This 2012 Noobs Death Valley rally caught my eye in early January. Have been through Death Valley on my motorcycle before but never off paved roads there. I didn't know what to expect but followed the thread and pulled the trigger. What could be better then riding with 150 of my closest friends
plus have some experienced ride leaders and great routes. Plus it was a Noob rally so I wouldn't feel like I fell into a motocross race. Little did I know that the famous gambling saying goes
When you look around the table and don't see a sucker; You're it
has a corollary with the Noobs rally:
When you look around for other Noobs (especially ones riding BMW 1200GS's and don't see any; You're the only Noob
Let the fun begin:
I signed up for two rides on Friday (Chloride/Rhyolite/Titus Adventure led by GalacticGS AKA Larry) and Saturday (Goler Wash and Mengel Pass led by r3r3r AKA Randall). As an aside, h8chains (AKA Joel) said he remembers people more by their ADVrider handle instead of their names. I started using the same memory trick. My frequent riding companion (CalGSer AKA Bob) was trailering his bike down so I had him bring most of my gear. It made a very pleasurable ride from San Francisco to Death Valley. I always try to avoid interstates. I left on Thursday and it took 9 hours to reach Panamint Springs to setup camp. Here I am ready to go (way too serious though):
Here was my route there and back:
View Home2ParamintSpringsResort in a larger map
Weather was great (couldn't say that about my return though). Almost ran out of gas near Red Rock. Didn't want to back-track (almost wrong choice) so went cross-country to Johannesburg. Luckily the town still has a legitimate filling station-I had 1/4 gallon left in the tank. Pee break and full tank. Life is good.
Arrived alittle before dark and setup my Marmot Limelight 3P tent (little did I know my tent's wind capability would be tested) using large rocks as anchors. Hooked up with Bob and met our camp mates: Christine and BigToad (AKA Todd). Say cheese:
Along US 395 snapped a couple of photos: one of Red Hill cinder cone and another beautiful panoramic range to the east of the highway:
Woke up early on Friday, excited about the ride but had to prepare my GS1200. Learned that it is best to strip the mirrors, windshield and adjust the front blinkers otherwise a fall could results in $$$ bills to BMW. Also raise the handle bars and lower the tire pressure to 25 lbs. My bike has alloy wheels (not spoke) so I'm careful. Knock on wood that I've never had a flat tire (TKC 80's) or cracked wheels.
The route developed by GalacticGS was described as:
Slab west, gas up in Stovepipe, on to Chloride Cliffs. We'll take all dirt roads into the back side of Beatty, and eat lunch there. After lunch, it will be a very short section of pavement to Rhyolite. Then to beautiful Titus Canyon. Will re-gas in Stovepipe on the way back.
After the turnoff to Chloride Cliffs and until we reach the end of Titus Canyon, this will be 98% dirt roads.
This will be noob and big bike friendly if you have moderate dirt skills.
Here's the map:
View Chloride/Rhyolite/Titus Adventure in a larger map
If you can't see the route on the map then follow this linky
The ride to Chloride Cliffs was fun and a good warmup. Here's a collage at the cliffs:
- Top Left: Me and our fearless leader, GalacticGS
- Top Right: Covered mine shaft on Chloride Cliffs
- Bottom Right: Arm-length camera shot with Chloride Cliffs in background.
Here's a YouTube video of this section:
Unfortunately our group had a casualty, MotoK. We were riding on a abandoned section of The Racetrack according to the sheriff and the race organizers reneged on a pledge to do some road maintenance. I feel your pain MotoK but at least there was no field amputation required. I know some of the FF's wanted to test their knives. GalacticGS left the group to get a pickup for hauling the deserted bike back to PSR. The Noobs were now in charge of the asylum. At one point the bumper sticker
Don't follow me; I'm lost
came to mind or
With 1 GPS you have a plan; With 2 you have confusion.
