Tag Archives: route 66

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.

Descending from Cajon

The night before I decided to do a load of laundry, which consisted of my shirt, shorts, and bib. It had been three days of wearing the same clothes and I thought it warranted a cleaning. To wash the clothes I fill the bathtub with warm water and dump in a bottle of shampoo. After swishing it around a bit and giving it a scrub with the soap bar the bath water turned a mucky brown. Drain the tub, rinse the clothes, soak, and rinse again. Hang dry in front of the the A/C.

The closest bike shop didn’t open until 10 AM and was only a few miles away, so I got a late start. Studying the area the night before I came across the California Earth Institute. Not open at the time, but I got a glimpse of some of their buildings from the road.

The first bike shop did not have my spokes, but recommended another bike shop in Victorville. This one, I called first before going there. It was several more miles down the road, but in the general direction that I was heading. I got there about 1:00 and the owner said her mechanic just went to lunch and probably wouldn’t get my wheel fixed until 2:30. Not much I could do but wait. She recommended a burger place in the same shopping center and described it as “the bomb”. Burger joints and me don’t usually get along, but this place truly was “the bomb”. I got a handmade veggie burger with a portabella mushroom and avocado slices, and a full plate of breaded zucchini. I could only finish the burger and wrapped the zucchini up for dinner. I stayed there blogging until nearly three when the shop text me.

Forty miles to go and it was nearly 4:00 before I got on my way. It was mostly downhill with the occasional mound to cross and I had a strong Westerly helping me along. This section of Route 66 was full of contrasts in means. I saw two plywood and tin settlements that reminded me of the temporary housing near construction sights in China. Other properties had two story victorian homes and lush green lawns. I got caught by a tourist trap not too far down the road.

The highlight was the Bottle Tree Ranch. I got to speak to the owner and artist who had been there for 17 years. He said that he and his father would collect bottles and scrap along the route. When his father passed he inherited the collection and started the Bottle Tree Ranch. As I stood there talking to him I noticed a humming bird zipping around and he said he had just put out fresh water in their feeders and they were hungry. He also said if I stood real still I might catch a photo. I crept to where a few feeders hung, ready with the camera to catch the birds. Four sometimes six were playing around the feeders, but mostly on the other side, until a pretty red male dared to come to my side. He didn’t seem to mind me standing just feet from him.

It was a cool 70 degrees, but the sun was mostly on my left side and I could feel the burn on my skin. I stopped a couple times to re-apply sunscreen and finally decided to use the UV sleeves I brought: one on my left arm and one on my left leg. I must have looked odd to the occassional car going by.

Between the wind and descending elevation I kept an easy 15-18 mph pace. I stayed in my 9th gear for most of the day. Besides the few mounds, which I sweated up, I only had to pedal every minute or so. That was mostly just to keep my legs from cramping up from sitting too long.

I flew into Barstow about 7:30 and as soon as I crossed the city line I was stopped by a cop. I must have been speeding, because that was the only law I could have broken. The cop just wanted to make sure I wasn’t lost and wanted to check out the touring rig. He was a fellow cyclist! He said he would ride West into the wind and then let it carry him back home. Leaving him it was just a matter of finding a place to stay for the night.