As with Donna on the ride into Vegas, Mike was eager to help us out. I-15 heading out of Vegas isn’t a very fun road and going from Vegas to Mesquite via Valley of Fire would have been a record distance for the trip, something that C wasn’t eager to do on her penultimate day. That’s how we found ourselves throwing our things in to the back of his son’s truck and driving up to Valley of Fire with him and Rosa, his Mexican girlfriend.
The ride up to Valley of Fire was enjoyable, Vegas has some pretty horrendous construction work going on so we took a loop road round to I-15 that Rosa had never been on. On the way up we were talking about bike touring and I was learning more about Mexico. Mike is going to be going on his own bike trip in a few months and is trying to get Rosa to understand how awesome cycle touring is.
I didn’t really know much about Valley of Fire before we got there. I just assumed it was pretty red because of it’s name and I wasn’t mistaken. The sandstone did seem to be burning in the sunlight. It was like a more vivid version of the first part of Red Rock Canyon and I was suitably impressed.
Mike had visited the Valley of Fire frequently with his kids for camping trips when they were growing up and he proved to be a wonderful guide. He showed us the places where he would camp and then took us to Atlatl Rock where he and Rosa got great joy from feeding the small squirrels that were running round. It reminded me of being in Grand Teton when my dad took similar pleasure in breaking park rules and not only feeding chipmunks but giving snacks to nearby kids to get them to do it too.
The side of Atlatl Rock is so famous because it has petroglyphs on it. My understanding is that they’re like hieroglyphics but by ancient Native Americans instead. They were fun to see and try to imagine the meaning but had been spoilt by some idiots who thought that it would be fun to graffiti over the top of them. What drives people to deface things like that with JIM WOZ HERE or KEITH <3 LIZ 4EVA is beyond me. We headed over to the visitor's centre where I learnt about the history of the park. It made me wish I had studied geography past 16 and I'm probably going to be picking up a simple geology book to help explain the spectacular things I am going to continue to see on this trip. While my current read, Into Thin Air, is fascinating I’m probably going to follow it up with a book related to the trip somehow, maybe one by Bill Bryson.
After making our way through the park we parted ways with Mike & Rosa. They helped us unload our things from the truck and get our bikes ready to roll out. We said our farewells and I agreed that I would probably see them again sometime in the future. Mike is a really interesting guy who I’ll definitely be in touch with again and as we’re both heading to Latin America in the not too distant future I’m sure our paths will cross again. He also let me borrow the hammock that just arrived at his house and I’m going to be field testing it. I really want it to work as I hear they’re glorious, but I’m concerned about how useful it will be when there are no trees.
C & I’s penultimate ride on the trip had a bit of a headwind, but was thankfully not too hot. I could definitely feel the lack of moisture in the air and even though I was drinking constantly my mouth felt much drier than it usually does.
We went through Overton which looked like a community for snow birds with the large number of RV and trailers that were sat round. It reminded me of one of my favourite Americanisms that I’ve heard during the trip, in Florida we were told about ‘half-backs’. They are people from the north who head to Florida and realise it’s too hot and end up in the Carolinas, half way back.
Not much later we found ourselves on I-15 as Nevada doesn’t really have too many roads. The map seemed to suggest an alternative, but we couldn’t be sure that it wasn’t a gravel road and C was very eager not to ride on one.
I-15 was fairly pretty and not too busy. The worst thing was the trucks carrying 3 containers on them. When they change lane next to you, you definitely feel it as they wiggle and wobble along. It wasn’t helped by the speed limit being 75 mph rather than more normal 70 so they go that bit faster and create a bit more wind.
After a fair descent we found ourselves pulling in to Mesquite and I was getting a bit of a headache. Even though I’d drunk as much water as I normally do with such temperatures, the dryness was really taking its toll. We stopped at the McDonald’s at the entrance to town and I took a rest.
After McDonald’s, we went over to meet Brenna, our host for the night. We pulled in and there was no answer so sat round for a while. I read some of my book and C ate some Chex Mix. Not long later, another cyclist pulled up. He introduced himself as Chris and I could tell his English accent straight away. I was a little confused as Brenna hadn’t mentioned him, but it turned out that he was a day late. He had been unaware about being allowed to ride on I-15 in Nevada, so had ended up going down a service ‘road’ following the electricity pylons. The problems had mounted when the path kept going north while I-15 curved east. He had climbed a nearby hill and spotted that there was another set of pylons on the other side of I-15. Running low on water and it being dark he tried to put up his tent, but with the wind being strong was unable to so rolled out his sleeping bag and slept briefly in the middle of the desert. He was fortunate not to get bitten by scorpions as it’s apparently their mating season.
We spent the evening talking and I learnt a lot from Chris. He has cycled through Central America and talking to him about his desire to cycle in the Caribbean re-ignited my want to work out a way to do it. He was talking about hitching rides on ferries and I think that’s going to be something that I’m going to be looking into when I get down that way.