Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"Shake, Rattle and Rock"....Death Valley Airheads 2016

Planned this little Death Valley trip all Winter and now it has come and gone.
We celebrated my Dads' 100th. Birthday in Montana and upon returning to AZ, planned on leaving immediately. I acquired a "cold" in MT. and was feeling very poorly when we returned to AZ. Decided to delay the Death Valley ride for an extra two days so I could "heal" a bit. Unfortunately the "cold" I acquired was not cooperative and here I am, still sickly after  10 days and our return home on Monday. Oh well.
Our friend / neighbor Dan decided to accompany us in the first legs of our ride to Death Valley. We enjoyed his company for the first 3 days.

Dan has created a "Tribute" WW2 motorcycle. Correct period attire also.
He has a cargo trailer attached for his gear. The little bike keeps up pretty good with our sidecar. Grades & headwinds are a challenge for both of us.

We headed towards the Glamis sand dunes area on our route to the Salton Sea.

Encountered pretty stiff cross winds and a lot of "blowing sand" across the road. At least no sand was collecting / drifting on the road as encountered in the past.

We arrived at Bashfords Mineral Spa early in the afternoon and set up camp. Ran into a few Airhead friends who were in the area. 

Great place to kick back and relax with a visit to their hot pools.

The following morning we continued to Mecca CA. then the "Wagon Box Road" up towards Joshua Tree Nat. Park. Wagon Box Road often has sand / debris on the pavement from storm run-off.

Welcome to "Joshua Tree".

Great scenery along the route.

We camped at the "White Tank" Campground....Darian received her Park Service "Golden Age Pass" when we entered the Park. Still had to pay for camping though.

Great campsite. We decided to "sleep under the stars" with no tent. Kinda cold but what a view of the sky during the night.

Great rock formations in the area. Spent a little time climbing around in the rocks.

Had to get a "birds eye view" of the campsite before we packed up. Dan headed back to Yuma so we parted company.

Passed through 29 Palms. Attempted to find a cook stove fuel canister but had no luck. Below is the Amboy Crater in the distance. Also were Marine Corps. Personnel in the distance stirring up a lot of dust.

We traveled to Kelso, across the Mohave Desert. Sections of the Kelso Road are in very poor condition and quite rough. We stopped in Baker CA. for fuel & supplies. After filling the cooler with ice / drinks I decided to buy a 6 pack of bottled beer. No room in the cooler so I carefully (I thought) positioned the bottles to survive the road to Tecopa. Unpacking at Tecopa I found a bottle had broken in the trailer....luckily the majority of the beer was soaked up in my fleece jacket....smelled pretty bad.....left the trailer open all night to air out the aroma.... Lesson learned?

We stopped at Tecopa Hot Springs and camped there for the night. The campsite was a field of  "Alkalai"  flats with some trees. Great hot springs though. I didn't get any photos of the campsite.
The following AM we rode to Shoshone CA. for breakfast at the only cafe in town. I "pushed" the sidecar quite hard in 4th. gear from Shoshone to Death Valley Junction as we were on a grade with a stiff head wind. When we stopped at the junction for a break, a terrible noise was emanating from the transmission when in neutral, with the clutch released. The sound was so bad I thought we were done for the trip right there. The transmission was also quite hot. I let the bike sit for 1/2 an hour or so, then we decided to continue to Death Valley, still 33 miles distant. I had real concerns that the transmission would fail in the 33 miles since the noise was so loud. The remaining miles were about 10 miles of a slight grade, then downhill for the final 23 miles. Amazingly, when we arrived at the Furnace Creek Rally site the noise was gone.

I visited with a couple of buddies about the symptoms and decided to drain the gear oil the following day to look for debris in the oil. Buddy "Desert Dave" happened to have a 1/2 quart of gear oil with him. I drained the oil the following AM and found a small amount of debris on the magnet. Mostly the normal "mud" but some finite metal debris....and a strange piece of tiny wire which had no place in the transmission. The "wire" was about 3/4" long with 2 curious 90* angles in it. The diameter was about the diameter of a "wire brush" wire...very small. Decided to refill transmission and gamble on riding it the 400 (or so) miles back to AZ. 
As a back up plan, I had AAA which could haul us to Las Vegas, then friend Dan was contacted, he had a trailer capable of hauling us back to Yuma if necessary. We did not ride the bike much while at the Rally. Rode it up to the store and everything seemed fine. 

Around 150 (or more) Riders attended the Rally. Was great to see a lot of familiar faces and also made some new friends too. 
The bike below was pretty cool....leg shield fashioned from salvaged BMW fenders....and a curious headlight nacelle fashioned from "I don't know".  

Lots of things going on with this bike. Personalized for sure!

There appeared to be small audio speakers in the leg shield bags.

Unique for sure.

We arrived on Thursday Afternoon, a day early, so got a pick of camp spots. 

Old /2.....Darian liked the White Wall Tires....I'll pass on the look myself.

A few sidecars in attendance.

Nice EML Rig.

Rally officially ended on Monday. We decided to leave on Sunday so the ride through Las Vegas would be under lighter traffic. I "took it easy" on the bike riding to Parumph NV, keeping the speeds at 50 mph - 65 mph. Encountered serious cross winds which were throwing up quite a dust storm in the distance. After 20 miles or so we had a pretty good tail wind, which stayed with us all the way to Las Vegas. 

We stopped in Parumph for lunch. The bike worked fine with no transmission noises. 

We arrived in Henderson NV at 2:00 and got a room at the Railroad Pass Casino / Hotel. Lucky we were there early as we got the last room at the hotel. We had a great dinner and played their machines for a couple of hours. We quit feeding their machines when we were ahead for the visit. Payed for our room / dinner and still left with $40.00 more than we arrived with. Can't beat that!
The following AM we headed to Yuma. Again I took it easy on the bike, avoiding higher RPM's but still running 55 - 65 MPH. Traffic was light all the way home. Arrived home with no transmission issues or noises. Likely the transmission was over heated, and the bearings are near the end of their service life. Not sure if I'll swap out the transmission yet this Winter. I have two spare 5 speeds and one spare 4 speed transmission. I think the 4 speed would be a good match, but I prefer the ratio varieties of the 5 speed. Plus all the transmissions I have came from derelict bikes, so I don't know what their internal conditions are. All "bench shift" through the gears, and had clean oil in them when drained, with no metal on the magnets. Hoping they are all usable...?

Gila Mtns.

Gila Mtns.