Thursday, October 31, 2013

#117: The Fall Death Valley Double Century

Death of the most magical places on earth to ride a bike when the conditions are right. It is like riding in another world, whether it is during the day or night.

My new club buddies....Adobo Velo. About 40 strong at the event
The Death Valley Double Century has always been one of my favorites. The spring version I have done many times, in fact, I was one of the first to do the inaugural ride back in the early 90’s. At that time....I became a part of the “Badwater Boys Club”, as one of the first.

I have never done the Northern Route of this epic ride so when I was asked to do the event on my tandem with good friend Teresa Beck, I jumped at the opportunity.
It was only our second time on the tandem. We did Knoxville Double in September as a warm up.

I have Adobo Velo, (Filipino-American Cycling Club), to thank for getting me into the event. I was a late entry so I was not sure until the last minute whether I would be in.

Teresa and I went with John Clare and his son Scott. They were doing it on a tandem bike also. We had a car with two tandems on cool is that!!

Scott and Teresa with the Clare Tandem and the Stealth. Check out Scott's seat post. He is about 6'-6"

We arrived late Friday afternoon in Furnace Creek where we were staying.

Our friend Jack Joseph invited us to dinner that night. He made some of his homemade Paella. It was great. We had that plus a large selection of Spanish cheeses and wines. A great meal. Thanks Jack!
Jack Joseph's Paella
We then went to an Adobo Velo meeting where I became a new member and joined the club. There were around 40 Adobo’s doing the ride. A huge presence out on course. A wonderful group of people and great ambassadors to the sport of cycling.

The start time for the event was 7am in Furnace Creek. There were three rides. A century, a super century (150 miles), and the double century.
 All riders were required to leave in waves at 10 minute intervals. Teresa and I went out in the second wave leaving at 7:10.
Before leaving we took lots of pictures.
John and Scott with Rosalie

More of the Adobo Club

George and Lori on tandem with some of the Rev team
Teresa and I with UCLA alum and pro basketball legend Bill Walton

After we met and talked to basketball legend Bill Walton for a little bit, Adventure Corps head Chris Kostman gave us last minute instructions.

First wave ready to roll

The boss Chris Kostman giving our final instructions
We rolled out and just spun for a little bit. With my balance challenges, I don’t like to be in the middle of a large group, so once we got past the campgrounds, we started to pick up the pace

Part one: Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells,  Mile 24.5,   Elevation: 5 ft

We had a great time on this first leg getting warmed up and forming a pretty good little “tandem train”.  We had a few, fellow, Adobo’s with us but most left in the first wave of the ride. It was so nice riding this first leg and seeing the sun rise in Death Valley. The temps were very mild. In the upper 50’s to low 60”s at the start.
On the cruise to Stovepipe, we had a nice group behind us, but many opted to not keep up our 20+ mph pace for the first leg.

Sunrise....Death Valley

Passing big Bill Walton just before sun up.

This one guy ahead kept shooting way out front then running out of steam as we caught him. He would then take a break behind us in our slip stream and then do the same again. A BIG WASTE OF ENERGY!! Notice the large shadow of our freight train catching him!

The first leg has some rolling hills but not much elevation gain. It goes from 165 ft. below sea level to around 140 feet above sea level before check point one. The scenery was just beautiful and perfect for a tandem bike.
There were about 7 tandem bikes that we counted on the ride. I think about 5 were doing the double century. John and Scott Clare left in the first wave with Craig Robertson and Lori Cherry on tandem as well as George Vargas and Lori Partridge Hoechlin. All...blazing fast on tandems.
Past the devils cornfield and the sand dunes, we went into Stovepipe Wells. 

We averaged 20.7 mph on the first leg. Considering we didnt feel like we were pushing that hard, we were doing pretty good.
 We fueled up and filled our bottles with plenty of water at Stovepipe Wells, took a little break and headed to our next destination. We were both feeling ...on our game....and real good.
Part two: Stovepipe Wells to Scotty’s Castle, Mile 68.2, Elevation: 3,000 ft
After we left check point one, we started the climbing. The 43+ mile section was really nice with wonderful views and beautiful roads. Just a gradual, long, climb until we reached the turn to the castle.
Willie Hunt

 Along the way and through much of the day we were passed by a group of people driving old jalopy cars and trucks. It was great seeing those guys out there driving in the desert. I think we saw more of those cars than any others.

