U.S. 360 Tour II – Final Thoughts and Desert Goodbyes

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

Out of the Desert and Into the Sun!
Out of the Desert and Into the Sun!

 

Well, the desert Southwest is now behind me. Stick a fork in it, hasta luego, goodnight sweet prince, and there are probably some other colloquials I could use. Honestly, while I was overjoyed to finally “dip my front wheel” in the Pacific, I am a bit melancholy at having completed my tour through the Great Southwest. It’s probably worth repeating that I love this region. Having been born and raised on the eastern portion of it, and having spent the better part of my life exploring it, it feels like home when I’m in it. While I’m sure the balance of my U.S. 360 Tour will bring awesome adventure, I’m pretty sure there will not be anything quite like this part of the U.S., and I will surely miss it.

People

The folks in this most far-reaching southwestern section on the Southern Tier, while probably not as colorful as the Austin Texas to Phoenix Arizona tour, were wonderful people nonetheless. I cannot remember a stop anywhere on the tour where we didn’t converse with the locals. Everywhere we went, there was great interest in what we were doing on our bikes, loaded with gear and water. While some spectators would roll their eyes upon hearing the details of our journey, most were inquisitive and listened in wonderment as we detailed our trip. Notable personalities included a couple of Warmshowers’ hosts (Nancy, Bill & Theresa), and an eastbound cyclist named Matthew that we camped with in Wickenberg Arizona. Speaking of eastbound cyclists, I believe we passed about five in total, fewer than the last trip, but not unexpected given the lateness in the year, and the impending colder weather.

Places

Two places on this tour are worth highlighting, both strikingly different geological regions, and both quite spectacular. The first was the Imperial Sand Dunes in California, near the Arizona border. The sand dune field is approximately 45 miles long by six miles wide, and in a word, is spectacular. It is the largest sand dune ecosystem in the United States, and apparently it is unique on a global scale. The sand is white like beach sand, and the perennial wind in the area creates huge drifts that rival any snow drifts I’ve ever seen. The second interesting place on this tour was the Jacumba Mountain range (pronounced “Yacumba”), east of San Diego, sitting ominously between the westbound cyclist and the tour’s end at the Pacific Ocean. The mountain range begins, at it’s base, literally below sea level and rises to well over 4000 feet, over a 15-20 mile stretch. The elevation gain over such a short period, along with the jagged rocks and no vegetation, creates an inspiring backdrop and a somewhat intimidating obstacle.

Route, Roads & Terrain

On this trip, there were three climbs worth noting, all toward the end (assuming you’re traveling westbound) of the route. The first, and easily the most challenging, was the climb mentioned above into the Jacumba mountain range. The climb starts on Interstate 8 in Ocotillo CA, and finishes in the small town of Jacumba CA. While only 16 miles, the elevation gain is significant (averaging 6-8% grade), but luckily the road and shoulder are stellar. The other two climbs, while shorter, are still challenging and are just beyond Jacumba near the towns of Live Oak Springs and Pine Valley. After Pine Valley, the remainder of the trip is an exhilarating downhill glide into San Diego.

The roads on this section of the Southern Tier were generally good. U.S 60, California State Highway 78, and “Old Highway 80” dominated much of the ride. Shoulders were typically good, and if not, traffic was light enough not to cause too many issues. Easily the worst section of road on the tour was a 20 mile stretch of State 80 between El Centro California and Ocotillo California. In fact, it was possibly the worst paved road I’ve ever ridden. Potholes, pavement cracking, and failing base all proved to be a real pain in the ass. After riding a couple of miles on this mess, we decided to turn around and ride a parallel section of I-8 between these two towns. I would mention that there were “No Bicycle” signs posted on this section of the Interstate, but we didn’t have any problems with law enforcement.

One other thing I would mention is the excellent bike paths on this tour. Our starting point (Phoenix AZ) and ending point (San Diego CA) had a marvelous section of bikeways that were much fun. In San Diego, the Mission Trails Bike Path was the highlight of the city. It bypasses a busy, intercity highway and navigates directly through the Mission Gorge, a beautiful area with magnificent canyons and vistas.

