Project 929: Mapping the Solar, took place from May 19th through 29th of 2013.  Media artist and activist Joseph DeLappe took a 460 mile bicycle ride to drag a piece of chalk to physically and symbolically draw a line around an area that would be large enough to create the worlds largest solar farm - one that could provide enough energy for the entire United States.

“If a concentrated solar power system was built that was a hundred mile by hundred mile square in size out in the Southwest (United States), which has some of the best solar resources in the entire world, or you covered 1 percent of the country’s land with photovoltaics, either strategy would be more than enough to meet the country’s entire energy demand. The sky really is the limit.”

- Cliff Chen, The Union of Concerned Scientists

Project 929: Day 9 Goldfield to Tonopah, NV

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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.  

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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.  

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Leaving Goldfield

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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.  

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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.  

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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.  

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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!  

Project 929: Day 8 Beatty to Goldfield, NV

Someplace just outside Beatty, NV

Day 8…

After a night’s rest in Beatty at our less than amazing acommodations, I rise at 4:30am to begin the long haul to Goldfield, NV.  As the route I’ve chosen around the Nellis Air Force Range goes in a clockwise direction, this sets me up for some rather challenging climbs on these last two days of the ride.  You might ask, why not go counter clockwise and face a more gradual series of climbs heading out from Las Vegas in the opposite direction?  I made the decision in planning the route that it made more sense to be on the side of the road that was closest to the Federal lands in question - I didn’t think it would be nearly as interesting to be looking across each road - as well, the drawn chalk line would be more meaningful being just adjacent, etc.  

It is a beautiful morning, a slight tailwind which is quite welcome accompanies me on the ride ascending towards Goldfield.  I wind through some rather verdant areas - springs feed a stream and some smallish ponds along the first hour of the route.  I pass farms, RV parks and homes - seemingly mostly populated by retirees.  The sun has just risen in the east - the shadow cast by me and my bike is rather dramatic stretching across the road as I go.  I mount one of my two functioning GoPros on the side of the bike to catch this action (will be posting this video soon).  I pass signs for two brothels on the way, whether they are active or not I cannot tell (these generally cannot be within city limits in Nevada, they are always just outside of towns and cities).  I as well pass an odd RV park the most prominent of features being two Native American teepees.  Makes for a good photograph so I stop and snap a picture of the bike from the road in front of these odd roadside icons - outside of the fact that local tribes never used such dwellings the appropriation of such to sell an RV park is just a bit insulting on too many levels to go into here.

Stampede!

After an hour or so, Laurie catches up with me in the Subaru.  Soon we come across a herd of cows who in a field adjacent to the road.  As previously, they are very freaked out by me and my bicycle - this time though is different from my past bovine interactions - I cause a stampede!  Picture me riding, dragging my chalkline slowly up the incline of the highway, a barbed wire fence twenty five feet from me parallel to the road, with a herd of 30+ cattle mooing and running, one or two stopping to look then mooing to the others, all moving at about my speed so they can’t get away from me.  It is all rather comical - they finally run through an open gate to a spot where a small hill blocks me from their view.  I ride on.

The road is quite nice for the first few hours - then the dreaded narrow shoulders with wake up strips beging again.  I can only ride in the road. As it is early it is not too bad in regards to traffic.  Soon though, I am faced with the onslaught, in both directions of Monday, Memorial Day traffic either heading home from Vegas to points north or returning south.  In general in such situations I feel fairly safe - the visibility on 95 on these wide open valleys with sweeping, gradual inclines pretty much prevent drivers from being surprised by me on the road.  Most pass very far to my left - if I see two vehicles about to meet where I am from both directions I generally pull over to let them pass.  

Spot repair to the chalk holding mechanism

Resting

My initial goal for the day’s ride is to, at minimum, cut the distance between Beatty and Tonopah, 96 miles, in two - we are scheduled to spend the night in Goldfield regardless.  The thought is to stop at the bottom of the first big climb, the Goldfield Summit which tops out at 6,021 feet (Beatty is at 3308 feet just to give you a sense of the overall climbing involved).  I lose track of the time on this day.  

400 miles!

