Waking up feeling refreshed and eager to leave the smog and seediness of Las Vegas to embark on what will be the hottest ride of our lives. We've been monitoring the weather forecasts and temperature recordings for Death Valley - most folk think we are bonkers for even thinking about riding through the desert - most reports are giving us cooler temperature readings than Las Vegas, so we decide to jump on it and make the 245 mile journey from Vegas to Ridgecrest where we have another motel booked for the night. Besides, it can't be any worse than Vegas can it?
We make a stop before we even get out of the Las Vegas boundary (it's HUGE folks) at a gas station and receive more admiration and attention from some fellow two wheeler steelers. If you want to make friends, get yourself a Himalayan! People will stop you and ask questions. These babies are attractive to bike-friendly folk and you'll never be short of curious admirers wherever you go.
We stop again at Parump which is on route 160 and we have now entered the state of California. There are billboards advertising where to buy Cannabis on the way to Parump, so it's worth a stop to venture into a Cannabis 'dispensary' and buy a couple of edibles. Why not? It's legal!
We continue to Death Valley Junction where we join route 190. This is place looks deserted but the Amaragosa Opera House is the main and perhaps only feature of this place which is worth a stop in its own right. We stop in the only place offering a slither of shelter which is the Marta Becket Museum. Marta was an artiste and found her calling at Death Valley Junction, made it her home and thrived and found her expression by founding the Amaragosa Opera. I liked the sound of Marta and so christened the white Enfield 'Marta' in honour of this lady. It fits.
Once we are in Death Valley we notice the temperature gauges going up and up and up. The bike gauges record 133 Fahrenheit. That's not accurate as the gauges on the Enfields are above the engine so this adds to the true heat reading. But it wasn't that far off. If we'd had raw eggs with us we could have fried them and possibly burned them! We stop and get off the bikes to walk up to Zabriskie Point where the film of the same name was shot. It's hot. Very hot. Andrew tells me there's the Devil's Golf Course en route to Stovepipe Wells, but there's no time for golf today. We ride through points where we are 280ft below sea level and there are warm gusts blowing through the whole journey. It's like opening an oven door and receiving a hot blast of air and this is perhaps the cause of the gusts. Heat gusts? We don't see any other evidence of wind blowing, but then again there's not much to signify the movement of wind. We just put it down to the heat.
We arrive at Stovepipe Wells - a welcome break with overly priced refreshments and they even charged us for ice. The heat is extreme. I never normally have ice in my drinks, but today is an extraordinary exception. I catch a guy taking a picture of something above the door of the gift shop at Stovepipe Wells - there's a dial thermometer there and the reading is 120 degrees Fahrenheit/50 degrees Celcius and this is in the shade. Pretty hot!
At Stovepipe Wells we see a few cars wearing very fancy covers and some techie guys carrying silver cases which look like they contain heavy technlogical elements. Andrew tells me these are test vehicles and they are covered and concealed to protect their identity before being tested and revealed to the public. They are certainly getting tested in these conditions. So are the Enfields. The air cooled engines are being put to the extremest of tests. There is no air to cool them and they literally are panting in these conditions, but on they roll and so far they have not disappointed us at all.
We get back in the hot saddles and plod back on the road and it's still 97 miles to our destination. We leave route 190 and take route 178 after travelling 30 miles from Stovepipe Wells and it's still another 67 miles of nothingness. No trees, no towns, no shelter, only sun and dust and a few other sporadic cars. I'm keeping a close watch for any impending dust devils that might appear on the horizon, this is the kind of terrain that forms these nasty critters. The constant strong gusts are causing me to hang on and the road is seemingly endless.
We stop and have water and a pickled cucumber. After the mini pit stop, a few miles up the road, there is a Highway Patrol car parked in the road. We have to stop again. The reason for the road block is there is some filming going on round the mountain. Vehicle commercial. Perhaps one of the test vehicles we had seen at Stovepipe Wells? Anyway, we hang out with the Highway Patrol cop and he's a friendly and very human chap - applying his sunscreen from a family sized bottle for the 3rd time in the day and having general chattiness about the bikes and other random subjects. There are 4 other vehicles lined up behind us as we are given the go-ahead after about 20 minutes to move on.
We still have a way to go. We stop once again at a 'forgotten' town called Trona to give the Enfields a good gulp of gas and then another 25 miles to Ridgecrest. When we hit Ridgecrest we are lost, it's not a large town, but clearly big enough to get lost in. The sat nav is taking us down a dust road to our motel which is not where we need to be, so we have to employ the humans at Denny's family restaurant to help us out. Which they do and again, we are so bowled over by the way the people in this country will go out of their way to help and be hospitable. Thank you Denny's staff :-)
We check in, and find a place to eat on a Sunday, just in the nick of time. 8pm is closing time for restaurants in Ridgecrest on Sundays and we manage to get fed and watered. All good :-)
A final trip to a grocery store in Ridgecrest before we hang up our boots for the night leads us to another fellow motorcyclist in the parking lot who gives us fair warning that we need to wear our helmets. We are now in the state of California. Some laws they are relaxed about and others not, apparently. So, it's helmets on from now on and a sheepish helmet-less ride back to our motel.
Andrew "AJ" Jackson of Eurorider Training and Mell Rose.
AJ's Check List
*Motorcycles x 2
*All weather clothing/boots - windproof, rainproof as well as cool and warm layers.
*Panniers for carrying extra loads.
* Friction straps and bungees - multiple & spares.
* Chain oil and lube
* Acquired jump leads
* Puncture repair - fix a flat in a can
* Lots of monies
* A ball of string
* Rucksack for daytime carrying capacity
* Flexible attitude to life and journey
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