Day 100: June 30, 2007
Phoenix to Wickenburg, Arizona
Distance: 83 miles in 5 hours and 44 minutes
Total: 3810 miles
My little cycling computer that measures speed and distance actually overheated.
Thanks to Bob Beane, Dan Muchow, and Rick of Javelina Cycles - all of
whom cycled with me last time I was in Phoenix - for riding with me today and voluntarily subjecting themselves to brain-melting,
egg-frying, blood-boiling heat.
Thanks also to Benson Chu for reserving a hotel room for me in
Wickenburg (an interesting little town by the way) and for picking up
Day 101: July 1, 2007
Wickenburg to Quartzsite, Arizona
Distance: 95 miles in 7 hours and 16 minutes
Total: 3905 miles
114 degrees to be exact.
Got sunburned in areas I've never been sunburned before, including my
fingers and the backs of my knees.
Bob Beane advised me that I would have tailwinds in the morning and headwinds in the afternoon. This was completely accurate. As the day dragged on, not only did it get hotter, but the wind managed to cut my speed in half. It's supposed to get even hotter during the week.
Starting to understand why I am not seeing too many other cyclists -
or even motorcyclists - in these parts. Lukcily, I will be in
California soon, and after some hot days there I can look forward to
cooler weather as I approach the coast.
The Quartzsite Yacht Club and Motel caught my eye as I finally rolled into town at the hottest part of the day. There didn't seem to be much in the way of yachts or even water in the vicinity. The receptionist
remarked that the owner is expecting California will have "the big
one" before too long and he's hoping that this will be prime
beachfront property. The motel is actually a trailer park, and as I
walked inside my trailer for the evening, I began to wonder why
anybody would ever buy an actual house
when they could live in a cozy trailer instead. It's like a bike, but bigger. Your neighbors are sure to be interesting, with frequent and
entertaining parties, you have more privacy than you would in an
apartment, and when you get bored of the scenery or if property taxes
get out of hand, you just drive your domicile to another location. As
long as you don't leave your home in 'neutral' during a storm, I can't see a downside. Forget these outrageous housing prices. Get the trailer. It seems like a no-brainer to me.
Day 102: July 2, 2007
Quartzsite, Arizona to Palo Verde, California
Distance: 44 miles in 3 hours and 41 minutes
Total: 3949 miles
Kicked the day off with a flat tire while riding on I-10 during the
first 30 minutes of the trip. Nothing like changing a tire on the
shoulder of the interstate with no shade while trucks whiz past you at
70 miles an hour. Meanwhile, the sun was getting higher in the sky and
I was beginning to wonder if I should have spent another night at the
cozy Quartzsite Yacht Club.
At least I had the excitement of crossing the California border to
look forward to. The Colorado River, which marks the border between
the two states, looked so inviting that I had to restrain myself from
jumping into it.
The first California town I rolled into was Blythe, an underwhelming town that had a 'going out of business' feel about it. Although the heat was approaching heatstroke level, I decided to push on to Palo Verde, a dot on the map with about 200 people. And as a desperate way
to keep cool, I played the Christmas song 'Feliz Navidad' about 5 or 6
times on my iPod. Also hummed 'O Holy Night' repeatedly and most of
the Christmas carols I could think of. Did it help? Absolutely not.
But at least it kept my mind occupied for a while.
Palo Verde has one motel and one bar. They are right next to each other and owned by the same people. Ted, one of the owners, called me
an oddity because he hadn't seen any other cyclists come through there
for about four weeks. Luckily,there was a vacancy at the motel, and I
was happy to take it since I didn't relish the thought of camping in
115 degree heat. I asked several of the folks in the bar why they
would live in such an inferno and I was surprised to hear that some of
moved there from places such as L.A. and Ireland because they
genuinely liked this little town, located about a mile from the
Colorado River. During the cooler months, the town fills up with
fishermen and folks interested in water sports.
Everybody I met was friendly, and also interested in my cycling trip, though they were confused about my timing. It turns out that the first week of July is often the hottest part of the year, and it's not uncommon for the thermometer to hit the 120s. Maybe I should have gotten here a little earlier!
Day 103: July 3, 2007
Palo Verde to El Centro Naval Air Facility, California
Distance: 92.5 miles in 7 hours and 12 minutes
Total: 4041 miles
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Wait 30 minutes. Open oven door. Stick
head inside oven. Serve with caesar salad and au gratin potatoes.
