In the Valley of Death

I’d been thinking about that front tire since I left San Francisco, as well as the fact that the bike seemed to be a general wreck. Confidence is easy to find in comfort.

I’d been eagerly looking for motorcycle tires, but in the land of the 1.3litre, 400dB Harley Davidson, 125cc parts are hard to come by and the only thing I found were new fans of the trip, in the shops, outside the shops, at supermarkets or even at stop lights.  But I felt a foolish novice again after my time off and felt embarrassed at the attention, rather undeserving.

That night, late, dark I begin to remember some of the lesser hardships when looking for a camp spot.  Until that is I stumble upon Tom walking his dog back down the mountain and he promptly invites me to stay, reminding me of the good people and good fortunes that often seem to arise when things seem a little hopeless. [Thanks Tom!]

Walking up a mountain looking for camp, I met Tom in the dark walking his dog, he let me stay, THANKS Tom

The good/bad balance is restored the next morning as I roll down towards a lake for breakfast when I get my first of several punctures.  I stop to repair it in a large lay-by and a friendly chap from Swansea, Martyn, stops and sits down to chat as I repair the tire, helping me out with a compressor and a carrot muffin.  As I wave to the departing Martyn I wonder about these angels always watching over me but I’m also left wondering where I put that third tire lever….I scour the dirt for an age but, now midday, my breakfast was calling by way of an angry growl from my stomach.  I ride off to the lakeside beach and the tire deflates again as I sit devouring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before removing the tire for the third time – with some exasperation – though I do find my tire lever…… inside the tire!

A puncture
Martyn, from Swansea originally, feeds me the greatest carrot muffin and helps with my tire, thanks Martyn
I lsot the tire lever in the fix, and found it here, inside the tire, good work novice

I ride away from the giddy heights of the Sierras over the crest and down, down, down into Death Valley.  The desolate gravel roads fill me with renewed fears of Rudolf’s health; far from people, help, parts, fuel, food and water.  But the scenery soon takes my mind from it; every colour of rock bulges, rolls and spews up out of the flat valley floors where Joshua trees and desert foxes cling to life.  Then in the nook of the valley rise the grandiose unblemished Eureka Sand dunes where I sit baking in the heat, eating more fruit and more PBJ’s!

One of the Twin Lakes
RVs this one is tiny compared to some of the behemoths that pull a 4×4 and oil tanker behind them
A great hike to Harry’s Lake, Henry’s lake, somebody’s
and got to Mono Lake
I leave a gull to watch over Rudy whilst I go to walk
The view from the tent as I cook at the top of Nameless Canyon
The next day I went back and took a hike around the many lakes, unbelievable
Failing to convey scale

The scenery continues to amaze and I find a peaceful campsite where I can sit and watch the moon come up whilst also keeping a careful eye out for snakes, scorpions and black widows.  In the morning, thankfully the tire is still inflated to allow me passage past Teakettle Junction along rough and corrugated gravel towards The Racetrack.  The new suspension I bought in Korea is just not up to the task and I am forced to ride very slowly trying desperately to find a line to take though eventually I reach The Racetrack; a dry lake where rocks race along the mineral bed, albeit very slowly!

Tea kettle junction
At “The Racetrack”
The reason for the name, moving, racing rocks.
Cleaning my pot after breakfast with a teabag
Lippenkott Pass, deserted, hot, steep and rocky.
On my way back to Rudy after retrieving the tent

I drop down the deathly rough Lippencott pass, nearly falling from the road into the valley far below as I bounce from one large boulder to the next, feet flapping wildly, perspiration pouring from every inch of skin in the blistering heat.  Then, as I drop in to the Saline Valley….”NO! NO! NO!  Not a puncture!  Not in Death Valley!  You can’t get a puncture here!”  As I bump to a halt a thousand fearsome scenarios run vividly through my mind and I calculate every grave prospect; if it’s a sidewall puncture I’m done for, I haven’t seen anyone for days, have I got enough water to walk out of here, how far is it, is there any shelter here from the heat….well, I’m pretty tired [after the pass]…..could just eat that last orange.

