In order to perform a ride of any real length, one must first get out of Southern California – the LA Basin in particular. On weekends, it is possible to leave by 0700 and experience only light traffic. During the week, though, and especially from a coastal location like Westminster, a rider must be on the road so that the basin is cleared by 0600.
Usually that means leaving Westminster at 0400.
I like getting onto the freeway at that time of the day. Most of the drunks have left the road and the traffic that is left is mainly comprised of commuters that only want to make it to work on time so the pace is pretty swift. The air is usually cool and damp. The freeways in LA are well lit.
August and September were too hot to try to perform a 1000+ mile ride. In addition, late summer and fall means football in the Lipps household and Alex and his teammates play on Friday nights. I had a Friday off and, not having ridden for more than a few hours non-stop recently, I wanted to ride. An Ironbutt ride would be out because I’d need to be home by 1700 to make a game, but I calculated that I could be up early, ride about 500 miles, and be back before 1300. I’d be able to get in a nap and shower before the game.
I really enjoy riding in the southwest desert if the conditions aren’t stifling and the first week of October offered temperatures in the high-eighties midday and cool temperatures in the morning. Good riding weather was forecasted.
I really enjoyed my June ride up the 395 and looked for a way to include it in at least part of the ride. In addition, there were two-lane highways in the eastern California desert that I had not ridden on before. I put together a 500-mile route that included a two-lane loop into and out of the Panamint Valley and through Trona before hooking up with the 395 again in Ridgecrest.
I’ve been saving up for a replacement for my 60Csx GPS since even before the San Francisco trip that gave it fits. I over-analyzed every potential purchase and considered another Garmin, some Tom-Tom units and even considered purchasing a small tablet to use as a GPS. Every unit seemed to have positive points but all of them also had reviews placed by individuals that pointed out a bunch of negatives. In the end, I took a leap of faith and bought another Garmin – the 595LM – and optioned the tire air pressure sensor package. I fitted it to the Goldwing with a Touratech locking mount because I had used their 60Csx mount for almost ten years and really liked it. I’ll say a few words about it at the end of this post.
I was up at 0330, showered, and got on the road. Because I didn’t need a starting receipt for timekeeping, I gassed up the night before and went straight from the garage to the 405. I’d remembered my sheepskin this time. I dressed for the warm weather I’d experience later in the ride but layered up in an attempt to avoid hypothermia. I wore my vented jacket over two heavy cotton shirts.
Heading north on the 405, I wasn’t the fastest vehicle. I was regularly passed by other cars or motorcycles even though I wasn’t going slow. I made it past LAX, through the valley, met up with the 14 freeway and made it into the Antelope Valley in a little over an hour. The amount of traffic making its way south into LA from the Lancaster area was staggering while I was one of very few heading north. The flood of oncoming headlamp illumination made it difficult to see the lanes going in my direction. I moved out of the carpool lane to avoid being pinched near the center wall when the road would turn but I couldn’t tell because of the glare. At the top of the hill traffic separated somewhat and I could see well again.
The temperature also began to drop as I went further inland and up in elevation. By the time I reached Palmdale the temperature was 44F and I began to shiver. I attempted to make myself as small as possible and tuck in behind my shield, which cut down on the amount of wind hitting me, but I didn’t warm. I looked eastward and the horizon was still dark. The sun wouldn’t be warming me anytime soon.
If I’d been smart, I’d have packed more layers to throw on and because I wasn’t on any clock, pulling over to put them on wouldn’t matter. I’d planned for warmer nighttime temps and didn’t have anything else with me. Coffee, though, would do the trick and I pulled off the 14 in Rosamond to get the biggest cup I could get that would fit in my cup holder. The coffee quickly did it’s trick and I pulled back onto the freeway with a one half of a big cup of coffee remaining.
The sun eventually lit the eastern sky and then outlined the mountains as it rose. Desert sunrises make early rides worth the effort. The sky ahead of me to the north was still black but if I rotated my helmet to the right the sky gradually lightened and transitioned from black to violet to blue to red, orange, then the yellow disc of the sun broke the horizon. I wasn’t cold.
Photo via 365.missmorgan.wordpress.com
I reached Inyokern where the 14 merged with, and turned into, the 395 north. Traffic continued to be light and I made good time. I had in mind a mid-morning arrival at the 190 turnoff even though I knew mathematically I should be there about 0730. I didn’t need fuel yet but figured a top-off in Olancha would allow me to complete the rest of the ride without another fuel stop. I also wanted to take a break and have a leisurely breakfast, something I don’t allow myself when I’m on the clock.
Olancha doesn’t have much but it does have a modern Mobil Station and the Ranch House Café. After refueling I parked and entered the empty restaurant. I was their first customer of the day. The hostess, who was also my waitress, said to have a seat anywhere I liked. I picked a spot that I thought would allow me to watch the Goldwing, but didn’t. My waitress filled a mug with coffee while her second customers of the day walked in. In an otherwise empty restaurant they chose to sit in the booth next to me.
