Early spring is an ideal time to ride bikes in the Eastern Sierra corridor and Death Valley. The daytime temperatures aren’t scorching hot and even in the exposed, dry heat, there are nice cool breezes blowing off the surrounding mountains. Needless to say, in the spring, I like to leave the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles for some desert solitude. Now, “solitude” isn’t something easy to find in Death Valley, on a weekend, in one of the peak tourist times, but it’s remarkable how the park crowds thin out once you’re away from the stores and outposts sprinkled along highway 190.
Cari helped me on a photoshoot in the Eastern Sierra mountains on Saturday, so on Sunday we decided to drive over the Panamint Range in the Inyo National Forest and into Death Valley National Park to ride an easy, but breathtaking loop called Artist Drive. If you spent time in museums growing up as a kid, perhaps you remember “Astronaut Icecream?” Well, Artist Drive takes you through chunks of that stuff, only at the scale of mountains. The colors are other-worldly and since the road is freshly paved, it makes you feel as if you’re riding in a video game.
We parked on the side of the highway, put up window shades and began the morale-breaking 1000′ climb up to the first saddle. From there, it’s a rainbow rollercoaster through geologic formations and colors akin to broken easter eggs, with the occasional motorist driving past, looking at you with such disbelief that you can’t help but laugh.
Once you complete Artist Drive, it’s a 3.5 mile ride back uphill on the park road to your car and for Cari and I, a 3 hour drive back to our house in Independence, California. If you time it right, Mother Nature will put on a different display of colors… If you’re in Death Valley with a bike, I highly suggest this short, but scenic ride.