The only bike related things I did today were taking my bike in to Landis Cyclery for some adjustments to the derailleur; cleaning and doing maintenance on my bike; dropping by REI to get strap and buckle materials to replace the missing carry strap on my panniers; restocking supplements and hygiene items; and removing gear that I don’t need.
The rest of the day was spent with my grandkids and dealing with the restoration contractors and my insurance company on the water damage to my house.
A few people have asked me if I’m going to continue on with the ride, and the answer is—definitely yes! Fixing this place can wait till after I get home from the tour. The priority right now is drying the place out so it doesn’t get mold.
Thursday, I’ll be riding again, but today, home is where the action was (big yawn).
I was so excited to be coming through Phoenix on my route across the US. After sleeping on the ground in a tent, for several days, my bed was going to be heavenly. As I rode along, today, I was too distracted by daydreams of lounging around my home and pool to even take photos. I didn’t take a photo of the Hassayampa River as we left Wickenburg. No picture of the sign entering Morristown. No photo of Whitman. No photo of the people gathered at the McDonalds as we entered Surprise. No photos of the Arizona Canal, which we rode on from 91st Avenue in Surprise to 68th Street in Scottsdale. No photos of the Arizona Biltmore. No photos of the spectacular desert around the Desert Botanical Gardens. No photos of the team efforts to fix four flat tires on two of the bikes or the heroic late afternoon hydration run by Tom R. I didn’t even get a group photo of the friends who met me at Cafe Rio for Taco Tuesday this evening: Catherine, Jean, Jerry, Geri, Ally, Kimberly and Christina. I really fell down on the job!
So lets talk about the photos I did get. While we were riding along the Arizona Canal, just as we were overheating and needing a break, we bumped into a good sized group of fellow riders talking to a cycling enthusiast who was willing to shoot some photos, so we scored a few people photos.
When we arrived Tempe, my ex-husband Jerry brought our pickup trip to the Motel to pick me and Erwin up. Erwin had an overnight visit planned with friends in town, and you already know what I had planned. After dropping Erwin off in Mountain Park Ranch, Jerry dropped me off at my house, where, as I walked in the front door, I was greeted by dank air and the sound of water spraying. Moving closer to the sound, I noticed that the carpet in the living room was wet and sloshy. A few more steps, and I could see that there was water on the floor of the kitchen and the master bedroom. The leak was coming from the supply line connection to the master bath toilet. The cabinets, counters, mirrors, closets and floors were soaked with water.
Of course, I called the insurance company, and they sent a water extraction team to start tearing things up and drying the house out, leaving behind 15 fans and one heavy duty device that extracts water from the air. Tomorrow, they will return to pack out my bedroom, bathrooms and closets, because some drywall work and new cabinetry are going to be required. So this is what I took photos of. Hope you enjoy them. Tomorrow, I had big plans for seeing my grand babies, but now I have this insurance issue to deal with on top of everything else I was hoping to do.
Hate to say it, but the days seem to be running together now. As one who lives in Arizona, there is desert that wows me, and there is desert that doesn’t, and the past couple of days we’ve been traveling through the later. Add to that the fact that we keep running into headwinds, and everything starts getting blurry.
Today, we started out at 7 AM, our earliest start yet, and made our way through another sequence of small little known towns.
First was Wenden, a sleep stop on the MS 150s I rode back in the late 80s and early 90s. it was pretty much unchanged from how I remembered it back then. The school where we ate our meals looked exactly the same as I remembered it.
Next, we hit Gladden, another nondescript small town. Why do people live in these remote places with no services? Someone fill me in on this, please.
As we moved down the road, Aguila was the biggest town yet, and our last chance for water before Wickenburg. Here, most of the signs were in Spanish, and almost everyone we saw was Hispanic. The town had a lot more going on than any of the towns we’d passed through, since entering Arizona, including a railhead, a large agricultural silo operation, and quite a few open businesses. There were school aged children out and about, versus the senior citizen populations of the other towns on our day’s route.
