Day 3: Desert wisdom learned between Ridgecrest and Death Valley

Day 3 would be an ‘easy’ day: 160 kilometers between Ridgecrest and Stovepipe Wells. I wanted to go 40 kilometers further to Furnace Creek, but I wasn’t prepared to pay well over 400 euro’s for one nights sleep. At least not without private bowling alley, butler, hagelslag and pizza’s without cheese. As all pizza’s did come with cheese I had to opt for Stovepipe Wells.

Not how I wanted to start the day

As I flatted twice yesterday, I had to find some new tubes in the morning, which also meant I couldn’t start to early. Bummer. The best inner tubes I could find were 27.5″ instead of 28″. Double bummer, but it would have to do. Don’t know if they’ll work, but at least it’s something. I also patched two of my inner tubes, just to be sure. After shopping I had breakfast at the hotel, where I heard a familiar foreign language. A friendly German was exploring all the trails in Death Valley. His stories about a German family dying of thirst made me worry a little. His knowledge of the roads in Death Valley also made me reconsider my route for the next day: I was planning to exit on the south, but this was strongly discouraged as there would be no water points for over 100 kilometer and I’d have to climb as many as three mountain passes on my way out.

Dry 2.0

I started rolling at 10 am, much later than I wanted, but there wasn’t really much I could do. The first kilometers were some more rolling hills, gradually ascending, passing the China Lake Naval Air Base. After this northbound to Trona, which is a town in the middle of big natural mineral harvesting sites (mainly borax I guess). Here I had a snack and bought all the fluids I could carry.

Mean rocks and some (I think) Borax
Home of the Krabby Patty!

After Trona it was 80 (!!) kilometers to the next gas station, or as I call them: aid station (once a triathlete, always a triathlete). Normally that’d translate to about three hours of riding. Not today though. There was an annoying headwind, not strong, but enough to tire you after so many hours, but the toughest was the heat: 40-46 Celsius (100- 115F). Add the mediocre road surface and a long climb in the middle and that three hours turns into four. Slightly dehydrated I reached Panamint Springs. Those final kilometers towards Panamint Springs I learned two important lessons about cycling in the dessert:

1. If you can see it, it is not far away.

But also:

2. You can see a long way in the desert.

The hotel in Death Valley was interesting, to say the least. As it was a lot more affordable than the one I mentioned earlier, the bill was still eye-watering. Especially the 50 dollars extra tax or whatever I had to pay at arrival was condemnable. I wasn’t really able to go anywhere else was I? I guess if there’s a demand, you can ask whatever you feel like. At least I had a good nights sleep. And coffee in the morning, which was an adventure on it’s own (see final picture below).

Bike and Bikes.
Death Valley Sunset.
It is not quite long enough.