Mar 17

 

Arlen Hall and I on Zabrinskie Point

Arlen Hall and I on Zabrinskie Point

Adventure Cycle Association bicycle trip to Death Valley, California, 9-15 March 2013

This is a trip in demand so I signed up as soon as it became available. I had never been to Death Valley before, and a bicycle trip seems the best introduction. The leaders were Chuck Penguilly and Arlen Hall. I didn’t realize it, but my good friend from another trip, Pat C, had also signed up. We rode together most the time on this trip, making it quite enjoyable. I knew that one night I would be in a group to do the cooking, and so decided on doing Würst and Sauerkraut. For the vegetarians in our group, Kathy was going to make up her special dish, which was also delectable.

Exercise training for the trip was near impossible. I rode regularly with the bicycle mounted on the trainer in the garage. A few outside trips were cold and wet. The last trip went up to near the Carbon River entrance of Mt. Rainier, and good ride with a lot of 18% grade, but leaving me soggy and miserably cold. Death Valley was going to present the opposite extreme of being too dry and too hot.

Preparing the bicycle took special attention. I wanted thicker tires than my 23 mm tires, but the Neutron Campy rims on my Steelman would not take over 25mm wide tires, so I settled for some all-weather 25 mm Continentals that worked out well. I also needed to mount a rack on the back of the bike, which demanded slight modifications, but worked well.

7,8 March I took two days to drive to Pahrump, and it was definitely under winter conditions as I was in snow country starting with the drive over Mt. Hood in Oregon. I stayed the first night in Altrus, CA, driving down through Klamath Falls. California and Nevada was thick with cops pulling people over. Nevada has the most outrageous speed traps where the speed limit jumps wildly from 25 to 70 mph. Fortunately, I escaped the police by using cruise control and watching for speed traps. I managed to arrive in Pahrump in the early evening of the second day, and stayed at the hotel we would meet in the next day. That morning, I took a short trip into Las Vegas, just to see what the drive was like. There was a fairly demanding pass to cross to accomplish the drive.

 The event

09 March Day zero was a meeting at 4 pm, where we all got to know the group leaders, and planned the events such as meals for the week. I roomed up at the Pahrump Best Western with Berle, and mild-mannered man from Wisconsin.

10 March Day 1-The first day was from Pahrump to Furnace Creek. Our first stop was at Wal-Mart, where we had to purchase all of the provisions for the coming week, and put them into coolers in the trailer that was pulled behind the ACA van. Coming out of Pahrump, there were several hills to climb, but with the cool weather, it was fairly easy to accomplish. After that, it was a marvelous downhill descent into Furnace Creek, which sits 177 ft below sea level and known as the hottest place on earth.  There was a swimming pool at Furnace Creek, which was made use of by myself as well as many in our group. I was in the group scheduled to cook, and made Würst and Sauerkraut. Total 101.5 km (63 miles), 3306 calories burned, 457 m (1449 ft) elevation gained, riding time 5:05, temperature ranged from 3.0-27.0 C (37-81 F).

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195878#.UUYDNgloNjg.email

Bikes parked outside of Wal-Mart

Bikes parked outside of Wal-Mart

The Van

The Van

Enthusiastic Bikers loading the van with food

Enthusiastic Bikers loading the van with food

Outside of Pahrump

Outside of Pahrump

Pat pumping it up our first hill

Pat pumping it up our first hill

Welcome to Cafilornia

Welcome to Cafilornia

Approaching Death Valley

Approaching Death Valley

Hills in Death Valley

Hills in Death Valley

 

More Hills in Death Valley

More Hills in Death Valley

 

Also Hills in Death Valley

Also Hills in Death Valley

Arlen giving Rohe a little pep talk

Arlen giving Rohe a little pep talk

Pat ready to go under water

Pat ready to go under water

The colors of Death Valley

The colors of Death Valley

 

11 March Day 2- Our journey went from Furnace Creek to Mesquite Springs. This was a grunt, because it wasa long uphill, and the weather was hot. A few people got a little dehydrated. The campsite was very primitive, no showers, no electricity, barely any running water, and no trees to hide under. Total 83.6 km (51.9 miles), 3209 calories burned, 927 m (3041 ft) elevation gained, riding time 4:47, temperature ranged from 6-33 C (43-91 F)