The 70 miles between Palo Verde and Brawley are the most barren, harsh, and hostile I've seen on the entire trip. No services
whatsoever except for one lonely grocery store in the middle of that
As one of the truckers in Palo Verde accurately and ominously put it:"You're a victim out there."
There are eight things you definitely don't want on a cycling trip. I had them all this morning: heat, steep rolling hills, wind, trucks, no shade, more trucks, narrow shoulders, and a flat tire. Two flat tires in two days was starting to take the joy
out of cycling in 110+ temperatures. Especially since I had spent a
couple of hours the previous night thoroughly checking out the bike
my tires. The city of El Centro has a bike shop and I would try to get
there by the end of the day since they would probably be closed for
A few miles out of Brawley, my odometer passed 4000 miles. This felt
like a small victory, though I quickly reminded myself that if I had skipped all my sidetrips I would have arrived in San Diego about 900 miles ago, and certainly with more favorable weather. Well, I enjoyed all my sidetrips, especially the one to Colorado, so
I'm not going to worry about the extra miles.
Also around this time - and about the same time I was cycling through
the impressive sand dunes near the microscopic town of Glamis - I
received a phone call from Dick Rogers, who will be cycling with me
from El Centro to San Diego. He is a retired Army Colonel, a 1959
graduate of West Point, and a dedicated cyclist. For his 45th class
reunion, Dick and his wife rode a tandem bike from Seattle all the way
to West Point! I am grateful that Dick decided to join me for this
difficult stretch, which involves scorching heat and the steep
Imperial Mountains. For people who are not familiar with what it's
like to cycle over this terrain and in this weather, let's just say
that this is a huge undertaking on Dick's part. I think most people
wouldn't even do something like this for a family member, unless maybe
it was an emergency. I'm impressed!
I got to Finish Line Bikes in El Centro by 3pm, and Monty and Brian checked out my bike thoroughly. My beloved Armadillo tires, which I had picked up in Del Rio, Texas,
were wearing out after 1500 miles of hard riding. The heat was taking
its toll on them as well. Unless I wanted to get more flats, it was
time for new tires. Brian also installed a new seat (I wore my seat
out too), lubed the chain, and adjusted my brakes and gears. Other
than these items, the bike is holding up really well considering I've
been on it since March 23rd.
El Centro lies near sea level in the hot Imperial Valley and it wasn't getting cooler anytime soon - tomorrow's forecast predicted 119 - so I
said my bike shop goodbyes to the guys and pedaled toward the Navy
Base about seven miles west of town. Since Dick has retired military
status, he was able to get us a room at the BOQ (Bachelor Officer's
Quarters). He met me at the gate, signed me in, and then we went to
get something to eat. For much of the day, I had pedaled in view of
the Chocolate Mountains - no joke, that's really their name - and
after seeing their name on my map and looking at them for several
hours, I was determined to get my
greasy paws on the largest, Texas-sized, acne-inducing, Hershey's
Special Dark Chocolate Bar that I could find. Sadly, the small shop on
the Navy Base didn't carry anything of the kind so I had to console
myself with a Three Musketeers bar, two brownies, a fudge roundie,
dried banana chips, a honey bun, toffee covered peanuts, and a
footlong roast beef and provolone sub. I was grateful to get them.
Day 104: July 4th, 2007
El Centro to Pine Valley, California
Distance: 69 miles in 7 hours and 22
Total: 4110 miles
Several hard climbs of 1000 to 4000 feet up the Imperial Mountains, and, as you probably guessed, it ain't sweater weather.
Happy 4th of July!
Definitely one of the more challenging days of the trip. I was
grateful that Dick Rogers, 30 years my senior, joined me for this
segment. Not only was it inspiring to see him conquer these steep
mountains, but he also had the good sense to take frequent rest stops
and get away from the heat. The amount of shady areas we came across
were few and far between, but Dick encouraged me to stop at them to
take a rest and drink water. If I was on my own, I probably would have stopped less often, thereby increasing my chances of becoming a heat
In the last few miles of the cycling day, we came across a border
patrol checkpoint. The officers took pity on us and let us sit in the
shade under their tent for a half hour or so. One of them was a Navy
veteran, and we chatted about the border patrol service and the
challenges they face these days. I was amazed by how young these guys
looked, but I guess once you get to a certain age, everybody starts to
We pulled into Pine Valley late in the afternoon, literally on our
last legs. We had started the day close to sea level, and Pine
Valley's elevation was more than 3700 feet. In between, we had endured
several climbs and drops of at least 2000 feet. The worst of the heat was behind us, and we had survived the Imperial Mountains at one of the hottest times of the year. I really feel like I earned my chicken
fried steak tonight.
