When imagining a double century in Death Valley (DV) I thought of a long, arduous day in the heat, by myself, struggling against the intense conditions. The March 5th DC was much different; four of us drove out together to camp and Morgan and I were together for nearly the entire rode. And the weather was fantastic for the ride; despite the pouring rain we drove through the night before. DV is a national park that is home to the lowest point in North America (Badwater) at 282 feet below sea level and is within eyesight of the highest point in the US, Mt Whitney. The insane rain that hit Cali this year has put a lake right in the middle of Badwater. Fortunately the same rain led to a HUGE blossoming of bright yellow flowers that contrasted beautifully with the jagged black mountain ranges.
First lesson: Alarms on cell phones don’t work when they are not getting reception. After getting to sleep at 1am or so I managed to wake up on my own at 535am, 10 minutes before the ride started. We ate bagels and drank soymilk as we rode from the campground to the starting point. The ride was set-up for two out and backs of 75 and 25 miles, respectively. Before we started I ran into Gerd, the 71 year old from Berkeley (who ended up finishing in under 13 hours!). Just like in OC I jumped in with the fast pack and was streamlining for a while. Some guy asked me if I was at the Butterfield DC cause my bike was still dirty. We were making great time and I assumed Morgan was in the group. I stopped at the first pit stop (the fast group kept going!) and looked for Morgan. Ten minutes later he came rolling in, panting hard. It ends up his number flew off his bike in the first mile and he went back to get it!
People who ride double centuries are, as you could guess, a unique bunch. Much friendlier (and odder!) than the roadies I come across on weekends at home. Morgan and I go for the chill pace for the two climbs through the desert, chatting with people as we go. The temperature started rising and the lack of sleep was evident. Second lesson: read the route slip. I thought lunch was at the turn around point (mile 75), but it was at mile 130. Something as simple as not getting lunch when expected could bum you out when you are tired and hot. The return route was excellent; the vastness of the desert was overwhelming as we descended the passes we had climbed up and over. The layers were outstanding from the bright flowers and the close mountain ranges to the snow topped ranges in the distance.
Morgan was doing great for his first double. At mile 150 we reached the starting point for the final out and back as the sun set behind the mountains. At check-in a bunch of people quit! We turned on our lights and pushed on. I love riding in the dark! We enjoyed the tail winds and hammered past numerous people. At the final checkpoint we chatted with Chris Kostman, the organizer, for a bit. Morgan and I have put this guy on a pedestal recently. His triple iron man races, his excellent writing and his inclusive events have given him near idol status in our minds.
Last 25 miles. Head winds. Morgan was feeling it. We turned off our lights to ride under the billions of bright stars and he almost fell asleep. At 9pm we roll into the finish with a time just under 15 hours. I’m stoked! Had plans to drive back to LA over night in time to do the LA bike tour at 6am, but this shit didn’t pan out and we crashed out in the tent. Next day we had a beautiful drive back to LA, with no rain, in our rented hybrid civic. Rad weekend. Morgan’s comments: ‘Saturday was rad. Lasting images: (a) field of yellow flowers (b) the Sisyphean ordeal of Salisbury pass (never getting closer) (c) no lunch ’til mile 130 (d) pounding up that hill in the dark just after leaving stovepipe (the latter memory sticks in particular, as it was so difficult for me then, but I had some vague sense that it would be over soon…).’