Friday, January 25, 2008

Death Valley to Laughlin

The singing birds woke me up in Death Valley. There were at least five or six different kind of bird sounds, and they all sounded happy. I had no idea such a desolate place could be so full of life. We got up early, shortly after 6:00 and had broken camp and were on the bikes by 7:00. That was a record for us on this trip! Our camp was almost 200 ft below sea level. The day before we rode from almost 8500 ft down to -200 ft. Talk about extremes!

The previous night we had talked about the things we wanted to see, so we had a rough plan for the day. First stop was Artist's Drive. The colors in the rock formations are unbelievable, ranging from soft pinks and greens, to intense reds and purples. I took many photos, but would love to go back someday and spend an entire day photographing the changing light. I can unerstand why the Native American's here consider this to be a spiritual place.

After Artist's Drive, we went to Dante's View, the highest point in the valley. The road up to the parking lot is at a 13% incline with lots of 10 mph switchbacks! No trailers, or RV's allowed. No words can describe the extent of the view. You can see the entire length of Death Valley, and are looking out directly over Bad Water, the lowest point in the park.

After grabbing a quick lunch at the Furnace Creek restaurant, we headed out toward Bad Water. The ride was fast, though I have to admit I have a bit of trouble busting speed limits by 20 or 30 mph. A little over I'm ok with, but the ticket for 30 over in a National Park? Scary! Anyway, Bad Water is an interesting place. Salt Flats at 278 ft below sea level. There's a sign up on the cliffs on the other side of the road that shows where sea level is. Quite a perspective! As we parked a really scary looking guy on a Harley with old tattered leathers and a wild full beard walked up to our bikes. He was a dangerous looking guy. Turned out though he was really nice and we spent quite a while chatting. He has a son who lives in Anchorage. Again, we were struck by what a small world it really is.

We left Death Valley around noon, and headed for Shoshone, then on to Baker. As we left Shoshone, we ran into some sort of law enforcement marathon that kept us at a crawl (10 - 15 mph) for ages! Bobby was annoyed, I was bored. When we finally got to Baker, we hit the Interstate toward Vegas. Initially I took a wrong turn and we had a comedy of errors trying to get turned back around. But once we were headed the right way we could drive a bit faster. Before Vegas we turned off onto the Nipton Road. OMG! It is straight, flat, and endless. I have no doubt you could see a car coming for 5 miles, except that there are no cars! The town of Nipton looks like a set from an old western movie. I should have stopped for pics, but we still wanted to get to Laughlin, and I was getting very tired. We did stop for a few shots in Joshua Tree.

Finally we made it into Laughlin. I was so tired I was afraid I would drop the bike if I had to stop. The first hotel was sold out, but Bobby got on the phone and got us the last room at a place down the street. By the time we got the bikes parked, and got cleaned up I was ready for a quiet dinner, and bed. Looking back on this day, we made a serious mistake that led to a series of dangerous mistakes. We allowed ourselves to get dehydrated and it made us stupid and careless. It also made me exhausted and wobbly. I have completely learned my lesson. I will never again allow myself to go more than an hour or so without drinking water, and usually drink a lot more often than that!

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