Cycle Source Honeymoon Run
Article And Photos By: Heather Callen
Originally Published In The November 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Last month we left you as we were on our way into the inferno…er, uh…Death Valley…in August. Yeah we are pretty much crazy but Chris and Kiwi had been talking about making this trip for a few years now and I was completely game for an adventure. After a morning of preparation, we made sure we had SPF 1000, long sleeve white shirts and some provisions that Miss Carolyn put together for us. We left Riverside CA mid-afternoon with the intent of riding into cooler temps. It was just under 200 miles to our intended destination and we figured we would make it sometime around 9pm or a little later. We started by heading north on Hwy 15 to the top of Cajon Pass then on to Hwy 395 to Red Mountain, from there we banged a right onto Trona Rd so we could gas up in the little “town” of Trona. I use the term ‘town’ loosely, there’s a gas station/burger joint. We were all a bit hungry but Mike being familiar with this trip suggested we hold off a bit until we reached our destination for the evening, Panamint Springs Resort. Mike had painted a lovely picture of us sitting on the porch enjoying a good meal and reveling in the beauty that would lay before us in Panamint Valley. It was only another hour and a half and definitely sounded like it would be a great way to end our day; good riding, good food and better friends, so we pressed on.
As we were winding our way down the mountains, the sun was setting and it was beautiful. We stopped for a picture or two and moved along. As we gently glided downward through sweeping turns Chris shifted gears and began to cuss profusely…we blew the belt…at sundown…not far outside of Death Valley! As we coasted to a stop and assessed the situation we realized that Kiwi was nowhere to be seen, however he returned as soon as he realized our lights weren’t behind him. Most of you would think we were screwed and you would have been correct. However, my husband just so happened to have and emergency belt repair kit that he miraculously had managed to keep in the tour pack for 10 years! Hallelujah, we weren’t going to die in Death Valley that night! In this part of the world on a two lane road leading into the abyss there isn’t much traffic and the few cars that did pass us by made sure to sweep wide and keep their eyes low. No worries, there wasn’t much any of them could have done any way, although their headlights sure would have been helpful. You see, when the sun goes down in the valley, its dark, darker than any shade of black I’d ever seen. Thankfully the three of us made a good team, we took turns holding the light or screwing the pins into the belt and of course taking pictures. C’mon now, you didn’t think we’d pass up the opportunity for a tech article did you?! In under two hours we were back on the road and pushing forward.
Mike had warned us that a section of road we were going to be on had washed out a few years earlier and was likely to still be gravel. He was mostly right, it had washed out but it wasn’t really what I’d call gravel, it was a deep loose sand and slick as shit in some spots. Now, I had no doubt what so ever in Chris’ riding ability but this absolutely solidified it for me. He was amazing. He weaved, balanced and road our loaded down Ultra through that muck without a hitch! Much later than expected we rolled into Panamint Springs a bit tired and a lot hungry and…it was closed. Of course it was… there was no one out there to serve, well except crazy newlyweds and an even crazier Kiwi! At this point our only option was to head over the Panamint Mountain Range straight into Death Valley to Stovepipe Wells Resort. It was our closest option and was only 30 miles away. The steep grades going up led to some 20 miles or so of nice smooth downward slopes. I think Mike may have actually coasted most of the way down. 11pm and we finally reached a spot of civilization, Stovepipe Wells Resort. Thankfully we weren’t there during their busy season and they had room at the inn. What they didn’t have was an open restaurant, it had closed some two hours earlier. Damn…by now our bellies were rumbling, none of us had eaten since breakfast. I don’t know exactly what Mike said to the Inn keeper but just after we got to our room there was a knock on the door. It was the host… with a glorious tray of food, cold waters and even a couple of beers for us three weary travelers! He had taken pity on us and was maybe even a little envious of our adventures so much so that he refused to take a dime for his good deeds. Now, that my friends is outstanding service. I strongly recommend that when you make your pilgrimage through Death Valley you make Stovepipe Wells one of your stops, even if it’s just to say thank you from the three crazy bikers. With blessedly full bellies, a quick dip the in the pool and refreshing showers we all lay thankfully in our beds for a good night’s sleep so we could tackle the rest of the Valley in the morning.