NO NO NO, a puncture in death valley, I drank litres and litres repairing this
This explains a lot

I guzzle away thoughtlessly at my dwindling water bag as the sun beats down on my saturated back as I repair the tire.  Then I see that the tent’s fallen from the bike….better go find it and I stumble up the rocks to find it, luckily not too far away, but my water supply diminishes further.

I’m able to repair the tire and get back to it, wincing with every rock hit, praying it doesn’t puncture again.  Famished, I stop in a spot of shade to eat my last reserves of food; fruit and nuts provided (along with much else) by the unbelievably generous Allen and Lawrena back at Lake Tahoe some weeks earlier.

The road goes on and on.  My water supply goes down and down.

I find a trickling spring of dirty water occupied by a family of ducks(!) and top up with relief I won’t die now!

annnd a face of relief, finding a tiny trickling water spring
eating my only food, some nuts and an orange, enough to keep me going actually

I finally reach the road and ride on to Panamint Valley on asphalt as smooth black granite, stop,  and guzzle endless free refills of coke….

I stop to camp nearby and meet the fantastic Sonja and Dennis at the free campsite.  Dennis clearly loves the Valley and has much experience travelling around and has not been without his own problems; cracking a wheel rim the day prior.

In the morning they rustle up a fantastic breakfast and their fantastic company was a real treat, they were so nice to talk to and spend time with!  [Many thanks to Dennis and Sonja].

More GREAT people, Dennis and Sonya. They were great to talk to and made a great breakfast

Feeling rather plump after the breakfast I decide to burn a few calories waling up Telescope Peak; the highest peak in Death Valley at 11,049ft [3368m] that looks down onto Badwater, the lowest point in the US at -282ft [-86m], where grand views are had on the quiet peak.  Before returning to sit around the fire with Dennis and Sonja.

Telescope Peak, the highest mountain in Death Valley looking down on the lowest point in USA at minus86m

After riding Goler Canyon and the Mengel Pass – still in Death Valley – I reluctantly head to LA, a place I’d long avoided – I always hate cities and have been subconsciously putting off the inevitable – entering Mexico.  But luckily I have friend’s to stay with, and wonderful ones at that; Tina and her boyfriend James.  They make sure I am fed and watered and treat me like a king, so very well that it’s hard to want to leave.  I get my tent repaired, order motorcycle parts and catch up on washing myself and my smelly clothes as well as catching up on some couch potato-ing in front of US talk shows and game shows and pharmaceutical ads as well as trying to be more cultured at the fabulous Getty Museum and slightly less so walking along the Hollywood’s famous boulevard.

…was a bit tricky, having to push and heave an unladen Rudy up the rocky steps, thirsty work
Striped Butte….amazing but by this point I was exhausted from picking up the bike and falling down
A cabin that I’d been hoping for all day, turned out to be that used previously by Charles Manson!
Trona Pinnacles, sooper
This campsite was super awesome great
Woody Woodpecker….well, an old friend Tina on Hollywood Boulevard takes time out from singing…more thanks
Being a couch potato with James, watching The Price Is Right, drinking coffee…superb fun it must be said.
price is right.jpg
Having watched it so much it only seemed right that we entered the show the Price is Right

With Mexico only just down the road now I wonder what it will bring?  Though I don’t have to go too far before someone reminds me of the dire drug war situation there, but hopefully that’s just news talk….we’ll see…as long as I can buy tea all will be well.

MORE SPECIAL THANK YOUS: (In order of meeting) Dave for his patient hospitality, Allen and Lawrena for their generosity, Tom for letting me stay in his home, Dennis and Sonja for just being great company and providing a great breakfast, and Tina and James for their great company, super relaxed kindness and generosity as well as letting me win Scrabble.

  • Anonymous

    What, no mention of the good deed you did?
    I heard you found a lost SPOT of a friend of mine and returned it to him in LA.

    Good on you. and safe journeys.

  • Nick

    Don´t tell anyone! I wanted it to be a selfless god deed_!!!! To try and make a small step towards all the nice people I have met along the way!

    Did he receive it already? Did you ride with him that day?

  • Anonymous

    I was part of the group, but not riding with him. When we were planning the return to maybe try and get it 4 days later, you had already found it and was heading his way anyway.
    A really amazing story if you ask me.

    And it is a selfless deed. whether people know or not, you did it without asking or expecting anything.