Riding Through Death.
A while back I had the chance to go experience Death Valley in a very special way: top a two wheeled beast who just devours desert.
With the adventurous crew from Honda who brought the badass bikes, along with my goto for all things cool, Tracy Motts from Rev’It motorcycle gear, we were completely covered in the way of motorcycle mayhem. Or destination was Beatty (pronounced either beat-ee or bait-ee dee-pending on who you talk to and how much they have had to drink) which isn’t so much a destination as a town as is a place that aliens forgot to obliterate on their strike on the U.S. in 1958 (something locals actually believe.)
The town is a wonderful place if you like weird, strange and that slight feeling that you are surrounded by people evading John Q. Law. We opted for the Motel 6, which was the finest joint in town.
Food wise there is actually lots to discover, some fine chili places, Mexican joints, and this dodgy little bar that had some fine salisbury steak. We tossed back a few root-beers, stapled a few dollars on the wall to appease our intergalactic overlords, and hit the hay to get up before sunrise to hit the dirt trails.
I cannot overstate how absolutely FANTASTIC it is to ride a dirtbike through desert canyons. At all. I had never ridden a dirtbike, and while I was secure on a street bike, this was a whole other beast. After ditching a few times in some soft spots I learned to stand over the bike rather then lean into it; something non-riders will scratch their head at, and experienced riders nod at. It’s just like riding a BMX bike, you know, like when you were 12, if your BMX had a 650 monster engine attached to it and you were fueled by whiskey rage.
Once I had the knack of it I was flying through switchbacks and even getting my front wheel up on long tracks. As you fly through the canyons you feel like Indiana Jones, but on a motorcycle, which is about as cool as you can feel. It was epic.
Here’s a little film I shot with my drone that day. Oh, did I mention I brought a drone? Yeah. I brought a drone to Death Valley.
Once through Titus Canyon we met the Honda truck which ported water, gas, and anything else we might need. This was the way to travel. As a side note, while we rehydrated, a runner came over the hill half dead. Apparently her boyfriend had fallen ill running a trail and was about 2 miles back, baking in the sun, unable to move. Like a modern western our best rider jumped on a 350 and tore off on his mechanical horse to help. Needless to say the chap was alright and our badass meter jumped up another notch.
We took lunch at Scotty’s Castle, which, if you’ve never been, is friggin weird. It’s a castle … in the middle of Death Valley. Thats it. A clear testament to human’s ability to put things where they truly do not belong. Strange as it is, it’s a magical place to take lunch, and get out the scorching heat for a sec.
Refueled, we continued on, heading to the famous Racetrack Playa, a dry lake-bed which has been in every car commercial in the 90’s. On the way we passed Teakettle Junction, and checked the pots for some secret messages. We found one, that said “Nancy. I’ve left. The salt has me now. Tell grandma I loved her. The money is in the seat cuchion. Don’t drink too much. Stay safe. Ted.” Ted is my new spirit animal.
The lake bed is an amazing place, unlike anywhere else on earth (other then other deserts that might have a dry lake bed). It’s a place with absolutely … nothing. For a kid from NYC this is unreal, and immediately made me nervous and start looking around for a Starbucks. Alas, there was none. Things started to get…weird.
We drove back hooping and hollering, through Ubehebe Crater, Zabriskie and the Rhyolite ghost town, and arrived back in sleep Beatty just in time for supper. We hit up this Mama Sara’s, which, no lie, had the best Mexican food I’ve ever put in my mouth. This coming from a man who has lived in SoCal, Mexico City, and even gotten into La Esquina in NYC. This was off the cadena (that’s “chain” in Spanish. Sorry).
In the end, Death Valley is a magical place. It’s a wondrous, empty, low spot on the planet that is strangely filled with so much to see, experience, and feel. It is a beautiful place for introspection and a meditative location to reflect quietly on one’s life. It’s only ten times better doing it ripping through a desert canyon on a 650 cc cannon as BRRRAAAAAP echos off the sandstone walls. Respect.