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Old 03-03-2006, 10:19 AM   #1
offroute OP
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Bivouac on Mengel Pass/Stroms ?do? Death Valley

Our first dualsport trip to Death Valley. Two 650 V-Stroms and one KTM 950 meet up in Furnace Creek for our first day of adventure riding. I'm on one V-Strom, my 69 year old Dad is on the other. Bill rides his new KTM. Leaving around 9 am we quickly make our way up to Dante's View.



Nice turns up and down the last three or four miles to the top. We head back down to do our first bit of dirt, turning right onto the Greenwater Road heading south. I'm getting the feel for the Strom on a mixed surface, but it's mostly hard and forgiving and fast. The views all around are gorgeous and it feels like we're the only ones on earth.



Sand and pea gravel take us by surprise as we near the end of the 30 mile stretch. We've been traveling fast with the KTM in the lead. Whoa...



Both V-Stroms are soon dropped as the sand surprises us. Bill on the KTM escapes the drop, but the tire tracks I've been following make wild gyrations.

Hitting the pavement we head quickly to Shoshone for gas and snacks. Leaving around 12 noon we decide to head over Jubilee Pass and into the valley for more exploring. I suggest we head up toward Mengel Pass and see how it goes. No real plan. It's now somewhere around 1 pm.

A few miles of rocky washboard as we climb up toward Warm Springs Canyon. Once we're in, things begin to change. Narrow at times, lots of sand in the wash, and rocks. Although new to these bikes, Bill and I both have considerable dirt experience. Willyvee however, has had little time on dirt.




The spirit is there, but things start to get tough. We push on and a few more drops occur. Now we're talking about turning around. Willyvee wants to push on hoping it eases a little. He's not real excited about riding back down the wash. Things open up as we reach the openess of Butte Valley Rd. Speeds increase, sand is less, but the sharp rock are everywhere. One clips the wires of my side stand safety switch and my bike goes dead. Hardwired together with some twisting and tape and we're soon on our way again. Hey, it's getting late, but we can see the pass...



Willyvee is really starting to fatigue. Some of the drops are more like crashes and in a least one drop his leg is pinned. We'd been told the crux is at the pass and we're almost there. Seems too late to turn around. But now it looks like we've got a new thing to contend with. After one drop, Willyvee's bike is smoking like a coal fired locomotive. Has he broken a ring? The bike seems to be running ok. We need to push on, it's getting late! Willyvee is incredibly drained and Bill and I have done more weight lifting in the last few hours than in the preceding few years. We're all looking at each other, but it's a long way back down. Surely we're almost there. But the question now is, is this Willyvee or "Willycrash" again? The poor guy doesn't have the strength to deal, and yes, I'm the son that took him here. What did he do to me to deserve this? Sorry Dad.

Bill and I start to ride his bike on the harder sections to give him a break and we make it to the crux. None of us can ride it. In fact, we can make a run at the beginning of a 10 yard section, but have to be "caught" by the others in a precarious state. We yo-yo three bikes this way, but lots of time goes by.

Finally we're to the pass. Officially known as Mengel, we have rechristened it Mangle Pass. Willyvee is totally spent, but we've still got some light and the knowledge that Goler Canyon has just been graded by the county to the park boundary. We can ride that by headlight... or so we think. Notice no pictures here. Heavy twilight and in the darkness we make a critical mistake, not seeing a descending sharp left hand turn. What's in front of us now is a sweeping climb to the top of a hill. The whole thing is rutted deeply rutted and slick, but Bill quickly makes it to the top. I look at dear old Dad and say something like "keep your speed up, follow me and ride it without hesitation." Willyvee musters up everything he has, but just feet from the top he falls again and the bike is nearly upside down in the rut. We have to spin it just to lift it. Once on top we're now in pitch black and face a steep marble filled ride down the other side. Of course it's turning dark, so headlights only allow you to see a little at a time. Nevertheless, we creep and skid all three bikes down without mishap. Shit, we're at a dead-end. Bill, guns the KTM back up the hill and all I hear is a loud bang. Bill has finally dropped the KTM for the first time. Working together we finally get it on top. Some sense finally overcomes us. The call is made...



