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

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