Part of our group was taking a break in the shade next to the one convenience stores in town. Neal and Tom R. peeled off from them to join us for a second breakfast at the Coyote Cafe, a place Ken had heard about. The place turned out to be a cute little old diner with stools at a counter and the most amazing food. Totally enjoyed the stop.
During our breakfast we reviewed the map and elevation profile, so we knew that there was a steady 15 mile climb ahead of us. Add to that a headwind, and those miles drug on and on. At some point, we got our payback, and rode downhill into Wickenburg.
Ed rode ahead to the campground, Ken stopped to pick up straggler riders, and I headed to the old downtown area to check out the touristy shops and to hopefully get a treat of some kind. I found an Amish-run diner that served coconut cream pie, which put a smile on my face.
Tomorrow we have a 70 mile ride to Tempe where the group will have a rest day at the Motel 6 on Priest Dr. I will continue on to my house and sleep in my own bed for a couple of nights. I’m looking forward to spending some time with my daughter and grandkids. If any of you who are following this want to meet for Taco Tuesday at the Rural & Baseline Cafe Rio, text message me for details.
It was a short day of riding, today, and the entire day was spent passing through the Arizona desert, 14 miles of which was on I-10 in heavy semi traffic.
That was 14 more miles of dodging shreds of steel belted radials and other debris. If you’re not a cyclist, you may not be aware that the fine little wires in those shreds of tire are a major hazard to bike tires. And when they flatten a bike tire, they are so fine that it is almost impossible to find and remove them. If you don’t find the wire or other debris that is the source of a flat, and remove it from the tire, it will still be there to flatten the next tube you install.
I haven’t had any flats, yet, but one of the guys in our group has had one or more 0f them each day. He has been blaming his tires, which happen to be the most bombproof touring tires on the market. Today, he finally found one of those itty bitty wires in his tube and was able to track it down and remove it from the tire. My guess is that he doesn’t put as much energy into dodging those tire shreds as I do. Or maybe he’s just not lucky.
Our 38.9 route consisted of two long hills and passed through three small towns on the way to Salome. All of the towns in this part of the state are like ghost towns in the summertime, but in the wintertime are packed with winter visitors. Quartzite, where we stayed last night, Will have over 250,000 visitors in RVs rolling in in a couple more months. I can’t even imagine that many senior citizens in one place at one time.
The first town we ran into, Brenda, had what looked like a really nice local market, but it wasn’t open on Sunday, so we sat out on its shaded front porch and ate an early lunch at 10 AM. Sounds crazy, I know, but we were hungry again–already. After leaving Brenda, the wind picked up, and the climb to Hope was painfully slow. Thankfully, Hope had an open market that was stocked with snacks and cold beverages. We hung out under a shady overhang for a while, talking to others from our group who also stopped for a break and an occasional motorist on his or her way to the casinos in Nevada.
After another run of uphill cycling into a headwind, we passed through Harcuvar. No joy there, as nothing in town was open for business, so we kept moving.
Salome is a relative metropolis, compared to all the other towns we passed through today. It even has its own Lion’s Club, monuments to unknown people, US Air Force mothballed missile display, and of course the high end motel we stayed in.
We arrived at our motel just before 1 PM, but some of the guys rolled in as early as 10 AM. Our rooms weren’t ready until past 2 PM, and the motel owner wasn’t back from church to give us keys till about then anyhow, so we hung out in the shade and waited.
After assessing the grocery situation in town, Ken decided that we would be getting another restaurant meal for dinner (the natives rejoiced), so we moseyed over to the only open eating establishment in town and were its only dinner customers. The chef had some mad skills that left all of us pretty happy. For the record, half of us ate bacon burgers and the other half Mexican food, so we made it easy for her.
On a day like that, after a meal like that, there is only one thing left to do. We all turned in early, including me.
Having received numerous comments telling me to be safe, I want you to know that I’m doing my best. To illustrate that, I’ve thrown in a video one of the guys shot of me a couple of days ago.
Pretty exciting, eh? The flashing front light hopefully gets the attention of people turning and pulling out into traffic in front of me. Too bad The video doesn’t show my back side, which was lit up like a Christmas tree. There’s a multi-beamed led light on my helmet, another on the pot I carry for the group on top of my rear rack, a good sized reflector, custom made by Jay Stewart from a portion of a highway sign, on my rear rack, and two slow moving vehicle triangles mounted to the cooking pot and one of my panniers. I am doing more than any other person in the group to be visible in traffic. If you have other ideas you think might help me up my game, send me a comment. End of subject.
Stopping to smell the roses and take in the sights along the way keeps us entertained as we move down the road. And the small group of riders I’m hanging with stops fairly frequently to check out interesting things we see and to take photos. An added benefit of the stops is that it gives our bodies a much needed break from peddling. Today was a day with lots of those breaks.
After leaving Palo Verde, and passed 20 more miles of lush farmland before arriving Blythe, where we stopped at a local diner to celebrate our upcoming crossing of the Colorado River and entrance to Arizona. Yee haw!
There were signs on the pedestrian bridge discouraging jumping and diving into the river, so we shelved any ideas we might have had about cooling off in the water. After several photo ops, we got back on the route, which was a now I-10.
I love Arizona, but,where I was riding today, we sure do a poor job of keeping the emergency lanes and shoulders of our freeways clear of debris that could potentially flatten a bike tire. About 16 miles of today’s ride felt like an obstacle course of glass and steel belted radial fragments.
Our route took us through the corner of the Colorado River Indian Reservation, then we found ourselves in the Sonoran Desert again.
After climbing the Dome Rock Mountains, ducking under freeway underpasses to cool off ,and passing miles and miles of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, that in the winter is blanketed with winter visitors in RVs, we arrived our quarters for the night at the Quartzite Yacht Club.
After showering and changing, we hopped on our bikes to grab some ice cream from Mcdonalds, then headed down Main Street to see the town. This town basically shuts down in the summer months, so hardly anything was open. We stumbled upon a book store, Reader’s Oasis Books, that none of us will ever forget, no matter how hard we try. My friend Lloyd Porter put it this way: “You can’t unsee it.”
***** WARNING! DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS POINT IF YOU AVOID PG-13 MEDIA *****
The proprietor, Paul Winer, is a talented, 74-year-old honky tonk musician who recorded his most recent CD just 3 weeks ago. He also is an exhibitionist who operates his business wearing only the male equivalent of a G-string, minus the string. He has a great collection of books, at least a couple of which I would have bought for myself, were i not on a transcontinental bike ride with no extra room for souvenirs.
Paul uncovered a grand piano that is disguised as a book shelf and display table, then played one of his recent compositions for us. Here is a short video clip of his performance. Being the divorcée that I am, I confess that I love the lyrics, but beyond that, I am scarred for life by the visual of this guy, and I truly can’t unsee it.
After our tour of Main Street, we went back to our motel and met up with the rest of the crew for dinner at Silly Al’s.
A couple of super delicious 20 inch pizzas filled every one of us to the brim. Then we headed back to our air conditioned quarters where we slept really well. A break from camping and the early morning sounds of people tearing down camp was awesome!
The day got off to an early start, with me and Patrick putting breakfast out by 6 AM, then clearing out of the church by 7 AM to head toward Brawley on our way to Palo Verde. It was only 66 degrees out when we started riding, but we were primed to expect hot weather in the desert, so all of us were loaded up with at least 5 liters of water to get us to Glamis, which was 30 miles away.
Heading out of town, the farm land of the Imperial Valley was replaced by sand dunes, and temperatures started rising from the 66 degree temps at our starting point, to an eventual high of 100 degrees.
Sand dunes are sandy, and as truckers sped by us on the highway, we were blasted over and over again by the sand blown onto our sweaty skin by the truck draft. I am the only rider who travels with a bandana, and i can tell you that some of the others wished they had had a way to keep the sand from getting on the faces.
The last available water of this 69 mile day was at the Glamis Beach Store. The store refused to let us use their restrooms, so I refused to buy water from them. Instead, I sat out front and refilled my water bottles with water from a Platypus bladder and Gatorade powder I have been carrying since day one.
