Our new slogan, "We plan fun rides and then do them" is most apropos for our latest bicycle excursion. I say "our" because I include myself in this little merry band of adventurous cycling friends. I actually didn't come up with the slogan, I just stole it for the title of this blog entry. I have to give the credit to Cynthia, or Cyn, as she is known to her friends. Frankly, it all fits with Cyn because she can find the fun in just about any bike ride. As a case in point, this ride was formally known as the "Nipton Loop", named primarily for the middle point of the ride, Nipton California, which oh by the way, is a little oasis hole-in-the-ground smack dab in the middle of the Mojave preserve. If you ever wondered where the hell "the middle of nowhere" is, it is Nipton, California. Cyn renamed the ride "The Mad Creek" ride. You see we're gonna stop at the 100 mile point and have Gyros at the Mad Creek restaurant in Stateline, Nevada: Yum, Yum! Well, as it turned out, they were in fact, "yum, yum!"
The one thing that I have learned about living here is the indisputable fact that one can never count on the actual weather being anything like what is forecast. Usually this time of year brings pleasant temperatures, clear skies, and little, to no wind. What we've had lately has been an extraordinary mixture of: cold temperatures, rain, and bizarre, strong winds. So, when the forecast called for a reeeeeeeally nice day, we, or I especially, showed a bit of skepticism. As things turned out though, the day started a bit on the nipply side, but ended quite nicely: temps in the 70's, clear with some high cloud, and very little wind.a very nice bonus.
The Downhill run into Nipton
I showed up first at Saxby's followed shortly thereafter by a guy named Stephen. I noticed he was quite young (22 to be exact) and was sporting one of the local race kits. My first thought was, "great, a hammerhead, this is gonna be fun." Stephen voiced his excitement to me that this, "is the longest ride I've ever done." Well, after that statement some of my fears abated but not all. Tracy rolls up, followed by Al and Shelly, who was then followed by Loon, aka Scott. Just a little about Scott here. This guy is a true locomotive on a bicycle. He is the former Canadian Time Trial Champion, Furnace Creek 508 Veteran (several times), RAAM (Race Across America) Veteran, HooDoo 500 veteran, and all around way-strong dude on a bicycle. As things go, Scott is a true gentlemen on a bike, but if you throw down the hammer, you better be able to pick it back up again, because Scott will give you everything you ask for and more, that's for sure. As we all commented on the ride ahead and the expected weather, some of us peeled off few layers as it was agreed that we were a bit "over" dressed given the day's forecast. Turns out that I sure could have used that vest for an hour or so...damn it was cold!
Scott a.k.a. "Loon"
We blasted (literally) out of the parking lot about 15 minutes late and my first thought was, "man I sure hope we don't try to keep up this pace for the whole ride, after all, we still have 126 more miles to ride." We let the ponies run as we took the turnoff down towards Searchlight on a bomber downhill of about 5 miles. As predicted, the inversion layer caught us and trapped all that wonderful "cold" air near the surface of a try lake bed that joins the highway. Loon and Stephen had long left us by this point but we finally come upon them trying to fix a "tubular clincher." For those not in the know, a tubular clincher is actually a tube and a tire, all in one. If you can't repair it, you are screwed. Many attempts by Scott to pump air into this thing finally resulted in success, and we at long last get going. Then "bang!" our second flat of the day. Not even 20 miles in and Cyn blows a tire big time. That's two! I look at my watch and think, "This is gonna be a long day." Well, we get that fixed and about 3 miles later on a small but rather long climb, I hear "twaaaaang" look down, and see Scott's rear wheel wobbling severely from side to side. I get Scott's attention, we stop, and both say, "oh shit." Turns out he popped a spoke, and on further determination we discover that he actually cracked the rim! Scott decides he is a "mort", calls momma for a ride and sends me on my way to catch the group. I finally catch up and we cruise uneventfully into the booming metropolis of Searchlight, Nevada. On the way in, I say to the group, "you watch, Scott (Loon) will get a new wheel and catch us before we get to Nipton!" Looks of disbelief that say, "ya think? Na no way!"
