Mar 17

 

Arlen Hall and I on Zabrinskie Point

Arlen Hall and I on Zabrinskie Point

Adventure Cycle Association bicycle trip to Death Valley, California, 9-15 March 2013

This is a trip in demand so I signed up as soon as it became available. I had never been to Death Valley before, and a bicycle trip seems the best introduction. The leaders were Chuck Penguilly and Arlen Hall. I didn’t realize it, but my good friend from another trip, Pat C, had also signed up. We rode together most the time on this trip, making it quite enjoyable. I knew that one night I would be in a group to do the cooking, and so decided on doing Würst and Sauerkraut. For the vegetarians in our group, Kathy was going to make up her special dish, which was also delectable.

Exercise training for the trip was near impossible. I rode regularly with the bicycle mounted on the trainer in the garage. A few outside trips were cold and wet. The last trip went up to near the Carbon River entrance of Mt. Rainier, and good ride with a lot of 18% grade, but leaving me soggy and miserably cold. Death Valley was going to present the opposite extreme of being too dry and too hot.

Preparing the bicycle took special attention. I wanted thicker tires than my 23 mm tires, but the Neutron Campy rims on my Steelman would not take over 25mm wide tires, so I settled for some all-weather 25 mm Continentals that worked out well. I also needed to mount a rack on the back of the bike, which demanded slight modifications, but worked well.

7,8 March I took two days to drive to Pahrump, and it was definitely under winter conditions as I was in snow country starting with the drive over Mt. Hood in Oregon. I stayed the first night in Altrus, CA, driving down through Klamath Falls. California and Nevada was thick with cops pulling people over. Nevada has the most outrageous speed traps where the speed limit jumps wildly from 25 to 70 mph. Fortunately, I escaped the police by using cruise control and watching for speed traps. I managed to arrive in Pahrump in the early evening of the second day, and stayed at the hotel we would meet in the next day. That morning, I took a short trip into Las Vegas, just to see what the drive was like. There was a fairly demanding pass to cross to accomplish the drive.

 The event

09 March Day zero was a meeting at 4 pm, where we all got to know the group leaders, and planned the events such as meals for the week. I roomed up at the Pahrump Best Western with Berle, and mild-mannered man from Wisconsin.

10 March Day 1-The first day was from Pahrump to Furnace Creek. Our first stop was at Wal-Mart, where we had to purchase all of the provisions for the coming week, and put them into coolers in the trailer that was pulled behind the ACA van. Coming out of Pahrump, there were several hills to climb, but with the cool weather, it was fairly easy to accomplish. After that, it was a marvelous downhill descent into Furnace Creek, which sits 177 ft below sea level and known as the hottest place on earth.  There was a swimming pool at Furnace Creek, which was made use of by myself as well as many in our group. I was in the group scheduled to cook, and made Würst and Sauerkraut. Total 101.5 km (63 miles), 3306 calories burned, 457 m (1449 ft) elevation gained, riding time 5:05, temperature ranged from 3.0-27.0 C (37-81 F).

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195878#.UUYDNgloNjg.email

Bikes parked outside of Wal-Mart

Bikes parked outside of Wal-Mart

The Van

The Van

Enthusiastic Bikers loading the van with food

Enthusiastic Bikers loading the van with food

Outside of Pahrump

Outside of Pahrump

Pat pumping it up our first hill

Pat pumping it up our first hill

Welcome to Cafilornia

Welcome to Cafilornia

Approaching Death Valley

Approaching Death Valley

Hills in Death Valley

Hills in Death Valley

 

More Hills in Death Valley

More Hills in Death Valley

 

Also Hills in Death Valley

Also Hills in Death Valley

Arlen giving Rohe a little pep talk

Arlen giving Rohe a little pep talk

Pat ready to go under water

Pat ready to go under water

The colors of Death Valley

The colors of Death Valley

 

11 March Day 2- Our journey went from Furnace Creek to Mesquite Springs. This was a grunt, because it wasa long uphill, and the weather was hot. A few people got a little dehydrated. The campsite was very primitive, no showers, no electricity, barely any running water, and no trees to hide under. Total 83.6 km (51.9 miles), 3209 calories burned, 927 m (3041 ft) elevation gained, riding time 4:47, temperature ranged from 6-33 C (43-91 F)

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195837#.UUYKLBk19X0.email

Mesquite Springs survival

Mesquite Springs survival

 

The Van at Mesquite Springs

The Van at Mesquite Springs

12 March Day 3- The ride took us from Mesquite Springs 2 miles back up to the main road, and up to Scotty’s Castle. We did a tour of Scotty’s castle, and then rode back to Furnace Creek. The temperature was beginning to affect many in our group. It is so dry, that you don’t accumulate sweat, and thus don’t realize how hot it really is. A few people SAGed part of this trip. It was great to get back to camp. Total 95.3 km (59.2 miles), 3306 calories burned, 754 m (2474 ft) elevation gained, riding time 5:07, temperature ranged from 13-42 C (55-108 F)

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195803#.UUYKoaw76p4.email

Pat and Burrell humping it up to Scotty's Castle

Pat and Burrell humping it up to Scotty’s Castle

 

Burrell and I approaching Scotty's Castle

Burrell and I approaching Scotty’s Castle

Pat showing how it's done.

