Death Valley Bike Tour in 2022

family in Red Rock Canyon

Here is my blog of the awesome, six-day bike tour with Lizard Head that I did in and near Death Valley in March 2022. Among the adventurous group of 14 guests and 2 guides were my son Gordon, brother Jay, and nephew Brian Cornwell, as well as friends Barb Schreiber and Mike Smolin with whom Mary and I biked in 2007!

I biked EFI (every fricking inch) of the offered rides, and the following itinerary reflects that.

Day 1 (Sunday, March 13): Red Rock Canyon -> Blue Diamond + Old Spanish Trail -> Shoshone (49 mi & 2,600 ft of climbing)
Day 2 (Monday, March 14): Shoshone -> Furnace Creek (77 mi & 3,900 ft)
Day 3 (Tuesday, March 15): Furnace Creek <-> Dante’s View + Furnace Creek <-> Beatty Junction (63 mi & 4,200 ft)
Day 4 (Wednesday, March 16): Mile 12 -> Ubehebe Crater -> Stovepipe Wells (74 mi & 4,300 ft)
Day 5 (Thursday, March 17): Stovepipe Wells <-> Emigrant Pass (46 mi & 5,400 ft) + 4-mi hike in Mosaic Canyon
Day 6 (Friday, March 18): Stovepipe Wells -> Rhyolite (41 mi & 5,300 ft)

This was a very well-photographed tour by me and others, so my blog is longer than usual. Also, check out Annette’s poem at the end.

Enjoy!

  • start of tour
  • bikers in Red Rock Canyon
  • family in Red Rock Canyon
  • bikes on van
  • Wayne and Jay by Amargosa sign
  • puddle in some dry grass
  • Shoshone sign pop 31
  • group in courtyard
  • Barb in a phone booth
  • family in parking lot
  • Gordon Wayne Jay bikes in the air
  • Jay bikes up hill
  • Wayne Gordon Jay with Salsbury pass sign
  • Jay biking in skeleton jersey
  • family with sign
  • badwater pool
  • looking out between the rocks
  • ranch sign
  • Lee Wayne Gordon in front of van
  • 15 percent grade sign
  • tortoise sign
  • Gordon biking
  • Wayne and Gordon at the top of a climb
  • desolate view with mountains
  • flowers
  • historic wagon parts
  • borax works plaque
  • group photo
  • wooden wagons
  • bikes and van and trailer
  • long road
  • crater
  • family at ranger station
  • dust devil
  • Gordon biking with road sign
  • sand dunes
  • parking lot
  • dinner
  • desert road
  • van with bikes and ladder
  • thumbs up at the pass
  • Gordon and Wayne at the pass
  • trail sign
  • family hiking
  • Jay climbing
  • rock arrow
  • Brian and Gordon
  • group stargazing
  • Wayne alone by general store
  • Wayne high speed turn
  • van with bikes
  • Wayne biking up hill
  • desert landscape
  • Gordon and Wayne Daylight Pass
  • Rhyolite sign
  • ruins
  • sign
  • train depot
  • sign
  • group photo

Multi-talented Annette wrote the following poem to commemorate the tour.

A fond memory by Annette Orella

I’m here to tell you all a quick rhyme 
Of a trip by fourteen once upon a time 
To Death Valley they rode
Bicycling their mode
To partake of all possible sweat and grime
 
Of great import were the guests on the trip
Not just anyone can take on this ***blip****
It takes true guts
Or perhaps be a little nuts 
To ride through the desert at a clip

From Oregon came Mike with Barb by his side
Three cross country trips a source of Mike’s pride
But she’s got a new plan
E-biking to catch up to her man
So up the hills her legs won’t be fried 

From San Diego hailed Rebecca and sweet Lou
Up and down the dunes they both flew
Not a pool did they miss
And with push ups found bliss
Through the trip their broad smiles and good karmas grew

From Kansas and San Diego came the clan
Bikers all through and through to a man
Wayne a true EFI
Gordon sturdy and spry
Jay and Brian never opting for the van (at least that’s the way I’m choosing to remember it!)

