Today we actually got to start early, while the morning was still cool. Our destination was Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. How low is it? 282 feet below sea level.
But before we got there…we had to ride 18 miles! This picture shows why it is a good idea to ride with a tour company in Death Valley. The van meets us at various points along the route, plying us with water, chocolate, and any other snacks necessary for our continued survival.
With the morning light, I got some nice shots back along the way we came.
Most of the route took us along the side of a long valley. The mountains on the other side are the Panamints.
We rode by the turnoff for the Devil’s Golf Course–if nothing else, this trip has made me want to come back to Death Valley and rent a jeep to explore some of the off-road attractions like this one!
And here is Badwater Basin–that was quick! Telescope Peak, the highest point in the park at over 11,000 feet, is off to the left.
You can walk out on the salt flats and get a sense of the immensity of it all.
And if you look back at the cliffs behind you, the park service has placed a sign reading “sea level” about halfway up to give you an idea of just how far below it you are here. It’s that white blob about midway up the cliff!
And for those inquiring minds who want to know, the park service has also provided this:
Our guides said it is supposed to cool down next week. Damn, just missed that! We didn’t linger at the basin, because in the best tradition of cyclists bent on kicking their own asses, several of us opted to ride the Artist’s Loop on the way back to Furnace Creek. The loop starts with a three-mile climb at an approximately 15% slope. And by then, it was HOT.
And looking back behind, as I am prone to do…We aren’t even to the top yet.
But we did reach the top, and the van was there with water. Then the fun began, with dips and curves and colored cliffs all around us.
Some of the cliffs reminded me of ice cream (maybe it was the heat…), and I thought of the “Big Rock Candy Mountain” song. This is not really a hobo’s paradise though….
After one more brutal climb, we got to descend all the way back down to the floor of the valley.
If you squint at the picture below, you can see the van waiting loyally down by the main road at the bottom of the final descent. My hands were sore after the descent, because it was narrow and curvy and steep, so I feathered the brakes the whole way down.
After the van, there were only five more miles to ride to get back to the ranch. But boy, were those hard miles. It was hot and I was done. I kept my mind on the pool and rode, but still saw some awesome cliffs that I missed in the morning. And look at that ribbon of road! Really, the cycling here is amazing.
Tomorrow is the last day of the tour. It starts with a 3,000-foot climb over 19 miles, which should be pretty sweet. Especially if we can start before it gets too hot!!