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Old 11-03-2009, 09:48 AM   #1
Jenn OP
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Location: Oakland, CA
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My First Set of Knobbies - Lost Coast DS & Death Valley

I've been looking forward to going to Death Valley all year - and it happened that the period of time coincided with the Loast Coast Dual Sport, so my friend encouraged me to roll that into our plan.

Originally, our itinerary looked like this:
  • Friday 10/2: Oakland to Ukiah, overnight in Ukiah
  • Saturday 10/3: Lost Coast Dual Sport, overnight in Fortuna
  • Sunday 10/4: Fortuna > Ukiah > Pack & drive Williams (hotel)
  • Monday 10/5: Boomtown (Cabela's store > Reno (grocery shopping) > Mammoth Lake geothermal area (camp)
  • Tuesday 10/6: Mammoth Lake > Bishop (breakfast; last grocery/ice) > Big Pine > Saline Hot Springs - set up camp
  • Wednesday 10/7: Saline Hot Springs camp
  • Thursday 10/8: Saline Hot Springs camp
  • Friday 10/9: Saline Hot Springs camp
  • Saturday 10/10: Break camp > Panamint Springs (ice & beer) > Ballarat set up base camp
  • Sunday 10/11: Panamints camping (Geologist/Briggs cabin?)
  • Monday 10/12: Panamints camping (cabin?)
  • Tuesday 10/13: Decide - stay or head for Alabama Hills
  • Wednesday 10/14: Break camp & pack > Oakland
But, due to being more tired (and cold) after the Lost Coast Dual Sport on Sunday, we stayed one more night in Ukiah instead of driving to Williams. We underestimated the amount of time that would be required to drive with two motorcycles on the trailer & all our gear. My friend's little truck would top out at like 40 mph going up some steeper hills, but chugged along like the "Little Engine That Could."

Finally, we just enjoyed socializing and relaxing at Saline Hot Springs so much that we were hard pressed to break camp and head elsewhere. The weather was perfect, company very agreeable and we just ended up spending most of the trip right there!

Our final itinerary was like this:
  • Friday 10/2: Oakland to Ukiah, overnight in Ukiah (hotel)
  • Saturday 10/3: Lost Coast Dual Sport, overnight in Fortuna
  • Sunday 10/4: Fortuna > Ukiah (hotel)
  • Monday 10/5: Boomtown (Cabela's store > Reno (grocery shopping) > Mammoth Lakes (hotel)
  • Tuesday 10/6: Mammoth Lake geothermal area > Bishop (breakfast; last grocery/ice) > Big Pine (last gas) > Saline Hot Springs - set up camp
  • Wednesday 10/7: Saline Hot Springs camp, one 50 mi ride back up the North Pass (a mission! read below)
  • Thursday 10/8: Saline Hot Springs camp - relaxation day for me!
  • Friday 10/9: Saline Hot Springs camp - 60 mile ride to Lippincott & exploring
  • Saturday 10/10: start for Steel Pass - return - "fix things day" & relaxing
  • Sunday 10/11: Big ride - 150 mi -> Saline Valley > Steel Pass > Dedecker Canyon > Eureka Dunes > Crankshaft Junction > Scotty's Castle > Ubehebe Crater > Racetrack > Lippincott > Saline Valley
  • Monday 10/12: Break camp; tow one bike out & I ride out South Pass; overnight at Panamint Springs Resort (dive motel)
  • Tuesday 10/13: Ridgecrest > Ming Lake, Bakersfield (camp)
  • Wednesday 10/14: Break camp & pack > Oakland
We timed everything perfectly to miss the rainstorms and did not get caught in snow (yay!).
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:48 AM   #2
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Days 1 & 2 - Lost Coast Dual Sport

Ok - technically, we left after midnight so it wasn't really Friday - it turns out that the Craigslist bargain motorcycle trailer had a big problem with a tire - so at 6:30 pm, we had to call around and found a shop in Fruitvale that could sell us a couple tires. We started packing around 9 and were on the road around 1am, arriving in Ukiah way too late to really get much sleep but we checked in and tried anyway.

Day 1 of the Lost Coast Dual Sport was inland, going through a chunk of Mendocino National Forest on some dirt roads with fantastic views.








It was all pretty manageable for me til we got to the first really big uphill that had a bunch of washed out ruts -- I froze right in front of one, still not sure about how my new knobby tires actually worked on my Suzuki DR650. And then when I started, I just got stuck in the rut and dropped it over on the right. I broke a collarbone in a horrible rut like this on my mountain bike once - I need to definitely practice driving through and around ruts on the dualsport because I know it is a totally different thing (no matter what my reptile brain says!).

