"Want to have fun?
Want to ride with other dedicated riders?
Want to jumpstart your cycling and get back on the
Want to ride as much or as little as YOU want?
Want to go where no one other than YOU really wants to go?"
Come and join us at the Furnace Creek 508 Spring Camp. Join Chris Kostman
for a riding experience you won't soon forget.
I did last year and had a great time. This years itinerary sounded exciting,
including a route not before traveled. Instead of Towne
Pass we would enter Death Valley by way of Emigrant Pass. Spend the night
in Stove Pipe Wells. Ride to Shoshone via Jubilee Pass and Salsberry Pass.
Shoshone to Death Valley Junction to Dante's View and back to Stove Pipe Wells.
Back to Lone Pine with the option to climb to Whitney Portals. With
this kind of an itinerary, any "ultracyclist" worthy of the name should feel like a
So Cal termite in a freshly cut 4x4!
year I felt the need to recharge my enthusiasm for cycling. I needed to mingle with
those other " Ultra maniacs". The 508 Camp should do the trick. The group
would again include "Superwoman" Seana Hogan and Mr. "Double Century" Paul Kopit. I just could not wait to try out my new Titanium
Spectrum Compact with Record triple 10 speed and 13/29 rear cluster. This should
allow me to climb that monster hill to Dante's View while sipping leisurely from my
water bottle and spinning my 30/29 gear or so I dreamed.
to break with tradition and unwilling to take it easy, I " warmed up" nicely by
climbing Horse Shoe Meadows Rd., my favorite climb out of Lone Pine. This is a 2
hour climb to about 10000 ft. My new bike felt wonderful going up, but it is so
stiff that on the descent my wrists were really getting a workout.
Horse Shoe Meadows Road and my new Spectrum bike near
To finish I climbed the first half to
Whitney Portals and then it was time to meet the 508 Gang. Lots of new faces. Steve " Hammer it"
Pack was training for an ever faster Double Century. Bruce
Christiansen, my roommate for this camp, was on his first bicycle tour. He heads the LAPD bicycle unit and
commutes umpteen miles daily. Badwater Mayor Ben Jones and his first Lady Denise
graciously offered parking in front of their home near the hotel.
The Start at Stove Pipe Wells
the start of the ride Chris encouraged us to ride together and have fun! I was
going to try. Leaving
last, I do the social thing and talk to as many of the other riders as I
can. Meanwhile I am also stopping to take pictures. That's a first for me. Really
hanging back! The first part of the ride
is easy. Rolling terrain offering beautiful vistas of Owens Valley with the
mountains in the background, including the giant switchbacks of Horse Shoe
Road to Towne Pass (I 190)
We blow through Gunsight Pass and after a short descent we start the
gradual climb to Darwin Point , elevation approx. 5200ft. As usual it's cold at
this elevation. After quite a few rollers we reach the fast descent to Panamint Valley.
This descent treats us on great views of Panamint Valley including glimpses of the
long climb of Towne Pass. Last year we could track a never ending series of
dust storms, whirl winds etc. along the sandy valley floor tearing across the
road leading to Towne Pass. This year conditions are more tranquil. Even though climbing
Towne Pass is the alternative, I believe everyone
opts for the more difficult Emigrant Pass. So
we turn right and meet the headwind. Fortunately I have encountered MUCH worse
conditions in the past. I remember last years dreadful Lone Pine DC. The winds
were just unbelievable that time. So get back in the aero bars, will you. Put
your head down and hammer.
Chris and Anurang Revri are glued to my wheel until we make the left
the climb of Emigrant Pass. I am about ready for that rest stop.
Rest stop with Mike Angelos
The rest stops are
well stocked with quality bars, Hammergel containers, Sustained energy, etc.
Ample ice cubes, Starbucks Frappuccinos, etc., etc. Excellent support. Mike
Angelos is the driver of the lead support vehicle and serves also as the bike
mechanic. He is just the person to fix your derailleur problems, to reconnect
the odd broken chain and to perform all those other chores we cyclists
rather stay away from. All that with a smile!
The road to Emigrant Pass is rough, but not
near as rough as I remember from driving it once to my first Death Valley Double
Century in 1993. The road meanders through narrow canyons and at times gets
pretty steep but never more than 15 %. Chris and Bruce are dropping
back a bit and I push on. It's getting colder and colder and after yesterdays
very cold descent from Horse Shoe Meadows, I can't wait to descend into the
Valley of Death and hopefully warm up. Since this road lacks the vistas of Towne Pass,
the elevation gain is somewhat deceiving and the climb seems to drag on.
Eventually there is what looks like the summit and behold, there is one of the
white support vans. But is it cold! I empty my back pack of all the extra
clothes. I need them all. The descent is fast but not as hair-raisingly fast
as the descent from Towne Pass into Death Valley. DARN! A Flat! Fortunately it
is the rear tire. I am just going to take my time. Heck, this is supposed to be a
vacation. It's amazing, every one stops just to make sure I am " O.K." Joining
the main drag, we descend another 3000 ft into Stove Pipe Wells. The hotel
is very crowded, lots of school kids frolicking in the pool. Fearing the
E.Coli count I think twice about taking a swim. It's time to kick back and talk
cycling. Especially that room mate of mine, Bruce, is full of stories.
morning everything appears to be in slow motion. I get up early enough to get
Orange Juice , etc. from the store but when I am finished everyone is gone! Why
the hurry??? Well back on the old bike and start catching up. Easier said than
done, a lot of the riders are quite fast. I am just going to hang back. Aren't
those Frappuccinos there to be enjoyed? After the right turn to Badwater it gets pretty lonely. There is a nice tailwind though. Too bad there is no
support at Badwater. Having done the Death Valley Double Century numerous times, it
never entered my mind that support might not be there this time. Arriving in Ashford Mills
I am parched. Starting out on the climb to Jubilee Pass, the weather is perfect.
