9/15/17 – Brawley to Palo Verde, CA

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!

9/14/17 – Boulevard to Brawley, CA

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.

Erwin, Eric & Ed eating Breakfast
Our Lunch Spread. Most of that food gets made into sandwiches or packed up in Baggies to be eaten during the day

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?

Ed Craft and I by the Border Fence
An old abandoned building on the other side of the Border Fence

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.

The road from Hell
More of the Road from Hell

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.

Note the “Sea Level” line on the right side of the rightmost sugar silo at the Spreckles Sugar Plant
Smiley Face propane tank in front of a Dead Palm Tree Farm outside of Seely.

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.

We ended up riding 67 miles and doing an insignificant amount of climbing, but check out the graph of the descents

9/13/17 – Alpine to Boulevard, CA & First Cooking Detail

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.

Eric Catching up to a Small Group of Us

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.

Scenery near the Laguna Mountains

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 spaghetti with 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.

9/12/17 – San Diego to Alpine, CA

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.

Me, Chris, Eric, Patrick, Tom and Ken at One of Our Stops

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!


9/11/17 – Final Check Ride & Holiday

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!

Me, Chris, Tom, Ed, Patrick, Terry, Eric, Neal, Joe, Tom, Erwin, Rich & Ken (Our Fearless Ride Leader) at Our Pacific Ocean “Wheel Dip”

 

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!

Yet Another Group Photo at Cabrillo National Monument.

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?

Fort Rosencrans National Cemetary

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.

Top Photo:  Me, Eric & Erwin. Bottom 2 Photos:  Me and Erwin

Today was like one last vacation before the ride begins, and we felt like we had earned it.

San Diego & And The Other Riders

There’s no looking back now. I drove a rented Kia Sportsge over to San Diego yesterday with my bike and gear in the back. Got a late start due to the unanticipated amount of preparation involved in leaving town for 70 days, then drove like a maniac so I could get there in time to go to my brother-in-law Charlie’s PAC Tour rider meeting and pre-ride dinner.  He left on the Pac Tour this morning and made it to our day one destination in just two hours.  Amazing, eh?  It will be interesting to see how long it takes me to cover the same distance on Tuesday.

I spent most of the day vegging out with my sister Julie at their home in Scripts Ranch. Then around 4:30 PM, I headed over to the Point Loma Hostel to check in. I am in a bunk room with four other men from the tour, which is a little awkward.  Hopefully, it will be less awkward as time goes by.

After spending some time shmoozing with other riders, I headed out to return my rental vehicle.  My trip back to the hostel followed the harbor just as the sun was setting, and there is nothing like a California sunset.

San Diego Harbor

Our first rider meeting started shortly after my return from my car rental return and went on and on and on forever.  Okay, so it seemed like forever.  I got to meet the rest of the riders in he group and hear the ride leader’s lowdown on all the rules.  The other riders are all very nice, down to earth fellas, and we all have at least one thing in common:  We are all itching to begin the ride!

9/8/17 – Final Tuneup & Gear List

Sure am glad today is over!  I had planned to leave for San Diego this afternoon, but that didn’t happen. I never finished all the items on my “things to do” list, so that was out of the question.  Won’t bore you with the miscellany.  The most significants tasks of the day were getting some final tweaking done on my bike and a final gear check.

Final Bike Tuneup

The day started with a final bike tuneup with my bicycle hero and personal mechanic, Jay Stewart, who happens to be a fellow McClintock High School alumni and personal friend of my Home Teacher, Todd Rallison, who thankfully hooked us up.  Jay helped me get my mind wrapped around the bicycle touring mentality.  Over the course of several months, he tricked out my bike with new gearing, super comfy handlebars, and a custom-made rear reflector that will hopefully keep me from getting run over, and tweaked and tuned various components to perfect the ride.  After attending  numerous classes on general bicycle maintenance, I still needed help figuring out how make adjustments to the types of brakes, shifters, etc. that are on my bike.  I appreciate Jay’s willingness to help any way he could at any hour of the day or night.

