Saturday, 31 March 2012

April 2nd-3rd, 2010

It worked out well that Kelly & Barney were early risers because we had a long way to go if we wanted to make it to Sequoia National Park before nightfall.  We said goodbye to Kelly & Barney as they were packing to head back home to Taos, New Mexico. 
Hoping to save time, we decided to ride through Sequoia National Forest which ended up taking more time because of all the twisty roads weaving its way around mountains.  At one point we were riding high enough in elevation that everything around us was covered in snow.  We stopped at a local diner to warm up with a nice cup of hot chocolate.  Amanda couldn’t resist stocking up on the various jams and honey packets they had available on the table.   No regrets taking this route whatsoever because the scenery was well worth it.

We passed by many orange orchards on the way and couldn’t resist the temptation

We made it!  I reckon we only have an hour of daylight left; we better hurry up and find a place to camp.

We ended up staying at a self-register campground within the park, which automatically means we’re going to be up at the crack of dawn the next morning.  We were lucky enough to get a site as there were many campers in the campground.  We didn’t have to worry about noise because somewhere close by there must’ve been a waterfall or rapid that drowned out all other noise.  It didn’t take long for us to fall asleep as we had succumbed to the soothing sound of moving waters. 
The next morning we rode to the visitor center to use the facilities and get information about the park.  We found out that the largest living tree in the world dwells within the park—General Sherman.  This we have got to see!

Back in the day, the road used to go through Tunnel Rock allowing vehicles to drive under.  Today, the road has been paved to go around it; probably for safety reasons.  This didn’t deter Amanda from reliving the past.

On route to find General Sherman

We noticed we were going up in elevation at a back breaking pace as the road was constantly twisting its way in incline.

The picture above was taken at the bend you see here

Ok, we’re getting close!  Look at the size of those trees!

The next series of pictures is me attempting to get a shot of this massive sequoia tree and Amanda in its entirety…

…a little further back…

…just a little bit more…

…I give up.

Truly amazing; this isn’t even General Sherman!  I can’t imagine what that tree is going to look like.

Getting informed at the Giant Forest Museum

In order for us to get to General Sherman, we had to park the bikes and hike a short distance.  The parking lot was jam packed with tourists.  Lucky for us we were able to squeeze our bikes in a little nook where it wouldn’t be bothered.  There was a rush of anticipation and excitement as we walked the trail towards the largest living tree on the planet.  It’s not an everyday occurrence where one gets an opportunity to witness such a rare celestial being. 
There she blows!

Words can’t describe what we’re seeing right now

It was so big, you can live in it

It’s a long way down if a cat ever got stuck up there

Might not be the tallest or widest, but pound-for-pound this is the biggest tree on earth

The snow banks continued to rise as we made our way towards Kings Canyon National Park


It was too cold for us to continue onwards.  We took a picture of the sign and that was it.

421 km

Desert to lush green.
The largest living species.
Thousands of years old.

Friday, 30 March 2012

March 31st - April 1st, 2010 pt. 3

The two bikes coming towards us were none other than pre-08’ KLRs.  Surprisingly enough the two riders are a married couple, Barney & Kelly, who were on vacation from Taos, New Mexico.  They’re also on ADV under the name KLR FF.  We found out later that FF stood for firefighter; made sense since both of them are firefighters.  We wished them well as they continued on the trail. 

After lunch we pressed on and stopped at a few interesting sites

Hmmmm…yeah, I think I can live here.

Entering Titus Canyon…

…the trail was twisty…

…and narrow at times.

The canyon started to open up towards the end…

…revealing gorgeous scenery. 

We couldn’t help not to notice this beast of a van

Apparently these things can go anywhere, but you better have deep pockets because they don’t come cheap

The interior is quite luxurious

We stopped at Mesquite Flat sand dunes to snap a few pictures and some video coverage

We stopped at a general store at Stovepipe Wells to get some shade as the temperature rose fairly quickly as the day went on.  Next thing we knew, we heard the unmistakable sound of the KLR once again.  Kelly and Barney pulled in to take a short brake also.  I noticed Kelly was wearing the AFX FX-37 dual sport helmet, a helmet I was eyeing on Motorcycle Superstore for awhile now, but couldn’t convince myself to pull the trigger on it because it cost so cheap.  Dual sport helmets are anywhere from $400-$600 and this one was going for $112.  Something can’t be right here, but now that I’m looking at it in the flesh, it’s not all that bad.  I asked Kelly about the helmet and she said it works and feels fine.  Ugh, that’s not what I wanted to hear.  I can’t be spending money frivolously, especially when the helmet I’m wearing now is perfectly fine.  Until the helmet that I’m wearing now breaks, I’m just going to have to hold off on this purchase.

Barney & Kelly graciously invited us over to spend the night at their campsite in Panamint Springs

They had quite the set up.  I know we’ll be needing one of these when our bodies get older; beats sleeping on the cold hard ground that’s for sure.  Enjoy it while you’re young! 

