Storms and deserts
A storm was brewing. The locals had suggested snow. Uh, ok then. EEK! Through the night, I had wakened up and had a peek out the window. No snow. Went back to sleep and hoped for the best. In the morning, there was still no snow lying on the ground, but it was lashing rain, the trees being blown sideways – just like Scotland, and every bit as cold! Gerbing plugged in and off we rode, up the hill towards god knows what.
The hotel didn’t do breakfast, however, we were recommended the Red Rooster. I was a little bit concerned about the weather conditions, however, knew that we had to keep going and no matter how good the steak was, there was no way we were going to spend a day not making progress.
Just as we got off the road at the diner, there was a massive gust of wind and rain, just as Ed had hit a great big puddle. At that point, his bike was blown about 6 feet to the side. Bad timing, he just happened to be in neutral. Woooosh…. luckily, he went with the flow and just waited for his Harley to settle itself. An inexperienced rider would probably have ended up splashing around doing doggy paddle, in the river-like puddle. I had slowed down and put my two feet firmly on the ground as the wind wobbled my wee bike, we both stayed upright, fuelled up and parked the bikes. We did get one or two disbelieving looks. Spot the tourists.
Filled with breakfast of an omelette and hash browns (not the British crap that we get, but proper hash browns, fried shredded potatoes, like a rosti), we headed into the unknown towards Death Valley. We had a lovely chat with a local who gave us some top tips:
Watch for fallen rocks. All this rain dislodges the cliffs.
If you see what looks like a river flowing across the road, don’t ride through it. The road has probably been washed away. If in doubt, walk through it first. If you can walk through it, the bike will go through.
There will be snow, but don’t worry, the snow ploughs will be out.
Doesn’t that put your mind at ease? And…… relax.
Heated jacket and gloves all nice and toastie, we ventured into the lashing rain and gusting winds, through the canyons of the Walker Pass. As predicted, there was snow. Ed stopped, just beyond the first snow plough that we saw, with a massive grin on his face. How exciting! The roads were clear, and covered in grit – not the stuff we use, but tiny bits of gravel. When we stopped, I slid my boot over some white paint and it was icy. The road though was ok. Just avoid the paint. Simple.
As we went over the summit, there was a bit of snow on the road, it was a bit of a strange experience. The barren landscape all of a sudden was covered in cacti, snow covered peaks and an expanse of desert. I didn’t stop to take a picture, it was too damn cold, however, the image will be imprinted in my brain. It’s a strange, unexpected combination. It’s difficult getting your head round the concept of what your brain thinks should be ‘hot’, yet it’s not. It was bloody cold. So worth taking our heated jackets and gloves.
Down into the valley with a right turn towards Death Valley. Now, I’m glad that we fuelled up before that turn because we could easily have been caught out. Fuel prices have varied from about $2.30 a gallon to the oasis in Death Valley where it was about $4.50. Worth every penny I’d say! Beats pushing the wee bike! A wee coffee, even though it was warm, it had been cold all the way to this point. Heated jacket worth its weight in gold. There were two other bikers we met at the view point. They commented that we were dressed for the conditions. The were in light weight jeans and skinny little jackets. No thanks! They were green when they realised we had heated jackets!
I was totally awestruck by the view. About 267 shades of brown in the most beautiful setting. It’s hard to put into words, if you get the chance to go, do it. It’s stark, bare, no vegetation (no surprise there!) with stunning sand dunes in the middle where, oddly, people were sitting on the sand, stretched out, enjoying a picnic. Plate tectonics had had a party here. All that was missing was water, which, quite frankly probably would cost more than a gallon of gas. It was one view I had wished I’d stopped for, so had to nick one from the Internet.
As we rose through the hills, it got cold again. At that point, I was glad we were visiting in November! It must be unbearable in the summer months.
We had made a decision to avoid Vegas, it would have been asking too much of us both. Every day so far, we had been completely shattered, crawling into bed before 9pm most evenings. What a waste it would have been hitting the bright lights and only lasting a couple of hours! We found fuel, thankfully, at a wee place called Shoshone. There was a Motel. Ed fuelled the bikes and I went over to the Motel. Closed. I reported to Ed, and he said he’d seen two girls walking away from it. They were across the road at the wee diner getting their tea. The lady in the service station told him their names, so he hunted them out at the only bar / diner in the place. Whilst we waited, we knew we had a room (the most expensive so far, but worth it) for the night, so we had a drink, of the alcoholic variety and chilled. Ed said, when he returned with the drinks, not to expect too much from the food. Quite frankly, I didn’t expect too much from the Motel, never mind the Hicksville diner. Both were a huge surprise. The room was divine. Gorgeous in fact. Massive bed. America sure do know how to do them in style. That’s for sure.
We had been told about a hot spring pool which was just a wee walk up the road. I was pooped, however, Ed went and investigated and persuaded me to go along. Amazing. The water flowing into the hot spring swimming pool was a constant flow and not only kept the pool clean, but also provided a great massage on our tired shoulders. It was bliss. A good few lengths of the pool and shivered when we got out trying to get our clothes back on. Had I mentioned that it was cold?