Weather

The timing of this trip was well-planned. Given the summer temperatures in parts of the Arizona and California deserts that are well into the 110’s F and beyond, and dangerous Santa Ana winds that typically prevail from West to East, I gave much thought to the timing window for this trip. I chose November because of the cooler (not frigid) temperatures, and typically less wind. One word of caution about the wind. It really is a game of statistics. While the winds are not as easterly this time of year according to weather histories, there were days that we saw howling forecasts. Luckily, we couldn’t have asked for better weather overall. The wind was seldom a huge issue, and the daytime temperatures were mostly mild, with some mid-afternoons on the warm side, and some nights in the desert a bit chilly.

Three Things I Learned from this Journey

1. Logistics isn’t just for UPS

Going in, I knew this tour was going to be a precursor of things to come, at least from a logistical point of view. Given that we had to ship bikes from Austin to Phoenix, unpack them on location, assemble them with tools we packed, ride them to the destination point, find bike boxes, disassemble them on location, ship them from San Diego to Austin, and reassemble them upon return, things had to be planned to an excruciating level of detail. Not to say that it was overly burdensome, but I would say that I learned a TON about logistical details that cannot be overlooked when your tour’s starting point and finishing point are not your home base. I’m not usually an explicit product endorser, but ShipBikes.com, Fedex, and Performance Bicycle Shop all made life much, much easier. If you’re interested in the details to facilitate your own remote tour, shoot me a quick email and I’ll be happy to bore you with the details.

2. Traveling with a Friend: a First, but not the Last

My first tour was somewhat of an independent affair, and I loved the solitude and flexibility that came with it. This time around, a good friend and cycling buddy, Jim, tagged along with me. There wasn’t much risk of conflict or imposition since I’ve known Jim for years, and we are quite compatible as riding and workout buddies. I enjoyed the conversation, the seemingly constant hijinks, and the company. Of notable mention was Jim’s never-ending supply of “performance” food. The guy came to my rescue more than a few times, when I was physically depleted, with a blinding array of protein bars, shot blocks, Goo, and other stuff that would make our local bike shop supply shelf look barren by comparison. I appreciated Jim and would not hesitate to tour with him again. I do also enjoy riding solo, and look forward to a mix of both over the next many tours.

3. When in Rome, Do What the Romans Do – But Not Always

I am not a steak and potatoes man. Actually, I’m a vegetarian, and I do very much enjoy eating local fare and trying new things. But on occasion, I can take that too far. While visiting Blythe CA, I went to a local restaurant, with no recommendation or positive reviews from the locals, to eat a very spicy cuisine that historically hasn’t sat well with me, if you know what I mean. I knew better, I knew my limitations, but I didn’t listen to my better judgement. I woke up the next morning, on the precipice of not being able to ride, and after making an investment at a local pharmacy, at least got to the point that I could consider sitting in a saddle. The day luckily turned out to be a short ride, and the other elements (weather, terrain, etc.) turned out to be non-threatening, so I made it to the destination without incident. I was lucky, and I will remember to be a bit more conservative with local food selection in the future.

Giving Destinations

A few years ago, as I began to form the basis for my goals related to long-distance cycling, I documented my intent to raise awareness and funding for two high-performing causes, noted below. If you have enjoyed reading this journal, and if you believe in these causes, I would ask you to consider supporting them, even in small way. I’ve provided direct links to the organizations below. I really do appreciate it.

The National Brain Tumor Society, a non-profit organization inspiring hope and providing leadership within the brain tumor community. They exist to find a cure and improve the quality of life for those affected by brain tumors. They fund strategic research, deliver support services, and promote collaboration;

American Rivers, a non-profit organization focused on healing North American waterways by removing dams, setting up “Wild and Scenic” designations which preserve rivers as free-flowing, and working with municipalities to push measures to prevent polluted urban runoff from reaching watersheds.