We made it to Beatty for lunch at Mel's Dinner (what a treat). Next stop was the ghost town of Rhyolite. Look up this historical link
. Amazing to see a place go from 2 to 2500 people in 6 months. Plus Charles Schwab building the town infrastructure and then him eventually blowing through $800 million in twenty years. Here's a panoramic of what's mostly left:
The next stop was Titus Canyon. Other FF's have some great photos of Titus Canyon or you can see some here
. Unfortunately it took us 15 minutes to leave the ghost town and start moving in the right direction of Titus Canyon (damn GPS satellites). The ride to Titus Canyon take you past Leadfield. Another shining example of the American conman
. Here's a collage of this part of the trip.
- Upper Left: HD & LD Porter's remaining signage. They were the largest store in town.
- Upper Right: A sign detailing Leadfield checkered founding.
- Middle Left: Petroglyph's signage.
- Bottom Left & Right: Actual Petroglyphs.
The is an area which contains Indian petroglyphs but my photos didn't do them justice.
Here's a pano of Leadfield track:
Here's a YouTube of going through Titus Canyon:
Slab it back to PSR. Enjoy a cold beer and relax. Joel and friends are cooking tonight. Sleep will feel real good (after a couple of Advil). Only fell once and it was only a misstep. With the GS1200, you get wore out if you pick it up too many times.
Saturday had a second Noob ride. I was already concerned because mine was the only GS1200 (or any big bike for that matter) on the ride. r2r2r had the lying eyes when I was asking about the validity of the Noob classification but I was up for the challenge. Here's the description:
Standard Goler Wash and Mengel Pass loop. Counter-clockwise direction from PSR. Ride out through Panamint Valley on easy dirt to Ballarat and Goler Wash. One rock ledge/step (difficulty changes each year) that may be tough for n00b riders (but we will help pull your bike up it). Ride up Goler Wash to Mengel Pass. Possible stops at Barker Ranch (Manson's hideout) and Geologist's Cabin. Down through Warm Springs valley and West Side Road to Furnace Creek.
Leave from PSR gas station at 9 AM. 175 miles round trip. Fuel at Furnace Creek (~125 miles from start). The ride is not overly challenging for most riders, but there is a good amount of distance on dirt roads and loose material (sand and rocks). Could be tiring for dirt n00bs, but anyone who is up for the ride is welcome to join.
Right off the bat we lost two riders. Luckily I had my friend, Bob, on this ride for moral support. Even if he was riding a bike 200 lbs lighter then mine (and a better rider). Everyone on the ride looked like a motocross-experienced racer. Did hear that a few reached 80 MPH on hard-packed dirt during the last part of the ride. Crazy?!?!
Here's the route:
View Goler Wash and Mengel Pass loop in a larger map
If you can't see the route then here's a linky
This route takes you by where Charles Manson was captured (according to folklore). The first significant work is getting up the steps at Goler Wash. Here's a YouTube video of my efforts (with a little help from my FF's).
As the video attests, the GS1200 flew up the steps (with a little tenny wenny tow rope). The next big feature was onward to Mengle Pass. Here's a photo collage of buds and success:
Bob and I were having fun but the third in our group (Pearlite) was having a rough day. But like Maverick learned
You never leave you wingman.
Pearlite went flying 15 feet down and off the trail. I thought he was a goner. Running over to him, miraculously he feel into a perfect rock outline of his body. BTW his bike followed him too. Missed him and it miraculously survived after we hauled it back over the boulders. He was catching his breath when 3 black SUVs came up. Big tires. Dust coating their sides. Redneck Pinstriping too. Well here's the video:
The last video is us hauling out back to PSR in the 50 MPH wind/dust storms.
Saw this on my GPS. 175 feet below sea-level. Yeehaw.
That night at PSR, the dinner sandwiches tasted great. Won a bottle of Tequila and a promise of a wonderful hour with Joel later that night, but he never came by. Maybe it was because of the hellacious windstorm until 2AM. It was fun in a strange way to be in your tent and it standing up to everything that Death Valley wind can muster.
The next day was back to home using the same route as I came in on. The weather though was not the same. The first 3-4 hours had 30-40 MPH crosswinds (I bet some gusted up to 50 MPH). I was behind a few trucks for a while which I swear were hit so hard by the wind that they were nearly tipping over. The fun was just starting though with rain, wind and snow traveling over Tehachapi Pass where is was 36* for an hour of driving. I got home after 9 hours and stood in the warm shower.
Can't wait for next year though.