Thursday, 28 October 2010

A Great Day for Motor-Sicklin’

I have seen a few co-incidences over the past few days.

In Las Vegas, I met a couple called Phil and Mandy who live in the UK, but often go on holiday to Spain. They sometimes visit the same place and stay on a boat owned by a friend of theirs. Well, Jackie and I have a house in that same place in Spain and I know the boat they were talking about. I was able to tell them what the boat was including its size and model. We did laugh that they and I knew the same town in Spain so well! I gave them my phone number so when they are next there we can meet up. Not only that, but in the UK they live in a place called Bournemouth and after they discovered I was riding a motorcycle, they told me about a new custom bike shop that had just opened near where they live called Battistini’s. I told them I knew Battistini’s well. In fact, Battistini’s did some work on my red custom chopper and made a one-off rear number plate (US = license plate) holder for me. What a small world!

I left Las Vegas early in the morning and once more continued my journey westward with the highlight on day 124 being in Death Valley, in California. As I packed the bike ready to leave, I noticed mine was no longer the only bike in the hotels car park, for there were about 7 or 8 bikes of different types all of which had stickers of the Swiss national flag on them. I guessed a group from Switzerland had rented bikes and were riding around the American west.

It didn’t take long until I crossed the border into my 27th and last state on my tour, California. Throughout the tour, people have asked me how far I am travelling and recently I have been able to say that it will be about 20,000 miles and I have started to add after that “in 27 states”. People’s reactions are varied, but normally include an opening of the mouth and words like golly from the older generation, or holy crap from the younger. Many say they would love to do the same sort of trip and some just look incredulous and say “on a motorcycle??”. Most want to hear where I have been and many ask about my favourite places. One question has quite surprised me and I have been asked it a lot and that is along the lines of “How have people treated you?”. I tell them that nearly everyone has been incredibly friendly and helpful. What surprised me at first about this question was why people asked it and over the months I have worked out why – generally the people I have met have been very caring and here is the thing – Americans are probably one of the most proud and patriotic nations in the world. People really do care about how I have been treated. They want the answer to be positive and when it is I can tell they are delighted. I recall one persons reaction and it made me happy. My regular readers may remember when I got to the top of a gravel road called Moki Dugway I met a couple called David and Lei Nani and you may remember David showed me his gun. He asked me that question about how I had been treated and I gave him my honest assessment that I had been very pleased by my treatment and that generally the Americans that I have met have been tremendously kind, generous and warm. He thanked me and that made me smile. Not only did he care enough to ask, but he said thank you for the answer. I don’t know anywhere in the world where that would happen.

As I left Vegas I filled up with fuel, uncertain as to how often I would see gas stations on my way to and then through Death Valley. I have noticed something in Nevada and California that I haven’t seen much elsewhere – gas pumps that require you enter a zip code before pumping. OK, I can see the security benefits that it probably prevents stolen cards being used to buy gas, but it is a heck of a pain in the backside for us foreigners that don’t have a zip code because we don’t live here. It means two trips inside the gas station building every time I fill up, once to explain why I don’t have a zip code and to give them my card and then again to then go back in and sign the credit card slip. All og this is un-necessary as the system knows I don’t have a zip code (it must do otherwise how would it be able to check if a correct zip code has been used) so why does it still ask me for one?

Soon after entering California I went through the town of Shoshone and then I was on my own in the vast nothingness of Death Valley. I did see one last piece of civilisation as I went through the town and it made me laugh so much I had to turn around and go back to take a picture of it....



I had to stop at the sign announcing the entrance to the National Park.....




















Death Valley is really in two parts – south of Furnace Creek is flat and this is where the valley really is, set between two mountain ranges. Much of this southern section is below sea level . The part to the west of Furnace Creek more hilly and rocky.

This was the first of two days in Death Valley for me. It was a cloudy day and not too hot, for which I was grateful. The valley appears to be a very barren place and I had expected that not much lived there. Well, I must have been wrong as look what I saw on the road.... This time I got my camera out quickly enough to catch a picture....




















I am assuming this is a Coyote. This was seemingly in the middle of nowhere and I wondered how he or she was able to find enough food to live on....




























I actually saw two, but didn’t get a picture of the other one.

I have set up my sat nav / GPS so I can see the elevation above sea level of where I am. I find it interesting to see some of the dramatic changes I am experiencing as I ride through the Rockies. I watched as the reading went down and down....




















About the lowest I saw it go down to was 240 feet below sea level. All that I I didn’t get wet at all.

A large area of Death Valley is salt flats. I parked the bike at the side of the road and walked out onto the salt....




