[ Pahrump, Nevada ]
Welcome to Monday morning, and the far side of Death Valley–just barely within the great state of Nevada. Apologies for this much-delayed update, but it couldn’t be helped. It took time to get my refurbished computer set up, to import & edit photos, and–most recently–to recover from intense after effects of my second vaccination against COVID-19. I received the shot two days ago at the Pahrump Walgreens, and definitely did NOT fall within the 20-ish percent of Moderna jabees who experience no adverse symptoms. It was, rather, a colossal eff-ewe of unpleasantries.
On the other hand, the effects were predictably short-lived, and I was able yesterday to repair my punctured inner tubes, clean the bike, reprovision, and spend time with my wonderful hosts Bill & Arika–fellow touring cyclists, admirable humans, and members of the warmshowers.org cycling network. (Thanks Bill! Thanks Arika!)
Time is too short to give a detailed accounting of my dozen days in Death Valley’s backcountry, but I’m including a handful of photos to get the ball rolling. What you should know is that this park is vast and it is serious. As well prepared and provisioned as I was, I was twice in deep trouble due to a dwindling water supply; with one exception, every water source listed on my maps was in fact dry. While taking a shortcut–recommended by a local–I ran out of water during a period where I didn’t see another human (near or far) for more than 48 hours. When you’re timing your water consumption, hoping to make it back to a “main” 4WD route by Friday morning, praying for weekend traffic so you can bum a few liters of agua off of a stranger in a jeep, the severity of your environment and situation become clear, quickly.
If you think this is hyperbole, consider this article: a fatality in a much more travelled area of the park that occurred while I was there, and only a handful of miles from where I will end my day today.
Anyway…once I had my head on straight about water, there was still the matter of my inadequate fitness and the difficulty of the route. What I had imagined might take seven days maximum (Lone Pine to Beatty) took twelve instead. Not once during those twelve days did I have access to the network for calls or texts, much less internet. In order to allay any concerns about my well being, I had strangers–leaving by 4WD—deliver SMS messages to my mom’s neighbor. Not since Mongolia have I been disconnected for such a lengthy period.
It was, then, an absolutely outstanding adventure; a thrilling opening to a cycling experience unlike I’ve had in the USA. The Bureau of Land Management and National Parks/Forest policies regarding dispersed camping keep things primitive, disconnected, and, well, easy. Uncomplicated at least.
And this brings us more or less to today. As you read this I am already on the road again, riding into the southeast corner of Death Valley National Park, wending downward into Mojave National Preserve. For the next three-hundred miles or so, I will be in National Parks, Forests, Wilderness Areas, and BLM properties. There will be little pavement, no towns, and precious little network access until I reach Arizona. I’ll update you when I can.
In the meantime, remain safe and happy and well. To new friends found in Saline Valley’s innards: Cheers! Thanks! May we meet again! (And all that jazz.)
One thing is certain: my gear choices were outstanding! Fargo was made (and kitted out) for these roads and this terrain. Despite horrendous washboard roads, deep sand and gravel, thorny flora, and bone-jarring, hours-long descents, my gear was undaunted and unphased. I did manage to break or lose or destroy several pieces of old or peripheral kit, but the core items (bike, racks, camping gear, straps) performed beyond all expectations. Bravo!