At least we're well prepared. No sleeping bags, no shelter, hell, we've even run out of water. Time to sleep in helmets at 4000 feet in February. We walk around looking for a soft spot to lay in our riding clothes. Of course, the sand we found in abundance before is completely absent now...

The night goes slowly by. Bill says snoring is hereditary. But I can't believe I've slept a wink.

We're begging for sunrise and soon the sun starts to brighten. We all look beat. Yet now, two v-Stroms have to make it up this hill we rode (slid) down last night. I got us here, so I offer to ride it first. My condition is that I get to use Willyvee's bike before my own. It's been designated as the official "crash bike". Sans two turn indicators, half a clutch lever, a bent rear brake and shift lever and a gaping hole in the rear cowl.



I scout the run up a couple times before making my first attempt. Bill and Willyvee wait near the top where last night's loud bang emanated from the KTM. Luckily, both bikes make it up top without incident. Now back down the rutted other side. Don't touch those brakes too hard or you'll end up in Willyvee's rut. We make it!



It's maybe 6:30 am. All three bikes are running. And all three of use are walking with no real damage. The first mile or so is still a little tough so we relieve Willyvee with a couple yo-yo turns. Soon we're at the graded portion of the wash and it is absolutely beautiful...







Willyvee is exhausted, but intrepid. I feel the elation of having a life experience with my father, but feel guilt for getting him there in the first place. It's a mixed bag and I am impressed. The guy never gives up.



Willyvee emerges from Goler Canyon. A 650 V-Strom, Tourance tires, and no real dirt experience. I see my Dad as my hero.

From the mouth of Goler it's an easy ride on miles of dirt to the town of Ballarat. Along the way we come across a lone van parked in the middle of nowhere. A dirt bike is outside and we meet Mark from Ohio. Generous as can be, he brings out water bottle after water bottle. It feels like a band of brothers and we've just met him. Adventure riders are a unique crowd and I think each of us feels that as we guzzle the precious liquid. Thanking him as we leave, I wonder about how his adventures will unfold out here on his own.

We arrive at Ballarat and are greated by the only resident and caretaker. I'm starting to question - is this guy normal or are we the ones that have gone a little off....




Two dollar cold drinks and we're starting to unwind. We need some food. Soon we've hit the pavement. I've got a vision of big fat burgers in Panamint Springs.



So here we are. Father and son. A day and a half later, but what seems like a lifetime. I'm still not sure whether to apologize or rejoice and thank him for for this incredible experience that all of us will remember to our graves. Without Bill, we would have never made it.

No need for lectures. We already know we broke every rule. And of course we did it with no style.

This ride report is about more than that...


For a complete detailed description of my entire trip across the Sierra, down to Death Valley, and back, go here:

GPXchange.com

Once there you'll find buttons at the top of the page that take you to all the photos and an interactive map where you can view each part of the route in detail.
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Old 03-03-2006, 10:29 AM   #2
turbotiger
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Fantastic report!

Would you have been happier if you'd stayed home on the couch??

Lance R.
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Old 03-03-2006, 10:50 AM   #3
canpile
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Hey fellas! I stopped and talked w/ you guys at Ballarat! My buddy and I were on the 640's. I had never done mengal pass before that morning. You guys looked beat that morning, now I know why! My hat goes off to you guys !!! Did you mention someone had left their jacket in the pass somewhere?? I think the gentleman from Ohio might have found it. We stopped and spoke w/him right after Ballarat. Hope the rest of your adventure went well!
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Old 03-03-2006, 10:57 AM   #4
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Wink

Quote:
Originally Posted by canpile
Hey fellas! I stopped and talked w/ you guys at Ballarat! My buddy and I were on the 640's. I had never done mengal pass before that morning. You guys looked beat that morning, now I know why! My hat goes off to you guys !!! Did you mention someone had left their jacket in the pass somewhere?? I think the gentleman from Ohio might have found it. We stopped and spoke w/him right after Ballarat. Hope the rest of your adventure went well!
Sure, I remember you guys. The rest of the trip went well. In fact, all of the trip went well. I think you guys were doing Mengel Pass from the right direction. We felt we may have been able to negotiate it easier going that way. In regards to the jacket - yep, a liner we lost somewhere. I hope Mark can make good use of it.

