Tag Archives: Bike Tour Journal

Out of the Desert

I was urged to write, but everytime I sit down to do so I am unsatisfied by what comes out. I prefer to reflect on the events before putting them out there for the my tiny world of facebook friends and family to read. It could be that I felt defeated and wasn’t ready to admit it openly. Here is an abbreviated version of the last few days.

After getting dropped off in Fenner, I spent the night behind the gas station. I was camped along side three other cyclists, possibly the same ones from the earlier that day. They were already in their tents when I set up and long gone when I woke up the next morning. I packed up, refilled all of my water bottles, then set off. I was a long days ride from Laughlin, AZ, where I would take my first day off. I didn’t get far due to the strong headwind, and possibly my dehydration the day before. I was carried back to the gas station where I elected to take my day off. When the temperature got above 100 degrees I had had enough and started looking for ways out. With the help of my justifiably worried parents, I caught a cab to a hotel casino in Laughlin.

I spent two days at the hotel. I was there to escape the heat , so I couldn’t understand why so many people were out on the beach or near the pool. As most people question my sanity, I was questioning theirs. I spent most of my time in the room, only coming out for food. Getting food meant walking through the tar dripping casino, which made me feel nauseous.

Feeling less rested and more anxious, I left on the third day. I rode West for one mile until I could cross the small, dry creek bed that separated California to Nevada. I then rode the three miles to cross the Colorado River, separating Nevada from Arizona. Bullhead City was 15 miles up the Colorado River. I played it safe and stopped at a McDonald’s just before leaving town. After a bagel and a large tea I rode to the next stop, just 5 more miles up the road. It was a gas station with palm frond canopies in the back. I worked on my last blog post there before working up my nerve to start the 10 mile, 3000 ft climb to the top of Union Pass. Not to be confused with the much higher Union Pass I climbed last year.

I remained in my 1st gear for then entire climb. The highway was littered with empty and full water jugs of all kinds. I later learned that a local man collected, filled, and deposited these bottles along the highway for overheated vehicles. I thought they were for me! At one point I even thought my Dad somehow convinced someone to leave the bottles so that I wouldn’t get dehydrated again. I put this out of my mind after seeing 100s of the bottles. They were not just water jugs, but old oil, laundry detergent, anti-freeze, and even mayonaise jars. I chose the actual water jugs to drink from and was happy to have them.

After over 2 hours of climbing I finally made it to the top, but at a cost. I was feeling sick. I drenched myself using one of the gallon jugs. This plus the wind did the job and actually chilled me. After coasting the 7 miles down to the closest gas station my clothes were dried. I enjoyed a few beverages and the A/C while plotting the next stage. I was not yet in Kingman proper, but the residential overflow. Kingman was still about 15 miles away and over Coyote Pass. I coasted through the scattered trailer houses and RV parks to the base of Coyote Pass and then crept up the 1000 ft climb.

Still feeling sick I booked a room at a hotel and went straight there. Later that night I decided to take another day. Apparently, I wasn’t over the heat. Looking at the map and trying to decide what to do, I decided to escape. I was over the heat, the sand, and the lack of water. The morning after my rest day I booked a rental car and then a train to Colorado. Using Google Maps I looked for yellow. Light green on the map is usually a city park or cemetary. Dark green is a national forest or other public lands. Yellow is desert. I went just far enough West to get out of the desert. That put me in La Junta, CO.

I took the rental truck to Flagstaff, AZ and waited there for my 4:37 AM train departure. They just happened to be having a music festival called Hullabaloo. Flagstaff was full of bicycles, vegetarian restaurants, and long haired hippie looking people. Seemed like a good place. I sat outside the fence of the festival for a long while before deciding to go in to check it out. I was hesitant to leave my bike locked up out of sight, but I did. There were micro breweries, food trucks, vendors, live music, dance floors, and bump’n jumps for kids. I lasted about 20 minutes before returning to my bike on the outside. The music was good, but better from my solitary perch.

The music stopped at 9:00 and that’s when I went to the station. I rolled the bike inside and was immediately told to leave it outside. So, I set up camp outside. I stayed there for a few hours, but the frequent freight trains drove me off. At midnight I stripped the bike and dragged my sleeping pad into the station to spend the rest of the time. I was immediately told I could not lay down or sleep inside the station. Where else was I supposed to go? I walked the perimeter of the station and found a little cubby and layed down there. And then, at 2:00 AM the station attendant woke me up and said I couldn’t sleep out there either. I reluctantly went back inside, sat on a bench, and forced myself to stay awake. Besides, I could sleep on the train when it got there. But, the train was two hours late.

