Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Day 9 - Friday 31 July - Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes

Our journey today took us across Death Valley National Park - the hottest place on Earth! I think for many of us we felt that this was going to be the most challenging day of the whole trip. But we were well prepared with plenty of sun block and regular stops for water. Our tour guide Dean Cognito was always reminding us that altitude is our friend, so today’s ride into Death Valley, which at Badwater is 86m (282 feet) below sea level, promised to be a very hot day. Incidentally, Badwater is the lowest geographical point in the USA.

We started our descent into Death Valley and the temperature rose steadily to 113F (45C). Along the way we stopped at Zabriskie Point to take in the view of three million acres of stone wilderness. (“Movie Moment” Michaelangelo Antonioni directed the cult classic “Zabriskie Point” in 1970.)

Then on to the Furnace Creek Ranch for lunch, some shopping, lots of water and to refuel the bikes before pressing on.

After this point we started to climb up out of the valley towards the Sierra Nevada mountain range and as we did the temperature began to drop. We climbed steadily passing through the towns of Lone Pine and Big Pine and by the time we reached Mammoth Lakes on the edge of the Inyo National Forest we were at an altitude of 9,000 feet and the temperature had dropped to a comfortable 70F (21C). In the distance we could see patches of snow on the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains. What a difference in temperature in the space of about 90 miles. The Best Western hotel in Mammouth Lakes was our stopover for the night.

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