Pat showing how it’s done.

 

It should have been Pattie's Castle

It should have been Pattie’s Castle

 

Scottie's Castle

Scottie’s Castle

 

Wall flowers

Wall flowers

 

Twins Separated at birth

Twins Separated at birth-Dave and Kathy

 

Inside Scotty's Place

Inside Scotty’s Place

 

Scotty's Music Room

Scotty’s Music Room

 

13 March Day 4- This was a rest day. The two van tours included a trip to Salt Creek to see the guppy fish. The other tour was a trip up to Dante’s Peak. One person in the group, Jim, actually rode his bicycle to the top of Dante’s Peak, a cruel 5-6 K feet climb, and hot. I preferred to van-attack the hill, but would have attempted the climb if I knew that the next day would be a rest.  We also toured the visitor’s center, and laid low.

Salt Creek

Salt Creek

 

Death Valley from Dante's Peak

Death Valley from Dante’s Peak

14 March Day 5- This was the hard day, being long, hot, and lots of climbing. It started at Furnace Creek and took us to the south end of Death Valley, going by Badwater, the lowest place in North America. The climb out of Death Valley was problematic because of the heat making it easy to dehydrate. I went through about 4-5 liters of fluid. Pat SAGed a bit of this ride, so I rode either with Rohe and Mike, or alone. Shoshone was a cool, green town in the desert, a nice coasting ride from the summit of the last pass. We went out to a restaurant that night, so nobody needed to cook. Total 117.7 km (73.1 miles), 4773 calories burned, 1768 m (5800 ft) elevation gained, riding time 7:11, temperature ranged from 9-41 C (48-106 F)

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195758#.UUYK_96ZDcA.email

Pat in a very happy moment

Pat in a very happy moment

 

The water was bad here

The water was bad here

 

Saying goodbye to Todes Tal (Death Valley)

Saying goodbye to Todes Tal (Death Valley)

 

Summit of last serious climb of the trip

Summit of last serious climb of the trip

15 March Day 6- This was the last day, and the ride went from Shoshone back to Pahrump. Pat and I rode together for this. The first pass was actually harder than the first, having an incline of up to 8% grade at the top, whereas the second pass was a straight, gradual incline rarely exceeding 4% grade. We arrived in Pahrump by 10:15, giving us time to pack for the drive home.  Total  45.2 km (28 miles), 1741 calories burned, 554 m (1818 ft) elevation gained, riding time 2:42, temperature ranged from 7.0- 23 C (45-73 F)

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195720#.UUYLKZ0ufTQ.email

Pat returns to awesome form

Pat returns to awesome form

 

Goodbye Cafilornia; Hello, Nevada

Goodbye Cafilornia; Hello, Nevada

Total workout for the trip includes 443.3 km (275.5 miles) on the bike, 16335 calories burned (from riding, this does NOT include basal metabolic calories, which averages about 1600 – 2200 calories a day, as well as calories expended to stay cool), elevation gain 4,460 meters (14,630 feet), and 24:52 riding time. The climbing would have been equivalent to going from Badwater to the summit of Mt. Whitney.

The drive home for me went from Pahrump up through Battle Mountain on back roads, to Winnemuca, and then up through Burns, Oregon, where I spent the night, and then on to Bend, across Santiam Pass, and up I-5 back to Puyallup, arriving in Puyallup at 4:05 in the evening. In Nevada, even on the most backward roads, the cops were busy pulling people over. Contrariwise, the Oregon drivers seemed to have no clue as to speed limits, and saw only one ticket being given while on I-5. During the drive, which is designed to go on roads I’ve never been on, or recently been on, there was much thinking about the possibility of bicycle tours on those roads. Maybe I need to retire early, because there are a lot of good roads to bicycle on.

So, my assessment of this tour was A+++. Chuck and Arlen were superb tour leaders, and did everything possible to make the tour go well. I’m not sure I would want to ride Death Valley without a SAG vehicle. This is due to the fact that heat and dehydration could easily ruin a good trip, and it would be hard to carry sufficient water, as well as to anticipate both the cold and hot extremes in weather. The Adventure Cycle Association does a superb job of building in the creature-comforts while allowing one to otherwise model the trip as they wish. One couple stayed in hotels close-by part of the time. Others had minor side-agendas. Nobody seemed to be unhappy, and everybody seemed to have a great time, even when they needed to be SAGed. About the only change I would make would be to omit the canned tour of Scotty’s Castle, as it put us into 108F weather for much of the day, maximizing the SAGed riders. An 8:30-9:00 start on the castle tour would make sense, but not later than that. Catered meals would be nice, but it was also fun serving as cook for a day. My observation suggested that the ladies in the group ended up with a disproportionate share of the kitchen activities, which wasn’t good. Only one other suggestion- the ACA definitely needs to invest in an “Arlen-Chair”. He deserves it as he was a real trooper, riding sweep on the worst days, and always being in a cheery frame of mind.

