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I've been bad about not getting back to you on this. Stuff.
Anyway, District 37 is having a 2 day Death Valley dual sport ride on March 11. Just a couple of weeks. It seems simpler to let them plan it and just go along on the ride. I did a 2 day ride a couple of weeks ago from Palmdale to Ridgecrest. It was a nice ride. You must have a GPS for these rides. What does the group think about going on this ride?


 

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John I am so glad you made it down and got to enjoy a bit of the valley. It is remarkable how much there is to do and see once you get below the surface. If you ever get a dual sport let me know, we do a trip down every year to explore the back roads.

Tom I think you will have a great time on that ride. Once our rides that I have planned this year is the same ride that you have planned on Saturday going over Gohler and Mengal.
 

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Discussion Starter #23
Scott, the more I rode around the more I had thoughts of you guys going on dual sport bikes because I passed up many interesting dirt roads that looked interesting. Maybe some day I will get a dual sport, but right now myself and a riding buddy on the DV trip are looking at GoldWings.
 

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Don't forget to look at the K1600GT / GTL and RT for touring options, they are pretty sweet.
 

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Discussion Starter #25
BMW option

We talked about them, my DV riding buddy is on the shorter side so he was concerned about planting his feet and he heard they have a high center of gravity and could get pitched around in the wind, according to him anyway. There was another guy who was supposed to ride with us on his new K1600, but had the misfortune of the reverse function not working. He went around and around with BMW to get it fixed and they just couldn't figure out how to fix it so the dealer refunded his money and he returned the bike. He figured just fate and it couldn't happen again so he ordered another one. I've had a BMW car before and so has my riding buddy on the DV trip. Damn thing wasn't the most mechanically sound car I ever had and every time I took it in it was like "get ready to get screwed time". He had the big model from about 8 or 9 years ago and I remember riding in it once and noticed matchbook or other "shims" squeezed between dashboard panels and asked him what the heck are those and he said it was his way to fix the constant rattling from loose-fitting panels somewhere in the dashboard, drove him nuts. I've been to Germany maybe seven times and I've asked a couple taxi drivers if the BMW was ever considered over the standard Mercedes and both guys said although the BMW is a nice family car, it couldn't hold up to the taxi demands like the Mercedes can. Lastly, and very subjective, just hearing stories of the high cost of service was another negative for me. Harley is bad enough and I'm sure BMW has good reliability standards, but just a cursory look at how people rate the GoldWing mechanically are pretty solid in their positive opinions of the bike. When I hear the word Honda I think of bulletproof motors and reliability. Of course, there are exceptions, but in my case, I bought a new Accord and Acura Legend in the past and both served me very well over the 3-4 years I kept them. I also recall they maintained their value quite well when it came to selling or trading them in for something else.

My Honda 600RR was also problem free and I rung it's neck every chance I got because the 14.5rpm redline was addicting, so much so I killed the bike and almost myself in a crash. Looking back, I've always said I would never have crashed any of my Ducatis for that very reason, hitting the rev limiter on a Ducati wasn't as exciting and I didn't like punishing them, I would ride them hard here and there, but for some reason I wasn't keen on hitting the limit like I would on the Honda. It was a great little bike and really fun at the track, I was always amazed how the engineers could produce so much power out of a 499cc motor. I bought an 05 model in 05 and did nothing but put a full exhaust on, didn't need anything else, the stock suspension was awesome and highly rated in that year's model. I can't imagine 13 years later how much more powerful they could be using the same sized power plant. Amazing.
 

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Discussion Starter #26
@TUNA ... Hey Tom we will be doing some Dual Sport riding in Death Valley in mid-March if you are interested. We will be staying at Stove Pipe Wells.
Scott looks like your mid-March visit to Death Valley is going to be outstanding weather wise. You will hit low 80s in the day and low 50s at night. When we went last month we got lucky as well with low 70s in the day, but dipping into what felt like the 30s at night, but more likely low 40s. Riding at night without proper clothing wasn't fun, but once we got the right clothing on it was tolerable. Of course, you won't be riding at night so no worries there. Also, try and get some photos of the Milky Way, the new moon is on the night of the 17th and Stovepipe Wells (the resort part) is dark sky friendly. I'm sure the RV and camping area will be dark, but if there are too many campers with camp lights on you can probably get behind something to block it or just ride up or down the road a mile or two and find a dark spot. Stovepipe has some interesting geography nearby and that will serve as a nice backdrop with the Milky Way in the background.