Thank You’s

Thanks to my bride of 28-and-a-half years, my three boys (aka Luke, J.R., Will), my good friend and fellow cycling tourer Jim Hinkel, eastbound cyclist Matthew for his inspiration, and our Warmshowers hosts, who were absolute life-savers (well, maybe not life-savers, but doggone close).

U.S. 360 Continues

So, what’s next on this Journey Around the American Perimeter? I’m so excited about riding on the Pacific Coast Route that I’ve already bought the necessary maps! If my plan holds, I’ll probably tour the section from San Diego CA to San Francisco CA next. I’m convinced the scenery and terrain will be spectacular, and premier camping spots plentiful. I’ll be researching the weather patterns soon, but I’m hoping for a Spring 2014 start. Interestingly, I’ve already spoken to a number of seasoned veterans who suggest riding North to South on this section due to the prevailing winds, so I’m contemplating beginning in ‘Frisco and riding towards Baja Mexico. Keep your eye out for another journal soon!

Until next time,

It’s All Good

It's All Good
It’s All Good

 

U.S. 360 Tour II – Day 31 from Lakeside CA to San Diego/Ocean Beach CA (Go West Young Man, Until You Can Go No Farther)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

36 miles (58 km) – Total so far: 1,580 miles (2,543 km)

A relatively short ride today, all things considered, but no less invigorating. We left the campground in Lakeside knowing this trip’s final destination was well within our grasp, but also sober to the fact that we had lots of logistics to deal with upon our arrival.

Most of today’s ride meandered through San Diego’s expansive suburbs, passing through relatively low-traffic areas, but also leveraging the expansive bike trail system in the city. The most notable bike path was a 2.5 mile stretch which passed through the spectacular Mission Gorge. This bi-directional, dedicated bikeway was incredible, navigating us through an amazing canyon with breathtaking views around every turn.

Something that struck Jim and I today were the number of cyclists in the city. From the beginning of the ride, literally until we stopped, there was a constant stream of cyclists. The vast majority of them acknowledged us as we slogged by them with our gear, our sunburns, and our resolve, most of them wise to the fact that we had come a long way to enjoy this moment.

The road angels of the day will be awarded to yours truly and Jim. We approached a young man jogging with his bicycle, obviously due to a flat tire, with a panicked look on his face. Upon asking him what ailed him, the guy told us he was two days away from his destination with no equipment to fix his flat. We postponed our ultimate goal to assist this person, made easy by the fact that we both carry enough tools and equipment to open a bicycle repair shop. Even though it cost us valuable time, we felt obliged to assist another cyclist in need.

As we got closer to the final goal, Ocean Beach, we were caught up in the simplicity of the final moments. Jim and I were both uncharacteristically reserved, with only thoughts of rotating our cranks, one at a time, until we could crank no further. The only levity on the final few miles was when a young man on a bike whizzed past us in the opposite direction, hands dangling by his sides, balancing his bike with no hands. Jim immediately grumbled “show-off” under his voice, at which point I released my handlebars the same way, balancing myself, Surly Pearl, and 50 lbs of gear with no hands to call the “young gun’s” hand and raise him a little in the process. Punk.

We arrived at our final destination, Ocean Beach, and with nowhere else to pedal, we unloaded our panniers, carried our bikes to the water’s edge for the wheel-dipping ceremony, and celebrated with little fanfare. We each reflected for a moment, enjoying the seabreeze and taking mental snapshots that will assuredly last a lifetime. Then, it was time to execute the logistics for our return trip to Austin.

It’s All Good.