Walking back I took a picture of the Leading Ladies and with the angle I took it at, the bike seems to be parked off road!....




























Further on I saw a sign for The Devils Golf Course and I was intrigued enough to go check it out...



























Presumably named the Devils Golf Course due to its uneven surface, it is formed by crystallised salt which are shaped by the winds and rain into these strange formations. The salt is very hard and difficult to walk through and falling over here could be very painful.

While it wasn’t raining, the sky had turned a photo reducing grey colour and I abandoned stopping at a number of places in the valley, with the intention of returning the next day when hopefully the skies would be clear again. I headed to the Furnace Creek Inn where I had a reservation for the night. After checking in, I met Alex, the manager of the hotel and we chatted for a while about the hotel, some of its past guests such as Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn were both regulars here. The hotel has an interesting history and was older than I first thought. I was told the swimming pool was about 85 degrees and is hot spring fed. On cooler evenings, guest can sit by the pool and be kept warm by a fireplace which was alight on the evening I was there.

One thing I had never considered about a hotel is it closes for the summer, as the weather is too hot!

The hotels palm trees at night....



























This is the hotel and its pool the next day....







































The Furnace Creek Inn would be a great place to spend a few days at. Alas, I wasn’t able to do that. Thankfully the weather was much better the next day and as I left the hotel in the morning, one of the other guests told me it sure was a great day for motor-sicklin'. After I mentally translated that, it was hard to disagree with him!

I went back to of the places I had skipped previously. This is an area known as Artists Palette which is served by a one-way road of a few miles long. The multi coloured rocks are caused by the oxidation of different minerals and metals in the rocks. The colours are wonderful....




















































































There is something about long straight roads that I like. Of course not riding them, but taking pictures of them ....



























I rode to the top of the Black Mountains that form the east side of Death Valley, to a place called Dantes Peak some 5,500 feet above the valley floor....

From there a great view of the valley and the salt is seen....














































Coming back down I found this little guy crossing the road....



















My next stop was Zabriskie Point, where there are some wonderful shapes and colours in the rock....













































































I just love this sign. It makes me think I would have once needed scuba gear to see Death Valley....





















On my way out of Death Valley, I met this group of German Bikers. The strange thing was they were not on bikes. They were on their way to Las Vegas to pick up their rental bikes. I am not sure I could wear my bike gear without being on a bike....





















When leaving Death Valley, I stopped for gas and saw a guy wearing a Watford Town football (US = soccer) shirt. We talked for a while and it turns out he lives 5 miles from my house in the UK! It is not a densely populated area so the chances of somebody else being in Death Valley at the same time as me must be remote. The chances that he was in the same gas station as me must be tiny! Yet another co-incidence!

18 comments:

SonjaM said...

Small world, indeed! Again your pictures are lovely, I especially like the valley view shot, and the little spidey.

Don't worry about those Germans wearing their cuts, while not riding. They are just getting into the spirit, and want to look like riders, to be able to meet people like you ;-)

Beck said...

I love the picture of the valley with the salt, but they are all spectacular! Not sure if I would have gone close enough to take a picture of the coyote and definitely not the spider. Great story! We are happy to hear you are being treated well in our great country and we do thank you for sharing that.

Hope your remaining days allow you to meet more wonderful Americans!

Stay safe!

Paul said...

I remember the signs for Death Valley when we were nearby in 2009. I also was something recently that Death Valley boasts the lowest altitude golf course in the world! I have sent you a picture of Jack in his Harley top we got in Boston!

Charlie6 said...

Another series of great pictures Gary!

You are surely a focal point for coincidences!

I really liked the shot from Dante's Peak....

dom


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

bobskoot said...

Gary: Yes, it's amazing who you meet "on the road". Even if you had known them before and had planned to meet, the logistics of figuring out where you would have been on day 124 would have been indeterminable. On our trip to China we were at Expo Shanghai 2010 and bumped into the owner of a restaurant where we have been meeting for breakfast every Saturday for over a decade. Indeed it really is a small world.

you are lucky to be in Death Valley while the temperatures are manageable.

bob
Wet Coast Scootin

George F said...

Again, you captured beautiful pictures of Death Valley. I did a trip there almost two years ago with my wife on a rented Harley and we loved it, it's on my blog. Did you go to Scotty's Castle?
I love riding those long roads that disappear into the horizon :-)

Webster World said...

Been to Death Valley. Now you can really see why sooo many people died tring to cross it 100 or so years ago. I wear biker gear cause it's a part of me. You were lucky to run into all those folks from home too.

