Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Tuesday, July 31. Newport Beach, CA.

Stayed up late last night – 10:30 – watching the Olympics on the couch at Glenys’ house and I ended up pretty much falling asleep in the seated position with old guy drool beginning to dribble down the side of my mouth. Time for beddy bye! And what a wonderful feeling it was to sleep until 7:30 AM. THAT was just like nirvana. And not having to get on the bike to ride for the first time in 60 days. THAT feels good.
         Now I realize that I’ve been able to do some things that you just cannot take for granted, such as for example these cross-country bike trips. So to hear me say that I’m happy to not be getting up early to ride my bike, that probably sounds heretical. But honestly, sometimes when you get used to something for a long period of time, no matter how precious that particular activity or lifestyle might be, you tend to get a bit complacent, or stale, or even a bit tired of the routine, of the hum-drum. That’s me right now. The end of this trip as opposed to the ends of the previous three, this one was the most anticipated and the most appreciated. Really, and I’m not exaggerating here, it’s a sense of relief to finish this one. It was just that hard mentally and physically. I’m ready to get back to the routine I’d left 60 days ago.
         So here I am sitting in this beautiful, cozy little house on the bay of Newport Beach trying to put into words what all this is, what it was, and what it means to me. First let’s go through the stats on this trip: 3710 miles from DC to Oceanside, CA in 59 straight days. No off days on this trip. The daily average = 62 miles – very low compared to my previous trips and yet I had support this year. I’ve easily spent triple  the amount of money for this trip as I had in the previous three. And yet I’m still light years from actually accomplishing my vision of  American Dirt having done about 1700 miles of dirt out of those 3700 miles of riding. The physical difficulty of this year’s journey was exponentially tougher than the previous three. Ditto for the mental difficulty. The preparation for this one, the equipment, the logistics, the terrain – ditto, ditto, ditto, and more ditto. But hey, that’s what I had wanted to do, to do something way more challenging that what I’d done on the previous trips. On that side, this was a total success.
         But let’s get to the crux of the matter – riding across the country totally on soft surfaces – American Dirt. You could boil it down to the simplest of questions: success or failure now that I’m finished? Had you asked me how I would answer that question several months prior to doing this trip, back in the formative days, I’d have answered that it would be failure to not accomplish the goal, or at least come very close to accomplishing the goal. Today, having been through what I’ve just been through, I’d have to say that it was a success in that I’ve gotten just a bit closer to accomplishing this grandiose goal. I suppose that having put so much sweat, blood, time and money into this, and then calling it a complete and utter failure would take away from the numerous positive gains that I’d made. Now I am still kind of second guessing myself on a number of different fronts here, you know, the woulda, coulda, shoulda stuff. And I think that’s only natural. But honestly, I think you’ve got come away from an attempt like this with an air of optimism, with a sense of what you’ve learned and what you need to do differently to get closer to the prize. And by God I’ve really learned a ton on this attempt.
         In my first blog back on 5/21 I stated that I did not think that I’d be able to do the complete American Dirt in its purest sense, and that I’d have to create some parameters to live by where I could kind of “cheat” my way through certain situations and terrains. These I’d erroneously figured might make it possible to reach the west coast with a “pseudo-AD route established. And those guidelines I lived by for 17 days of riding, where I managed to get from DC to Hocking Hills SP in Ohio nearly the whole way on soft surfaces – save for at the VERY most  a couple miles of pavement on super dangerous descents where I had only two choices:  walk or ride pavement. I rode and bike-a-hiked on trail, ATV track, dirt roads, foot trails, RR tracks, and on gravel and earthen berms alongside asphalt roads. But during my ride on 6/18 I came to the realization that even with the “cheat” parameters as options we were just so far away from making it across the country at that pace with those parameters. Back then I was averaging a mere 25-30 miles/day and putting in 5-7 hr days that were just kicking my ass. Forget about doing 100/day – that belief was a pipedream once I got down to the real deal!
What followed next on 6/18 was “The Decision,” blog, my sarcastic parody of Lebron Jame’s asinine TV program about his choosing an NBA team.  I had come to the decision that I’d rather get all the way across the country with even more “cheat” sections than I would by spending a fortune in time, money and effort and only getting as far as the Mississippi River by staying true to the cause. And staying true to the cause meant long sections of berm riding through Southern Ohio, Southern Indiana and Southern Illinois. That berm riding was the hardest, most intimidating, brutal  - and dangerous – riding that I’d ever done on a bike. That was my undoing so to speak. As I think back, the fact that this revelation occurred in Southern Ohio makes total sense to me. I mean down there riding up the relentless and steep asphalt hills is hard enough, but when you try to do it on the gravel and earthen berms of those asphalt roads it’s just so difficult that I cannon truly describe it with any sort of justice. You have to experience it day after day to feel the total and complete beat down of going only 25 miles in a whole day of riding.
Now I’d anticipated and embraced this facet of riding when training for the trip over the past year, but NEVER upon anything on par with the severity and frequency of the terrain I encountered in Southern Ohio. I had struggled up and down so many of those climbs on berms that I think it just broke me mentally. Seeing one berm climb after another, and one berm descent after another and knowing that I’d either be pushing the bike, or climbing and descending in weeds, rubble, gravel, or in ditches, that really helped me see the light as to just how complex this American Dirt thing really was. And not only was it just the physically taxing nature of the trip, but it was also the whole concept of the time and money needed to do it properly. That just completely showed me the reality of such an endeavor. The light bulb went on in my head.
So yes, American Dirt could be certainly be done by bridging all the soft surface tracks I’d researched by riding on berms, but the cost of said berm riding – SHEEEEEEEE IT was that a high cost indeed! Thus, I decided to concede to riding asphalt instead of the berm as the bridges to my soft surface tracks, thereby continuing on the trek westward with a savings of time, money and effort. So that was really my first concession of the trip, and as much as I broke my initial rules, I was ok with the decision.
Enter next the heat wave, actually heat wave #1 of the trip. And damn there were many on this trip. Heat wave #1 began in Southern Ohio, where temps had risen to the 90’s, and it just continued with me all through IN, IL, MO, and KS. Riding on the regular road is one thing in heat and humidity, but go on gravel, dirt, trail, ATV track, and suddenly the efforts are more strenuous, more time consuming, and much slower. That heat just made each and every twist and turn in the road that much tougher to get through. And this is where, for the fist time in 4 straight years of crossing the country that I actually had thoughts of quitting cross my mind. Now I know that part of it was from having done it three times previous. Somehow, the act of replicating a challenge is harder because you’ve already accomplished it. I remember the time I crossed Canada, and it was my first trans-continental crossing, and I’ll tell you what: there was NEVER a second where I considered quitting. I was as driven as I’d ever been in attaining my goal. Such was also the case for my second trip across the US where I went solo. And honestly, it was the same for my third solo across the US.
But as I look back on this trip, could be that my having conceded to letting go of those initial goals, that may have been a catalyst to the negative vibes I was getting once the going got tough with the heat. I mean what the hell, I’d given up on crossing the country as I’d envisioned it for American Dirt, what was the use of going on in that way with that heat on asphalt roads?  And there were several times where I would talk to Judy in the evening and relay to her my feelings about quitting. She was always willing to stand by me no matter what the decision. So I’d sleep on it, get up in the morning, put on the game-face and do it all over again. I think it all came down to the fact that despite me loosing hold of my initial goal, I still had some kind of goal to reach for, and that was finishing the job – riding across the country. It was still a challenge. And beside…I just hate quitting!!
