Saturday, March 27, 2010

Days 6, 7, & 8 (but who's counting?)

This is Jay writing, and I can really only report on road conditions for Days 6 & 7. Even then, I only saw day 7’s route from a Suburban. (D’oh!)

We rode out from Blythe on Thursday after experiencing one of the noisier campsites I have ever stayed at. If you ever camp at the KOA in Blythe, CA, don’t let them give you the tent sites by the Kamping Kabins. These little patches of green grass are the absolute closest thing to I-10 on the property. Worse yet, there is ZERO sound break between the overpass over the Colorado River and the sites. And the traffic does not let up at night. What I am trying to say is that it’s loud. Don’t get me wrong, overall the KOA is very nice, but man, those sites are loud. Now, that said, Todd didn’t think it was that bad!

Anyway, we rode out over the Colorado River and entered I-10. We climbed a lot, and by the time the terrain flattened out on Route 60, the wind kicked up. It was a strong cross-wind that sometimes blew in our faces a bit. Then we climbed some more.

We were riding in the midst of the Wandering Wheels group again, since their route still overlapped with ours. The day’s route led through desert terrain, and the wildflowers were amazing. Tons and tons of wildflowers. I stopped to take several photos which yes, I will eventually post. We rode on I-10 to Quartzsite, which I am told has a population explosion in February - - it’s the site of some gigantic swap meets. We hit I-10 again, and climbed some more before exiting on Route 60.

We rode through Brenda, stopped for lunch at a place called the Kofa CafĂ© (good food, no comment on the service), and then through Hope. Yes, they *do* have a nice new sign just outside town that reads, “YOUR NOW BEYOND HOPE” (typo in original). For the record, Audrey from the Wandering Wheels group told me that the original sign was grammatically correct.

Todd was riding well as usual, and my cold only bothered me when I tried to breathe deeply. Not so important, right? I was riding fairly well, but my cough was getting worse and the cold was really settling into my chest. We made it into Salome after one final climb for the day. Salome is small, but bigger than Ocotillo or Palo Verde. Seems like a well-kept little town. I ended up finding a room in a small hotel (which was really nice, the Westwood, right on Salome Road) and sleeping indoors.

Day 7 dawned and it was clear to me that I had to rest if I was going to get better. Luckily, I have friends in the Phoenix area. My fiance’s brother and sister-in-law live in Mesa, and Barbara, one of GYGIG’s former Board members lives in Anthem. No matter what the backup plan ended being, I was not riding.

Todd and I met in the morning - - we had three choices of route into Phoenix - - the Adventure Cycling Route, the route suggested by a local cycling club with whom Barbara had put us in touch, and the Wandering Wheels route. We opted for the Wandering Wheels route, since we knew that the terrain would be easy and that Todd could catch up to that group if he left his panniers behind.

Lara’s brother Dave (who proved to be a wealth of information about the landmarks and terrain) drove 2 hours from Mesa to collect me, my bike, and all of Todd‘s and my bags. I followed Todd on the Spot Tracker until I was picked up, and then Dave and I followed the route and caught up to Todd in Buckeye. Todd had experienced tailwinds for much of his ride and had made fantastic time. (I was unashamedly jealous since the only wind I had experienced was a headwind and vicious sidewind.) He covered 86 miles in record time. And in the end I headed off to a hotel in Mesa. (Lara’s brother and sister-in-law have cats, which wreak havoc with my asthma).

Todd here reporting on the day 7 ride:

I left 1 ½ hours behind the wandering wheels and made haste with a tail wind..reaching speeds of 27 MPH ( boy it was fun not having bags). Racing down Salome Rd. to Interstate 10 where I rode for several miles to Tonopah. That is where I finally caught up to the Wandering Wheels — at the local fire station. The group welcomed me and rushed me inside where they had met the crew for the day and filled them in on me being a firefighter. They already had a fire patch ready for me.

I stayed and chatted with the crew, rested a few minutes and took a picture with them, they gave me some water and soon I was again on my way. The road from here was fairly flat and again I was able to make good time until Jay met up with me at around mile 60. He bought me some water to replenish my bottles. After a short rest I continued until I reached the end point of The Salvation Army in Avondale. After a short discussion it was decided I would stay with the Wandering Wheels for the evening.

They did not provide dinner that evening so I tagged along with the van to the “hoot and Holler” sports bar. I had an awesome cheeseburger, and good company—I would definitely recommend them if you are in the Avondale area. Ask about their 6 pound burger challenge—in case you never get there here is what it is--- 6- ½ lb. burgers in a bun with lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles. You must eat the burger with all the fixins, (the bun included) 2 baskets of fries, and a pitcher of soda with no ice---all in 45 minutes or less, and boy was I tempted.

Day 8:( Todd writing again)

I rode again with Wandering Wheels for 14 miles today, Day 8, and rode another 14.79 into Tempe without them, to stay with a friend for the night, before spending time on Sunday with family.
The ride was not much to speak of, there was alot of stop and go - for traffic lights and it seems they have part of I-60 closed and traffic was routed locally. I rode several miles on the sidewalks to avoid the traffic and allow me to cross at intersections with the pedestrian crossing signal. I finally left the worst of the traffic and was able to meander throug some nice suburban areas until I reached Tempe, I just wished I had the tailwind from the day before.

Jay Here:

I am on the mend, and am glad that I took these two days off from riding. Because I had a nasty bout of pneumonia in 2008, I can’t take chances, and it was clear that when I rode, my energy was going into pedaling and not into healing. I hated to admit it, but I was not going to kick the cold while riding.

