The Queen bikes Death Valley

Mar 12th, 2012, 09:40 AM
  #1  
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The Queen bikes Death Valley

In attempt to bolster our spirits from a long Midwestern winter, my husband and I decided on a bike trip of Death Valley. It was a group tour, with 18 others from all over the US.

We were all to meet in Las Vegas. I got a room at the Flamingo on the strip for $28. It was fine; I’m sure it was on the renovation list, but for that price it was fabulous. We walked through Paris, The Bellagio and Caesars. I don’t get the Vegas draw as I don’t gamble and I’m not a show person and I’m not a buffet person. And smoking is totally allowed everywhere.

We had a mediocre sushi dinner in the basement of the Ballys and called it a night.

The next morning pick up was at 7 am. We met our other group members. Man, some were in their high tech bike gear already and had taken trips all over the world. That was daunting, so I stayed quiet as I hadn’t been on a bike in like a year.

We were in 2 vans; the ride to death Valley took about 3 hours. We did stop for gas at Area 51 in Nevada. Not sure what that was, but there was lots of talk of UFO’s and a military base nearly. The gas station had a scenic picnic area with tables on a concrete pad located directly next to a row of porta potties, with an Adult Entertainment billboard providing some shade. We did not linger.
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Mar 12th, 2012, 09:44 AM
  #2  
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The next stop was a tour of Scotty’s Castle, on the outskirts of Death Valley. I had no clue what this castle was. Well, it’s an extravagant residence built in the 1920’s by a wealthy Midwestern insurance tycoon. We took the tour, and I kept thinking there was some story here as Scotty is not the owner, rather a local colorful penniless character that befriended this rich guy and had his own room in the castle. And the rich guy was married, but his wife stayed in her own room. So the 3 of them were roomies in the castle. Just sayin.

Anyway, we had some sandwiches after this odd castle tour, and discussed what we thought was really taking place in the castle. Then we got our bikes and cycled all afternoon on the rolling hills leading to Furnace Creek Inn. It was probably in the 60’s but there was a chilly breeze. We saw a couple coyotes but that was it for wildlife, or life of any kind. There was minimal vegetation. Just the wind and rolling hills. It was beautiful in a harsh kind of way. And when the wind calmed it was so quiet it hurt my ears.
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Mar 12th, 2012, 09:51 AM
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After 36 miles we got to an oasis that is Furnace Creek.

There are natural springs in the area, and the resort had palm and date trees and lush grass. It was gorgeous. It was older, built in the 1920’s and not as fancy as modern resorts but it was comfortable and comforting. We loved it.

Dinner that night was at the Inn and not memorable, however breakfast the next morning was mind blowing: fresh berries, eggs benedict Florentine, and inn-baked date bread. Wow.

After that food orgy I needed to burn a few calories. Now, I am not really a biker, I’m a distance runner. And I’m thinking: Hey, why can’t I just run these bike routes? So I cleared it with our guides, took off 2 hours earlier than the group, and ran the 23 mile route for the day up Dante’s Peak.

I was provisioned with water and bananas twice along the way by our angel leaders, otherwise it was just me and the ever climbing road. We did have a 5200’ climb to the top, and at the end I was walking and whining, but I made it.

The others biked most of the way, but I will say that when we got to that 16% grade near the top they all hopped in the sag wagon – wimps! I was happy to cycle downhill back to the Inn with the others, and we stopped at Zibrinski Point, which is a scenic outlook , on the way down.

More memorable than that scenic spot was the beer our leaders supplied at the end: a local brew called Death Valley IPA. It hit the spot.

The next day I will admit to being lazy. We hiked the nearby sand dunes for about 30 minutes, then the group went on some epic ride over mountains and valleys and lord knows what else as my husband and I parked our behinds at the Inn pool and ‘Pat’ filled our gin and tonic glasses all afternoon long. Heaven.
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Mar 12th, 2012, 10:03 AM
  #4  
 
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And I thought my hikes in DV were an accomplishment. LOL.
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Mar 12th, 2012, 10:09 AM
  #5  
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Spirobulldog - any activities in that harsh environment is an accomplishment!
Have you heard of the Badwater Ultra? 135 mile ultra run in July. Nuts.
There was also a double century bike race going on the weekend we were there. Nuts.
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Mar 12th, 2012, 12:12 PM
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The next day was our last. The ride was a 17 miler to Badwater, lowest point in North America. I think I mentioned I’m a runner, not a biker. To run this route I had to leave early. So I forfeited that divine Inn breakfast and ate a PB & J sandwich from the day before and headed out before the dawn.

Man what a treat, I was running the road alone as the sun came up over the mountains and turned everything rosy pink. The road was rolling through what looked like moonscape as the miles clicked by. I was wondering about the Indians that had lived there and had known what they were doing. And I wondered about the immigrants that got lost there and were clueless. And I felt so lucky to not have to endure that torture of being lost in the desert.

After a couple hours I got to Badwater just as the first biker pulled in. It’s this huge salt pan with mountains surrounding. I could see a sign way up on the side of one cliff stating ‘Sea Level’, as we stood far below.

I scooped up some salt for my international sand collection, and we headed in the vans to the Inn for a fast shower, and then on back to Vegas.

Vegas is the antitheses of Death Valley. But there is a big airport there. So we had dinner at Sensi in the Bellagio – pretty darn good – and hopped the red eye back to Chicago.

We had a great time. It was a joy being in the desert and we’ve already booked a Fall trip for the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.
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