The Final Days Part 2: In depths of Hell

Text: Praveer Kochhar (The Driver)

HOT IS NOT AS HOT

Take our advise : GO to the Death valley to know how the word 'hot' fails to define itself here!

Its called the Death Valley. And it was next on the list of crazy things to do. We left Vegas a little early so as to reach the Furnace Creek in time before noon as it was expected to touch 48 degrees that afternoon. It was one of the most stark transitions on this trip so far. From the bling of Vegas to the Dead desert of Death Valley. Now what makes this place this was is that it’s a valley which in most parts is below sea level and traps the heat and is as a result one of the hottest places on earth. We rode into the Valley bought our gate pass from an automated teller machine and reached an oasis called the Furnace Creek Resort. It was like an oasis in the middle of nowhere. It had great rooms, a 18 hole golf course, swimming pool, restaurants, gift shops and a grocery store.

Thats Sunny, totally drained out after riding into the Death Valley

By the time we reached the mercury was already touching 44 degrees C and the idea was to let the sun do its bit while we relaxed in the AC room. Till about 4:30 we wanted to venture out and get some pictures and to our surprise it was still as hot and I geared up for the challenge to hop on the diavel and the ride through hell. And hell it was, when you gulp down 2 litres of water in the first 1 hour you know this aint gonna be a smooth ride. The temperature meter on the diavel was showing 237 deg. F. But none the less we got some great shots and I don’t think the pictures make it look that hot.

Can you see where that 'Sea Level' sign is on the rock face? thats 236 ft above us!

We reached Bad water a small salt lake which is the lowest point of elevation in the USA. Its 236 ft. below sea level and an extremely hot environ. The damage of the day was done as my head was throbbing inside the helmet and I couldn’t wait to take it off. So ended an evening in one of the hottest places in the world and an experience of riding in the toughterrain.

Back here in India, there wont even be a sign if there was a nuclear war ahead...

 

One of the dips

 

Even the road seems to have melted in the heat!

These interesting formations are a delight for the Geologists, basically the earth and its processes lie bare in the Death Valley

Talk about riding in leathers and being 'cool' in that heat. In fact the jacket protected the rider from fatal heated air currents, and jacket had ample amount of mesh to maintain an air flow, thumbs up to Ducati to come up with such a design!

 

At Zabriskie Point in the Death Valley, someone actually came up to Sunny and asked him - that that jacket have air conditioning!?

 

 

The Final Days Part 1: Casino Capital of the World

Day 11, 12 & 13 : West Wendover – Las Vegas – Death Valley – LA

Text: Praveer Kochhar (The Driver)

BLING & THE DESERT

To Las Vegas

What is it that makes us want to do everything that is wrong. What is it that everything that is not right is so much more appealing than the virtue of doing the right thing. What is it that we are humans have inside us that makes us SIN. You ask these questions to yourself when the destination at the end of the day is THE SIN CITY.

Sunny had asked me why am I writing such plain travelogues about the places and the travels and not something philosophical. So lets try our hands with the last post on something that I feel will sum up this trip.

There are two aspects to this last blog of ours and both are the most diametrically opposite to each other. The first half is about VEGAS and the blog following this will be about DEATH VALLEY. There could not be two more contrasting places so close to each other. The one is where you sin and the other is where sinners end up (namely Hell).

 SIN CITY

So first up let me get over with the travelogue part of the story. The ride to Sin City was through the scorching hot Nevada desert and nothing great to talk about. We reached Vegas around 5 pm and it was 109 deg. F for the good part of the afternoon. The road en-route was a desert so very few pictures and breaks in the middle. There were at the max 2 towns for the entire stretch of 500 odd kms with not a single place to stop and get some food. We had to buy some extra fuel for the Diavel as the distance between the closest Gas station was 157 miles. But none the less the ride was fun and no tiring except for the later pat when it got extremely hot. We checked into a great hotel called Tuscany which was surprisingly cheap and after a break of around 3 hours we were out on ‘The Strip’. Where we were bedazzled by the sheer presence of this city’s heart. I mean you have to be there to believe what you see on Las Vegas Blvd. There is life’s every pleasure on the 6 km stretch. We clicked some amazing pictures and the sun roof of the AMG proved vital for the experience.

We take the advice, no gas for over 200 kms..

 

We find a can, and we can some gas for the small tanked (but BIG on power) Diavel...

The Driver smirks at the need of a 'can' for the Diavel..