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Jay Stewart Adding Final Touches to my Bike in His “Shop”

One training day, a while back, I was hill climbing in the Usery Pass area, and my bar end shifters stopped holding their gear, which made climbing extremely difficult.  The phone advice from my local bike shop mechanic was to load up my bike and bring it in to the shop, which would have been impossible, as my car was about 6 miles away.  Knowing intuitively what the problem was, Jay talked me through fixing it, which took less than a minute, and I was able to  continue riding for another couple of hours.

Gear List

As you can see, there’s a lot of gear, but it organizes neatly into several bags, then pack down to fits nicely into two panniers, and a lunch back from Target that sits on top of my rack, a little zipper bag that hooks to my aerobars, and an even  littler frame bag.  Fully loaded with four full water bottles, the beast weighs 65.8 pounds, which may sound like a lot to someone who does any kind of road or mountain biking.  But to a bicycle tourer, it’s an ultra lite setup.  The last few weeks of training, I have ridden my bike fully loaded to get used to the load.

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If I’m not Wearing it, my Gear all Fits in the 3 Bags in the Back and the little black Top Tube Bag that’s Forward and to the Right

Bike:

  • Salsa Marrakesh
  • Profile Design T4 Carbon Aerobars
  • Profile Design 7 cm Aerobar Riser
  • Profile Design UCM XL Electronics Mount
  • Lizard Skins DSP 3.2 Bar Tape
  • Grab On Maxi Foam Touring Grips
  • Water Bottle Cages (4)
  • Neoprene Bottle Bag (Repurposed as a Feed Bag)
  • Seat Bag
  • Schalbe Marathon Supreme Tubeless Tires
  • Cable Lock

On Bike Clothes:

  • Pearl Izumi Cooler Cap
  • Performance Ultra Cycling Shorts (4)
  • Pearl Izumi Sun Legs
  • Sugoi Leg Coolers
  • Bandanas (4)
  • Swiftwick Socks (4)
  • Terry Soleil Jerseys (4)
  • Performance Cycling Tights
  • Patagonia Rain Jacket
  • Rain Pants
  • Rain Oversocks
  • Patagonia R1 Hoodie
  • Shocktek Gloves
  • Pearl Izumi Gel Gloves
  • Pearl Izumi Wind Gloves
  • Lake Cycling Shoes
  • Giro Helmet
  • ESS Ice Sun Glasses

Off Bike Clothes:

  • Swimsuit
  • Sleeping Shorts
  • Underwear (4)
  • Shirt
  • Tights
  • Vionics Sandals

Electronics:

  • IPhone with Handlebar Mount
  • IPod Nano
  • Garmin 520
  • Cygolite Metro Light
  • Cygolite Hotshot Tail Light
  • Cateye Rapid X Tail Light
  • Anker Multi Charger
  • Anker Battery Pack
  • Black Diamond Headlamp
  • iclever keyboard

Sustenance:

  • Camelbak Podium Water Bottles (4)
  • Platypus 2.5 Liter Hydration Bag (2)
  • Mio Electrolytes (2)
  • nuun Electrolytes (3)
  • Various Other Supplements/Vitamins/Minerals

Hygiene:

  • Coppertone Sport Sunscreen
  • Chapstick Lipshield 365
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Wal-Mart Shower Scrubbie
  • Shaver
  • Dental Floss
  • Toothpaste
  • Oral B Battery Operated Toothbrush
  • Dove Deodorant Minus the Dispenser
  • Travel Sized Bottles of Favorite Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap, Lotion, Etc.
  • Q-Tips
  • Comb & Tiny Hairbrush
  • Hairbands (7)
  • Eye Liner Pencil
  • Lipstick
  • Blush
  • Makeup Remover Wipes
  • Freshette (if you’re curious, ask Google)

Toolkit:

