Furnace Creek 508 2012: Stage 1-Santa Clarita to California City

Saturday, October 6, 2012

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There is some pre-race prepping before the relay teams begin the race at 9:30 AM in front of the Hyatt Regency’s; under the hotel entrance overhang.

This will be my forth time riding Stage 1 of the Furnace Creek 508 but the first time on a tandem. 

There is a neutral start for the first 4-5 miles before the official start at the left on San Francisquito Canyon.To keep all the riders and SAG vehicles from clogging up the roads, the SAG vehicles have to drive on ahead and meet their rider at the 24 mile mark before beginning to “leapfrog” for the rest of the stage.  Three hours earlier the solo riders took off. 

Many we will never catch but during stage 2 our team should (and did) start catching the tail end of the solos. It is amazing to see these folks out there on their one and only stage. No getting off and passing the baton for them. It also gives the rest of us something to chase down during the second day.

San Francisquito Canyon is about twenty miles, up and down; mostly up as
you climb about 2,000 feet. This is a good road and not too busy. While riding
along here you get to pass, or be passed, by lots of friends. We ride for a bit
with Paul and Wanda Kingsbury from NY; the only other tandem relay team.

After the flatter section Deb and I hit a few hills. Since we are in a canyon there is little wind and it is heating up since we started at 9:30AM. I am starting to sweat and have to lose my sunglasses, which means that sweat is getting in my eyes and stinging like crazy.

But eventually we get to mile 24ish where our van is waiting for us. We make a right turn and climb a slight hill passing all the other waiting crews. You want to see lots of crews here as they represent those riders behind you. At one point I thought we might be the last relay team to arrive but there are plenty of crews still waiting.

We give and get a few high fives from other crews as we climb to our van. Eventually we see Steve and Tim waiting to hand us water bottles. We toss out our empties and Deb grabs what they have to offer. We then yell out what else we need which they will prepare and get to us down the road.

A majority of the climbing is now done. At the end of the canyon there’s a nice descent down into the Mojave Desert. Just as we start our descent we are passed by seven motorcycles out for a Saturday ride. As the final one sneak by we start to pick up our speed and are now in our biggest gear.

I realize we are going to pick off these motorcycles one by one on this narrow road. I think the riders are also aware that we are coming back on them and they space themselves out perfectly so we can slalom through their ranks. We pass by them with authority on our two one inch tires. By the time we pass the final bike we are at 59 MPH, well over the posted limit of 45. We continue toward the desert floor at this speed for a good five minutes and catch and pass a few singles like they were standing still. We then settle in for another 5 miles of 35 MPH fun. Nothing beats a tandem on a long straight downhill. Not even a motor.

Next up is 20 miles of flat. These are quiet roads in pretty good condition. The only problem is the slight head/side winds which build as you approach the mountains to the North.

We are able to power thru these winds on the flats but our final climb is up to the “Windmills”. This is about 1,000 feet, and not too steep, but there is a reason they put windmills here! The long gradual climb paired with the wind has us “Grannying” it up this hill. All I could think of was “thank goodness we are not climbing Townes Pass” and “don’t tell Tim we are in our Granny” since he and Nancy have to climb Townes Pass.

After a bit of rifle fire to our left (which makes Deb remember her ride in Tajikistan) we eventually summit the climb and turn east where we can now see the famous “aircraft graveyard” at Mojave airport.


Did I mention the wind was coming out of the west? We start down this 10 mile, 1,000 foot descent and are immediately in our big ring and running out of gears. The road is smooth and lets itself out perfectly for a tandem. The pay back is worth the effort of the previous climb. We are cruising between 35 & 40 MPH which is our pedaling limit.

But all good things must come to an end and we make a left turn back into the wind. We zigzag in and out of the wind for a few miles, ending with a zag that equals fantastic tailwinds which push us all the way through to California City. At one point I was getting a bit bored of pedaling at 35 MPH but then Deb slapped me and I came to my senses.

After 10 plus miles of hauling toward California City it appears like an oasis and we make the exchange with Lisa and Jason.

*Ride report by Willy Nevin & Debra Banks
*some photos are taken by Julie Gray, Willy Nevin, Chris Kostman & Nancy Whitlach
Start time: 09:30

Miles: 82.60
Elevation: 6176′
Arrival at Time Station #1-California City: 15:01
Elapsed Time: 05:31:00
Avg Speed: 14.97 mph
Temps: Low 70’s to high 80’s-sunny blue skies
This is the route sheet for Stage 1:

One Comment

  1. Hi I love your website and ride posts – thanks so much for doing this.
    Sweat in the eyes: I avoid this by rubbing some vaseline on my forehead, eyebrows and eyelids
    (wiping off excess with a paper towel). The sweat just skips right off and I never have stinging eyes! Also ive now got the smoothest skin on my forehead and eyelids.

    Thanks again for your site its the best
    Charlie Kenney

    Thanks Charlie! The use of vaseline is a great tip! Nancy


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