yeah... Sand was being blown right off the dune and into our path. We entered the storm and visibility quickly dropped to about 100-200 ft. It was tough going and Kelly did magnificent. Back to the ranch and a nice cold beer after that ride.


Ahhh day III was going to be the epic adventure to the Race Track To get here you have to go all the way back to the Ubehebe Crater take the first right and just GO! Yes, it was windy at the crater again. Not as windy as the day before but windy enough. We make the right turn and start our off pavement adventure to the Race Track. The first mile it is volcanic ROCK. Nice little pieces that would be oh so nice ground into your skin. No one fell and all was well. The road is washboard the whole way. If you can sustain 30 MPH or better on these bikes the road smoothed out quite nice. We came upon this place called TEA KETTLE JUNCTION This is one place I have wanting to get too. Why? I don't know, just did. So I get there and call back to Kelly over the chatterboxes, I am at Tea Kettle Junction and am waiting. So I am sitting on my bike, patiently waiting for Kelly to catch up and I see her coming up on me so I ready my bike for dismount by putting down the kickstand and the next thing I know there is this pressure on the back of my calf, crunching sound and, pressure being applied to the side of my bike. UMMMMMM, LITTLE MISS I AM GOING TO PARK AWAY FROM YOU CAUSE YOUR BIKE MAY FALL OVER, HIT ME! Now keep in mind, we are in the middle of the desert, not a soul around, the road must be a good 20-30 ft wide and SHE RUNS SMACK INTO THE BACK OF ME! Unreal. So, we PRY the bikes apart, don't be needing any little GS's running around. And assess her damage. My bike had a bent turn signal and has some scratches on it. Little Ms. I M GOING TO PARK OVER HERE, sustained some damage but nothing major that would stop the ride. So we sit at the junction for a bit so she can settle her nerves. We mount up and head the next 6 miles to the track. Not what I would call overwhelming to say the least but it was a good trip. So, we start to head back. Get to Tea Kettle Junction to have lunch. This time I PULL WAYYYYYYYYYY OFF THE ROAD. Yeah, don't need to be getting smacked again out in BFE. We are both getting tired now and take our time getting back to the pavement. Ride back was pretty uneventful. We get back to the pavement by the Ubehebe Crater and yes, it was still windy. We start our run back to the Ranch. We get to about the same place yesterday and yes, there was another sandstorm. OH yeah.... us. OBTW, Kelly also lost her tail light and license plate on the way to the track. We found it intact but her riding solo days are done for now and we have ONE MORE DAY TO EXPLORE! And yes, we had a beer...

Day IV

The day was supposed to be warmer so we head up to Hell's Gate over to Rhyolite This ghost town is a little different than most because of the construction of the buildings is not solely out of wood. Interesting place but still, Bodie Ca rocks as the number 1 ghost town. Once we got through there we headed to Stovepipe Wells,_California It was a good stop for some Hot chocolate and to discuss our next adventure. We started out for Skidoo However once we got to the turn off we saw some ice and decided not to go there. We continued our trip up Wild Rose Canyon to the Charcoal Kilns Okay I forgot one detail. We are two up on my bike. Why? Well on Day III Kelly's lic plate fell off with her taillight. So off we go through the rest of the canyon. The views are epic through Emigrant Pass Not to be confused with the Emigrant Pass for Donner Pass which is another story altogether. We get to the turn for the Kilns. We progress up the hill and some odd nut has the idea that we can ride all the way up there over the snow and ice. Welp, that panned out to be an untruth. About a mile up this snow and ice road the GS decided we were being stupid and spit us both off. It was an easy off and the bike just gracefully slid to the ground and to prove its point that it was done, it was pointing down hill. SO, being ones to take the hint, Kelly and I WALKED the big GS off the snow to the dirt. See the pics for how far in we were. Luckily we stopped when we did as a guy in a HUGE F 350 came buy and said it was nothing but ice for the next two miles to the kilns. Oh well, another day perhaps. Once we got down to the dirt, we mounted back up and headed back down to the Ranch. We took one more spin through Artist Drive and the Palette. Called it quits and headed back to the ranch.

Day V

The last day was nothing more then a pack 'em up, move 'em out, RAWHIDE day. We stopped on this side of Towne Pass as you could see Mt Whitney some 50 plus miles away clear as day. Then again when you are 14,494 ft tall, you should be seen. We rolled into Rosamond around 2 PM. Took the bikes, truck and trailer over to the local spray and wash and let the whole rig have it. The bikes, truck and trailer were muddy as all get out. We got some strange looks on the way back and lots of smiles. We were exhausted. Is there any other way to come back from a vacation? We think not.

That was our trip in a nutshell. Enjoy the pics. We will be going back to get the things we didn't get to see this time through and hopefully spring will bring a great bloom to the desert. Highly encourage anyone that hasn't been to go Death Valley but not during late May, Jun, Jul, Aug and, Sept. Little too hot then. Air temps at 134 and ground temps to 200. OUCH.

Take care everyone.

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Good article for me. I am tentatively planning on a trip to Death Valley on my 1200 GS Adventurer when I get through tax season. It should be fairly nice there in late April from what extremely little I know. I have other trips planned as the summer progresses but this should fit in nicely as the northern half of the country is coming out of winter.

Thanks for the nice write-up. My Dad and I make a pilgrimage every spring to DV, but no dirt roads! We have been all the various ways into the park, but my fav is up Wildrose Canyon into Stove Pipe Wells. We usually stay at Furnace Creek Ranch, but a few years ago when the flowers were doing their hundred year bloom, we had to camp at SPW campground as there were no rooms anywhere to be found. Even the campground at SPW was nearly full, and we didn't even have a table. But, even though we had to sleep on the ground and go 3 days w/o a shower, that that was the best DV ride!

This spring we may stay in Beatty for something "different" and not have to pay nearly $200/night to stay in the Nat Park.