Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mother Nature (& Beef Jerky) Put Me to the Test

Really, you think? 

Most people would brag about riding their bike through Death Valley, but that was a piece of cake in comparison to everything I experienced prior to entering the national park.  Not many people can say they’ve battled gusting head winds at 60 mph (90kph), sand storms, been treated to a Mother’s Day breakfast (even thought I’m not a mom) and worked as a cashier at a Beef Jerky store all in the same day they entered The Death Valley National Park, on a bike.  In fact all these precursors made my ride through Death Valley a breeze in comparison!

25 miles goes really slowly at 2,5 mph
That would be a major head wind

I was so preoccupied trying to prepare for the heat in Death Valley, I forgot about any other challenging weather factor that existed, like the wind!  Unfortunately the wind lives in the shadow of the heat, and when it works against you, it is not a pleasant experience.  Just before I hit the main highway with the turn off is for Death Valley, I had reached a record high top speed on my trip with the help of a nice tailwind and a straight descent.  I was cruising at 74 kph (50mph).  I turned onto the main highway and only had 25 miles to go to the Death Valley junction.  Piece of cake.  That was going to be an easy 3 hour ride, tops!  However, I never imagined what I was about to encounter: a massive head and cross wind with gust that threw me and my bike off the shoulder of the road.  I couldn’t ride in a straight line, nor could I ride straight upright.  I unclipped my shoes in order to be able to touch the ground at any given moment for stability.  I had to over compensate and lean to the left to counteract the wind, and actually rode tilted to one side.  What should have been an easy ride afternoon ride turned into a two day event.  I was averaging 4 kph (2,5 mph) against the wind and I was exhausted! I surrendered and set up my camp behind a Chevron gas station at a rest area in the most protected spot I could find. 

I'm literally camped right behind the gas bush hardly protected me from the wind!

No where else to hang out except the freezer section of the gas station

The next morning I awoke mentally prepared to face the wind.  I was optimistic that the wind had either died down or it was a tail wind; yet neither were true.  I was faced with heavy gusts of wind and several cars stopped to see if I wanted a ride because the wind was up as high as 60 mph (90kph).  Somehow I persevered, perhaps it was the craving I had for French toast, knowing it was Mother's Day and my Mom was at home with my Dad, enjoying a special breakfast. Or maybe I was motivated by the signs I saw for beef jerky being sold ahead.  I don’t know which of the two it was, but I made it to the Death Valley road junction in the late morning.  I was exhausted, cold (wasn’t the desert suppose to be hot?) and my ears hurt from the sound of the wind blowing in my face!

I stopped for a moment at an RV park, trying to get on the Internet and regroup. I didn’t know whether to continue or call it a day and wait for the wind to subside. I must have looked pretty desperate because a nice older man in a truck out front asked me if I wanted to join him for breakfast. French toast was still on the back of my mind so of course I couldn’t turn down the offer.  John and I had a delightful breakfast and I learned a lot about heavy load trucks and rigs, which was his business.  I think he must have thought I was a Mom and wanted to treat me, after all, it was Mother’s Day.  It was actually John that convinced me to continue pedaling and enter Death Valley.  I didn’t have an optimistic thought left in me, but he did, and told me that the main highway I had been on is always more windy than the roads in Death Valley.  He even thought there was a possibility that I could have a tail wind after the first stretch. 

Delicious French toast

Gus's Beef Jerky in Olancha on the 395

John gave me hope and so I hoped on my bike and continued to ride after our breakfast.  I had only pedaled 200 meters when I saw the beef jerky store, so of course I had to pull over.  I LOVE beef jerky, something that doesn’t exist in Spain and I forgot all about it until I arrived in the US.  I entered the store which was no bigger than 12 sq. meters (40 sq. ft.).  Beef jerky was on one wall but there was all sorts of delicious food like stuffed olives, flavored pistachios, dried fruit, honey, salami, and samples galore of everything!!!  I was in heaven but overwhelmed! What to buy?…..Gus abruptly stopped my mind from racing with decisions when he said I had 3 minutes to decide because he was going to church next door.  Yikes! There was no way I could decide what I wanted in such a short amount of time.  That's when he asked me, “Can I trust you?”  And I thought, of course you can, I’m the most trustworthy person probably to walk through your door.  I told him confidently, "Yes, of course you can!"  His response caught me off guard completely.  “Do you want to work at my store for 30 minutes while I go to church? I’ll even pay you.” 

30 minute church ceremony, now that is fast!

WHAT? Me? Work at a beef jerky store? I needed to pedal to Death Valley, and still had a good 30 miles to go.  But the proposal was enticing enough, so when I asked if I could be paid in beef jerky instead, we had a deal!  Gus quickly showed me how to run the register and credit card machine and then left for church, which was literally on the other side of the parking lot.  Here I was in a beef jerky store working the register.  Gus was probably worried about leaving a cash register full of money with a total stranger, but he probably should have been more worried about all the free samples he’d left out.  I hada hay day and started to try out the different samples when my first customers came in.  Gus hadn’t been gone a minute and here I was waiting on people and I still and my bike helmet on.  Anything must go these days in small towns, because it didn’t phase the customers that I was wearing a bike helmet, cycling vest and spandex shorts, working behind the counter  They just kept asking questions and wanted to sample different items.  They bought some things and left and the next customers came in.  Again, they fired away with a million questions about the town, weather, the jerky......So I just played it off as if I knew the area really well and such and kept the conversation going.  Normally I’m the one asking all the questions to a store attendant, it was a pretty funny role reversal experience.  Didn’t these customers think my outfit was awfully strange for working a register? Did they not see my bike outside with all my gear?  It didn't phase any of them.

Yes, that is me behind the counter kkeping a close eye on the jerky samples there to my left
After the third set of customers I was starting to get the hang of things.  I’ve never worked retail.  I've only done a bit of waitressing but I never had to use a register or credit card machine, so it was all new to me.  It was actually quite fun, ringing up the different items, swiping the credit card, printing out the receipts, and bagging the purchase.  What a neat little business Gus had, not to mention profitable! I probably sold $200 to $300 of beef jerky in the 30 minutes he was gone.  His church session seemed quite fast, I was a little disappointed he didn’t stay longer so I had some more time to sample more products.  Gus gave me some teriyaki packs of jerky, my personal favorite, in exchange for working, we took a picture, and I was off!   Unfortunately, I didn’t realize at the time that all the little samples I was eating, olives, nuts, jerky, were laden with salt and I was heading into Death Valley where water was scarce!

Gus the owner and myself

Gus took me next door to meet Father and get a blessing from him before I started pedaling, I said my good-bye's, packed my jerky, and away I pedaled towards Death Valley.  There was a bit of wind and some low blowing sand on the roads, but it had done me well to get on the road later than expected because by then the wind had died down, like John predicted, and I could actually pedal at a decent pace.  I rode across the first third of Death Valley National Park that afternoon and it felt like a breeze!  All the cycling leading up to entering the park was more difficult than actually riding through Death Valley.  I didn’t eat my jerky that night at the campsite, I was too salted out, but I did have a good laugh thinking about all the events that led up to arriving at Death Valley.  What a memorable day!

My life on my bike is pretty entertaining! I highly recommend riding through Death Valley, as you’ll read in my next post, and if you do, you should visit Gus’s Beef Jerky in Olancha just before entering the park.  He’s go the most delicious jerky and stuffed olives I’ve tasted in a long time!  

No comments:

Post a Comment