Day 4: Death Valley heat to Las Vegas cool and the Highway 160 challenges

The title says it all, from the searing desert heat of Death Valley where temperatures went up to 46c (115f) today, all the way to Las Vegas, where not a single room has no airco unit blasting full power.

Early bird.

I wanted to beat the heat in Death Valley and managed to leave before 7am. Maybe the best thing about leaving early is that you get the road (and the park) for yourself. Another huge plus is witnessing the sunrise, a majestic event in one of the most interesting places on earth. After 40km I reached Furnace Creek, the place I wanted to sleep at in the first place, but was way way way to expensive. After a quick stop here to top up my fluids and eat a sandwich I left for the climb of the day: the 1000 meter climb out of Death Valley on Highway 190. The climbs in the USA are very different than the ones I done in Europe. For instance the Großglockner is a hell of a climb, with its last 15km averaging almost 10% gradient, whereas this climb out of Death Valley isn’t steep, but just goes on for ever and ever (30km!). With this in mind the kilometers flew by though, especially with the support people give along the way. I think about 20 people honked at me and/or waved. Again very different than Europe, if you’re honked at you are in the way. Or, to be more specific, if you are on a bicycle and on the road you are basically in the way. Not here though!

Nice signage at the base of the climb.

At the last 5 km of the climb, as I was approaching the pass, I got a strong headwind, making it even more challenging. I hoped the wind would’ve only been at the saddle of the pass, but unfortunately it kept blowing in the ‘wrong’ direction for (what I found out later) the rest of the day. The road descended all the way to a place called Death Valley Junction. The most amazing part of this place was, that except for some abandoned houses and a huge cannabis ‘distribution center’, it existed only of a hotel and the Amargosa Opera house.

Looks eh, inviting.

My next point up the road would be Pahrump, a major city in the area. Although it has ‘only’ about 36.000 inhabitants, it has a total area of 771,5 square kilometers. The largest consensus designed place on the contiguous United States. After a McDonalds visit (I just love the free refills when I’m in the desert) I was headed for Sin City itself. Finally.

Straight ahead!

The route was pretty straightforward: follow highway 160 until I crossed interstate 15, then turn left for the hotel. After my lunch break the winds had also subsided, things were looking up again. Until I flatted. After thorough inspection I found a metal wire sticking in my tire. I was also faced with a dilemma: use one of the 27.5″ tubes or use my patched up 28″ tube? I choose the former. Will it fit though? The answer is yes, you cán fit a 27.5″ tube on a 28″ rim, but I’d also like to add that you should be prepared the change it again real quick. I’m not sure if I’ve done anything wrong fitting the tube though, which is very possible because it was a bit of a fight. I just had to use the patched 28″ tube. Please don’t let me flat again though, I have nothing other than more patches left.

Crap.

Another flat wasn’t my problem though, after 50 kilometers on highway 160 I was faced with something that I just can’t wrap my head around: it was from there on prohibited to cycle because of road construction works. What should I do now? Turn around, ride 50 kilometers back to Pahrump and then take the other pass towards Vegas? Impossible to complete today! I had a look at the construction area. There was indeed on space for a bicycle. What if I rode on the gravel base layer they were working on? Tempting, but not only prohibited, also a foolish plan, what if it stopped? I couldn’t see all the way up there. There was actually only one option there: hope that I could get a ride past the construction zone. I rode back to the sign and held my hand up. After not to long David (hope I’m right) and his wife and dog picked me up took me past the construction to the next gas station.

The people here are just amazing!

From there it was downhill all the way to the hotel. What was I happy to check in, eat and go to bed. First thing tomorrow: breakfast (duh!), second: get new inner tubes at the Bicycle Shop.

Totals so far:
Distance cycled: 820 km
Burgers consumed: 7
Liters fluid drunk: 38

Pretty darn tired.