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195837#.UUYKLBk19X0.email

Mesquite Springs survival

Mesquite Springs survival

 

The Van at Mesquite Springs

The Van at Mesquite Springs

12 March Day 3- The ride took us from Mesquite Springs 2 miles back up to the main road, and up to Scotty’s Castle. We did a tour of Scotty’s castle, and then rode back to Furnace Creek. The temperature was beginning to affect many in our group. It is so dry, that you don’t accumulate sweat, and thus don’t realize how hot it really is. A few people SAGed part of this trip. It was great to get back to camp. Total 95.3 km (59.2 miles), 3306 calories burned, 754 m (2474 ft) elevation gained, riding time 5:07, temperature ranged from 13-42 C (55-108 F)

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195803#.UUYKoaw76p4.email

Pat and Burrell humping it up to Scotty's Castle

Pat and Burrell humping it up to Scotty’s Castle

 

Burrell and I approaching Scotty's Castle

Burrell and I approaching Scotty’s Castle

Pat showing how it's done.

Pat showing how it’s done.

 

It should have been Pattie's Castle

It should have been Pattie’s Castle

 

Scottie's Castle

Scottie’s Castle

 

Wall flowers

Wall flowers

 

Twins Separated at birth

Twins Separated at birth-Dave and Kathy

 

Inside Scotty's Place

Inside Scotty’s Place

 

Scotty's Music Room

Scotty’s Music Room

 

13 March Day 4- This was a rest day. The two van tours included a trip to Salt Creek to see the guppy fish. The other tour was a trip up to Dante’s Peak. One person in the group, Jim, actually rode his bicycle to the top of Dante’s Peak, a cruel 5-6 K feet climb, and hot. I preferred to van-attack the hill, but would have attempted the climb if I knew that the next day would be a rest.  We also toured the visitor’s center, and laid low.

Salt Creek

Salt Creek

 

Death Valley from Dante's Peak

Death Valley from Dante’s Peak

14 March Day 5- This was the hard day, being long, hot, and lots of climbing. It started at Furnace Creek and took us to the south end of Death Valley, going by Badwater, the lowest place in North America. The climb out of Death Valley was problematic because of the heat making it easy to dehydrate. I went through about 4-5 liters of fluid. Pat SAGed a bit of this ride, so I rode either with Rohe and Mike, or alone. Shoshone was a cool, green town in the desert, a nice coasting ride from the summit of the last pass. We went out to a restaurant that night, so nobody needed to cook. Total 117.7 km (73.1 miles), 4773 calories burned, 1768 m (5800 ft) elevation gained, riding time 7:11, temperature ranged from 9-41 C (48-106 F)

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195758#.UUYK_96ZDcA.email

Pat in a very happy moment

Pat in a very happy moment

 

The water was bad here

The water was bad here

 

Saying goodbye to Todes Tal (Death Valley)

Saying goodbye to Todes Tal (Death Valley)

 

Summit of last serious climb of the trip

Summit of last serious climb of the trip

15 March Day 6- This was the last day, and the ride went from Shoshone back to Pahrump. Pat and I rode together for this. The first pass was actually harder than the first, having an incline of up to 8% grade at the top, whereas the second pass was a straight, gradual incline rarely exceeding 4% grade. We arrived in Pahrump by 10:15, giving us time to pack for the drive home.  Total  45.2 km (28 miles), 1741 calories burned, 554 m (1818 ft) elevation gained, riding time 2:42, temperature ranged from 7.0- 23 C (45-73 F)

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/285195720#.UUYLKZ0ufTQ.email

Pat returns to awesome form

Pat returns to awesome form

 

Goodbye Cafilornia; Hello, Nevada

Goodbye Cafilornia; Hello, Nevada

Total workout for the trip includes 443.3 km (275.5 miles) on the bike, 16335 calories burned (from riding, this does NOT include basal metabolic calories, which averages about 1600 – 2200 calories a day, as well as calories expended to stay cool), elevation gain 4,460 meters (14,630 feet), and 24:52 riding time. The climbing would have been equivalent to going from Badwater to the summit of Mt. Whitney.

