Monday 3 May 2004

We found a great breakfast place in downtown Novato called Marvin's. Turn right on Grant Avenue for a few blocks. We split a homemade corned beef hash. Highway 37 - 80 - 50 - 89 - 88 - 395 to Bridgeport. Along the way, we explore the mysterious "West Dixon Long Barrow" and endure the traffic of 80 and 50 through Sacramento.

The roads are very good, and the weather very warm. We stop at the Strawberry Lodge for lunch, and are later amazed by the spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. I am a real wimp when it comes to twisty high cliff roads.

Snowy mountain ranges and green valleys. Echo Summit, Luther Pass, Monitor Pass.

Once in Bridgeport, we decide on the Silver Maple Motel, which boasts a lovely lush green lawn and trees surrounded by modest but very clean motel rooms ($50). I call Mark at Bodie State Park and let him know we're in town and planning on dropping in at the park tomorrow morning.

Gil: Mark is a Park Ranger at Bodie State Historical Park...Mark and Lynn are old and dear friends of Becky's from her wild college days and well before I knew her. I met them at Becky and my's wedding and have only seem them on too few occasions. They are great people and after this meeting I, too, feel as though we are all old friends.

Tuesday 4 May 2004

Great breakfast at Hayes Street Café at the end of town - homemade biscuits and cinnamon rolls. South on 395 to Bodie turnoff. Ten miles of paved, nice curvy but no twisty roads, followed by 3 miles of dirt with gravel. Somewhat washboardy, but perfectly do-able on our bikes. Four mule deer crossed the road in front of Gil and then watched us for a while.

We arrived in Bodie and parked then wandered the town. We saw hardly any people, and no rangers - where was Mark? - so it was perfectly eerie. It was as if we had stumbled upon the deserted town just as it had been left. Dusty plates on dusty tables in homes, peeling wallpaper, a forlorn church, a 1940's gas station, and a lonely hotel. We wandered up the hill to the cemetery - obviously some of the graves are still tended today. The view from the cemetery showed the remains of the entire town, which is about five percent of the total buildings. The elevation is about 8500 feet here; weather warm with vivid blue skies.

We finally found Mark and Lynn, and enjoyed a bumpy ride up a mine-strewn mountain in Mark's truck. What a view! Abandoned mine shafts are everywhere, so look out. Here, Mark shows us his favorite - well over 1000 feet down. We had to throw rocks down it, of course. Please note my death grip on that metal was really, really scary!

We met a couple of Irishmen (one now lives in San Francisco) riding a BMW and Honda VFR in the Bodie parking lot. We were to run into them again and again on our trip.

Back on 395 south to Mono Lake - what a view - then a steep descent. What winds! The bright orange windsocks along the highway were surprisingly helpful. We spend the night at Lone Pine, in the Mount Whitney Motel - small, nothing fancy, but less then $50. Our Irish friends are staying just around the corner, we discover. We've gone about 200 miles today.

Wednesday 5 May 2004

Late start (9:15) due to my brief migraine. Highway 395 to 190 to Stove Pipe Wells in Death Valley. Before we arrived, we thought we were glimpsing Death Valley, but it turns out that Gil is feigning life threatening thirst in front of Panamint Valley - or the "Valley of Terminal Illness" as we called it.

Back to Stove Pipe Wells, we filled up, found our Irish friends, and chatted with "Kent," who described himself as not just a writer, but (with some emphasis) as a "senior editor" for "Rider" magazine. He was with a BMW tour group, evaluating a brand new Death Valley route. It's quite hot. The ravens mope around panting with fully open beaks. North to Scotty's Castle. Nice green grass and trees, hooray. Plus designated motorcycle parking!

Gil: I'm not sure Becky has given a clear enough picture of how hot it was here. It was close to unbearable. To ride through this heat is like standing in front of a giant hairdryer set on "HIGH." To stop was surreal. We were wearing full protective gear (more about that later) which would immediatly become soaking wet from sweat whenever we stopped. At a stop the drill was: immediatly open visor's and strip off gloves, open collars and cuffs and get off the bikes as fast as you can (the heat rising straight up from the engines was intense). Start drinking water (we carried it with us always). The air temps here were well over 100 degrees and the pavement was simply SCORCHING!

We took the one hour tour - they make it into a pretend historical event, as if we tourists were guests at the castle in the 1930's, so they can keep all the proceeds to fund restoration. Fees for "regular" tours must be collected by the government in one big pot.

We find the Irishmen in the parking lot, and say goodbye, as they are headed south.

We go northeast on 267 to Scotty's junction then south on 95. Coming up the canyon, Gil accidentally ran over a very long rattlesnake. Once on the flats, we find the winds are gusting fiercely. They buffet our bikes tremendously. Following Gil, I can tell when to expect a gust when I see him pushed sideways as if by an invisible hand. This is very tiring riding. We had planned to go further, but we stop at the Burro Inn in Beatty, Nevada. When we walked into the motel office, the lady greeted us with welcome words: "Are you motorcyclists? Then you get a special discount!" $35 for a more than adequate room. No pool, but laundry facilities (which I use), RV park, casino and restaurant. Beatty boasts "Eddie's Gas" - according to a billboard, "the most beautiful gas station in the world" - we actually got gas there when we first arrive in town and didn't properly appreciate it. Just 190 miles today.

Gil: The Burro Inn (love the name) while not at all fancy was one of the most memorable places we stayed on this trip and are due some special comment...very friendly, adequate accommodations and pretty much a working person's oasis in the middle of this unbelievable, wind blown desert...highly recommended and a double "thumbs up" from us both!

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