A day at the Racetrack


Day 4, Death Valley, March 15, 2016

Our day started at Gema’s Café again. We ran into the same couple that we had seen yesterday, another moto riding team. We were all waiting for tables, and when Hal and I were called first, I asked them to join us. We had a nice breakfast and conversation together. Tiana just started riding a year ago. Yet, she rides a big H-D, and has ridden 17,000 miles in the last year! Her partner has an Indian, and a few other bikes, and he rides with Tiana most of the time. It was nice to meet another female motorcyclist who rides many miles. She is very courageous because she will ride alone. I am not too keen on that, especially after the car accident, and I am always grateful for Hal’s company.

As a result of a too-long (but nice) breakfast, Hal and I left late from Beatty. We were on our dirt bikes, of course, headed toward “The Racetrack.” It was going to be a full riding day.

We rode down Daylight Pass, across the floor of Death Valley, then north to Ubehebe Crater, about 67 miles. It was a long time to be riding dirt bikes on pavement. Finally, we got to the black, deep cinder surface of Racetrack Rd., and since my tires were aired up for pavement, I felt almost like I was out of control! “Hey, I’ve got to air down now!” I said urgently over the intercom.

“Sure, we’ll find a place to pull over up here somewhere,” Hal answered.

On Racetrack Road:

“Uh, hopefully before I go down!” I said. It really was crazy trying to ride with too much pressure in the tires on that loose, deep volcanic surface. Quickly, we pulled over to the side of the road and aired down to avert any drama. The road soon became “corrugated” as well, and I was glad that the suspension was working on the KLX! The suspension worked best when we were at speed, floating over the top of the surface.

Empty playa:

When Hal and I got to the playa that is the Racetrack, we were dismayed to find that most of the rocks had been stolen! People take the rocks for their “mystical quality.” I think I saw one rock of any measureable size out on the playa. It is very selfish for people to do this, now no one else can enjoy the rocks, see the evidence of an amazing natural phenomenon. Besides, once the rocks have been removed from the playa, they no longer have meaning. I was glad Hal and I had been there two years ago to see more of the “moving rocks.”

The playa two years ago:

Hal and I took a break at the edge of the playa, drank some water and had an energy bar, then got on the bikes and turned back toward Teakettle Junction. We took a couple of photos, and then a guy in a jeep pulled up. His jeep said “Jeep Kitchens,” and we discovered that his company makes camp kitchens that are made to fit into the back of jeeps.

Hal at Teakettle Junction. Al’s Jeep Kitchens jeep in the background:

We talked for a little while with Al, and found out that he is going to be at Overland Expo, held in Flagstaff, Arizona, in May. Perhaps we will see him there then! (We did!)

We ended our conversation with Al, then rode back to the crater. By then, I was getting my second wave of energy after feeling really tired.

The amazing crater:

My dusty pants and boots:

Hal airing up his tires:

We took a break in the tourist parking lot, listened to many languages being spoken, aired up our tires, looked over the edge at the deep crater, then headed back on the long paved stretch of road to Beatty.

That evening, after we’d cleaned up a bit and put the bikes up for the night, we walked over to Mama Sara’s for dinner, a local restaurant that serves amazingly delicious fajitas. We marked our last night on the road, at least for a while, by toasting our adventures with a glass of wine, and hoped that our next trip wouldn’t be too far in the future.

Next: Going home

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