March 9, 2014
Hal and I were ready to ride on our second day in Beatty, NV, the little town about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, NV, that was our “base camp” for the trip. Our plan for Day 2 of our Death Valley riding vacation was to ride Titus Canyon, then take the paved road toward Scotty’s Castle, see Uebehebe Crater, and then go to the Racetrack. As usual, things didn’t always go as planned!
The first roadblock, literally, was getting to the east entrance of Titus Canyon and finding a sign that said “road closed, 1.5 miles head.” Disbelieving, we rode west, and indeed, came to a locked gate. There looked like there was a path around the gate, and later we saw five BMW riders take their GS bikes around it to get in anyway, but since we are good little rule followers, we were uncomfortable doing that. I always think it gives all of us a bad name if any of us disregard the rules, but that is just me, apparently. So, we didn’t go.
The entrance to Titus Canyon:
We then rode California 374 to Scotty’s Castle Rd., which took us to the west entrance of Titus Canyon. Just before that, though, we spoke to a ranger who explained the reason for the closure on Titus: a washout that occurred during the rainstorm from a week and a half ago. He said it wasn’t bad, and we could probably ride it from this end, the west end, going the “wrong way” since it was closed from the east end anyway. “The last mile is what everyone wants to see,” he said. “They like the high walls.” Okayyyyyy.
We took the bikes down the road toward the entrance to the canyon, and there was a trailhead. Several vehicles were parked there, and people were hiking in and out of the canyon. I guess if Hal and I were the type of people who don’t care how rude others think we are, we would have gone ahead taken the dirt bikes in the narrow, high-walled exit. But we thought the hikers would be really p.o.’d, so we parked, de-geared, and hiked in. It was very warm in that enclosed area, in the sun, and I was sweating slightly by the time we got going. I put my GoPro camera on me, attached with the harness on my chest, and so we got to see and video Titus Canyon. It probably was the best way after all since we were able to stop, look, and shoot lots of photos. My school kids will love seeing the unique landforms of Death Valley, and this area showed lots of great examples.
By then it was almost 3 o’clock. We’d had a late start because of being tired from the day before, and I was trying to properly pack the new Wolfman bags on my bike. We had also counted on being able to ride Titus Canyon through to Scotty’s Castle Road, and therefore saving ourselves about 20 miles. After all that, we decided that we wanted to see Uebehebe Crater anyway, and attempt to ride to The Racetrack.
The distances in Death Valley are so great, and we didn’t realize how far it is between the main attractions. After a little over 40 miles, we stopped at the crater, which was impressive, and very deep. The mountains, soil, dust, roadways, etc., are colored in red, tan, black, gray, copper, and all the colors in between. Death Valley is an amazing place for so many reasons.
We then took the black volcanic cinder-covered roadway down toward the turnoff to The Racetrack. This is an attraction that I have wanted to see for a long time! However, I was surprised that the only way to reach it was by a rough road. The sign at the entrance said, “high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles only.” That always makes me wonder what is in store for us.
Joshua tree forest along Racetrack Rd.:
At first there were a few washouts and some fairly deep sand. I wondered if I’d be able to stand almost 30 miles of this. But then, as we began to climb, it smoothed out and earned almost “super highway” status. We were able to travel fast for a while, then the road started to curve through a Joshua tree forest, and because of several blind curves, we slowed down. It is a narrow roadway, and I didn’t want to meet a truck head-on. As it turned out, we only met three vehicles, all going the other way, and then there was no one.
By this time, it was getting late, and we’d only gone less than halfway in. The sky was overcast, and we knew the sun was getting low. It was 5 o’clock, and we were about 88 miles from home base in Beatty. We dumped all the fuel from the fuel bottles into my bike, and decided to turn around. We could come back earlier in the day tomorrow.
Scotty’s Castle (deserted):
To try to get back home faster, we attempted to ride out to Scotty’s Castle and take that road back to 95, which goes past Beatty, but we found the road closed to all traffic after Scotty’s Castle. The place was deserted as well. I thought it was a little creepy that there was absolutely no one around, and then we had to go back to the main intersection of Scotty’s Castle Rd. and Racetrack Rd. We took the long way ‘round and rode back to Beatty via Daylight Pass, where it was very cold by the time we reached it. All our gear was covered in the fine tan dust from parts of Racetrack Rd., and we looked like all the other riders we’d seen earlier in the day.
At dinner that night, the food and hot coffee revived me. Hal and I talked again about how the little bikes were capable enough for anything. I thought to myself, how can I make it happen that I can ride around the world, and this could be EVERY day for me??
I’m still thinking.