I suppose a broken hip does give you a lot of time to kill. And, I must say, _odd killed the hell out of it with his researchemont concerning the riding options in the Death Valley. Emails flew back and forth in a flurry of schedules and maybes and reschedules and folks were in and folks were out and it went on for some time that way, the way things of that sort will. Everbody wants some.
Ultimately, 6 of us committed really and for real. Then the flurry was one involving increasingly frantic swapping of gear and racks and drive trains (for some). To the point that I settled on my "final" configuration of my tour bike the afternoon before leaving. To the point that as I rolled that final configuration down the driveway the morning of, I felt a vibration that I shouldn't feel and knew something was loose. What is there to do but turn around and figure it out? It was the cones in the rear hub. I tightened them and the wheel was sound, but my mind was blown- monkey wrench in the brain.
I said nothing to the fearless crew with whom I bike toured. The "check engine" light came on in the race van as _ick and I dropped the other side of HWY17 and I said not a word. All through Yosemite I feared the worst and kept it all quiet. What good could come of what ifs? For hours I wavered between intense concentration on the engine's feel or "fuck it", and the possibles troubled me.
We made it to the staging area without a hitch.
Each day I told myself to stop worrying about my too-light rear wheel crapping out under load while imagining what I would do when it did. I'd put a couple hose clamps on the bike in case of ____ failure(s), and thought about tying the cassette to the spokes with those and how I could (possibly) limp out in that way if it came to it. Etc. I said nothing about any of this, because what good could come of it. Even when _ick's own rear hub loosened up on his incredible cargo sled, I said nothing about my own concerns, because why jinx it further.
And each of the 5 days, in spite of the horrible washboarded ass-pounding climbs through miles of gravel or sand or sandy gravel, nothing went wrong. Our motto, quickly established, was "pretend you like it". It was appropriate. In spite of excellent route working out (planning, sure, but the map is never the territory...) Death Valley is some real hard work. Only 30ish miles a day had us in our sleeping bags and out by 8pm each night.
It was a big trip- too big to quickly sum up. Things that stay with me: cooking communal dinners is the way; 29+ is a real interesting category for some camping by bicycle; my Kelly Kettle would have worked just fine out there in the desert as there was always enough twigs around for some boiling water and I felt like a ass standing around begging hot water in the mornings; MSR dromedary bags are good equipment; having our Safety K__k around on the moto was a source of hilarity and disappointment (no cooler of cold beers?!?!); there is a light and it never goes out; etc.
Whomever of my fellow Death Valley Ramblers reads this: thank you for a real good time.
P.S. There is a lot of you name it on this internet about bike builders etc. Much of that is all show, and it saddens me in the shop and on the computer to see so much misplaced value. Hunter Cycles and Black Cat Bicycles just spent the last week sleeping in the dirt and riding the shit out of their bikes. Just like you. Not for a PRO anything- not a PROmo or a look book or a sepia-toned poem. That is some Realness worth considering. Also, Surly Bikes' junk straps are the greatest single bit of bike camping equipment ever.