Before deciding whether to proceed up this hill, I cross a rather important milestone - reaching 400 miles.  This is significant as the original concept behind the entire performance is to surround and area 100x100 miles as this is the estimate put forward by the Union of Concerned Scientists as to the size of a solar farm that would be needed to power the entire USA.  My route of course involves an additional 60 miles, as there really is no direct, 400 mile route around the Nellis Air Force Range.  I mark the road at the moment my odometer hits 400.

Over there is Goldfield Summit!

After several hours of riding I get to the base of the aforementioned climb and decide to forge ahead.  It is a total of 73 miles to Goldfield from our starting point, the only thing standing between me and Goldfield is this mountain before me.  The weather was very favorable this day, with temps in the mid 70’s and, by the time I start the climb, as decent push from a tailwind is welcome gift!  

Climbing Goldfield Summit

This climb is intense!  It might be difficult to understand but as a long time road cyclist, climbing hills has become one of my favorite things.  After several days of riding gradual uphills and flats, the challenge of a real climb is exhilarating.  It takes the better part of two hours to to complete the climb - this is likely one of the most challenging hills I have faced in my 10+ years of cycling.  When I forge the summit, I feel unbelievably happy!  The brief and quite steep descent into Goldfield is quite amazing.  We make our way to the one motel in this town of 150 - the Santa Fe Motel and Saloon - the oldest constantly open saloon in the State of Nevada.  The bar is fabulous - original bar back, crotchety bar tender and various grizzled retirees sucking at Miller beer.  They serve pizza - basically frozen baked on the premises.  After the 10 hours of riding 73 miles I wolf down my portion.

In the bar, the TV was set to some game show channel - as we eat and drink our beer we are treated to an episode of “Family Feud” where the “families” are made up entirely of celebrity impersonators.  Mind blown!  Not having watched TV in 8 days, this is quite shocking and surreal.  The best part of completing the 73 miles in one day essentially means that my final day of riding into Tonopah will be a short and enjoyable 33 miles or so - one more monster climb but compared to the average 50+ miles per day of the previous week, should be no sweat!  Hah!  

Video from the boom camera point of view pointing at the chalk as it hits the road behind my bike.

Selection of photographs by Laurie Macfee documenting Project 929: Mapping the Solar
Selection of photographs by Laurie Macfee documenting Project 929: Mapping the Solar
Selection of photographs by Laurie Macfee documenting Project 929: Mapping the Solar
Selection of photographs by Laurie Macfee documenting Project 929: Mapping the Solar
Selection of photographs by Laurie Macfee documenting Project 929: Mapping the Solar
Selection of photographs by Laurie Macfee documenting Project 929: Mapping the Solar
Selection of photographs by Laurie Macfee documenting Project 929: Mapping the Solar
Selection of photographs by Laurie Macfee documenting Project 929: Mapping the Solar
Selection of photographs by Laurie Macfee documenting Project 929: Mapping the Solar
Selection of photographs by Laurie Macfee documenting Project 929: Mapping the Solar

Selection of photographs by Laurie Macfee documenting Project 929: Mapping the Solar

Project 929: Day 7 Mercury to Beatty, NV

Day 7…

The camping overnight across from the gate to the Nevada Test Site is quite magical - once the wind and heat of the day dissipates we are treated to a gorgeous moonrise from the east - we at first think it is the bright lights of Las Vegas glowing in the clouds until the faint circle of the moon emerges from the darkness.  The full moon is incredible - lighting up the entire desert with a soft glow.  We share or campsite with a rather large mouse like creature who happens to live in the base of a yucca plant just across from our tent - we see him/her emerge in the moonlight to scavenge for food.  In the morning, Laurie leaves it an offering of a slice of apple which he/she races out in the dawn to take back to the lair.  

Our campsite across from Mercury/Nevada Test Site

We pack up our camping gear and drive back out of our “peace camp” and drive the 2 miles or so back to our stopping point from the day prior.  I write on the ground at all of our stopping points, “project 929 357 miles” or wherever we are on the ride.  We unload the bike from the top rack, attach the various cameras, hook up the solar powered batteries (these are removed each day to charge the cameras and my iphone at night), hook up the chalk and away we go.  

Our first stop is the front gate of the entrance to Mercury and the Nevada Test Site beyond. I stop for a photo-op in front of the “No Trespassing” signs and then move on for the day’s ride to Beatty.  It is a long 50+ miles with another hot day before us - packing up from camping and getting all together to leave takes a bit longer than leaving a hotel so we are on the road about 6:30am departing Mercury.  