Day 105: July 5th, 2007
Pine Valley to San Diego, California
Distance: 53.6 miles in 3 hours and 57 minutes
Total: 4164 miles
ARRIVAL IN SAN DIEGO!!!
We enjoyed a mostly downhill ride from Pine Valley through Alpine, and
into San Diego. We left the heat behind, and it was almost cool coming
down some of the hills. What's that I see in the distance...?? No, not
the ocean...not the Doritos truck I was stalking in Safford, Arizona.
But...clouds! Beautiful, wondrous, fluffy clouds! Never thought I
would be so happy to have a cloudy, overcast day, but if any of you
have ever spent any time in Phoenix in July, you will understand the
enchanting, heart-stopping beauty of seeing a cloud for the first time
in a while.
Dick and I rode west through San Diego along Mission Gorge Road, which
went right by Sea World and dumped us into Ocean Beach, also known as
Dog Beach. This was one of the first beaches in America where dogs
were allowed to roam freely without leashes. Dick and I snapped a few
photos of the beach, and I dipped my front wheel into the water. We
were hoping to ride with some of the Marines into Camp Pendleton, but
they were given the week off by their commanders - a break they surely
deserve since some of them will probably be in Iraq and Afghanistan in
a few months. Hopefully, I will get to ride with several of the
Marines next week. Stay tuned and I will let you know how that goes.
I'm sure it will be another highlight of the journey.
"So,what are you going to do now?" Dick asked me. "Figure out what I'm
going to do with the rest of my life. Maybe get some Chinese food
first. Nothing like some beef lo mein to help you see the road ahead."
I find that going out for Chinese really does provide clarity and
allows me to keep things in perspective when I am faced with a major
dilemma or life crisis.
Instead, we found a place that specializes in fish burritos, and it
was a perfect way to end the trip. No, we didn't have a crowd of
greeters or a parade to cheer us as we finished the journey at Ocean
Beach. But we did have our burritos and some spectacular cloud cover,
and managed to complete the journey without any real problems. Lots of great memories and nothing to really complain about.
So...who wants to ride to Vancouver?
Statue in Wickenburg, Arizona
Getting closer to California
A resident of Aguila takes a well-deserved break
from the heat
Welcome to the middle of nowhere, Arizona.
Maricopa County is probably bigger than some countries.
It took me two days and more than 120 miles to reach
the end of it.
Wenden, Arizona. A town noted for its hospitality.
Someday when California has "the big one", the Quartzsite Yacht Club will be an oceanside resort.
My cozy little trailer at the Quartzsite Yacht Club
(and trailer park)
SPF100!! The ideal sunblock for thermonuclear war, cycling solo across the Arizona desert in July, and other post-apocalyptic scenarios. Try some today!! Cycling jersey provided by Bob Beane of the Phoenix Metro Bicycle Club.
Phil is a cyclist from California who is on his way to Las Vegas.
The Colorado River marks the border between Arizona and California.
I pedaled a total of 3923 miles - including sidetrips - to reach the California border. My tail was definitely wagging when I saw this sign.
Blythe, California. Many of the shops and businesses were shut down. Guess this town has seen better days.
Even the Ripley Fire Station is getting in on the trailer craze!
114 and rising in Palo Verde. No problemo. Say hello to my little friend: SPF100.
Beginning of the dreaded
70-mile stretch of harsh terrain between Palo Verde
and Brawley, California.
The Chocolate Mountains
are in the distance.
Sand dunes near Glamis
I have no idea where Oceanside is but sure like
the sound of it.
Daybreak at the US Navy base in El Centro, California. It's not just a job...it's a really, really, really hot place to spend 2 years. Try to get stationed in Honolulu if you can.
Dick Rogers pedals his way up the Imperial Mountains. The first part of the day involved a tough 4000 foot climb over the course of 12 miles.
Getting closer to San Diego!!
The fence marks the border between the USA and Mexico - near Jacumba.
Resting in the shade with Border Patrol officers at their checkpoint. Happy 4th of July!!
End of the Southern Tier
cycling route - Ocean Beach, California. I was happy to have a cloudy, overcast day
after the past week of relentless heat.
Dick Rogers and I enjoy some beach time in San Diego after our mostly downhill ride from Pine Valley. Shortly afterwards, we celebrated our arrival with some fish burritos.
Seaport Village in San Diego
Only a few miles from Mexico, this is the most southern beach in California.