Route: CA85 -> CA17 -> CA1 -> CA46 -> CA101 -> CA58 -> CA178 -> CA395 -> CA190 -> Badwater Road -> CA127 -> Freeway15 -> Freeway215 -> Freeway15 -> Miramar Way.
If someone asks me right now, whats the best thing that happened to me after I came to America, without a second thought my answer would be ‘Death Valley Trip’. Before even going into further details of the trip, I urge you to click here to see what I went through OR if you have your cup of tea near by, click here for slideshow and just relax.
The desire to do a long bike (motorcycle) ride was there from the day I bought my bike, however the bike did not support me in the beginning. Two weekends worth of work was enough to bring it to an agreement. So it happened that I decided to come back from Mountain View (near San Francisco) to San Diego, a distance of 500miles. But the support was strong enough to push the distance still further, to a modest figure of 1000miles. And to share my burden was another enthusiastic biker dude friend of mine – Shree Ankit Srivastava – from UCSD, who dindt need a second to think, to jump in to the trip.
The journey started on 21st of Sept from 707 Continental Circle Drive, Mountain View, CA 94040. I was supposed to meet my partner biker dude at Bakersfield, about 350 miles from Mountain View. A rough calculation of averaging 45 mph put the time to 8 hours. My plan was to start at 12:00 noon and reach bakersfield at 7:30pm. As it usually happens with my other plans, I started an full hour and a half late from the scheduled time. A third of it was spent on shipping my stuff back to San Diego, another third in packing the rest of stuff (a large backpack) on my bike, and the last third at Gyros, a mediterranean restaurant which was in mountain view itself where I had my lunch. So around 1:30 with a small prayer to god, I started, thinking that I could still make it to Bakersfield by 8:30, if not by 8:00.
The first hour of my ride was filled with just two thoughts (which are usually the thoughts I have before all my adventure trips) – the ‘why thought’ and the ‘what if thought’. Why am I doing this? Whats the need? Why cant I not do this? and What if I am not able to make it? What if my body gives up half way? and this time, What if the bike stops supporting me?. But they were all ephemeral. Most of the ride from there is well documented in the photographs. Sorry if you are texty kinds of person, but the photos should speak for the ride. What is not documented is a couple of incidents/condition that occupied my mind later on. The first was an accident I witnessed around 6:00pm (No I was not involved in any way). An SUV was smashed into a Saturn, and I was probably the 4-5th person to reach the site. What I saw there was gory enough not to elaborate on the blog, but I will move ahead by saying that the accident was enough to send me into a gloomy contemplative mood. From then on was the most difficult part of the trip. It was getting dark, already 7:30, and I was still a good 160 miles away from Bakersfield. To top it up, the weather became unfavorable with rains starting to pour down, although not heavy enough, and I decided to continue in rain. Slowly the temperature too started dipping and I had to wear all the clothes I was carrying, three jackets, two socks, two pants. Next to add to the fun, the geography too was trying to test my limits. The route became too hilly, to push my average speed down to 30miles on road. The final blow came when I read the sign, ‘Next Services 82 miles (130kms)’. Another quick calculation, and I knew that I did not have enough gas to carry me through. The gas station was a good 10 miles back, but I had no options. All through that 82 miles I might have seen 10-15 cars at max. All in all this part of ride was enough to give me the adrenalin rush, more than I needed. I finally reached Bakersfield at 12:15am where thankfully Ankit had already booked a room in a motel.
The next day was much more comforting. The body got used to the riding position, have someone else drive with you gives you a mental boost that someone is there is anything goes wrong, the routes were really scenic, the weather friendly, and traffic minimal. Starting from Bakersfield at around 11:00, the first awesome drive was all along the kern river which ended near Lake Isabella. This is where someone allegedly stole Ankit’s one glove. From there heading north on 395 was where we achieved highest average speeds. The ride through death valley was also fascinating. For one stretch of 17 miles we turned our bikes off as it was all down hill and that too almost straight from 4956ft (1500mt) to 5 ft (1.5mt). The change in temperature was quite evident. Stopping for a while at Stovepipe Wells, where the san dunes are, we finally reached our destination for the day, Furnace Creek, in the heart of Death Valley at about 7:30pm. It was surprising to see all European tourist there, on inquiring we were told that in summers 99% of tourists are from Europe. We camped at the Furnace Creek Campsite and were in bed at about 10:00. With sweet memories of the day, with a goody goody feeling we both slept without dreams that night.
The final day was supposed to be tiring. We had to cover about 400 miles, and the last stretch would consist of Freeways :(. The start was slow, stopping numerous times on the Badwater Road, touching the lowest point in western hemisphere, at a depth of 282ft below sealevel. It was a fun ride. Mostly straightish kind of roads with no oncoming traffic. Stopping at the old town of Shoshone for lunch, we were all satisfied with our trip. Knowing that the last part wont be as exciting, we were soaked completely in the views of Death Valley. We hit the freeways at about 3:00pm. With a long monotonous sleepy ride of 200miles we finally reached home at about 7:30 in the night.
For those who know about the Nanital trip, this was quite different from that trip, but the feeling at the core was the same – ‘Freedom’.