Rows of shelves lined with fireworks, and I’m not talkin’ sparklers here either. Also, more cigarette cartons and bottles of booze than you could shake a stick at. Where was all this you might ask? The Paiute Indian Reservation truck stop at exit 75 just north of Las Vegas on I-15, the start of today’s charity ride to raise funds for a local lady stricken with breast cancer. That’s what I saw at 7 o’clock in the morning when I went inside looking for a restroom. To say the least, I was a bit taken a back. Turns out that that wasn’t the only surprise of the day, and the ride hadn’t even started yet. Getting back in the car and following what was obviously another cyclist looking for the start point, we entered a rather large truck-stop parking lot and were directed by someone obviously in charge to park, “over there.” So, we parked “over there.” To my amazement parking over there meant that we got a birds-eye view of the fireworks test area. Seems you can do that in Nevada. Now, I’m not much for litter. As a matter of fact, I hate it, and loath those who are so lazy to create it. Well, let me tell ya. This area was at least a square mile of used bottle rockets, large fireworks containers, and general trash. Disgusting. But I guess it’s not my reservation so I’ll move on to the cycling.
The event was probably one of the biggest “non-organized” events I’ve ever attended. The gal running things, Asia, managed to get over 200 people to show up, all of whom raised over $4250 dollars to help this nice gal fight breast cancer. Several bike shops donated items for raffle, and several folks gave up their entire day to volunteer and SAG. The only thing that didn’t cooperate was the weather. The skies were relatively clear but the wind was blowing relentlessly and was getting stronger by the hour.
The ride started a little late and we rolled out about 30 minutes past the stated start time. The route took us up a small 9-mile incline towards Valley of Fire State Park which lies about 11 miles from the truck stop. Everyone pretty much stayed together until the road pitched up. Standard. The racer boys dropped everyone early and proceeded on their way while the straggling peloton eventually broke completely apart into small groups of riders. I must say that the scenery is pretty much junk until you drop into the park. The Nevada desert just doesn’t have a whole lot to offer from a generalists standpoint.
After reaching the summit of our 9 mile climb, the road drops off dramatically and immediately into the park. The downhill was quite a thrill and quite a challenge for me as I did the “one handed” photography thing. Just past the ranger station the rewards begin. The bland Nevada desert changes into a spectacular assortment of colors that contrast dramatically with the brilliant blue sky. I’ll let the pictures do the talking here. Valley of Fire is truly a remarkable place and it was hard to keep focus on riding with such dramatic vistas unfolding all around us. The only bad part about this ride so far was the fact that it was downhill for a really long way with a tailwind. And any experienced cyclist will tell you that that means only one thing: uphill and a headwind on the way back. As luck would have it, that’s exactly what happened and the effect was dramatic. We lost a lot folks to the SAG, including Mrs. Mozam. It was probably a good thing that Mrs. Mozam dropped out at the ranger station because the climb back out is about 4 miles of 8-10% grade, all of which was against a headwind. I pressed on to get the car, when Asia pulled up to offer a fill of water. I told her I left Bobbie at the ranger station and she eagerly volunteered to go SAG her in. What a great lady! After the climb out, the headwind turned to a quarterly tailwind pushing me back down the grade at speeds exceeding 30 miles an hour. There is just something very cool about cruising down a desolate road all alone on a bicycle at such speeds.
By the time I got back to the start, the wind was blowing so much dust across the road it was barely visible. My car was covered with dust and it was a real challenge to get everything put away before the wind carried all our stuff off across the parking lot. The place was practically deserted when got the bikes put away, and it didn’t look like there was going to be any post ride events so we just loaded up and got the heck out of there. Next time, if we get up and the wind is blowing, we’re gonna blow this one off!
See the rest of my photos of Valley of Fire here
You can also see more pictures here.