On the way to Death Valley

Las Vegas, as we passed through


Now that I am home, my dirt bike riding clothes are piled in a dusty heap on the floor of the spare bedroom, and even as I look approvingly at them, I am plotting to find a way to get back to Death Valley, California, USA, to ride again on its myriad unpaved roads.

The name “Death Valley” has an ominous echo to it, but unknown to most people, it is a mecca for serious dirt bike adventurers. The countless dirt roads, canyons, and rock formations yield unending wonders for those who appreciate exploring natural phenomena. Who knew?

Our annual pilgrimage to Death Valley National Park began late Friday afternoon when my riding partner, Hal, and I left Phoenix, Arizona for Beatty, Nevada, the gateway to the national park. We thought it would be an eight-hour drive, and indeed it was. This is our third trip to Death Valley, and I hope we will have many more.

The garish lights, through the haze of tiredness:

We reached Las Vegas late into the night (for us), but probably just as things were getting into full swing in that town. However, I had never seen the freeways so comparatively empty, and it was nice to get in and out of town quickly. The lights were spectacular, though, and I tried to capture some of them with my point-and-shoot camera.

Las Vegas ends abruptly on the north side of town, and we were plunged into darkness as we turned toward the west, leaving the glow from the gaudy downtown area to seep over the barrier of the mountains behind and to the left of us. As the darkness closed behind us, we saw a glow of white emanating from the highest peaks. “Is that snow??” Hal asked incredulously.

“Yep!” I said, excited by the beauty. The moon was full, and the snow reflected the bright white light beaming from the moon.

Hal and I were both having trouble staying awake by then. This was bad because Hal was driving. I was going to offer to drive, but I was having a hard enough time staying awake myself. I kept blinking out, having weird dreams, images swirling in the dark, darkness that was complete on the outside of the truck. We were near the infamous Area 51, a surreal feeling. We met few vehicles coming the opposite way.

It’s lucky there were no cops around to see because Hal was weaving slightly in the lane. That is what happens when a person has to work too much and too hard. I was grateful that we were able to get away at all.

Finally, we saw the few twinkling lights of Beatty, an oasis in the blackness. After some motel drama, we finally settled in for the night about 2:30 a.m. The bikes stayed on the trailer, and I fell into bed still wearing my traveling clothes. I was exhausted, and so, I am sure, was Hal.

I fell asleep immediately, and soon I was dreaming of the wonderful riding we were sure to experience in Death Valley beginning later in the day. Indeed, our first ride of the trip would prove to be a thrilling one.


7 thoughts on “On the way to Death Valley

  1. On the way home in early January I stopped at Death Valley for a bit of dual sport riding. It was 27 degrees at Furnace Creek. I lost all enthusiasm and the KTM stayed on the truck. I always wanted to go to Charles Mansons place.

    • If you ever get the chance again to ride in Death Valley, you should take it. It is incredibly beautiful, and the terrain can be easy, or very challenging. I hope you will get to experience it.

  2. Death Valley is certainly on my go-to list…one trip we spent too much time in Yellowstone NP and were heading to Pinedale, WY late at night…along similar dark roads…Laura and I both fought to stay awake even as we started seeing “Elk Crossing” signs along the highway…

    • Hal and I have ridden in deer-infested country late at night. We ride side-by-side, with our bright headlights on, and we have to go about 20 mph. The scary thing is that we see their eyes glinting at the sides of the road, ready to leap out in front of us!

      If you go to Death Valley, you will not be disappointed! But don’t go in summer, it’s super hot there (like it is here)!

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