To make up for his sins, the Driver helps the Rider top up gas on the Diavel, after all its 200+ kms that the bike has to go without a gas station on sight, and ipushing a 200+ kgs exotic bike in 40+ degree centigrade is nor our idea of a roadtrip experience!

To Las Vegas on extremely straight roads, and in extreme heat

Even if we litter, we are sure the heat would annihilate very soon. On a serious note, strict fines keep things in check in the US, howver we did find the country to be actually quite littered compared to the ultra clean Europe and down under..

Come on LV, where are you!

SEE BUT DON’T TOUCH

The United States is actually to me exactly like Las Vegas. Its too shiny and inviting from the outside. Its got every material pleasure that the Human Mind has been able to envisage. Everything is available but almost everything is illegal too. You can dream really big but there is always a ‘Conditions Apply’.

It’s a really big money making machine this city, this country. Everything is designed to work around minting the green back.  And everything actually does that quite magnificently.

It sure made us ponder that when half the world still fights for electricity while here, things were gobbling up electricity like no one’s business…

Finally, riding the 'Strip'

 

Statue of Liberty Replica

 

There is no shortage of fantastic structures like these at the LV 'Strip'!

Bikers at the Strip

Bikers at the Strip

 

Coming up next, ride to Hell – The Death Valley!

Further into the Desert: Visit to the holy land of Bonneville

Hamilton – Salt Lake City – West Wendover

LADAKH MEETS RAJASTHAN

Today was the day when we knew in our hearts was all about driving and riding. Over 900 kms to cover and not a great view or an amazing sunset in sight. There was an air of dullness and the fact that we were at a point in our trip that the only place to look forward to were the Bonneville flats and the Death Valley. So the idea was to shut the visor and start riding. Now as we set off a little early in the morning around 930 after having a nice American breakfast consisting of toast, juice, yogurt and some pastries. We were off first to cover up yesterdays left over distance to Salmon and then ride through Idaho again and enter Utah. So it started with some twisties and then just another 100 miles we entered a land that reminded us of Ladakh. It was the same dry mountains with straight roads and distances you can see till 10 miles ahead.   Sunny at this point almost jumped out of the bike, flipped out his camera and there we were clicking our way through the amazing landscape. I would rather not write more about what we saw there and let the  pictures do the talking.         Now as we went out of this valley we reached this ares where everything and yes I mean everything around us disappeared. We knew that we had come to the deadly straight roads part of our trip. I mean you could actually look ahead till about 40-50 kms and you would see the road in the distance. As we passed Atomic City we know why this place must have been worth blowing up so many times to test Atomic Bombs. And the landscape reminded me of something very interesting that Tom had said to me that when you reach Utah you will find there is ‘A lot of Nothing our there’. And so it was a whole lot of Nothing. The idea was then to keep riding as it started getting warmer as we went along and finally reached Salt Lake City. Though we did not get a chance to see the city as we had planned to stay on the outskirts which were nearer to Bonneville. WHERE THERE ARE NOT SPEED GUNS The next day was early and the idea was to hit mid-way to Las Vegas through the Grea Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats.   Not for those of you who don’t know what Bonneville is should first wiki that as riders, racers, crazymen from all across America come to this 8 mile long concrete hard patch of the Salt Lake to test their bikes, cars and even jet propelled custom car-crafts.  I mean this is the place where the land speed records on all kinds of machines are broken. The fastest Indian the movie was based on a guy who used to race here. And Discovery and National Geographic have had many a series on this part of the world. So finally we reached there after riding through a straight road of around 110 kms (yes 110 kms dead straight). The idea was to click, click and click in the Kutch of the west. And so we did even though we were told that the Bonneville flats were off limits unless we had booked them 3 months ago we found ourselves a place just before the flats to take our claim to fame of two of the fastest vehicles there were in production.   It was just 4 pm and we decided against the idea of reaching Ely as it seemed there was again a lot of Nothing around it. And decided to stay at a Gambling town just on the border of Utah and Nevada. So we reached this small but very flashy town of West Wendover.   An excerpt from wikipedia tells us why its called West Wendover and that Gambling after all is actually not that bad : “For years, West Wendover has thrived under a lucrative gambling industry in Nevada, which has generated tax revenue for city services and better schools. Meanwhile, just footsteps away, Wendover, Utah, has decayed with almost no business tax base. Residents in both cities have voted to annex Wendover into Nevada, saying they are one community that has been divided for too long. Both the State of Utah and the State of Nevada have endorsed the idea.” I put that quote up because the next place we were going to hit was the Gambling capital of the world. LAS VEGAS. And boy of boy do I have a lot to tell you about that place.

