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Death Valley - the ride of my life

Published: 22 March 2007

I recently visited Las Vegas and thought it would be good to hire a bike for a day to visit Death Valley. It had always been a romantic 'must do it before I die' dream of mine.

I contacted a small local company rather than the big greedy Harley dealers and hired a Triumph Bonneville for the day. A guy called Ron picked me up from my hotel, took me to his workshop where he just handed me the keys and the bike and loaned me a skid lid. He asked was I sure I wanted to ride today as it was very cold. This was February in Vegas and it was hotter than June in England...

I headed out of Vegas and got lost for the next three hours! The biggest worry in the states is running out of fuel as the country is so big and the gas stations are scattered further.

Once I got on the right road I found myself entering Death Valley at about 2.30pm, sun just above the mountains on the west side. I already felt it was going to be a race against time as I did not want to ride back to Vegas in the dark.

Just after I entered the national park I came to a road sign informing me the next gas station was 72 miles. Well, here goes I thought.

Once I dropped down from the mountains into the valley the temperature bacame nice and warm but not overpowering. The sky was cloudless and there was no breeze. The vista changed from scrubland with tumbleweed blowing across in front of the bike to white shimmering saltflats at Badwater.

For some reason (fear I think) I felt compelled to keep on riding, not daring to stop to take pictures just in case the bike did not start again. In 72 miles I passed only 10 cars and no motorcycles.

When I reached the gas station at Furnace Creek the old guy who owned the station admired my nice new Triumph and told me he had an old Triumph in his garage. He was very helpful and wished me a pleasant trip. I headed on out of the valley back towards Parhump and then on to Vegas.

I got caught out about 50 miles out of Vegas by the sunset and had to do the rush hour into town in the dark. Completely lost my bearings again once I was in town so I stopped at a diner and gave Ron a call. Within 10 minutes Ron showed up in his car and I followed him back to his house. We parked the bike up and he ran me back to my hotel. He would not take a tip... very unusual for Americans.

I met up with my friends in the bar, they had been horse riding all day and we exchanged tales to the taste of Miller Lite all nite. Finished off with a drunken race through the massive hotel to bed....what a day!

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