Next from New York came Patti and Steve
Whose laughter was truly a reprieve
She cranked up each hill
Pulling others by pure will
And keeping all entertained by your leave

Partway through we were joined by Richard and Lee
Sadly only one biker would they be
But Lee carried the flame
Riding hard all the same
While Dear Richard patiently did a look-see

And last but not least Chuck – none too slow 
Whose love for cycling continues to grow
As Annette tries to catch him
His sights never dim
As he continues to go go go go (go go go go go)

Now this story could not be complete 
Without the people who enabled this feat
Our guides were the best
Keeping bellies full, minds at rest 
Peter and Wylie thanks so much – what a week!

You might ask about our intrepid guide Wylie
Of whose praises we sing very highly
On each road he would dash
With tattoos and a stash
Providing care and encouragement kindly

This poem’s not complete without mention of Peter
Jersey born, a man of skills hard to beat(er)
Soft hearted and kind
Helping us out of many a bind
Having him guide was really a treat(er)

Now before we all say goodbye 
And return home with a bit of a sigh
We’ll pack up one last time
Jump on bikes, turn on a dime
And drink in the desert landscape and sky.

Yellowstone Bike Tour in 2019

The last bike tour that Mary and I did together was with Lizard Head in and near Yellowstone National Park in August 2019. We biked EFI (every fricking inch) for the first four days with the following itinerary.

Day 0 (Saturday, August 17): Fly from San Diego to Seattle and on to Bozeman.
Day 1 (Sunday, August 18): Shuttle to West Yellowstone and then bike to Canyon Village (40 miles & 2,500 ft of climbing); this was my best birthday ever: riding a bike with my best friend through spectacular scenery in perfect weather with a tailwind!
Day 2 (Monday, August 19): Canyon Village <-> Yellowstone Lake with side trips to the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (47 miles & 2,300 ft).
Day 3 (Tuesday, August 20): Canyon Village -> Grant Village (66 miles & 3,700 ft).
Day 4 (Wednesday, August 21): Grant Village -> Cody (103 miles & 3,400 ft).

Mary did these challenging rides with a cold that worsened each day. By the time she got to Cody, she was exhausted and decided that she could not bike the even tougher days ahead. Thus she rested on Day 5 and flew home on Day 6 😦

I continued on, however, with the following itinerary.

Day 5 (Thursday, August 22): Out-and-back from Cody along South Fork Road (52 miles & 2,000 ft).
Day 6 (Friday, August 23): Cody -> Cooke City (77 miles & 8,000 ft).
Day 7 (Saturday, August 24): Cooke City -> Red Lodge (66 miles & 5,300 ft); shuttle back to Bozeman.

Photos and commentary follow.

Chile Bike tour in 2019

Betsy, Gordon, Mary, and I did a seven-day bike tour with Ecotours Chile in the lake district of Chile in March 2019. This tour was on Mary’s bucket list for years, and she was thrilled when the kids and I finally went with her 🙂 Here is the itinerary for our tour.

Day 0 (Sunday, March 3): We arrive in Santiago after a 14-hour, overnight flight from Los Angeles and check into our Airbnb. In the afternoon, Betsy, Mary, and I walk to Cerro Santa Lucia and visit the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts on the way back.

Day 1 (Monday, March 4): We fly to Temuco and meet our guide David, driver Javier, and the other two guests, Jennifer and Linda, who are sisters from Pittsburg Kansas. We shuttle to Corralco Lodge at the base of Volcán Lonquimay and bike 15 miles (with 1,800 ft of climbing) to Túnel las Raíces and back in the afternoon.

Day 2 (Tuesday, March 5): We shuttle through the tunnel and then bike for 66 miles (5,200 ft) through Liucura to Paso Pino Hachado and back to Liucura, after which we shuttle back to Corralco Lodge.