So we made it to MO, with me having ridden a combination of asphalt and soft surfaces through some extremely challenging terrain in Southern OH, IN, and IL. The heat only continued as we rode the gravel Katy Trail 265 miles through MO. But once in KS, the heat long heat wave died down enough for me to really regroup, refocus and get down to business and go for the gusto with dirt and gravel riding damned near through the whole state of KS. I’d felt re-energized, reinvigorated, reborn with my American Dirt concept. And I have to say that this was some of the most enjoyable as well as challenging riding I’d done in all my life. Those 4-500 miles of dirt, gravel, sand, that was what I’d dreamed about for American Dirt. But again, more setbacks came along, this time in the way of thorns that punctured and ruined every tire, tube and patch kit I’d had on board for the trip. From far Western KS into Eastern CO, I was flatting 1, 2, 3 times per day from the notorious “sandbur”.
Suddenly I just felt totally deflated again, having made such good time and distance with the gravel and earthen riding, and feeling like I had a real shot at redemption, but then being suddenly shot in the ass by stuff I’d never even anticipated. That was frustrating, I think mainly because it was a very big detail  that I’d not even considered when planning this trip. It was from out of left field and it was formidable. My dirt riding ground down to a halt until I could get the proper equipment to deal with it. That had meant that I was going to have to ride half way across CO before I could get to a bike shop that would have the right gear. I mean hell, on the KS/CO border there was nothing in the way of bike shops. Had to drive to Pueblo, CO for the gear.
Once I did get that situation taken care of with thorn resistant tubes, tires and liners, the tubes began failing on me. Why I’m still not sure. Was it operator error in the installation of all these pieces, or just plain ole equipment failure of the tubes? I mean there were several situations where I was just so pissed off that I wanted to cash it in and end the madness right then and there. That was a time of some real soul searching, because I was really still a long, long way off from reaching the coast. You get to the Eastern border of CO and look at a map – that just BARELY a smidge over half way across the country!
At that point I’d really reckoned with the next direction we’d go, what with all the sandbur trouble and the route logistics. Prior to reaching Limon, CO the logistics were pretty simple with respect to keeping the trip on dirt – use tracks that parallel the interstates such that we had easy access to support and communication. But west of Limon, support logistics became exponentially more difficult. No longer did the dirt tracks parallel the interstates. Many of the tracks drifted for tens if not more miles off of parallel. And ten to twenty miles away from the interstate you loose cell-service. What’s more these were roads that turned out to be totally out of the question for Judy to drive an 8-passenger van on for support. From my experiences on the dirt roads of MO and KS, these were tracks that were usable only to motocross motorcycles, ATV’s and 4-wheel drive vehicles. Yup, that’s what I learned in MO & KS about dirt roads on maps: it may be listed as a road, it may look like a road, it may have a name like a road, but in reality it may be nothing more than an access path or a rutted out ribbon of dbl track. Good thing about MO & KS was the fact that the van would be a mere 1-5 miles away along the paralleling interstate, so I was always within support distance. Not so from Central CO westward.
So despite having new skins for the mt bike, and an ability to take on the thorns of the west, I had to figure out whether it was prudent or not to do the second half of the trip on truly remote stretches of dirt through mts, plains and/or deserts. Either way I decided to go, whether it would be north across WY, UT and ID, or south across NM, AZ and CA, I’d still have two things to deal with the remoteness of the dirt tracks. Couldn’t get around that fact that I’d either be truly unsupported in many sections or that I’d have to take a chance and have Jude drive the van on dirt tracks that could be real trouble. Just couldn’t get around that one.
In the end my decision was to go the southern route through NM, AZ and CA into new territory for me with respect to riding X-country, and to do most all of the riding on asphalt, with the support dilemma being a real consideration. But honestly though, let the truth be told, by that point I was fried, burned out, tired and wanted to finish the friggen trip. So even when we were next to frontage roads that were gravel, dirt and sand, I opted for the asphalt only because I could go faster, ride easier, and finish quicker. Could I have tacked on another 3-500 miles of soft surfaces to the trip’s total? Unequivocally yes!
But mind you now, even doing the asphalt through NM, AZ and CA, that was just a total bitch what with the desert heat. Never had I experienced such severity of heat on an hourly basis. It was a major deal to get up every morning at 3:30 AM to be on the road at 5:30 AM in an attempt to try to get a jump on the heat. You’d get in maybe like 2.5 hrs where you’re pretty good, and then by 10 AM it became otherworldly. It was like riding in a blast furnace. Again, cashing it in would have been so easy to do each and every day. And I knew from past experience that if I could just went one more day, and then one more day, again and again and again, that once finished I’d be proud of the fact that I didn’t give up, no mater how far off of my goal I was. And that’s why I finished – I just did not want to give in to that negative voice in my head.
Up until now I haven’t really touched on the most important component of this trip - Judy. Really, without her help, encouragement and support there is no way in the world I could have done what I did this year. Her job in many ways was so much harder than what I did. And her mental strength to do so day after day was amazing. I mean the last 60 days she’s run that van all over hell’s half acre, getting food made for me, buying supplies, setting up hotels and motels, getting information, listening to my rants and raves and my periodic episodes of insanity. She boiled her buns off in the heat waiting patiently for me in remote areas, all alone, and always (almost) with a smile. The list goes on and on. There is just no way in the world that I could have done this particular route solo – impossible. She was my sounding board in the evening after so many days when I wanted to just say the hell with it. She endured many, many mornings of me getting up at 3 & 4 AM to get ready for the day on the road, and endured my having to work for 3-4 hrs every afternoon as soon as I got off the bike. She put up with this nonsense for two months and is still here by my side. And for that I’m deeply happy.
So there it is…Take it for whatever you think. Now comes the big question: Do I believe that American Dirt is possible? Absolutely, yes I do. But with this addendum: I can and will not attempt to do this again as we did it this year. It’s for too big for two people – a rider and a support person in a non-off road vehicle. To really accomplish American Dirt takes more money and time than I alone have to put in. It’s really a major endeavor that will take at least triple the finances that I’d put into this year. Not only that, but it will take at least 3-4 other support members and at least 1 more vehicle – a pilot vehicle that is a 4-wheel drive and able to go on every road the rider/riders go on. It will take someone other than just the rider/riders to negotiate the ever-changing route in real time, not just the night before as I had done on this trip. It will take a minimum of 3 months, and quite possibly 4-6 months to do it right, berms and all.
But as I stated in my first blog back in May, I’m taking a break on this cross-country stuff, even if I came upon a sponsor who would be willing to give this American Dirt thing a go. I just need a break for a bit. I need to recharge with some other trips and other adventures, and then maybe, just maybe come back to American Dirt with a new attitude and a new sense of adventure. I also owe my girlfriend a very big trip of HER choosing for what she’s just endured for me. And with this I’m going to close it out and say thanks so much to all of you for your continued encouragement through this trip. I have to say that there were days when that one email helped to pick up my spirits and keep me moving west. Love you guys and I look forward to seeing each and every one of you when we get home. All the best everyone……….pete and judy.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Monday, July 30. Temecula, CA to Oceanside, CA. 36 miles of riding in 2:23 hrs.

