Monday, April 7, 2008
Cupertino, CA to Death Valley, CA
It was a parade of the Beemers as Carolyn led me out of her subdivision this morning. She was on her way to work. I was on my way to motorcycle paradise.
As I visualize it, there are three valleys heading south toward the Central Coast. US101 is the western-most, for those with destinations along the coast. I-5 traverses the Central Valley, with the lion’s share of travelers. Running down an incredibly scenic and rural valley between them, CA-25 is an almost deserted road that sees only local traffic…. And motorcyclists/sports cars.
In the 60 miles between Hollister and CA-198, it is not uncommon to pass only 15 other vehicles. Cell service is very spotty. It’s just you, your motorcycle, throttle-tempting straights, vertigo inducing curves, and scenic California country-side.
I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
CA-25 terminates at CA-198, a busy thoroughfare between US101 and I-5. (CA-198 later continues on to climb into Sequoia Kings Canyon NP, an incredibly steep switchback-fest)
I turned east onto CA-198, immediately gaining serious altitude climbing over a pass. This road is a roller coaster! Unfortunately there is always so much traffic that it’s hard to find good places to stop.
Reaching the Central Valley, I got on I-5 for the grind south toward Bakersfield and CA-178 (Walker Pass).
Early spring conditions limited my choices for crossing the Sierras. Most of the really fun passes will still be choked with snow for a few more months. Walker Pass is the first open pass south of I-80 (Donner Pass).
The pass follows the Kern River up to Lake Isabella. I’ve never taken this road, so my first inkling that it was going to be fun was the view of the huge opening in the Sierra foothills.
The Kern River canyon was a typical river canyon, with curves hugging the hillside and great views of the water rushing over the rocky riverbed.
Like many Sierra passes, the flora changed noticeably as I crossed. Lush and grassy on the western slopes, desert plant-life took over on the eastern side.
Crossing the Panamint Mountains, I started to feel hot. I‘d been wearing my liners all day, but with very few miles to go and the sun getting low in the sky, I didn‘t want to take the time to pull them out.
I stopped at the park entrance to add another sign to my growing collection.
With my destination for the night so close, I had a hard time stopping to see the attractions. This was exacerbated by the park service’s frequent use of signs reminding travelers to “park off pavement.” Yeah. Fat chance. I don’t THINK so!
Very ready to call it a night, I stopped at the Furnace Creek Market for some bottled water, peach iced tea, and a sticker for the R1200ST before setting up camp. My Jetboil made short work of the water for my backpacking food. I was soon sleeping comfortably in my tent.