Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Rough Start

Lets get one thing straight. There is no such thing as the “prevailing wind". I am convinced that the wind will prevail against me no matter what direction I am riding. This morning the wind was blowing straight out of the east. On my 2005 bike ride, heading from that direction, I would have bribed, maimed or killed for wind straight out of the east. Worse yet was the sound of the wind in my ears for hours on end. To get an idea what it was like, drive your car around for 4 hours all the time keeping your head out of the window. It was a disheartening start to the day.
The next kick in the teeth came in the form of a road that I wanted to take being a dirt road. It wasn’t all that bad as it only added a couple of miles, but it would have been nice to have it show up on my map as a dirt road.

The worst part of my day was having to ride on the freeway. It wasn’t like yesterday, just having to cross a bridge and then being done with it. I had to stay on the freeway for 10 miles. The problem was that the shoulder for the most part was spaghetti thin and covered in gravel and broken glass. At times it was even non-existent. With the wind blowing through the mountains I got pushed around, but did my best to stay as far to the right as possible. The speed limit was 70, but as we all know, few people actually drive at or below the speed limit. The cars and big rigs just blew on by. I wanted to be there less that they wanted me there, but couldn’t actually convey that to them. I just couldn’t find any other way from point A to point B. It was 10 of the scariest miles I have ever pedaled.

When I got to the next town I saw a bike shop and made a quick stop. My new best friend, Mike, told me that riding on the freeway is sheer insanity. What I think he wanted to say was sheer stupidity, but he was being polite. He added that there was in fact a way around that freeway despite not being on my map. Strike two for the map. I ran my intended route for the next few days past Mike and he told me that what I had planned made about as much sense as me riding on the freeway. He made a suggestion that took me south of Joshua Tree National Park as opposed to north of it. It would also mean that I would have to spend about 70 miles riding on the interstate. He explained that riding on I-10 was generally safe and even legal as there was no other way to go east from there. I had mixed thoughts.

As I got closer to Palm Springs I noticed a few wind turbines. Then more. And more. There were literally hundreds of wind turbines littering the landscape. I say "littering" the landscape as they weren’t those cute little Dutch models, surrounded by tulips and people dancing in clogs. The turbines were 200 feet tall, towering over the desert like some postmodern forest. Riding through any area with that many wind turbines nearly guarantees that there will be wind. The kicker was a big yellow sign that read, “High Winds Ahead".

When I got to Palm Springs I saw a sign listing the elevation at 475 feet. I didn’t realize that I had descended over 2,000 feet from San Gorgonio pass. With the wind holding me back I didn’t pick up any speed while descending.

In the afternoon the wind died down and let me make some time. I felt surprisingly good after fighting the wind all morning. The last 35 miles flew by.

I had to go to a few hotels to find a place with room at the inn. The hotel I had found had nothing but a bar in walking distance, so I stopped in for some grub. About halfway through my meal it started: karaoke! I ate faster. I had intended to stick around for a beer, but I couldn’t bear the singing. As I was walking out, on came Stairway to Heaven.

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