One very special returning rider is Harriet (John Ruhland’s sister) who decided to make it back to remember the ride with her brother John, who passed away suddenly a few months ago, and also to take part in a tribute and memorial to be held at Dante’s View overlooking all of Death Valley. This time she will be riding in the lap of luxury and comfort aboard the Honda Gold Wing piloted by Chuck Giambitti who acted as tail Gunner for much of the trip. I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I was with how he took such great care with Harriet and also stuck to his duties as Tail Gunner bringing up the rear on the group rides. I am certain she had a wonderful time mixed with some sadness remembering how much fun she had riding with John the year before.
Read all the way down towards the bottom for the newly added video...
The early morning of Saturday November 3 arrives and time to head over to the Imperial Ave. Parking lot to meet with the ride crew consisting of Johney, Carolyn-a first timer, Harriet riding with Chuck, Gary-a first-timer, Wayne-meeting us in Stove Pipe, Luis & Minita, Brian plus Micah-Johney’s brother, Kenny & Scott-a first timer, all three part of Johney’s group, and me for a total of 11 motorcycles and 13 riders. The Johney party fly in from Louisiana just for the trip, rent Harleys from Eagle Rider, ride up with us on Saturday then back on Monday, turn in the motorcycles and it’s off to the real world for them on Tuesday. This might give you some idea of how popular this ride is when you have people flying in from across the country just to tour Death Valley. We also usually meet travelers from far off countries often in Europe, taking in the sights of the valley as there is nothing comparable in their part of the world.
Our group consisting of 10 motorcycles proceeded with clockwork precision or at least no problems and everyone made it to Stove Pipe Wells as planned with Wayne riding in as the 11th member. Wayne and I decided to just head straight for Beatty, about 38 miles from Stove Pipe Wells in Nevada, while the rest went to Scotty’s Castle and Ubehebe Crater some 44 miles north so that the new comers had a chance to see those two interesting sights on day one. Reports indicate everyone found it a worthwhile trip at the very least.
Arriving in Beatty, both Wayne and I checked in and I also checked Johney in for the two rooms he booked just to make sure the reservations were secure, not like last year when on arriving found that his rooms had been canceled for some strange and never explained reason. There are stains and burn marks on the marble floors and a wall from where his screaming tirade scorched everything within 20 feet or so I am told when he learned he had been canceled out.
Saturday night dinner was at a newly discovered sandwich place on Hwy 95 about 3-4 blocks from Death Valley Inn so we walked, or most of us did. The sandwiches were good with great French bread rolls but the potato salad left a lot to be desired, even so it was a nice treat sitting out on the patio overlooking the 3 block long main street watching Sheriff’s cruising up and down doing 25 MPH posted limit in hopes of catching someone doing more than that as they hit town outskirts. This is the first year I can ever recall police presence in such concentration or even at all, so we are on our toes as we ride in and out for sure. We did have one member of the group that walked over with us, walk back, return to the gas station across the street from the sandwich place on motorcycle, gas up and then proceed to get lost in those three blocks trying to find a way back to the hotel. Chuck gets a desperate call for help, and as Tail Gunner rides out carrying his trusty flare gun to round up and corral the lost member of the flock, with all returning safely and no organized search and rescue was needed.
Breakfast this first morning is at the Denny’s in the casino at the edge of town for Johney, Micah, Kenny, Scott and me instead of waiting for the diner across the street to open at 7:00 AM this Sunday. We line up at 9:00 AM all gassed, fed, ready to go, with our first stop at the Artist’s Drive parking lot. It was at this parking lot about 3 years ago that John Ruhland first shared some of the sausage purchased from Tip Top Restaurant in Carlsbad and we learned of the breakfast deal offered there as well, making it a must visit on some future ride at that time. I explained to Carolyn since it was her first visit to the multi colored vistas in the rocks and sand of Artist’s Drive, how the park maintenance staff come out once a year and spray the hillsides with special tinted paint to keep the colorful mineral displays looking fresh; I don’t think she bought it.
A group of the lightning speed riders took off with Wayne in that bunch, while I stayed back waiting for Carolyn, Luis and Minita and Chuck & Harriet. It’s a fast road zipping around and through miles of desolation, dry sand and rocks, where not much grows out here. The 55 miles pass rather quickly and my handling skills seem to be improving especially with left curves and turns as I had some problems earlier. We catch up to the fast group after they waited at most 10 minutes for us near the tiny one gas station town where we pay the highest price $5.82 for gas anywhere on the entire trip, even more than at Furnace Creek which was $5.53 a gal. for regular. Our refueling and refreshing stop takes several minutes, then back on our Iron Ponies heading toward Death Valley Junction.
While riding in to Beatty instead of turning right to the hotel, I keep going straight and stop at the casino gas station for fuel which is only $3.89 pre gal. here in town and this saves me an extra trip back to top off the tank prior to tomorrow’s departure ride. Arriving back at the hotel it’s time to relax a bit, change my boots to the Nikes and then a short walk back to our sandwich place, seems they earned a second visit in spite of the potato salad. At this point the weather is really noticeable and worth mentioning, it’s not cold but just a slight chill in the air this evening Sunday, a totally different experience from last year. It was also very pleasant in the Park during our all day ride, with temps in the mid to high 80’s but not blistering hot, clear skies, slight breeze and now mildly cool, what a welcome change. Tomorrow Monday, will continue the mild weather trend with a very cool morning but by 9:00 AM departure definitely warming up and requiring some rethinking of what riding gear to wear. Luckily the trip to Stove Pipe is not far and changes will be made there.