First day in Death Valley, CA

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

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Today was the challenge. Waking up and checking five weather sites, all with a different story. My years passed on a sailboat with a good definition always of upcoming weather was of no use. The idea was, remained, wet… cold… windy. These are the days one dresses up and bites the bullet putting down all the experiences from past riding. One long sleeve T shirt, topped with a heated jacket with an added Buff collar (love those things!), another one of those triangle gizmos to make my neck windproof, a balaclava, another windproof vest and finally the riding jacket. No music today, too much clothing to run wires. Heated gloves, thermo long wears, regular pair of pants, another over the pants thin Gore-Tex windproof and waterproof topped by a thicker one. I stayed warm, Spirit had his coat and cover on, all was well.

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The complete route, 1200 miles +/-

As it happened, not a single drop of rain on us, a nice tailwind and a show of clouds mixed in with even a couple rays of sunshine welcomed us near by, and yet too cold to stop and remove helmet, gloves and so on to take some pictures. Just a few I could not pass up as I don’t know if we will be going back the same route or a different one, most likely.

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BLM free camping land was all around us, dirt roads going up to the foothills of the mountains, today covered with snow, the space has opened up. The prize is beyond those mountains and the weather will create the canvas within as a beautiful background drop.

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Only one pass to overcome the mountain separating us, a bit icy, the sun as a giant blow torch took care of it pretty quickly giving me a chance to chat with the Death Valley Historical Director who was himself waiting for a bit more of a melting down. Amongst much information he assured me that the bad weather will be replaced next week making room for an overnight blooming of wild flowers. Of course, Spirit… always the center of attraction from the many hikers on a tour also waiting for the road to clear. Poor Spirit… this is when he is on his own!

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Bad weather is great for photography and as I am writing this the next day, already the skies are blue without a single cloud missing them already and glad to have arrived yesterday. The camping here is fine as we are staying at Stovewell Pipe, a resort with also an RV park and not crowded. Of course with today’s technology there is a lounge across the street open twenty four hours a day with free WI FI and last night there was barely a place to sit as so many with laptops as I am hooked with our umbilical cord to the outside world. Always a double edge sword.

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The weather can turn on and off here on a dime! I met a rider, Joe, who also is traveling on his own Journey, and after setting up my tent we decided to take off to the Hole in the Wall, not a road but a river wash. It felt soft right away, with some speed we managed to stay afloat but when turning around time came up I finally got stuck in the dirt, something this tire had never gone through before. Too wet… too soft, I understood now why there are so many road closures as it might take a few days for them to dry out.

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A Jeep was passing by as I have left my “come along” behind in Texas, but Joe and I had already pulled the rig out of the soft gravel covered wet mud. We will stay on better roads from now on, river washes are right now a bit too unpredictable. The views are incredible, at zero sea level elevation it feels as being in the center of the Earth here.

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We have traveled unlike before, it has not been living on the road, covering over 1000 miles in these few days is not a great distance for the average rider but has been for us. I feel a bit displaced even surrounded by the beauty laid in front of us, trying to find the reason why. My soul is still back on “The Oasis” as I realize it being the reason. Never thought I would be so attached to a piece of land, a special space it has been since day one and yet, when on it, the road has always called for us… Sometimes a difficult concept to comprehend for me or maybe it is because I know we have to go back to it, we have a plan within this Journey that truly has never had one!

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We stopped at “Zabriskie Point” on the way back for the short hike to the top of the hill. Again I was reminded through a sign that dogs are not allowed on the trails, always a downfall in National Parks. As today the clouds are gone I was happy to have taken those shots, the colors a bit muted, definitely a space to come back to when sunrises and sunsets take on the stage.

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Time to saddle up now and explore more of the roads open around here. I have misplaced my mess kit and might have to go back to Beatty to at least get a frying pan, anything to cook with! All is well, this is the time to come and visit as the summer heat is intolerable and I will take a bit of cold and rain anytime instead.

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You be well… all photos are on Smugmug, 28 months worth!

With endless chapters within this Journal your support is always appreciated…

Ara & Spirit

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5 Responses to “First day in Death Valley, CA”

  1. Spadefoot Says:

    Hello i followed you home from your postings on Desert USA ,
    My name is Romana But you can call me spadefoot like the toad ,
    Well I fell in love with your blog pictures and all .
    i live close to you well kina Im in chaparral New Mexico Otero county .
    I to moved out here about 8 years ago have a few ackers myself and love the wonderful qwite peace and beauity
    Nive to meet you

  2. joe Says:

    Good luck getting anything in Beatty. I love your pics of DV, its one of my favorite places to go. I want to come back with my wife and the scooters and ride around a bit. If you’re up for taking a mineral bath, try Tecopa Hot Springs, which is a slight detour on the way to Parumph. Or, its on the way to Baker. Either way, we stopped there on our last visit and found the soak did good to these old bones.

  3. Randy Says:

    I’ve had several projects at NOTS China Lake. Just wait for the flowers, you won’t believe it’s the same place. I’ve also melted the wiper blades on my car in the heat of Summer and had the paint sandblasted off of it. But Death Vally is worth the experance!

  4. PJC Says:

    Ara, you drove right past my house while you were on the 215 in Northwest Las Vegas. Enjoy DV but take time to see the tiny, often well preserved old Ghiost Towns of western Nevada. They are a real treat for a photog.

  5. Flux Says:

    Hi Ara and to Spirit as well. Glad to see you are making another long run from the Oasis. Ara, it has been amazing to me to watch the progression of your photography skills… the pics just get better and better!

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