The Land of Extremes

This last week has been a week of extremes in almost every sense. When we left Moab, we headed for Zion National Park. Along the way, we were pummeled by rain and hail in 40 degree weather, but by the time we hit the desert floor, it was almost 100 degrees. From Zion National Park, we were Las Vegas bound to soak up some sun poolside for a few days. If you have ever been to Vegas, then you know Vegas itself is a place of extremes. For us it was a chance to park the bikes for a time, relax by the pool during the day, and walk our legs off during the warm evenings.

After two poolside days, we were recharged and ready to head out on the open road again, but both of my boys cell phones died during this trip. Robbie’s fell off on a freeway entrance ramp and Riley’s simply stopped working. Being the procrastinating teenagers that they are, the last night we were in Las Vegas, they decided their phones “HAVE TO BE FIXED NOW”. (Really? You couldn’t have done this yesterday? Sigh…) Anyway, that meant we had one more afternoon at the pool while cell phones got fixed. (I am convinced they did that on purpose.)

By the time we left Las Vegas it was 5:00 pm and rush hour was in full swing. Plus it was baking hot in the city. How could we have been so stupid as to leave this hot and busy city at this time of day? Our destination for the night was Furnace Creek in Death Valley, and I was praying we’d get there before it was too dark. As we drove farther away from civilization and deeper into the park, the sun was setting, the temperature was rising, and my annoyance at getting such a late start was actually fading.

Riding west into Death Valley at sunset was something I will never forget. The sky was ablaze with color that reflected off of the surrounding hills in what looked like molten lava. It looked and felt as though we were driving on Mars. We met no traffic and had the road to ourselves all the way into Furnace Creek. We arrived just as darkness fell although the temperature didn’t. Furnace Creek sits almost 200 feet below sea level, and when I went to sleep, it was still around 100 degrees.

Remember I mentioned extremes? Our night in Furnace Creek would surely qualify as that, especially when compared to the night before in busy, man-made, glitzy and glamorous Las Vegas. In Furnace Creek, we slept on the ground on a tarp. I asked a park employee if we need to worry about sleeping on the ground and he said that scorpions and snakes usually don’t bother people. That was good enough for me. (Although something bit my foot during the night, and it still annoys me some.)

After Death Valley came Yosemite National Park – another extreme. It was a lot cooler, a lot higher elevation, and there were a lot more people. In Yosemite, we also camped, although this time in a tent, and the temperature was in the low 40’s. A mere 60 degrees cooler than the night before. (I’m starting to wonder if there is such a thing as a happy medium?) Despite the cold, the fishing was incredible and the surrounding mountain peaks were mesmerizing. My boys and almost every fisherman on the river were catching gorgeous rainbows. I had a hard time getting them back on their bikes.

It took us almost a full day to get through Yosemite for no other reason than its sheer beauty stopped us every few miles. Sometimes it was to fish. Sometimes it was to hike. Sometimes it was to take pictures, and sometimes we stopped just to look around. Yosemite’s reputation is not overstated. It is gorgeous beyond measure, and it is easy to see why John Muir was so inspired by the area that he founded the Sierra Club. Politics aside, it seems impossible to stand within the Park and to not be grateful that over 125 years ago someone had the foresight to set this area aside for wayward travels like me.

I think this is my favorite picture of my boys so far. It seems to capture the spirit of this entire trip.

Luxury sleeping in Furnace Creek!

Luxury sleeping in Furnace Creek!

Death Valley by day looks a lot different than it does at sundown!

The abandoned buildings in the middle of Death Valley are so intriguing. I wish I had time to explore them more.

How can you resist when the road is straight, the horsepower will be at its max below sea level, and there isn’t a car for miles?

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The only thing that can get him out of bed early enough in the morning was the promise of fish and a cup of coffee.


You won’t believe this, but during Riley’s morning river bath, he noticed a fish under the log. He reached down and grabbed it. It had a hook in its mouth and must have snapped the line. So both boys caught fish, but Riley claims his was more impressive since he caught it by hand.


The view from Tioga Pass.


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The boys weren’t the only ones who loved Yosemite!






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