Jim leaving the campground in Lakeside CA.
Jim leaving the campground in Lakeside CA.
Surly Pearl enjoying the Mission Gorge Bike Trail.
Surly Pearl enjoying the Mission Gorge Bike Trail.
Selfie on the Mission Gorge Bike Trail
Selfie on the Mission Gorge Bike Trail
Our new friends appreciative of our bike repair service in San Diego.
Our new friends appreciative of our bike repair service in San Diego.
End of the line.  Wheel dipping ceremony in the great Pacific.  Way to go Brian!
End of the line. Wheel dipping ceremony in the great Pacific. Way to go Brian!
Jim with a  nice accomplishment of his own.
Jim with a nice accomplishment of his own.
A (temporary) end to the Journey.  Brian and Jim, friends with a common thread.
A (temporary) end to the Journey. Brian and Jim, friends with a common thread.

U.S. 360 Tour II – Day 30 from Jacumba CA to Lakeside CA (A Tale of Two Rides)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

56 miles (90 km) – Total so far: 1,544 miles (2,485 km)

This is a day that we took two rides, together totaling 58 miles. The day started at the Jacumba Spa and Resort after an altogether too-brief respite. The first 30 miles west consisted of four separate climbs, each in the 1000 foot range (give or take). After each climb, we would coast down the other side of the mountain, giving much of our gain away. The peak of the last climb crested at somewhere around 4100 feet, but due to the up-and-down nature of the day’s ride, we certainly accumulated much more than that!

The second ride we took today, after the peak of the last mountain, was the complete inverse of the morning ride. We coasted at speeds in the 25-30+ mph range for most of the balance of the day, whooshing through pine valleys and small towns without even slowing down. By the end of the day’s downhill, we had given up almost all of the altitude we struggled so hard to accumulate over the last two days, but we gladly burned it up just to enjoy the adrenalin rush and the beautiful scenery.

We passed through the towns of Pine Valley, Alpine, and Lakeside, our camping spot for tonight. Of notable mention today was Pine Valley’s Major Coffee Shop. This place was outstanding! An old style coffee shop replete with ’50’s paraphernalia, and food that hit the spot after a hard morning’s climb.

Tomorrow we dip our tires in the Pacific. Stay tuned!

It’s All Good.

Brian and Jim outside the Jacumba Spa and Resort.
Brian and Jim outside the Jacumba Spa and Resort.
Surly Pearl looking at the fence line which separates California from Mexico.
Surly Pearl looking at the fence line which separates California from Mexico.
Classic desert landscape outside of Jacumba CA.
Classic desert landscape outside of Jacumba CA.
Jim still hanging tough with his full load of gear.
Jim still hanging tough with his full load of gear.
Jim with the Lance look.
Jim with the Lance look.
Surly Pearl overlooking I-8 somewhere close to the middle of nowhere CA.
Surly Pearl overlooking I-8 somewhere close to the middle of nowhere CA.
Pine Valley Cafe.  One word describes it - "OMG".
Pine Valley Cafe. One word describes it – “OMG”.
A little stretch of I-8 screaming downhill towards Alpine CA.
A little stretch of I-8 screaming downhill towards Alpine CA.

U.S. 360 Tour II – Day 29 from Brawley CA to Jacumba CA (From Zero to Hero)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

60 miles (97 km) – Total so far: 1,488 miles (2,395 km)

We predicted today was going to be difficult, and it was. We left our Warmshowers’ hosts, Bill and Theresa, at 6am after a wonderful breakfast of chorizo y huevos minus the chorizo. Another quick acknowledgement of our hosts. Absolutely outstanding couple who are a credit to the world of cycle touring.

We travelled the 13 miles due south to El Centro, at which point we transitioned west to State Highway 80. After a couple miles enduring what was easily the worst road conditions of the trip, we backtracked to IH 8, and promptly broke the law for the next 17 miles of highway closed to cyclists and pedestrians. We were told by local cyclists that because of the almost unnavigable road conditions on S80, many cyclists use this alternate approach. In all the first 40 miles of travel was uneventful, flat, and a tad on the warm (actually hot) side. There was one minor incident that had ramifications later in the day. We happened to stop at a road sign marked “Sea Level”. We decided to park our bikes underneath the sign and take pictures, given that neither of us had ever seen a sign announcing zero feet above sea level. As we moved our bikes to the pavement after the pictures, we noticed both sets of wheels were covered with thorny stickers. It looked like a goats head convention and our tires were the unwilling hosts. After arduously removing the little ba$tards, we proceeded on our way.

