Day 6 – River Mountain Trail in Reverse
The final day of our tour we did the 35 mile bike trail in reverse. Doing it in reverse and at an earlier time in the day was a completely different experience. Not much to report, but I did get good pictures of the Lake, the culvert we had to bike through and a shot of the Strip from long distance.
After the ride, I broke my bike down into the carrier and away I went.
Day 5 – Temple Bar
No this day was not about drinking at religious services. Temple Bar is the name of a rock formation on the south short of Lake Mead. I had not realized that we were going to bike today entirely in Mojave County, Arizona. After a shuttle to an intersection with a state highway, we took of on a 51 mile out an back to Lake Mead’s south short. This was indeed an up and close with the Mojave Desert. You are riding in the middle of nowhere, seeing only 8 cars all day.
While there were no stunning photographs today, it was one of those cycling days where it is you versus the elements. Temperatures rose to about 84 on some of the short climbs and keeping hydrated was a must. You definitely did not want to do this ride during the summer where you can easily see the temperature approach 120. The group ate a quiet lunch at the Marina and reluctantly started back toward the pick up spot. None of us were looking forward to the climb back out. We did see Desert Tarantula and the Road Runner.
After the ride we were supposed to go to the Hoover Dam visitor center and perhaps get a tour inside the dam. Unfortunately new security rules prevented our van with a trailer to visit. A bit of a disappointment.
Tomorrow is our final day where we bike the 35 mile bike trail, but in reverse.
Day 4 – Kayak down the Colorado River
Today was quite an experience. Instead of biking we planned on a very long kayak down the Colorado River, starting in Nevada and ending in Arizona. The day started with meeting the van and the tour leads at 5AM. This meant a wake up at 4:15 and getting ready for a water day versus a biking day. After a shuttle to the parking lot at last casino in Nevada before the Hoover dam, we were met by the river tour outfitters where we needed to get checked in by Homeland Security, in a Tier 1 check in, no different than entering the white house. After our check in we drove to the Dam in the kayak tour vehicles and were let through a locked gate and we drove down what is the 2nd steepest road in the US, down to the Colorado River right next to the Hoover Dam, under the “shadow” of the new bridge that was built to take traffic off the Hoover Dam for security purposes. We had only 15 minutes to unload the Kayaks and get going. Cameras were everywhere.
We were expecting a very cold morning, in the shadows of the Black Canyon, which was really like a river gorge. We were pleasantly surprised that it was warmer than we expected. The kayak was expected to be about 12-13 miles, with a couple of places where we would beach the Kayaks and do a bit of hiking up slot canyons with hot springs.
We were told by the kayak tour people that we were on their own unless a major emergency would occur. People kayak down or up the river and camp along the site in a place or two. The first third had some good current so it was nice floating downriver. The last two thirds did not have much current to speak of, more like a flooded river. We did see fishermen catching big striped bass. In fact before the dam, this river flowed naturally and there was the Arizona Fleet which were many ships that ferried provisions up the river towards mining encampments. These ships would cable in and winch themselves up the river. We saw evicence of those days.
We were told to expect headwinds as we got towards the end. In the end the Kayak and hikes were about 14 miles. My GPS did have a few artifacts due to GPS bouncing off the canyons. This was the longest kayak I have ever done. The fine 3 miles was a lot of paddling, and I was happy to see the Willow Beach Marina for lunch with the group.
Day 3 – Valley of Fire plus
The Valley of Fire is supposed to be the cycling highlight of the trip. It is a Nevada state park, loaded with red rocks. We started the day with a shuttle to a rest stop near the park. After suiting and pumping up our tires, we started out with a climb towards the park. This park was quite amazing and definitely ranks up there with Yosemite, Bryce and Zion.
In addition to all the Red rock views, there were multiple color formations including the famous White Domes at the end of the road. We all decided to add a part of the park where there was petroglyphs and an arch (something I have not seen yet).
As with the previous days the weather was spectacular. On the way back, we had an option to climb to the summit and then get a van ride back (it was a long day with lots of stopping and picture taking). On the way back a few of us were caught behind a major repaving team of 10 trucks ending their day (and cleaning up). We were delayed about 20 minutes and in fact the pick up spot was closed and our van was no where in sight. I got a call through to the leader and learned we just had a mile left. Yay.
Day 2 – Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Today we started earlier (and colder) with an out an back to the Red Rock turn out in the Lake Mead National Rec area. While there was maybe one climb that had a sustained 1000 ft (for example the SF Bay area has 2000 ft sustained climbs all over) the elevation today was high at 4500 ft. This was due to all the little 200 foot up and downs. There was no time when we were riding a flat segment. The weather was perfect, starting at 55 and ending at 80, with clear blue sky (and the ever present helicopters in the distance taking visitors from Vegas to Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon). We also saw quite a few rental Lamborghini’s and other luxury cars being taken out by tourists.
One would think that we would see a lot of the lake, but we only got a glimpse in the beginning. After that is was a landscape similar to Death Valley with a bit of Utah thrown in. Another name for this ride was “all washes lead to the lake” as we rode over many dry river beds. This type of ride really clears my head as it is just you and the Mohave desert, and thoughts turned to the musical group America and their very famous song….
After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was deadAmerica’s Horse with No Name
Amazingly 3 songs later in my playlist this song came up.
The scenery was extremely dramatic compared to the previous day.
Day 1 – River Mountains Trail Loop
I am back in the desert, not far from my last ride in Death Valley. This time we are riding from Lake Las Vegas, a 20 mile drive from the strip, an oasis containing a small lake, with high end retirement homes, a village, and a few hotels. We started today at 10AM, which was late, considering the time change and we headed out to the River Mountains Trail Loop (a very popular route with the locals with many trailheads to park and ride the loop.)
For the first time I took my bike with me in a large bike carrier where you mount your bike on a frame, remove the wheels, move your handlebars and remove your seat/post. I was a little weary that I would be able to put humpty dumpty back together again, but was successful minus my back derailleur (the thing the moves the chain around on the gearset). It would not move even though there was power in the system (I use an electronic shifting system that is popular nowadays). After a call to my buddy DaveS, we figured out that the Ultegra Di2 has a crash protection mode that must have activated. There was not crash, but during the luggage handling it must have been set off and a simple button reset fixed the problem. Bam, I am off, but behind everyone.
This 35 mile loop is a amazing thing to ride as it crosses many areas, leveraging some infrastructure that was already in place. On this trail we saw tourists riding a train chassis via bicycle pedals, bighorn sheep, Lake Mead and Lake Las Vegas, and of course the ever present Mohave Desert.
As this was the first day in the tour, which was run by CyclingEscapes, I took it easy as we have bigger days coming. A sampling of the pictures are below. While the desert may seem like a boring place, there was lots to look at.
Tomorrow we ride along the northern border of Lake Mead.