Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Death Valley

The look on his face quickly turned from excitement to one of disgust as I explained our intended route east through Death Valley.

Oh you don't want to do that!   What a terrible idea.  In fact you should turn back and pedal the 25 miles back to Big Pine and climb over the White Mountains at Westgard Pass!  Death Valley is ugly, has terrible cross winds, dust storms, is hot as hell and is a complete roller coaster of a ride.  DON'T GO THERE!

I responded politely,

I appreciate your concern sir, but I think we have it handled.  I have done my homework and we have a pretty good plan to get us across the desert in a reasonably safe manner.      

He became visibly frustrated, turned to walk away shaking his head, stopped short and scuffled back to have another go.  

Now listen to me, I was once one of the best bike riders in this country, I have toured all over Europe and the United States....blah, blah, blah blah...

I tuned out and continued to smile as he babbled on about his extensive cycling resume, 

...and Death Valley is the last place on earth that I would ride my bike.  You would be smart to listen to me and go back the way you came.  

I politely thanked the man again for his insight and said nothing more.  He stood for a moment in the uncomfortable silence, seemingly waiting for us to heed the wisdom he had just bestowed upon us, turn  our bikes north and start pedaling back the direction that we had just come from.  

We'll then good luck, you're likely going to need it. 

He said as he walked away and loaded into his SUV, still shaking his head in disbelief. 

For a good portion of my life I have a difficult time letting anybody tell me what I was and wasn't capable of accomplishing.  The decisions that have had strongest detractors,  highest stakes and most challenge have often been those which delivered me on formative paths in my life.  There is also something strong about others' doubt that fuels the fire of ones' desire to succeed.   

I am not a cavalier about the challenges I take on, and fully realize that it is completely unacceptable to be reckless with the welfare of others (most importantly that of my wife).  However, I am no stranger to the wilderness, nor afraid to haul gallons of water and glutinous rations of food through one of the most inhospitable places on earth.    

There may have been many easier ways for Jen and I to get where we are going on this trip, but I doubt that they would be have been half as beautiful, nearly as rewarding or quite as fun as touring across the great Death Valley on our bikes.

Kloshe konaway
Kloshe nanitch


Jenny pedaling away from Lone Pine and the steep Sierra Mountains.

Dust storms caused by 40-50 mph winds were visible 10 miles off and provided for some challenging riding conditions.  I was actually thankful for a heavy load to anchor me to the road as we descended several thousand feet into the Panamint Valley.  

The riding ended for the day....

 ...conveniently located near the Panamint Springs Bar.  

With the sun goes the wind.  A pretty ok sunset on the Cottonwood Mountains.  

Successful desert riding involves avoiding as much of the sun as possible.  Jen and I hit the road at least and hour before first light to avoid the hottest part of the day.   

Death Valley National Park is divided by a the Cottonwood Mountains.  With over 3000 feet of climbing in less than 10 miles, Towne Pass adds a little extra challenge to the Death Valley tour.  

Now we're taking! 

The  18 mile, 5000 foot descent from Towne Pass to Stovepipe Wells is one of best that I can remember!  Expansive views with roller corners and almost no traffic early in the morning!

Stop you car here and take a photo.

 Jen and I are a resourceful pair.  Texas Creek RV hook-up shower and laundry.  

Rest day.  5$ gets you a pool pass and a shower at the Furnace Creek Ranch.   Jen ate ice cream and I drank tall-boy IPA's.   Living the dream.

A bit hot for the Redhead.  

Sunrise is the best time of day in the desert. 

Death Valley is home to at least nine different species of bats.  This poor little little guy met his fate against the windshield of a passing car.  

Judged by the speed at which I move across the desert, I could easily be mistaken for one of these.  


  1. Awesome, Matt! Eff the naysayers; that's how we advance as humans. IPA - Ignore People Altogether.

  2. Glad you made the trip through Death Valley. It is a wonderful ride.

    From one of the 3 amigos on 395