2023 Desert Pilgrimage: Day 2 Three Rivers to Panamint Springs Saturday February 18, 2023

Where Tom and Pete find themselves in Panamint Springs

2nd Installment of the 2023 Desert Pilgrimage

Three Rivers to Panamint Springs

Lake Kaweah

Two Wheeled Backroads

There were a couple of backroad options for the day’s ride and so we selected a new route, Yokohl Drive to Springville.  New for me, but not for Pete who 20 years earlier took the same road Death Valley bound with his late pal Steve Walstad.  Kind of a tribute to a lost friend.

From Three Rivers we headed back on CA-190 through Lemon Cove to Exeter where we had a delightful breakfast at the East Meet West restaurant.  From the “City of Exeter” webpage:  “Exeter is known for growing the sweetest oranges in the world and as the “Citrus Capital of the World”.  How sweet!

Citrus Capital of the World

From the Citrus Capital of the World we took Yokohl Drive headed to Springville.  Fiddlenecks and meadowfoam, lupine and poppies with the backdrop of snow capped Blue Ridge beckoning, we noted a number of bicyclists, kitted out exhibiting an array of fitness levels, heading up to and down from, higher elevation.  It was some sort of organized ride, perhaps a club enjoying this early spring appetizer. The road surface was comparable to Mariposa’s Old Highway 140 we often enjoy on hill rides ourselves, roughly 20% original pavement, 60% patched potholes, and 20% potholed.  At one point in the road, as we began a steep climb, I was glad to have throttle assist and shock absorbers on our two-wheelers.  Check out the street views on Three Rivers to Panamint Springs

Beginning to bloom

I learned the hand on hip move from my granddaughter

From Yokohl Drive to Springville, it was CA-190 to just east of Porterville where we rambled over Old Stage Rd to White River and White River Rd to Glennville.  Glennville lies just west of the Alta Sierra Pass on CA-155 that drops down to Wofford Heights/Lake Isabella.  It’s a very popular road attracting riders from far and wide who congregate at the Saddle Sore Saloon (pics from a 2021 tour).  This tour included lively bike conversations with four gentlemen sitting on the deck of the Saddle Sore, all of whom were of our vintage, riding a V-Strom identical to Pete’s, a Honda NC-750, and a Tiger 850. I think the fourth bike was a Yamaha

Saddle Sore Saloon, Glennville – Note the anti-saddle sore gel pad on the Kawasexy

After exchanging pleasantries, we mounted our steeds as another vintage fellow threw a leg over his Kawasaki Vulcan Vaquero bagger, who warned us to be careful of the sand near the summit.  Indeed, the road was sanded and for a stretch, slushy from the melting snow of the most recent storm. Up and over Alta Sierra Pass descending from an elevation of 5,718 ft the road was clear as we headed to Kernville for gas and a stretch.

At the intersection of CA-155 and Wofford Blvd in Wofford Heights, it’s 4.3 miles to Kernville.  Turning, we started seeing cars, trucks, and motorcycles parked on either side of the road for at least a mile from Kernville.  Little did we know as we stop-and-went for that longest mile into town for fuel at the Shell station that it was the 66th Annual Whiskey Flat, Gunsmoke and Petticoats celebration established in 1957 and sponsored by the Kernville Chamber of Commerce.   (https://whiskeyflatdays.com/). Below is a screen capture from last year’s event.  Needless to say, my hands were firmly attached to the handlebars and I wasn’t going to try to take a picture…

No reaching 25 mph in this crowd

Since 1957, this event commemorates the old Kernville of the 1800’s that was named Whiskey Flat. Just a short 3 hour drive from Los Angeles to the Lake Isabella recreation area, you will find the quaint town of Kernville, home to Whiskey Flat Days (50 miles east of Bakersfield on Hwy 178). Just a short 3 hour drive from Los Angeles to the Lake Isabella recreation area, you will find the quaint town of Kernville, home to Whiskey Flat Days (50 miles east of Bakersfield on Hwy 178). Whiskey Flat Days is held every Presidents Day Weekend. It is a leap back to the good ol’ wild west days when the area was settled by gold miners, cattle ranchers and trappers. Join us when Kernville reverts to its old name “Whiskey Flat” for four nostalgic days of fun for the entire family. Parade, Wild West Daze Rodeo, Wild West Encampment, Carnival Rides, Frog Jumping Contests, Whiskey Flat Mayor Contest, Food and Craft Booths, Epitaph, Costume and Whiskerino Contests, Line Dancing, Pet Parade, BlueGrass and Country Western Music, Art Show, Gunfighter Skits, Kids Activities, Games, and much more! Kernville Chambeer of Commerce

All we saw on our fuel stop were impatient drivers ignoring that fact parking was likely unavailable any closer than a mile back, and hundreds, maybe thousands, of beer swilling but good natured, revelers making any low-speed, high-center-of-gravity, Kawasexy manuevers terrifying as we attempted getting into and out of the Shell station dodging likely inebriated pedestrians and distracted drivers searching for noted non-existent parking.  

From Kernville we sailed through Mountain Mesa, Weldon, Onyx, and Canebrake to whip over Walker Pass on CA-178 (el 5,246 ft).  It was chilly, but clear of ice. Behold the east side.  This descent is almost as breathtaking as the descent from Kennedy Meadows over Sherman Pass, just to the north, down 9 Mile Canyon Rd that I have only ridden on my other two wheeler, the Seven Axiom.  Maybe it’s the extra mile that gives 9 Mile Canyon Rd that extra something.  Or perhaps it’s the 56 mile climb to get to the 9 Mile Canyon Rd descent.  Again, on this day, it was nice to have throttle assist.

