This year's ride is going to be quite a bit colder than any previous Death Valley ride I have done, so I prepared by taking my heavy Tourmaster Transition II jacket and lots of other cold weather gear. MY biggest problem was freezing fingers due to the poor performance of my "Polar" gloves and also the Brakeaway throttle lock would not hold in the cold air so I could remove my hand from the throttle and maintain speed.
Molly Brown's a favorite Victorville breakfast destination is the scene of the gathering of the troops for our ride this year and includes the following cast of characters besides me, Chuck, and Wayne already mentioned, there's group One with Johney, his brother Micah and friend Kenny both from Louisiana, here just for this occasion. They fly out, rent motorcycles and along with Johney tear up the asphalt one time a year out here, missing this year is Johney's cousin Cody. Then there is the Doug R. Group Two with his wife Cindy on her own V-Star 1300, friend Jim on his V-Star 1100 and his wife also-Cindy riding as passenger on Doug's Honda Goldwing. Arriving with Johney's group is Brian H. on his Goldwing- my room mate for the weekend, plus John R. and his sister Harriet visiting from Idaho. Several of the attendees have never been to Death Valley including Harriet, Jim and his wife Cindy, everyone else has been on the ride at least one or more times. Joe is his own group and we run into him at the Death Valley Inn in Beatty or at Furnace Creek around lunch time. I think Joe has a seat with his name on it there on the porch at the Furnace Creek center.
The nice thing about having two or three groups is that we can swap spots in any group depending on destination or route that suits individual tastes. That is except for basic members of Group One, Johney's gang of three as well as Doug's group of 4. I manage to ride with both Doug and Johney over the three days depending on the route or destination and so did Brian and John with his sister Harriet as passenger on his rented Harley V-Rod with a custom touring package. John R. was having fuel or ignition problems with his 2006 Stratoliner making it a bit unreliable for this type of ride.
After breakfast I joined up with the Doug group at Kramer Junction to ride to Panamint Springs this year just to see something different it's only 4 miles out of our way, that has been missed in previous rides.
The restaurant is supposed to be pretty good, but we just stopped for a few photos and then on to Stove Pipe Wells, gas at $4.48 a gallon and then to Bad Water for more photos. Next stop is Stove Pipe Wells in Death Valley.
Wayne wanted to head for Beatty with out taking the Artist Drive turnout and I agreed to go with him so off we went leaving the rest of the Doug group, that had never done the trip, to take in the sights of the colorful Artist Drive turnout. The extra stops we took on the way to Beatty is how we missed the Johney explosion at the Motel, I hear it was more than colorful. Gas at Stove Pipe is cheap compared to $5.32 for regular at Furnace Creek, and if you need supreme hand over $5.52 for every precious gallon, but only $3.69 for regular in Beatty.
Our destination for accommodation's is the Death Valley Inn located in the sleepy metropolis of Beatty, Nevada just down the road from "Angel's Flight House of Ill Repute" and their landmark crashed airplane by the entrance. Turns out when Johney arrived at the motel office, his well documented reservations for 2 rooms at DV Inn somehow were lost and the place is BOOKED solid. It is possible the earthquake that hit Oklahoma about that same time was the result of seismic waves caused by Johney's reaction. I was not there to witness the explosion occurring at the front desk but the air in the motel office was still crackling and I'm certain I could smell ozone lingering from the thunderstorm that occurred even by the time we arrived about an hour later, when they told him he had no rooms at the Inn. There were still rooms at Motel 6 but smoking rooms. otherwise the town was booked. Seems there is a gathering of another large motorcycle group in Beatty the same time as ours. All the members of Messengers of Recovery wearing their "colors" had taken up a lot of rooms and restaurants in town. I question the idea of advertising being a recovering anything, no matter from what it might have been, but they seemed to be proud of it so more power to them. Hey, they ride a motorcycle so are OK guys in my book unless they prove me wrong. I did not take any photos, but you are welcome to any time you see one.
Beatty now has a Subway sandwich and ice cream place at the casino gas station along with the hotel diner now converted to a Denny's, things must be happening to warrant all these additions.
So many details and experiences are occurring all day every day this weekend, it gets a bit overwhelming to try and put them all in this report so we will skip a few. This is exactly why we do these rides, to experience the camaraderie and adventure and craziness only available if you are there.
Dinner Saturday in Beatty; can't avoid sharing this little slice of tiny town wonders. Brian and I decide to try the Bar-B-Cue place we passed on the way in so we walk up a couple blocks and I even asked one of the Messenger of Recovery members standing outside how was the food and learned it was OK, so in we go. We order and wait and wait and finally after issuing a 5 minute warning to abandon the meal attempt the food arrives. We decide to split a rack of ribs... the St. Lewis (sic) ribs, yes friends it's not St. Louis as in Lucille's or most any other BBQ, but somebody named St. Lewis here in town I guess. The word Tough is lacking in adequate description of the meat as compared to the bones, but we forge ahead and eat our meal spending about 90-100 minutes total here along with a big bunch of M.O.R. members. Possibly whatever they had recovered from had deadened their sense of taste or other senses, but restaurant critics they are not. Luckily Brian finds the BBQ sauce very tasty. We hear that the owner-cook attended a funeral and wound up getting drunk so the kitchen help did the cooking as best they could.
