I broke in more than one way today (May 28th). The day started with me packing up from sand parking lot in Ludlow. From Ludlow, I was 28 miles to the the next water stop in Amboy, Roy’s Motel and Gas Station. From there it would be another 40 miles to the next water stop in Fenner. I could either ride to Roy’s and stop for the day, or continue on to Fenner.
Despite my lack of sleep I was feeling good. I was only two days ride from my first zero. Ludlow to Amboy was flat and I had a strong tailwind. It took me just over an hour to do the 28 miles. I was at last using my 10th gear. I knew I had a strong wind behind me, but did not realize how strong until I stopped moving. I passed the road leading to a volcanic crater and thought I would check it out, since I made such good time. I turned the bike around and tried pedalling the 100 meters back to the turn-off, but gave up after struggling to move. I turned back around and coasted to Roy’s gas station.
Inside, I refilled my one bottle and Roy told me I just missed my friends. Confused, I asked what friends, and he said the three cyclists that just left 15 minutes ago. So I took off! I had the wind and plenty of energy and was determined to catch them.
The wind has proven to be either friend or foe and can change sides on a whim. Not 5 miles from Roy’s and the wind changed. The 12 mph wind that was propelling me forward was now ceasing my progress. It also felt like someone flipped the switch from fan to heat. I went through two bottles of water in no time. It was now 100+ degrees, I had two bottles left and had 30 miles to go.
This is where I found Chambless, an abandoned RV park and ghost town. The RV park and local store were both fenced off with “No Trespassing” signs, so I found a shade tree and patch of sand. The Weather Channel said it would cool down to upper 90’s after sunset. I would wait until then to ride the 30 miles. It also said I would have a 10 mph tailwind. I set up camp and got comfy.
For several hours I laid in the sand either listening to an audio book or checking the weather and maps. Not much else to do when it is that hot, now 106. Occasionally I would drag my camp further East to stay in the shade. Thinking I was alone in the middle of nowhere I stripped down and changed into my shorts. Only 4 more hours until sunset, and down to 1 bottle of water.
I can’t remember exactly what I was doing when I heard the gunshot, but I do remember jumping up and grabbing my shirt and camera. With no real defense, all I could do is record whatever was about to happen. Here comes a man in a side-by-side wielding a shotgun. He was dressed in a long sleeve button up shirt, buttoned all the way to the top, and a cowboy hat with an old t-shirt stuffed under and hanging over his neck. He was headed straight for me. He put the gun down, looked me over, and then said some things I couldn’t really understand. I walked over to him and introduced myself.
His name was Henry Enrique Mojave. He through in about three more names, but all I could understand was Henry Enrique and I named in Mojave because of the desert. He cleared room in the side-by-side for me to sit down, so I did. He then started to tell me his life story. It was hard to keep up from the secret service for Reagan and the 5-star chef of the movie stars, to the singers and mob in Las Vegas. He dropped a lot of big names and I was uncertain whether he led such an amazing life or if he was just crazy.
All of the sudden he says something about shooting and eating horned vipers and then takes off, with me with him. He wanted to show me his kill. We drove along the fence row until we came upon a twitching hare. He then takes me back and continues bouncing around from story to story. He hands me a cold Gatorade that was rolling around in the floor and then pulls out a cold beer from what looked like his back pocket. Just as he started, he suddenly stops talking, lowers his glasses and then removes them. He looks at me with a stare that sent chills down my back. He continues his stare for several moments until I asked if everything was alright. He then blinked and said that he’d been told that he has eyes like the devil. What was I supposed to do or say in that situation. I couldn’t say, “no, they are quite lovely”. So I said nothing and took a sip of the Gatorade. To ease the tension I asked if there was a place I could fill up my empty bottles and he came out of his trance and directed me to a spicket. He said nobody would bother me if I dropped his name. And then he left me.
I grabbed my bottles and headed in the direction of the well before he could come back. I was carrying 5 Liters of water, which would turn out not to be enough. I spent the rest of the day laying around unbothered. It occurred to me to stay the night there and wait for morning, but it was not supposed to get any cooler during the night and tomorrow would be even hotter. Besides Henry, I made another friend in Chambless. It was a small bird that stayed with me. He sat perched on the fence and tree near by. I broke up and tossed him a handful of pumpkin seeds, but he never went for them. Not long after that, I see him leave and then come back with a small lizard in his mouth and then drops it nearly on top of me. I did not eat the lizard, but felt I should have. Instead I took it, thanked him, and then buried it out of his sight.
With “plenty” of water and the sun going down, I packed up and got on the bike. The promised wind had abandoned me and I could feel the heat as I stepped out from under the shade. I had a 3.5 mile climb nearly straight up to start. Three and a half miles doesn’t seem like much, but I ended up walking a lot of it and by the time I was at the top I had one bottle left. I don’t know how long it takes for dehydration to set in. I do know that I am prone to it. With the final bottle gone my lips were already cracked, my tongue and throat felt like sand paper and I could feel a slight prick in the base of my skull. This is the same prick I have felt in the past in similar situations.
Only 20 miles to go, still climbing, but my pace has slowed to a crawl. Not wanting a repeat of last year’s heat exhaustion, I start looking for a ride. I sign up for Lyft and Uber with no luck. I then look at firestations, but the nearest was two hours away and not answering. So I finally call the highway patrol. They too were two hours away. The dispatcher asked if I needed a paramedic, 2 hours away, and I told her not yet. All I needed was a bottle of water and maybe a lift to the nearest gas station. I could still think and I knew I could make it to the gas station and Fenner, but didn’t know how bad I would be when I got there.
The stretch of road I was on was blocked off from normal traffic, due to bridges being out. I was the only person for miles. I got lucky when a family headed to Las Vegas were taking a short cut. I spot lighted them and stood in the middle of the road. I thought for a moment that they weren’t going to stop, but they did. The man gave me a bottle of water and helped me load the bike in the back of his already full pick-up. I sat awkwardly in the back, holding down the bike, as we flew down the highway. I later read the sign that said warned of a large fine for unauthorized vehicles on that stretch of road.
He dropped me off at the Fenner gas station and was off. I grabbed two Gatorades and a turkey sandwich out of the cooler and set down in the air- conditioned cafe. I have never tasted mayonnaise so sweet or lettuce as refreshing. I called everyone to let them know I was ok and then set up my tent in another patch of sand. The Mojave won.