It’s Thursday December 1st, 2022. It’s Day 3 for us on the California Backcountry Discovery Route and it’s also Day 8 for me on the road. I left the comforts of home on Thanksgiving Morning. Other than one night camping in the lower Mojave, it’s been Hotels and Motels.
Speaking of which, we’re waking up in Primm, NV – in another Hotel. That’s ok. Mike had a good crash yesterday and we wanted to also make sure he was feeling ok this morning. We pack up and have a quick breakfast in the lobby restaurant.
We’re doing Section 4 today which starts in Primm. Almost right away there’s a few options. We decide to do all the HARD sections rather than opt out for the EASY routes. What also starts in Section 4 is the “Closures”.
Months before the ride I had posted in the Facebook Group looking for anyone who was going to ride LAB2V and then the CABDR. I found no one, but one guy said to look for him (on a dusty T7) in LAB2V as he was doing the BDR and then LAB2V.
Amazingly I walked right in to him at Pre Registration. His name was Brady and he said just about all of Death Valley was still closed. I had already looked into it and he was right. Racetrack, Tea Kettle, Titus Canyon, pretty much all of it was closed.
This morning, we were first heading up towards the Coliseum Mine. We already new we couldn’t get to the mine as the road leading down into it was currently closed, but we headed that way anyways.
We start at 7:55 AM and it’s cold. Just out of Primm, the route goes through these three giant solar collectors before heading up into the steep hills.
It’s kind of cool where all the mirrors point the sunlight on this giant LOTR inspired tower.
We were climbing the road up that mountain ridge behind the tower. No, not that little mountain, the big ass mountains behind that!
I’m not sure if it was just being tired in the morning, or that we really had to work, but the steep rocky trail we were on wore us both out. My forearms were fully pumped and I was having trouble with gas and clutch.
Tracking says we started the hard part at 8:45 AM reached the top around 9:30 AM. – It was a HARD 45 Minutes.
From there it was easier for sure. We turned right on Excelsior Mine Rd and zipped along in the sunshine for a while. At the top of Excelsior Mine we came upon a cattle gate that took us to the right and across a rocky section that was almost single track. Had we stayed on the road it was an EASY option and as I said, we committed to doing the HARDs.
It was slower, further, and you really had to pick and choose a line but it was easily doable.
Next up was China Ranch. We dropped down into the canyon and I was amazed at the little oasis they had going there. China Ranch is famous for their Dates and if you are there you have to have one of their Date Shakes. We ordered 2 shakes and split a small chocolate date loaf they had. We spent almost an hour in the canyon. I took a bunch of pictures.
Climbing out of the canyon of China Ranch we were in to Tecopa and then up the highway to Shoshone. Tecopa had hot springs that didn’t interest us, Shoshone had gas, which we topped off with.
Leaving Shoshone it was down Hwy 127 / Death Valley Rd. for a short bit. We departed the pavement for a desert gravel road that followed the Amargosa River into the Badwater Basin in Death Valley. We saw a lot of campers along this section. There was no water, at least any that we came across.
We were making good time flying down the smooth gravel roads.
We had looked online at the government site to see which roads were open and they clearly showed that while the paved road on the east side of Badwater Basin was open, the dirt road on the west side (aptly called West Side Rd), and the route that the BDR wanted to take us on, currently showed as closed. Paved road it was! So we thought.
When we came to the split it was also the beginning of pavement. There was a big flashing sign that said ROAD CLOSED. It looked like it was referring to the paved road ahead. I took a picture just in case we got stopped. Flashing signs being what they are, I only caught a bit.
THE POINT OF NO RETURN
Oh, see that Mile 42 Marker? That means 42 miles since we entered Death Valley proper. It was something like 80 miles since last gas at Shoshone. That meant we were past the point of no return. I couldn’t turn around and make it to Shoshone without running out of gas. We had to go on.
We called an audible and decided to check out West Side Rd.
We went just a mile or so down the gravel road and came to a closed gate. West Side Road appeared to be closed too!
I’d show you a picture of the closed West Side Road Gate but as we were turning around Mike dropped his bike and so you get a picture of that AND the West Side Road Gate too! We did this a lot.
Back at the Paved east side road, we decided it was the only way. We also just then saw a couple of water tankers turning around up ahead. We rode up and caught the last one.
Mike and the driver were conversing and I couldn’t hear everything but I did hear a good, “Didn’t you see the sign?” or two. Ultimately, he suggested for us to ride through, pretend like we knew what we were doing, and if anyone asked – we didn’t see him. There was a locked gate at the visitors center but he said it was just a bolt that we could undo.
So we passed the water tankers and zipped down the virtually abandoned east side of Badwater. I think we saw one tanker truck heading towards us for the next 30 miles.
When we did get to the Visitors Center the gate was indeed closed but we didn’t have to fiddle with it, we just hopped the curb and rode around it.
We took a slight detour up into Artist’s Palette just as the sun was starting to get low. Tracking says it was around 3:30 PM.
My camera cannot begin to capture the vivid colors of the hills in Artist’s Palette. Not even close.
Back on the road we made our way into Furnace Creek. We filled up on gas and got a campground for the night. Furnace Creek is the official end of Section 4 – but it’s also not like we were going to make it much further anyway.
SCORECARD: We hit the highway in Primm at 8:20 AM and got a campsite in Furnace Creek at 4:00 PM. I didn’t turn my tracking off until almost 8 PM but I think the summary below got the time on the bike right.