My Cervélo and I got to Las Vegas, found our rented car and after a few wrong turns headed west toward Death Valley National Park in California. My destination was the Furnace Creek Ranch, the only resort in the park, at 200 feet below sea level, and the starting point for the Death Valley Century . Furnace Creek is a spring-fed oasis in the desert, dotted with date palms and featuring a golf course (“the world’s lowest…”). The spring water fills the swimming pool, which is always pleasantly warm, a nice place to relax in the cool desert evenings.
The redoubtable double century folks started at 7:00 and we less adventurous single centurions went off in waves at 7:30. I offered imprecations to whatever desert gods there might be that my battered and torn AC ligaments would not trouble me too much, hopped on my Cervélo and we started northward up highway 190. The mountains and desert rolled by on either side. We passed signs indicating that we had reached sea level, 1000 feet above sea level and so on. There were photogenic landscapes everywhere and I snapped a few pictures from the saddle before remembering that it was this sort of inattention and capriciousness that had caused me to crash a few weeks ago. I put the camera away, drank a lot and faithfully kept my nutrition and electrolytes up; there is a terrific aid station at mile 18 featuring all sorts of food and very friendly, helpful people.
Returning to Furnace Creek was a much easier ride, so I treated myself to some good speed and high cadence work. Rather than slowing me down, the slight headwind served to cool me a bit in the afternoon heat. If the trip upward had taken around four hours, the return trip took about three. I coasted back into Furnace Creek sometime after 3:00pm and dove into the provided pizza, followed by the pool. My shoulder injury had indeed nagged me all day, like an unpaid bill, and I was never unaware of it. But neither was I sidelined by it, and the sheer enjoyment of biking through this spectacular, extreme part of the world was more than enough to compensate.