2002 Furnace Creek 508 Camp

"Want to have fun?

Want to ride with other dedicated riders?

Want to jumpstart  your cycling and get back on the saddle?

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!

This 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.

Unwilling 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.

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 Horse Shoe Meadows Road and my new Spectrum bike near the Summit

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.

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 The Start at Stove Pipe Wells


At 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 Meadows Rd.

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2002508camproadtotownespass.jpg (21054 bytes) 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 turn for the climb of Emigrant Pass. I am about ready for that rest stop. 

2002508campreststop.jpg (125646 bytes)   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.

Next 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 and 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!

We 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 cheese everyone".

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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.

The next 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.

Thanks Chris, Jann, Julie and Mike for the support!

Put this one on your calendar for next year!













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