The road is quiet, this the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, we anticipate that traffic will initially be very light which is the case.  The road is good for drawing although the shoulder is very narrow - considering the light traffic I opt to ride in the road, moving over as needed across the wake-up strips.  

The shadow of my photographer and sag wagon driver, Laurie Macfee

Chalk lifted to cross the wake up strips

Fortunate that I have designed into the bike a lever which allows me to raise the chalk drawing mechanism while in motion for such situations - I use this primarily for railroad crossings and cattle guards of which there are many.  

Crossing the Amargosa Desert

The ride to Beatty involves no major climbs or downhills yet is undulating across the Amargosa Desert Valley - just to the west of which lies California and Death Valley National Park.  The wind is not really a factor this day, perhaps a slight tailwind - the heat, however gets to be rather intense, the latish start to the ride contributing to such.

The midpoint of the ride is an odd little stop at the junction of 373, which is the entrance to what was to be the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository.  We can see what we think to be Yucca Mountain off in the distance.  This of course is the long embattled site where the entire nation’s nuclear waste was to be stored - a further example of treating Nevada’s deserts as a “wasteland” - bomb it, leave our radiated toxic wastes - not a problem!  Anyway - for now, the YMNWR is literally a huge hole in the ground as the Obama administration effectively cut off federal funding for the project in 2010.  

Carl Flyght hanging out with us at Yucca Mountain

A pleasant surprise as we stop for lunch, one of my students, Carl Flyght, drives up - he had mentioned perhaps coming to find me on the road.  This is a fortunate point for him to find us as otherwise we would not be able to stop to chat mid-ride.  There is actually a rest stop here - WITH SHADE!  In 6 days of riding this is the first rest stop with shade on the entire trip!  We stop briefly, I eat a peanut butter and honey sandwich and Carl provides me with a gift of some mineral enhanced water, two power bars and an apple.  I am quite moved by this.  It is odd being out here doing this and not knowing really if anyone is paying attention - this direct human contact in the midst of this performance is quite something.  Facebook has become a big factor in this regard - I’ve done my best to update daily, at least one photo, to the social media platform - it truly helps to keep me going on this arduous endeavor to see the many “likes” and supportive comments from friends and supporters from all over the world.  Thank you!

After lunch, I continue on to Beatty - largely an uneventful second half of the ride save for the heat.  I am drinking seemingly endless bottles of Gatorade and dousing my head with water.  

Changing of the chalk…

The blue cooling rag

Of special note, an impulse buy at Costco before departing on the ride - the blue cooling rags you see in the photo - these are a godsend!  They are designed to keep you cool and provide 45 SPF sun protection - these actually work - I am not sure I would have been able to continue in the heat of the end of each day’s ride without these.  Soaking these in the ice water at the bottom of our cooler provides me with an essential modicum of relief from the intense heat.  The outside temperature at times was a reasonable 74 degrees, the heat from the asphalt seems to magnify this by 10 degrees.

We arrive in Beatty sometime near 1:30pm ready to collapse in our hotel room - we drive up to the Atomic Inn to find a “will return at 3:30pm” sign on the hotel office.  Ugh!  We find a local eatery and return, only to wait 20 minutes with the incompetent hotel staff works to check in the couple in front of us (he can’t find a record of their reservation, the hotel is seemingly empty, please just check them in!).  We get to the room and are sorely disappointed with the accommodations but in my exhausted state it is just not worth the trouble to complain.  Beatty is an odd little town, “The Gateway to Death Valley”, restaurants are scant, we end up eating dinner at a Denny’s in the local casino, fairly awful food.  

The next day on to Goldfield, or at least as close as we can get as it is 73 miles north.  Hopefully this will be our second to last day of the ride!

