Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Vision Quest: Day five

Miles: 15
Climb: 805

Richard informs us that the pose above is called "hard style."  Okay, then, lads, hard style it is!

After a pleasant night at the RV park, we awake to grey, threatening skies.  A tell-tale tap of rain on the fly jolts me awake.  What's out?  I worry at first, but the rain doesn't amount to much, more attitude than magnitude, so I lie still for a while in the cool dawn and watch the undulating ceiling pulse and roll.    Suddenly motivated for some reason, I roll the pad, flip and flop to squeeze out the air, stuff the tent, and shuttle everything down to the picnic table and my waiting bike, whom I've finally named--Ol' Blue, Blue for short.  It's a clever name, a moniker unguessable given the paint job.  Still, I like it.  So Blue it is.

I put water on to boil and roust the team, although Richard appears suddenly,  ready to ride.  I talk to Jodi via the miraculous cellular phone device.  It's a little lump of plastic that you talk into, and you can hear people talk back--from hundreds or even thousands of miles away.  Fantastic.  You all should get one.  Finally packed, we crunch and skitter down the dirt road and leave the Eagle's Nest RV Park behind us, bound for an obscure cave not marked on the tourist maps.  Lava Beds National Monument is well known for its caves, but this is to be our private adventure--no rangers or regulations.  To get there, first do a cycling tour that stops at the Eagle's Nest RV Park.  Then, ask about their "secret" cave!  The entrance is well hidden.  Without specific directions, we would not have found it, and casual travelers will never suspect the geologic wonder that lurks below.  We bounce out into the sage under stormy skies and locate the entrance:

Once in the cave, we encounter a wondrous lava tube, usually tall enough for me to stand fully, although we all had to duck-walk-crouch at times.  This is a volcanic structure, so the stalactites and stalagmites that make limestone caves so enchanting are not present.  Still, we are totally thrilled and walk for hundreds of yards in the dark.  In places, massive basalt blocks have caved in, so I give the ceiling hard looks from time to time, although I only bump my head once.  Moisture beads up and drips slowly, dimpling the sandy floor.  Lights hitting the water make it glow like diamonds.  We take time out for hard style and brake dance moves.  A solitary bat guards the entrance.

After our subterranean adventure, we reclaim the surface and push on for the monument, not many miles, but grim skies and headwinds dominate a challenging little ride.

Finally, we enter the monument and hang out at the visitor's center for a while but eventually scurry quickly for camp as some rain makes an entrance.  Camp is an idyllic little place and one of my favorites on the tour with great views of the surrounding countryside:

A cool evening, the wind sighing into the junipers sings the intrepid cyclists to sleep.

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