Project 929: Day 9 Goldfield to Tonopah, NV
The weather forecast for the final ride into Tonopah does not look good. 40% chance of rain, thunder storms and 18 MPH winds. As this last leg of the journey is 36 miles, we don’t worry about waking up at 4:30am as on the previous rides. We wake at 7am or so and make our way to get a real breakfast at the only local eatery open in the am, Dusty Fenders. The breakfast is amazing - it is wonderful to have a full breakfast of eggs, sausage, potatoes and toast after eating yogurts and energy bars every day so far before the previous 8 days of riding.
Fixing a flat
We drive back to our motel and pack up for the final ride. In rolling out the bike, I discover I have not one, but two flat tires. Hoping this is not a bad omen for the day, it takes about 25 minutes to change both tubes - finding a piece of wire in the front tire that I remove, I fail to find any apparent source for the rear flat. The long tail bike with the Xtracycle extension makes is extremely challenging to remove the rear wheel, ideally, one would remove the rear saddle bag rack but with the various technologies attached, this is impossible. Anyway, with the tires inflated, the bike is ready to go.
I ride up to our stopping point for the line from the day previous, load up a new piece of chalk and away I go. No rain or thunderstorms but the head wind is tremendous. The first stage of the ride, approximately 7 miles to the valley floor, is all downhill - this should be a breeze - the headwinds make moving forward even on this descent to be extremely challenging. I have never before had to use my smallest, “grannie gear” on the front crank to pedal downhill! Unbelievable. I am concerned over of the day’s climb, close to 3000 feet into Tonopah if this first part of the ride is any indication, I am in for a very hard day of cycling.
It takes close to an hour to reach the base of the valley. Now comes the fun part! I must say, save for the wind, it is a truly beautiful day - the clouds cascade across the sky, gorgeous wind whipped forms of white create wondrous patterns from horizon to horizon. Sadly, I am unable to truly appreciate the natural beauty of this particular valley as my attention is solely focused on staying on the road. Take a look at the quality of the line is some of these photographs - the wobbly nature of such is due to the struggle to both keep the bike moving forward and reflexively reacting to the wind which shifts from heavy head on to sideways gusts without warning. The saddle bags of the bikes, in this type of wind, become a bit of a liability, acting like wind sails, the sideway gusts are particularly difficult to deal with.
The first part of the valley climb towards Tonopah is gradual - soon, however, I reach the start of the true climb towards the Tonopah summit, I will be climbing from 3000 to 6000 feet for the final leg of the ride. The climbing goes very slow, my speed has dropped from 7-9 miles per hour to 4-5 - this is going to take a while! That said, this is where my training and preparation for long days in the saddle pays off. While the climb is arduous and hugely frustrating - I was anticipating an easy, leisurely final day of riding - what I get is something completely frustrating. I am actually cursing the gods at this point of the ride. I seriously love a good climb, don’t get me wrong, but riding into the wind, uphill is just discouraging.
I can see the top of the mountain, it appears deceptively close but of course, as with all landmarks in the desert, is actually many miles away. The ride becomes a series of steep inclines followed by flat areas leading to the next uphill push. We stop at one point in a cut in the mountain that reveals a wall of gypsum - quite stunning actually - I take a piece as a memento of the climb - it is basically a piece of natural chalk.
200 feet or so from the summit, I must change the chalk - I cannot use the bike stand due to the wind, Laurie has been hold up the bike for me several time so far to aid in changing the chalk. As she has already driven over the summit, I lean the bike on a reflector post. While I am crouched down to change the chalk, a huge gust, likely 40-50 mph whips the bike blowing it over in a violent movement that happens in an instant. I curse and lift the bike, the force of the fall has slightly bent the boom, otherwise all is intact. Getting back on the bike I pedal furiously towards the summit, another gust comes out of nowhere blowing me and the bike diagonally off the shoulder far down the embankment - I at least avoid crashing. At this point I am raging with anger, I mount the bike and shout out loud, “FUCK THIS” and find a burst of adrenalinized energy to pedal like a madman to the top of the hill. I make it.
Passing the “Tonopah” side, it is all downhill to the final stop of the ride, where I will close the loop and complete the 460 mile drawing. The headwind batters me all the way to where I take the gradual right off of 95 back on to highway 6 to where we began this odyssey 10 days previous.
I dismount the bike, Laurie gives me a big kiss, I am elated, exhausted and extremely pleased to be done with this day of riding. I write on the asfalt behing the bike, “460 M - Project 929.com”.
We take pictures and video of the moment then quickly retreat to a parking lot just down the hill to disassemble the bike, load it on to the roof of the Subaru, pack up all the gear, and head for home! We are done!