Did it. Have to admit that after yesterday’s ride I was super concerned that my last 30-40 to the coast would be as hair-raising as the Sunday ride. Really, I cannot explain what a bloody cluster F my ride was yesterday. I was just mentally maxed out at the end of that ride. But, still, we slept relatively late this morning, with me getting up at a recreational 5 AM and working for a bit, and then I went through my final morning’s tear down/load up routine. We did a cheapie little continental breakfast at the motel and then we were off.
 I decided to take Pechanga Pkwy south to jcn with Rt 76 west, and then get off of 76 before it turned into an expressway in Oceanside. I’d take a chance on E. Vista and then Oceanside Blvd. This was really throwing it up there and hoping for the best. I also wasn’t sure if I’d be climbing any more, or just descending down to the coast. So the ride began at 7 AM down Pechanga, which was fairly light in traffic this morning, but devoid of a berm. But at least it wasn’t like the Autobahn I was on yesterday. And within 3 miles I began this great little switchbacky descent – with zero berm. And this guy was TIGHT. It definitely got me thinking to myself during that run: “WTF, does this state have any berm at all on their state and local roads?” Again, just like yesterday, there were blind corners around rock outcrops where I was right up against the wall. No room for error here – for me or the traffic. So this pup descended hard and fast until I flattened out and saw a sign for elevation – 650 ft. That was all I needed: I was out of the mts and onto the coastal plains. There may be more zero berm roads to ride but no more mts to climb. That helped to really take the sting out of the no berm riding.
We ended up in the Indian Reservation town of Pala where we turned west onto Rt 76, again, pretty much little to no berm. But the traffic was fairly light, so no problem there. It was only when we crossed over Rt 15 that the traffic got much heavier, with the addition of 18-wheelers. Prior to that no vehicle over 40 feet in length was allowed on the roadway. So I really tried to hug that white line for all it was worth. After 2 days of this I’m a pro at holding my line!! So that stretch down 76 after passing over I-15 was just a tad gnarly. But, just nothing like yesterday. So I was ok. The terrain was typical of what I’d ridden through Sunday – dry, semi-arid coastal mts. The temp was just great – round about 70. By this time I could smell the ocean. Ocean fog still hung in the early morning air, blocking out the sun ever so slightly. Around me were palm trees, prickly pear cactus, all sorts of exotic flowers and grasses. Kids were scooting around on skateboards and folks were pedaling along on cruiser bikes. The wind was blowing lightly out of the west, but honestly, it could have been blowing at 30 mph and I’d still have been pumped to be at the end. Hell, there could have been a earthquake and I’d be in the zone to finish.
         The closer we got to Oceanside the more the traffic got and the happier I was to have made the decision not to take 76 all the way to the coast. It just looked like it was way too intense on the map, and the name changed to Expressway with about 10 miles to go to the coast. So I got on google and found a kind of round-about way to get down to the beach. We took a left on E. Vista Way, where I had a blooming bike lane. Well I’l BD! So that was a small climb and then a descent down into the city of Vista where we took a right on W. Bobier, where again I had a nice bike lane. Now I was grooving, and all of a sudden the stress of no berm riding in SoCal was a thing of the past. W. Bobier soon turned into Oceanside Blvd when I entered Oceanside. And you guessed it – full on bike lane!
         The riding was casual and my pace was relaxed. Actually, on any of the small climbs I just had zero gas in the legs. My legs had not felt this toasted in the whole trip. So I just really spun it out in easy gears with a high cadence. No worries though as I was kind of in Zen land – with a burst of thoughts popping in and out of my head of all the riding I’d done on this trip. It was a kind of flashback ten or fifteen minutes where I’d just move backwards in time to certain rides that stood out over the past two months. I eventually drifted all the way back to Maryland and the C&O trail. That felt really good. Met Judy down about a block from the entrance to I-5, where I told her we had to go another mile or two to get to the beach. And sure enough we went under I-5 and across Highway 101 and Oceanside Blvd deadended at S. Pacific Street and the Pacific Ocean.
         I asked a local if there was a place to park to gain beach access and he directed us to a place down the road to the south just about a quarter mile. So we took a Louie on S. Pacific St. and found Buccaneer Park, situated right across the street from the ocean and a public beach. Took a stroll down about 100 yrds of beach and Jude took a couple pics of me next to the ocean. And with that we were done, and I stress the word WE. I couldn’t have done this route, this trip, this year without the help of Judy. This was a tough one – mentally and physically - and I’ll go into that more on tomorrow’s blog, the last blog of this trip.
         Right across the street was this little on the east side of the road was this little cafĂ©. I changed in the van out of my rotted out kit – I’m going to take a picture of this crap and post it cuz you just wouldn’t believe it. We sat down and ordered some breakfast burritos and coffee and just relaxed at 10 AM. I haven’t had that luxury for 2 months, to chill out and drink coffee and eat breakfast in a relaxed manner at 10 AM! The burritos were spectacular. We sat there for a good hour just people watching and talking about the past two months. Jude was curious if I was sad to see it end, and I gave her an emphatic NO. I was totally ready to be done this year. Again, more on all that psychological crap in the Epilogue tomorrow.
         Finished up and did the I-5 and Coastal Hwy 1 north to Glenys’ house in Newport Beach. And that’s where I’m at right now, sitting in a cozy little house right on the water on a peninsula. All is good. Judy and Glenys went out for a walk around the peninsula while I catch up on my work. We’ll be doing some fillets on the grill tonight and hang out at the beach.
         This year as opposed to last, I will indeed write one last blog – the Epilogue. This will pretty much be my synopsis of the trip and what all this – these last 4 year’s of crossings – have meant to me and how they’ve changed me, and where I’ll go from here. Anyway, we’re done and we’re safe and sound, and I’m quite happy to know that I can get up tomorrow and not get on a bike. I think Judy would second that one! All the best everyone………..Pete

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bermless roads and SoCal drivers

Sunday, July 29. Indio, CA to Temecula, CA. 85 miles of riding in 6:07 hrs.

