Chronological entries.

WordPress doesn’t have an easy way of sorting the posts so if you want to read the trip report entries from oldest to newest, go to www.ducatigirl.com/tat.

Simon is currently enjoying shorter two-wheeled trips in a plastic bucket attached to an old Gary Fisher Big Sur.

Day 25: Big Bear City, CA to San Diego, CA

Monday 10/3

It was cold enough of a morning that Simon was getting the cover put on his backpack. As a “cup half empty” kind of guy, he was focused on the lack of view when he should have been appreciating the lack of freezing.

I had become quite proficient at taking one-handed shots in the turns. What a shame to waste this almost useless skill.

Anybody want to guess what Wayne’s eating for breakfast? If your answer had “gas station” or “bear claw” in it, your left hand is waiting for your right hand to give it a high five!

Wayne just crossed the San Diego county line — did he feel a tingle?

The one constant view for the past 25 days. It’s as cluttered as my desk.

The traditional snack stop under the traditional shade tree at Dudley’s Bakery.

The offer of a CHP escort the rest of the way home was nice, but we passed on it when we found out he couldn’t play the theme from Chariots of Fire over his speaker. What’s the point?

This may look like the universal sign of defeat, but I am actually offering myself to Mother Earth in thanks to her kindness of postponing the snowstorm that was at that moment dumping 20 inches of snow at Mammoth. Simon wanted to add his two cents.

Thanks to everyone who has gone before us and posted their stories so we could properly prepare and make it through this trip. If you’re thinking about dualsporting with your dog and need advice, drop me a line. Not sure I have great advice, but I have advice. If you want to read about our prep work (including more details about the backpack), go to http://www.ducatigirl.com/tat/prep.html.

Next on tap: The Continental Divide (with Simon if he’s not too old and infirmed by then…).

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Day 25 overview: 218 miles

Day 24: Death Valley, CA to Big Bear, CA

Sunday 10/2

With a long stretch of desert between us and Big Bear, we broke camp as quickly as we could and were rolling by 8:15. This hardly sounds impressive, but considering the fact that we regularly departed around 10:00 after going through the identical motions, we were congratulating ourselves. Clearly, we had sped up the packing process, but we didn’t feel like we had moved much faster. Looking back on it now, I’m mildly perplexed. Did we leave a filled tent behind? Did Simon pack his own gear? Did one of us skip a routine two-hour morning dump?

We dropped down the mountain on an easy dirt road.

Turning east onto Highway 190, we headed towards Panamint Springs. The overlook above the valley was well worth the stop.

We made our first gas stop of the day in Panamint springs. Simon made sure my jacket stayed warm — never mind the fact that the morning was already hot — while we aired up the tires for the pavement.

We continued south on Panamint Valley Road to Trona Wildrose Road. The farther south we went the more offroading areas we saw. Owing to its distance from urban centers, there were relatively few people making use of the incredibly vast area.

The first place we came across after leaving Panamint Springs was the mining town of Trona*. To say it had seen better days would be to insult the memory of better days.

Searles Valley Minerals is still a prominent feature in the town and as long as it’s there, the town will never completely die out — it’ll just keep playing on as a B movie badly in need of an ending.

A well kept rest area/company propaganda kiosk happened to be right across from the facility.

Public facilities ordinarily suffer from too much use and not enough maintenance, but not this cinder block beauty.

It got so little traffic that a smattering of cobweb was the filthiest thing to be found. Speaking about traffic, Simon thought it was awesome that he was the perfect height to stroll in and out of the stalls (when my camera wasn’t leashed to the bike, it was leashed to my pants…).

Since it was just uncomfortably hot and not deadly hot, we took a side excursion to the Trona Pinnacles. These tufa spires were formed underwater a long time ago and while they aren’t exactly breathtaking (the tallest one is only 140 feet), they were visually intriguing due to their isolation in the flat, dry lake bed.

After Trona the next stop was Kramer Junction, where Highways 395 and 58 meet. There are facilities on all four corners and on the weekends it’s an intersection bustling with truckers and travellers. We ate our lunch in the only patch of shade we could find. The wind was gusting, and enough stuff blew into our soda that it looked like someone flicked cigarette ashes in it. On any other day we would’ve been disgusted and tossed out the soda, but after weeks of living in the dirt we looked at it and decided it wasn’t all that bad, especially if we closed our eyes before taking a swig. My greatest take-away from this trip is that you can adjust to absolutely anything.

We finished our day with the climb into Big Bear City at 6750 ft. In about an hour we had gone from summer heat to winter chill.

