From Young Urban Professionals to Middle-Aged Urban Pros: Thirty-Some Years of Death Valleying

Kern Lodge
Some MUPs, having a very loose grasp of the way chess is meant to be played, met at the Kern Lodge in Kernville CA the day prior to the Death Valley weekend.

A long, long time ago, roughly in the pre-Pleistocene age, three Young Urban Professionals (two MDs, one JD) happened to meet at the Rock Store, in the mountains northwest of Los Angeles, to find that they all lusted after the new Ducati 750SS motorcycle. Over the next year or so they attracted a small group of like-minded ne’r-do-wells, and one martini-fueled evening decided that there should be an outing to Death Valley, some time in late winter.

Why Death Valley? For its geologic beauty, of course, the moon rising over Zabriskie Point, the Artists’ Palette at dawn, not the dubious dining experiences offered by the Furnace Creek Ranch Resort. This venue had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the roads were perfect for exercising high-speed mounts, and the constabulary presence quite minimal.

This has now been going on for 35 years; in this day and age of serial marriages, multiple career changes and inevitable geographic dispersal, to keep such an informal gathering going shows a good deal of dedication, or perhaps just social fossilization. Invited to ride along in ‘82 I was on probation for many years, required to detail the bikes of the original members when they desired. Joining such a group makes a Hell’s Angels initiation look like a blue-hairs’ tea party.

Panamint Springs
Panamint Springs, on the west edge of Death Valley, offers cold sarsaparilla to the thirsty.

This year rolled around and somebody – it’s always a bit of a mystery as to who – made the decision for the date of the Death Valley outing, reserved a block of DeLuxe rooms at Furnace Creek. In front of which were soon parked a bevy of bikes, including three FZ1s, a Hayabusa, a Multistrada, and various more mundane BMWs, Hondas, et cetera. Even a Can-Am Spyder.

Granted, since the original YUPs have turned to MUPs, pushing Medicare limits, times and transportation have changed. In their quest for eternal youth half a dozen showed up in fast cars with bicycles in the back, claiming that they were going to ride from Furnace Creek – 100 feet below sea level – to Dante’s View – 5,475 above sea level. That’s over 25 linear miles, over one mile straight up, and three did make it to the 20-mile mark. Up is hard work, down is downright terrifying on those flimsy semi-brakeless contraptions.

Since the culinary capabilities of the ranch are hopelessly limited, we provided our own grub for the final feed. On the last night a Furnace Creek picnic area was commandeered where steaks were grilled, potatoes mashed, salads tossed and many bottles of wine opened. And congratulations that nobody had contributed to California’s budget deficit by getting a speeding ticket. Sunday we dispersed. The tradition lives on: same time, roughly, next year.

Kermit Chair
Just to be sure that he had a place to sit, our author brought along his Kermit chair; in the background a YUP/MUP is looking online for a supercharger for his Hayabusa.
Furnace Creek Inn
While some of the group might sip martinis at the Furnace Creek Inn, others drink two-dollar wine and expensive beer on the lawn outside their rooms.
Death Valley
Here three of the old-age-defying stalwarts are attempting to get up to Dante's View; betterluck next year
The chef for the group dinner was one of the original Ducati 750SS trio.
A limited flash shows a limited view of the final dinner.


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