At the 40 mile point, the barrier between us and the pacific ocean revealed itself. The Jacumba Mountains rise literally from below sea level to well over 3000 feet, all in the span of 15 miles. The grades are steep, the curves are magnificent, the Santa Anna Winds typically howl, the views are stunning, and as a touring cyclist, it really all comes together in an ugly way. It was tough. We spent close to four hours climbing, taking rests every two miles. Jim’s never-ending supply of Power Bars, Shot Blocks, and Goo probably is the only thing that gave me the fortitude to climb the grade today. Jim, on the other hand, was fighting demons of his own. Remember the goats head stickers? They rose their ugly heads again and revealed leaks in both his front and rear tires, at the most inopportune time – on the side of a mountain. Jim was an absolute trooper as he pampered the tires every few miles by re-filling them as opposed to changing them, given the fact that a tire change in this environment would have been harmful to his health!

We finished the day having spent close to ten hours in the saddle, and having passed through the towns of El Centro, Ocotillo, and ending up in Jacumba. We were greeted in Jacumba by two notable things. As we pulled into the small border town, A Mexico-based communications carrier notified us that we were under their jurisdiction, a fact which immediately led us to turning our phones on airplane mode to keep from getting hammered with off network billing. The second notable happening was that we ran across the only lodge in town, the Jacumba Spa and Resort, which has hot natural springs and all-you-can-eat pasta on Thursdays. They could have charged us any rate they wished, and we would have been happy to call this place home tonight.

It’s All Good.

 

Our wonderful hosts in Brawley, Bill and Theresa.
Our wonderful hosts in Brawley, Bill and Theresa.
Surly Pearl pretending she's a steed with all those bales of hay, outside of Brawley CA.
Surly Pearl pretending she’s a steed with all those bales of hay, outside of Brawley CA.
Jim at the now infamous sea level sign where his tires decided to do a sticker magnet impression.
Jim at the now infamous sea level sign where his tires decided to do a sticker magnet impression.
I'm below sea level!  Get it? :)
I’m below sea level! Get it? :)
The Jacumba Mountain Range.  The only thing standing between us and the Pacific.
The Jacumba Mountain Range. The only thing standing between us and the Pacific.
One of many stops Jim had to make in the mountains to deal with flat tires.
One of many stops Jim had to make in the mountains to deal with flat tires.
Surly Pearl taking a rest in the Jacumba Mountains.  Her owner was taking a rest as well.
Surly Pearl taking a rest in the Jacumba Mountains. Her owner was taking a rest as well.
At day's end, chomping at the bit for more climbing.  P.S. I'm not dead.
At day’s end, chomping at the bit for more climbing. P.S. I’m not dead.

U.S. 360 Tour II – Day 28 from Palo Verde CA to Brawley CA (Sand Dunes and Semi’s)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

68 miles (109 km) – Total so far: 1,428 miles (2,298 km)

A good run today. The day started before sunrise as it was imperative to hit the road before the sun and winds made their presence felt. It was going to be an arduous journey across the southern California desert with almost no services. Our host, Nancy, was up earlier than us to make an absolutely outstanding breakfast, most notably seaweed miso soup. I know what you’re thinking, but it was the best breakfast I’ve had on the trip. We left as the sun was just peaking over the mountains, and made our way down a mile-long dirt road before finding the familiar pavement. Jim kept his eye out for the indigenous tarantulas while I dodged burro poop.

