Last night I didn’t sleep very well. It was really windy, and the temperatures in Boulevard dropped down to 40 degrees. I was cowboy camping, so had not even set up a tent, because I was sleeping under someone’s patio cover. Wearing an extra layer of clothes and having my quilt in its mummy bag configuration weren’t enough to keep me warm. Note to self, grab a real sleeping bag when I get to Phoenix.
Then to start the day out, I had to be up extra early to put out the food for breakfast and lunch. After cleaning up and making sure all the shared food and equipment that were moving down the road were distributed to the riders, Ed Craft and I were the last to leave our campsite. The ride leader always brings up the rear, so the three of us rode together most of the day. We starting riding in temperatures that were 10 degrees cooler than average, on a section of the route that in past years has been a scorcher.
The day started out with a couple of short climbs along a section that comes very close to the border fence. What a waste of money that menagerie of types and heights of fencing is. And who comes up with stuff like that anyhow?
Then came a 10 mile section on I-8, our descent into the Imperial Valley–the one we had been looking forward to after two difficult days of climbing. Boy were we disappointed! About 20 seconds into what should have been a glorious downhill, we were hit by high, VERY high winds that for 10 miles either almost blew you off the road or blew you into traffic. It was terrifying. I was praying part of the time, fighting tears part of the time, and riding my brakes the entire time. What a joy killer that wind was. Throughout the day, as we ran into other riders, all told their tales of fear and terror. Our ride leader used to sweap for IEDs in the Middle East, when he was in the military, and he said that riding that stretch of road was the scariest thing he had done in his entire life.
Once we survived that descent, we spent much of our time in the Imperial Valley on roads that paralleled I-8. And I use the term “road” loosely, because they were more like patches of asphalt dropped in place randomly to form a broken up puzzle of cracks. Big cracks. After 10 miles of cracked up road, my bike sounded like a rattle trap, and my wrists were completely numb, but I could hardly complain, because now we had acquired a tail wind that was pushing us down the road at 20+ miles per hour.
The scenery from our route was much different than the well groomed farms along I-8. My favorite sights follow.
After passing through El Centro, we peddled another 11 miles to Brawley, where we are staying in the community room of Gateway Church. We were able to bring our bikes indoors and set up our sleeping bags on the floor, and it is like heaven. No tents to deal with, a kitchen to cook in, real showers that someone cleans, and a free laundry room.
Today was my actual cooking duty rotation, so once I had changed out of my cycling clothes, Ken, our rider leader, and I walked over to Wal-mart to pick up $130 of groceries for tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch. We ended up with so many bags of food, to get everything back to the church, we had to get help from two of the guys who were there to pick up some personal items.
With the commercial kitchen facilities at the church, Patrick and I were able to put on a quite a feast, with 3 chuck roasts, carrots, onions, zucchini, gravy and baked potatoes. Tomorrow will be another early wake up and late start, as we have to put the food out for breakfast and lunch, then clean. up.