I’ve always said that you should always expect the unexpected on a X country bike trip. Trouble is that I tend to forget that important tenant far too often. Today was a classic case of that. Went to bed last evening thinking that I’d have some serious climbing to do to get across SanJacinto Mts and the Santa Rosa Mts, but then I’d be out of the desert heat and in the cool mt air for some amazing high country riding. NOPE!
         First I’m going to digress just a tad. We went to this little hole in the wall restaurant last night called Frankie’s. The place is famous for sushi and fish. Had reservations going in based on first impressions, but wow, what wonderful experience for such a meager price. Did some sushi for apps. which were just crazy good, and then got these main dishes that were awesome. I got a big bowl of miso fish soup with chunks of fish tail, belly, cheeks and shrimp. Add some mushrooms and Japanese veggies to that and it was out of this world. I damn near licked the bowl at the end. Jude got a Mahi Mahi with like a Salsa Verde on top. WOW. Great stuff. And I mean part of it was like: “well, I just have this little jaunt over the mts and down to the sea. We’re there!”
         And I stayed up late, watched the Olympics and had a couple Fosters Oil cans – too many. Just totally did everything I didn’t do for the past 2 months of pre-ride evenings. And it bit me in the ass today!
Did the breakfast buffet in our hotel this morning and I had two heaping plates of eggs, sausage and sausage gravy. I took off at 7 AM, in the desert city of Indio thinking that I’d be up in the mts in 3 hrs max and enjoy the cool mt air. So my pace was relaxed and my attitude was relaxed. Jude stayed around the hotel to watch some morning Olympics. The ride down Rt 111 from Indio through Indian Wells and Palm Desert was pretty spectacular what with all the massive palm trees lining the road coupled with the amazing homes, haciendas and hotels along the way. The places just reeked of money, money, money. But it was quite beautiful to ride through. Now that riding was mellow, with it being a Sunday morning the traffic was very light. Temp was in the mid 80’s so that was not biggie. But once I got to Palm Desert and jcn with Rt 74, my world changed.
         Now I knew that Rt 74 was about 26 miles of climbing, but as soon as I made the turn off of Rt 111 onto 74, the climbing was right in my face. That road ramped up out of the valley for a good 4 miles at 6-7%. Jude was waiting for me at this trailhead area where the road really ramped up into the heavens. I knocked down a quart of ice water and a Powerade. Having just done that 4 miles of climbing, I was totally soaked in sweat. I mean I was literally dripping. My jersey top was completely saturated. That was a freaking wake up call! And when I looked to the south up that climb it was just totally crazy, looking like it switched back and forth a gazillion times. So I toweled off my face and neck and got it rolling.
         On the good side I was able to do this whole climb in the middle ring. I just kept a good rhythm and spun it out in a high cadence with occasional sessions of out of the saddle. About 15 min into the climb a tri guy passed me just cranking it. Dude had the whole magilla going – awesome carbon bike, shaved legs, great pedal stroke. I didn’t even attempt to go with this guy. I was like, “ah, nope I think I’m pretty comfy here and I have no idea how damn far I have to climb like this. Have a good ride dude!” And on the good side of this story was the fact that the dude only rode for another 15 min, took some shots at the pull-off of a switchback, and then headed back down. So my little roadie ego felt totally vindicated! Jude waited for me at about 6 miles in, and I did that stretch at about 7 mph. What I had covered at that point was only half of the really gnarly part of this thing, that according to a lady Jude was talking to at the pull-off. Matter of fact this climb was so in your face that there was a sign warning drivers not to use AC when doing the mt climb due to engine overheating issues.
         So I did another 64 oz of liquids, and I was just guzzling the stuff, and then whipped out again for more. Now for the bad side…zero berm on this climb, and I do mean zero. I felt like I was just a moving target for any dipshit who wasn’t paying attention to the road, especially on these blind curves – which were at nearly every switchback. I was even scared to get out of the saddle for fear of being too high in the air and getting clipped by the rear view mirror of a pick-up truck or camper. But I had to do the OTS stuff just to give my quad muscles a break and work on the hammies a bit. After 3700 miles of cycling this stretch was just wigging the hell out of me. Not the climbing aspect, I love to climb, but having just no berm at all and having all these crazy weekenders out there driving up and down the mt and just whizzing past me within inches sometimes. It’s too bad to, because the sights and the scenery was just wonderful, looking way the heck back down into the valley where Palm Springs and Palm Desert are located. It was just to stressful to enjoy the climb.
         Got up the second section of the really steep, gnarly stuff to meet up with Jude again and guzzled another 64 oz of liquids. Once past Pinyon Pines the road got a bit straighter without the switchbacks, but it still continued to climb, all the way to the jcn with Rt 371 and Santa Rosa Summit, at 4900 feet. So from Indio, which is 14 feet below sea level, I’d climbed nearly 5K in 26 miles of riding. That was a bloody grunt for sure, especially with all the weekend traffic just flowing up and down that mt. And as for my preconceived notion of enjoying the nice cool mt air up there…NOT. It was still semi-arid and hot. Now not nearly as hot as it was down in Indio, but it was still a solid 85+ degrees. And the trees were not all that big up there. Hell, there was still cactus and desert vegetation up there at 4900 feet. Made the turn onto Rt 371 and began descending like a bandit. And I was thinking to myself that I was not too into descending because that could just mean that I’d be right back to climbing again to regain all the elevation. But that descent knocked off a solid 1K of elevation and took me into the town of Anza.
         And again, so much for my notion of a nice, cool mt environment. Nope, this was semi-arid and hot, about 90 degrees. Met Jude at a DQ and did another 64 oz of liquids. Thank God I had the foresight to really buy a lot of Gatorade and stock a lot of ice water bottles for today. I hadn’t figured on that kind of heat today at all. By then my thoughts of maybe making it all the way to the coast today, that was burst like a soap bubble. No bloody way was I going to make it much further based on the climbing and the heat. So the ride on Rt 371 was on yet another totally bermless road – a good road mind you, but no berm and a ton of weekend traffic. I’d figured out by this time that this is a prime cut-over route for people coming from San Diego and LA to get to Palm Springs and the desert valley area. They get on I-15 and then take 79 to 371 to 74 and into the valley. Most people were coming back from their weekend in the valley and heading to I-15. I was the little bunny rabbit on the road that everyone was trying not to hit in their mad rush to get home.
         Most of 371 was a descent, and that 20-mile section went pretty fast. At the bottom of 371 and the jcn of 79 I did yet another 64 oz of water – and I’d only pee’d once up to that point! And hit it on Rt 79, hoping against all hopes that I’d have berm. NOPE. Again, not but this sliver of 6 inches of berm to speak of, and the traffic was just like rush hour, with lines and lines of vehicles passing me. At least there was a rumble strip in the center so I could hear them coming at me. It was totally nerve wracking, really, and I’m not one who gets rattled much by traffic. These SoCal people drive like they’re race car drivers for God’s sake. I mean they’re flying around blind turns, passing on dbl yellows, and just screaming up and down the rollers. That up and down, rolling section of Rt 79 just put me in a survival mode – and a religious one I might add – to try to get the hell off of that road asap.
         In this whole trip that was the most nerve racking day of riding I’ve had. Made it into the city of Temecula and it was as if I was arriving at the height of rush hour. The place was a mad house right on the edge of I-15. Crazy place. Jude had gone ahead of me and got so tied up in the traffic that I had to wait about 15 min for her to make it back to me. I was never so happy as when I loaded that bike and the van and escaped all that traffic. What a mad house indeed. We got a motel asap and then went straight to eat, finding an Indian restaurant that was offering a Sunday buffet – it was jut super. Got some beer – WAY more than I need but after today I just may tap into the reserves! The temp here is 87 degrees, which is a far sight from the 111 back in Indio yesterday. I’ll take it. Did the motel pool for a half hour and here we sit watching the Olympics.
         Tomorrow I’ll finish in Oceanside or Carlsbad, whichever is the Least trafficked route! I think we only have about 30-45 miles to go to the coast. Then it’s time to kick back and celebrate. So that’s it for today…..Pete

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My C-note in the Mohave

Saturday, July 28. Blythe, CA to Indio, CA. 103 miles of riding in 6:38 hrs.