Shellie chows down on her Nipton pickle
Searchlight, Nevada is one of those, "ya gotta be shittin' me" kind of places. I've been there twice, both times on a bicycle, and my reaction is always the same. It is a giant freakin' trailer park with a fast food restaurant or two stuck in the middle of the treeless desert. I guess they used to mine stuff there way back when because there are all these abandon mine shafts "eye-sores" all over the place, accompanied by an endless array of trailer homes, and not the nice ones either. We all grabbed some liquids and fuel from the local "stop and rob", shoot a few hero photos and discover, you guessed it, another flat. Seems that Shellie's rear tire shit-the-bed slowly on the way in, and finally died peacefully while we were all rejuvenating. Al does his now famous, "I can name that tire change in 30 seconds" routine and we leave Searchlight behind or so we thought. You see, Shellie has some of those 3-gazillion dollar, super deep-dish carbon wheels and her tire decided it didn't like the way it was situated on the rim. Looking like a rugby scrum we all lean over the wheel saying, "oh my, what's wrong. I can't find the problem." Well, we finally determine that the tube inside the tire is not "seated" properly around the rim. We then proceeded to prove ourselves right by going through 3-4 CO2 cartridges in attempt to fix the problem. Somebody says, "hey how many bike shops are there in Searchlight?" Cause we all know there aren't any in Nipton! (looks of impending doom shroud our faces) Well you guessed it, there are ZERO bike shops anywhere on our route! The closest one is in Boulder City, 50 miles back where we just came from. Great Boy Scouts all of us, eh? So, after getting all this mess sorted out, Shellie's tire fixed, etcetera, we take stock of our repair supplies and decide to continue the adventure. Swords drawn, we mount our steeds and shout, "On to Nipton!"
On the road to Nipton, California!
Stephen, appropriately nicknamed by the group as: "The Kid" decides he is gonna try drafting a semi-trailer that has somehow managed the turn towards Nipton at the same time as our group. So, off goes The Kid down the long ribbon of road to the horizon. About ten minutes later, we finally catch up to him, regroup and proceed westward. The Kid, looking like a worn out Cheetah who just missed his prey, leads us on what seems like the Battan Death March to our much awaited descent into Nipton. Since there's not much to look at except mangled asphalt, Joshua trees, and dirt, you just lose yourself in your own thoughts, put your head down and grind your way onward. To the contrary, the descent into Nipton is quite a rush really. I'm not sure how long it is, but hauling ass at 30+ miles an hour seemed to go on for a really long time. I thought to myself, "man there sure is a whole lot of nothin' out here!" One can literally see the entire Mojave preserve, bordering mountain ranges on all horizons, as well as the two tiny dots that are casinos forming an oasis at the California/Nevada border. We aren't in Nipton but for a few minutes when, you guessed it, Loon rolls in. I said, "see I told you guys he'd be here!" Looks of disbelief all around. Nipton isn't much to write home about, but it does provide a nice respite after 67 miles, and the "stop and rob" has these really huge pickles you can buy (that is if you are into eating pickles on a bike ride). Just like in an movie or something, you pull one out of this really big jar and eat it! Nipton also marks the "half-way" point of the ride so that fact always is a morale booster on these long rides. On just about all of our stops, we all seemed to leave together, but inevitably the major group fractions into a few smaller ones. This one being no exception, Loon and The Kid took off on a battle for "King of the Mountains" points while the rest of us settled into a nice semi-aerobic climb to our final turn towards Vegas.
Yeah, I sure could use some of that lottery money!
Several miles and minutes later, we met Loon who was waiting patiently for us at the top of the climb...sans The Kid. This was really a pretty cool spot. To the east you could see the expanse of the terrain just covered, cut only by a small ribbon of road you were just on. To the north was
I-15 leading to first, Stateline, Nevada then followed by Jean, Nevada, both large gambling oasis out in the middle of nowhere. Turning north on I-15 towards Stateline was a lot like bombing down a toboggan run on a bicycle. What was equally amazing was the fact that you were going so fast that the cars passing you to your left didn't look like they were going that much faster than you!
The View from Nowhere, actually I-15 and Nipton Exit looking towards Vegas.
Aaaaaah finally, the Mad Creek restaurant! Man were we hungry, especially me. This place was amazing. You can get just about any kind of Gyro at this place. I settled on the Veggie burger because a big 'ole hunk of meat in any form just didn't sound all that good to me. Cynthia and the rest of thegroup chowed down like big dogs, especially Loon...man can that guy eat! What also amazed us when traveling down I-15 on a Sunday was how many Californians there were heading south back to LA. The parking lots at Stateline were jammed, and south bound I-15 was moving at a snail's pace.It's a damned good thing we were on bicycles heading north.
Cyn at the Mad Creek
The rest of the ride was rather uneventful with one exception. The Kid decided to "attack" the peloton at the 110 mile point! He looked back kinda like Lance Armstong, except the kid had one of those, "I dare ya" smiles on his face and just takes off. Remember what I said about Loon and the hammer earlier? Loon looked at me, I shook my head and off we went to the races! We got into this friggin' rolling paceline at 30 miles an hour into the wind for the next 15 minutes. Al and I pedaled our asses off just to stay on Loon's wheel. I'm muttered cuss words under my breath the whole way back and kept thinking, "can't we just end this ride with a little civility...Nooooo...we have to race...shit!