What did I like about Death Valley? 1) It’s unique, it’s geology and landscape not quite like anything else in the US. Rocks of multiple derivations including volcanic basalt, sedimentary rock, and lots of gravel, colors in layer upon layer and pillow upon pillow giving it a special sense of beauty. 2) Odd things, like a water springs in various unexpected places in the Valley. 3) Animal life. I saw coyotes, a road runner, bugs, a scorpion, and fish in the Valley. 4) The stars – at night, the absence of light pollution allows one to see more stars that generally possible in the city. The milky way was quite apparent. I should have brought my star maps. Next time… .

Thoughts on photography. I used my Canon 6D for the first time in the field, and realized how easy it is to accommodate the camera to the situation. I did not put the camera to its full potential, rarely adjusting the exposure to maximize control of depth of field. I also did not take enough photos, missing many great shots, and not including several participants in our grand event. The best landscape photography utilizes a tripod, which I left back at the car. I also could have used a longer lens at times, especially for wildlife photography. I wanted to use the gps feature on the camera, but that drains the battery even when the camera is off, so I left that function off. The tour schedule was not conducive to great photography, as the best photography finds a scene, and then returns frequently to that scene for the best lighting and optimal conditions. People photos in harsh lighting is near to impossible, and I had to adjust most of the photos to get the faces from being too dark. I wait eagerly for Canon or Nikon to come out with an improved version of the mirrorless camera (eg., the Canon EOS M system), that gives an  ultra-light camera with high definition. The 6D takes 20.2 mPixel full-frame photos, which I captured in RAW format, and utilizes superb lenses, making it ideal for landscapes, but not so good for cycle touring.

So, once more a special thanks to Chuck and Arlen for giving us an awesome time, thanks to Pat C. for being a repeat wonderful and entertaining riding buddy, and to Mike, Rohe, David, Kathy, Jim, Judy, Burrell, Don, Ray, Adele, and Teresa (not in that order), you were all most wonderful to ride with. If you come by my neck of the woods and want to do some riding or touring (or Kathy, sauerkraut consumption), please give me a holler and I’ll take some time off work for it. I’m sure Jim and Judy will attest that the NW, while wet most the time, when dry, is close to paradise for bicyclists.

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8 Responses to “ACA bicycle tour of Death Valley, March 2013”

  1. Ray says:

    Great blog and great photos.
    I would love copies of the photos. But I have no clue what RAW means.
    Ray

  2. RAW is an unprocessed format, the format that the CCD sensor of the camera actually sees. By taking the photo in RAW, you have the most control over the outcome of the image. And, it is not lossy, which means you always retain a copy of the original image. I “correct” only about a fourth of the images, and so you can play with the rest from the .jpg format. Most simple photo programs will let you do that.

  3. Ray; I’m unable to send you anything by e-mail, as the “postmaster” continues to reject your address “[email protected]”. You can communicate with me by my e-mail ([email protected]) and perhaps we can work out why my messages are not going out. ken

  4. Onkel Dennis says:

    This is one bike trip I would have liked to have been on with you. Scotty’s Castle is a highlight in a visit to Death Valley. It is a marvel, being what it is where it is. Did you see the old car collection in the garage? Scotty, of course, did not own the place, being an old prospector who was taken in by the Chicago insurance magnate who had the place built. To me, it is a “dream house”.

    When Dottie and I drove into Death Valley (many years ago), we could not get in through the south entrance because of flash flooding. The road had a dip filled with water and nobody was attempting it. So we went around. When we drove into Las Vegas on the main road in, the underpasses were flooded with water and we must have spent a few hours backed up, watching cars on little car-length bridges over little arroyos with the arroyo filled with water and up to the bottom of the car – not a safe situation. We got in to Death Valley from the north, apparently as you did, and I remember the ghost town of Rhyolite just outside of it, in NV.

    After Death Valley, we drove west into the Panamint Valley, which is also impressive as desert, though it has fewer features. From the descent at the top of the hills, it looked as though an immense river was filling the valley. because of the flash flooding, I was somewhat apprehensive, but Dottie thought it was desert floor, and it was. After Panamint Valley, we had trouble getting back to the main N-S road, 395, and had to take a circuitous route (south around Owen’s Dry Lake (not so dry then) around more road flooding before arriving in Lone Pine around 9 pm, where we booked into a hotel. I have fond memories of that portion of some past trip. Flash floods in the desert are a real experience!

  5. Mike says:

    Ken, I too would love the photos, so please feel free to send when you get the chance. Raw or jpegs, which ever is easiest.
    Great to meet you, btw!

    Best Regards
    Mike.

  6. Mike says:

    Hi Ken,

    I’d also love copies of the photos, raw or jpegs. No rush, just when you have a chance.
    Great to meet you btw, great blog and agree ref Scottys Castle, probably only thing I’d change on the trip.
    See you Soon!
    Best Regards

    Mike.

  7. Mike says:

    Sorry Ken, managed to post twice! Apologies for that.

  8. Gaylon says:

    So cool Ken! When it’s cold and wet in the pac. NW, go to Death Valley. I’m inspired to hit the pedals, get back to mediocre shape, and love to do some “short” rides with you this summer.

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