The drive home for me went from Pahrump up through Battle Mountain on back roads, to Winnemuca, and then up through Burns, Oregon, where I spent the night, and then on to Bend, across Santiam Pass, and up I-5 back to Puyallup, arriving in Puyallup at 4:05 in the evening. In Nevada, even on the most backward roads, the cops were busy pulling people over. Contrariwise, the Oregon drivers seemed to have no clue as to speed limits, and saw only one ticket being given while on I-5. During the drive, which is designed to go on roads I’ve never been on, or recently been on, there was much thinking about the possibility of bicycle tours on those roads. Maybe I need to retire early, because there are a lot of good roads to bicycle on.

So, my assessment of this tour was A+++. Chuck and Arlen were superb tour leaders, and did everything possible to make the tour go well. I’m not sure I would want to ride Death Valley without a SAG vehicle. This is due to the fact that heat and dehydration could easily ruin a good trip, and it would be hard to carry sufficient water, as well as to anticipate both the cold and hot extremes in weather. The Adventure Cycle Association does a superb job of building in the creature-comforts while allowing one to otherwise model the trip as they wish. One couple stayed in hotels close-by part of the time. Others had minor side-agendas. Nobody seemed to be unhappy, and everybody seemed to have a great time, even when they needed to be SAGed. About the only change I would make would be to omit the canned tour of Scotty’s Castle, as it put us into 108F weather for much of the day, maximizing the SAGed riders. An 8:30-9:00 start on the castle tour would make sense, but not later than that. Catered meals would be nice, but it was also fun serving as cook for a day. My observation suggested that the ladies in the group ended up with a disproportionate share of the kitchen activities, which wasn’t good. Only one other suggestion- the ACA definitely needs to invest in an “Arlen-Chair”. He deserves it as he was a real trooper, riding sweep on the worst days, and always being in a cheery frame of mind.

What did I like about Death Valley? 1) It’s unique, it’s geology and landscape not quite like anything else in the US. Rocks of multiple derivations including volcanic basalt, sedimentary rock, and lots of gravel, colors in layer upon layer and pillow upon pillow giving it a special sense of beauty. 2) Odd things, like a water springs in various unexpected places in the Valley. 3) Animal life. I saw coyotes, a road runner, bugs, a scorpion, and fish in the Valley. 4) The stars – at night, the absence of light pollution allows one to see more stars that generally possible in the city. The milky way was quite apparent. I should have brought my star maps. Next time… .

Thoughts on photography. I used my Canon 6D for the first time in the field, and realized how easy it is to accommodate the camera to the situation. I did not put the camera to its full potential, rarely adjusting the exposure to maximize control of depth of field. I also did not take enough photos, missing many great shots, and not including several participants in our grand event. The best landscape photography utilizes a tripod, which I left back at the car. I also could have used a longer lens at times, especially for wildlife photography. I wanted to use the gps feature on the camera, but that drains the battery even when the camera is off, so I left that function off. The tour schedule was not conducive to great photography, as the best photography finds a scene, and then returns frequently to that scene for the best lighting and optimal conditions. People photos in harsh lighting is near to impossible, and I had to adjust most of the photos to get the faces from being too dark. I wait eagerly for Canon or Nikon to come out with an improved version of the mirrorless camera (eg., the Canon EOS M system), that gives an  ultra-light camera with high definition. The 6D takes 20.2 mPixel full-frame photos, which I captured in RAW format, and utilizes superb lenses, making it ideal for landscapes, but not so good for cycle touring.

So, once more a special thanks to Chuck and Arlen for giving us an awesome time, thanks to Pat C. for being a repeat wonderful and entertaining riding buddy, and to Mike, Rohe, David, Kathy, Jim, Judy, Burrell, Don, Ray, Adele, and Teresa (not in that order), you were all most wonderful to ride with. If you come by my neck of the woods and want to do some riding or touring (or Kathy, sauerkraut consumption), please give me a holler and I’ll take some time off work for it. I’m sure Jim and Judy will attest that the NW, while wet most the time, when dry, is close to paradise for bicyclists.