Jubilee is the "warm up" for Salsberry. Salsberry accounts for most of
the 3200 ft climb. The weather turns, the sky darkens and it even starts to
sprinkle. I had planned to ride Salsberry twice, but now I start to regret this
plan. I am too compulsive to NOT do it. Once I decide to ride a certain distance or
climb, that's it. While shivering from the cold, I turn around at the summit of Salsberry to
descent and climb back to Jubilee. On the way back I pass several
"stragglers" and then no one. It's not fair for the support to have to wait for
me, so I turn back at Jubilee rather than at Ashford. Everyone is
pretty cold by now. The descent to Shoshone is always disappointing. It is
up and down and usually there is head wind. Finally the private town of
Shoshone. I am told one person owns the town. Gee, do I envy that person. We all
get together for more cycling stories and then to the local grease spoon. I am
finishing all the leftovers of the rest stops. Do you have some more of those
Frappuccinos? Beef jerky? Sure! The hotel is something else. The floor tilts
I keep sliding down on the bed. And does the wind blow through the night! Steve Pack next door is
coughing his lungs out. Take a pill, will you! Can't sleep!
all get up early to be ready for a big day, which will culminate in the climb to Dante's View. A
tough son of a climb. The ride will take us to Death Valley Junction. We will
get a glimpse of the Amargosa Opera house. According to Paul Harvey and "
the rest of the story" , this is home to a by now old but apparently
well known ballerina. Unfortunately we are a little bit too early for a
performance. A slow but steady climb back into Death Valley buys us spectacular
views of weird
yellow and gray rock formations. This must have been the area where they filmed
the first Star Wars movie. Since I moved to this country 23 years ago I have
been here many times, but the scenery never fails to impress me. Left turn
towards Dante's View By now the fast riders like Seana and Charles Massieon are way in
front. We will see them again on their descent from Dante's View. The last few
miles the road gets steeper, after which it makes an acute turn to the right and
then gets really steep, up to 20% ( Hurrah for my Ciclo computer) This will be
the ultimate test for my Campy 10 speed chain. I have heard many horror stories
about failures of this new 10 speed chain. Even Bruce Christiansen had one of
those chains break, wrecking his rear derailleur in the process. My bike store
did not use a connecting link. I specifically asked for a Wipperman
link but they forgot. BIG mistake! What were they thinking?? Paul Kopit
explained all the intricacies of how to properly connect a chain, particularly
the new Campy 10 speed chain. Obviously by not using the proper connecting link
they ruined an otherwise perfectly good chain. I am really worried about it and
to avoid too much strain on the chain, I throw it on the largest cog in the
back. The road is so steep that with my "compact" bike geometry I have to stand
to avoid uncontrollable front wheel lift!! I am just praying the chain will
hold! Well, it did and the view from the top is indescribable. "Say
Fortunately the support van is
right there with all the goodies. I am going to enjoy the view for awhile and
watch my fellow riders struggle up the hill. Next is
the long descent to Furnace Creek. Surprise! A nice tail wind from Furnace Creek
to Stovepipe Wells. It's hard to believe this great trip will be almost over. In
Death Valley time sure does fly, when the weather is nice and a tail wind blows.
morning we leave early, so those of us who want to climb Whitney Portals can do
so at a reasonable
hour. A lot of the riders have left even earlier. Bruce and I will ride together. The climb
out of the Valley is obviously much longer than the climb of Towne Pass, but not
nearly as steep. Riding this in the morning heat, it is hard to imagine that I
have been here with snow and hail. It is even harder to imagine that I climbed
twice in a row this last year, while training for RAAM. It's huffing and
puffing now. Still we are making decent time, reaching the summit in less than
two hours. At the summit it is cool as usual and after a quick Frappuccino fix we race down to Panamint Springs for a well deserved break. Bruce
goes all out. I love those wheels he has! My Campy Neutron wheels seem to catch
a lot of wind. The climb back to Darwin Point is enjoyable except for the last
500 ft or so when it is quite cold with lots of headwind. In the final stretch
along Owens Valley we are passed by Steve Pack riding very strong. No way that I
can keep up with him. Back in Lone Pine there are few takers to do the final
climb. Only Charles and Rob Lucas are game to
join me. Rob drops back and then
Charlie pretty quickly drops me . I have a hard time just keeping him in sight.
He appears very smooth and does not appear to be as fagged out as I am. Am I
glad again to have that 30/29 gear. I try not to use it , but finally succumb
and throw it onto the largest cog near the top. The views are spectacular, making this one of my favorite
climbs. Every cyclist should ride this at least once. Only the descent is hellish. The road surface is so rough, that I
just have to
stop several times in order to get the feeling in my hands back. I am shaking,
it so cold. Controlling the bike is all I can think of. Just squeezing those brake
levers. At the bottom I am "shaken but not stirred" Just getting
across Hwy 395 and back to my van is agony on the quads. Ben and Denise Jones are nice enough to allow the whole gang to use
the shower in their exercise room and I can't wait to get into that hot shower.
Charles gets there first but since he lives nearby in California City he takes
off right away. By this time almost everyone has cleared out. The reality of
getting back to LA and getting back to work, is setting in.
Chris, Jann, Julie and Mike for the support!
Put this one on your calendar for next year!