(Death Valley) California Dreaming: part 1

As I sit here looking out the window at the 43º rain (with 36º windchill) I'm finding it very difficult and downright surreal to believe that 2 days ago I was still in the desert (on a shuttle bus to the Vegas airport, I think). Air travel and time zones really can mess with a person.

And, like many of my JDRF Ride to Cure teammates, I'm finding myself going through desert withdrawal symptoms. We're rapidly descending into the 6 months that I loathe in Michigan -- those months of gray and cold. The stark contrast between here and Death Valley/Las Vegas is more than a little depressing. If anything could plunge one into Seasonal Affective Disorder, this return to "real life" could do it.

Are we there, yet...?
Our travel saga started a week ago, as most of the team boarded planes in Grand Rapids with a final destination of Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley, CA. The group my husband and I were with departed at 7:30ish in the AM, landing in Las Vegas many hours later...many, including nearly 4 hours worth of delays (I'm really not a fan of Delta Airlines. Others in our group had worse delays on the return home and ended up needing to rent a car in Chicago and drive 5 hours home -- they had something like 24 full hours of travel on the trip back to MI...ugh!) and 2+ hours of sitting on planes on the tarmac.

I have plenty of leg room...not sure
what they're complaining about...
We arrived at Furnace Creek Ranch in time to check into our room and head to dinner of burgers under the stars followed by cramming the entire team into various rental vehicles for a trek out to Zabriskie Point to gaze at stars...but the full moon had other plans, so more than stars we had an amazing view of the desert under bright moonlight, followed by some pool/team party time in the HUGE, warm, spring-fed pool at the ranch.
Michigan Great Lakes West

Our first day at the ranch started with buffet breakfast (biscuits and gravy AND bacon...oh my!), followed by a West MI (aka Michigan Great Lakes West) team photo and our "tune-up" ride of 6.5 miles.

After the ride much of the team went hiking in the desert, while the rest of us floated around in the pool for hours.  Since I wasn't sure how well I'd tolerate the heat and arid air and didn't want to risk feeling less than awesome on the real ride day, I opted for the lazy pool route.  It was awesome.  It will be many moons before we're able to again be outdoors and under the warm sun in our bathing suits here in MI.

That evening we were served a delicious pasta dinner (again, under the stars) and were notified that the next day's ride would have an abbreviated course (due to excessive heat and to keep everyone closer to the start. Last year roughly a third of the course had to be SAGged back to the start due to similar heat), eliminating Jubilee Pass (6 miles of climbing prior to the turn-around at 52 miles). Instead the course would be ~25 miles, which a person could do out-and-back twice for a full century. After dinner our team decorated our helmets (team tradition) and went around the group with introductions, since so many of us are new team riders.  It was a really beautiful and emotion-filled gathering.

Part 2...

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