We woke the next day, had a great breakfast at the resort’s restaurant, gassed up, grabbed the obligatory Death Valley stickers and set out to conquer the world, well maybe not the world but Death Valley at the very least. Our first stop of the day was Scotty’s Castle. The only way I can describe this is to say it was paradise in the middle of the abyss. We toured the luxurious home and grounds while hearing the tall tales of Scotty himself. After the tour we headed to our trusty steeds only to find several guilty looking ravens lingering around our bikes. Remember the provisions that I mentioned Miss Carolyn packed for us? Well, let’s just say that the ravens had quite a feast that afternoon thanks to her! Thankfully the little buggers were apparently smart enough to even UNZIP the duffle bag and take what they wanted, no damage to our gear. They also made away with an entire bag of Dentyne Ice gum…I hope they shit bubbles for a month for stealing our stuff! We left Scotty’s Castle and rode the gradual 50 mile climb to Ubehebe Crater, which seemed to me like maybe it should be one of the natural wonders of the world. I’m not sure photos will do it justice so you should just check it out for yourself, after all it is only a ride away. We started the descent down the mountain and stopped for a water and pee break at one of the few shade shelters available. In Death Valley there is no such thing as having enough water, even if it is hot water now. Much to our surprise a kind stranger stopped and offered cold water and some conversation. It turns out he worked with Allison transmission and they were out testing some of the new vehicles. They figured if the new rigs could withstand the brutal conditions in Death Valley then they would pretty much make the cut. Our new friend, Lance, was not only kind but a motorcycle enthusiast as well. And even though he thought we were crazy for being out there in August he wished he was riding with us. After downing a few bottles of the heavenly cold water we decide it was time to move on.
Our next stop was to be Furnace Creek Resort for a quick dip in their spring fed pool. We’re rolling along and despite the ridiculous temps we were having an amazing day…until the Pearl rolls to a stop…the emergency repair belt broke. This is probably where I shouldn’t tell you that these belts are only supposed to be good for around 200 miles in good riding conditions. I don’t think the engineers intended for them to be used for sightseeing in 120° temps on a bike loaded down with camping gear and two honeymooners. I think we got about 150 miles out of it, no too bad considering. However, in retrospect we probably should have done the responsible thing and headed straight for the nearest civilization to have it fixed properly, but then again where’s the adventure in that? Thankfully we were only about 7 miles from Furnace Creek Resort but there was no way in hell anyone was walking any distance in that heat so Kiwi would be our hero that day (not sure we’ll ever hear the end of that!). I hopped on his ’48 Indian Chief with him so he could bring me to safety while Chris stayed with the bike until Mike could come back for him. I think that was the longest ½ hour of Chris’s life, there was no shade, no relief and he only had hot water left to drink. Once the three of were safe at Furnace Creek we reluctantly looked at the large thermometer outside the general store, we knew it was hotter than we had ever experienced before but we were shocked to see a reading of 134°!! Yeah, that’s hot as hell…for real. Let me paint a better picture for you; Mike had parked his overworked Chief in the shade and we noticed a peculiar bubbling sound coming from the old girl. Mike followed the sound to the gas tank, unscrewed the cap to find the fuel boiling! Yes, boiling! The video is on our FaceBook page just in case you don’t believe us. Anyway back to being stranded in Death Valley, we decided that the best course of action was to get the bike to Las Vegas. This would be our best chance to get it fixed quickly. After several calls, and a plea for help on the almighty FaceBook we found a company that specialized in towing motorcycles and was willing to make the trip to Death Valley. So now we wait….in the pool….in Death Valley…it could have been worse.