Barney & Kelly took us out to eat at the Panamint Springs Resort where we all had a burger called “The Cardiac Arrest”.  Half pound angus beef patty covered in blue cheese and topped with bacon.  They also had a fine selection of exotic beers.

We finished off the day over a nice toasty campfire, sharing stories (both had raced enduros when they were younger), and listening to fighter planes launching their rockets nearby at China Lake Naval Weapons Center. 

Remember that video we made for Christmas?  Here's the sequel. 

A van on steroids.
Chance meeting great company.
I need a medic! 

Thursday, 29 March 2012

March 31st - April 1st, 2010 pt.2

The alarm clock on my watch started to beep at half past six.  Both of us aren’t really morning people, but if there’s a good reason to get up, then we will.  We gave ourselves 30 minutes to have everything packed and ready to go just to see if we can do it.  27 minutes and change was our time and this is by far the fastest time we’ve ever broken camp.  We rolled our bikes to the restrooms so that we wouldn’t disturb other campers.  At 7:00 am sharp we saw the park ranger pull in.  He was either on patrol or to verify site permits; we couldn’t have timed it any better.    With our teeth brushed and faces washed, we were ready to explore Death Valley to its fullest. 
This fellow ADV inmate and KLR rider was camped across the street from the restrooms.  As soon as we fired up our bikes and left, I saw in my rear view mirror, whoever it was, quickly get out of their tent to see if it was HIS bike being ridden away.  I would’ve done the same thing; it’s hard not to notice the distinct sound the KLR engine makes.  Poor guy; he could’ve had a heart attack.  I wonder who he was.

We stopped at Furnace Creek visitor center to heat up some water for our instant oatmeal.  We had some time to kill since the visitor center wasn’t open till a half hour later.  We looked over the park map and decided to take the off road route to Titus Canyon.  When the visitor center opened, we asked the ranger what the road conditions were.  He said we should have no problems with our bikes getting through there.  Perfect.  We spent some time at the visitor center exploring the history and artifacts that were on display.  The story of “The Lost 49ers” was inspirational and a reminder of how much the times have changed. 

The start of our off road excursion

The trail started off with a few patches of loose gravel, but it was hard packed for most of the way

The trail brought us through some amazing scenery as it weaved its way in and around mountains

Looks like it’ll be a while before we make it to the top

What goes up must come down.  The trail was perfect for our riding level.

We stopped here to eat lunch…

…and saw 2 familiar looking bikes riding towards us.  There’s no mistaking that distinct sound.

If you snooze, you lose.
The beauty of erosion.
Nice bikes you got there!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

March 31st - April 1st, 2010 pt.1

Packed and ready to go, our destination for today is to ride out to Death Valley National Park.  It was a sunny day, but the high winds made it challenging to keep the bikes upright as well as swerving around debris blown onto the road.  I nearly got t-boned by a gigantic tumbleweed as we were riding out of Vegas. 
Amanda’s bike gets the Mardi Gras treatment

Since we never had the chance to take a picture of the “Welcome to California” sign the first time around, we decided to take one now. 

Shortly after the above photo was taken, Amanda had one of those dreaded “close call” moments.  We were riding along enjoying the scenery when all of a sudden I got hit with a gust of wind.  I had to really lean into it to keep me from toppling over.  That was probably the strongest gust of wind I had to fight against on a motorcycle and I imagine it will be the same for Amanda.  I look back in my rear view mirror to see how she did.  I saw her lean into the wind with all she had, but to my horror, the wind blew her off the road and onto the soft shoulder that angled down into a ditch (see above photo).  I stopped the bike as fast as I could, turned around, and rode towards her.  A slew of information rushed into my head as I was trying to get my head wrapped around the sequence of steps to take from my first aid training:  Call 911, assess the environment, ABC’s.  I stopped the bike, looked over, and to my amazement, she was sitting upright on her bike.  It must have been some kind of post traumatic reaction, but I started laughing in hysterics.  Amanda managed to make a last second decision and decided to commit to riding down the soft shoulder.  Her instincts proved to be the right one and the experience gained will only make her into a better rider.  Thank goodness she was alright. 
Death Valley features the lowest, driest, and hottest locations in North America

Approaching Badwater Basin


Hard to make out, but the sign is there.  Technically we should be swimming right now.

Badwater Basin is the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level

Walking on the salt flats of Badwater

There were dark clouds in the skies and we thought we were going to get rained on…

…we managed to stay dry…

…and take great pics.

We managed to find a campsite near Furnace Creek and the fees were quite expensive for our standards.  Surprisingly the campsite was packed.  We found out that it was spring break for many Californians; looks like we’re going to have an early start tomorrow.   

283 km

A strong gust of wind.
Never give up at all costs!
That was a close one.