Death Valley Challenge

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Day 4: Furnace Creek to Pahrump

Another glorious morning weather wise was celebrated with another sugar laden breakfast. The first part of today’s ride was uphill but not as severe as gradients of previous days. We had 19 miles to go from -167’ to 3000’. We only had four miles to go before we were stopping at a ‘scenic view point’. I was wary of what this could be as in all honesty the scenery to me was beginning to look the same – rocks ! I have to say though Zabriskie Point was pretty spectacular.

zabriske point .

Zabriske Point

The actual vista was of yet more rocks but these ones were a lot prettier. Millions of years of water, volcanos etc. had left this stunning landscape.

At one of the morning stops we were visited by a couple of American cyclists who were intrigued as to where we were headed. Eccentric is a word that could easily describe the couple. The guy spent a good ten minutes rattling off his achievements, including many world records for endurance cycling. His wife had that look of having heard it all before and kept trying to get him to shut up, but when he got into his stride there was no stopping him. I’m not sure how but he got onto the topic of flying jet planes in which discipline he held another world record. Still, they were good entertainment.

Mr & Mrs Entertainment

Mr & Mrs Entertainment

After the break James and Phil set off just before me and a small gap quickly became quite large. I didn’t have the inclination to put in the effort to catch them so for a while pedalled along alone. I think Phil used this opportunity to ask James for his daughter's hand in marriage. I was perfectly happy dawdling along at a sedate pace but wish that I'd put my iPod in my back pocket like others had done. Before lunch I was caught by some others and we rode the last couple of miles into Amargosa with Andrew, Matt & Ken.

Amargosa Opera House

Amargosa Opera House

I could try hard but no words will ever be able to explain Amargosa. It truly is unique (or maybe not). It consists of a gas station (closed), an opera house (closed), a post office (closed), but the amenities open were an art gallery and a hotel / museum. Word had got out that the hotel sold cold cans of soda (pop). I was inside the hotel for a good ten minutes before a receptionist appeared and directed me to the fridge in the back room. There nestled between somebody's half-eaten sandwich and an open tub of butter were some cans of Sam’s Cola. Sam wasn’t the owner but the brand of Cola (global sales yet to rival Pepsi, Coke or even Citra).

Chris & Steve up to now had been mainly playing genial hosts and good buddies but this lunchtime showed us they made good support crew/guides. Tom (one of the three young lads) had come off his bike. Tom being Tom insisted it was nothing but he had quite a nasty spot of gravel rash.

gravel rash

Gravel rash

Despite Allwin insisting she was in possession of a Girl Guides First Aid badge it was Chris who gamely administered the ointment and applied the bandages. The next problem was Neil. Neil was a member of one of the other male trios. These three weren’t so young and pretty, but collectively I had christened them ‘The cockney winkers’ (might need a spell check on that). The other two were concerned at how Neil was. He was sat under one of the trees and complaining of being cold and dizzy. It was decided that he was suffering from heatstroke and should sit out the next part of the ride and travel in one of the vans. This didn’t sit easily with Neil who felt he was letting people down who had sponsored him. Jim also tried to persuade him to ride in the van but still Neil insisted that he would be okay if he just took it easy.

neil in a bad way

Poorly Neil

As we were about to leave the bizarre world of Amargosa a huge sedan car cruised passed with paintwork that would make a Jackson Pollock art piece seem organized, unfortunately I haven’t got a picture as the occupants of the car who didn’t seem to think there was anything out of the ordinary to look at and all our group looked to the skies as they sneered at us.

After lunch Phil decided it was about time he had another puncture. Just as we were setting off after fixing it, Matt caught us up. Matt won the award for the most pedal revolutions in the week. He’s the first to admit he’s not a cyclist (his helmet was smashed, burnt and then thrown out of a 17th storey Vegas hotel window at the end). He insisted he was most comfortable in the lowest gear which meant to get any forward momentum he really had to spin those legs. Anyhow Matt was keen to ride at the front of the group but was worried that he wouldn’t be able to last at the front of our trio. We insisted he was fine to draft along with us three for the rest of the afternoon and that he didn’t need to come to the fore (but we would be looking for liquid payment later that evening).

Our destination for that night was the city of Pahrump. With only a population of 41,000 I’m sure we would call it a town. On previous trips Chris & Steve had said there had been problems navigating through the busy streets so we were told to meet up at a supermarket on the outskirts and we would all cycle together between the two vans to Best Western. At the supermarket Matt made good on his payment and bought us a Coke. It was an entertaining wait as we watched the comings and goings of traffic and people, the numbers of which we hadn’t seen for a few days.

Pahrump Holding

Pahrump Holding Base

After getting showered and changed, Phil and I had some time to kill before we were due to meet for dinner. Having decided that American TV was crap and/or adverts we decided to go for a cheeky beer. After a bit of arm twisting I persuaded Phil to give the hotel bar a miss and venture across the street to ‘Arnie’s Cocktail Lounge’. It seemed a good opportunity to try something a bit less sterile. What a place! As this was Nevada there were ashtrays and electronic gaming machines on the bar top, American sport on each of the ten televisions and both types of beer (Bud & Bud light). Up to that point it was the most entertaining half hour of the trip for me.

