Day four dawned with another batch of new experiences and epic riding. I have spent a lot of time outdoors, but making camp, sleeping and having breakfast all in the backcountry of Death Valley was one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever had riding motorcycles.
The day began at the Racetrack Playa, an unusual natural phenomenon. It consists of a dry lake bed where rocks have carved out tracks in the dirt as they move across the hard-packed desert floor. Science and logic have proposed this is caused by water, ice and wind scooting the rocks along over time, but I still believe in the Alien theory… to each his own. After that, it was onward through endless miles of brain-rattling washboard roads. As usual, the best solution to these washboards was to hold the throttle open and fly across them. We made a quick stop at Tea Kettle Junction for pictures, and I was a bit disappointed after researching this landmark; there is not much to it other than the damn Tea Kettles! It is ultimately a place of nostalgic littering that has gone on for long enough to be considered historic.
Then it was time again to cover ground and haul ass; we motored through the northern end of Death Valley. After a quick stop at Ubehebe Crater, we carried on at break-neck speeds across the desert with thoughts of clear water and snow-capped mountains in the front of our minds. After what seemed like forever, we pulled onto pavement en route to Lone Pine for a substantial lunch of BBQ meats. We packed in the protein, gassed up and hit the road towards our planned camp at Convict Lake. For the first time on the trip, we rolled into camp with plenty of daylight, which was well deserved after several days of ass numbing marathon routes. We set up tents, acquired some cold ones from the lake store, and drank in the breathtaking alpine scenery. We grabbed supper at the Convict Lake Bar and retired to the campfire until a light rain nudged us into our tents. Another beautiful night of sleep, regardless of the bear that wandered into our camp, stole some food and spooked fellow campers.
By the morning of day five, I was well rested and comfortable in this nomadic mindset. I could not help but wonder what it would be like to live this lifestyle indefinitely.
Breakfast burritos from the local food truck filled our bellies and then we were off, almost immediately into the dirt! More absolutely epic terrain, we ripped down high-speed graded dirt with the snow-capped Sierra Nevada towering in the background. A fun mix of two track and fast flowing sand washes lead us to the shores of Lake Crowley. There is nothing quite like the sight and sound of 150hp adventure bikes drifting sideways along the waters' edge. The weather was ideal with cotton candy clouds floating across the mountainous landscapes. From Lake Crowley, it was onward and upward towards Glass Mountain. Trudging up through rutted out rocky tracks as the bikes begin to show signs of altitude fatigue. We pulled over for a quick break around 8,000 feet and surveyed the incoming storm clouds moving in from three sides. Everyone put on their rain gear and prepared for some precipitation, while I took pictures and quietly regretted my decision to bring no wet weather gear whatsoever… I am a SoCal guy, and rain is usually a blessing.
We continued climbing higher as two thunder and lightning storms converge overhead. After cresting the range somewhere over 10,000ft. Spencer and I volunteered to explore an optional hill climb route up to the highest point accessible on two wheels. As a light rain began to fall, we ripped our KTM’s up the single track noticing a severe power drop from the lack of Oxygen. We barely had one moment to appreciate the view before a hell-storm of hail and lighting drops down on us. Connecting with the rest of the team, we broke out into laughter over the perilous conditions. At that point, time was of the essence, so we hauled ass down through the hail, snow, and lighting. The route was a mix of two track, single track, and snow-covered baby heads. After a few miles, we checked in on the helmet comms, only to realize that we were one person short. In conditions like these, we try to keep the group close together.
Even though everyone had their own GPS navigation unit, helmet comm, and are adequately prepared to take care of themselves independently. Cory, our Africa Twin mounted Canadian had not checked in for over 30 minutes. We decided it was best to hike up through the steep snowy trail to try to find him, the conditions making it very hard to take any of our bikes back up. After talking out worst-case scenarios and hoofing it up the mountain, we finally saw Cory sliding down the slippery track. Stoked! Let's get the hell out of here! We felt that the brutality of the Glass Mountains earned us a hot shower and the chance to dry our gear. So we decided to take refuge at a comfy little lodge overlooking Mono Lake.
On day six hot water and a good night’s rest rejuvenated me after everything we had been through. Up early, as usual, we sat outside the coffee shop waiting for sustenance. Coffee and eggs hit the spot before some quick maintenance on the bikes and we were rolling.
Following the pavement north around Mono Lake in the morning haze and tepid air the salty coastline of this ancient alkaline lake resembled a post-apocalyptic wasteland, yet still strikingly beautiful. A quick left turn on to a graded dirt road pointed us towards the famous Ghost Town of Bodie. The obligatory walk through the abandoned mining town is interesting, but we had more miles to crush so it was back on the gas. Never a short day ahead of us, so we kept the speed high and the breaks few through most of the morning.
A glance at my Garmin informed me that we had crossed the border into Nevada as vast empty rolling hills spread out ahead of us as far as the eye could see. After that realization followed another few hours at high speed, watching the terrain morph and change around us. A mix of backcountry roads and trails took us through the desolate Toiyabe National Forest where we ate up the terrain. Then a long ascendant of rocky 4x4 tracks brought us to an expansive plateau that eventually dropped right into Carson City, Nevada.
We pulled into town for a gluttonous celebratory dinner before our short ride to Reno where we crashed for the night. The next morning we went our separate ways, my own being a thousand miles of pavement through California’s hot and flat central valley. My trip lasted nine days and I racked up 2,050 miles driveway to driveway. Without question, it was the best ride of my life.