The couple spoke to each other in Portugese. The man didn’t appear to speak any English, the woman, some. Overhearing them placing their orders was entertaining. The waitress asked how they’d wanted their eggs cooked. Neither answered.
“Fried, over easy, over hard, scrambled, poached?”
Finally, the waitress motioned her hands as if she was whisking eggs, “Scrambled?”
“Yes,” the woman said. “He….like…..want….French Toast.”
Shortly afterward I got my order. Not a bad breakfast, but nothing to travel 225 miles for again. I didn’t get anything exotic, though – eggs, bacon, potatoes, biscuit and gravy. The biscuit was good, gravy a little bland and on the sweet side. I’d prefer it to be pepper-y. The steak and eggs might be better.
I exited the restaurant about 45 minutes after I got there, layered up, loaded up and headed south a few hundred yards to meet up with the 190 cut off to the east. This was the part of the ride I was really looking forward to.
The Panamint Valley lies west of Death Valley and the two are joined by a range of mountains about 25 miles long and peaks as high as 11,000 feet. The two valleys are similar in size, shape and topography and both are fed by the very intermittent winter rains that are funneled by the mountains and foothills into the lowest points. Death Valley, being below sea level and about 1400 feet lower than the Panamint Valley, gets all of the attention.
Panamint valley is intersected by highway 190 which heads roughly east and west and by Panamint Valley Road and Trona Wildrose Road which both run roughly north and south. The ride up to, and into, the valley is amazing. The 190, being lightly travelled by anything heavier than a pickup truck, is in nice shape, and freshly paved. Oh, and curvy. With almost no traffic it would be easy to travel this road way too fast. Some of the drop offs are long and steep so I rode quickly but not crazily. I was able to pass two vehicles heading into the valley.
Photo by Tony Park via Google Images
After reaching the bottom I passed through Panamint Springs – a community with two campgrounds, one resort, a combination gas station and convenient store and plenty of rocks and tumbleweeds. I didn’t need fuel or convenience and turned right onto Panamint Valley Road – an OLD, rough, barely paved road.
The coffee and water I’d put in needed out and because I was the only person around for several miles, I pulled over to the right but not quite on the shoulder to relieve myself. I unplugged my helmet speaker cable but still had in earplugs. As I stood on the shoulder of the road I heard a jet engine.
I thought to myself, “Hmmm. A jet’s flying overhead.” I realized that my earplugs were still in and that would prevent me from hearing any jet in a high-altitude cruise. About the same time, I sensed movement from right to left in front of me. I focused on the aircraft and am pretty sure it was a Northrup F-5. It sped along the valley floor at a very low altitude and at very high speed. When it was almost out of view to my south it banked east and climbed before I lost sight of it. Very cool.
Sufficiently empty, I continued south for a while until the road curved to the right and met up with Trona Wildrose Road. There were a number of signs noting Road Construction at the intersection. One read “Road Construction next 12 miles.” To the left the road was little more than a jeep trail. To the right the road had been torn up and while paving was occurring in the middle, traffic was forced to a single dirt lane on each shoulder. I rode the Goldwing on the dirt for about five miles until the new construction met up with remnants of the old road. It handled the dirt well but anytime I go off pavement with a street bike I worry about running over something that could puncture the tire.
I didn’t have to break out my repair kit to fix a flat.
Trona Wildrose Road continues south, then southwest, and coils up the foothills where the Panamint gives way to Valley Wells and Searles Valley. The Searles Valley includes the Searles dry lakebed, a rich deposit of several minerals, and is urban in comparison to the sparseness of Panamint. It also includes the town of Trona. It revolves around mineral mining and has a population of just under 2000. The town is big enough to support a K-12 school and a high school football team. The Trona Tornadoes are known for playing on a 100% dirt football field because the salty soil and high temperatures won’t allow for a grass field. Artificial turf may be out of the question because of cost or because of the heat that might be present on the playing surface. I’d imagine a 120-degree day on turf might feel like 130 or more.
I passed by the Trona Pinnacle formation and could see them off to my left from the road. Ridgecrest was only a few minutes further. Near Ridgecrest I picked up the 395 again and this time travelled south on it towards Hesperia.
Photo via crystaltrulove.wordpress.com
The ride was slowed by heavy truck traffic and many lengthy no passing zones. At Randsburg I caught up to a flatbed tractor-trailer with an oversized load that was moving painfully slow. It took a long time to pass but before I did I had to follow it through a construction zone and had multiple rocks and chunks of blacktop flung back at me. Some hit my helmet but most hit the front of the Goldwing. I checked later, expecting damage, and found just a few chips.
I feared the 395 section south of Inyokern would be the low point of the trip and it was. Heavy, slow traffic and a lot of signals before reaching the 15-freeway made this part of the trip slow, hot and uncomfortable. I was ready to be home. I entered the 15-freeway a little before noon and make it home just before 1300 – on time, home safe and with only minor damage to the bike.
