Today is a very big day, last night I realized while talking to some friends that there’s only 300 miles left until San Diego. This is also the sole part of the route that necessitates riding on the interstate. There are only a few ways to cross the Colorado river and all of the other ones would add precious miles to my route, as it stands I will be riding my bike in the breakdown lane of I-10. If all goes well today, I will pass into California, the final state on my journey, another thing making this a red letter day.
I woke up and treated myself to some oranges from the tree next to my camp. Only a few times have I had the chance to eat something picked straight out of the earth, it always has this kind of pastoral charm to it, you feel like you’re in a storybook. The fruit’s never any good, but the freshness of a fruit that was just picked seems to counteract the lack of sex appeal that the stuff in the supermarket has. That being said, these oranges were actually very good.
When I was in the Black Range Lodge in New Mexico, I read this pseudoscientific book about how you can communicate with plants, even across the earth. Maybe the fact that the plant gets a chance to know you when you pick your own food is part of why it tastes better.
The plan for today was to head to a small campsite on the side of the road in Palo Verde, California, about 80 miles away. The word campsite might be a little too generous. The southwestern part of California is pretty barren, and there were no real campsites or motels in range on my route. I found a fishing spot on Google maps with some reviews that said people had camped overnight, so I figured that would be my best bet for lodging.
The only chance I would have to restock on food and water were a couple of gas stations on the way, so I had to make sure to fill up. I didn’t just have to worry about having water for the night, tomorrow I’m looking at about 60 miles of pure desert ahead of me with nowhere to fill up. No stores, no buildings, just desert.
I headed off to take a shower, you run some serious risks if you don’t take care of hygiene on the road and I had a lot of riding to do. This was one of the nicer showers I’d been in at a campground, unfortunately it was only a thin wall away from all the other campers eating breakfast and playing cards.
While I was packing up my camp I started talking to a father and his son staying in their RV at the camp. The father said he used to live in Flagstaff, my ultimate destination after San Diego, where I would begin my new job. We talked a little bit about my trip. He was pretty impressed, but his son didn’t really seem interested. It always makes me laugh when I tell someone what I’m doing and they are completely nonplussed. I like encountering a person for whom nothing at all is really that impressive, it gives you a good perspective.
I started riding. Some friends from college had been planning an all-day video game competition that was happening today over Discord, so I got to have some company while I rode. I didn’t get too much chance to talk, though, apparently the road noise made it impossible to hear anything. My friends told me later they were anticipating some screaming followed by a squish noise the whole time I was on the call riding on the highway.
A lot more desert riding until I hit I-10, merging onto the highway on a bicycle felt like one of the most absurd things I’ve ever done. You know how you speed up to get into a lane on the highway? Imagine slowly pedaling up the onramp on a 90 pound bicycle while cars fly by you at 80 miles an hour. I got one or two flats while I was on the highway. In the breakdown lane there’s a ton of thin steel wire that comes out of the truck tires when they get a blowout, it wrecked havoc on my tires.
While riding down the highway, I came to an offramp that I had to pass to continue on the highway. For a car, a highway exit is no big deal, but on a bike you are playing chicken with every car trying to get off the highway at 60 miles an hour. I pedaled to where the offramp was narrowest and tried to push off to cross the road, but my bike was giving me a lot of resistance. I quickly got off my bike and dragged it the rest of the way through the road. Once again, in the middle of the offramp, my rear tire had become unseated from its mount and was stuck in place against the frame, acting as a brake as I was trying to get out of the way of traffic.
I messed with the brakes for a while until I realized what the actual problem was, and then I was back on my way. Luckily most of the ride was downhill so any frustration quickly faded.
Still on the highway, I crossed the Colorado river, and soon after hit the California border.
I passed through the border patrol checkpoint with no problems and continued on my way. I still had a little ways to go before my camp. I restocked food and water at a gas station, and headed through some farmland as the sun started to go down. California was not as glamorous as I’ve been led to believe.
I got to the campsite as it was getting dark, it turned out to be just an old electrical shed, but I found some shelter to set up my tent under. I talked to my friends about how their event went and passed out.