Cajon Pass

I joked with friends that I quit today, and I did. I quit when my legs ached. I quit when my saddle sore stung. I quit everytime something went wrong on the bike. And I quit about 7 times climbing over Cajon “Ka-hone” Pass . Somehow, I kept going.

The morning started with me mapping out the local bus and rail services. For $6 I could get from my motel all the way over the pass and to Victorville. I got to the train tracks, ready to give in and remembered the regret a friend felt when he skipped. So on I rode.

Air pressure always makes me feel better!

It took about 5 miles, but my legs weren’t as heavy and my saddle sores seized their stinging. I followed the Pacific Electric Trail and then the Cucamonga Creek Trail and they were very pleasant. It was a lot of stop and go, but I didn’t mind. I had all but forgotten that I was hurting. The trails were well maintained and their was plenty of greenery hanging over the walls from the housing complexes. I was attempted to snag some oranges, pomegranates, and prickly pears.

Once back on the road I found a city park and spent some time writing. It was so cold and windy that I wish I had brought my Minion blanket. Where everything else is sandy and gray, the park was covered in green. At the park, I studied the map and decided I would do a short day of about 30 miles. That would get me a little ways up the climb and the rest of the day to rest.

Another 7 miles and I stopped for lunch. Everyone says that it is incredible that I am able to do this, but if you were to ride with me you would see that I don’t go fast and stop frequently. In fact, just a few miles from my lunch spot and I was looking for a place to take a nap. I found a county park, but they required a cash fee to get in. A little further up the road and I spotted a shade tree with no litter, sap, or ants underneath (this is key).  I pulled in and then noticed the fire station across the road. It had picnic tables out front so I went there instead. The firemen offered me a seat and a cold drink. They sat and talked with me a long while before going back to their duties. Their advice was to not stop and camp for the next 100 miles: too many criminals, drugs, and all around bad people.

With their advice, I chose a motel, 9 miles up I-15. They actually advised me to stay off of the interstate and to take a washboard dirt road, which would be an extra 5 miles. I listened to half of their advice.  I stayed on Route 66 for 7.5 miles before it merged with I-15. Old Route 66 ran next to the newer road and was sectioned off, so I had the entire two lanes all to myself. Occasionally a rogue car would break off and zoom by me. I wondered what made them so much more important than the cars marching slowly up the hills. Route 66 was bumper to bumper, and at times I was moving faster then the cars. Two people actually offered my bottled water out of their cars, but I had topped off at the firestation. Another plus for California drivers!

I was climbing up Route 66 in my 4th gear (remember I only have 10 gears now). I was thankful for going East rather than West because I had a light wind behind me the whole way. I could feel it pushing and cheering me forward. Transitioning to I-15 I had to drop into my 2nd gear. I have yet to use my 1st gear. It was 1.5 miles from the start of I-15 to the hotel exit. I know, because I set a route, and yet I still missed it. I remember seeing a sign that read “Best Western next exit”, but I never saw the exit. On the interstate there was no safe way of turning around so I just kept pedalling.

There were four lanes of North bound traffic, five if you counted me. The big trucks were in the lane next to me and usually that can be scary, but they were having as much trouble with the grade as I was. I held a steady 4.5 mph and them about 20. I’d feel my legs getting slow and then I’d hear a pattern of honks and some guy waving out the window encouragement. I had constant encouragement from the cars going by. Twice I found a place to pull over to catch my breath, shake out the legs and take some photos. If you look at the map you can see a false summit. False summits are the worst, and what is worse is I looked at the topo and new about the false summit before going up. At the real summit I stopped, took a breath, and looked back at the conquered mountain.

I earned seven miles of all down hill to the next town. I barely pedalled. I also hopped off of I-15 and onto a local road for those seven miles. At the hotel, I dropped my bike off with the front desk and walked across to the Chipotle. I can’t pass up Chipotle. Not sure if it was the sun or my fatigued muscles, but I could hardly eat. I wrapped most of my bowl up and took it to the hotel for later.


Looking back, it was a good day. I pushed through the pain, climbed a mountain, and got more miles than I had intended. There was some bad.  While I was on Route 66 I heard a sharp twang and instinctively stopped. I had never heard that noise before. It sounded like something under tension snapping. I had broken a spoke, my first broken spoke. I removed it, tucked it away and kept riding. On the descent on the local road I heard another twang, and removed my second broken spoke. At a stoplight I had a sympathetic moment with a motorist who had a bearing going out. I could hear his screaching and he could see my wobble.