Project 929: Day 6 Las Vegas to Mercury (the Nevada Test Site)

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Day 6…Leaving Las Vegas…

I rise early, at 4:30am, anticipating 94 degrees high temperatures in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is such a bizarre stop on this ride around the Nellis Air Force Range - there is no way to complete the loop around this military installation without passing through.  Las Vegas is like Los Angeles without the ocean - we are staying in North Las Vegas, which I learn, reading the business license of a pizza joint, is a city.  We are fairly distant from the Vegas strip, getting a taste of a more localized area.  Craig Blvd is a wide straight line east to west from the entrance to the Nellis Air Force Base (this separate from the range).  Craig is basically lined with strip malls, big box stores and constant traffic - people seem to live only in their cars or inside the air conditioned buildings dotting the Blvd. Suburban sprawl seems to go off endlessly to the north and south of the street.  Honestly, I can’t wait to get out of Vegas to return to the solitude and beauty of the open desert.  

I leave our hotel by 5:30am destination Indian Springs and maybe a bit further on - will see how goes the ascent climbing out of Las Vegas up highway 95.  I stay away from Craig Blvd and instead head northwest in a zig zag pattern heading north, then west, then north and so on in a rough diagonal to reach the farthest onramp to highway 95.  It is quite interesting to see these residential areas of North Las Vegas - which seems to be dotted with cookie cutter two story stucco homes, crammed together on rather small lots.  I am astounded by the lack of shade built into these structures - the roof lines are nearly even with the walls of the homes - leaving all the cooling to be provided by A/C.  Rather absurd in this very hot desert environment to build such homes.  

It takes me over an hour to get out of Las Vegas - riding early in the morning is my favorite time to be on a bike - the roads are generally empty, very safe and one can get a sense of place in a way that is quite sublime.  The route I am taking out of Las Vegas was suggested to me by the president of a local bike club (I emailed her to inquire as to how best to safely get out of the city by bike.  Nearing the freeway entrance on a frontage road, I meet my first cyclist of the trip.  She sees my bike and asks me “what are you doing?”.  I tell her of the project, we ride along together for a short while, she is very interested in what I am doing but she is on a regular road bike, not lugging a longtail up hill so I encourage her to get back to her pace.  

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Drawing the line up 95

I meet up with Laurie and our Subaru just at the freeway entrance, she left the hotel 1/2 and hour or so after me.  Getting on to the freeway I am amazed and quite pleased at the enormous shoulder and the very new, smooth and black road surface.  To boot, I have a tailwind!  The ride up to Indian Springs, just about 45 miles from our hotel, goes very well.  I very much enjoy the wide shoulder as I can look around quite a bit and not be so concerned about keeping my longtail bike on a narrow strip of road.  

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Indian Springs

We had reserved a room at the Indian Springs Casino but it looks rather unappealing - Indian Springs is basically at the entrance to Creech Air Force Base which one sees clearly laid out before you approaching north via 95.  This is one of several bases, including Nellis in Las Vegas, where our military controls pilotless drones around the world.  Anyway, we stop for a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches (I can’t eat enough of these on this ride!).  We decide to forge ahead and put some more miles on the ride - the uphill climb was made less arduous by the tailwind and it is 73 miles to Beatty from Indian Springs - the more we can close this distance the easier the ride will be the next day.  

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Just passing Creech Air Force Base on the way out of Indian Springs

I ride an additional 15 miles of so - we get as far as Mercury, Nevada - a city created with the Nevada Test Site - this is the entry point to where we detonated, between 1951 and 1992, 928 above and below ground nuclear weapons.  We decide, rather than driving back to Indian Springs, to camp across the highway to the south of the high security entrance to Mercury.  The land in question is either BLM or National Forrest.  We forge a barbed wire gate and drive up a dirt rock road, finding, to our happy surprise, several areas that have apparently been used previously as campsites.  The main one, where we decide to stay, was apparently a peace camp as there are poles with tattered flags, one vertical, others fallen down, and two carefully crafter yurt like frames, facing a rock enclosure for heating rocks for what looked to be winter heat for the structures.  

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Yurt frames with Mercury across the valley

It is just after 1pm or so when we arrive - we set up a car shade off the Subaru and prepare to hunker down in the heat and wind until the anticipated evening calm.  I can’t recall any time during this entire odyssey when there was not wind - on this day, all we could do was wait it out and do our best to stay in the shade.  Five hours later we watch the sun slowly set in the west, followed by the appearance of three planets just above the horizon.  We pitch our tents, make our dinner and soon are able to see the odd stretch of very bright lights of Mercury the other side of the valley - this lights stretch in a diagonal line up the valley along the road that takes one into the Nevada Test Site which lies just the other side of the mountain range to our north.  Soon after dark we head to bed to rest up for the 57 mile ride to Beatty the following day.  

