Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Los Angeles to Barstow to Vegas, 2009.

Hey Everyone and welcome to another exciting update to The San Diego BMW Motorcycles blog. Today's update is my personal account of an AMA sanctioned dual sport ride we took part in over the weekend: The "LA to B to V" or Los Angeles to Barstow to Vegas.

I joined local HP2 hero Gary Kepple and his family for Thanksgiving dinner Thursday afternoon. After stuffing ourselves thoroughly make fun of also present Rich Amiton to not participating in the ride we loaded our bikes and headed north...destination Lancaster for the official Friday morning start. On the way up the turnsignal shorted out on my G650X Challenge and took the fuse for the instrument cluster with it. I typically use my GPS as a speedo on the 650 so I didn't realize the lack of display until about 100 miles into the journey the bike sputtered and quit running. As I was frantically trying to pull to the shoulder I noticed that the gas light was not illuminated. Once stopped a quick glance at the gauge cluster informed me that I had lost the fuse, therefore had no idiot light for low fuel, therefore I had run out of gas. Luckily Kepple is good about checking his mirrors and realizing that I had dropped off pulled off the highway, got around the guardrail and back to me. This next part we're getting really good at: We were only the length of the offramp and about 1 mile down the road from a gas station. Without a word Kepple maneuvered his bike behind and to the left of mine, put his right foot against my bike's muffler, a little gas and a little clutch work, smooth shift into second gear and we were off. Down the ramp, a right turn and the aforementioned mile down the road to the gas station. Gassed up, put on the rest of our cold weather gear for the trip up Cajon pass and we were on our way again. The rest of the trip to the starting line was uneventful. Our friend Tudor met up with us at the Holiday Inn later that evening after dropping his truck off in Victorville.

Friday morning 0600 hours. We tech out bikes, load our roll charts, load our GPS's with the provided tracks and hit the trail. Day one was 250 miles for the hard route and took us out of Lancaster via some jeep trails. We rode this two track for roughly 30 miles before getting dropped into a bit of a sand wash and a graded road the took us all the way to first fuel at 80 miles. The sand wash portion was probably more work for the 5 guys on HP2's than it was for Tudor Thomas and myself on our G650's. Loamy, dry, sediment sand rather than the traditional white stuff. The wash gave way to a graded road that ran along the old water culvert. High speed for the most part with the occasional panic brake due to random wash-outs, chicanes and a set of poorly marked railroad tracks.

After fueling we were back on the trail east bound. Whoops. Lots and lots of sand whoops. Again, Tudor and I were thankful to be on the skinny bikes while Gary Kepple, Gary Orr, Mike O'keefe, Del Christianson and Roger Eggers had to gut it out on the big HP2 Enduro's. Funny thing is all five of those guys got in front of and gapped us through most of this section. Upon arriving in Ridgecrest for lunch Kepple spotted an Albertsons with a sandwich deli. Kepple, Tudor and myself quickly parked our bikes, stripped off our gear and ran for the ordering counter. Despite a bit of heartbreak over Kepple NOT being able to order a Subway "Veggie Delight" from the grocer's deli we were all very satisfied with the grub. Sitting out front of the store swapping stories about the previous 4 hours with our mouth's half full of tri tip sandwich's. "Another crummy day on motorcycles with friends." as Kepple always puts it. Then Gary Orr and Mike O'keefe pulled up. Gary's bike looking pretty thrashed. Apparently he had gotten off at pretty good speed about an hour earlier. The headlight on his HP2 was bent down, some rash on the cylinder protectors and the game ender: no front brake reservoir left to speak of. Gary's LA-B-to-V was over.

And then there were six. Another unknown rider confirmed that Del and Roger were still on the trail so Mike, Kepple, Tudor and I mounted back up for the final half of Day one's ride. The only real news from the rest of day one was a cool rocky climb with a dry creek bad and more sediment sand involved. Also noteworthy Roger had a fancy aftermarket for cartridge on his HP2 snap and lost all fluid dampening in his front end. This ended his day and he headed back to the truck where his CRF450X was waiting to take him through day two. Tudor, Kepple, O'keefe and I arrived in Barstow just before dark. Mission accomplished as none of us wanted to be on the trail after the sun was gone.

Day two 0600 hours. Gary Orr called to inform us the Mike O'keefe was in no shape to ride the second day. Roger had not planned to ride day two after a wad up on his Husaberg a couple weeks earlier. So then there were four. Tudor and I were late to the starting point as always and Kepple and Del had already taken off. No worries we checked out and hit the trail at about 0630 cold and a bit sore from the previous day's riding. Day two was 290 miles on the hard routes and we knew we'd have to keep moving to reach Red Rock Canyon in the daylight. Neither Tudor or I had ever ridden through the famed canyon that completes day two's mileage but we'd been told enough times that we did NOT want to be navigating it after dark.

This second day was more of the same. Sand / sediment mix, lots of whoops and a bit of graded road. Just before Sandy Valley we ran into some light hail and rain but nothing to get worked up about. Tudor and I came to an intersection with pavement and decided to take the asphalt to Sandy Valley Elemantary rather than continue along the graded (we were feeling tires and a bit Nancy-esque). Quick fuel splash and lunch at the elementary school and we were back on the trail toward Red Rock Canyon. From Sandy Valley to Red Rock was LOTS of actual sand...the white slightly moist kind....THE BEST KIND. I absolutely LOVE riding in smooth whooped out sand where the emphasis is on smooth-is-fast and quick-is-slow. Tudor was having a blast as well despite having a bit of a yard sale at about halfway through the wash. Finally after about an hour we hit the asphalt again. About 15 miles of road riding (yes this is a TRUE dual sport ride) to the mouth of Red Rock. We were one section of navigating away from the finish line.

I took the lead and quickly checked out on Tudor who was taking time to setup his helmet camera and let the dust settle. Along the way I passed a few guys on DRZ's that had stopped to take pictures of the scenic red rocks and the setting son. Red Rock Canyon is mostly a mildly technical jeep trail with a few creek wash outs thrown in for good measure. A few miles later I happened on a guy who's KTM was all but upside down venting fuel at a rather alarming rate. I side-stand the G650 and helped him right his horse before continuing on. Once I had crested the highest point, the trail wound back down the mountain in a series of off camber 180 degree turns. Saw a few hikers and mountain bikers who's evenings were seemed to be ruining with our traffic and dust but I didn't care. Lastly, just as my GPS clipped off mile 281 of that second day, I exited the trail into the parking area at the bottom and waited for Tudor. He was only a few minutes behind and seemed to have enjoyed himself.

In closing...the LA-B to V is still the premier dual sport ride in the west. Though not as technical as years last the added distance certainly made up for any exhaustion we were missing. Hope to see more of you out there next year and as always: Thanks for reading.

-Sean DeAngelis

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