To celebrate our last night on the road, we splurged on a room at the Motel 6. We still had some travel food so we fired up the JetBoil and made dinner. A small can of Pringle chips accompanied me through Death Valley — I was expecting to see crumbs when I opened the can, but much to my surprise I found this:

The Pringles were the perfect metaphor for Simon: Beaten but not broken. What survivors!

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* “Trona” is Native American for “Visually, Fiscally, Geographically, Seasonally and Generally Disadvantaged.”

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Day 24 overview: 239 miles

Day 23: Silver Lake, CA to Death Valley, CA

Saturday 10/1

Although the wind raged through the night, we woke to a calm and sunny morning. After the cold and damp end to the day before, we were delighted to be greeted by clear blue skies.

After finishing the rest of the June Lake Loop, we stopped at a gas station for fuel and breakfast (all things hearty and nutritional can be found shrinkwrapped and sold to you by a guy who looks like Ron Jeremy). While there I made full use of the services available to travellers.

After sharing a semi-synthetic tasting bear claw (superior to non-synthetic if your goal is to have it come out mostly unprocessed), we cut across the 395 into the dirt. Just a few miles in we hit deep ground pumice and the bike wrestling began.

Did I say wrestling? I meant dropping. The front wheel plowed to the right and I knew I didn’t have the leg strength to keep the bike upright so I just jumped clear of the entire listing ship.

Wayne had ridden this area before and he knew this wasn’t the route he had previously taken on his baby whale (KTM Adventure). We backtracked until we found another road that was more pleasant for forward progress.

We wound through the mountains and then made our way south through Owens Valley.

With mountain ranges on both sides, the scenery was awesome.

Along the way we came across this landfill. We’re 200 miles inland, far from the ocean where the sea gull normally calls home. So just how do they figure out where all these dumps are and which ones are delicious enough to warrant all that flight time?

When we got to Bishop it was time for lunch. As a respite from sandwiches and ramen noodles, we stuffed our faces on fried chicken. The oils in the chicken blended perfectly with the morning’s semi-synth bear claw. Where once we thrived on a balanced diet, we now functioned just as well on oil and guar gum. The human body is incredibly adaptable!

We left Bishop via a frontage road. This stretch was unforgettable because it was the most literal interpretation of a dualsport road I’d ever seen. Long neglected and slowly being reclaimed by Mother Nature, it was made up of short alternating strips of dirt and pavement. It seemed almost too consistent to be entropy at work.

We stopped for our all-important ice cream in Big Pine before making or push into Death Valley. The initial section of dirt road was really nice. We took our time and enjoyed the view.

But as with most roads in the middle of nowhere, it became less well-maintained the farther we got from a population center. First the jagged little rocks began getting larger and more numerous. And as the elevation dropped, the sand washes increased. There were fewer opportunities to enjoy the view as keeping the eyes on the ground became top priority.

It had been a while since we’d been punished by triple digit heat on this trip… what better place to be reacquainted with that extreme than in a place called Death Valley? At some point I became so painfully thirsty that the only thing on my mind were ice cubes. Ice cubes in water. Ice cubes in soda. Ice cubes in beer. Ice cubes in urine. I didn’t care what the delivery device was — I just needed it to be super ICE COLD.

During a water break I asked Wayne to check his thermometer — it was 100 degrees in the shade. Somewhere along the way — no doubt while under the full strength of the sun — the thermometer registered a high of 110. We frequently checked on Simon to make sure he was doing ok; we had carried him too many miles to kill him off now.

Knowing that Death Valley was going to be hot even before we got there, we had long since scratched our plans to head towards Badwater. Our goal was to simply make southern progress along the western edge of Death Valley, where the elevation was still around 1000 feet. Not exactly alpine territory, but probably a little more agreeable than below sea level.

It’s a desert so there was plenty of sand. The edges seemed to be the firmest. I took one side while Wayne took the other.

Emotional relief finally came when we reached the road that headed towards a notch — and our escape! — in the mountains. Much to our surprise, we came across a guy on a BMW GS who was on his way to the hot springs (not sure which one or why, given the hellish heat). At first we thought he was riding alone, but the rider said his riding partner was back a little ways. It was good to see someone else on two wheels; it made us feel less like idiots for being there under those conditions.

I don’t care if snakes are at a pugilistic disadvantage because they don’t have arms. That’s their evolutionary problem, not mine.

A setting sun combined with a couple thousand feet of altitude gain finally brought relief from the heat. As we climbed higher we came across more water crossings. This puddle turned out to be trickier than it appeared.