Now getting up at 3 and 4 in the morning is really starting to wear me down, and the only thing good about getting up super early this morning was that it would be THE last morning that I get up that bloody early, because I was determined to make it to Indio and just about out of the Mohave Desert today. So up at 3:45, and let me tell you we’ve been hitting the hay at 8 and 9 PM lately, to go through the pre-ride ritual…making coffee, filling ice chests, loading the van, eating breakfast, putting the nearly rotten, foul, disgusting kit on, and briefing Judy on the route and destination.
About that kit…I have this tradition now of wearing the same kit day in and day out when I do these X country trips. Now I do wash the stuff every day after I ride – almost always – but the stuff just breaks down from the long days in the saddle and all the sweat day after day – and then drying in the hot sun day after day. And I do this purposely because I don’t want to ruin my good riding gear. I usually use stuff that’s been around the block a bit and stuff that I’m just going to destroy anyway. I like to save my super good shorts and bibs for rides that are far shorter, and less wearing. So anyway, the kit I’ve been wearing from day 1 is just…well, the stuff has gone to hell big time. I dbl short, and the under shorts the chamois is ready to fall out. I mean literally it’s got about 3 areas on it that holds the chamois in place. The semi detached chamois just flaps in the wind when I’m air-drying it. Now the outer short, bib short, is now looking more like a pair of nylons. The material has just deteriorated to the point to where you can see my ass cheeks if it weren’t for the fact that I dbl short.
So those are the shorts. My jersey, it’s just a total misfit now. I like my jerseys nice and tight, for better aerodynamics, and this jersey stated out that way on day 1. But now, after being worn like 57 straight days, it’s about 3 sizes too big. Like today, I was riding west in the morning and I could see my shadow right up in front of me, and I looked like a bloody Teletubby on a bike. I have the pockets full with my phone, my camera, tube, tire irons and pump, so with the jersey so loose and flappy now, my shadow looked like a pear shape. And the first thing I though of was that it looked like the shadow of a damned Teletubby. Anyway, so is the story of my kit.
Got on the road at 5:25 AM and rode a parallel road to I-10 about 10 miles out of town to the west so I wouldn’t get hassled riding on I-10 within the city of Blythe. The way it goes here in CA, so I found out, is that if there is no sign prohibiting bicycles on the freeway, you can enter on the entry ramp. But you will only find this to be the case when you are outside of city limits. Within city limits you must use parallel roads. And when you’re on the freeway and entering a city there will be a sign telling cyclists to exit the freeway. Pretty simple, and I shouldn’t have wasted an hour yesterday afternoon making all those phone calls. I mean some of the people I’d talked to just didn’t have a clue. This one chick who works for CALTRAN told me there was no way I could ride on a freeway, and then an officer from the CHP told me I could ride on freeways outside of city limits. So there’s still some grey areas when doing this.
Once on the freeway I felt a light headwind… and the road seemingly climbing ever so subtly. With a potential of a 100-mile ride staring me in the face those two factors were not what I was hoping for. What I did have in my favor was the morning temp – 75 degrees – which was a far sight cooler than the previous two days. Just decided not to really push too hard and take what I could get with a higher cadence spin. So I kept the pedals moving a bit faster rather than mashing and was about to maintain about 13-14 mph. The berm, as usual, varied between great, good, moderate, poor, and total, complete shit. And each of those would last anywhere from 2-6 miles at a crack. I mean there would be times where I’d just be singing and in a great mood where the pavement was like glass, and then in 5 miles it turns into this crap with bubbled up heat cracks with grass growing in the seams, so bumpy that you feel like you’re getting a rectal exam from a blind proctologist! It’s just ever changing and sometimes maddening. 
Jude came through when I had about 2:15 hrs of riding in. She just kind of pulled way, way over on the berm and put the flashers on while I did a quick sandwich, coke and ice water. I think I was in and out in about 8 min. Then back to the headwind and the false flat climb. I mean that freaking climbing just never ended and I was wondering if that would be the case the whole damned day. I don’t know what the deal was, but for some reason, maybe my gaining a bit of elevation, maybe a change in the weather pattern, I don’t know what, but today was not as hot as it had gotten on the two previous days. The terrain was like this endless, flat sand plains dotted with these scrub trees. On my right and left were mountains, and these mountains were just totally devoid of trees. There were stark, barren and hot looking – just a total no-man’s land.
Met Jude at the second support stop at a place called Chiriaco Summit. And when I saw the sign for that one I knew that I wasn’t imagining things – I was indeed climbing, ever so gradually. You can just feel it despite the headwind. I mean there’s times when you want to check your brakes to make sure that a brake shoe isn’t rubbing. It’s a very detectable feeling. So got to the Summit – which really isn’t a summit or pass – and this place is just nothing on a map. There’s like a gas station and 10-12 house trailers and that’s it. So got another half gallon of liquids in my system – Gatorade and water – and got rolling again, hoping that having reached the summit I’d have this great descent. Well, I did descend for about 10 min and then it felt as though I was right back to climbing a false flat again. And the freaking wind was much stiffer once I got over the so-called summit. Seems that the headwind always picked up out in the desert when you hit the higher points. Now once I’d left that support stop I definitely felt the heat kicking up a notch or two – that telltale “walking into a furnace” feeling when getting out of the van and back onto the bike. Yup, I was still in the Mohave!
Decided to go another 20 miles without support so I could just keep a rhythm and stay on the bike and pile up the miles before the heat cranked up, so we decided to shoot for a rest stop where Jude could feel comfortable pulling in and parking. There were times where the road seemed to flatten out, and then it would just ramp up gradually again and again. What the hell happened to my descent? That section was a slow one due to the climbing and the headwind and those 20 miles seemed like forever in the desert. The nice thing about riding on I-10 is that it has no mile markers. And that to me is great. Nothing worse than seeing mile markers each and every mile when you have a big chunk of miles to do. So here on Eastern I-10, the only time you see mile markers is at the exits. That helped me out immensely psychologically.
Made that support stop at the rest area and Jude was kind of expecting me to load the bike and call it a day at that point. But I really wanted to get this whole thing wrapped up and ride all the way to our hotel in Indio. Just didn’t want to deal with having Judy get up, drive me back to the east so I could ride west. Nope, I need to get this thing in the bag. So with Indio just about 10-20 miles down the road – no signs for mileage available - I suggest that she drive about 10 miles ahead and we’d see how I felt and where we were. Now I knew that if I got that 10 miles in I’d just do the whole damned thing. And not more than a mile down the road west of the rest stop, I see this sign of a truck going down a steep hill and below it was the words: “the next 10 miles”. I had it!! That was my descent. Damn that felt good to see that sign cuz my legs were getting pretty whipped.
The descent was just amazing, stair stepping down and down, and down. And with every several hundred feet of descent I could feel the temp getting hotter and hotter. About half way down I could see the valley floor where Indio and Palm Springs are located. The valley floor was green from all the palm trees. Man, compared to the places we’d been to in the last two days this place looked massive and expansive. That descent lasted for about 15-25 min, and by the time I reached the valley floor I had only 4 miles to Indio. Kept it rolling on I-10 for another 2 miles until I saw the sign that warned bicycles to exit the freeway. So I got, met up with Jude and then we used Rt 89 – Indio Blvd to ride the last two miles into Indio and our hotel. Final tally…103 miles – my first C-note of the trip.
Tomorrow I get the hay out of the desert and go into the mts. I’m sure that if I wanted to do a gonzo day I could make the ocean, but I’ve no idea what kind of climbing is in store for me, so I’ll be happy to spit it up and try for finishing on Monday. Well, time to get some other work done and then relax. Late……..Pete

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mohave Desert + headwind = sufferfest on a bike

Friday, July 27. Lake Havasu City, AZ to Blythe, CA. 85 miles of riding in 5:57 hrs.

