Death Valley, 2016, part 1


Every year in spring, Hal and I make our way to Death Valley. It’s our “rite of spring.” Our first time was in 2012, a truly adventurous trip, and we loved it so much despite its challenges that we planned to go back. Every year since has been an amazing experience, from visiting with our friends in Las Vegas on the way, to the great riding and the enjoyable time we have hanging out in Beatty, NV.

Here is the beginning of this year’s story:

Hal and I loaded my Kawasaki KLX250S on the trailer at my house on Saturday morning, March 12, and soon we were on our way, Hal driving the venerable Xterra with the bikes behind it on the trailer. We left a little before 10 a.m. and I felt like we made good time to Wickenburg (I-10 to 303 to the 60). We stopped at the gas station just outside of Wickenburg to get some coffee, then we went on to Kingman. It was uncharacteristically cool from the moment I went outside at home (it’s usually like stepping into a furnace), and then for the rest of the day. The weather was changeable, windy, a capricious spring day, full of excitement and possibility.

In Kingman, I felt the wind pushing us around more than I had before, and when we left and headed toward Las Vegas, we had a good tailwind. We were there by 2:30 local time (we gained an hour), and met our friends, Tom and Cecelia, for a late lunch. I met Tom through this blog, and met Cecelia when we met in person a couple of years ago. They have become wonderful friends!

We spent a good two hours or more talking – it was so great to have good conversation with people I enjoy. We talked about riding, bikes, work, a little sewing (since I am teaching myself to sew starting last July), and life in general. A brief discussion about the accident and the subsequent depression, but I wanted to keep the conversation positive. I don’t want to think any more about “that.”

It seemed that time had passed too quickly, but Hal and I got back into the Xterra and drove on toward Beatty. The rest is my favorite part of the journey. The wide-open space, the nearly deserted road, the snow-capped mountains in the distance, and the gently rolling hills closer to the road are always spectacular for me, and I have loved it since the first time we rode our street bikes on 95 north a few years ago.

As we drove west, the sun painted the clouds pink and gold as it went down. Dusk found us at the “alien” gas stop/convenience store to (once again) get a cup of coffee. We walked around the store looking at all the touristy, kitschy “alien stuff.” We laughed at all the funny stickers, magnets, t-shirts, you name it, none of which we needed at that particular moment.

Back in the car, I had that on the road feeling, the feeling that I was out, traveling, belonging nowhere and everywhere. It was a familiar, good feeling. I’d missed it. It is something I knew first when I was a young teenager, traveling to horse shows. I loved it then, and I love it now. I hope I never lose it.

Finally, we made it to Beatty, pulled into the parking lot of the casinos and motels, and saw many other dirt bikers already settled in for the night. Funny thing, though, we saw none of the big-pig adventure bikes as we’d seen in past years. All the bikes parked there were smaller-sized ones with real knobby tires on them. (Yeah! That’s what I ride.) Everyone seems to do a spring pilgrimage here, and one of the best things is that Death Valley is so big, we all can enjoy it without getting in each other’s way, or having to ride the same things over and over, unless we want to.

Hal and I unloaded the bikes, and after that, I began to feel my body relax for the first time in months. I had been looking forward to this trip for weeks, and it was time to savor every moment.

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2 thoughts on “Death Valley, 2016, part 1

    • Charlotte, Death Valley has very little rainfall and is a very forbidding landscape. It was named so because of a group of pioneers who passed through in 1849-1850. It is not certain how many people died, but as the survivors climbed out of the valley over the Panamint Mountains (which I rode my bike through last year) to the west, someone said, “good-bye death valley!”, or so the tale goes. The name stuck. The reason for such little rainfall in this area is because when storms come in from the Pacific, they have to cross several mountain ranges to get to Death Valley, and by the time they reach it, usually the moisture is gone from the storms. It is an interesting place!

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