Cycling through Death Valley, powered by REI

Death Valley has intrigued me ever since I got to California and has since been on my list of places to visit. I even went as far as buying a book on hiking Death Valley. REI, however, came up with the perfect solution for me: a 3 day cycling adventure and a chance to visit the driest and lowest locations in North America. Sounded like fun.

The adventure began with an orientation meeting of the participants with our two guides, Maryanne and Nick, at the REI store in Henderson, NV, about 15 minutes away from the Las Vegas strip by car. While we got to know each other, the guides gave us a run-down of the next 3 days, what to expect and go over the logistics.

One word about the weather: Death Valley is usually associated with sauna-like temperatures and one would not necessarily think that booking a cycling trip to go there is necessarily a pleasant way to spend your free time. While this might be true of the summer months, winter usually presents itself with more moderate temperatures with highs in the mid 70s and lows around freezing at night. This time, it turned out to be a little cooler and a little windier than usual, which luckily in the end did not turn out to be much of a problem. A much colder front had already passed through the area a day before we headed out to start our adventure Friday morning.

Day 1: Drive to Scotty’s Castle, ride to Stovepipe Wells

The whole group (11 participants, 2 guides) met in Henderson at 7am on Friday and we hit the road in the REI van, with our bikes on top (I opted for renting a Giant Defy 2 from REI for $150 for the trip) and our luggage in the trailer in the back. We headed Northwest, past Vegas and Mt Charleston towards the Northeast entrance of Death Valley, with stops in Indian Springs and Beatty. After about 3 hours, we made it to, Scotty’s Castle, our (driving) destination for the day. While Maryanne and Nick prepared our bikes and lunch, we took a tour of the castle. It was ok, although I felt that most people were anxious to finally get on their bikes and ride.

Lunch was quick and once everyone got changed into their bike gear and transformed into “Weekend-Lance-Armstrong-Wannabies”, we were ready to go. This first ride took us over 44 miles of Death Valley vastness and coming here for the first time, it certainly was a great opportunity to take in the scenery with the valley spreading out to the left and right of the road until the plain makes way to the mountain ranges. The ride was mainly downhill with an elevation loss of close to 3,500 feet, with just a few minor uphills in between. With the wind also working in our favor, the ride turned out to be a nice cruise to Stovepipe Wells, where we checked into Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel, our quarters for the next 2 nights. After dinner at the local Toll Road Restaurant, everyone was pretty much ready to hit the pillow and get a good night sleep before day 2 of our adventure.

Day 2: Furnace Creek to Badwater Basin

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