  • Lezyne RAP Multi Tool
  • Nylon Twine
  • Rubber Gloves (a bunch)
  • Cotton T-Shirt Squares (a bunch)
  • Wet Ones
  • Tire Boot
  • Spare Tubes (3)
  • Tire Levers (3)
  • CO2 Inflator
  • CO2 Cartridges (2)
  • Tire Patches
  • Valve Stem Wrench
  • Stan’s Tire Sealant
  • Missing Links (4)
  • Loctite Thread Locker
  • Extra Silicone Bands
  • Velcro Zip Bands (6)
  • Lighter
  • Length of Electrical Tape
  • Length of Aluminum Tape
  • ATB Chain Oil
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Sewing Kit

Touring/Camping Gear:

  • Ortlieb Backroller Pannier (2)
  • Ortlieb Map Case
  • Embark Lunch Bag (Rack Top Bag)
  • Topeak Tri Bag Frame Bag
  • Granite Gear 5 Liter Zippsak (Handle Bar Bag)
  • Granite Gear 12 Liter Zippsak (Clothes Bag)
  • Granite Gear 12 Liter Zippsak (Supply Bag)
  • Sea to Summit Dry Bag 5 Liter (Laundry Bag)
  • Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Dry Sak 8 Liter (3)
  • Neoprene Water Bottle Bag
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Tent with Footprint
  • Tyvek (Cut for Tent Vestibule Footprint)
  • Silk Sleeping Bag Liner
  • Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite
  • Therm-a-Rest NeoAir AirTap
  • Exped Air Pillow
  • Sleeping Bag/Quilt (made from Costco Down Quilt)
  • Portable Clothesline
  • REI Camp Towel
  • Solo Man Titanium Cup
  • Toaks Titanium Spork
  • Rubbermaid Containers (2)
  • Headnet
  • Repel Sportsman Max Mosquito Repellant

9/6/17 – What Final Preparations?

I should be franticly readying myself for this ride, but today, I needed to spend some time with my daughter and grandkids.  After all, I won’t be seeing them for 70 days!  I put in one climb of South Mountain, then headed over to 4 year old Ella’s swim lesson.

After our post lesson regimen of McDonalds yogurt parfaits and Burger King Play Land, my daughter brought the grandkids by to play while she helped me figure out this blog.  The girls had us both completely distracted with their non-stop snacking and activities (aka messes) in every room of the house.  I’ll worry about being prepared tomorrow.

I’m Going to Miss These Guys

Today’s Ride:img_5420

9/5/17 – Training with Lisa Hatch

There have been a lot of training rides leading up to this point:  Serious sufferfests, like repeated climbs of South Mountain, and long boring rides circling South Mountain.  But the best rides have been with friends and relatives.  And the very best was today when I went riding in scorching heat of the Usery Pass/Bush Highway area with Lisa Stapley Randall Hatch, a lifelong friend.

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We started out at the bottom of the hill leading up to Usery Pass and quickly ran into our first of 3 herds of wild horses.  On the road toward Saguaro lake we ran into more horses and the very first Coatimundi either of us had ever seen.  Then on our way back down to our cars, we pedaled past our very first in-the-road rattlesnake–coiled up and ready to strike.  Being the brave girls that we are, we circled back for a photo and had our cameras at the ready when, out of nowhere, a massive pickup truck flew up the road and spoiled our fun.  He took aim and ran right over that snake, causing a loud snake explosion that sent the snake flying through the air toward us as we both screamed in horror.  As we sped away, I glanced back to see that the snake was still moving.  Felt kind of bad leaving it there, but we were traumatized.

Wild Horses

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Lisa’s summary of our ride was poetic:  28 miles, mostly uphill, 3 packs of wild horses, a raccoon/monkey coatimundi (true, look it up), rattlesnake exploding in front of us cuz it got ran over, and gorgeous scenery–all before 10 am. The day is young, what next?

Can’t wait to ride with her again!  Only a few more training rides left before San Diego.

Todays’ Ride
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