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A Bike Trip to Death Valley
Friday, 16 June 2006
Monday 12 June. Reedley to Yosemite. A Marathon bike ride.

This was the last day of the 5 day diversion due to the Tioga Pass closure. We had to reach Yosemite Valley today to stay at the expensive Yosemite Lodge which had been booked and paid for 9 months ago. A couple of obstacles lay in the way, 115 miles plus the Sierra Nevada mountains!

After a 5.30 am breakfast at the local diner the first 25 miles was on pan flat backroads still in the valley. We bypassed Fresno on Academy road which had a wide bike path. A couple of problems here. First I picked up a giant sized fencing staple which led to a quick rear wheel puncture as we soon discovered the inner tube had been part stapled to the inside of the tyre. A few miles down the road my front wheel deflated, this time due to a drawing pin.

We continued north riding into the foothills of the Sierras on Highway 168.This was quite busy but we turned off it after 10 miles on backroads via Auberry at 2600ft but then a sharp 1200ft descent into a valley and then back up again to North Fork where we stopped for lunch in a Saloon. Then up and down alongside Bass Lake to Yosemite Junction where we stopped for an early 5.00pm dinner. We knew that with 45 miles to go we would arrive too late for a meal at Yosemite.

There then followed a very long climb to 5000ft and the entrance Station to Yosemite National Park. Then it was down to Wawona and as the sun was setting we started a 12 mile climb of 2000ft to 6000ft which took us 2 1/2 hours by which time it was well dark.

The descent was interesting!. There were a few mutterings from the ranks about nightmares. We had to descend slowly to see with our front lights the white line at the edge of the road and the occasional pothole. The cold night-time mountain air meant we shivered our way down in stark contrast to the heat of Death Valley earlier in the trip. We had to stop occasionally to point the front lights up at road signs to be sure we were on the right route. We had heard about Black Bears around at night in Yosemite tearing cars apart to get at food. We wondered about the Power Bars in our Panniers and decided to abandon our bikes if the occasion arose

A mile long lit tunnel into Yosemite valley gave us little warmth and a faster descent as we could see better where we were going. As we descended into Yosemite Valley we could see even by starlight the great cliffs towering 1000s of feet above us and the great waterfalls roaring into the valley fed by snowmelt from the high Sierras.

We eventually found Yosemite lodge by the Falls and rolled up outside the grand entrance to reception at 11.40pm. The receptionist had various forms to fill in relating to our motor vehicle and didn't immediately grasp the concept that we had bicycled into the park. However she then got us checked in quickly and we collapsed into warm beds in short order.

I said earlier in the blog that the ride to Ridgcrest was my hardest in many years. This one beat it in distance and amount of climbing. For those not into bike riding I have a handlebar mounted bike Speedo known as a bike computer which also includes an altimeter and gives an accurate figure for the total amount of climbing in a day. Today's total was 10,006ft for the day ie 1/3 the height of Everest and my highest total everfor a day. Distance was 115 miles and time riding the bike was 12 hours 48 minutes. It was 17 hours from start of the days ride to the end.

The picture below was taken a few days later wnen we climbed the same hill into Yosemite in the light to show the view we would have had if it was not pitch black.


remote Posted by Edwin at 6:19 PM BST

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