While it wasn’t memorable like a certified ride would be, it was a good, fun ride and I spent time in a part of the state I’d never been to before. The bike performed well, as usual, and I got to get familiar with my new GPS.
I decided on the 595LM for a number of reasons. Even though Garmin has produced a few turkeys, it is still a leader in the motorcycle GPS industry. My 60Csx provided good service for a long time both off-road and on. Because the LM stands for ‘lifetime maps’ I won’t have to buy periodic map and data updates. It has a large screen with touch commands that work with gloves. It is available with the optional tire air pressure sensor kit that in my opinion is better than the OE kit Honda provided with my Goldwing.
The 595LM is feature-rich and comes with a number of mounting accessories. A full, car mount kit with a suction cup mount allows me to use it in my truck and that is where I’ve actually been able to use it the most of the last month. It works well as an auto GPS and the controls and setup are logical and intuitive.
In addition, it comes with a non-locking cradle that can be fitted with a RAM ball and used as a motorcycle mount. It is non-locking, however, and not secure against a would-be thief.
The cradle wiring is overkill. It includes direct fused power cables, aux input, audio output, microphone input and a USB plug. Of all the features available, I was interested in using only the power cables and followed the directions here: http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/garmin-zumo-590-cradle-butchery-the-how-to.976812/ to modify the wiring to include only a heavy-duty, weatherproof plug and cable. I like how mine turned out but wish Garmin would provide an abbreviated cradle for purchase that included just the abbreviated wiring most riders need. They don’t, however.
The Touratech locking cradle I purchased for the Goldwing is not inexpensive, but, like the Goldwing, you get what you pay for. It is attractive, well made, and allows for reasonable security against theft. A motivated individual with tools and a bunch of time would likely be able to defeat it, but it would be a real challenge to someone walking past it in a gas station or while I was buying food or using the restroom inside. The Touratech unit attaches to my bike via a security RAM ball link that cannot be loosened and removed without the patterned tool. In addition, it suspends the GPS on springs and minimizes vibration that would make the screen difficult to read.
I don’t intend this to be a full review of the functions of the 595LM because that would take up an entire post on its own, so I will just mention a few of the things I like or don’t like. It is very easy to adjust the display information to suit the rider, or the ride. I have the customizable display set up to show me front and rear tire pressure and current temperature and the likely arrival time on the right side of the screen. On the left lower corner is a button that can be pushed to display all of the pertinent trip information including time and miles to the next waypoint, miles ridden, elevation, and a bunch of other data about the current trip or route.
As I said before, the tire air pressure sensor kit is an available option. For about $100, two sensors can be purchased that are paired to the unit and provide real time, actual tire air pressure information. The OE Honda setup only provides a dash warning lamp that illuminates when tire air pressure drops below a minimum number. In other words, pressure may be dropping but the rider will not know it until it is reaches a lower than normal number.
Because I’m running tires other than the OE provided ones, my pressure is also a little different both front and rear. It is comforting to watch the pressure reading rise as the tires heat up and know that I can see them lowering well before a warning lamp might become illuminated. Both sensors were easy to pair and within a pound of the reading of my best tire pressure gauge. I’m very pleased with their performance so far.
Entering a route created from Garmin’s own mapping software, Basecamp, is identical to the 60Csx. Basecamp is mostly reviled by internet posters. I don’t particularly like it, but have become competent with it.
Routes and other trip data can be loaded onto the internal memory or onto a micro SD card. I currently run a 64gb micro SD and load all info onto it so that the internal memory only has to deal with calculating and navigation. 64gb is total overkill for data but additional files, including music files in MP3, can be accessed and the 595LM can be used as a media player. I have not experienced any prompts noting memory problems like I had with my 60Csx, and don’t expect to, but I have not ridden into as dense an urban area as I did in July in San Francisco.
Battery life is poor – an hour or two at realistic settings, but I do not plan on running it on the battery alone. My cradle is hard-wired and plugged into a power port.
The visibility of the screen is good at all times except when in direct, overhead sunlight. I am satisfied with the screen, however.
Advanced Weather and Traffic are options that can be used with the 595LM when paired with a cell phone. For a one-time fee of less than $30 a smartphone and the Smartlink App can be used to gather and provide both traffic and weather data. Smart Traffic does allow for re-routing around heavy traffic and Advanced Weather will prompt for severe weather along the planned route.
Neither are perfect, but for the one-time purchase, I didn’t think I’d miss the $30. The Smartlink App does use a lot of cell phone battery, however. On this 500-mile ride it drained my phone to almost nothing in nine hours. On future rides the phone will be provided with a charging source.
So, I’m looking forward to more rides with the 595LM. It, along with the tire sensors and locking mount, is an expensive piece of kit. I am happy with it, however, and will be even more happier with it if I can get anywhere near the 10 years I got from my old GPS.
Feel free to contact me through the comments button with any additional information or questions.