Day 3 (Wednesday, March 6): We bike mostly downhill for 61 miles (2,100 ft) from Corralco Lodge to Lautero and then shuttle to Pucón on Lago Villarrica at the base of Volcán Villarrica. We spend the first of two nights at Hotel Vientos del Sur.

Day 4 (Thursday, March 7): We bike from Pucón to Lago Caburgua and then on to Termas Huife where we soak in the hot springs. We bike a little more for a total ride of 44 miles (3,500 ft) and shuttle the last few miles back to Pucón.

Day 5 (Friday, March 8): We shuttle to Panguipulli and then bike 43 miles (4,300 ft) along the east shore of Lago Panguipulli and on past Volcán Mocho-Choshuenco to Puerto Fuy on Lago Piriheico. We spend the night at the Marina Fuy Hotel.

Day 6 (Saturday, March 9): We shuttle to a Nestlé plant south of Osorno and bike 47 miles (2,400 ft) along the west shore of Lago Llanquihue to a little beyond Frutillar. We do a short shuttle to Puerto Varas on Lago Llanquihue. We spend two nights there at Casa Kalfu Hotel.

Day 7 (Sunday, March 10): We bike from Puerto Varas along the south shore of Lago Llanquihue to Volcán Osorno. Betsy and Mary do all but the last four miles of the very steep climb up Osorno, while Gordon and I go all the way to the end of the road at the ski resort for 37 miles (5,000 ft). We then shuttle back to Puerto Varas.

Day 8 (Monday, March 11): We walk around Puerto Varas, take a shuttle to Puerto Montt, and fly to Punta Arenas where we start our trekking tour the next day 🙂 We spend the night at Hotel Rey Don Felipe.

Photos and commentary follow.

West Texas Bike Tour in 2017

Mary and I did a seven-day bike tour with Lizard Head in West Texas during April 2017, covering 382 miles on our bikes. We rode three days in the Davis Mountains and four days in the Big Bend parks on good roads with very little traffic. We did more shuttles than on previous trips but shared them with very interesting guests and our guides, John and Leslie. Here is a brief summary.

On Day 1 (Sunday, April 9): We shuttle from El Paso to just south of Kent. We then bike 38 miles into a strong headwind on the west side of the Davis Mountains and do another shuttle to our overnight stay in Marfa. This town was made famous by the movie Giant, which was filmed west of town.

On Day 2 (Monday, April 10): We shuttle to Fort Leaton just east of Presidio and then bike 59 miles to the ghost town of Terlingua. It has a population of 58, not including ghosts. This ride is up and down along the Rio Grande, mostly in Big Bend State Park. The air temperature is in the 90s, but our bike thermometers read in the 100s. We spend the first of three nights in Terlingua, which is just outside Big Bend National Park.

On Day 3 (Tuesday, April 11): We bike 48 miles from Terlingua to the Santa Elena Canyon of the Rio Grande, where we hike and wade in the river before shuttling back to our ghost town. We bike a U-shaped route, mostly in the national park, with an uphill headwind on the first leg and a downhill tailwind on the last leg.

On Day 4 (Wednesday, April 12): We bike up to the Chisos Basin, go on a hike, and bike back to Terlingua. We do 58 miles on our bikes, covering some of the same route as the day before. Mary’s GPS says that she sets a new 40-km speed record on the way back, as we go downhill with a tailwind most of the way. We see some scraggly lupine flowers, which are evidently called bluebonnets in Texas.

On Day 5 (Thursday, April 13): We shuttle to Panther Junction and then bike 68 miles out of the national park to Marathon. The scenery is pretty bleak, but are lots of small wildflowers and interesting roadkill: a deer, badger, peccary, and vulture.

On Day 6 (Friday, April 14): We shuttle to Fort Davis and the then bike the Davis Mountains loop, part of which reverses our first day’s ride. This is reportedly the best ride in Texas, and the last part of our 75-mile clockwise loop is very nice. Mary and I also add three bonus miles climbing to the top of Mt Locke where the 2.7- and 2.1-m telescopes of the McDonald Observatory are located.