Another early call to get prepped and get the heck out there to beat the heat. Was up super early at 3:30 AM to get the van packed. I wanted to be on the road at 5:30 AM so I guess I was a bit anxious. Yesterday really kicked my butt, and I really mean that. I was just lethargic the rest of the day yesterday having ridden in that heat for 5+ hrs, so today I just wanted to get in as much mileage as I could before the heat just went off the charts. Forecast was for another day in the 110-115 range. That definitely gets your attention!!
         Jude’s been quite a good sport with me getting up at such ungodly hours, and today took the cake, with me mulling around before 4 AM. So I got everything ready for her to take off, and then git the road at around 5:20, with the light just being about the bare minimum of what I needed to start. Jude stayed to do a workout and run and do the breakfast buffet at the hotel. My ride out of Lake Havasu City was a pretty significant climb right from the start, and it lasted almost 40 min. With the starting temp at 90 degrees, and with it being so early, and with me not being at all warmed up, and with my legs feeling like they’ve been pulverized by 3500 miles of non-stop riding, I dropped it into the middle ring and just spun. No time to be a hero at 5:30 AM! And that damned gradual just went and went and went. I had sweat dripping down the bridge of my nose not more than 10 min into the ride. Couple that with a freaking 10+ mph headwind and my only though was “this is going to be a real challenging day.” Nothing like riding through the Mohave Desert…doing climbs…against a headwind. Nice combo hah? And I had 80-100 miles to cover today.
         Now I knew just by looking at the AZ Gazetteer that this Rt 95 to Parker was going to be a real piece of riding – challenging riding, so I wasn’t too surprised to have the road undulating all the hell over the place. Finally made it up that false flat climb and got the big ring going as the road took me east of Lake Havasu and the Colorado River. There were several state parks along the way as I rode south. Things got really scenic as I re-entered the Colorado River basin at the Castle Rock Shores Resort area. The sights were just amazing with all the gorgeous blue water of the river and the green plant life contrasted against the desert backdrop. Palm trees hugged the river and lake and there were several houses that looked like they were out of Malibu, with amazing architecture and crazy trees and greenery surrounding the places. The water bill has to be off the charts. There were a good deal of camping areas right along the Colorado, and damn did that water look inviting. By then I was in full sweat mode with salt stains already ringing my torso and jersey’s arm sleeves. Salt was also crystallized on my forearms and neck. And hell, that was with just 2 hrs of riding!
         Once past Parker Dam, the dam that makes Lake Havasu, I was just riding along the Colorado, with the road just undulating up and down for miles. This was pretty awesome along here, with the river being like several hundred feet wide, and this beautiful azure blue color. It looked soooooooo inviting. Somewhere around here Jude has pasted me and I shouted out to meet me in the city of Parker. We passed this golf course that had cart paths that went under Rt 95, where you’d see these almost florescent green fairways standing out against the barren granite mountains. They were just spectacular to look at, and I had a hard time holding my line on the berm as I rode past all these sights. This all came to an end right around the point where Rt 95 entered the Colorado River Indian Reservation and the city of Parker.
         But this Indian Reservation looked a far sight nicer than what we experienced in Tuba City. Had the reservation sign not been there I’d never had known that we were in reservation land. It was quite modern, clean, and very up-tempo. I’m sure having all the opulence of the wealthy river communities so close, and the access of the Colorado River available for recreation as well as agriculture, is the reason for this reservation’s success compared to the others that just exist in the middle of nowhere. Did my first support stop in Parker and I just nailed a quart of ice water and a quart of ice Gatorade. I mean I just guzzled them down without taking a breath. And this was after I’d already gone through a bottle on the bike.
         Now as I was riding along on 95 I was thinking about trying to get a more direct route to get to Blythe, CA. The intention was to go with 95 all the way to Quartzite, AZ and I-10, but it just looked like it went east too much to go west. So I looked at the AZ Gazetteer at the Parker stop and discovered that Rt 1 – Mohave Rd – would be much more direct. But I had no idea of the condition of the road. Well, I decided to go for it, and right as we got rolling I saw a couple police officers in a parking lot. So I stopped and asked the guys about Rt 1 to Blythe. They told me it was flat , had a good berm and went through all agricultural country. That was it. Done! So off we headed to Rt 1 south through the heart of the Indian Reservation. By this time it was just stinking, bloody ass hot. You could just feel the heat rising off the roadway. So we decided to do 10 miles at a time support stops.
         The road was indeed good, and the traffic was really low. But the headwind out of the southwest was just getting stronger and stronger. Like I said before, fighting a headwind in the Mohave desert = suffering on a bike. But I could swear that I could feel these occasional gusts of cool air, and I’m assuming that since this Rt 1 is right along the Colorado River, that the air moving across the river is cooled down just a tad such that I could feel those nice little cool spots every now and then. I’ll take anything. Second support stop was in the town of Poston, and I guzzled another quart of ice water and a quart of Gatorade. Stop number three, ten-twelve more miles down the road and I did a sandwich and 2 more quarts of liquids. By stop number four I was running on fumes, and I had to pop up to an easier gear. Prior to that I’d been rolling against the headwind at about 15-16 mph. But man, it’s like as soon as I got rolling again after stop four I just had no legs left. That right there, that one gear up cost me about 2 mph, because I couldn’t do any better than 13 mph from there onward. And I didn’t want to fight the headwind and just crush myself with another hour of riding hanging over my head.
         Each time that I got done with a support stop, got out of the van and got back on the bike, it felt as though I was stepping into a blast furnace. My mantra was “get done and relax in the AC, get done and relax in the AC.” So I just kept pushing. My goal was making Blythe, but hell, you never know when you’re riding in this kind of heat. So I had an out by trying to just get to the end of Rt 1 in Ehrenberg. At that fourth stop, the mileage sign said 5 miles, so I knew I’d get to Ehrenberg, with the prospect of having Jude drive me back there tomorrow morning to start. But really…I truly wanted to finish at the exit of our Day’s Inn motel in Blythe.
         Now just inside of Ehrenberg I saw that Jude had stopped, and I rode up to her and she voiced concern about me riding through this little Indian town. She said there were people just kind of mulling about on the road. Now this WAS a kind of nasty little reservation town, but at that point I was finishing the bloody ride, so I asked her to just drive on towards I-10. I made it though the town with no problem. Then it was up onto the interstate and west to Blythe. So just a mile down the road we hit an inspection station on the AZ/CA border. They waved me on, while Jude had to answer just a few questions and then was sent through. Problem was that, as I-10 began in CA, there was a sign that warned of the prohibition of bicycles on the freeway – not what I’d read in my studying of this route.
         I stopped and asked a couple of officers at the inspection station about it. They said I could go through – they have no jurisdiction on that – but that I may want to check with the CHP (CA Highway Patrol) about a permit - More shit to deal with this close to the end of the trip. So I rode onward. Finished the ride at our motel’s exit and here I sit in the AC. That heat is just an ass kicker. I feel totally drained having ate and drank as best I could today. This kind of heat just sucks the life out of me. Heat has always been my nemesis and this stretch of the trip is just confirming that in a big way. Like as I was exiting the freeway to near the motel, my leg muscles were just quivering like crazy. I was just minutes away from full blown cramping. Thankfully I was done at that point.
         Since then I’ve been on the phone with the CA Highway Patrol, and the CALTRAN (CA dept. of transportation) talking to folks about this mysterious permit to ride on I-10. The best I can figure, and no one’s told me a definitive NO, is that I have to ride parallels next to the freeway. If no parallel, then I can ride the shoulder of the freeway. So that’s what I’ll do tomorrow. I’m hoping to make it to, or close to Indio. And there’s a stretch there that’s a solid 60 miles of zero parallel. Well, we’ll see. Currently the temp outside is 106. Time to relax ……..Pete

