Sunday, October 2, 2011

2011 Whitney Classic Ride Report

Whitney Times September 25, 2011 Vol. XII

Joe Tansill and I rolled out from his house in Gilbert AZ at about 9 am on Friday morning to start our 2011 Whitney Classic Adventure. We left an hour later than planned, but had plenty of time to get to Lone Pine for dinner and the Friday night worship service. I took the first pull behind the wheel and Joe took over just outside of town so I could fire up the laptop, Blackberry and justify not taking a vacation day!

Friday night worship service
We reached US395 in great time and stopped to change drivers and refuel the Suburban. Traffic was light and there were a number of scattered thunderstorms and virga (rain that evaporates before it hits the ground) in the Edwards Air Force Base area. We arrived in Lone Pine at about 5:30 and stopped at the event headquarters at the Alabama Hills motel to complete our paperwork, collect our numbers, and visit with our Summit friends. We then checked into the Historic Dow Villa Hotel and went directly across the street to the Pizza Factory for a spaghetti/meatball/Blue Moon dinner. After dinner we checked out our room (twin beds with shower/bath down the hall!) and wandered down to the worship service at the Lone Pine Park.

Many of the riders, staff, and volunteers were there and the weather was perfect for a nice evening of worship and fellowship. Tom Smith, executive director of Summit Adventure, shared some scripture and encouragement for the event. We retired early, knowing that we would have a long day on Saturday.


Panamint Springs Resort
We were up early looking for breakfast in Lone Pine. The restaurant near the Dow where we normally eat was out of business, but we found a great breakfast/lunch place across the street that was perfect. We topped off the tank and tires on the Suburban, picked up some last minute supplies at the grocery store, and were on the road to Panamint Springs by 9:45.

Last year the Panamint Springs Resort became a Whitney sponsor by providing the rider brunch in addition to hosting a SAG stop. This year they continued that tradition and served a great pancake brunch. We completed the meal and rider/SAG briefing and were soon motoring up Towne Pass toward Death Valley.

Your humble correspondent in USNA kit at the Start
 The forecast was for mild temperatures (108) and light winds. When we arrived at Stovepipe Wells at about 1:30, the temperature was already 108 and the winds were fairly strong. We picked up a few souvenirs and proceeded to the Furnace Creek visitor center. Our plan was to change into our riding gear there and prepare the bikes in the shade before driving the last 17 miles to the start in Badwater. The visitor center was closed so we found a relatively secluded spot behind the center to change and decided to get the bikes ready at Badwater.

Video from the start and finish!

By the time we arrived at Badwater the temperature had climbed to 112! We prepared the bikes, had the pre-ride photos taken and at 3 pm sharp we were off. We decided to ride together for the first mile or two, then Joe circled back to the start to hop in the Suburban and leap frog me to set up for the next leg. Our main objective was to maximize the amount of time each of us could spend in the SAG stops to visit with the Summit staff and volunteers. So when we were 5-10 miles away from a SAG stop,  one of us would proceed to the stop in the vehicle to have about 20 minutes to visit and get ready for the arrival of our partner. When he arrived, the other would take off and then that rider would take 15-20 minutes to visit and reload in the SAG, then leave to catch the other and continue taking turns. Our strategy worked great and both of us were able spend quite a bit of time at the SAG stops.
SAG stop #2 in Death Valley

The weather was quite unusual with lots of scattered thunderstorms, some of them actually let loose with hail, wind, and rain on several of the SAG stops! The benefit was the cloud cover and great views, the only negative was the heavy headwind on the climb up Towne pass.

Throughout Death Valley and on the Towne Pass and Panamint climbs Joe and I were able to keep with Team Dinosaur and Team Outlaw. It was very enjoyable riding with various members of the teams and there were always many SAG drivers and other team members cheering us on!

Awesome storm clouds from Wild Rose SAG
On the descent from Hillcrest Joe got super motivated and powered past Team Outlaw when they were changing riders and we lost our company for the remainder of the ride. The strong headwind up Townes pass became a nice tailwind as we made our way toward Lone Pine. We each took longer pulls and soon were checked into the Alabama Hills SAG at 12:15 am! Since Joe rode into Lone Pine I launched off to start the last 12 miles UP to the Whitney Portal. After his SAG break. Joe caught me at the Cottonwood Canyon turnoff and we traded pulls to the top. We finally arrived at the Portal at 2:35 and were very happy to complete this segment in just over 2 hours!

As usual it was quite cold at the finish, and as usual the Summit staff had a spare sleeping bag or two to get into while we waited for Team Outlaw to finish. They arrived within 30 minutes and we cheered them on to the finish! We had planned to wait for Team Dinosaur, but when I started to get too cold we decided to head down the hill to Lone Pine, we stopped to encourage Team Dinosaur just a couple of miles from the finish as they changed riders on their way to the finish line.

Home Sweet Home (in Lone Pine)

Back at the hotel, we broke out the Heineken and tuned in ESPN Sports Center to catch up on the college scores. We finally had lights out at 4:35!

I woke up at about 7:30 and headed down to the Suburban to assess the mess and start packing for the trip home. Rick Wallace and his family (Team Storm) were also in the parking lot packing and we were able to share stories about the ride and catch up. Rick is a Summit Adventure Board Member and has ridden the Whitney MANY times including the unofficial hike to the summit of Mt. Whitney. His Team Storm was the top fund raising team!

Joe came down shortly and we had breakfast at the cafe we discovered on Saturday. We were able to get a late check-out and finished packing the Suburban and retired to our room until the Pizza Party and award ceremony at 1 pm.

The worship band was performing and the weather was perfect. We enjoyed many slices of pizza and the awards ceremony. God, Guts, and Glory went to Erica for her persistence in completing this year's Whitney as the only solo rider. Your faithful correspondent was the top individual fundraiser due to your faithful support!

Joe and I headed back after the ceremony, and since I had business in Las Vegas, we drove through Death Valley again. I took the first shift while Joe napped and we switched drivers at Death Valley Junction NV. I napped until we hit the outskirts of Las Vegas. I dropped Joe off at the airport and I checked in to the Wynn Encore Hotel. Just a little more upscale than the Dow Villa!

Last thoughts

We were treated to an awesome weekend of spectacular beauty, friendship, and challenge. This year my riding focus was PBP, but the riding season is not complete until I am 'in the bag' at the Whitney Portal! I was very happy that Joe Tansill could join me on such short notice to share the weekend. We were blessed with favorable weather, good friends, safe riding, and a weekend focused on God and his awesome creation!

So far we have raised just over $10,000 (including a matching grant in process from the Dell Foundation - Thanks to Mary Gibbons) for Summit Adventure. If you would like to donate click here and note Atkins WC in the comment section.

Thanks again for your support,

Steve Atkins
Phil 4:13 “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me”