Clutch Out!

In 2019, me and MyMateChris rode to Alaska and back in September. I am pretty sure I was cold, quite a lot. I wrote about being cold in this very blog. But today was colder. Much colder. I am not sure I have been this cold since I was forced to ride a pony in the dead of winter in England wearing only a pair of jodhpurs and a cheap anorak.

Oh my God it was cold!

The day started at Mike’s Mate Kris’s house at 5:15 am. Mike checked the route and the Sonora pass, our planned route was closed due to a heavy snowfall over night.

We had a choice to either take highway 5 which is notoriously boring and, as it passes through the heart of California’s beef industry, smells of cow shit and slaughter. Alternatively, we could take highway 88 through the mountains which would add time to the day but be far more interesting.

Well, it was certainly interesting. And by “interesting”, I mean cold. Very cold. Three degrees below freezing and snowing. We stopped for a minute to whine about the cold and put on more layers, I put on all the clothes I had, including my heated hoody. Nothing could touch this cold. As we rode down the hill toward silver lake my neck and shoulders became locked in cold, my brain kept saying “relax”, my body was non responsive. Ice formed around the edges on my visor forcing me to open the visor and let in the frigid air. Worst of all, my hands were a frozen block of ice, I could not feel the brake lever. I had to look at my hand while braking to see what it was doing. It was like watching Captain Hook riding a bike. At this time it seemed impossible that tonight we would be camping in a desert.

Once across the pass, we ate lunch in a little cowboy bar in a one horse town called Bridgeport and then continued down highway 395 towards Mono Lake.

Highway 395 hugs the Eastern side of the Sierra mountains. We rode south with the promise of warmth ahead of us. A promise that never was fulfilled. With high desert to the left of us and the rugged peaks to the right, I watched as the huge slabs of granite sucked the clouds in and the snow emptied upon them.

Every time there was a promise of something warmer we would see the dark clouds ahead of us. Rain, sleet, freezing fog, every form of inclement weather I have ever heard of was sent to greet us on this ride.

Eventually we turned off 395 and headed east to Death Valley. Now with temperatures in the low 60s we rode into the hottest place on earth.

Not everyone enjoys driving. Since I was a child, playing with toy cars and bikes I have longed to have road trip adventures. I love the road. I love to watch the scenery change, new vistas around each bend. I am always struck by how vast this land is. Death Valley goes on forever. Empty roads, sweeping turns and wildlife all around. Huge flocks of birds, deer and coyotes were all on display for us today.

The Road dropped quickly from 4,000 feet to below sea level in a few miles. Before reaching our camp site we stopped for food which turned out to be extremely limited. The guys grabbed take out hamburgers, I opted for some of the freeze dried chicken and rice that I had brought with me.

We set up camp and chatted to some British blokes on adventure bikes for a minute, enjoying the first warmth of the day.

And then it got windy.

I was very happy to crawl into my sleeping bag after a long 520 mile first day. Beaten up by the day I lay in my tent listening to the wind and the scurrying of desert creatures (mice maybe?) outside my tent. My day was long and it was difficult. That ride over the mountains was an experience I do not need to repeat. But I am glad I have done it.

It was an adventure.