Hope your rides went well and you had a blast.

Offroute
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Old 03-03-2006, 11:15 AM   #5
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nice report . you guys are nuts we spotted each other thru the tough spot on the klr's,wouldn't even want to think about a strom up there. you guys hit the dead end wrong fork at night? wow !!!

here we are at the tough spot right before coming up to the monument at the pass.

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Old 03-03-2006, 11:20 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larryboy
nice report . you guys are nuts we spotted each other thru the tough spot on the klr's,wouldn't even want to think about a strom up there. you guys hit the dead end wrong fork at night? wow !!!

here we are at the tough spot right before coming up to the monument at the pass.

Of course it was getting pretty dark so I didn't take the shot you have here. It was tough. And yes, we took the dead-end spur to the right - after the pass and up and over that crappy hill!

Offroute
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Old 03-03-2006, 12:23 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larryboy
nice report . you guys are nuts we spotted each other thru the tough spot on the klr's,wouldn't even want to think about a strom up there. you guys hit the dead end wrong fork at night? wow !!!

here we are at the tough spot right before coming up to the monument at the pass.

The ride was a bit tough for me on a strom. I think a DR-Z400S is in my future.

willyvee
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Old 03-03-2006, 12:25 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by offroute
...At least we're well prepared. No sleeping bags, no shelter, hell, we've even run out of water. Time to sleep in helmets at 4000 feet in February...
I was pondering adding a 3 season sleeping bag to my tailrack during Winter/Spring even though I TBM (tour by motel). You just made the decision easy.
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Old 03-03-2006, 12:27 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willyvee
The ride was a bit tough for me on a strom. I think a DR-Z400S is in my future.

willyvee
good on ya for doing it. what a great memory you guys made.
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Old 03-03-2006, 12:41 PM   #10
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Damn you guy got balls! When I saw Mengal and strom, I had to read. Great write up. I really enjoyed it.


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Old 03-03-2006, 12:44 PM   #11
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Way to go WillieVee. (and son and buddy). For all of us who never quite got around to riding with our dad.
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Old 03-03-2006, 02:07 PM   #12
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Wow, that was pretty ballsy trying to ride vstroms over mengel pass (especially after dropping bikes on Greenwater). I gotta give you your props for trying it but also gently chide you for not really being prepared. Last year we had a guy break his shoulder just beyond where you spent the night. It had a happy ending but could have really turned out bad. You passed very close to two cabins (the geologist's cabin and the Barker Ranch) which would have been better than the ground for sure.
A search of posts on this site would have warned you about mengel pass-which is hard enough on a klr during the day let alone a vstrom at night. The spirit of adventure rider is strong in this one!
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Old 03-03-2006, 02:11 PM   #13
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Good on ya!

I used to "borrow " my fathers Gold Wing. He finally told me to buy my own so he could go for a ride together before I got too old! We got in some memorable trips, including Death Valley (paved only). He sold the 'Wing when he was 78, said he didn't feel safe rideing anymore. I told him I never feel safe when I ride... At 82, he still puts around the back pasture on my F650.
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Old 03-03-2006, 03:08 PM   #14
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nice report

Intresting story,great photos.I to had some great rides with my dad,exploring baja during the sixtys and seventys.We got into some very scary situations, out of gas, flat tires, little help of us fixing them in those days.Never thought much about the dangers back then.One thing we learned the hard way was never ride a new section late in the day.After dark its very easy to get lost, save the new sections for early morning,then if you do have trouble you will have the extra time you need.
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Old 03-04-2006, 08:58 AM   #15
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Good for you to make those memories with your dad. The bad parts will either be long forgotten or enjoyed with laughter. A friend of mine got his father into riding and it's great!
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