As we headed out of Glamis, the terrain changed from dunes to Sonoran Desert–much like the desert behind my house in Phoenix, just not as lush and beautiful. And with that transition, the road went from being mostly flat to steep climbs interspersed with “rollers,” which, to you non cyclists, are rolling hills.
After passing through the Chocolate Mountains, the rollers continued while the landscape transitioned to moonscape that reminded me of some of the terrain I came across hashing around Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2010 and 2011.
About 9 miles from Tamarisk Mobile Home Park, our digs for the night, we crossed back into fertile farm land and irrigation canals.
The mobile home park provided a nice large campsite with a large gazebo, a couple of showers (filthy and disgusting, but when you are a sweaty mess and have shower shoes, you can tough out just about anything for a warm shower) and an air conditioned community room (also disgusting, but when you’ve been cycling in 100 degree heat you’ll settle for some pretty crappy digs to enjoy air conditioning).
The park host had the local “chef” prepare a pasta dinner for us, for a price. It was not the best cooking, but at least we didn’t have to come up with food, prepare it, clean up the mess, etc.
What do you think? Are we starting to settle too much?
(P.S., forgive the highlighting that began partway through this post. I don’t know what started it, and couldn’t figure out how to undo it. If you know how to correct it from a mobile device, send me a message, and I’ll be forever grateful. Thanks!
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.
I am really getting into this vacation of mine! It’s a little like hiking in a group. You start out hiking with one person, and over the course of the hike, as people stop to take pictures or slow down to catch their breath, you end up hiking one-on-one with most of the people in the group. It’s a great way to get to know people better. So far, that’s how the days seem to go on this ride. Over the course of today, I ended up riding and bantering with 6 different people, which really helped pass the time.
And two of those riders were having mechanical problems. As part of preparing for the tour, I knew I would have to be self sufficient mechanically, so for several months, I took every repair class offered by the Global and Performance bike shops in the East Valley. Today, I was able to apply it. Neil’s front disc brake caliper was dragging the rotor, following the descent of a super steep hill, and I actually knew how to adjust it. One of the Tom R’s tires looked really low on air when he stopped to take a break, so I insisted he check it out before we moved on. He had been running on less than half the normal tire pressure for his tires. Potential crisis averted.
When we got to our camping spot, a mobile home park that rents some empty space to campers, the guys who arrived before us had negotiated to get us out of an open dirt pad with no shade and lots of stickers and into the shaded patios and yards of a couple of raunchy mobile homes. Pretty bad digs, if you ask me. I set my rain fly up on the concrete porch and will be cowboy camping tonight. A couple of the guys were so turned off by the accomodations that they rode 10 miles up the road to stay in a motel.
I ended up taking over dinner prep duty from one of the motel dwelling fellas, whose dinner duty assignment was tonight, and this is where I should have shot some photos. Two of us are assigned to cooking duty each day, which involves emptying panniers on arrival at the camping spot, cycling to a store to buy the groceries for one day, starting with dinner; preparing dinner not later than 6 PM; then, in the morning, laying out breakfast food (cereal, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, juice, milk, and coffee); lunch fixings (bread, peanut butter, jelly, cold cuts, fresh fruit, energy bars, cookies, chips and salty cracker); and cleaning up after all meals and prep.
Ed Craft and I worked together on the best meal the group has had yet: a green salad and spaghettiwith marinara sauce that was loaded up with meat, tomato chunks, onion, green peppers and zucchini. We started off not even having a place to prepare or eat dinner, then I talked the site manager of the park into letting us use the swimming pool area (the pool is now closed for the year) to prepare and serve our meal. We had to set our two stoves up on the ground and lean over them to cook. If I hadn’t been so busy, I would have a taken photos, but i was really distracted by coming up with enough food for a small army. I have dinner duty again tomorrow night, so will try to get photos so you can see what chow time looks like.
