Death Valley is a tricky place to navigate. Not just because of the harsh terrain and wicked climate....as you can see from the map below it's tricky because there's a HELL of a lot to see and you can't just do a nice loop and cover it all. Most locations require driving out and back. A good example: Dante's View is only 2 miles away from Badwater on a map, but the the road you have to take is 40. I'm not complaining--it's those roads that make traveling in the park so phenomenal--but it makes trying to determine what to do and where to go a challenge that is compounded when you have to factor in the scarcity of petrol.
Ghost Rider recommended I take a particularly entertaining road into Death Valley from Vegas. Due to the time I arrived and where I was staying, I decided to do his route on my way out of DV. Seemed like a good idea, but that last day I it rained. The road was yet another 'once in a lifetime' kind of ride, but weather conditions dictated caution. Because I was so confident when I left that (at most), I'd encounter only a light sprinkle, I packed my raingear away in my tail bag (something I'd avoided doing since I picked up the gear in Montreal). I froze, but it was my own stupid fault.
Pic was taken right around Ashford Mills Ruins. I wish I had a waterproof camera--the terrain was spectacular.
It was just initially a light rain, but that's still enough to make 40 degrees feel like 5. And then the light rain turned into a downpour. There was no cover anywhere, so stopping was out of the question. Finally made it to a gas station, where there was enough cover for me to get my rain gear on.
There was a "Flood" sign just up the road in the direction I was headed. Seeing as though I didn't even take a picture you can tell how much I cared. Warning signs in California seem to be put up for no other reason than to scare old people and keep Caltrans workers employed. Chalk my nonchalance up to my disdain for the 'boy who cried wolf': a doom-impending WARNING sign followed by normal circumstances doesn't exactly grab your attention any subsequent time you see it. After the tenth sign it becomes another invisible piece of trash you try to ignore.
As I got my gear all packed away and cinched down, a cheerful old guy missing his nose and his left eye came out of the station to say hi. We had a nice conversation about the weather. He offered me some safety advice that I politely ignored just like the sign.
After firing the beast up (I was shivering at this point in my rain suit), I reached the 'flood'. And oh my, yes, the joke was on me. The good? I was only doing about 20mph when I hit the bottomless pool. The bad? I was only about 20mph. Far too slow to benefit from the front tire 'Moses Parting the Water' effect that happens at speed. The uber-high pegs on the Duck were lower than the water level, submerging my boots and that trick exhaust well under water. Staying on the throttle kept the water out of the exhaust, but did nothing to keep the water out of my boots. I pulled over to drain the water out of my Doc Martins, only to see another "flood" sign a quarter mile up. Yes, it was going to be that kind of day. I realized why the one-eyed old man was so happy: he wasn't me.
The scary thing? He didn't even mention the flood right in front of us. It was the road ten miles out he told me to watch myself on.