Saturday, December 5, 2009

Boulder Oaks to El Centro, CA. My First Miserable Day

Nasty broken pavement for twenty miles

The view on our long downhill

The infamous "wall" along the Mexico border. Notice how it just ends on the mountain. I am sure that immigrants willing to risk their lives to come to America look at that and think "there is no way I am going to climb up that hill to reach the land of milk and honey."

The last pass on the big hill

Greg playing a warm up game in the morning at the campground.

The desert

Some really odd barrel cactus

Steep hill but nice shoulder on Interstate 8

Boulder Oaks Campground to El Centro, CA
Day 49 70 miles

This morning we woke after a long nights sleep to cold and wind. The better part of the night was windy, so windy that it covered our tent with dust. The noise of the tent rattling woke us up periodically, but we still got plenty of rest. When we got out of the tent we realized it was COLD. Really cold compared to the warmer air by the ocean. It was probably around freezing. Welcome to the desert. We huddled in the tent until the sun came up enough to eat breakfast in some sunshine. After we ate, we packed up quickly because we didn't have to wait for things to dry thanks to the desert air.

Even though the sun was out and not a cloud was in the sky, the air was still very cold, and the wind was howling. We pedaled out of the campground straight into the ferocious wind. It was blowing 15-20 mph straight into our faces. We both hoped the wind would go down soon. We immediately began climbing toward the town of Live Oak Springs. When we were not in protected places the wind beat down upon us. It easily gusted up to 35 mph at times. Then without warning it would switch and blow from the side making our loaded bikes hard to handle.

We finally reached Live Oak Springs and I (Greg) was freezing because of the cold air and wind. Dani dressed warmer but I was only wearing a t-shirt and shorts. We had to stop so I could put on pants and a long sleeve. We continued on into the hellacious wind which rarely gave us reprieve. Even downhill sections were hard because as we picked up speed, any shift in the wind would throw our bikes around making us slow way down to regain full control . We usually average 13-15 on flat ground, but today we were lucky to ride at 8 mph. To top it all off, my knee was beginning to hurt worse and worse. I started the day by compensating as much as I could with my healthy right leg , but after about 20 miles of trying to power the huge load up hill and into the wind, my right leg was too tired. I then started using my left leg and my knee got progressively worse. We were riding so slowly that in three hours of riding we had gone less than 20 miles.

We finally reached the last summit on this hill and were rewarded with a 12 mile downhill. The wind did die down enough for us to relax some and enjoy coasting down this huge pass. When we reached the bottom we turned onto state route 80. The wind had died down substantially here at the bottom and the temperature was much nicer. The pavement, however, on this road was horrible. By far the worst we have ridden on so far. Many gravel roads are in much better condition than this piece of pavement. To give you an idea, the road was littered with potholes, some of them 4-6 inches deep. Then, every 20 feet there was a crack that ran from shoulder to shoulder that had a couple inch high lip on it. I was afraid one of us would surely break a spoke. We didn't, but our bodies took a huge pounding. Our arms and wrists were worn from just keeping a hold on the bars, and our butts were sore from the constant jarring. If nothing else, the condition of this road prevented us from making good time.

We rode really hard, and for the last ten to twenty miles my knee was giving me some pretty intense pain. When we reached El Centro, the sun was getting low, and we knew the campground was still 6 miles away. We talked about getting a hotel, and figured if we could find a room for less than $50 we would do it. We found a room for $40 and treated ourselves to a nice relaxing night and a warm shower after a really hard, really sweaty day. Today was the first day where I realized that for a portion of the day I wasn't enjoying myself. I thought about that for a second, one day out of fifty I didn't have fun. You have got have a few of those days in there every now and then, because it made me realize how much I am really enjoying this trip.


PS we will probably not be able to blog often until we reach Phoenix. There are very few towns between here and there, and the ones that there are probably are too small for internet. We will try, but don't worry if you don't see a new post for 4-7 days.


chris_cant_dance said...

Too bad there wasn't a glass-smooth highway right next to that shoulder.

Sounds like a heckuva ride!

Be careful in the desert!

Marc said...

I take back the rolling with the punches comment. I should have saved it for today's post. That sounds rough.

PS: I woke up this morning to 3 inches of snow, and we've gotten at least 6 more so far today! Talk about a quick change in weather. It reminds me of Montana! I bet you guys might be missing that place a little too.