Tomorrow is our planned rest day, so Todd will be off the bike as well, and we will continue our eastward trek on Monday morning.

Again, I cannot say enough good things about the warmth and support offered by the Wandering Wheels group. Without their support of Todd, it would have been difficult for me to take these rest days with a clear conscience, since we are riding together not only for the camaraderie and because we are joining forces to ride for under recognized diseases - - we are also riding together for safety.

As always, thank you for following!

The Garmin for day 6:
Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Day 6 Blythe to Salome

The Garmin for day 7:
Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Day 7 Salome to Avondale

The a\Garmin for day 8:
Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Day 8 Avondale to Tempe

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Days 4 and 5

A short post for now, just to let you know what's what. We rode out of Brawley on Tuesday and covered around 69 miles to Palo Verde. There is pretty much just open country between those two spots, with a couple of places where you can rent sand buggies and a border patrol checkpoint thrown in for good measure.

The scenery was amazing. We left the agricultural Imperial Valley and entered the desert again. Then we entered the Imperial Sand Dunes. Impressive. From there, it was back into the desert with a lot of "rollers" - up and down, up and down, on winding roads. Things finally (mostly) flattened out about 20 miles out from Palo Verde.

The weather was cool - started overcast and got sunny as the day wore on. At about mile 30 (I think), we hit memorable headwinds that just kept going and going. Rollers are no fun with headwinds & panniers, just for the record. It was a long, tough day but we made it!

Made new friends as well - - Lee and Jeff from Michigan who are also traveling on the Southern Tier route, as well as the folks at Wandering Wheels - a supported cross-country trip with an itinerary that is similar to ours for a couple of days. They are welcoming and have already fed us one meal, and another coming soon!

We ate breakfast with Wandering Wheels before departing for Blythe, and the group's leader, Bob, invited us to speak to the group about our ride and the cause for which we are riding. Several people showed interest in getting more information about what we are doing - - thank you, Bob, for that opportunity to spread our message of awareness and hope!

Today's ride was a short 25 miles (flat, with a mild breeze in our faces - - not a big headwind) from Palo Verde to Blythe. The scenery was mostly agricultural with mountains on the horizons in most directions. We're resting, relaxing, and generally trying to catch up.

As always, Garmin data here:

Day 4 Brawley to Palo Verde
Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Day 4 Brawley to Palo Verde

Day 5 Palo Verde to Blythe
Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Day 5 Palo Verde to Blythe

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 3 - Ocotillo, CA to Brawley, CA

Still in Brawley, ready to bring you the highlights from Day 3.

We started off fairly early, with Jay bidding Mr. Jackson farewell at about 7:40 a.m. Todd had left a little earlier so that he could talk with the firemen on duty at the Imperial County Fire Services, which maintains a 24-hour duty station in Ocotillo. They are a very bicyclist-friendly station, FYI.

As you know, we are following the Adventure Cycling Association's Southern Tier maps. They publish addenda to the maps, and the most recent addendum stated that road conditions were bad on the main route, Evan Hewes Highway. Robert Sigal (who had just ridden that road a week earlier) warned us of the same thing, but when he saw that we are riding Long Haul Truckers with 1.5 inch tires, he advised us to just go with Evan Hewes. He said that it's really only rough from Ocotillo to Plaster City, and that our wheels and tires could handle it. John Jackson from the RV Park agreed. They saved us a 9-mile detour on a road with lots of high-speed traffic. Evan Hewes Hwy was pretty rough on and off for about 5 miles, but some patches were not so bad. Once we got to Plaster City, it improved substantially. We were passed by maybe 10 vehicles in that entire stretch. We took it easy on the rough patches, and were glad we took that route.

A few words about Plaster City: if you are wondering where drywall comes from, we found the place.

After Plaster City (which consists of just the USG plant), the terrain changed from desert to agricultural, and by the time we were in Seeley, we were in green farmland. We stopped for breakfast in Seeley and wolfed down some delicious breakfast burritos. After a few more miles, we saw the first traffic light we had seen since leaving Alpine the previous morning. Just before the light, we passed some other self-contained cyclists, but they were on a mission, and probably not as talkative as we are. (We kind of doubt that anyone is.)

We left Evan Hewes Highway and skirted outside El Centro and headed to Brawley. We spent about 14 miles parallel to a canal as we rode through more farmland. One truck that passed us was loaded with boxes labeled "Desert Vegetables." Indeed.

We got onto a busy road for a few miles that brought us into Brawley, and after double-checking our directions, were at our destination quickly. We opted for a hotel tonight (not realizing that we would not be camping either of the first two nights) and thus have yet to set up our tents - - that'll come tomorrow!

After settling in for a bit, we found lunch at a local Jack-in-the-Box restaurant. Todd was enchanted with the little Jack ornament things, and before we knew it, we had two personalized Jack mascots! Group photo posted on Facebook.

Wrapping it up for tonight - - we have a long day ahead tomorrow. Awesome conditions thus far - we are very grateful.

Click here to see the Garmin data for today, then push play:
Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Day 3 Ocotillo to Brawley

Day 2 - Alpine, CA to Ocotillo, CA

Greetings -

We are writing from Brawley, CA, where we arrived just after noon today following an easy 38-mile ride. More on that in the next post.

It was a day for climbing, as you can see from the profile in the Garmin link at the end of this post.

We rode out from Alpine after a great send off by our hosts at the Alpine fire station. We slept like kings that night. Bob Pfohl from the Viejas fire district rode with us as did GYGIG '07 rider Robert Sigal. Both were great company and awesome sources of local information.