Wednesday morning and it feels strange to be waking up in the opulent excess of my room at the Venetian. I'd gladly trade these digs for another day on the road with the Specialized/Western Spirit convoy that rode/traveled with grit, humor and style from Morgan Hill to Las Vegas over these last six days. It was a journey I won't forget for many reasons, but the camaraderie of our little band was tops.
The work is far from over... I'm well off the back of the group in that regard, still editing the tail wind assisted bullet train that was day four; a dash from Mammoth Lakes to Lone Pine which sits on the verge of Death Valley. The sheer volume of imagery is overwhelming and of course, there's video this time... whose bright idea was that.
I had no illusions that videography was easy, though my friend Dave Christenson makes it appear so. I just had no idea how tough it would be to juggle both disciplines or to deal with the frustration of shots spoiled by traffic. It is uncanny how you can set up on a deserted ribbon of road in the middle of nowhere waiting for your riders to appear. Five, ten minutes without a single vehicle and then as the peloton approaches, cars, campers and motorcycles malevolently appear to ruin things. More than once during the trip I exploded in a stream of profanity as we lost a bit of magic because of them.
Specialized's Kathryn Grassl and I probably logged a thousand miles chasing the bikes and the light. I can't say enough how grateful I am to her for her unflagging good humor, superb navigation and infinite patience. "Do you want to go back and try that again?" Yes please, I'd answer and back we'd go for another pass. Normally Kathryn has the weighty responsibility of Specialized's catalogs on her shoulders, the last of which she'd put to bed on the day before our departure, on this trip she kept me organized and even managed a few good shots of her own. Thank you Kathryn.
As the group rode into the Specialized compound at interbike's Dirt Demo yesterday it felt slightly anti climatic. The significance of the pink jersey'd double paceline was lost on many of the attendees hopping about on silly (yes, I said it) mountain unicycles or threading their way on 29ers through all the foot traffic. The real heroics had occurred earlier on the wind swept flats of Nevada between Death Valley and Pahrump. They'd fought through and conquered an unrelenting crosswind, at times echeloning five wide to shelter lighter riders and share the work. Then the three hard men, Chris, Rich and Glen, the bit between their teeth, had raced on ahead chasing the 2pm arrival schedule. They almost made it.
We showered and cleaned up for a celebratory dinner... not quite ready to let it all end. Sitting across the table from a visibly elated Mike Sinyard (he's done all three "rides to Vegas") I couldn't help think we should have ended the evening in the manner of Ocean's Eleven. All of the riders silently silhouetted with their bikes in front of those Las Vegas fountains, Debussy's Clair de Lune playing softly in the background. One by one they'd turn and ride off in all directions into the night. Perhaps next year we'll film it that way ;-)
Over the next week or so I'll tell the complete story as the team in "Photo 1" experienced it. I hope these first photos whet your appetite for the episodes and galleries to follow. It was a magnificent journey.