Project 929: Day 5 Coyote Springs to Las Vegas

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Day 5…

After day 4, we unexpectedly decided to drive straight into Las Vegas for a rest day.  This was due to the incredibly windy weather on day 4 from Alamo to Coyote Springs, 35 MPH gusts and a similar forecast for the next day.  I am not at all happy to load the bike up on the Subaru for the 50 mile drive into Vegas but the weather makes camping problematic as well as the likelyhood facing a killer headwind for the ride into Las Vegas.  We drive into Las Vegas, following the route as suggested by Mapmyride that takes a side road adjacent to route 15, then to Las Vegas Blvd skirting alongside Nellis Air Force Base.  As we drive in to Vegas, we are treated to a continuing stream of fighter jets taking off in groups of 3-4 planes arching north towards the Nellis Test and Training Range - a stark reminder of the cause behind the ride.

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Last leg of 93 heading downhill to route 15

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The descent into Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is quite a shock after spending four days riding through the Nevada desert.  Riding a bicycle in Las Vegas is a bit like riding in Los Angeles - endless, wide open, 3 and four lane roads of seemingly endless blocks.  We extended our stay at a local hotel to three nights to allow for the extra night.  The comfort of the hotel is quite welcome, particularly after spending hours sitting in the odd palm tree nursery grove waiting in vain for the winds to die down.  I regret the opportunity to have camped in this very surreal location but getting into Vegas a day early to rest has a bit of symetry as this now puts four days of riding on each side of the day of rest.  

The following day we rise by 4:30am to pack up the bike and all the gear and drive back the 50 miles to the palm tree grove to recommence the bike ride and the continuation of the drawing.  I hope to begin the ride by 5:30am as the heat is predicted to be in the mid 90’s.  It is immediately apparent, on arriving at Coyote Springs, that we made the correct decision to postpone the ride into Vegas for a day.  The weather proves to be much more cooperative this day - including a glorious tailwind that pushes me all the way on this remaining section of 93 to 15 where we avoid the highway to take a two lane frontage road.  

The other good thing about completing this section of the ride on this particular day is that it is a Friday before the Memorial Day weekend.  As I had hoped, there are a minimal number of semi-trucks and the vast majority of traffic are holiday travelers departing Las Vegas for points north.  I pass going in the other direction hundreds of SUV’s, campers, trailers and motor homes high-tailing it out of Vegas.  

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A handful of chalk, loading up the bike

93 remains a difficult road for cycling, a narrow shoulder with wake up strips leaves me a narrow 1- 2 foot wide section of asphalt upon which to ride - the tail wind is actually a bit of a factor hear as it pushes the bike in a way that is not altogether cohesive with attempts to stay within this narrow strip of navigable space.  As such, I alternate between riding out in the lane and shifting across the wake up strips to the narrow open shoulder, depending on the oncoming traffic to my rear, which I can see through my helmet mounted mirror. 

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The frontage road into Vegas was quite an experience - we pass two gigantic gypsum mines - gypsum being the Latin word for plaster - plaster being the material used to make chalk - all quite poetic considering the prime material for the drawing being made behind the bike.  

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It is now hot, fortunately the ride into Vegas from here is largely downhill past the Las Vegas “Fabulous” Speedway/Racetrack down Las Vegas Blvd to Craig Blvd where I go right to head towards our hotel.  I am drinking, on average each day 10-12 bottles of Gatorade, in the photo above I am dousing my head with water to cool down.  This is a very challenging section of road with much traffic - pedestrians and drivers look on with querilous glances at my rig as I pass or wait for stop lights to change.  

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Just prior to the end of this day’s ride, I try moving the boom camera to get a better shot of the chalk hitting the roadway - a GoPro and my iPhone are both mounted to the boom as I lower back hanging off the rear of the bike so they are pointed at the ground to the chalk hitting the road from above.  This works for about a half-block when the entire rig breaks off and falls into the right lane of Craig Blvd.  A bit panicked, I jump off the bike and retrieve the boom and cameras.  Later at the hotel both the iPhone and the camera are working fine - best result however is the amazing footage of the chalk hitting the road.  