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Mar 03

Eternal God

By Kenneth Feucht books 10 Comments »

EternalGodEternal God: A Study of God without Time, by Paul Helm ★★★★★

Almost exactly a year ago I reviewed the book God and Time-Four Views where Paul Helm was one of the contributors, and who argued for a classical interpretation from Augustine of a timeless God, who exists completely outside of time. This book is a further elaboration of his statements referred to in the four views text. Helm wrote an additional four chapters from the original edition to answer some of the criticisms of his work. Various criticisms still exist (e.g., see the review of this book at http://thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/review/eternal_god_a_study_of_god_without_time . The criticism that Helm remains aloof to new thinking on time is a poor argument; see my most recent review on the physics of time. The criticism of Helm lacking a philosophical grasp of time is completely unfounded. Though Helm prefers to remain biblical in his arguments, he seems to consider philosophy as a subset of theology, thus is entirely philosophical in his response. Helm realizes that he simply cannot provide a perfect answer as to how a being outside of space and time can think, move, act, create. Much of his argument is to show that answers other than his own do not make matters any more explainable. One could end up with a God that is not omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, but the sacrifice  leaves a god in man’s image and not the God of Scripture. William Lane Craig attempts to create a hybrid God, that can emerge from timeless existence and enter time. Helm adequately shows that this concept still leaves many philosophical inconsistencies. The book was a slow read, in that I am not used to endless philosophical terminology, yet it was easy enough to grasp where Helm was going, and thus is readable for those outside of the philosophic profession. It’s a wonderful read for those willing to venture into topics rarely ever addressed in sermons or devotional texts.

 

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Mar 03

SeanCarrollMysteries of Modern Physics: Time; Teaching Company Series, by Dr. Sean Carroll ★★★

I’ve been doing much reading on the issue of time, mostly focused on the aspect of God existing outside of both space and time. The title of this series suggested that physics might provide help in this regard. In reading debates on God and time I noted that the more conservative philosophers came under criticism for not understanding the new modern scientific thinking regarding time. Perhaps I was missing something, so this series seemed to be relevant in my quest for understanding. It wasn’t.

Dr. Carroll was a reasonably good lecturer and was easy to follow. The pace of the lectures was quite slow. Ultimately, the focus on the real issue (the physics of time) was continually side-skirted. In the first portion of the course, Carroll discusses the physics of entropy and its reversible nature. Even though I knew that entropy was time-directional, the extent of this discussion seemed irrelevant to grasping why entropy was uni-directional. Carroll then spent a section talking about the psychology of time, our perception of time. All relevant, but it doesn’t explain time itself. Finally, Carroll delved into the latest big-bang theory of the development of the universe, and other thoughts on contemporary physics. In order to work, the big-bang theory must arbitrarily assign a small entropy to the beginning of the universe. You wonder how many more rabbits were pulled out of the hat to create the big-bang according to modern physics? The ultimate rabbit trick is the multiverse theory, where the universe separates into two different universes with every action. Carroll is correct to identify the multiverse theory as the “ultimate free-lunch”, in that it is unproveable, and offered as a slight of hand in order to defend the physicist’s fundamental philosophy of life rather than trying to describe nature. Indeed, discussions on the latest and greatest in physics suggested that physicists were smoking some fairly strong weed, and reading too many fantasy books. Einstein’s theories were of no help either, because though one could slow down time in your personal perspective, you always returned to time-on-earth as it otherwise would have been. Einstein doesn’t explain speeding up time by slowing down… how could one slow down not relative to any other point in the universe? Such “slowing down” motion would always be perceived from the observer at point zero as accelerating, yes?

This lecture series was a bit too long for what Dr. Carroll attempted to do, which was to explain time. Although he gave a lovely discourse on physics, time remained the same. Time remains unexplained and unexplainable, and we are caught (created) inescapably in time, to know nothing other than a universe (or heaven) that has a history and the clock ever clicking. For us, there will never be a physics where time is not a part of the equation.

 

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