On Day 7 (Saturday, April 15): We do a blazing downhill ride for 33 miles from Fort Davis to San Solomon Springs at Balmorhea State Park. There we swim with fish in the huge, freshwater pool. Afterward we shuttle back to El Paso.

Photos and commentary follow.

Arizona Bike Tour in 2016

Day 0 (Saturday, March 26): Mary and I drive to Tucson for the start of the six-day Trail of the Apaches bike tour with Lizard Head. To break up the drive, we do a 27-mile warmup ride in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in California.

Day 1 (Sunday, March 27): Mary and I are joined by my brother Jay for the start of the tour near Tucson. We bike a 25-mile loop in Saguaro National Park and do a 7-mile round-trip hike up Wasson Peak.

Day 2 (Monday, March 28): We bike up Kitt Peak and finish with another ride through Saguaro National Park for 49 miles total. We again spend the night near Tucson.

Day 3 (Tuesday, March 29): We shuttle to the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and bike 46 miles through Arivaca to Arivaca Junction. After another shuttle over a busy stretch of road, Mary and I, along with guide Emily, get on our bikes again for the last 18 miles and finish in Patagonia with 64 miles overall.

Day 4 (Wednesday, March 30): We bike 62 miles from Patagonia to Parker Canyon Lake and then back to a winery near Sonoita. After that we shuttle to Bisbee, an old mining town. During the bike ride, Jay sees a herd of pronghorns, and Mary sees a javelina. Along the way the cable breaks for the rear derailleur on Mary’s bike. Mitch, our second guide and mechanic, is unable to repair the cable, but sets the derailleur so that Mary has three reasonable gears in front to continue riding.

Day 5 (Thursday, March 31): We bike 77 miles from Bisbee in Arizona to Rodeo, just across the state line in New Mexico. The weather is cool but sunny at the start. As the day wears on, the skies become more ominous, and we are treated to rain and sleet just before we finish our ride. After the clouds depart that night, we view the Milky Way in all its glory.

Day 6 (Friday, April 1): We abandon our original plan to bike up Mount Graham because its summit of over 10,000 ft is predicted to have a high temperature in the 30s with a chance of snow. Instead, all of the guests do a short 16-mile bike ride into beautiful Cave Creek Canyon, and some of us follow that with a strenuous 9-mile round-trip hike up 8,000-ft Silver Peak.

Photos follow, and the captions include the names of a few of the many mountain ranges in Arizona.

Colorado Cols Bike Tour in 2015

Mary and I rode the Colorado Cols bike tour with Lizard Head over seven days in June and July 2015. Bruce from Chicago was the only other guest, and Emily was our only guide. John Humphries, who runs Lizard Head, made special arrangements so we could do this tour with only three guests. We really appreciated that 🙂

Here is what we did each day.

On Day 0 (Saturday, June 27): We drive from Colorado Springs to Grand Junction after finishing the Spanish Peaks and Great Sand Dunes tour the day before. We visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park along the way.

On Day 1 (Sunday, June 28): We shuttle to Mesa and bike 70 miles (with 6,600 ft of climbing) to Paonia over Grand Mesa. We rate this our best Lizard Head cycling day yet!

On Day 2 (Monday, June 29) We bike a shortcut from Paonia to Crested Butte over 10,007-ft Kebler Pass. It is only 47 miles (5,000 ft) compared to the 110-mile recommended route. However, 23 miles of the shortcut are dirt and gravel, which is why it is not recommended. We manage to make it on our road bikes without falling, see beautiful scenery, and get to Crested Butte early in the afternoon.

On Day 3 (Tuesday, June 30): This is the Queen Stage of the tour, i.e., the longest distance. We go 134 miles (8,000 ft) from Crested Butte to Creede. Mary and I bike all the way in 13 hours!! She is only the second woman to do this on a Colorado Cols tour. We follow several rivers and go over two high passes: Slumgullion and Spring Creek. We have perfect weather with mild temperatures and very little wind.

