We suffer our first casualties

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.

In the Imperial Dunes

In the Imperial Dunes

Aside from the extra mileage, the only adversity on Thursday was a brisk headwind during about six miles of the ride as we headed north into Blythe. The ease of Thursday’s ride was a welcome respite from the ride on Wednesday — 69 miles from Brawley to Palo Verde, through the Imperial Dunes and a climb through the Chocolate Mountains.
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.
Billboard at  Glamis

Billboard at Glamis

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.
On the road to the Chocolate Mountains

On the road to the Chocolate Mountains

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.



Filed under Americana, Blogging on the road, Cycling across America, Journeys

5 responses to “We suffer our first casualties

  1. Ben

    Hola Dad,
    Sounds like quite an adventure. Those headwinds along with the heat sound horrible. Do you think this section of the ride will be the most demanding on the trip? I hope your bike holds up. By the way, how is the Brooks doing? Ben

  2. Erik

    Jim – got worried when I didn’t see a post from you yesterday. Glad you made it through the first major trial of your journey – just think how in shape you’re going to be when we see you in Austin!
    Too bad that your group has gotten smaller – hopefully you won’t have any mechanical issues (I’m still not convinced that the carbon spoke replacement widget will actually work…).
    When you get the chance, I’d like to hear about the traffic you encounter – are they courteous and do they give you enough room?

    • Erik,
      Thanks for looking at the blog. I’m writing this on Friday afternoon at a motel in Salome, Ariz., after a 58-mile ride with some heavy-duty climbing in heat of about 100 degrees. But all is well. I was the third one to finish today and a lot of folks are still on the road. Re your question: We’ve been on roads heavily trafficked by 18-wheelers, including today when a chunk of the ride was on Interstate 10 in Arizona. But I believe they have been quite courteous, giving us a wide berth whenever they have the lane to do it. During the stretch through the Imperial Dunes the other day, sand was already drifting across the road because of the stiff head wind, and every time an 18-wheeler passed it was like riding through a small sandstorm. Take care. Jim

  3. Dad,

    You are an inspiration! Wow…your trip sounds intense and amazing. I will try to call you again soon.


    • Thanks, Matt. Sorry I missed your call the other day. Try to call me again sometime. Ben called me this morning just as I had stopped for a map check and a drink. It was a great early-morning ego boost. Love, Dad

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