OCOTILLO, Calif. — It’s hard to imagine rushing water, much less a deadly flood, in this God-forsaken speck of a town in the Yuha Desert in the Imperial Valley.
Ocotillo, a town of about 300 people and two bars (the Lazy Lizard Saloon and the Old Highway Cafe), is our overnight stop Monday after the second day of our transcontinental bicycle journey. We’re camped at an RV park just off Interstate 8, which was part of the last leg of Monday’s route, a precipitous downhill run of about 12 miles into Ocotillo.
I and a group of riders of similar pace set out from Alpine at about 7:40 Monday morning and rode 62 miles through the Laguna Mountains, crossing the Tecate Divide at an elevation of more than 4,000 feet before plunging down into the Imperial Valley, where the high temperature on Monday was 108 degrees. Tuesday’s ride, relatively short at 40 miles and on flat terrain, will take us to Brawley, near the southern end of the Salton Sea.
Ocotillo was established in the 1950s as a retirement community. But I can’t imagine why anyone would want to live here. Summertime temperatures regularly reach 120 degrees. One local we met today joked that winter is coming on because the temperature was only 108.
The blazing sun has made for some tough riding the past couple days, particularly with today’s climb of about 50 miles, slogging up hill after hill in the granny gear at speeds of barely 4 miles per hour.
But we all made it. I, in fact, feel better after Monday’s ride than I did after the first day’s ride from San Diego — probably because I paid more attention to hydration, drinking quarts of water and sports drinks.