About the Route
After backtracking to get to where we left Historic US 80, yesterday, to get to our campground, we had to ride on I-8 for six miles. Six really slow steep miles with crazy traffic and long haul truckers blowing by us. We were glad when we finally exitted the interstate and were able to ride on normal roads for the rest of the day.
We left the Cleveland National Forest, passed through the La Posta and Campo Indian Reservations, and summited the Tecate Divide. The miles and elevation details below are incorrect, due to my Garmin turning off during one of our long stops, and thus not auto starting when we began riding again. A couple of the guys who had their Garmins on for the entire route told me that the actual miles were 34.5 with an elevation gain of 3671. That’s the equivalent of making 2.5 trips up South Mountain. Let’s just say, it’s a lot of climbing.
Today, we ate breakfast at 8 AM and were on the road by 9 AM. A couple of riders left earlier to avoid the heat, which was a great idea, because later in the day, the temperatures were up to 106 degrees.
Four of us rode together as a group, stopping every few miles to wait for the slowest rider, who was being helped along by the ride leader. We didn’t want him to get demoralized on day one, but after a while, we were in trouble too, so we stopped waiting for him. A few miles further down the road, we rearranged ourselves and were riding either separately or with other riders. I ended up turning off at the Albertson’s in Alpine to get some Gatorade powder and chocolate milk. As a result I rode the rest of the route my myself. When I arrived the campground, I was surprised that riders I thought were ahead of me were actually behind me.
Not to bore you with too many details, but here is how our route flowed. We started out on a bike path that followed the waterfront and then the San Diego River, before hitting the streets. I was amazed at the route. It wound through residential neighborhoods, took us to Mission Trails Park, where we stopped to tour this Visitor’s Center, then dropped us onto Old Highway 80.
We crossed into the Cleveland National forest, then at mile point 26, we crossed over I-8 and found ourselves on an endless hill with a 4-5% grade that never ended till we reached the end of our ride. What a painful way to end the day! On day one, we covered 42.5 miles and climbed 3314 feet. See the route and elevation profile below.
We camped just outside of Alpine on the Viejas Indian Reservation at a reservation owned Ma-Tar-Awa RV Park–a huge shady campground with a pool and jacuzzi that a few of us enjoyed the heck out of. Nice Place! Can’t say the water helped our leg cramp, but it sure felt good. And once again, the sunset did not disappoint. Amazing!
Today was our last day before hitting the road. We met for an early breakfast and headed out on a ride to test our fully loaded bikes on steep hills and other terrain, so any needed repairs could be made before Tuesday and Wednesday’s climbs out of San Diego.
Riding from our hostel, we went straight to Dog Beach to dip our wheels in the Pacific Ocean and get a group photo. The photographer forgot to get all of me in the photo. What the heck! She’s fired!
We then headed through town to Cabrillo National Monument and the Fort Rosencrans National Cemetary, with a route that put us on Hill Street, which is quite aptly named for being on an exceedingly steep hill. What the heck–again! Only one of us had to stop and walk our bike up the hill–thankfully not me. The extra gearing Jay Stewart installed on my bike saved my day. Thanks Jay!
Between the city and the end of the road, where the Old Point Loma Lighthouse sits, is the Fort Rosencrans National Cemetary. Covering every bit of the land on both sides of the road–all the way down to the water around the peninsula, it is both a spectacutar and somber sight. Over 112,000 Servicement and some of their wives have been buried there, dating back to the Battle of San Pasqual in 1846 and the Spanish-American War of 1898. Its last burial spot was used up in 2014. Pretty cool, eh?
Three of us broke from the group to take photos of the cemetary. Me, the token female, Erwin, the token foreigner (he’s from Amsterdam), and Eric, the token young person (he is 22 and just graduated from college). Later, after we got back to the hostel, Erwin tried to round up a group to go to the beach, and guess who the only interested people were?
We rode our bikes 2.6 miles each way carrying boogie boards (try that on a bike sometime) to find the water unusually temperate and the ocean and beach relatively vacant. It was Erwin’s first attempt at boogie boarding, so we really enjoyed seeing him catch his first waves.
Today was like one last vacation before the ride begins, and we felt like we had earned it.