Day 3 and 4 – Las Vegas and Death Valley to Bishop, CA

After two long riding days it was nice to have a chance to wander around the “Strip” in Las Vegas.

I enjoy people watching and there’s no shortage of interesting characters in LV. Lots of tourists and many languages – we’re all tourists here. I’m amazed at the lengths that casinos and retailers will go to hook clientele. The massive outdoor TVs, the myriad of lights and signage, the air conditioned walkways and skywalks, it’s a sensory overload, which is what it is intended to be.

I also enjoyed wandering through the casinos with their labyrinthine layouts. I’d heard that they an be difficult to find your way in – some were tough to find the exits.

I stopped at a small pub – Sin City Brewing Company. Had a few pops while watching Brazil get shellacked by Germany. Had a good chat with the bartender and a couple of locals. I then enjoyed walking with a pop down the strip and a scorcher of a day.

I contemplated trying gambling but it never really held my interest. Maybe if I knew more of the games or played with friends – next time I’ll mortgage the house before I come down.

I was apprehensive about staying an extra day since I don’t normally like tourist traps but I had a really good time and will return again.

Day 4 – Las Vegas through Death Valley to Bishop, CA

Riding time: 8:00-4:00 pm
Temps: High of 43 Celcius (ouch) and a ‘low’ of 27
Distance: Kilometres

What a terrific day of riding in spite of the heat. I got a bit of a late start today which may have helped beat the heat. I’m glad I left when I did as the desert was still ‘warming up’ as I left Las Vegas and it’s suburbs. I don’t think I could live in a city with a freeway like this. It’s craziness and an assault on the senses in five lanes by two. I’m sure every trip on the freeway removed minutes from your life due to stress. 

I zipped through Shoshone and over the first pass of mountains to Pahrump which was a scenic way to leave the big city. These changes in elevation would be a theme for the day – literally the ups and downs of the day. 

Death Valley is immense and a scale which is similar to the Grand Canyon. Huge cliffed and mountainous walls on each side that tower into the 11-12,000 ft range. It’s a huge extinct drainage basin and shows the scars of millennia of floods and erosion. Everything is rocky and ground down into little bits. Through the course of the day I would be 200+ feet below sea level and up to 6000 ft above, in a roller coaster from the beginning of the park to its descent at the end.

There are superb mountain pass roads full of twists and turns and changes in elevation. Also, there are widen open views where you can see for miles in every direction. 

The heat builds and builds as you descend to lower elevations. I haven’t experienced all day heat while driving since the Outback in Australia. It’s absolutely punishing physically. No matter how much you drink there is no escape from the sun and relentless heat. 

I did, however, enjoy the harsh and unforgiving aspects of the space. Trips like these help put human power into perspective and nature’s power is humbling. 

I stopped for a few photos along the way and at the Badwater tourist area. Miles and miles of salt flats and little else. The magnitude of the area is overwhelming. I can’t imagine what soup this must make when there is actually rainfall. 

It’s really an experience, like the Grand Canyon, that is difficult to put into words or capture the immensity with images. 

I finished the ride with about 100 kilometres on the 395 to Bishop. I narrowly missed another epic rain event by mere minutes. Pulled into Bishop around 4:00 and quickly escaped the heat to shower off the funk that I’d accumulated through my day’s journey. 

Tomorrow, Yosemite, several mountain passes and the night in South Lake Tahoe. I’m really looking forward to Yosemite and I hope that is a bit less busy midweek.