Death Valley to Las Vegas

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August 6, 2010

I started the day intent on riding through Death Valley National Park. I was on schedule to make it to Las Vegas, NV, but I wanted to get there early so I'd have time to get a replacement rear tire. My campsite wasn't far from the start of highway 136 and 190, so after breakfast it was a brief ride down 395 before getting started.

Although I had been riding through some desert areas on the way here, the landscape was noticeably drier the further I traveled. At first there were a variety of desert plants covering the ground, but they soon disappeared, leaving only rock.

The valleys were fascinating to look at. Steep sides covered in loose rock, leading down to a valley filled with rock, with little life to be seen. The road was still relatively high up, and had yet to really descend into the valley, so in the meantime there were good spots to look out over the desert. It was near one of these spots that I finally surrendered to the McDonalds breakfast that had been stewing in my bowels all morning. I grabbed my plastic bags and TP and scrambled down into the valley as far as I dared, staying out of sight of the road, and felt sweet release.

The road descended into a basin. Some sections were particularly straight, and you could see the road for miles. Before long, I was riding below sea level to Furnace Creek at -190 feet. There is a resort there, designed to look like an oasis, complete with palm trees and pools. Its existence here felt like an absurdity.

After passing through Furnace Creek, I took Badwater Road south to do a little sight-seeing. At one stop, a guy on a Harley noticed that the cords on my rear tire were showing. I was surprised that it had wore through that last bit of rubber so fast. We talked for a bit, and then I continued south on the road to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at -282 feet. The basin is a salt flat, and some spots seemed to have moisture just beneath the crust. On the cliff next to the basin is a sign showing where sea level is.

After visiting Badwater Basin, I turned around and got back on 190. From there, I finished my ride through Death Valley National Park, stopping in Pahrump, NV to fill up. I was close now, so it only took another hour or so to reach Las Vegas, NV. After a few calls, I located a shop (Cycle Gear) that had a Pilot Road 2 in stock in my size. I rode straight there and took the rear wheel off on the sidewalk in front of the store.

After they mounted the new tire, I quickly put the wheel on and packed up to go see my friend Mike at his hotel. But as I took off, the engine started sputtering. It would hardly run, and I stopped to see if I could spot a problem. I checked the CDI wires to make sure they hadn't wore through again, but they looked fine. I again tried to leave; the engine seemed to be running poorly, but it did run, so I went with it. A couple miles down the road, the engine died in the middle of traffic, and I couldn't get it restarted. I pushed the bike over to a nearby parking lot and took the top case off so I could get a better look.

After messing with it for a bit, I figured out that there was no fuel going to the carbs, and furthermore that the fuel pump wasn't pumping. I tried hooking the pump directly to the battery, and still no pumping. I called the shop that had mounted my tire and asked if they knew of any place I could buy a fuel pump. They gave me a list of phone numbers to try, but no one had a fuel pump in stock. Next, I tried a couple auto stores, hoping that I could at least mount a generic fuel pump to get me by. Even then, it was difficult to find anyone who had stock. I didn't really like that option though, so I took apart the electrical cap on the fuel pump to expose the contacts. There was a lot of contamination on the contacts, so I scraped them and tried the fuel pump again. It worked! I took an abrasive disc from my rotary tool and scraped it by hand, then used the wire wheel on the rotary tool to try to clean up the contacts. After putting it back together, the fuel pump was working just fine!

Finally back on the road, I met up with Mike at his hotel to get ready to go out. He was getting married in three days on Monday, so in the meantime we were going to enjoy our stay in Las Vegas. I split a room at the Luxor with Patrick after he arrived. We ate at a very nice restaurant called Lupo, then headed out to see the casinos and drink. I finally returned to my hotel room early in the morning.

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Copyright (c) 2010 Paul Miner <$firstname.$>