Living up here in Ontario, I've had three feet of snow in my driveway since mid-November. It's been a brutal winter.
So I was happy to discover that California, where my best friend owns a lovely place in Pasadena at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, had no problem with me owning, titling, and insuring a bike in my name. Even though I'm a Canuck from thousands of miles away. Nice. Nine days off in late February plus a dual-sport bike in a warm climate equal a happy Canadian.
Half the fun is finding a bike, of course, and several weeks of Craigslist lurking turned up a 94 DR350ES with 2500 original miles for a great price. Unfortunately, like most great deals, there were a few annoyances hidden under the shiny surface of the almost-new bike. Two days of wrenching, a new Acerbis tank, and some extensive carb work later, I loaded up my pretty DR with some spanking-new Wolfman luggage, all the necessary camping gear, and was ready to hit the desert.
My buddy Wes found a similar deal on a 80 mile (yes, 80...) DRZ400s that had been ridden for one weekend and parked. He swapped out the clogged pilot jet, cut a 3x3, changed the oil, and strapped on a Motofizz, and he was ready to go as well.
Neither of us had been to Death Valley before, and there have been many great DV threads lately, so we decided to check it out. The last few days were spent crossing the Mojave to Joshua Tree, riding some canyons in that park, then heading out the coast before returning to Pasadena.
Here's a few pics from last week, taken by both me and my buddy Wes. Hope you enjoy 'em.
Day 2 in Death Valley after pitching camp at Furnace Creek. This is taken in 20 Mule Team Canyon. (Day 1 was spent riding over the Angeles Crest and up 395 to Panamint Springs. 325 miles was a bit of a slog on the little DRs). 75 F feels like the equator after three months of -10-15 Celsius. Gorgeous!
Yours truly, standing over Wes' DRZ. This was the first casualty of the first real off-road day. We're novices, and we got a lot better as the trip went on!
Day 3 in DV. Top of the Chloride Cliffs in Chloride City. Great DS riding to get up the Chloride City, and spectacular views over the valley floor below.
Chloride City abandoned miner's cabin.
Not much is known about this chap, apparently, though someone is leaving flowers.
Awesome high-speed run across the plains from Chloride City out to Nevada, and up to Beatty for lunch.
Surprisingly good BBQ pork sandwiches in Beatty.
Water break on the way up Red Pass enroute to Titus Canyon.
Great views from the top of Red Pass, and unbelievably rich colours in the dust and rock geology.
More from the top of Red Pass
Sweet diesel 4-motion, 6-speed manual tranny VW "Multivan", driven by a couple of nice German guys that we met in Titus Canyon. They said it was a "research vehicle". Hey VW...import these and I'll buy one in a heartbeat.
Wes' DRZ deep in Titus Canyon
Both Suzukis near the end of Titus. Light is falling fast, and we barely made it out by nightfall. We're pretty wiped after the ride from Furnace Creek -> Chloride City -> Beatty -> Titus Canyon -> Furnace Creek.
Day 4 in DV. This is a great backcountry camp spot at the abandoned Warm Springs camp in Warm Springs Canyon.
Empty swimming pool, Warm Springs camp.
Water crossing, a few hundred meters from Warm Springs.
Crossing the Mojave, rest stop in Amboy on old Route 66. Strange little town. Almost a ghost town, but hanging on by a thread.
I've ridden much of old Route 66 from St. Louis to California, and it all has this quiet, slightly tragic, defeated feeling.
Hidden Valley campground in Joshua Tree. One of my favourite spots.
Hitting the backroads in Joshua Tree. This is the beginning of the Berdoo Canyon road.
Though you can't tell from the picture, this was one of the trickier bits in Berdoo Canyon.
My novice version of trials riding in Berdoo Canyon. Even loaded-up with my 215 lb frame on board, I thought the 350 was a fantastic machine.
The tree definitely lost this exchange with the DRZ. This is in Pinkham Canyon, Joshua Tree. At this point we were having lots of fun. About 15 mins later, we hit deep, deep, difficult sand that lasted for the next 15 miles. It was a bloody chore, and we didn't get out of the canyon until after dark. We learned that we don't know much about sand riding.
Last day of the trip, taking a quick tour around Mission San Juan Capistrano. The whole ride from Palm Springs over Hwy 74 to the coast was bitterly cold and wet. Luckily the clouds blew away just as we arrived to the coast, allowing for a last night of camping by the sea.
Last night camping at San Clemente State Beach.
This was my first real touring trip on a small dual-sport, and except for the long highway jaunts that were occasionally necessary, I absolutely loved it. Both bikes had no trouble carrying us and our camping gear, and even loaded up, they could really fly through some pretty technical (for us...) terrain.
Reading ride reports on ADVRider all winter long was driving me stir crazy. It sure feels nice to get one in of my own!