I wrote this yesterday, Saturday, March 17, however, there was no Wi-Fi available at the motel, so I am filing my report today!
The weather reports were ominous, yet when I looked out the window this morning, the sun shone a watery light through gauze-like clouds. When we walked to breakfast, though, we saw gathering dark clouds to the west. As we packed the bikes, we saw three moths down on the ground. We should have taken that as an omen. At least the flying insects know enough to come in and stay down.
We, however, went back through Beatty and rode into the park the same way we did yesterday, and followed the same route back to Furnace Creek. The wind had picked up, and it wasn’t just “wind.” It was fierce, and it moved my little bike all over the road. Then we rode toward Badwater, but turned onto an interesting little road called Artist’s Drive.
Artist’s Drive is a short one-way drive through some colorful scenery; one of the scenic overlooks is called “Artist’s Palette,” and rightfully so. The only problem I had at these pullouts was the wind, it was so strong that I thought it was literally going to blow my bike over. I had a hard time holding it against the wind, and I was not enjoying that part at all. It was fully loaded, and I did not want to drop it.
Hal took a lot of photos, and I took a few. I also shot video with the GoPro starting at Artist’s Palette, and I hope I captured the drama of the narrow winding roads. A few places were a little sketchy because of the wind, the narrowness of the road, and some bicyclists who had chosen today to ride there! I am sure they had a difficult time riding against the high winds.
The next attraction that Hal wanted to stop at was Golden Canyon. Again, I was fearful of leaving the bike parked in a place exposed to the roaring wind, but Hal wanted to hike the canyon and take some (more) photos. So, I went along with it even though I thought we should be getting on the road and maybe trying to avoid the brunt of the incoming winter storm. In the distance, I saw a spectacular sight: clouds hovering over Tucki Mountain in the background, the mountain a dark shape, sunlight playing on the valley in front of it, and airborne borax particulates flying in a white plume down the valley. What are the chances, I thought, of being in Death Valley on one of the few days of weather like this? Pretty slim, I supposed, yet there we were.
Golden Canyon was nice, but I was trying to hike in almost full motorcycle gear, so I didn’t have much fun. I enjoyed shooting the photos that I did, but I am not much of a hiker. Why walk, I have always reasoned, when you could be riding a mountain bike or a motorbike? Hiking is slow, and is for people more decrepit than I am. That’s just my opinion. I wanted to take that GS right through the stupid little fence at the trailhead. I am not saying I would go off the established trails, but I think every trail should be open to everyone. (end rant)
Using the toilet at that stop turned out to be a challenge, too. The wind continued to be fierce and it howled through the outhouse. When I came out and it was Hal’s turn, I told him it was like pissing into a tornado. He thought it was an accurate assessment when he was done. Eventually, we got back on the bikes after I nearly got blown across the parking lot by the wind. I was happy to get out of there and I silently begged, please, no more stopping.
But there was one more stop, at the gas station. Yes, the infamous Chevron at Furnace Creek where a gallon of gas is nearly or over $6, depending on the grade. Can you say “price gouging”? Hal was fine with “topping off” the fuel tanks, but I would rather run out of gas than pay such a blatantly unfair price. Terrible. At least we only took about two gallons. Finally, we got on the road. (About frickin’ time! I thought)
Immediately as we climbed out of Death Valley, it began to rain. At first it was drizzle, then it was rain. We had to pull over and put on full rain gear, and then we headed toward Pahrump. The wind continued to be fierce, and the rain picked up. After Pahrump, we turned toward Las Vegas and again rode in the wind and rain. At least it stopped while we were negotiating the freeways in Las Vegas. At one point, though, we both almost lost our motorcycles when a strong gust of wind nearly made us lose control as we came down a transition ramp. I saw the people behind us slow way down and back off when they saw us struggling in the wind. Soon, we stopped for a coffee break in Henderson.
The wind was still screaming, and several people asked if we were going over Hoover Dam and continuing to Kingman. When we said “yes,” the reaction seemed to be “well, good luck with that.” It was 5 o’clock, and here we were again, miles from our destination. Ahead of us lay the most challenging part of today’s ride, but we did not know that then.
From here on, I did not have time to take any photos as I was working hard enough trying to keep the bike on the road and get myself to Kingman safely. There were high wind warnings in effect, and high profile vehicles were not allowed on the high bridges and ramps above Hoover Dam. After the craziness on the ramp in Las Vegas, these gusts were not too bad. However, we weren’t too far out of town when it started to rain again. This time, though, there was a driving intensity to it that hadn’t been there before. The sky lowered and darkened, and the wind made it a constant fight to keep the bike going straight. About 40 miles out of Kingman, the storm bore down on us and gave us its worst, driving wind and rain, darkening into night. 20 miles out, I realized that I was very cold. I was damp from the force of the rain, no gear could have withstood the intensity of that wind-driven rain, but this cold was ominous in that I thought the temperatures were near freezing. The road started to look white and slippery, but I never felt the bike slip. It was not icy, but just cold and wet. When we finally got to Kingman, I was so relieved, and we headed to the motel. There was nothing so welcome as that motel sign at that moment, rising out of the darkness and beckoning us to come in out of the storm.
Unpacking the bikes was an ordeal because the wind and rain never let up. I got soaked just standing there, and my fingers were so cold I could not make them work, and it took me forever. When I finally peeled off all my layers, my jeans were wet on the bottom of the legs. My feet were damp inside the boots because they were right down there close to the road with the water flinging up on them during this whole wet ride. My tailbag, however, lived up to its claim of being waterproof because when I got it open, all my clothes inside it were perfectly dry. This is a good thing because my laptop was in there as well! Without my laptop, I would not have written this story right after it happened!
I actually loved riding in the rain all day today, but I was getting a little cold and worried by the time we got to Kingman. I love riding in weather like this, though, and I would never complain about being out in it. I loved my day anyway, and riding in this kind of weather is all part of the adventure of motorcycling.
After a hot shower and dinner, I almost feel human as I am settling down. The wind and rain, however, have not let up for a moment outside, it sounds like hurricane intensity. My bike is covered, but I am not sure how waterproof that cover is. I feel bad for my poor Jewel, the little bike that did so well for me again today, out there in the cold and wet. Tomorrow night she will be home in her warm garage.
We are about four hours from home, so I am hoping the storm will lose some of its power by the morning and we can ride home with relative ease. You never know, though, and I just hope all my gear dries out before then!