BLYTHE, Calif. — Finally a relatively easy day.
Thursday’s ride from Palo Verde, Calif., to Blythe, Calif., was listed on our itinerary as 21 miles. But because of some bad directions from locals and a map-reading error, I ended up with about 34 miles as I searched for our KOA campsite on the Colorado River just across from Arizona. In fact, I detoured into Arizona in search of our campsite, thinking it was on the Arizona side of the river, which is the state line. I’ll be more attentive at map meetings from now on.
The ride on Wednesday was accompanied by a headwind, which we estimated at around 25 mph, gusting to 35 mph. As we rode through the Imperial Dunes, every 18-wheeler that passed kicked up a mini sandstorm from sand drifting across the highway. By the end of that grueling day, our faces and nostrils were caked with sand and road grit.
After the dunes came the long, tough climb through the Chocolate Mountains, which I assume acquired that name because the brown volcanic formations resemble gigantic piles of chocolate. Throughout the climb, the wind blew straight into our faces and the temperature was in the 90s. Local residents said we were lucky in one respect: If the wind were blowing from the south, the temperature would have been over 100 degrees.
On that 69-mile stretch from Brawley to Palo Verde, there is only one place to get water, a wide gap in the road called Glamis. Glamis, which has a general store and a huge, fenced lot filled with RV trailers, calls itself the “Sand Toy Capital of the World,” because during the winter months some 30,000 people gather there to drive their dune buggies on the Imperial Dunes.
Because of the kindness of strangers, we were also able to replenish our water supply at a U.S Border Patrol checkpoint between Glamis and Palo Verde. A member of the Brawley Lions Club, which opened its great facility in Brawley to us on Tuesday night, got up early Wednesday morning to make a 90-mile round trip to the Border Patrol checkpoint with gallon jugs of water. If not for his help, all of us probably would have run out of water before Palo Verde even though we had all refilled our bottles in Glamis.
Wednesday’s ride took the first casualties among our 15-member caravan during the first week of our transcontinental ride to Florida. One woman, a merchant mariner out of Honolulu, “tanked at Glamis” — as she put it — and then threw out her back as she lifted her bike. She and her bike and gear got a ride to Palo Verde with some nice local folks. Then her boyfriend, also a merchant mariner and ship captain, drove to Palo Verde to pick her up.
We’ll miss her.
The other casualty was mechanical. The Australian member of our group suffered a major bike breakdown. His rear wheel came apart and he had to get a ride back to a bike shop in Brawley. At last report, his bike repairs were on track, but he’s now about 100 miles behind us. He’s planning to get to Phoenix somehow and rejoin us there for the rest of the trip.
The campsite at Palo Verde, where we stayed last night, was very primitive. No wi-fi was available in the town and I couldn’t get a signal on my cellphone, so I didn’t dry to update this blog. Besides, I was so physically wasted after the ride through the dunes and the Chocolate Mountains that I grabbed a burger and fries at the Lagoon Lodge across the highway from the campsite, pitched my tent in the dark and crashed.
The human body is a remarkable machine. After a good night’s sleep, I felt completely refreshed and ready to go on Thursday.
Despite Thursday’s unplanned extra mileage, I got into camp early and am writing this from the air-conditioned office of a rather luxurious KOA campsite.
Friday’s ride of about 55 miles will take us from Blythe across the state line into Arizona to the Arizona Outback town of Hope.