By Ryan McNerney
Pulling into Bakersfield after what felt like hours in the rain, I realized that I had, in fact, spent hours in the rain. My pace down 178 from Lake Isabella clocked in somewhere between “slow as cold molasses” and “glacially slow,” but I had made it into town safe and sound, and it’s hard to argue with results. Having eaten nothing but a stick of beef jerky since lunch the day before, I made a beeline for the nearest diner, guzzled a cup of coffee, and demolished a chicken-fried steak with eggs and hash browns. Just thinking about it gives me heart palpitations!
The rest of the trip home was fatiguing, but otherwise uneventful. I slabbed it most of the way back, eager to get back to my warm apartment before nightfall. A gusty crosswind dogged me for the whole ride home, but I made it back, showered, and hit the hay early.
Motorcycling has a funny way of throwing curveballs. I take weekend road trips fairly often, so I thought I had done a thorough job of planning this one out, but that clearly wasn’t the case. It’s great when stuff goes right, but you can still learn something from a less-than-stellar experience! So let’s dive in, shall we?
- I rolled with the punches. When I knew I wouldn’t make it to Death Valley, I stopped and booked a motel. When I knew I wouldn’t make it to the motel, I stopped and found a campsite.
- I dressed for success! My gear kept me warm and dry the whole trip. Off the bike, I had enough warm clothes to layer up.
- Everything is already planned for a Death Valley trip some other weekend.
- Minor point, but I always bring some garbage bags with me, which allowed me to waterproof my oversized cold-weather sleeping bag for the ride home. I always find use for them.
- The biggest and most obvious mistake was only checking the forecast at my destination. Next time I’ll make a point of checking the forecast along my route, which would have alerted me to the winter storm blocking the pass, given me a chance to re-route, and saved me a lot of stress.
- There just aren’t enough hours in the day! Hours of daylight, that is. I was planning on covering a lot of ground, but it gets dark early in February. I should have probably saved a trip this long for Memorial Day weekend.
- Related to the previous point: if my route requires me to leave at sunrise, gosh darn it I need to make sure I leave by sunrise!
- I have to live the rest of my life knowing how quickly I devoured that chicken-fried steak.
So overall, the Death Valley trip was a bit of a misfire. I spent a good amount of time planning my routes there and back and optimizing my one full day in the park, but neglected to take into account certain key factors like the weather along the route and my limited daylight hours. In spite of not actually making it to my intended destination, I still managed to have fun. The good parts of the trip (58 and 178) were really good. Most importantly though, I learned some valuable lessons about planning which I won’t forget next time I’m planning a road trip!