September 23, 2008 – And though I cycle through the Valley of Death, I will fear no evil… because evil has the good sense to stay the heck out of Death Valley – where it’s damn HOT!.
We left the relatively comfy temperatures of Independence on our way to Furnace creek. With hundreds of miles and vertical already in the legs the pace was slowed a little – enough for us to enjoy the geographical transition to desert scape.
All of my mental images of Death Valley couldn’t even come close to the reality of this formidable desert. Before reaching Furnace Creek we cruised up to an altitude of about 6,000 feet before launching into what was more than likely the most incredible descent myself, an many of the others, had ever done on a road bike. The road was long and steep, and wound its way around rock formations that look almost alien. From the dizzying heights at the top of the valley we could see the road descending far off into the distance, across the scorched-white valley floor and up a massive climb on the other side – a daunting wall to negotiate in the heat of the day.
After climbing out of the sea level valley we once again found ourselves up at 5,000 feet before heading straight down towards Furnace Creek. This descent was fast, very straight, and dropped us to below sea level. As we lost altitude the intensity of the heat seemed to increase exponentially. It was literally like standing in front of a blast furnace! When we did arrive at Furnace creek we had a new appreciation for its name and we were amazed to not only find shade but an incredible oasis resort! Bars, golf courses, natural spring pools, beet, ice-cream, you could hardly believe such a place existed where the temperature was reading 105Â°- and its not even the middle of summer!
After a good night’s refueling and sleep, we rose early to beat the day’s heat. Today was our final 192km/120 mile push to Vegas and nothing was going to stop us reaching our goal – not the sun, not fatigue, and not even the large ravens that seemed to be gathering in mass above our heads! The crew stuck together strong today, pulling each other along and pushing the motivation button when things got tough. We were all going to pull into Vegas together after this 1,065km/666-mile adventure – appropriate don’t you think?
We rolled into Vegas mid-day but had to stop at the famous Welcome To Vegas sign to get a group shot. We were almost in culture shock as we rolled down the strip past hundreds of swaggering tourists who were not sure what to make of us. The big red “S” of Specialized led by Founder and President, Mike Sinyard – it was over!
An incredible week of cycling with and incredible group of riders and memories that will last a life time. It’s not often any of us get to experience this kind of riding and we have to thank Mike Sinyard, the support crew, massage therapists, and caterers, along with everyone at Specialized for bringing us along. It was one of the toughest adventures many of us had ever accomplished on a bike but as they say, what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.
Once we get re-hydrated, lose the saddle sores, and get the blood back in our legs we’ll let you know just how much stronger… but right now it’s time for food, beer, a massage, and bed!