The Racetrack at Death Valley

Above: “racing” rocks at the Racetrack!

March 10, 2014
(Day 3, continued)

With Hal’s bike not running, it was up to us to figure out the problem. After about 20 min. of coasting down the grade without power, and messing around, Hal stopped the bike and looked at it. It was acting like it wasn’t getting any fuel, but then it was acting like it was getting too much … ? What could it be? Then, he happened to look above the sidestand, and noticed the electrical connection to it was broken! That is the wire that kills the engine if you put the bike into gear with the sidestand down. Of course, it never breaks so that you can get the bike home!

Right about the time Hal figured it out, the man that rode the R1200C to the Racetrack came rolling out. He stopped to help, but Hal explained that he’d just diagnosed the problem and was going to fix it with some electrical tape that he had in his toolkit. We talked to the R12 rider for a while, mostly because we were in awe of his riding skills to take that bike out on this rough road. He was afraid that he was going to run out of gas before he got back to Stovepipe Wells, so we agreed to follow him after Hal got his bike fixed. He managed to get it going, and off we went, only to have it break again, have to stop again, and then fix it again! Meanwhile, it was getting later and later. We’d spent a lot of time at the Racetrack, so that was our whole day by the time we’d done all the traveling.

Once again, the three of us set out, me watching in amazement as the R1200 rider successfully negotiated the sandy, washed out sections of the northeast end of the road. All that happened to his bike (apparently) was that he rattled the windscreen loose. Amazing.

Finally, we got back to the road, and since our dirt bikes didn’t have the speed of a street bike, we let the R12 go to the front. If he ran out of gas, we would be along in a few minutes and could help out. But, we never saw him again, and we went all the way down to Stovepipe Wells to make sure.

The general store in Stovepipe Wells:

Stovepipe Wells is an interesting place. It is mostly a RV park for retired people, but it has a gas station, a few souvenir shops, and a general store to get snacks and drinks. I would imagine it clears out in the summer because the temperature regularly gets into the 120° F. range. The sun was setting by then, but we stopped at the little gift store to buy stickers that say “Death Valley” on them (for bragging rights, of course), and a t-shirt souvenir for my husband. As I walked into the store wearing almost all my gear, a guy came out, looked at me, and slurred, “Hey, gal, what’s up?!” He was super-drunk, and looked a little worse for wear. He was a biker or wanna-be wearing a H-D t-shirt, and he was weaving slightly as he walked. He must have been really drunk to give me a second glance! I just smirked because I knew Hal was right behind me. The guy finally looked past me, spotted Hal, then as he went on his unsteady way he patted Hal on the shoulder. We totally laughed about that later.

Hal and I rode over to the gas pumps, and splashed a gallon into the KLX’s tank, just to make sure I got home. The gas was $4.86  per gallon or something like that, and it was “No Brand” gasoline at 87 octane. Crap gas, but I didn’t have a choice at that point. No price gouging going on there, either, by the way.

As I was standing there getting ready to get back on the bike, I noticed how beautiful the sunset was, and how beautiful the dunes to the east looked. I also saw that far in the distance to the north there was a gap where I could see some mountains even farther away, and it looked like they were blurred by a haze of some kind, fog or clouds maybe. It looked rather mystical, enchanting, but I didn’t give it too much thought at the time.

However, after we’d ridden the seven miles back to the main road, and then got about two-thirds of the way up Daylight Pass, I got to find out what the “magical” looking mist actually was when a raging wall of wind slammed into us! Soon, there were whirling particulates in the cold air. The temperature dropped abruptly, about 10 degrees at least, and I had to lean the bike over hard just to keep it going straight. It was a surreal experience, riding madly through the cold darkness. Soon I was getting cold despite several layers of gear. The wind kept up like that all the way back to Beatty. When we got there, we quickly de-geared as the wind blasted us, and we sheltered the bikes the best we could.

Just off the bikes, standing there in the cold windy darkness:

Soon we were at the restaurant, drinking hot coffee once again, and after dinner, we walked through the casino to leave. We saw another guy who was a little tipsy, only this guy was notable because he was wearing western boots, but only one spur! “That guy’s one spur short of a cowboy!” I remarked to Hal over the roaring of the wind as we walked across the parking lot. So we had another of many laughs that day over that.

All night long, I heard the howling of the wind outside the windows of the motel where we were staying. It made all the doors rattle in the cheaply constructed building, and when I woke up to our last day to ride Death Valley, it was still windy, although not as strong. It was cold, too, and I pulled out the warmest clothes I had. I had learned the last time I rode Death Valley to be prepared for all kinds of weather, and fortunately, I was.

Tomorrow: squeezing in a ride before we leave.


2 thoughts on “The Racetrack at Death Valley

  1. Have you noticed that my comments have slacked off recently? No? Well, it seems that your blog is currently blocked by the work firewall. So, for now, unless I think about surfing at home at night, I might get a little behind.

    I have been to Death Valley several times, but never gotten to the Racetrack. I am truly jealous. So, I choose that photo today.

    • Yes, I have been missing you, Randy! Glad you are back!

      Thanks for the comments. The Racetrack was a goal since the last time we went to DV, and it was worth the wait. Not many people get to experience it since it is down a rough (for cars) road.

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