The first 30 miles were a constant up and down, with more up than down. As has been the case over the last few days, we were surrounded by mountains. About 30 miles in, we were greeted by the most stunning scenery of the trip, the Algodones Sand Dunes near Glamis California. Living in Texas, I have seen plenty of sand and plenty of dunes, but I have never seen them quite this spectacular. These dunes dominate the landscape, and they apparently attract off-road vehicles of all types from all over the world. The sand is ubiquitous, even overtaking the roads narrow shoulders. As striking as this area was, we were forced to keep close vigil on the traffic, which was somewhat intense. Because of the amount of truck traffic and RV traffic on the two-lane road, Jim got his money’s worth from his helmet mirror. Jim generally provided me with two warnings, alerting me to upcoming “trucks” and “big-ass trucks”. I got the message.

After 15 miles of sand dunes, the landscape changed again to agricultural, with green fields made that way due to the network of irrigation canals. We arrived in Brwley feeling pretty good, but famished. We demolished sandwiches at the first place we saw, and later made our way to our Warmshowers hosts in Brawley, Bill and Theresa. The couple are lovely and generous, and are both cyclists, which make it even better.

Tomorrow will be the toughest day of the trip: tough roads, high mileage, net 4000 foot elevation gain, and no services. Sound like fun? It is if you’re nuts!

It’s All Good

Consistent backdrop on the first 30 miles.
Consistent backdrop on the first 30 miles.
Surly Pearl and her friend taking a much-needed rest.
Surly Pearl and her friend taking a much-needed rest.
Given the desert conditions, we went through water like nobody's business.
Given the desert conditions, we went through water like nobody’s business.
The only sign (of life) in Glamis.
The only sign (of life) in Glamis.
Jim and the dunes!
Jim and the dunes!
A mountain bike would have been nice.
A mountain bike would have been nice.
Surly Pearl dreaming of one day becoming a 29er.
Surly Pearl dreaming of one day becoming a 29er.
Not sure why, but I just felt like doing this!
Not sure why, but I just felt like doing this!

U.S. 360 Tour II – Day 27 from Blythe CA to Somewhere South of Palo Verde CA (Alfalfa and the Ultimate Host)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

26 miles (42 km) – Total so far: 1,360 miles (2,189 km)

Woke up a bit under the weather today, but nothing overly serious. Today was, by design, a short day in preparation for tomorrow’s big ride across the desert with no services to speak of. There was a nice chill to the air when we started the ride, made colder by the stiff northerly winds that prevailed for most of the day. We were prepared for the high winds famous in this area, and were encouraged that the direction was never completely in our faces.

Today’s landscape was easily this tour’s most fertile agricultural area. Even in November, the fields were dark green, and the contrast with the surrounding brown and tan mountains made for rich views. Field after field of alfalfa, cotton, beets and other crops made the ride quite entertaining. The valley seems to have been brought to life with significant irrigation canals that flowed like rivers

Easily the highlight of the day was our Warmshowers host, Nancy. We had heard about Nancy via word of mouth from an eastbound cyclist. Based on that recommendation, we called her and set up the visit. Her home is strategically located in a remote desert hideaway between Palo Verde and a 70 mile stretch of desert with no services. Many touring cyclists have stayed here to either prepare for the trip, or to recover from it if they are eastbound. Nancy is a true renaissance woman (artist, yoga instructor, writer, assistant postmaster), a fascinating person, and very hospitable. She cooked us a wonderful vegetarian dinner, replete with handmade herbal tea, and we sat and listened to interesting stories about her world travels. We appreciated her gracious hospitality!

As we doze off to sleep, we are listening to barking coyotes, and also contemplating the stories of wild burros, snakes, tarantulas, and mountain lions we’ve just heard.

It’s All Good.

 

Massive canal system in Palo Verde Valley CA.
Massive canal system in Palo Verde Valley CA.
Thinking about a swim.
Thinking about a swim.
A Touring Cyclist.
A Touring Cyclist.
Surly Pearl thought this was sorta artsy.
Surly Pearl thought this was sorta artsy.
Jim standing next to the last city limit sign we will see for awhile.
Jim standing next to the last city limit sign we will see for awhile.
Surly Pearl enjoying herself today.
Surly Pearl enjoying herself today.
Landscape just outside our Warmshowers host home.
Landscape just outside our Warmshowers host home.
Nancy, our host, and Brian.
Nancy, our host, and Brian.
Nancy and Jim.
Nancy and Jim.