Wayne got part way through it, caught some sort of rut, and snapped sideways. I thought for sure he and Simon were about to slam into the drink, but the bike swiveled back and shot out of the water. I was a little mortified of having to go through the same procedure so I was glad to see Wayne stopping and getting off his bike so he could bring mine through — it had already been such a long day of bike wrangling for this delicate lotus blossom! Sadly, chivalry was not coming my way. Wayne was just getting off his bike so he could be ready with his camera in case I ate shit. Ok, I guess it’s better not to be coddled. I took a different line and managed to avoid any drama.

We still had to ride for a while before finding an area clear enough for camping. The sun had set and the light was quickly disappearing so we wasted no time getting the tent set up.

We had just enough energy left to eat and then pass out. Life on the road continued to be primitively simple.

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Day 23 overview: 171 miles

Day 22: Lake Tahoe, CA to Silver Lake, CA

Friday 9/30

We left Lake Tahoe and headed over Monitor Pass (8,314 ft) towards the north-south artery of Highway 395.

Rain was in the forecast, but for the time being the fall weather was agreeable.

We stopped in Markleeville for breakfast. Only after we placed our order and took our place at an outdoor table did we notice the road construction/destruction taking place across the street.

At first it wasn’t bad, but as more equipment fired up the noise and filth increased dramatically. Wayne was chatting with a BMW guy on a road tour — he said that as dirtbikers we must’ve felt right at home with the dust cloud that started to envelope us.

Ordinarily I would’ve been disappointed that of all the quaint towns we could’ve stopped at for our rare restaurant meal we had to pick this place, but there was one unusual upside:

You are looking at the tannest Workman’s Crack ever documented. This man is no slacker; his daily commitment to his job coupled with his unwillingness to cinch his belt a notch or two tighter had yielded a gold-medal “slot” tan.

Another upside of this place was the opportunity to chat with a bike tourer who was taking break. He started in Reno and was heading back there.

I had seen quite a few of these guys and gals along narrow stretches of road with semis and RVs inches away from taking them out. I asked if it was stressful for him. He confirmed it was and that although the California section was supposed to be awesome, he didn’t like it because there were so many roads with no shoulder. This type of touring seems like an undertaking in fatigue and despair; at least on a motorcycle you can feel like crap but still cover a lot of miles as long as you can maintain a grip and keep your eyes open.

He told us about a web site called warmshowers.org where bike tourists could find places to stay for free (courtesy of other bike tourists). I don’t know if there’s a comparable site for dualsporters, but it’s a great idea (that is, until yours is the house that gets trashed).

After Markleeville we continued on to the 395. We hopped on it briefly before cutting over to a dirt road that paralleled the highway through the mountains. It was a scenic way to bypass a chunk of the 395.

We got back on the 395 for another short stretch before turning off on a dirt road that headed towards Twin Lakes. A recent lightning strike had burned 1,100 acres. They had just gotten the fire under control and reopened the road.

The road heading to Buckeye Hot Spring was well maintained. If we were into hot springs we would’ve made a side trip, but we weren’t so we didn’t.

Just as we reached Bridgeport the drops started coming down so we pulled into a parking lot and hustled to get on our rain gear. Wayne gave his sign of disapproval at the change in weather.

Our original plan was to check out Mono Lake, but the rain told us to keep moving. It was late afternoon and our primeval desire to find shelter had kicked in so we kept pushing on towards the June Lake Loop.

At 7,100 feet with gusty winds, it felt like we had leapfrogged past autumn into winter. Only the snow was missing.

Since it was Friday night, we took the first available camp site we could find at Silver Lake. Even though the weekend weather was supposed to be unsettled (possible wind gusts of 80 mph on the ridge!), the campground was still nearly full.

Cold or not, we walked over to the little market to buy our afternoon ice cream. It gave us a chance to stop at the lake’s edge and watch the boaters bob around in the white-capped waters.

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Day 22 overview: 141 miles

Day 21: Auburn, CA to Lake Tahoe, CA

Thursday 9/29

Proof that I am easily fascinated:

This is what a Denny’s breakfast looks like when you take it to-go. I have never seen a two-story take-out tray before. I think if I could do this life over again, I’d become a packaging engineer — paid to create puzzles!

Today’s goal was Lake Tahoe via pavement. There would be no making of the dust, and there would be no sucking of the dust.

Our first gas stop was in Georgetown, where I learned about red dye diesel.

