Morning came with a decision. Take the high road or take the low road. Either one would reward me with a view of great American landscapes. The high road was leaving camp, and taking the north-western route out of Death Valley National Park via 190 to the eastern side of Sequoia National Park where there was a chance that I could see Mt. Whitney, California’s highest peak, at 14,494 ft. The low road consisted of leaving camp, heading south out of the park and visiting the United States lowest elevation point, Badwater Basin. As much as I love huge mountains, I had to pick Badwater over Mt. Whitney. Badwater is at the top of a list. Mt. Whitney is only on the top of the list in California as it is not the highest peak in the United States. If it were, I would’ve headed north to go see it. One other thing helped make the decision to slide southward. Staying at lower elevations all day would make for warmer riding all day. Mt. Whitney will have to wait for my official visit to Sequoia NP when I go see the giant trees there. Before I left camp that morning I tracked down the shower house to use my, pricey, five dollar shower pass. The shower house sits close to the Furnace Creek Village Museum so I decided to pay a visit before leaving the park. I’m glad I did. It really gave me an appreciation for how incredibly hard life was in Death Valley over one hundred years ago. The equipment used was so rudimentary that I could feel the labor of the men as I walked by. In the museum, there is a few journal entries from a German fellow who was trying to make it across Death Valley to join his company. He wrote of an oxen that reached its limit, friends he’d lost along the way and his wife that he longed for back on the east coast of the United States. Life could not have been harder for the men who settled this area. In my opinion, matters weren’t helped at all by labeling everything around them with hopeless descriptive terms like Death Valley, Furnace Creek, Badwater Basin, Funeral Peak, and a host of others. My visit to the museum was eye-opening, but I had to move on.
Badwater Basin is about 17 miles south of the museum and that’s where I went next. “What a wild place”, I told the guy beside me as I walked out to the salt flats. He replied “Yep”. Badwater Basin is the low of the low in Death Valley. It must have been seriously disturbing for settlers to find water here only to realize it was to salty to drink. I trekked about a half mile out to the official salt flat area to get a feel for standing in the center of the valley. Mountains surround the wide open basin and help to give a Moon-like. There is only so much one can do out there, so I got moving again, south, out of the park. Just out of the park is a small town called Shoshone. I was fueling up when an older lady came over with a strong recommendation for the nearby Tecopa hot springs. Not wanting to be rude, I told her I may visit them. She spoke of their healing power and refreshing nature. What I didn’t tell her is that I must be moving on to reach my goal of “foot in the Pacific on day 100”. Perhaps next time I’m in the area I’ll hit up the springs. The journey to my next stop, Baker California, was pretty unexciting until I passed Dumont Dunes. These dunes are featured in several of the off road motorcycling movies that I obsessed over in the 90’s. I’ve always pictured them looking more vast and closer to the ocean. In reality they look like a spec of land in the Desert Valley wilderness. I’ve always wanted to ride there and someday a trip to the dunes with an MX bike will happen. I promise myself that. Twenty miles south of there is Baker California where I stopped to stretch the legs before hopping on 15 west. The goal was Barstow, for no particular reason. 65 miles later I was in Barstow with plenty of daylight to spare. While driving there I noticed a KOA with a sign stating RV only. Bummer. In Barstow I found a Starbucks with wi-fi. This, being my first ever Starbucks experience. I ordered a panini and a yogurt parfait. I didn’t need any coffee that late in the day. On my nameless laptop, I tracked down a local Motel 6. It was right up the street, so I got a room and worked hard at catching up on little things on-line that I’ve been putting off. I updated my map, tagged and categorized a bunch of posts and transferred all of the writing portions of days 49 through the present to ADVrider.com. I even called Crossroads Yamaha and left a message to check about getting a tire. My rear, Michelin Pilot Road 2, tire is finally giving up after 11,189 miles. Hopefully I can make it to a dealer soon before anything serious happens.
(The lowest elevation on Planet Earth is the dead sea in Jordan/Israel at -1,388 feet below sea level.)