The evening meal was a choice of the diner or the diner. Ed had a steak, and I had a chicken dish with rice. Oh, Lordy. It was fab! Early night again. Mind you, the diner closed at 9:30 and the options for entertainment were about 80 miles away!
The next morning, we headed off and it was then I realised that our stop the night before was in the nick of time. The next place for fuel was over an hour away. I think I would have been crying in the middle of the road if we’d had to do that the night before. In the dark. It’s an odd feeling, the exhaustion we have been experiencing. We are so used to piling on the miles, without even thinking about it. This holiday has so far been a whole new experience.
Again. It was a very beautiful run, however, it was very windy indeed. I think this might be one of the reasons we have been so puggled. You know it’s windy when Ed uses the flip down on his helmet! It’s strange though, some occasions I feel the wind more. Some times it’s Ed that suffers.
Our next target was Lake Havasu City this town boasts London Bridge which Robert McCulloch bought from the City of London when it was dismantled in 1967, and took it brick by numbered brick to Arizona. Ok then! Fair enough, whatever turns your crank, Frank. We made a special trip out to see it. Before we knew it, we were over it. Huh. Is that it?
A very comfy room at the Days Inn. Walked up the road to a diner called the Black Bear and were served by James who was about 70 years old. What a character. Good enough supper, good old comfort food. It was a really cute place though. What started as a family diner, now has lots of units spread about.
On the way into town, Ed had spotted a firing range, so that was first on our agenda the next morning. Our best pals, Sue, Neal & my gorgeous god daughter, Fiona are massive fans of giving it a blast. We shot a variety of guns, managed not to cause too much damage and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We are a not bad shot between us.
Due to getting our morning off to a bang, we headed off later, and the sat nav was programmed for the shortest route. Ed took the opportunity to ride Arizona style- no helmet until we got fuel. What a bonus, it was through the most stunning desert, with the most amazing vistas. At one point, getting fuel, Ed commented that we had loads of time. Well, not quite, we had moved to Arizona time. That took a bit of working out, however, our phones may change, but our bike clocks don’t. It took a bit of maths to work it out! Yeah, the sand was getting to our brains!
I was looking forward to a rest. I was thoroughly enjoying riding Indy, however, my back, knees and shoulders were suffering between the wind and the different riding position. Before we knew it, at our last fuel stop, we realised didn’t have far to go. Another oasis in the desert, really glad to see a gas station. As much as I knew I had about 130 mile range, being stuck in the middle of the desert with a small bottle of water, waiting for Ed to appear over the horizon with a gallon of fuel, wasn’t an attractive thought. Scorpions and snakes live out there. I would be fodder for them for a fortnight!
Palm Desert beckoned and our holiday home for the next five days. Oh, boy, I was looking forward to it! We have been members of Club Intrawest, now, Club Embarc for about 10 years and have visited many of their lovely locations. We were a bit worried about this one, however, we shouldn’t have worried. Apparently, it is full. You’re never think so. In the last few days we have probably seen about 10 other guests.
Upon checking in, we were welcomed by Troy, who gave us a wee tour aboot the main area. Pools, games rooms, ping pong table, pool table, gym. Upon entering our apartment, we were just delighted; spacious, fresh, with everything you could need there under one roof. In actual fact, you could stock up and not see anyone, bar a housekeeper, for 5 days!
We dumped our stuff and headed out on the Road King up to the supermarket, which is about half a mile away. I just love foreign supermarkets. The only bloody stupid thing they do is not have a section for dietary requirements. GF foods are mixed in. How annoying. We filled both panniers, a rucksack and I also carried two bags. Sorted; wine and food. Over the last week, we were quite fed up of eating out and we were ready to just do our own cooking in the grand comfort of our apartment.
Again, a lush bed, however, I woke early. Ed had gone off to do his fitness king bit in the gym, the most I did was get up and make a pot of coffee. I then opened up my first book of the holiday. I hadn’t even the energy to pick up my Kindle, I was so tired! I felt no guilt. I did fuck all on our first rest day. Oh, I did post a blog! That was about as taxing as it got!
The second day, I was still not fussed about going out for a run, however, Troy had recommended a pizza restaurant in town. Ed’s favourite food is pizza, and looking on line, I was just delighted to see they did a GF one. GET IN! I went pillion, so I got a wee ($8) glass of wine.
On the way for lunch, I needed to get a new swimming costume. Frankly, Ed was mortified at the one I had. Here though, it’s off season and there was a choice of two. One was great – as much as I can look great in a costume, but better than the crappy one I had. You really don’t have to try and create any gruesome pictures in your head, really, you don’t.
On the way to the sports shop, we just had to go through Barnes & Noble. Now, for those of you who know me best, know I can’t resist the feel & smell of a new book. And journals. I was in book junky Heaven, but very aware that Ed was sitting in the ‘man chairs’ waiting outside. With the money. Damn, should have thought that out better. I didn’t do much damage, only an interesting looking American book and a new diary.