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The most dangerous part of the entire ride to date is getting across the overpass at Craig and highway 15 - various lanes merge into left and right turns and the generous should along the main road disappears.  I very carefully make my way across the overpass coming down on the other side is our hotel.  This ride was approximately 53 miles into Las Vegas.

Tomorrow, we depart Las Vegas, but not before buying a replacement boom (I am using the aluminum handle from a magnetic parts pick-up bought at Lowe’s repurposed for such).  As well, I’ve made several repairs and redesigns of some of the features to the bike over the rest day and into this evening in preparation for completing the last four days of project929.  Onwards!

 

Project 929: Day 4 Alamo, NV to Coyote Springs, NV

Day four. 

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This was day far the most challenging day since the first ride.  The goal was to get half way to Las Vegas, camping overnight near Coyote Springs - this the Jack Nicholaus planned golfing community that was started before the recession in 2008 and has since failed miserably - as far as we could tell there is pretty much only the golf course with loads of unbuilt foundations for homes.  I departed at 6am to get an early start, heeding the weather forecast calling for 5-25 MPH winds by 11am.  As well, I hoped getting out early would avoid some of the traffic on route 93.  Just a 1/4 mile in, I lost a piece of chalk, inspecting my velcro strap for the chalk, it was torn almost clean through.  Turn around I go back to our hotel and retrieve another piece of velcro.  

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This road was just horrid on so many levels.  A very narrow to non-existent shoulder and where there was a should there were more of the dreaded “wake-up strips” taking up 1/2 of the space.  To make matters worse, the road was coated in “slag”, the very rough surface sometimes put on roads to keep the basically functional for cars - for bicycles, not so much!  This surface bounced the chalk and drawing mechanism rather dramatically - slowing my progress to below 10 miles per hour or lower - I lost several pieces of chalk on this first section of highway until I slowed down significantly.  The positive side of this very rough surface was that the drawn line was very dark and wide.  The various road surfaces have interacted with the chalk very differently - the light grays have somewhat obscured the line, the more rough and darker asphalts showing up more so.  

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After 20 miles, thankfully, the slag road subsided - the shoulders as well became consistently just wide enough for me to ride to the right of the wake up strips.  Good thing as just about now I came upon a sign warming “Trucks Entering Highway Next 50 Miles” - there were many, many semis from here on out.  Replacing power lines along the highway from what I could see.  

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By 9am there was wind, then more wind, then MORE wind.  By my 12:30pm stop I was riding headlong into 25 - 35 MPH gusts.  An hour or so before the end of the ride, I was surprised by a small white pick-up truck pulled off the road just in front of me.  I was a bit non-plussed to be honest, used my chalk lifting lever to raise the chalk from the road and bounced violently through the wake up strips on to the road to pass the vehicle on the side of the road.  Just doing so, a long haired Latino or Native American older man gets out and says “I got cold sodas if you want one”.  I said “I am fine” and waved to him as I passed.  I instantly felt horrible that I should have stopped and chatted with him - he was obviously curious and friendly.  He drove off next to me, I waved at him as he passed.  I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on myself though, I was in the moment, surprised and a little frightened by the vehicle pulling in front of me - all the same, I do wish I had stopped to accept his offer of a cold drink.  Next time I will if there is a next time.  Most drivers seem to consider me with a level of bemusement or that look that we cyclists know so well that says “get off my road”.

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Laurie found a brilliant spot to stop at 45 miles just before the golf course community, a nursery grove of palm trees grown for the aforementioned development just off the road, we hung out there for several hours thinking we would camp (this was THE only shade for miles save for the actual golf course).  The forecast called for 35-40 MPH winds through 8pm.  It was just too much so we decided to pack up the bike and drive the 50 miles to the hotel in Las Vegas where stayed the night (it was also 94 degrees when we left).  The next day, today, called for high winds as well and high temps so we are taking a rest day and will drive back to where we stopped for me to finish the segment to Las Vegas on Friday, then on to the rest of the trip back to Tonopah.

I am not sure what is worse, the 45 mph winds of the shock of getting into a car for the first time in four days followed by driving into the urban sprawl that is Las Vegas. More on that next post!