 We passed Bill Walton, again, along the way. He was doing the century ride I think because he did not go all the way to Stovpipe Wells. His frame is huge and I don't think I could even get my leg over it.
Bill Walton....over 7 foot tall!


Only one of the Adobo club member's, Julius, stayed with us on this stretch. We were just flying on the gradual climb. Not very characteristic for a tandem bike. Still averaging over 18mph on the bike.  I dont know what got into us but we had no issues with hydration, fuel....anything.

Teresa with Julius in the rear
As we cruised on this section we saw our friend, (the famous),  Isabelle Drake. . She is an avid solo ultra racer with many accolades! She was on "The Hammer Frogs" and "The Four Raw Milk Cats" teams. She has done the Race Across America with her teams

Here we are with Isabelle in our draft....Pic by John Clare

Isabelle Drake

Slowly catching people on the gradual climb
 From the turn, it was a grunt of a hot climb up to Scotty’s Castle. For me, it seemed like the warmest climb of the day. We had a slight tail wind and the temp on my Garmin was reading 92 degrees. Not too bad considering some of the “Hell-Fests” I have done this year.
I used the low gears for the first time on this climb and just took it easy. 
Arrgghhh.......into the granny gear and just spin-it!!

Scotty's Castle
Into the check point we rolled. We just stopped to top off the water, talk a little with friends and use the bathroom.
Part three: Scotty’s Castle to Hwy 95, Nevada, Mile 94.6, Elevation: 4,000 feet

We had to finish the climb up the canyon we had started while going to Scotty’s. Up we went to the Nevada border and mile 73 with an altitude gain of 870 feet more.
Kirsten just hammering up into Nevada from the castle
Jack, Kirsten and Margaret, pulling us to the summit in Nevada
We had a small group that stayed pretty much together for the climb. The next stretch of about 22 miles seemed the hardest for me. I started to develop hot foot and some sciatic pain in my left leg. It was the roughest road we would encounter on the ride, although, not too bad. Just jarring at times. We had to stand to stretch a number of times on this section. Our group did not mind slowing a bit every time we had to slow down. 
Driving a tandem has been much more difficult for me in the last few years. I don’t think I have as much upper body strength and my core muscles have become weaker since I turned 60. I have to work on that!!
We reached the check point and took a break at Hwy 95. We stop along this hwy on the White Mountain Double Century "smoothie stop" at Coaldale Junction. Much farther north though.
Part 4: Hwy 95 back to Scotty’s Castle, Mile 121, Elevation: 3,000 feet.
We rolled out of the stop easy so we could re-form our group for the trek back to Scotty’s. We then kept a nice, fairly easy, steady pace on this deceiving stretch back to the border. The scenery was like a moonscape and it looked like a climb, but, in fact, we lost about 130 feet as we approached the mountains at the border.
 The desert can really play tricks on you that way!! We actually were pulling at between 16-18mph along this stretch into a head wind. It seemed almost effortless. We had to keep slowing down a bit in order for our friends to stay in the slip stream. It was a great recovery section.
Heading back to Cali. Margaret, Steve and Adobo's Julius and Mike behind us. Pic by John Clare