Close to where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses CA-178

Short sections of US-395 and CA-14 took us through Inyokern to Ridgecrest where we joined CA-178 through Searles Valley, Trona, and Valley Wells on the Trona-Wildrose Rd, past the Ballarat Monument to the Panamint Valley Rd and our destination of the Panamint Springs Resort.

From Ballarat the Barker Ranch is only 21.8 miles

From 1897 to 1917 Ballarat served as a supply and recreation center for miners in the Panamint Mountains and Death Valley. Ballarat springs, cemetery, and remaining ruins of adobe, tin and wood buildings are featured. At its peak the remote outpost boasted 7 saloons, one school, and no churches. 

Seems like a reasonable ratio of civilization:recreation…

Panamint Springs Resort Restaurant sporting 150 beers to choose from

We raced to make the campground at Panamint Springs before sunset.  Upon approaching the campground I had the sinking feeling of approaching the Joshua Tree National Park entrance with “no campsites available” posted in 2021 (https://sisyphusdw7.com/2021/04/29/mojave-moto-spring-2021/). Then, it was our incredible good fortune to have meet Andres and Pablo, two motorcyclists in their 4-wheeled vehicles, who shared their Jumbo Rocks campsite with us.  The frazzled lass at the Panamint General Store where campsite registration is made said she was 100% sure there were no sites available.  Pete and I have been to this campground on several past trips and we’ve never, ever, seen it close to capacity.  In fact a year ago, it was closed in October and had been closed because of Covid since 2020.  

Panamint General $tore

It was at that moment that Mike, the frenetic Bostonian who also worked the counter, was furiously searching their computer database for something that might wipe the desperation off of my face. I contemplated boondocking in Panamint Valley as he seemed to be acknowledging no-vacancy.  It was also at that moment a gentleman behind us serendipitously announced that he wanted to cancel a campsite (#32) that he didn’t need as he and two other gentlemen had their daughters/goddaughters snuggled away in a “glampsite” at the “resort” and since their wives declined to join them, they didn’t need the extra campsite.  Can you believe it?  Lightning in the desert struck twice!  I guess our search for new or expanded meaning about ourselves, about others, about nature, and about higher good through the experience, was manifesting itself.  

This is what campsite #32 at a resort in Panamint Valley looks like

We hastily set up camp and made our way to the Panamint Resort Restaurant for my second BLT where we Pete and I had the opportunity to enjoy großes bier, “big-ga beers,” and thank all of our campsite benefactors who arrived for dinner as well.   

Strolling back to our campsite, our survey of the campgrounds indicated a large group of Boy Scouts in the group site to the east of our spot and a group of about 25 women adjacent to us in REI rental tents who were having themselves a time with lots of chatter and laughter.  That’s when we met Mike and Marissa who had pulled into the adjacent campsite #33, our new neighbors from Toronto for the next two nights. They were spending the following day checking out the Scenic DV’s Greatest Hits and then were off to Joshua Tree. I was proven wrong about what I thought was wine induced merrymaking when I learned from Mike and Marissa the following evening that the merrymakers in the REI rentals were a religious group on some sort of retreat. That and the morning prayer circle gave them away.

You meet the nicest people on a Versys

In addition to the Scouts and Merrymakers other campground occupants included several RV’s, camper trailers, vans, tent campers, along with a few like minded moto travelers, all of whom rounded out the caravansary.  In fact, there were several EV’s sporting about DV and even camping causing Pete and I perplexity as we wondered where they plugged in, in this infrastructure starved expanse.  That is if you don’t include “bigga-beers” as infrastructure…

Mesquite Flats Dunes, home of the Chino Boy Scouts Sand Surfing Grom Championships

As the sun had set, the scouts, though tired from sand surfing the Mesquite Flats Dunes, were merrily chatting away while listening to whatever popular music coming from whatever amplified device brought from home to ostensibly ward off homesickness.  They were outlasted by the adjacent REI rental retreaters whose leaders apparently weren’t enforcing the campground 10:00 quiet rules.

Alas, adult mirth beats adolescent music, homesickness inspired or not, IMHO for violating campground quiet rules… A few distant bleats, not quite brays, from the local donkey patrol closed out the evening’s festivities.

Once the campground became quiet, the wind picked up setting up the percussive flapping of the tent making for a restless night. That’s okay. I was given time to consider our journey thus far, often into mostly known places, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about oneself, others, nature, or a higher good through the experience. Not sure I had met the personal transformation criteria, I wasn’t willing to return to my daily life until I had given another shot at transformation. And not the moment’s inattention transformation from the previous pilgrimage on the Kawasexy…

Author: Sisyphus and Associates

As of 6/2022 I will have taken 68 revolutions around the sun or 24,820 rotations on the big blue marble. Time to share a slice of all the physics, biology, and stewardship I’m guilty of...

One thought on “2023 Desert Pilgrimage: Day 2 Three Rivers to Panamint Springs Saturday February 18, 2023”

  1. Hi Tom,
    Looks like you are having a great ride and enjoying fine weather. I think you and Pete could just coast down the the east side of the Sierras and roll right into old Santa Fe. We are almost to the sixty degree mark this afternoon. Finally, spring is approaching. Lots more stuff here to show you guys. Hopefully this October will work for you and Toni. Give Pete my best and stay safe. Also, really enjoy the travel narrative you’re providing; very “Eva Zu Beck”!

    Talk soon….Bobster

    Liked by 1 person

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