Friday, May 23, 2008

Day 6 - Sojourn to Death Valley

This day was by far the longest in-saddle day, and by far the most tiring and most frustrating. It also including some DAMNED fun riding in parts. But for the most part, we were blasting down the highway interested only in making time to get to Panamint Springs, CA in time for an evening check-in and dinner at the Panamint Springs Resort.

On Rt. 190 we had just come through a mildly-twisty section and the group pulled over for a break. I had just gotten into a rhythm and decided to push on, agreeing to meet further up the road at the Ponderosa General Store and diner.

A couple of miles up the road, after passing all the other cars and trucks along the way, I came upon a (apparently) local guy in a large pickup who seemed to really know the road. He was driving at about the same pace I was riding, so I stuck right with him all the way to the top. No one believes how well a Harley *can* handle when ridden well, so I won't bother. I had fun, and I also got over a bit more of my fear of tight right-hand turns. Absolutely awesome.

Absolutely. Awesome.

I pulled into the general store, fueled up, made a restroom break, ordered lunch and the rest of the group arrived just as I was starting in to my burger. They made excellent time coming up the mountain as I'm guessing their break at the bottom was a good 20-30 minutes. Thumbsup

The store has a small gas pump with an above-ground tank. Cool, quaint setup.

I bet there's serious money to be made on this old beauty

The Ponderosa postal office. No, I'm not kidding.

After lunch and a reasonable break, we all got back on the road. We still had lots of ground to cover and time was fleeting. About an hour later we stopped to drink some water and snap a few pictures.

Wayne's looking awfully comfortable on my bike.

Get the hell off my bike!

Victory! Maybe next time, pal!

Back on the road

After a bit we came to more twisties overlooking some incredible views. I took a few "from the saddle" action shots, and later hopped off the bike when I got out in front to take pictures of the others.

This picture is, in my opinion, iconic of the type of riding we've experienced on this trip thus far.

Some action shots.

First up, Adrian:

Next up, Brian:

Then Keith:

And Wayne

Unfortunately, Bob came thru' before I was set up for shooting. Shame, that. He was railing that turn!

My bike sits lonely and sullen while I shoot pictures of the others.

The scenery was, of course, incredible.

I was able to snap a few action scenes later, too.

One of the few action shots I have of Bob. He's a good and fast rider and is usually well up front.

This is one I took while heeled over in the turn.

Oh, look... we're in the desert.

Look out, Wayne. Slow attack cows!!!

I wonder what the story here is.

An omen? I hope not.

The amount of open space out here is absolutely incredible. Anyone who's never been off the East coast really just have no idea. I remain in awe. It's really hard to feel the scale in these pictures. It's just so... big!

Keith and I stopped to take pictures at the entrance sign for Death Valley National Park.

Ooh! Squiggly! Rockin'

Some more shots from the saddle.

I'll be around that turn in just a sec. First I have to get thru' this hairpi... WOW, that came up quick!

A nice mid-turn shot of a trailer off in the field right before I got to the Panamint Resort.

1900 miles into the trip thus far. Day 6. Awesome!

In for the evening after a very long day.

The resort pops up right there on the side of the road on Rt. 190 as you come around a long sweeping right hand turn. BOOM. There it is. The place is pretty nice, including a restaurant and bar, several rooms and a sitting area. The gas station and general store is affiliated. Also, the family who owns the resort also has exclusive water rights to the area. Ain't that something?

I might be in the minority on this, but I found the place to be "so-so", at best. The problem is, it's freaking expensive. $15 for a burger??? A dollar per gallon over everywhere else for gas. $3 for a bottle of water. And $139 for a very average room with very sub-standard electrical and plumbing. All because they can. Location, location, location. It's right before you enter the actual valley, so they can get more or less whatever they want for things. It's a shame. Had the rooms been 30% less and the food a good solid 50% less, I'd have been praising it to everyone. As it is... if you can skip it without hurting your schedule or budget, do so. It's a LOT of money to stay there. Sadly. It's just not a good value.

And the route...

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