At lunch, I was pleasantly surprised that they had a grill that was being used to keep stuff warm (in pans) so they cooked up my veggies and seitan sausages for me - that was pretty exciting!

After lunch, we cruised along and enjoyed the ride but the temperatures started dropping a LOT, so we decided to bail after Kettepom and head for Fortuna. Folks were snapping up the sweatshirts for sale - a lot of people were caught off guard by the cold snap.

In addition to the cold, it turns out my new helmet was just a smidge too small - I was fighting a headache, my face was chafed and by the time we checked into the hotel, I realized my face was actually purple from the compression. A hot shower and dinner at the microbrewery, followed by a soak in the tub, went a long way to make me feel better.

The next morning - my face was still swollen - I had five rows of bags under my eyes (no pictures, sorry!).

The route went out along the coast and we had some amazing vistas.







The helmet was still bothering me, so my friend got out his knife and made some adjustments, cutting out some of the styrofoam. Yay for instant relief of headache!





We were falling behind - the temperatures were dropping and even though I had on several more layers, I was still feeling the cold. I know I was really slow - but seeing other people pass me really helped so I could watch what they were doing, lots of great role models and plenty of encouragement. A downhill that seemed kind of sketchy to me seemed to bring out the playful side in others and I was treated to a show of downhill wheelies at least twice!

The best part of lunch on Sunday was a steaming hot clean damp towel - it was just the thing to perk me up. Cold weather takes a lot of energy out of me, so I was really looking forward to going to Death Valley!
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:49 AM   #3
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Days 3 & 4 - Getting there!

Did I mention we thought it was going to be warmer in Death Valley? You can imagine our surprise when we got to Truckee and there was snow everywhere!



We had to deal with traffic, shopped at the giant Cabela's and then went for groceries and decided to stay in a hotel in Mammoth Lakes instead of setting up camp in the dark (and cold! did I mention COLD?). I was really happy I bought mittens to wear for the ride in the truck at Cabela's!

Scott wanted to see Devil's Post Pile, but they didn't plow the road - Mammoth Lakes had received 3' of snow in some areas according to some folks. It looked like this when we got there:





We went to the scenic overlook instead and then hopped back in the car to go find some hot springs. After a nice soak at Shepherd's Tub, we visited the Mono County Animal Shelter and met a lot of nice kitties & doggies there (fine, you can laugh at me all you want, but I like visiting the animal shelter!) then we headed on down the road.

After groceries & a picnic lunch in a gorgeous city park in Bishop (replete with pond, gazebo, ducks, trees, skate park & tennis courts), we were on the road to our destination.



Since this was Scott's first trip into Saline Valley, we stopped to check out some of the abandoned mining sites on the way in via the North Pass to Saline Valley Road.



After about 40 miles of washboard, we noticed a bit of loosening of our tie downs, so we stopped to check everything. Note: metal gas cans instead of plastic for next trip.



Note: this is the last time we saw the fender on the driver side of the trailer on this drive into the valley.

We arrived before dark, found a killer spot for a site in the Palm Springs area that was central to both tubs and the bathroom, set up camp, had a soak, made dinner and enjoyed our first night at the hot springs.
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:49 AM   #4
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Days 5, 6, 7 & 8 - A Mission, Practice & Reconnaissance, Chilling

After a taxing morning of brunch, beer, soaking and napping... we decide to go for a ride to look for the missing trailer fender. To me, this feels like my first opportunity in a low/no pressure ride to familiarize myself with the knobbies and the way the bike moves with these tires on sand, washboard and stuff.

I actually had a lot of fun - the suspension on the Suzuki takes the washboard really well, but I definitely found a point where if I go a bit too fast, the whole bike feels really unstable. I was cruising along about 40-45 mph on the county road, and we got to the spot where we had stopped to check the tie downs and traded bikes for a mile or so - that was kind of fun but my suspension is better dialed-in and felt much easier than my friend's motorcycle.

When we turned around, I noticed a stone cairn on the side of the road - and off the road, our trailer fender! The thing is so heavy and overbuilt, we left it so Scott could return with the pickup truck to bring it back.



Day 6 saw me lounging in the hot springs, drinking beer, socializing, reading and napping. We also discovered that there were cracks in the trailer -- ouch!

Day 7, Scott took the trailer to the NPS camp host for a bit of welding repair (yay for Lizard Lee!) and then we went for a reconnaissance ride up toward the intersection of Saline Valley Rd with the road to Lippincott Pass.







On our return, we explored an abandoned mining-related site - there is just an unbelievable amount of abandoned equipment and buildings throughout Death Valley.





