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.