Rough day. Couldn’t make much progress and had to bail in Imperial.
I don’t know if you know this, but there is a mountain range dividing San Diego from the rest of the country. I learned this today. I only had about 130 miles left, which I figured would be about two days of riding, but once I looked a little further on the map I realized why the biking time estimates on Google maps seemed so much higher than they usually were, I had a whole mountain range to climb over. This was a bit discouraging, I thought that the mountains in New Mexico were going to be the only serious climb in the trip. Probably should have looked at the maps a little closer.
This was another situation where I didn’t really have a solid plan. The official route takes you through Calexico which would add more southerly miles to my trip. By this point I was dead-set on getting to San Diego so I started to plan my own route. Again, there were very few options for lodging within the range I wanted to bike. I wanted to head to Jacumba Hot Springs which was about 65 miles away, but it required riding on I-8 which Google wouldn’t even let me navigate through in bicycle mode. I checked it out on street view and the highway looked manageable so I set off.
The Jacumba Hot Springs Spa is one of the highlights of the Southern Tier bike route. Many accounts from riding this route include a passage lauding how much the hot springs helped a rider’s aching muscles and rejuvenated them with a newfound energy to continue their journey. It is closed during the winter. Ironic, you’d think that’s when it would be needed most.
I filled up on the complimentary breakfast in Brawley and headed out. Immediately I was buffeted by gusts of the strongest wind I had ever experienced. The winds were coming at me from the west, but luckily I was moving perpendicular to them, south to Imperial where I would turn west and start riding on the highway. I was nearly knocked off of my bike a few times but made it the 10 miles to Imperial and celebrated with a donut.
Things soon took a turn for the worst when I started heading west. The winds picked up and I was now pedaling directly into 45mph winds with 60mph gusts. My bike is not exactly designed for aerodynamics so the wind would stop me dead in my tracks. The wind was so brutal that even when I would put all of my body weight on one side of the pedals I would still be locked in place by the wind blowing in my face. I began to learn why this route is supposed to be ridden from west to east and not east to west as I was doing it.
I tried as hard as I could to push through the wind, but it was unceasing in literally pushing me backward. After getting knocked off my bike a few times I cursed God and turned around (if you look at the map in the ride info you can see exactly where I got blown off my bike and turned around). Out of all the weather I’ve had to deal with, the wind is the worst. There’s nothing you can do about it. If it rains I put on my jacket, if it’s cold or it starts snowing I have warm clothes and gloves. If there’s wind, there’s nothing I can do but bear the difficulty of having to resist this invisible force that is surrounding and opposing me.
Riding back to Imperial, however, was a joy, I didn’t even have to pedal. I held out my jacket and made myself into a giant sail that carried me back to town. I decided I was going to have to hole up in Imperial for a little bit until the wind died down so I had to find a motel.
I rode to a place that was close by, but the receptionist told me he was completely booked. I asked him if there were any other places I could go, and we started talking about my trip and how the wind had taken me hostage. He ended up helping me out, apparently there was a suite that he usually saves for some special customer, but he said he’d let me stay there for the price of a regular room. I was so happy I didn’t even mind having to drag my bike up the flight of stairs. The room was awesome.
It was only about midday so I had some time to kill. I went for a walk to get some food and check out the town. I noticed there was a carnival and an airport nearby, both completely deserted because of the wind. I went to a convenience store to get some snacks, then got some food at a mexican restaurant.
While I was out walking I had my first experience with a haboob, something I had never heard about before. It’s just a fun word for a massive dust storm.
You can see the massive wall of dust coming towards us from the west on the horizon. I promise it looks more formidable in person, I was awestruck by the sheer scale of the advancing wave of dust. It made me very glad I decided to turn around because I would have biked straight into the storm.
I feasted for a while and then did some planning for my next few days. I wasn’t much closer to San Diego, still about 120 miles. I went to bed praying the wind storm would die down so I can keep riding tomorrow. Otherwise, I face the choice of staying in Imperial for a few days until it blows over or finding another way over the mountains.
I’ll just have to sleep on it.