On Day 4 (Wednesday, July 1): We bike 65 miles (3,100 ft) from Creede to Pagosa Springs and go over Wolf Creek Pass. This is net downhill and easy compared to the day before. Soon after we get to Pagosa Springs a spectacular thunderstorm arrives. While we are soaking in our first pool the light rain turns to heavy hail. The pools take on a new dimension as the water jumps up when the hailstones hit. Before long the pounding on our heads makes us want our bicycle helmets. That and nearby lightning prompt us to go inside until the storm passes. Afterward the hail is piled up like snow in many places.

On Day 5 (Thursday, July 2): This is nominally a rest day. However, we do an easy 31-mile loop west of town (1,900 ft). We have lunch by a lake that reminds us of Wisconsin. Afterward we soak in several pools without worrying about hail and lightning 🙂

On Day 6 (Friday, July 3): We shuttle from Pagosa Springs to Durango and then bike 72 miles (7,500 ft) from there to Ouray through the spectacular San Juan Mountains. We go over three high passes – Coal Bank, Molas, and Red Mountain – and descend the most incredible road we have ever been on: the Million Dollar Highway. We spend the night in an “unusual” room at the Columbus Hotel, the last hotel in Ouray with any rooms on the holiday weekend.

On Day 7 (Saturday, July 4): We celebrate our anniversary by biking 121 miles (3,900 ft) from Ouray to Gateway. We do one more climb to nearly 9,000 feet, but the rest is mostly downhill following the San Miguel and Delores Rivers. The ride begins with cold rain as we leave the mountains and finishes in desert heat moderated by high clouds.

Photos and commentary follow.

Spanish Peaks Bike Tour in 2015

Mary and I rode the Spanish Peaks and Great Sand Dunes bike tour in Colorado with Lizard Head over six days in June 2015. There were seven guests and two guides, Jon and Leslie. Three guests besides Mary were engineers! One other guest was doing bioinformatics like me, and Leslie did graduate work in phylogenetics before she decided to become a guide. This was our kind of tour!

Here is our itinerary.

On Day 1 (Sunday, June 21): We shuttle from Colorado Springs to Beckwith Reservoir and then bike to Westcliffe. We cover 51 miles (with 5,800 ft of climbing) and go over four 9,000-ft passes!

On Day 2 (Monday, June 22): We bike 61 miles (1,800 ft), mostly downhill, from Westcliffe to Walsenburg.

On Day 3 (Tuesday, June 23): We do a short shuttle to Segundo and then bike 112 miles (7,300 ft) to Great Sand Dunes National Park. We go over two high passes: Cuchara (9,995 ft) and La Veta (9,413). We pass riders going the other way in the Race Across America. This is the Queen Stage of the tour, i.e., the longest ride, and we are really tired at the end.

On Day 4 (Wednesday, June 24): We hike in the park for awhile and then bike 59 miles (500 ft) against a strong headwind to Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa. We spend the night there in a yurt.

On Day 5 (Thursday, June 25): We shuttle to the Royal Gorge and then bike 55 miles (7,500 ft) to Victor. We encounter showers and a rainbow above Cripple Creek before going over Victor Pass (10,201 ft).

On Day 6 (Friday, June 26): We shuttle to the base of Pikes Peak where we begin the big climb to the top at 14,110 ft. I do the whole climb (!) but Mary shuttles the last few miles because she is not feeling well. We have an exciting descent to finish the ride and the tour. I bike 39 miles (6,900 ft) for the day, and Mary does 32 miles (4,000 ft).

Photos and commentary follow.

Zion to Santa Fe Bike Tour in 2014

Mary and I did the bike tour of a lifetime with Lizard Head in August and September 2014! It was called Zion to Taos, but we actually biked all the way to Santa Fe. We covered nearly 900 miles in 13 days and biked EFI (every fricking inch) of the planned route plus some bonus miles without a shuttle, except for 25 miles after Mary fell and got a concussion. That required a quick trip to the ER for her to get a doctor’s OK to continue.

