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Death Valley on a Motorcycle

By James - 10/19/2008

Before Bikefest in Vegas, I decided I would ride my Kawasaki through Death Valley on the way down. From Oakland, CA I took 580 out to the Central Valley, then 108 over Sonora Pass and the Sierras. 395 then hugged the eastern Sierras past Mono Lake and the east entrance of Yosemite to Lone Pine, CA in the shadow of Mt. Whitney. I spent the night in this historic town and rested up for my trip through Death Valley the next day.

Descent into Death ValleyI was up before sunrise and the temperature was about 50 degrees, normal for early October in Lone Pine. Gas is conveniently located on the south side of town right before the turnoff to Death Valley. As I rode past the mining operations just outside the park a coyote ahead in the distance crossed the road. The ride down is spectacular especially with the sun rising through a thinly veiled sheet of clouds hovering over the valley floor. Other than a few well-marked switchbacks the turns are sweeping and there are hardly any you cannot see all the way through. The road is in great shape and I only came across a few cars that I had to pass. 90 degrees in Death ValleyAfter descending 4000 ft in two hours, the temperature was 90 degrees - and it was only 8am. But the dry heat was not oppressive and while riding I was comfortable in my leather jacket and jeans even though I stuck out with everybody else in shorts and bikini tops. It is $10 to enter the park for motorcycles and it is good for a week. There are automated kiosks and after paying by American Express I was on my way. Gasoline in the park is plentiful; I saw pumps at Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek. After heading south to Shoshone the road follows the eastern side of the valley. Long sweepers allow for a quick pace. The speed limit for much of the park is 45mph but I was hard pressed to find myself doing less than 65.

191ft below sea level in Death ValleyA true desert, the vegetation is sparse, sand dunes, and the eroded valley walls give color to an otherwise desolate landscape. As I left the park and entered Nevada I promised that I would return and take more time to explore what Death Valley has to offer.

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  1. I want to rider with you dude. I’m from PA and once the temp breaks 95 everyone around here seems to get back in their cars. (Of course that might be cuz everyone else here rides a Harley)The hotteer the better , I say.

    Comment by Scott — 12/16/2008 @ 1:38 pm

  2. One day I will get to head out west and ride some of that country. I have read a lot of death Valley ride articles and I am convinced now more than ever that it is a great ride to take. BTW I am a Harley rider but I don’t put my bike away no matter the weather (maybe for ice) but surely a little heat isn’t going to keep me off of my bike.

    Comment by 36 Special — 1/6/2009 @ 3:41 am

  3. It has been many years ago now but, my wife and I traveled across Death Valley on our way from LA to Vegas. We are from Minnesota and were traveling with a couple we meet in LA from Canada.

    We decided to beat the heat by leaving early in the morning. If I recall correctly, we left between 3 and 4 AM and arrived in Vegas around noon.

    It started off really quite cool, but by the time we got to Vegas it was over 100 degrees. We split with the Canadian couple and turned east.

    The next day in southern Utah it was well over 100 degrees and as we went through the mountains just west of Denver we ran into some rain showers which quickly turned to snow as we crossed Loveland Pass!

    Wow, what a change from over 100 to snow in less than 24 hours. It was a great trip!

    Comment by Motorcycle Leathers — 2/24/2009 @ 3:20 pm

  4. Nice to hear other people enjoy Death Valley. Back in June early 99 (seems so long ago now) I took a trip from my home town Los Angeles to Vegas. Spent one night in Sin City and continued on to Death Valley. I went into the valley around noon and the temp had reached 115. I was wearing a leather jacket and jeans. HOT!! I decided to continue on to San Francisco via Yosemite valley and in less than ten hours I had gone from 115 f. to frozen lakes in Yosemite. One of my favorite trips ever. Thanks for bringing those memories back.

    Comment by jose — 5/30/2009 @ 1:04 pm

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