Day 9 & 10 : Sleepless in Seattle, No more: Back towards LA!

Dy 8 and 9′s Route (Aug 24th and 25th):  Seattle – Omak – Missoula – Hamilton, Montana

Text by : Praveer Kochhar

This morning was different. It was not like those other days when you would get up and just rush for breakfast and it was already late to push off for the ride. This morning we woke up at Tom and Terrys house and I specially got up really early walked out and saw the sunrise. Though I came back and slept again but it was just exactly what I needed. A break from the routine and I got up extremely fresh. Now it was all falling in place, the body and the mind had finally been rested and the rest of the tough part of the trip was looking easy.

We planned to set off on the ride and to our surprise Tom and Terry were also riding with us. Tom would be riding his 1993 Ducati Elefant (which is like the grandmother of the Multistrada). And Terry would be on her 2003 matte black Ducati Monster. We had planned to ride across the cascades to the city of Omak. The ride was not that long so we decided to take it easy. And after a leisurely home made breakfast it was time to set off with 3 bikes and a car. The route was simple as we had to take a ferry ride across from Bainbridge Island (where Tom’s place was) to cross Seattle and then ride for almost 200 miles to our destination.

The Ducati Elefant (which is actually a Cagiva) and the Monster 800 ready with the Diavel

Seattle is famous for being one of the wettest cities in America and to our surprise the day was bright, sunny and cool. Best recipes for a ride into the hills. And as we got off the ferry with me in the car, Sunny on the Diavel and Tom and Terry on their Ducatis we rode calmly through the interstate before we got to a gas station to refill. Here, Terry wanted to test ride the AMG and I was raring to get a piece of the Monster. And both our wishes came true and we swapped. Now it was time to take on the twisties. We started off slowly and cautiously when we came upon a group of Harley riders who were doing 45-50 miles on a road with the limit at 65. And Tom decided to overtake them and we followed suit. And then was unleashed some of our most amazing rides so far. Tom and Sunny lead the way and experienced what riding in the US could really be. We shot some great pictures on the couple of mountain passes enroute and also took the opportunity to take some shots of the car and the bike with Tom and Terry to help drive the vehicles for us. (Pick up the Anniversary issue of the xBhp mag to check the best of them!).

One of the shots resulting from the shoot

Precautions about near under construction patches on the road, both for safety of the riders and as an anti suit measure by the govt

The trio of Ducs

A stop at the cascades

The CLS in the cascade mountains

 

We spotted this amazing chopper en route

We spotted this amazing chopper en route

Sunny rode he Monster 800 for quite a while and Praveer rode the Elefant while Tom enjoyed the Diavel

We ended up at our hotel a little late in the evening and decided a long but fun day was over and now it was time to look forward to the grueling part of the roadtrip.

OF HIGHWAYS AND BREAK NECK DISTANCES

Now after saying a million thanks to Tom and Terry for their great company, hospitality and help it was time to look ahead at the really grueling part of the trip. We started off a little late around 1130 and had to cover around 800 kms today. The idea was to reach Salmon and small town in the middle of one of the many National Parks of America. And hence cover almost half the distance to Salt Lake City.

The Grand Coulee Dam en route to Hamilton

Things started to get drier towards Salt Lake

The Straights start

More Straights

And then some more straights

So we started on riding through Omak and when through two of less popular and less populated states in the United States Idaho and then to Montana. The ride was nothing but Interstate highways. I covered almost 350 kms in less than 3 hours. The idea today was to cover distance as there weren’t many picturesque places enroute. And try to get to Salmon, but usually the plans have to be changed enroute as it got a little late and we actually lost 1 hour in the day to the Time Zone change. Suddenly when we were on course to reach Salmon but 8pm we realized that the time had changed from 6 to 7pm and that the sun would set. And at this time of the year to ride through a National Park is not safe at night as there are Deer migrations taking place and they actually run across the road so it was decided to take a motel at a place just 60 miles before Salmon called Hamilton.

The next day would have surprises for us that we weren’t prepared for. So keep watching this space.

Route

And the trip ends here today.