Dinner was a Tex Mex buffet across the freeway in a casino. The young lads were ecstatic that there was a soft ice cream machine and couldn’t wait to finish their tacos and see who could get the highest tower with the most hundreds and thousands on. They were equally pleased there was nobody asking for ID so they could have a beer too.

Afterwards Phil and I went back to Arnies. The Cockneys came too. Neil wasn’t 100% but on the mend so he wasn’t going to miss the delight of Arnies (I sold it well during Taco time). We had an enjoyable couple of beers but felt it time to leave when Chris started trying to educate the locals into the laws of Pool.

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19 comments on “Death Valley Challenge”

  1. Jami wrote:

    Loved reading this story of day 1. As I was on the trip, it's a great way to remember it. And very accurate too.....even down to Francis' humour.
    Look forward to reading day 2.

  2. Neil Gothard wrote:

    Such great memories! An amazing experience with some amazing people (and Francis!!)
    Well written mate

  3. JAMES BLYTHE wrote:

    What a story Francis. It brings back great memories. Have you brushed me out of the photo as i was sure i would be in front. Looking forward to the rest of your pictures and story. if i had know of your fear of flying i would have given you a cuddle.

  4. francis brogden wrote:

    James – if you had been on a road bike you would have been in front and out of sight! As it was we filled your tyres with cement.

  5. Kern wrote:

    Well, Francis, let me see if I get this straight. You rolled yourself onto a plane in Heathrow, you rolled yourself off in Las Vegas, you visited a brothel, short-paid the staff, and stiffed the waitress for dinner. That's a very impressive start. I can hardly wait for the next installment!

  6. francis brogden wrote:

    Kern – Yorkshire born & bred !!

  7. Chris wrote:

    The bloke with the punctures – what tyres was he using?

  8. Phil Heaeltine wrote:

    A brilliant and funny account of the trip Francis, amazing all that you remembered (or made up about me!)
    It was great riding with you all and some good friends made.

  9. Francis wrote:

    Can't recall the make of tyre. Was checked for wear/damage but nothing found.

  10. Margaret wrote:

    Francis, I will remember that push for long time to come, my lungs were on fire and legs felt like two bits of lead. Seeing Jim, and you, and realising that your both are coming back for me, was quite emotional. I did try to make myself as light as a feather, don't think it worked. Thank you

  11. Francis wrote:

    You're welcome Margaret. I also got emotional when i saw Jim – his singing always made me weep

  12. Chris wrote:

    The camaraderie is what really comes across in the post and subsequent comments, Francis. I still say you need more of a test – maybe in 2015. The Tommy Godwin Challenge, eh? Or a long weekend of double centuries...?

  13. Patrick wrote:

    Great stuff, superb photos. Well done Francis. I had read this previously and couldn't think what to say except the stupidly obvious. On reflection it's something that requires a type of get-up-and-go I don't seem to have myself. Anyway I'll say it again: well done.

  14. francis brogden wrote:

    Thank you Patrick – glad you enjoyed it. 2015 is filling up nicely. Benidorm in January. Cols of the Tour De France in June and Way of the Roses in a day in July.

  15. Robin wrote:

    Hi Francis,

    Great blog! I am taking part in this challenge in just 7 1/2 weeks time and cannot wait to get going!

    Do you have any restrospective tips? ie things you definitely do/don't need beyond the blindingly obvious?

    Also, I know you took the option to upgrade your bike – would you say that's pretty much a necessity? I'm not keen on the sound of sitting on these hybrids for a week...

    Keep up the blogging – awesome work.

    Thanks!

    Robin

  16. Francis wrote:

    Hi Robin,
    Hope you enjoy the ride. If it is with Global Adventure you will be very well looked after. The guys from the tour company are always on hand. I would recommend upgrading to a road bike as the road surfaces are all tarmac – the hybrids were hard work. Make sure they have your sizing as there is no opportunity to change the bikes. The kit list is pretty comprehensive and i wasn't short of anything – i did take my own pedals though. One thing i wasn't sure whether to take was puncture repair and tubes – but they were provided.
    pleased you liked the blog.
    francis

  17. David wrote:

    Hi Francis,
    Loved the Blog, very informative witty and amusing! I'm sold! Like Robin previous, I'm taking part in this challenge with Global for the November 2015 date in a months time. Would also like to draw on your experience please, do global provide any gels or electrolyte supplements or should I bring my own? Also is it worth taking the garmin from my UK road bike as it's not too much hassle to strip and pack it, nice to know mileage cadence etc? Looks like you guys had a ball, again the blog was a great help. Cheers. David.

  18. Francis wrote:

    Hi David,
    Glad you enjoyed the write up. Andrew Cattle who rode with us will be taking part again (for the third time) with you. Say hi! There aren't any gels or electrolytes supplied but i wouldn't have thought needed as the cycling is only in 20 mile sets with stops for food/sweets/water etc. I took my own Garmin as it was nice to see different maps on Garmin connect afterwards, But the bikes do have basic computers on them. They also provide puncture repair kits which wasn't mentioned. Anything else you need to know just ask. Enjoy!!

  19. David wrote:

    Hi Francis,
    Many thanks for your prompt reply on that, great help, in contact with other participants on the event including the Vegas veteran Andrew cattle. Will pass on your greeting and share your info with the others. Regards
    David

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