Sunday, April 14, 2013

Furnace Creek

Furnace Creek is an ominous name for a town (well, "Census Designated Place") in the middle of Death Valley. The name is not hyperbole; at 134 degrees Fahrenheit, it claims the world's highest recorded temperature. So if one were to go for a bike ride in the area, March seems like about as sane a time as any. Far more sane, at least, than October.

It was with that rationale, and a weather report from google indicating highs for the day in the mid 70s, that Max and I left Bishop, CA in the early morning and headed for Furnace Creek. As on previous days, our plans were not ambitious: a simple out-and-back to Badwater, a location whose name alone beckons one to visit it.

With that buildup, you might be expecting a ride report from an epic ride. That was not to be, so I'll cut right to the chase. We arrived in Furnace Creek with the temperature at a very pleasant 75 degrees. We rode a 40-ish mile out-and-back, with the car's thermometer reporting ~101 degrees in the shade on our return. In reality, it was probably a few degrees cooler than that.

We parked under a fortuitous covered spot at the ranger station, assembled our bikes, and took on some last minute hydration before riding a mile or two on Highway 190 and turning right onto Badwater Road. While it might seem surprising that one can start at 190 feet below sea-level and then trend downward from there, over 20 rolling miles that's exactly what we did. Most of the 'out' was pedaled at a quick pace as the downhills generally provided enough momentum to get up and over the uphills fast. Traffic was light and courteous and the scenery outstanding. The only mishap was one flat tire which we quickly dealt with.
Devil's Golf Course

Sam on Badwater Rd.

We reached Badwater, elevation 282 feet below sea level, and spent 30 minutes faffing about on the salt, while Max attempted to replenish his electrolytes by osmosis.
Max tries to save money on Nuun.

Finally, with the temperatures rising, we opted to head back to the car. As fast as the first 20 miles out had been the 20 miles back felt a bit like a death march. The scenery that I enjoyed on the ride out, I largely ignored on the way back. I've blogged before about falling apart in heat and, while this ride was by no means the equivalent of that, when we returned to Highway 190 I was toast regardless. Max and I had both gone through our two water bottles and, though he was still feeling spry I was not.

Fortunately the General Store near the ranger station was open. Max and I stopped and loaded up on soda and ice-cream bars, and then followed the 508 course out to 29 Palms.

1 comment:

Max said...

Well, I was spry because I had the extra water bottle in my jersey pocket. And the extra electrolytes.

Great pictures! No wonder desert riding is so appealing, up until one actually does it.