Driver VS Rider Episode 1 Roadtrip in the US has culminated without incident! Did 6600 kms, sharing between the Diavel and the CLS 63, both wonderful machines! It has been a great great trip, one which I will always remember in the times to come. Not only xBhp has worked with world’s leading brands but also upheld the touring spirit, inspiring ourselves (and we hope a lot of you folks out there!). From high cliffs, ice cold weather, to lush green rainforests, giant trees, mountain deserts, to the lowest point in western hemisphere, to riding in 47 degrees of heat, this trip had all!

Day 7-8 : End of West Coast and the Big U Turn : Winchester Bay – Packwood – Seattle

The juggernaut continues on the trip and there is a time in every trip when you feel the constant moving, traveling starts getting to you. And you no longer are in the same state of wonder looking at the stuff and monotony kicks in. That is the exact same place where I was when we left the beautiful Winchester Bay and headed towards Packwrood in gloomy overcast skies.

Winchester Bay

 

Winchester Bay

The idea was to continue on the coast for another 100 odd miles but the weather that followed us across our trip continued to do so and so it was decided to take the inland route through some of the snow capped peaks in Washington state.

And as we came inland we saw Mt. Hood in the distance and the clear blue sky life did start changing but the constant travel and the monotony was still chasing me. It was something that needed a change but the only thing you can do is keep going on. So we took the right towards the Cascade Locks (the awesome forest that leads to packwood).

The US is full of some amazing national reserves full of wildlife and some amazing things to do. I mean you can camp, go fishing, take your off road bikes or even just head out on the some of the clearly marked trails. I mean it is so well organized and right there for you to experience that you can actually live on the outdoors here.

Soon it started drizzling through the national reserve and we were just about 45 minutes from Packwood and still had to find a place to stay. And just about 10 miles from Packwood an interesting incident happened. I overtook a man in a jeep on a two lane road. It was a legal overtaking through the dotted line and I was on my way towards Packwood in the AMG. When suddenly I saw this guy overtake me abruptly and in the process also show me the finger. I mean this was our first experience of rage on the roads and I guess he had just had a bad day. But we did realise on thing that people really are the same everywhere.

Reaching Packwood we found this amazing old rustic motel called the Packwood INN. I was run by an old lady and was probably the most cosy place we had stayed in so far.

The Historic Pakwood Inn

Historic Packwood Inn

 

Ducati Diavel in morning dew at Packwood

Ducati Diavel in morning dew at Packwood

Ducati Diavel in morning dew at Packwood

The CLS' fin in morning dew

We had some good dinner and I had my first beer on the trip. A Coors light was a welcome relief from the fatigue that was setting in from the travel. Though the monotony still existed. I had no option but to wait it out in the meantime Coors was doing its job pretty well.

Seattle!

The next morning was exciting cos I wanted to see Seattle and the space needle. And the distance we had to travel was just about 150 miles and we landed there through the Cascades by around 12noon. The idea was to meet Tom & Terry our friends in Seattle who had been a part of the recent 8th anniversary of xBhp in New Delhi. Both of them are avid riders and had toured India on two pulsars for about a month. They were kind enough to invite us to stay with them in their house on an island off Seattle. So we reached the point just opposite the Seattle skyline to click some pictures and also decided to wait for Tom and Terry.

They arrived and Sunny requested them to take us to the biggest accessory store in Seattle. And they surely did, take us to this place about 20 miles from Seattle and we were shocked to see such a huge showroom of bikes. And as a bonus there was another huge Harley dealership with some amazing looking stuff as well and believe me you start feeling like you are in a candyshop.

After the adrenaline rush of the bike store we went to the Seattle Ducati store to check out some bikes and accessories. It was a relatively smaller setup but apparently it was one of the top grossing Ducati store in America.

Now it was time to take a ferry to Tom & Terry’s house and we parked the bikes on the ferry and it took us 45 minutes to get to there house. And when we did it was what I was waiting for. HOME. Yes the entire experience at their place was like you’ve come home. They took extra special care of ours and fed us some home cooked food. I mean monotony it was time to say good bye.

Their home was just 200 ft from a small bay into the sea and they took Sunny out for a canoe session while I stayed on the bay clicking pictures. As the sun set and we had probably the best sleep we had in a really long time. The next morning was surely looking as fresh as starting the trip all over again.

Thats Tom, aka Motobueno on xBhp forums

Fine canoeing in front of Tom's place

A special thanks to Tom and Terry for giving us a home away from home.

So we are half way through our trip and the next few days start with a renewed vigor. So until the next day…watch out.

Winchester Bay to Packwood

Packwood to Seattle