The pizza. Oh, the pizza. Oh Lordy. It was BBQ chicken with onions and mushrooms and was officially THE best GF pizza I have ever eaten. I was in Heaven and so glad that I had opted for another rest day. Ed actually admitted to appreciating it too.
By the time we had been down a couple of streets, we took a team decision and headed back. There commenced a thrashing at whiff whaff, pool and pac man. A swim to follow just as the sun was going down. Christ, I was knackered again! I’d done bugger all!
Crab and white wine for supper. Now, when Ed does crab, he truly does it. Really, he’s a true glutton when it comes to seafood. Luckily, we had the sense to put the prawns back in the fridge! Magic. Well worth the short WALK to the supermarket. On the way there, people were swerving out the way, so incredibly shocked that someone was WALKING!!! We carried 6 bottles of white wine home, just in case we got snowed in or something. That night, we did a wee tasting before dinner, sat outside with our feet up by the gas fire. Lovely.
So, Friday, we had decided to drag our rested asses back on to the bikes. We headed south in a sand storm. We, well, Indy needed fuel, so we stopped at a really dodgy filling station. We managed to pull 16 cents worth before giving in and riding the 10 miles to the next one. Eyes were pretty gritty from the sand. Then we turned right into the desert. It was very, very windy. Ed had adopted a nearside position on the road, however, if I was to follow him in the normal position, I was literally eating his sand. The wind was coming from our nearside and our bikes were canted over to compensate. The sensible thing, I did, I dropped back and followed his line, so I didn’t eat his sand and if the wind took us across, we would have plenty of road to play with.
A much needed stop at a site which was one big desert play zone for all types of off road vehicles. There were even little kids playing on quads. After that, riding towards town called Julian, the roads got really interesting. REALLY interesting. The most stunning twisties on fabulous surfaces. Boy, did we have fun. Up. Up….. and further up to the town, which was really pretty. We stopped and for once had a proper lunch, as opposed to a wee snack on the roadside. Well, I say a proper lunch, I had 3 yummy sausages with THE most amazing ‘English pickle’. The owner’s husband is English and was a fan of Branson pickle. They decided they should make their own and I have to say that it is miles better! So good in fact, I bought 2 jars. One to take home and the other to give to the Lasletts when we see them again.
From there, the roads got even better. I didn’t think they could. It got even colder and the wind was biting. I had put my Gerbing jacket back on, but not cold enough to plug it in. It’s odd, blue sky and sunshine and freezing cold wind.
I’ve tested Indy’s tank thoroughly now. As I have got used to her, the range is increasing. I’ve managed to get to about 120 miles without going into reserve. I’ve also not been hanging around, but understanding the bike more. The last stop for fuel, I knew we were only about 40 miles from Palm Desert. How much more could this area give us?
Well, I have to say that if there is one reason to come back, it’s just to ride the 74. Deep Canyon is the name apparently. Oh. My. God. I was officially in heaven. It was indeed the route that Troy had told us to take. How right he was. It has to be one of the most lovely roads in the most amazing condition that I have ever ridden. Ever. It was love at first ride.
So, dinner at home again; steak and lobster tails. Oh my. Ed bitched constantly that he had over cooked them. I was about to hit him over the head with a frying pan. Yes, it was cooked beyond my liking, but the flavour was outstanding. Had we gone to a restaurant and had the food and the wine we had, we would have walked out having paid about $250. Easily. The best steak restaurant in the area is just around from the supermarket. Interestingly, they don’t show any prices on their website!
So, imagine my delight when Ed announced that we were going UP the road again. The one I had fallen in love with the day before. I can’t remember EVER having a more huge grin on my face riding a bike. Sweeping bends, lovely road surface, polite car drivers who pull over into ‘turnouts’ to let you blast past. Just sheer motorcycling heaven.
We stopped for fuel, and there was a woman who said, “don’t go that route, it’s full of nutters and lots of bends!” What? Obviously not a biker then! The flip side, a guy who raved about it, and told us to go to Idyllwild for coffee, mix with the locals and check out some of their hippy shops. He was right. The smell of marijuana was obvious, as it is, scarily enough, on the highways. It was a lovely, cute town, we spoke to some lovely people and bought some stickers and a whacky sign which you’ll see when you visit the house next.
The road continued to give. It’s sheer beauty was breathtaking, taking us up over 6,000 feet. That was breathtaking too. We had a lovely chat to Ana Davies, the Park Ranger at the Mount San Jacinto State Park who’s married to a Scot and also rides a Harley. What a lovely lass. The only thing missing from her life is a trip to Scotland. We gave her a Green Welly sticker and hoped she didn’t object to the one we’d just hung!
Down the mountain to the desert again, all warmed up. I am amazed that we have both fallen in love with this small patch of heaven, neither of us were expecting that. It’s probably one of our best holidays yet. I can see why the Palk family love visiting. Yes, there’s no doubt though that we all take different things from it. We have just loved it.
We have even considered staying another night here at Club Embarc, however, it seems there’s a lot more mountains to explore. It’s Saturday today, we go home on Thursday. Plenty more to pack in, I’m sure.