Preamble: How We Landed in the Valley of Death - Death (Valley) Wish - CycleBlaze

March 24, 2019

Preamble: How We Landed in the Valley of Death

Hello Dear Reader .... Here is another Blast From The Past in the form of this journal of our ride in Death Valley nearly three years ago; imported from the "other site." As per custom, we'll pretend its coming at you in real time, with a day at a time posted here on CycleBlaze. Hope you enjoy it and thanks for reading!


"Oh my god, pinch me," said my wife for the fourth time that day.

For a titillating moment I thought perhaps Margaret was hinting things were about to get a little "frisky." But, alas, I remembered that we were on our bikes and riding in the middle of Death Valley. "Frisky" was probably out of the question. On the plus side, this ride was one of the few alternatives that could top the admittedly dirty-minded possibility to which I had defaulted. And looking around, a healthy pinch to confirm you weren't simply dreaming this place into being was a reasonable request.

The Wide Open Spaces of Death Valley
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Our trip was the result of over a decade's worth of day-dreaming about riding in Death Valley. After vacationing there with our two daughters back in the mid-2000's, we had driven away saying, "Oh boy ... to ride bikes here someday, right?" It's an other-worldly place .... a geologist's dream and chock-full of crazy fringe-level human history.

But just packing up the bikes and free-lancing a ride here seemed rash, because essentially everything in Death Valley has a literal and metaphorical sharp edge just waiting to slice you open. It doesn't really *want* to kill you, but it simply can't help itself. If you are unlucky enough to get yourself into a bind, Death Valley's default state is to take your issue and guide it down a slippery slope leading to your painful and grim demise. DV will hold you in its arms, gently stroke your hair, and suck the marrow from your soon-to-be desiccated bones. I'm guessing that is why (and clearly I'm not the first person to make this observation) it's called "Death" Valley. There are only a few spots in DV where one can re-supply and most importantly get water, so this is NOT a location to be trifled with. Any conversation we've had over the years about throwing the bikes in the car, driving out, and larking our way through a DV bike tour was quickly overridden by common sense.

That is why a few months ago, when we saw that the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) offered van-supported Death Valley tours, we immediately raced to the computer and clicked on the "sign me up" button. ACA is aimed at bikers, not hobbyists (forgive me kind readers, as my full on Bike Snob is about to emerge). ACA promised healthy mileage ... 400+ in seven days, over 20,000 feet of climbing, primarily tent camping, a meal system where everyone takes turns at cook duties for the group, and various tough love statements such as "you and your bike will need to come in shape and ready to ride. You are expected to be able to perform basic bike maintenance on your own, such as changing a flat." Not the namby-pamby experience offered by tour providers like REI, whose Death Valley ride info shared that in three days of riding you would ride a TOTAL of 119 miles, and in those three days you would be spending a cumulative six (6!) hours being shuttled in a van with your bike to bypass the tough sections. ACA made it abundantly clear that the van would provide sag or shuttle under only the most dire circumstances, and it was a basic assumption you would find a way to haul your sorry ass through the entire day's route, come what may. You would also be spending several hundred dollars less by riding with ACA.

ACA was right in our wheelhouse. Tough love tour presentation: Bring your bike, get your butt in shape, buck up, have a few dinner recipes ready to go, and ride. Yes, we want our bike tours straight, no chaser.

The ride was more amazing than we expected it to be, and our expectations were unreasonably high to start with. Here is a reminiscence of a dreamy week of biking on another planet.

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