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Old 10-30-09, 05:24 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2007
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Bikes: 2008 Scott CR1 Pro; 2006 Schwinn Fastback Pro and 1996 Colnago Decor Super C96; 2003 Univega Alpina 700; 2000 Schwinn Super Sport

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Thanks, gplpel ... There is something inspiring about a place where people keep going no matter what. In a way, I guess Trona kind of epitomizes the 508.

Stage III - Trona to Furnace Creek

Before me was the Trona “bump.” A 1000 foot bump. It was steady, but not steep.

Again, I leapfrogged with some other riders and support crews. This time, Desert Coyote and Vireo, who I now recognized as the guy I passed on the Ridgecrest Grade. Trona is behind me.

I've related how among people who are about the same speed, I generally pass in the climbs, get passed in the descents, and hold my own in the flats. That pattern repeated itself in this section. I had passed Vireo and Desert Coyote on the bump.

The top gives a great view of the Panamint Valley … and a great descent.

On the descent, I expected that they'd pass me. I was right ... at least about Desert Coyote. I later found out that Vireo had car trouble (flat tire, flat spare) on this stretch.

Buffetting crosswinds were enough to convince me to keep my speed down. Desert Coyote whizzed by me and left me in the dust.

I was dressed in little more than underwear, riding a bike weighing 17 pounds. And the only thing between me and disaster was a chunk or rubber as wide as a dime and as thick as a callus. Under those conditions, a high speed, crosswindy desert descent didn’t make sense to me.

I spent two days in the hospital courtesy of a blown tire at a mere 25 MPH. A little high school physics told me that a crash at 40 MPH would have two and a half times the energy. Facts enough to keep my speed reasonable.

I’ve tasted asphalt. It’s bitter. It’s hard. It’s to be avoided.

In years past, the road through Panamint Valley was full of expansion cracks and potholes … a decidedly unpleasant experience. The road is improved now, but it’s still a long, featureless road that extends out before you to the horizon.

We arrived at Death Valley National Park.

When I got down to the bottom of the Panamint Valley, it became obvious that the winds had intensified and were now coming almost directly out of the south. That would make for a quick ride.

That was the good news. But what would happen when we got to Stovepipe Wells and turned into the wind? I tried to stay in the moment and not think about it.

We arrived at Highway 190 and the bottom of Townes Pass, and it was still daylight.

The sun was casting marvelous shadows on the Panamint Mountains, and the sky was ablaze with orange and red hues. The same storm that was causing all the wind was making for some beautiful clouds, and spectacular lighting on the desert floor. It was just the kind of moment that would ordinarily have me scrambling around with my camera.

Not this time. I scrambled, all right. But I was scrambling around looking for a friendly bush instead. I changed shorts and jerseys once more, and for the first time in my life, donned clear sunglasses … if the weather predictions were correct, I would need them to keep the wind and sand out of my eyes.

The bottom of Townes Pass is about 200 miles into the 508. I checked my watch. It was 6PM.

“Yikes. 11 hours.”

Rick heard me.

“Yep, you did a double century in 11 hours. Not bad.”

Yea, not bad, but not as good as I was hoping. I expected to make it there in great time, with all the predicted tailwinds. Trouble was, the winds were there, but much of the time, they were crosswinds, not tail winds. That allowed me to get to the Townes climb in good time, but not great time. And now, the winds were coming directly out of the South. I could hear the wind whistling in the creosote.

The prediction was that the winds would be from the SW most of the ride up. After sunset, the winds were to slowly decrease until about 4AM, then slowly increase again at about 11AM Sunday morning … again, from the southwest. I didn’t relish the notion of riding into a headwind all the way to Twentynine Palms. I didn’t dare share my plan with Saralie or Rick, but I had to tell someone.

“Listen, Bill. The winds are supposed to calm down early Sunday morning. If they do, I’m not going to want to stop at Ashford Mills to sleep. I want to make hay while the sun shines and get as far as possible before the winds start up again. Shoshone. Maybe even Baker.”

He nodded. We both knew that it depended on what the winds actually did, not what they were predicted to do. Winds are notoriously fickle.

A van passed with 3 bikes on the roof.

“The teams. They’re passing us.”

Teams start the ride 2 hours after the solos. Team riders have the luxury of going all out on each stage, and they pass all but the fastest riders. That they were passing us now meant that they were doing 200 miles in about 9 hours. That’s moving.

I had some more to eat, changed shorts and jerseys, watered up and hopped back on the bike. Before me was Townes Pass.

Townes Pass is the “queen” of the 508. It’s a long climb … over 3500 feet in a little under 10 miles. And parts of it are quite steep … about 13%. My thoughts preoccupied with the winds I expected in Death Valley, the climb up Townes Pass did not concern me.
Proud parent of a happy inner child ...

Last edited by Biker395; 10-30-09 at 05:30 PM.
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