Arriving back just in time for sunset ...



Day 8 - we just chilled out at the hot springs - it was the warmest day yet, and we just enjoyed relaxing. A lot.
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:50 AM   #5
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Day 9 - the Big Ride! Steele Pass & Dedecker Canyon

This is the ride I have been dreaming about doing since my first visit to Saline Valley 4 years ago! My dear friend Scott was interested and game enough to go do this with me - he deserves major props for all that he has contributed to making our trip happen.



The ride from Saline Valley to Steel Pass was full of plenty of rocks and gravel - lots of room to learn without feeling for immediate loss of life or anything.










Entering Dedecker Canyon








Checking out the lines







Easy peasy!
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:50 AM   #6
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Day 9 (cont'd) - Dedecker Canyon, Eureka Dunes & Crankshaft Junction

After clearing the canyon, we could really start seeing the Eurkeka Dunes growing in the distance.





The map says "Deep Sand" - no kidding! We slogged our way through sand that was pretty deep, up to 8-10" and I even stalled and dropped the bike once, but was able to get it up myself (somehow, the sand made it easier?). Finally, we found a nice view of the dunes and pulled out our lunch: thinly sliced roasted chiogga & yellow beets from last night's campfire, tea smoked tofu, heirloom tomatoes and avocado with balsamic on ciabatta rolls. We don't believe in eating out of mylar packets like some campers...

This was basically our lunch view:



And the view to the north-east of this magnificent butte:



I've camped at Eureka Dunes before - the sunset on that butte is just really amazing -the whole hillside lights up really nicely.

Btw, it's not always totally dry here, either:



We headed out on the gravel road to Big Pine Rd, then headed over the hill to Crankshaft Crossing. Just at the other side of Last Chance Mountain, we stopped to catch a view of the valley floor and Crankshaft crossing.



The path was well trod enough for motocross boots:


Tremendous view of some sort of beautiful crevasse - volcanic activity?



Long straight road down:







Arriving at Crankshaft Junction - we noticed the artistically placed car parts and the "information" sign.





Our next stretch of road - long, straight and kinda boring:



Finally, we arrive at Scotty's Castle - which has a gift shop but not much of a cantina/restaurant and NO GAS!



Fortunately, an employee volunteers to help us out - heads to his home and grabs a can of gas and sells us 3 gallons to ensure we get safely to Saline Valley, saving us a 60-75 mile RT just to get more gas at Stovepipe Wells before heading to Ubehebe Crater.

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Old 11-03-2009, 09:51 AM   #7
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Day 9 (cont'd) - Ubehebe Crater, Teakettle Junction, Grandstand/Racetrack & Lippincot

Driving up to the crater, I was scratching my head - this area looked so different - black dunes, very little vegetation and very alien looking. Finally, we arrive and Scott is so excited to look down into the crater, he goes right up to the edge!









Then, we head down a flat washboard road covered with deep loose gravel & sand toward Racetrack. Beautiful mountains and joshua trees all around us. I even find a few souvenirs - a green garden trowel from OSH (brand new!) and a rolled up straw beach mat - right in the middle of the road!











Arriving at Teakettle Junction:



Would you like some Lizard Tea?



I'm a little .... oh, no, I'm not...



Did I happen to mention how perfect the weather was for our ride on this day? It had been pretty warm at Saline springs the day before - but today was just ideal - not too hot, not chilly, not too much wind though it was messy in spots. The sky was a clear blue - check out the sky behind the mountains at Grandstand:



Most of the rocks that have tracks behind them are at the south end of the lake - so I headed there and hopped off, only to have Scott point out that my brake light was hanging off by the wires! I already lost a screw from my chain guard by Eureka Dunes, now the both sides of the metal bracket inside my factory tail light just snapped from the stress of the road! Duct tape was, of course, the solution!





View to the north of Grandstand and the mountains:


Obligatory shot of my feet on cracked playa (seriously - everyone seems to put in shots of their Mx boots in trip reports, don't they?)

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Old 11-03-2009, 09:52 AM   #8
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Day 9 (cont'd) - Lippincott & home to the warm springs!



Sadly, I do not have a ton of pictures of this pass - one day, I will hike down the gnarly part and take lots of pictures but this was not the day. The first part was the narrowest but not too bad. We stopped and I took a picture uphill - it doesn't show the stair-steps at the beginning, just the loose stuff:



Now we're playing "beat the clock"


See that drop off just past the bikes?




We walked down to check the lines - it was sketchy stuff for a beginner like me, but Scott coached me and I actually did not drop the bike or go ass over teakettle down into a canyon. YAY me!

Actually, getting past that section made the rest of the road much easier, relatively, and fun!