SUNDAY-RIDE IN THE PARK DAY. Johney, his brother Micah, friend Kenny, Brian, Wayne, and Chuck all decide to do a loop past Bad Water to Shoshone and then back around to Dante's View-the mountain top lookout and in to Furnace Creek for lunch. I join up with Doug, his wife Cindy, Jim and his wife Cindy, John R. and his sister Harriet to take a house tour of Scotty's Castle. I booked the tickets late on Saturday using my I-Phone so had no idea if tickets would be there or not. Sunday morning in Beatty and it is cold around 40 deg. so I put on everything for the 60 mile ride to the castle via US 95 to the Castle junction. We get there and I am astounded, the tickets are waiting for me, John and Harriet as ordered. Gotta love that I-Phone and it only took four tries and two credit cards.
Wearing everything for this low temperature ride means in case you would like to know, the following: Fleece lined jeans, T-shirt, long sleeve Carhartt shirt, sweater, fleece zip up hood jacket and my Tourmaster Transition II jacket with liner and Polar gloves with extra nylon liner. I weigh 25 pounds more with all this.
To provide a bit of background I clipped this from Wikipedia about the Castle:
Construction began on Scotty's Castle in 1922, and cost between $1.5 and $2.5 million. A man named Walter Scott born in Cynthiana, Kentucky, also known as “Death Valley Scotty”, convinced Chicago millionaire Albert Johnson to invest in his gold mine in the Death Valley area. By 1937, Johnson had acquired more than 1,500 acres (610 ha) in Grapevine Canyon, where the ranch is located.
After Johnson and his wife made several trips to the region, and his health improved, construction began. It was Mrs. Johnson's idea to build something comfortable for their vacations in the area, and the villa eventually became a winter home.
The Johnsons hired Martin de Dubovay as the architect, Mat Roy Thompson as the engineer and head of construction, and Charles Alexander MacNeilledge as the designer.
Unknown to the Johnsons, the initial survey was incorrect, and the land they built Death Valley Ranch on was actually government land; their land was further up Grapevine Canyon. Construction halted as they resolved this mistake, but before it could resume, the stock market crashed in 1929, making it difficult for Johnson to finish construction. Having lost a considerable amount of money, the Johnsons used the Death Valley Ranch to produce income by letting rooms out. The Johnsons died without heirs and had hoped that the National Park Service would purchase the property, and in 1970, the National Park Service purchased the villa for $850,000 from the Gospel Foundation, to which the Johnsons left the property. Walter Scott, who was taken care of by the Gospel Foundation after Johnson's passing, died in 1954 and was buried on the hill overlooking Scotty's Castle next to a beloved dog.
Basically Scotty was a con man who somehow became a central figure in the Johnson's life and fortune, and encouraged all this to be built but never lived there. The pictures tell the fascinating story. These pictures are taken in the stables where several old vehicles remain parked in time and history.
I's 11:20 and our tour begins by the red gate with the ringing of the bell announcing time to assemble. We are ushered into the inner courtyard behind the gate through a side door and into a small seating area next to the old Packard. Our guide an actual Park Ranger but dressed for the time period back when, gives us a bit of history and background how the castle came to be as a result of the Johnson's meeting up with Scotty.
Play the video, it is quite the entertainment for being out here tucked away in a corner of desolate Death Valley.
After the Castle tour John and I decide to go ahead since the rest of the group is nowhere to be found, to Ubehebe Crater so his sister can see it and then head to Stove Pipe Wells for that cheap gas to refill and then lunch in Furnace Creek. We arrive at Furnace Creek and there is Joe and Wayne in the parking lot but the rest of Johney's group is not there. Now how did Wayne get there so soon, and what happened. Wayne it seems has a slightly different ride plan but no problem as it is up to the individual to make their own choices. John, Harriet, Wayne and I go in for lunch but we leave room for Doug's group. However in come Johney, Chuck, Brian, Kenny and Micah to join us instead...first come first served. I order a hamburger and for $12.50 get a decent $7 burger with potato salad. A few minutes later here comes Doug, the 2 Cindy's and Jim for lunch as well.
Johney and his group made it to the top at Dante's View encountering some snow flakes and then stopped to take a few rare photos of a desert tarantula. The following photos by Chuck and Johney.
After lunch, John and his sister want to try for Dante's View. With the time change and the late time of 3:30 pm we take off even though it does not look too good time or weather wise. We put all the cold gear back on as it is really cold up top at 5,400 ft above the valley floor. John never made it to Dante's last year since his group got lost and wound up miles away in Shoshone so I go along to show them the way. We get to the turn off, heading up the twisty curvy road and make it about 4-5 miles when it starts raining and then really hailing as well, making it crazy to continue. We turn around and slowly make our way back on the very wet road to Highway 190 for the return trip to Beatty. It's over 60 miles back to Beatty and getting darker by the minute. When we turn off 190 to the pass towards Beatty, John slows down noticeably (for him) and we proceed cautiously on roads with absolutely no light except for the moonlight and our headlights. Turns out he still was wearing his sun glasses and of course it looked really dark to him. Even with all the cold gear on it gets frigid as we go over the mountain pass at 4,000 feet and then down into Beatty arriving safely in the dark.