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