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Heat and a whole new reality

Thursday, July 26. 20 miles east of Kingman, AZ to Lake Havasu City, AZ. 84 miles of riding in 5:12 hrs.

Up at 4:30 AM, loaded the van, cranked up the coffee machine and had two peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. We were in the van and driving back to where I ended yesterday by 5:15 AM and I was on the bike and back on I-40 at 5:45 AM. There was a definite sense of urgency today, and for the next couple of days for that matter, because of the heat in the dessert. I wanted to be done, finished, and in the van before noon. Weather report for Lake Havasu City foretold of a high of 108 today. So I had to get my ass in gear and ride asap.
         Jude dropped me off and then went back to the hotel to do a workout and run while I’d ride into Kingman to meet her at the hotel and then dive into the complementary breakfast for a quick pitstop, and then hit the bike again and continue riding. Now after doing 90+ yesterday the old legs, and I use that term based on reality, were feeling a bit on the tired side. And what do I get to start the day off with? Well, a 5 mile gradual climb of course! It just plain hurt, and I had the chain in the big ring from yesterday, which really hurt. For about 5 min I just had to drop the chain in the middle ring and warm up. Once I felt a little life in those two dead stumps I popped it into the big ring and got chugging. Wind was out of the southwest again, but what with it being so early in the morning it was very light and not much of a factor. Nope, the long gradual was the factor. Couldn’t do any more than like 12 mph for the first 20 min of riding. The temp was just wonderful, about 70 degrees.
         Once I topped out it was smooth sailing for a long ways, really damned near all the way into Kingman. Riding in the dessert at this time is about the ONLY time to ride in the dessert. You’ve got about 3 hrs from the time dawn breaks until the sun really begins to crank on the heat. So I flew nearly all the rest of the way into Kingman winding it out in the big cookie. About 3 miles outside of my exit the berm turned into this crappy asphalt, where the asphalt was composed of large chunks of rock. It resembled a conglomerate of large asphalt gravel petrified on the road. Talk about bumpy – hell, the gravel roads of KS were nicer than this piece of junk. Even with duel suspension I felt as though I was getting a belt sander applied to my ass! Wow, I was never so happy when I saw the exit for Rt 66. Jumped on 66 and rode back to the hotel to eat breakfast with Jude.
         Loaded up on scrambled eggs, hash browns and sausage links, and I’m talking a full plate of this junk, piled about 2 inches high. I consumed it all in about 7 minutes, and probably looked like I was auditioning for a competitive eating contest. I mean the plastic fork was wilting from the speed with which I was shoveling the food in my mouth. Jammed back out to the bike and got cranking again while Jude did the shower thing back in the hotel. So I rode a stretch of 66 back to the interstate and then immediately did this descent down onto the dessert floor where it was nearly as flat as a pancake. And this was my gig for the next 40 miles of riding on I-40. The wind had picked up a bit and the heat was definitely firing up big time. I just felt like I was beginning to ride in an oven, and it was only like 8:30 AM.
         My berm was just fantastic, smooth, no cracks or crevices and no plants popping through the pavement. So I could ride at a pretty good clip – 16-18 mph. Made plans to meet Jude at this rest stop that was about 25-30 miles west of Kingman, so I had a real good chunk of real-estate to cover before my hydration stop. And I could just feel my mouth getting cottony dry, so many a time I pressed my tongue down into the bottom of my mouth to kind of keep it wet. Now I did drink from my water bottles, and by that time the water was more than luke warm, it was hot! No worries though, when you’re thirsty and have no real choices, water is water no mater what the temp. Made it to the rest area and by that time it was freaking major hot. You could just feel the heat rising from the pavement in the rest area. I downed a quart of ice water, a quart of Powerade, and an ice cold coke. And I was off again trying to stay on my ride plan of finishing before noon.
         How people ride and run long distances in this kind of environment is beyond me. And to go into the heat of the day, like noon through 5 PM, that’s just mind-boggling. I mean it’s indescribable how bloody hot it is when you’re not in an air-conditioned car cruising down the highway through the dessert. You’re in this cocoon and oblivious to the outside world. And I was thinking about that as I was riding along, watching the cars, trucks and RV’s zoom past me, with all their creature comforts at their fingertips, oblivious to the temps just climbing and climbing in the outside world. Now it wasn’t as if I was envious of them, although when the headwind continued to pick up I did feel as though the interiors of those vehicles look mighty inviting!
         So our next support stop was at the jcn with Rt 95 south. Jude had parked at a big truck stop and had everything opened up and ready for me. Downed another Powerade, another water and I just kept rolling. I think it was about 10 AM by this point and the temp was definitely in the 100’s, I mean it was smoking hot. Got going on a nice berm on Rt 95, thankfully, and it turned out to be this long, long, long, false flat for 6 miles – with the wind just blowing like hell out of the southwest. By then the wind was beginning to feel warm at times, and hot at other times. The landscape was just bleak and foreboding as hell with the heat. I could only imagine hiking or backpacking in that kind of terrain and with that kind of heat – total misery! The mts were devoid of vegetation and there was zero in the way of streams or ponds or lakes or anything aqueous. It was stark and appeared lifeless.
         Finally topped out on this pseudo pass and began a ripping descent down to the Colorado River and Lake Havasu, which I could see in the distance. And surprisingly I felt pretty good, being able to get out of the saddle and mix it up a number of times on the climb. Descended down to the river, which was still a good mile or so off to my right, and met up with Jude for the final support stop. Downed one more quart of water and quart of Powerade and rode on. Now it had appeared that we were right on the cusp of being in the city of Lake Havasu, but that was very much a mirage. We were on the outer limits of the city with all the strip malls. The real center of town lay another 10 miles south. And those were 10 hotter than hell ten miles indeed. I’d go by banks where the time and temp signs indicated it to be 105 degrees – at 11:10 AM!
         Turns out this place was founded in like 1964, so it’s really modern, and I’d venture to guess that the median income here is on the high side – nothing but nice homes and condos. Every third vehicle that went by me was dragging a boat, and it reminded me of Glen Canyon with all that speed boat traffic. Got to the hotel before noon as I’d hoped and there was Jude parked under this tree, the name of which I don’t know. But it was shade! And that’s where I sit right now, working here on the computer for several hours before we can check in at 3 PM. Even after 2 hours we still have this nice piece of shade above the van. Now my back is sweating like hell, and I’m toweling off occasionally as I work, but it’s a far sight better than being in direct sun.
         We’ll shoot for Blythe, CA tomorrow and then I’ll pick up I-10. From there, we’ll use directions from Judy’s friend to Glenys to get us the rest of the way to the beach. That’s it for today………Pete