The only unfortunate thing is the Milky Way is in winter mode position, hanging low to the horizon, that will present a challenge. The bright central core of the galaxy, where most of the brightest and most photographed targets are located will be below the horizon. Looking at a planetarium program, it looks like January is the last month where the MW is over your head enough to capture some of its range. The best time for photographing it is summer time, but who in their right mind would go to Death Valley at that time of the year for any reason?

If someone wants to photograph the Milky Way during summer, there are a number of mountain locations that are good, but the best I have ever seen is at a place called the Likely RV and Golf Resort in Modoc County, south of Alturas. I rode my bike up there a few years ago to attend a public viewing night at a big "Star Party". The place is popular for amateur and professional astro-imagers because the skies are super dark where the Milky Way is bright from horizon to horizon. Many dark sky locations are good, but often the horizon is contaminated by distant towns or city light pollution, obscuring the awesome central galaxy core.

Give it a shot anyway Scott, there should be enough there to image, especially again with the mountains in the foreground. I wish I were going, the dual purpose bike sounds like the only way to go exploring the countless off roads there.
 

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Pics?
 

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It looks like we might end up with fairly cool weather next week, low 70's in Death Valley. That is good in the valley but because we will be spending a good deal of time up in the passes we will be dressing for the colder stuff. The best temps are low to mid 80s for the valley when we are doing the back roads. A few years ago it was 86 in the valley and 45 when we got to the road to Titus Canyon and we were not at all ready for that kind of temp so we were REALLY cold and miserable until we got back to sea level.

After reading your post I told Jessica that we could bring the good camera and tripod to try for some of the Milky Way photos. Do you have any ISO and f/stop and shutter speed thoughts to get the best results?
 

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Discussion Starter #29
UTube and Google search best option

My best recommendation for settings would be a quick UTube search and that will reveal a whole bunch of tips for shooting the Milky Way. Depending on the lens speed and aperture, there is a limit on how long in "bulb" mode you can be before star trailing appears. I know the max is around 30 seconds, but in my one backyard experience that setting was much too long and I eventually had to back down to around 15 seconds max. Again, it depends on your set up and I would just experiment with a few images and check them in magnified live view for pinpoint stars. I have seen a range of ISO settings, from 800 to 3200, depending on whether light pollution is present and the personal tastes of the photographer. I always shoot long exposure deep sky images at ISO 800, pretty much a standard for DSLR cameras, but the Milky Way, being a bright target with other variables like if you want to "paint" a foreground object with a light source and the horizon light pollution, this can change. I would turn off all internal camera processes and leave it as native as you can get in RAW. I would also use a 2-second shutter delay so any vibrations are calmed down before the shutter clicks. All Milky Way photographers prefer fast f-stop lenses, f/2.8 or faster, the darker the skies the better. I bought the Samyang 14mm f/2.8 just for Milky Way shots but returned it because the pinpoints weren't sharp. If you get any of the very affordable brands that are relabeled like Rokinon, Samyang and another I can't recall, they are super unless you get on like the one I bought. There is a quality curve with these lenses. Anywhere from 14mm to 24mm is the popular lens for this purpose.

Like I said, a Google or U Tube search will provide you with tons of info, actually, the mechanics and settings are pretty basic and with your Photoshop skills, you should produce some great work. One last thing, focusing is a key element, you want to get a true infinity and not just depend on the infinity lens mark. I think the best set up would be to use a small tripod mount equatorial device called a Vixen Polarie or the iOptron Star Tracker. These are basically small portable devices that will hold your DSLR and lens and perform the same function as a German Equatorial Mount, that is track the stars as they move across the sky. You won't be limited to seconds before trailing occurs, but can track for longer periods, just as I do when taking deep sky images with telescopes. I never really considered buying one, certainly something useful for longer night sky exposures or even time exposures, but I have other priorities going on. The longer you stay on target the more light photons you capture and the results are obvious. You can even set up a series of longer images and stack and process the results later. With most all Milky Way photographs I've seen, the field of view includes part of the foreground, whether it's the ground, mountain, sea, trees, etc. If you are utilizing a portable auto star tracker, the foreground will obviously blur since the device is only tracking stars affected by the earth's rotation. In these cases the image has to be split in two, one series of the sky and the other the foreground, you later paste them in Photoshop. But, as in most images of the Milky Way a star tracker isn't used and as long as you stay within the range of exposure time before field rotation occurs, the background stars and foreground features stay focused.
 
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