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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.
I 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. After 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.
A 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.Permalink
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