Day 24 (August 16, 2013). We got up early today to try to cross Death Valley as early as possible to avoid the expected overwhelming heat of the afternoon. The plan was to enter the park through the 27-mile gravel road of Titus Canyon rather through the normal paved west entrances. We left Las Vegas at around 7 am and reached the town of Beatty, NV, two hours later. A few miles from Beatty on route NV-374 is the access to the one-way gravel road to Titus Canyon. The road—which is recommended for 4×4 or high clearance vehicles—climbs up first into the foothills of the Grapevine Mountains in the direction of Red Pass (5,250 feet / 1,600 meters). From there the road slowly descends into the Titus Canyon wash first and Titus Canyon proper later. A few miles from the pass is the ghost town of Leadfield, CA—a mining town, built on false advertisement, which only lasted a little over two years from 1925 to 1927. The road offers great views of the colorful Grapevine Mountains and the section that goes though the canyon is quite magnificent. The progress on the road was slow; we rode carefully trying to avoid the many steps produced by protruding rocks. As soon as we came out of the canyon at around noon we could feel the heat of the Valley. We rode quickly to the general store at Stovepipe Wells where we took a break for almost an hour. We had some Gatorade while sitting at the tables under a large porch adjacent to the main building of the store and next to the parking lot. Several cars, driven mainly by Europeans, came and went while we sat there resting. Three tamed little birds, their beaks wide-open to dissipate heat, shared with us the shade of the porch and a bit of our drinks offered by Adrián in a plastic cap. By the time we were about to leave Stovepipe Wells at around 1:30 pm the thermometer on my bike registered 116.6° F (47° C). We took CA-190 in the direction of Towne Pass and Panamint Springs. The 17-mile climb from Stovepipe Wells at 5 feet above sea level to Towne Pass at 4,963 ft (1,513 m) is quite significant. A few miles into the climb Adrián noticed that the KLR was overheating and losing a bit of power. Thankfully, as we gained in elevation the air temperature went down and the bike begun to cool and to respond better. We took another Gatorade break at the Panamint Springs Resort, which was full of patrons both foreign and domestic. In the 45 minutes that we sat at the porch there, the restaurant lost power twice. A large contingent of Italians who were hoping to be sat indoors left tired of waiting. We paid seven dollars for two regular size bottles of Gatorade, exactly double of the price we paid at Stovepipe Wells a few miles away; what a rip-off! After another climb through the Inyo Mountains we got to Lone Pine at around 3:30 pm. We showered and hung out in our room until dinner time. We had OK hamburgers and a large pitcher of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at the Mt. Whitney Restaurant. The guy serving us tried to hurry us into leaving while we still had half a pitcher of beer left (no tip). It was a long day of uncomfortable riding today but we were very happy to have crossed Death Valley in August at high noon.
Day 22 (August 14, 2013). There are only 60 miles from the Calf Creek Campground at Staircase-Escalante National Monument to Bryce National Park. It was a beautiful morning so the ride was very pleasant. We got to Bryce early enough that we had no problem getting a site at the North Campground. After setting up the tent we went for a walk at the rim of the canyon. Adrián and I visited Bryce together exactly 20 years ago when he helped me moved all my stuff in a U-haul truck from New York to Irvine where I was starting my postdoc at UCI. This time we both felt the same sense of awe that we felt back then when we first looked at the amazing shapes of the eroded towers of Bryce Canyon. I think that pictures fail to portrait the beauty of Bryce. The place looks great in photographs but it is even better “in person”. That afternoon we drove all the way to Rainbow Point. It was actually relatively cold when the road started gaining in altitude. In the way back to camp we saw a few pronghorns, an antelope-like creature endemic to parts of North America. We took a lot of pictures that we hope you enjoy. For dinner we had Mountain House Spaghetti with Meat Sauce.