Those of you who have gone to Man School are probably mildly incredulous that everyone doesn’t know about red dye diesel, but that’s the seamless beauty of being born into the male gender: You’re dropped out of the womb hardwired with the information on how to use power tools, repair combustion motors, disassemble firearms, identify military vehicles, etc. In my defense, I have never owned anything that ran on diesel so the fact that there were consumer versions with different tax rates had been heretofore unknown to me. But now I am the owner of that wonderful data point, and I am one step closer to receiving my honorary Dude Degree.

Heading away from the gas station intersection is a road called Wentworth Springs. I have waxed poetic about certain paved roads, but this one is truly — I swear — the most pristine stretch of throttle-on road I have ever ridden. We had seen very few sportbikers over the past few days, but it just so happened that a Ducati 1098 was headed down that very road ahead of us. My guess is that the rider knew of the quality of the road and he probably used it as his personal race track. Except for the few CDF fire trucks parked off the road, we (and the lone Ducati) had the long stretch of road to ourselves.

We eventually made our way to Highway 50 and took it into the Lake Tahoe Basin.

We came across a KOA and although they’re overpriced for a campground, we didn’t want a repeat of last night where we were on the hunt for hours. We needed to do laundry badly and we knew we could get it done at a KOA so we pulled in.

They were two days away from shutting down for winter and were getting the place in hibernation mode.

We figured if we were paying $40 for a camp site, perhaps our patch of dirt should at least have the flourish of a picnic table so we asked the manager if we could get one. There was a table sitting just a few camp sites over and he told us we could move it over to our spot. He didn’t offer to help so Wayne and I lugged the suprisingly heavy table over a low wall of rocks to our camp site. I think KOA stands for “Kiss Our Ass.”

The afternoon grew overcast. We were definitely getting the sense that autumn was coming.

The gloves drying above Simon framed him with sinister intent.

Today was possibly the least eventful of the trip…it must be if bitching about moving a picnic table made it into the notes.

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Day 21 overview: 106 miles

Day 20: Lake Pillsbury, CA to Auburn, CA

Wednesday 9/28

We were low on water from dry camping so we stopped at the Soda Lake store on our way out of Lake Pillsbury. We were told by other campers that it was a funky place worth checking out.

The collection of manual meat grinders is definitely the most comprehensive I’ve seen.

The place was stuffed with cats. A baby crib smack dab in the middle of the store held the next generation.

This young adult climbed onto Wayne’s bike before deciding that the place to really be was on his arm. Simon sniffed at the cat when he could, but otherwise showed no interest.

If ever there was a feline candidate for the TAT, that fearless cat was it. At a fraction of Simon’s weight, it would’ve been much easier to carry.

After leaving the lake we cruised along easy dirt roads for a while. Then, in order to cut down towards Stonyford, we had to get onto a section of OHV trail. It wasn’t long before it narrowed into single-track.

We didn’t have to go far before we found the terrain unsuitable for our current motoring configuration and decided to turn around. I attempted my ten-thousand-point turn as carefully as I could on the narrow trail, but could not escape my fate of dropping the DRZ. Wayne helped me upright the bike and we went in search of a better way. We were fortunate to find a wider, albeit highly rutted, trail.

After 20 days on the bike, if there was any question about whether or not I had trained myself to factor in my side bags for clearance purposes, here’s the answer.

I hit the rail hard enough to rip the bag half off. I don’t have a learning curve; I have a learning wall.

We stopped at Stonyford to get lunch. The Unknown Soldier stood guard over the town’s main intersection.

After lunch we made our way towards our next milestone of Williams along the I-5. The rural road was held together by patches of asphalt and heaps of good luck.

The temperature started to climb into the low 90s as we dropped down the east side of the mountain towards sea level.

Agricultural burn or rookie cook in a meth lab?

Once we hit Williams we were making our way back into civilization. We passed through Colusa and then hit Yuba City, where the strip malls, endless traffic lights and excess heat was bringing us down. After weeks of being relatively isolated, finding ourselves in a place of 65k was suffocating. Before arriving there we had thought about making Yuba City a stopping point, but now that we were in it we just wanted the hell out.

We continued on to Auburn, and by now the sun was beginning to set. We found a nice RV park with tent camping, but no one was in the office and a sign said that all tent campers had to have reservations. We didn’t check, but I’ll bet there were zero tent campers there.

Hot, hungry and highly irritated, we made no additional effort to find a campground. We treated ourselves to the air conditioning and indoor plumbing of a Motel 6.

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Day 20 overview: 189 miles

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