This stretch has lots of dips into washes and ditches, though it's a relatively straight shot - I had a few great lessons here. One was translating shifting my weight from front (standing on pegs) back to pop the wheel up over a rock when climbing out of a wash, then standing up again to re-shift the weight. That was fun!






I almost wanted to go back and try it again but it was getting dark.
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:53 AM   #9
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Day 10 & Day 11 - breaking camp & heading home

Best sunrise of the week:


Rain forecasts sent much of the folks camping at Saline off on Monday morning - we likewise packed and head out ahead of the clouds, hearing that Tioga pass was closed and the Bay Area was drenched when we got out of the South Pass to get gas.

To save weight and wear & tear on trailer and truck, I rode my Suzuki out while Scott towed the KTM. There was plenty of trouble for Scott as important bolts and tie downs loosened and snapped on the truck and trailer. Fortunately, nothing serious happened - it just took a long time for us to get out the south pass and I ended up having to pull out layers to put on a coat before it got dark.









The views that evening were lovely - and the next morning, as well.











We spent the night at Panamint Springs Resort - probably the biggest dump either of us have landed on any of our trips this year, with really exorbitant prices on everything. If it wasn't cold and we hadn't had such an ordeal on our egress, we should have camped.

Bonus - there is a super friendly tom cat named Bad Luck who lives there, and his new buddy Bob. Bad Luck spent part of the night with us in our room - what a lover!





Tuesday was super windy, and we decided only to stop to check the historical markers but didn't head into Ballarat.







On our way through Ridgecrest, we saw a motorcycle store called "Desert Sport Center" - I bought a new helmet that fits me properly as well as goggles that fit over my glasses. WIN!

This was really a big shake-out trip for both of us - we pushed the limits of the truck by towing the trailer and two motorcycles, it was mostly ok on 101 to Ukiah, but not so great going up mountains on 80 and 395, and we're really lucky the poor little truck and trailer held together as well as they did.

Our timing was perfect - though our night at the county park in Bakersfield was a bit windy, it was otherwise uneventful and rather like camping in someone's well mowed back yard. We missed all the heavy rain and got home in daylight with plenty of time to unpack and then relax with our thai carry out and three grateful black cats.

###

Expenses:

Once you have all your equipment - it's basically groceries, gas and water.

We had planned to camp more - but ended up with 2 more nights in hotel than planned, so that did add to the expense. Hotel cost $130 for the first two nights in Ukiah, $90 for the night in Mammoth Lakes and $100 for the night in Panamint Springs Resort (which I do not recommend - it's a shit hole - you're better off setting up your tent for $7.50/night no matter how tired you are).

I tend to overspend on groceries and we were at about $250 for a week (including beer). Gas probably cost a total of $100-125 (including on the dual sport weekend). Meals in restaurants also add to cost - so we ended up spending $750 for the entire 10 day trip. Next time - fewer groceries, more beer and no nights in hotel.


###

I highly recommend this man's Death Valley trip report - though he's trying to make it a song that you read (some pictures are repeated like a refrain) - he's got great pictures and a great big pair for doing 10 days through some gnarly passes solo AND in the winter! Did I mention that I am a total girl when it comes to the cold?

###
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Old 11-04-2009, 07:23 AM   #10
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Great photo's.
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Old 11-04-2009, 09:33 AM   #11
dillinger09
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You'll find that guy's Death Valley Solo RR report here in this forum! Larryboy has some of the best RR's i've read. Kudo's on making it through the tough sections and awesome pictures. Thanks for sharing
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Old 11-04-2009, 09:38 AM   #12
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Love those DV reports!! Thanks for sharing your great ride, report and pics
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Old 11-04-2009, 03:23 PM   #13
JoeyBones
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oaklandace
I had five rows of bags under my eyes (no pictures, sorry!).
Dude.

No pictures?

It's ok.

Really. No problem.



Great pics and RR, by the way, I'm in!

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Old 11-04-2009, 04:55 PM   #14
Jenn OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeyBones
Dude.

No pictures?

It's ok.

Really. No problem.
Seriously - I aged like 10 years as a result of that helmet - I now have "crows feet" on one side of my face. I think now I know why people resort to chemical peels and laser treatment - to even out damage caused by accessories & safety gear - right?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeyBones
Great pics and RR, by the way, I'm in!

Thanks! I'm having a tough time justifying staying home and catching up on housework after my last contract gig ended on Friday when the weather is so beautiful and I hear Joshua Tree calling my name... *sigh*
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Old 11-04-2009, 10:20 PM   #15
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Lovely desert! Great pics. Must ride someday.
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