U.S. 360 Tour II – Day 26 from Salome AZ to Blythe CA (Wheeeeeee!!!!!!!!!)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

65 miles (105 km) – Total so far: 1,334 miles (2,147 km)

High 30’s when we left Salome at 7am. Jim experienced his first flat tire right out of the gate, and of course it was on a nice downhill run. After fixing the flat, we resumed the downhill into the brisk morning air.

The day turned out to be a “chamber of commerce” day. Blue skies, sunny but cool conditions, and only a slight headwind. And best of all, lots of downhill. In all, from beginning to end, we lost about 1500 feet of elevation, but in a gradual way that allowed for not much braking. While Jim is a monster on climbs, I’m pretty fluid on the downhills, so the day was somewhat exhilarating. Especially “exhilarating” were the two stretches of IH 10 riding, about 20 miles in all. The heavy truck traffic, rumble strips, high speeds, and shoulder debris made things a bit sketchy at times.

The scenery was really nice today, with mesa’s that looked like tabletops, and rough jagged peaks that are apparently fault lines jutting out of the desert. No earthquakes, please. We ran into an eastbound cyclist today. Jay is from Los Angeles and is making his way down to Tucson Arizona. He is a minimalist from the looks of his rig, and light as a feather. Jim and I were salivating over Jay’s setup, which looked ready-made for the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

We passed over the Colorado River today and into the great state of California, my fourth state on this grand US 360 tour! The landscape immediately turned greener and the lyrics to “California Dreamin'” immediately filled my head.

We passed through a few towns today, namely Hope, Brenda, and Quartzsite. We called it quits in Blythe California, a nice town with many services, including a Starbucks that had my name all over it.

It’s All Good.

Nice backdrop out o Salome AZ.
Nice backdrop out o Salome AZ.
Selfie with some interesting black mountains in the background.
Selfie with some interesting black mountains in the background.
Jim definitely in his element.
Jim definitely in his element.
Jay from L.A. on an ultra-light rig.
Jay from L.A. on an ultra-light rig.
It's warming up.
It’s warming up.
Leaving Arizona
Leaving Arizona
Entering California
Entering California
Success!!!
Success!!!

U.S. 360 Tour II – Day 25 from Wickenberg AZ to Salome AZ (Hard Cider and Eccentricity)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

55 miles (89 km) – Total so far: 1,269 miles (2,043 km)

Woke up in our grassy campsite with frost on the pumpkin (ie. it was pretty dang chilly). We ate with our new friend Matthew, broke camp, said our goodbyes, and were immediately greeted with a nice little climb west out of Wickenburg. My legs seemed heavy and a little dead for the first half of our 55 mile trek, but gradually felt better throughout the afternoon. I have found that training really doesn’t totally prepare me for touring. What does prepare me is saddling up, battling the elements, day after day for a week or so into a real life tour.

Today was marked with steady headwinds, steady inclines, and steady sun. In other words, I suffered just a bit. On the other hand, Jim seemed strong for most of the day. He is most certainly adapting to this cycle touring lifestyle.

Passed through two towns today, Aguilar and Wenden. Ended the ride at Don’s Cactus Cafe in Salome, Arizona. I wish every ride could terminate at this place. Don’s was a cross between a biker (not my kind of bike) bar, a cowboy hangout, and, shall we say, eccentricity. Jim and each drank a 22 oz Woodchuck Hard Cider, at which point we decided to walk, not ride our bikes to the motel across the street. Jim has asked that I publicly admit to not completely finishing off my beverage, which may be a first for me.

Completed the evening by attacking a vegetarian pizza that was billed as the best pizza in Salome. What was not highlighted is that it was the only pizza in Salome.