FLHX_Dave said...

You know what? I'm glad you can say something good about the way you were treated so far. We get so much crap thrown at us(Americans)about how we don't care about anyone else in the world and how we are self centered pricks. About how we are the evil empire that you almost start to believe it.

Thanks for throwing that point out here. I, for one, appreciate it.

Love the Death Valley picts. It is a good time of year to be heading out that way, otherwise you would be miserable. You planned this trip out perfectly as far as I can tell.

BeemerGirl said...

Great images! Looks like a great trip. The Furnace Creek Inn has that old world charm. Must have been a great place to stay. Agreed that it would be nice to spend a weekend there.

cpa3485 said...

I'm glad you got a picture of that coyote. They are amazing creatures in their own way. Farmers of course hate them.

I had the pleasure yesterday of spending the day with 5th graders at a local nature park. One of the activities of the day was a short nature hike through part of the park. The naturalist that led the hike would pause and talk about whatever was interesting that they would find along the way. At one point we came across some animal poop that the kids were laughing about. The naturalist said it was from a coyote. "Know how I can tell?" she said. The kids all wanted to know. She said that she could tell because there were pieces of bone and other undigestible objects in the poop. She said that coyotes were amazing scavengers and hunters, and they would eat virtually every part of an animal that they would catch, bones and all. The reason was that they are frequently hungry and would eat all they could when they could.
Animals like that can seemingly survive in condtions that would appear to be impossible at first glance.
I find nature to be amazing in that way.

I also like that picture of the long straight road. I bet you can almost imagine hallucinations occurring on a very hot day. I was once out there in August and it was 124 degrees farenheit.

Jim

bluekat said...

Never ceases to amaze me that I'll be miles from home and run into somebody local. Small world. Wonderful photos from Death Valley. This is probably a good time of year to be there.

Motorcycle Philosophy said...

I was going to say, you're going through Death Valley at a great time, not too cold, not too hot.

Rob said...

The world gets dramatically smaller everyday.

Gary France said...

Sonja – Spidey wasn’t so little, but I resisted the temptation to pick him up. When I rode into the car park, I saw them in their bike gear and looked around for the bikes.... nowhere to be seen. I agree about getting in the mood though!

Beck – I did wonder if Coyotes are dangerous to people. I suspected they might be, but I didn’t feel too worried. I am being treated really well by just about everybody!

Paul – It is a great picture of Jack and I will put it on the blog tonight!

Charlie6 /Dom – Thanks! Those co-incidences keep coming at the moment! Spooky!

Gary France said...

Bob – I have met people I know in the strangest of places. I once met my next door neighbour from the UK in Disneyland in Florida. I had no idea they were even on holiday, yet alone at exactly the same place as me. Meeting your restaurant friend must have been the same. Not really lucky about being in DV when the temperatures are cooler – it was planned that way.

George – I didn’t go to Scotty’s Castle, but I read about the story on your blog! I agree – those roads are really cool.

WW – I wouldn’t have liked to have been crossing DV 100 years ago!

Dave – It has become very clear to me that the image Americans have internationally and what you are really like are completely different. I am pleased I could help to redress the opinion, just a little bit. I think I would have suffered if I was in DV in the heat of the summer. I like the heat,but not as hot as I think it gets in the Valley.

Gary France said...

Beemer Girl / Lori – It was a great place to stay and I am sure you would enjoy it. Next time I go I want to stay in the room Marlon Brando used to stay in.

Jim – That is very interesting about how coyotes eat. I can imagine if they do get the chance in those very poor conditions, they would eat everything and anything they could. 124 degrees – wow, that is hot. I was once in the Sahara Desert and it was 140. I got dehydrated and kept throwing everything up. The driver wasn’t very happy!

bluekat – It really is small world. It is fun bumping into people you know in odd places. I have notice for women, it sometimes involves some high pitched squealing!

Steve – I think I timed it just right!

Rob – I totally agree!

Eve said...

Wow Gary! It is a small world!! Great post. And I'm glad to hear you're enjoying the hospitality of the US...but that zip code thing is really annoying to hear about! I hope they don't try to pull that "crap" here!! That's ridicules. Wow that is SOME spider!!! Coyotes are everywhere...you should hear them in the night! Very erie!

Gary France said...

Eve - That zip code thing is now becoming tiresome. I wonder why it only seems to happen in CA and NV. That spider was really cool and I wanted to pick it up, but decided against it. I just made sure he/she got off the road. I have only seen 3 Coyotes on this trip and getting to photograph one was cool. Never heard one though....