For the first week of the tour we had 15 guests and two guides, which was more than would fit in the single van that accompanied us after we left Zion. Three guests besides Mary and me biked EFI, which meant that there was enough room in the van for the others when they took a bump at the end of the longest day 🙂 Six guests left after the first week.

Bertrand and Ben were our guides for the first week, while Bertrand and Joe were the guides for the second week. Bertrand is a French chef, so we had some good meals along the road 🙂

Here is our itinerary for this awesome tour!

Day 1 (Sunday, August 31): Hike in the Virgin River Narrows with condors overhead, shuttle through the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel, and then bike to Mt Carmel (17 miles & 1,100 ft of climbing).
Day 2 (Monday, September 1): Mt Carmel -> Bryce Canyon (64 mi & 4,100 ft) followed by an afternoon hike
Day 3 (Tuesday, September 2): Bryce Canyon -> Boulder UT (77 mi & 4,800 ft)
Day 4 (Wednesday, September 3): Boulder UT -> Hanksville (87 mi & 5,500 ft)
Day 5 (Thursday, September 4): Hanksville -> Blanding (126 mi & 8,700 ft), the Queen Stage!!
Day 6 (Friday, September 5): Blanding -> McElmo Canyon (65 mi & 2,600 ft)
Day 7 (Saturday, September 6): McElmo Canyon -> Durango (70 mi & 5,000 ft)
Day 8 (Sunday, September 7): Durango <-> Pinkerton Hot Springs (31 mi & 1,000 ft) for a rest day bonus ride
Day 9 (Monday, September 8): Durango -> Pagosa Hot Springs (54 mi & 3,200 ft), Mary’s fall!
Day 10 (Tuesday, September 9): Pagosa Hot Springs -> Chama (48 mi & 3,600 ft)
Day 11 (Wednesday, September 10): Chama -> Ojo Caliente (94 mi & 5,300 ft)
Day 12 (Thursday, September 11): Ojo Caliente -> Taos plus a bonus out-and-back ride to Palo Flechado Pass (78 mi & 4,600 ft)
Day 13 (Friday, September 12): Taos -> Santa Fe (77 mi & 6,900 ft)

Photos and commentary follow.

Redrock Canyons Bike Tour in 2013

Mary and I did our first bike tour with Lizard Head in May 2013. It was called Redrock Canyons and was in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. In six days we covered 474 miles, including two centuries, with 30,200 ft of climbing. There were three other guests – Bob, Mary Ellen, and Charlie from Florida – and two guides – Joe and Chuck.

We had unusual, unsettled weather. On each of the last five days there was alternating sun and precipitation of some sort. Day 2 was the hardest. Not only was it long, but we had 40 miles of light rain into a headwind with the temperature in the low 40s. On the last day we briefly biked with hail stones pounding on our helmets and carpeting the road!

Here is the itinerary for the tour.

Day 1 (Sunday, May 5): Fruita -> east side of Colorado National Monument + Unaweep Canyon -> Gateway (62 miles & 4,600 ft of climbing)
Day 2 (Monday, May 6): Gateway -> Dove Creek (113 mi & 6,200 ft in under 12 hours), the Queen Stage and the longest that we had ever ridden!
Day 3 (Tuesday, May 7): Dove Creek -> Bluff (86 miles & 3,500 ft of climbing)
Day 4 (Wednesday, May 8): Blanding <-> Salvation Knoll (49 mi & 5,200 ft), a “rest day” ride
Day 5 (Thursday, May 9): Bluff -> Monument Valley (57 miles & 4,900 ft of climbing)
Day 6 (Friday, May 10): Monument Valley -> Hite (107 mi & 6,000 ft in under 10 hours), another century ride!

Photos and commentary follow.