Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hundred Mile Day

I had a great start to the morning. I started riding by 8:30, there was no wind to speak of, there was little traffic on a Sunday morning and the road was in good shape. If things stayed like that for the rest of the day, I would be a happy man. Unfortunately though, there was a 2,000-foot mountain and 100 miles between me and the next town in which I could find a hotel.

As I turned off the main road to make my way up the mountain pass I had the opportunity to pick up a few last supplies in the town of Mecca. I am pretty sure that no one will confuse it with the one in Saudi Arabia. Aside from not having a single mosque, there was nary a Muslim to be found. I wasn’t sure where I would be able to find the next source of food or water, so I stocked up with bananas and an extra 32oz drink.

As I pedaled on I passed through farms of oranges and red peppers. Having lived in a city for quite some time, it’s not something I would normally think about. City dwellers go to the supermarket and pick up fruits and vegetables without ever having seen how they were farmed.
Further along I saw a number of animals, including: rabbits, desert rats and a roadrunner. At least I thought it was a roadrunner. There was no “Beep, Beep" caption bubble, nor was a coyote chasing it on a rocket, but I’m pretty sure it was a roadrunner. I even spotted some 16" carp in one of the canals.

The climb up the mountain was slow and steady. The road wound through canyons of red rock and sandstone. The only traffic was the occasional motor home or pick-up truck towing quads and dirt bikes. The area is heavily used by off-roaders, but there were still very little in the way of traffic to speak of. While the climb was steady and not nearly as bad as I thought it might be, I kept waiting for a break. It never came though. The climb was 10 miles before the road gave me a breather with an ever so slight downhill section. I paused a couple of times to look back and take in the view. I had earned it.

I was almost disappointed when I got to Chiriaco Summit. The climb up Box Canyon Road was just so pleasant compared to riding out of Los Angeles and on the Freeway. Not only that, but I was climbing up the leeward side of the mountain, so I was protected from the wind.
At Chiriaco Summit I had to get on Interstate 10. Initially I had mixed feelings about riding on the highway again, but after a couple of miles with a wide eight-foot shoulder I felt better about it. The main benefit of riding on the highway is that when the big rigs come flying past I get an extra push from the draft. Its only fun for me if I can do it on my terms, not when I am forced to ride right next to 80,000 pound trucks passing 14 inches from my left arm.

True to form, as soon as I crested the summit the wind hit me straight on. Yeah, ha, ha, the jokes on Kevin again. I was actually going faster climbing up the mountain than descending. I thought when I had gotten to the summit that the hard work was behind me. No such luck. I’ve learned that I can’t come up with any expectations, as I can never know what I will be up against. Having things turn out worse than my expectations is much worse than the upside when things actually turn out better than them.

Services for the day were far and few between, 20-miles here, 25-miles there. The last 40-mile stretch was devoid of any place to get food or water. The last town in which I stopped before that stretch was in Desert Center. Just off the highway exit was a gas station that looked like it was right out of 1950. Nothing was paved. It was just dirt with a couple of pumps lined up and a sign out front telling all those in desperate need of gas that they would be paying $4.29 a gallon. I remember when I lived in France in 2000/2001 and gas was the equivalent of $6.00 a gallon. That was pre-Euro and when the dollar was much stronger than it is now, so I generally don’t complain about gas prices. Not that I have to worry about that now. As I didn’t need gas and didn’t want to be left out of the price gouging, I went to the cafe down the street. I ended up with a chocolate muffin and a drink for 150% of the normal price.

When I left Desert Center and got back on the Interstate the wind was kind enough to stop. It was exactly what I needed. I was able keep my speed in the mid-20’s for a better part of the last 40-miles.

In the last few years visiting certain countries I was always disappointed with the amount of litter I saw. I should have looked at my own country first. Despite the $1,000 fine for littering, the side of the highway was a mess. Aside from the things tossed out of car windows there were enough screws, nails, bolts, hooks and hinges to fill a hardware store. Strangely, there were enough tools to stock a modest workshop and a sufficient number of bungee cords to strap down King Kong.

The sun was out in full force and I am sure no one will give me any sympathy when I say it was bit warm; in the mid eighties. Apparently, the sun was off to my right during the hottest part of the day. I ended up burning the outside of my right arm and the inside of my left arm. Add to that the tan lines I have from my bike gloves and shorts that are as straight as a ruler and I am quite the sight.

I pulled in the town of Blythe, CA, late afternoon. The first thing I noticed about Blythe was how many fast food restaurants there were. Actually the first thing I noticed was that gas was $2.81. The second thing I noticed were all the fast food restaurants. Other than In and Out Burger, there was every fast food chain I think I had ever seen. I had to have someone point out to me a place where I could get something to eat from a place that didn’t have a chain from coast to coast.

My final mileage total for the day was 103.8, which left me just 3 miles from the Arizona border. Burning all those calories, perhaps I could have used some fast food

No comments: