A ride around Death valley

A ride around Death Valley, California and Colorado River

My original plans to the Grand Canyon had to be scrapped due to the poor weather. The first two days were spent mostly planning this trip. I had made three plans in total but on the way to the bus station, I cancelled the third plan and settled on the second.

Red rock canyon
Towards Pahrump

On the morning of 5th of April, instead of turning right towards the city centre to catch the bus, I turned left and within 15 minutes I was on the Red Rock Canyon, just precisely the kind of landscape I was hoping to ride. I enjoyed the first two hours but once I was on the top of the pass, I felt even better having done the difficult part of the day’s ride – so I thought. The last 50kms were just a gentle downhill which should have taken two hours or less on a normal day. But the headwinds forced me to pedal and I was feeling the cold wind on my face. It was just a straight road in an empty land with no shelter, no change of scenery, no distractions, absence of any civilization, just empty land. I had to stop sometimes because the wind was too strong. I felt I was in a survival show. I had no choice but to keep pedalling and pushing for about five hours to the town of Pahrump. On arrival, after a ten hour ride, I booked an AirBnb as the cold was too intense and camping did not appeal to me. 

Having had a taste of the landscape, I had prepared myself with some food and water in case I got stuck. There was just one road and no towns or shops until I reached Furnace Creek in Death Valley. Luckily the wind had stopped but it was still cold. I kept the four layers on me throughout the ride. Often, the vastness is such that it gives a false perception of distances. The roads stretch for long distances and a mountain that appears not too far, takes forever to get to. This was more a mental challenge than physical. Inspite of all this struggles the desert was highly enjoyable. I scrapped my plans to camp out for two nights at Furnace Creek, as it was too hot during the day, plus the absence of any shade at the campsite. I met Gary, at the campsite who offered me a ride in his pickup to the next town called, Shoshone. I took it as the light weight touring set up I had was not really ideal for the desert landscape. We went through some salt flats and more empty roads. The vastness and brutal conditions made me wonder if I was on another planet.

Towards Death Valley
Just before Furnace Creek in Death Valley

Death Valley to Baker was a beautiful ride. Lovely weather and tailwinds! On arrival in Baker I found out that the RV park would not let me camp and all three motels in that town were closed. In the past, situations like these had reaffirmed my faith in humanity, and yet again. The Sheriff let me camp in the park whose office and residence were just on either side of the park. The park was quite well used and well maintained. It had water, toilets and a lovely soft ground where the tent pegs went through as if was a cheese cake, compared to the desert landscape. At midnight I realised why the ground was so soft. I heard rain but it was only on one side of the tent, but not the other and it came in regular intervals. It was the automatic sprinkler that came out in the night to keep the park green. This kept me awake for an hour but otherwise it was a nice night. 

Camping in Furnace Creek
Moon rise

After Baker, I had enough of camping, I want to find a place where I could stay in a hotel. The town Searchlight was about 116kms away and was separated by three passes. Another tough day beckoned but I lived to tell the story, another 10 hour ride. The motel was very basic but was inhabited by people who looked anything other than normal. I had no choice anyway, as the only other motel was full. All I needed was hot shower and bed to make me feel good. My back also felt better as the metal work in my spine does not like the rough sleeping. 

Apart from the first two days, the weather was just beautiful. Spring weather with warm sun but not too hot either and cooler evenings. After Searchlight the rest of the days were easier. I stayed in Laughlin followed by Kingman where I touched upon the famous Route 66, albeit ,just briefly. Kingman to Willowbeach Campground was a nice downhill ride with no headwinds. The campsite was just stunning, although there was no shade. But it was on the shores of the mighty Colorado river. The penultimate ride was through the Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel with some great stories of how it was constructed. The final night was on the Boulder Beach Campground where the water had withdrawn so much from the campsite, that the name is almost misleading. Lake Mead on the desert landscape was quite picturesque – a water source in this dry landscape reminds everyone of the value of our resources, at least I hope so. 

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