In and Out of Death Valley

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Wednesday, June 22, 2011

There have only been a couple of occasions on the trip when I thought we might have to call it a day and hail down a truck to drive us on. Today we reached a point where I thought we would not be able to cycle on.  The ride out of Baker which is nestled in Death Valley really took us to our limits but we made it and we are 108 miles closer to home.

We knew 100 miles in these conditions would be tough so the day of rest yesterday was much needed.  We were well prepared with several gallons of water somehow strapped to the bike.  In the hope of covering some ground before the sun reached its worst, we were up at 5am and cycling by 6.  The first hour was bearable and we made good ground.  But as usual, just as you think the day might not be as tough as anticipated, we saw 'ROAD AHEAD CLOSED' sign.  This made us wheel the bikes down an embankment and onto the interstate freeway.  Still unsure about the legal details of riding on these roads (in Asia we were not so concerned due to, let’s say a more laid back approach to rules of the road) we had mixed emotions when we saw a Highway Patrol Sherriff pulled onto the hard shoulder.  We drew up alongside to ask him if we were OK and after some checking of the rulebook he gave us the green light.  He was a really lovely guy and it felt comforting that we were able to now stick on the fast road and not have to worry about navigating around potentially disastrous desert side roads.

It kept getting hotter and we took a drinks break.  The reason for us attempting 108 miles today is because idiots like Brian the marine had told us that there was nothing between Barstow and Vegas.  Well, the service station selling cold drinks after 20 miles disproved this claim.  The rest area with water fountains after 25 miles served as further contradiction.

At 50 miles we saw in the distance Baker.  Here we found not only 10 fast food joints but 2 motels where we could have stayed last night to break up the journey.  We felt a little knocked that due to the misleading information we now had to continue for another 51 miles in the midday heat.  Anyway, we stayed upbeat and after fuelling up (sorry, another burger) and restocking our water supplies, we made our way out of town. Baker incidentally, is just along from Death Valley.  This is the lowest point in the US, it sits at 86m below sea level.  It also holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in the western hemisphere, 56.7 degrees C (134F) which is not far off the world record of 57.8 degrees C once recorded in Libya.  Today is was only 115F, an unbelievable 46 degrees C.  Cycling out of this valley, 18 miles uphill to an elevation of 4900m, was one of our toughest experiences.  We conquered it by stopping every 1 or 2 miles and taking on water and looking for small bushes to take shade under.  We predictably had puncture problems to make things harder for us. Three inner tube changes for Polly’s rear wheel on the way up. During this 18 miles we drank 2 and a half gallons of water, which by this stage had turned into hot bath water.

After several hours we reached the top and gratefully took a downhill run to a rest area where we met three lovely people who were working as rest area attendants.  LaToya, Gabriel and Adam really put a smile back on our faces just when we needed it.  Thank you to our Angel Gabriel and friends.

The afternoon was long and after 14 hours on the bike we caught sight of Primm.  The tower buildings confirmed that we would have a room for the night.  It was a suitably weird place to end a memorable day.  Roller coasters and slot machines rang out but we just wheeled the bikes into the room and after some pasta called it a day.  And what a day.

Miles Cycled:  108 through one of the hottest places on the planet
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Jojo on

What an amazing marathon!

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