Saw a few dead animals today, including two foxes, a javelina, hawks, and a cougar (actually it was a house cat, but it kinda looked like a cougar).

It’s All Good

Jim and Brian getting ready for the day's ride.  You'll notice we were standing in front of Matthew's Co-Motion, thinking it might upgrade the picture.
Jim and Brian getting ready for the day’s ride. You’ll notice we were standing in front of Matthew’s Co-Motion, thinking it might upgrade the picture.
Surly Pearl wanted her pic in front of today's most depressing historical marker
Surly Pearl wanted her pic in front of today’s most depressing historical marker
453rd Avenue?  Really?
453rd Avenue? Really?
22 ounces of hard cider heaven after a 55-mile jaunt.  Note to wives: we walked our bikes home after consumption.
22 ounces of hard cider heaven after a 55-mile jaunt. Note to wives: we walked our bikes home after consumption.
After the hard cider.  Note the cherry restored Ford Fairlane at the edge of the pic. The eccentric owner wanted to charge $3 for his hot rod to be in the pic.  I told him I'd charge him $3 for me to be in the pic with his car, so we decided to call it even.
After the hard cider. Note the cherry restored Ford Fairlane at the edge of the pic. The eccentric owner wanted to charge $3 for his hot rod to be in the pic. I told him I’d charge him $3 for me to be in the pic with his car, so we decided to call it even.

U.S. 360 Tour II – Day 24 from Phoenix AZ to Wickenberg AZ (Stubborn Siri and a Fine American)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

63 miles (101 km) – Total so far: 1,214 miles (1,953 km)

Woke up early and got a good start out of downtown Phoenix. We stayed about 8 miles off of the ACA Southern Tier Route, so we had to rely on the native iPhone map application to navigate to the beginning of the ACA route. Frustration set in immediately as “Stubborn Siri” decided to have a senior moment. She routinely attempted to route us on major interstate highways, at which point I would correct her to take us on preferred bike routes. Like clockwork, she would override my instructions and direct me her way. After tiring of this back and forth, I finally turned her off in favor of simply navigating by the stars.

Much of the morning was spent on the Arizona Bike Canal, a dedicated bike path which took us west out of the city. The riding was easy and traffic-free, the only other vehicles being cyclists and occasionally runners.

The day saw tailwinds and slight inclines, but nothing overly strenuous. In fact, there was even a nice descent coming into Wickenberg. Passed through towns like Surprise, Sun City (where I thought seriously about dropping Jim off), and Wittman. My road angel of the day was the owner of Coulson’s Auto, Tire, and Bike Repair Shop (quite the combo!) outside of Phoenix, who sold me two spare tubes in the middle of a desert, mitigating the risk of being tubeless in the middle of nowhere, having blown two tubes the day before.

The most notable acquaintance of the day went to my new best friend, Matthew, from Ft. Collins Colorado. Matthew, an Iraqi War Veteran and genuinely good American, has been on the road since Spring, navigating the TransAmerica Trail from Virginia to Oregon, the Pacific Coast Trail from Vancouver to San Diego, and is on his way to the Florida Keys. When all is said and done, he will have ridden 10,000 miles in an effort to raise awareness for veteran suicide prevention. You can check out his FaceBook page by searching “Transamerica Ride for Life”. Jim and I camped with Matthew and spent much of the night hearing about his cycling and life adventures. Outstanding young man!

We didn’t see any animals today, other than ourselves.

It’s All Good.

Typical scenery today.  Notice the fresh look on my face.  It will disappear later in the day
Typical scenery today. Notice the fresh look on my face. It will disappear later in the day
IMG_1989
T-Rex on the loose outside of Wickenberg AZ!
IMG_1991
After spitting me out, it went straight for Jim.
IMG_1992
Our new friend Matthew eastbound on the Southern Tier. An Iraqi War veteran, this guy is a fine American.
IMG_1993
A bike get-together at the campsite in Wickenberg AZ.