But the mountain bike puts a big smile on your face the first time
you hop on.
The mountain bike is the Macintosh of transportation.
Bill Wilkinson, executive director of the Bicycle Federation
ofAmerica. (Smithsonian Vol. 25, No. 3. June 1994. p. 80.)
Mountain Biking Death Valley
The title may seem oxymoronic: Why would anyone want to do strenuous aerobic
exercise in the hottest place on earth? Why mountain bike in a valley below
The answer to these and related questions are simple: because it is a beautiful
place with a wide variety of incredible terrain and history. And the cycling
The weather was variable. At various times it was hot, dry, windy, cold,
raining, hailing, and snowing. Then there was the blinding sandstorm, the
tremendous colors at sunrise and sunset, the clear night sky, and the shooting
There were ten of us. A loose collection of individuals from across the
U.S., ranging from Alaska to Arizona, and New Orleans to Newport News. By
the end we were a tight group, having spent a full week riding, eating,
hiking, singing, drinking, laughing, relaxing, and dreaming together.
The valley (and the heat) is formed between mountain ranges. We camped at
three sites in the back country and did not see anyone except ourselves.
One day we did a 2,000 foot climb from camp to the top of a 5,000 foot peak.
Some parts of the trail were steep and rocky, if you lost headway on the
way up it was impossible to start riding again.
We hiked to a waterfall (!), saw a wild burro, cycled through old mining
towns and explored abandoned mines, saw colorful desert flowers, and rode
some spectacular downhills. I wrote a play, took a lot of slides, got some
sun, and drank massive quantities of water.
Cycling is allowed on one of the flat, hard, and smooth dry lake beds. We
raced each other, chased each other, and jumped off the only outcroppings
that could be seen for miles (photo).
After months of intense work and late nights (or early mornings, depending
upon how you look at it), it was wonderful to go to bed relaxed, content,
and just slightly exhausted at 10 PM, knowing that I would wake up with
the sun, and have another beautiful day in the place called Death Valley.
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