Friday night was the epic BikeSummer kick-off party at the Santa Monica pier. Over 350 people, many of which came on bikes. Hell yeah. Rode back at 2am and finally got to sleep around 345am. Up at 630am on Saturday for the Wheels of Steel DC training ride I had posted to the BikeSummer calendar. No one showed (surprise), so I did 20 miles alone and came home and went back to sleep. Up at 1pm, then to Tierra for vegan brunch before heading out on the 5 hour drive to Bishop in the Eastern Sierras.
Get to the hotel around 730pm to see the 14-15 hour crew of riders coming in. Exclamations of its difficulty abound. But it is only 10,000 feet of climbing. Most of the day is spent at 7-8000 ft high. Fuck. I don’t do well in high elevations and on Sunday’s ride I’d be feeling the elevation. We chill with the organizers and a guy I met at SF Critical Mass and then we go to eat. Taco Bell is the only thing open. Fuck it. Find a place to sleep in some bushes across the street next to a skate park. Sprinklers? None around. Asleep by 1130pm! Amazing. Almost 5 hours of sleep.
Crawl out of the bushes, go to the car, sort our bikes and roll over to the start. Everyone is ready and staring at us. Oh yeah, this is the staff ride we are doing for volunteering at The Heart Break DC . Only 8 peeps: 4 in the slow group (us) and 4 in the other. They leave cause they don’t want to ‘burn daylight’ (not that you are at risk of finishing in the dark when you do doubles in 12 hours). We leave 10 minutes late and catch the ‘slow’ group in about 15 miles. A big climb to start. Some tall dude takes off and we try to stick with him. It doesn’t happen. Our personal SAG vehicle greets us at the top of the climb and cheer us on. We’re in the front of the slow groups, kind of a weird feeling to be the fastest of the slow.
Scenery is unreal. Rolling right along GIANT snow covered mountains. Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 is in this range. We climb up to Mammoth Lakes. Despite the shitty suburban feel it is beautiful. Big, wonderful trees. Meanwhile I am feeling horrible. Lethargic. My breathing is feeling okay, but my ‘go’ is on pause. Could not get into the rhythm all day long. Morgan is feeling great and later would claim this was his best DC yet. We did a loop around these lakes that was unreal. Huge canyons with people skiing down! Love that shit. It is like a crazy resort town you would see in Colorado. California never ceases to amaze me. We end up back out on the main road (395) that runs between the Eastern Sierras and the Mountains that make up the Western side of Death Valley. Two very distinct regions and one road between them. It helped to distract from the fucking wind we dealt with all day. Got lost once and lost like 20 minutes. Two people DNF’d from our group. More wind after lunch then a left turn (East) into what looks more like a desert. The insane down hills begin! I topped 45 MPH on about half a dozen occasions. Top speed of the day, and in my life: 52.1 MPH. Holy shit. In the open desert it is so easy to pick up speed and not know it. Topped 50 three times. Unbelievable.
One more climb out of that valley and then, seriously, 36 miles of downhill to the end. I’m feeling better. Morgan is stoked and high on Hammer Gel. Finally I make the jump to consuming Sustained Energy (a liquid food that is luckily vegan). We end up with the last person in our group and we fly back to the end at an ave speed of close to 25 MPH. Our elapsed time is a very impressive (considering how I was feeling) 14 hours and 20 minutes. Better than 50%! Arguably we had worse conditions as well.
Change in the car, eat food at Amigos restaurant and chat with the waitress about all the long distance runners in Bishop (Are they training for the Badwater Ultra-marathon? Yep). Cruise around some more being big fish in a little pond then back to the skate park for bed. Not long after that the sprinklers kick on. Fuck it, I think, they can’t be on for that long. My sleeping bag is pretty water resistant. Back to sleep. Woken up with my feet wet. Morgan has already moved onto the concrete in the park (over the fence). I figure that if my feet are wet then they’ve been on for a long time and should go off any minute. Then some starts dripping on my face. I recognize the irony of my stubbornness that lets me finish DC’s but keeps me from moving to a dry spot to sleep….
On the drive back we turn around on the highway cause we see someone pushing a mountain bike up the road, heading north. We pull over and Mr. Jim Smith, age 71, was walking just cause he got tired. His $75 Huffy mountain bike was strapped with backpacks and had gallon water jugs hanging from it. The people you meet via bikes! He’s been traveling for 10 years by bike and has NOT BEEN INSIDE A HOUSE IN TEN YEARS. We swap some stories, give him a Clif Bar and say our good-byes. Whoa. Puts things in perspective as I drive the rental car back to Los Angeles to return to my job and my house (and laptop, cell phone,etc)…