Oh, BTW…it’s 112 degrees at 3 PM PST!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

From mountain to desert

Wednesday, July 25. Williams, AZ to 20 miles east of Kingman, AZ. 94 miles of riding in 6:01 hrs.

Man it just rained like hell last evening. Complete white out in the town of Williams for a good hr. That’s why we chose not to camp. Would have been some serious “van time” again had we taken that route. Felt good to sit in our little motel room on the second floor and look out into the monsoon as it engulfed the city. Must have hit the hay at 9 PM, and I was out like a light. Got up at 4:30 AM and worked for a bit. Jude hit Safeway at 6 AM for Starbucks dark roast coffee, while I made up to peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. Loaded van and was dropped off at yesterday’s end point to get it rolling at 6:45 AM. There were still some remnants of last evening’s storms, but nothing like yesterdays miserable morning.
         The start temp was just about right, down in the low 60’s. Got rolling on good old I-40 west and rolled into a gradual climb for about 5 miles right from the gun. Now at this point on the interstate you’re still in the mts, in Kaibab National Forest, and the sights and smells are just wonderful. When most people think of AZ, they immediately think of desert and hot, but Northern AZ is quite a contrast to that vision. It’s wonderful mts and trees and water. We’re talking mts in the 6K and 7K range. Once I got over this little mini pass, it was a real nice descent down to the city of Ash Fork. This was the first segment of riding where I was actually leaving the mountains that stretch from Flag to Ash Fork. By the time I got to Ash Fork the terrain had changed to a kind of sub-alpine environment – much drier with the trees being considerably shorter and less prevalent as in Kaibab Nat Forest. I just waved Judy on when I got to Ash Fork, shooting for a support stop just short of Seligman.
         Again, more kind of long mt pass type of climbing where the climb was about a 3-5% grade for a good 5-7 miles, and then you descend for way more than you gained, so ever so gradually you’re loosing altitude. And all these climbs, though there was no indication that I was going over passes, they felt just like going over a pass. Got to our support stop and I waved Jude onward another 8 miles to the exit for Seligman. I’m just in the mode now where I like to bust it out for 2.5-3 hrs before I stop for support. That way I feel as if I’m making nice big chunks of miles prior to sitting my sore ass down in the van for 10-15 min to eat and drink. And right now, I’m really trying to keep those stops as short as possible so I can get further, faster, earlier.
         So in Seligman by the time I stopped I had in about 42 miles. Got 2 sandwiches – yes I’m still chowing down on bologna – with a coke chaser and a quart of ice water. Kind of slammed it all down the old pie hole and got back on the bike for another session. And not more than a couple miles back on I-40 west I hit another one of those long gradual pass kind of climbs. This pup was a long one, taking me up over the Juniper Mts. Again this was a big ring climb with in and out of the saddle riding – nothing steep, but just long and continuous. Now at times I have this amazing pristine berm, and then other times it’s just a total piece of shit. It ebbs and flows, and usually it’s a bit worse on the climbing where the guardrail takes a good chunk of berm and then all the truck tire shreds are just everywhere from trucks flatting on the climbs. Thank God I have those Armadillo tires on or I’d be picking wire out of the tires all day. Every now and then the berm really goes to hell and it’s just riddled with cracks and crevices and covered with broken up asphalt gravel.
         So I got up that climb out of Seligman and met Judy at nearly the top for another support stop. Rode through that one and opted to do one another 13 miles down the road, this time with a climb up over the Cottonwood Mts. I mean these climbs were like every 12-15 miles apart. As soon as I had descended from Judy I had that long climb Cottonwood climb. It’s like valley, mt, valley, mt on and on for this stretch of I-40. Now at the top of that one, where there’s an exit (and this was our strategy of going one to two exits at a time) I did stop and gulp down an ice cold Powerade and quart of water. By this time we’d descended a good deal and the temp was up. The terrain was way more desert like with mostly scrubby trees and barren rocky mts. Cactus was now prevalent. Yup, goodbye Northern Mts. Judy had mapped out three more segments where she’d drive to each stop in case I needed fluids. The first segment was 9 miles, second was 8, and the third was 8. If I could keep the ball rolling that would put us about 20 miles east of Kingman.
         And wouldn’t you know it the wind really picked up out of the southwest and the pseudo pass climbing continued. Like each one of those segments had a climb in it. And each time I descended the heat got more intense and the altitude went down. Suddenly I had gone from 7K to almost 4K. One of these sections, I think the second, was just a total mess, where the berm had been graded down with an asphalt grinder and left as is. It was just filled with those ripples and asphalt gravel. Couple that with truck tire shreds and I was just feeling like I was doing a slalom course in a mt bike where I was jumping and dodging crap left and right. At the end of each segment, which coincided with an exit, Jude was there for insurance. I just kept rolling, through the first, through the second, and headed towards the third where I’d get to the 90-mile mark in the day’s ride. Temp had gotten up to mid 90’s by then and the wind was just getting crazy hard out of the southwest. That third segment was definitely the last. I’d had a good day and was ready to exit the saddle. The heat and wind pretty much sealed the deal there. Jude, the famous coupon cutter, had booked a hotel for an amazing deal in Kingman, and I was totally ready to sit my ass down in the AC and get some work done on the computer. So no aspirations today of hitting a century ride.
         What’s more, with Judy running support for me, 6+ hrs in the van starting and stopping is plenty. An early check-in would give her a chance to do a workout and relax while I worked. So I finished at the Rt 93 jcn. Jude had pulled into this gravel parking area so I stripped off the cycling kit and got into some shorts and off we went to Kingman. She scored a Quality Inn with an outdoor pool and all the accoutrements for 50 bucks. And here I sit finishing up with my work. Jude got in her workout in the fitness room and we’re going to relax at the pool. Tomorrow I just may go south on Rt 95 towards Lake Havasu along the Colorado River to jcn with I-10 to San Diego. Each day we can kind of tweak the route with a change, so today’s no different. I do know one thing: No way am I taking I-40 into LA!! So we’re going south to jcn with I-10 somewhere, and it could very well be on Rt 95. Late………..Pete