Mars scape

We reached the border at the summit and then we just sprinted over the top knowing that only a select few could stay with a tandem on a descent.  Kirsten, who is a very strong racer, was able to stay with us. The descent was a little technical due to some gravel and such but it went well and we arrived at the castle for a quick stock up on food and water.
Part 5: Scotty’s to Ubehebe Crater, Mile 130, Elevation: 2,610 feet.
After having to fumble with my Garmin computer mount, that came loose, for about 10 minutes, we left the castle for a nice descent down to the turn for the crater. We flew down that section and then down some more before reaching the climb to the crater.
A few of the group caught up as we started the climb. It was a pretty good one. There is only about 270 feet of elevation gain to get to the crater from the turn but we had quite a descent to get to the start of the climbing from the turn at 2,340 feet. It was pretty steep on the tandem for a while. It was hot again.
We stopped at the crater and took some pictures. Ubehebe crater is an amazing sight! It is this giant volcanic cone just hidden out there. From the sky in must look amazing. Below is a picture of the info placard. 
You can see the road we came up, on the bottom left, of the crater.       Picture by John Clare
Julius, Teresa and I at the crater
Ubehebe Crater
Part 6: Ubehebe Crater to Check point 7, Mile 169, Elevation: 270 feet
Now came the fun for a while! We had a nice fast descent out of the crater area but a long slog of a climb to get back to the Scotty’s Castle turn-off. We flew down this section passing a few more people then we just paced ourselves up the climb.
From the turn we drop over 2,000 feet of elevation gradually for 34 miles with only a couple little bumps in the road. From here, to the top of the final climb, we were pretty much all by ourselves. I think we did this section in under an hour. Teresa and I were spun out at 40mph on many sections. on the tandem and we were hooting and hollering the whole way down.
Flying south bound to the Hell's Gate climb
Sun setting on Death Valley
 I did stop for water on the way down because I went dry on my water even with the fast descent. 
You drink allot out there!! Even when it is cool in Death Valley, with the wind in your face, it feels like you have a very dry blow dryer in your mouth. (Someone told me once that you lose 1 pint of water per hour, just sleeping, in Death Valley).

We reached the check point just as it turned dark.
  Part 7: Check point 8 to Hell’s Gate, Mile 175, Elevation: 2,330 feet.
We had some soup, filled up our water and chatted for a while before slaying the beast which is Hell’s Gate.
They saved the toughest and longest climb of the event for the very end. Thank God it is late in the day when it is nice and cool.
The “Hell’s Gate” climb gains about 2,060 feet in just 6.4 miles. It was a beast on the tandem but we did well. We had to stop once so I could stretch my leg with the sciatic pain and Teresa could stretch out a bit. One minute, max, is all it took.
The stars were just amazing on this climb. I could not see much of them due to my helmet light but what I could see was amazing. When I stopped, it was like you could reach out and touch the Milky Way!! Amazing.
You feel very, very small out there. It is my favorite type of riding. You really feel one with nature.
About a mile to the top after stretching and we felt renewed. We stopped just long enough to check-in. There were many people relaxing and resting at the top. We did not.
Part 8: Hell’s Gate to Furnace Creek...the finish, Mile196.9, Elevation: -165.
Now.....the reward!!
Wooo Hoooo......We dropped almost 2,500 feet in about 20 miles to the finish!! What a great reward for a long, hard, day.
As we descended by ourselves into the night for the steepest part, the first 10 miles, I turned both my lights up to “flame thrower” mode. Both “Exposure lights” set at about 1,000 lumens really lit up the descent and my helmet light, The Diablo, enabled me to pan the upcoming terrain for the infamous coyotes which could really ruin your day.
 We averaged just over 36 mph in the dark on this descent to Hwy 190 with a max speed of close to 50mph, which we easily could have topped had it been daylight. Teresa and I did the 10 miles in just over 16 minutes. It seemed like 2 minutes though. Tiger was growling and screaming the whole way down!!!
A former mountain bike racer....that girl...loves the speed!
We made the left turn on Hwy 190 and both smelled the barn!! In the big chain ring we stayed as we just hammered it home for the final ten miles.
We finished the ride at about 8:40 pm.
We hung out at the finish for a little bit and then we went to the rooms to clean up a bit. We came back out to cheer on the rest of the people coming in, especially, John, Scott and the rest of the Adobo group.
The last of the Adobo Group waited at the gas station for everyone to form up. They then all came in together. Really cool!!

  After the event was over.....and after midnight....Francis...who did the double century....cooked us all an Adobo Chicken and soup dinner. You guys are amazing! We didn't finish and go to bed until after 1am! WOW!
Our moving time: 12 hrs
Elapsed time: 13 hrs 40 min
Garmin ride data here
All the pictures hear 
Thanks go out to John and Teresa of Adobo Velo for helping me get into the event. Thanks to Adobo Velo for the great welcome to the group. I will wear the jersey with pride and respect. 
Thanks Teresa Beck for the hard work on the tandem. You were an animal out there. Like you said, "it might be pretty scary if we actually trained on the tandem for an event"!!

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