Southern California, San Diego to Havilah
Every time I see an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the future of the human race---H.G. Wells
It took us a week to cross the desert. Things got
so bad that we had to drink water---W.C. Fields
We had been riding across the suburbs of
We had only ridden forty kilometers
so far, but they were forty agonizing, slow, and suburban kilometers,
kilometers of getting lost on
Then, finally, we crested a hill at yet another traffic light, and
there on the horizon, standing not twenty kilometers away, were
mountains. They were huge, towering over the red brick homes of
But the beginning of the Sierra Cascades Ride was not the moment
that we flew downhill into the desert, or the moment when our bicycles
had been assembled at
The weather was great, the traffic free Ohlone Greenway was teeming
with ripe blackberries, and dinner was the only reason I had to turn
around. To a nine year old who rode his bicycle to school and
occasionally back, that trip was an eye-opener that the bicycle could
also be ridden for recreation. And, for a young boy who did relatively
little exploration outside of his hometown of
That one trip turned into many others. Through a series of day
rides from September to May, my Abba (Dad) and I rode northeast for
about 350 kilometers to Colfax, where we were halted by the
We made a decision to change the route to northwest, up the coast,
and in the winter of 2011, we did our first overnight together, 150
June of 2012 and we were preparing for a four day trip from Willits
“Are you planning on starting at the Mexican border and biking through the desert?” he asked me, as we rode through a perfect Bay Area, 56 degree Fahrenheit, morning. When I affirmed, he replied, “You’d better get a sun lamp and do some heat training then. It can get up to 130 degrees at the low areas of the desert, and up to the 90s even in the mountains. And that’s pretty hot.”
Pretty hot indeed. I had, however, neglected training under a sun
lamp. I assumed everything would be fine, until May arrived. That
particular May the temperature soared to the high 80s, practically
record setting for
“Up the crest of the Sierra Cascades from
“Were you born and raised at sea level?” he asked, incredulously.
When I admitted that I had indeed omitted the crucial training step of being born at high elevation, he asked me what I planned to do about the altitude. Altitude! I hadn’t even considered altitude!
Those thoughts had all weighed heavily on my mind when Sam and I
The ride was still going well by the time we reached the mountains. We had been riding up them for only a little while, but it was quite hot, and I was beginning to feel tired. We were reaching the outskirts of a town, Dulzura, and I was predicting what our elevation would be. I knew that we had to summit a low pass before descending to Barrett Junction at the base of our final hill. Our planned campsite in Potrero was at 2200 feet above sea level, so the summit had to be higher than that. The short ways uphill we had biked felt like it must’ve been most of the way to the pass, and I began thinking of elevations. Three thousand feet sounded too high, two thousand feet too low, but twenty-five hundred feet sounded about right. The wooden sign that greeted us read:
Welcome to Dulzura
1,053! I assumed that the elevation had not been quoted in meters, and if not, then we were at considerably less than half of my predicted elevation. It was going to be a long ride. Sam, however, seemed unfazed.
“We’re going to be climbing a lot on this ride,” he told me. “You should probably get used to it.”
Oh well. The ride east of Dulzura was very nice, and in only nine kilometers, we reached the summit, which was a bit lower than I had expected (only 1,500 feet). I was feeling relatively happy. Below us the road snaked its way downward along the mountainside, swiftly shedding the elevation we had gained since leaving the lowlands. It was around 6:00.Potrero is, was at 2,200 feet.
The evening sunlight filtered through the mountains, illuminating them, and turning their brownish purple sides a bright yellow. We were in a small valley, and in every direction, the glowing mountains loomed. Potrero was somewhere in those mountains, and we were going to bicycle there. It was around dinner time at this point, but stopping for a prolonged break would only cement our chances of not reaching Potrero by dark.
I was quite tired at this point, and the climb felt like I was
dragging an anvil behind my bicycle. Finally, after what seemed like an
endless climb, we reached the junction of SR 188. To the south lay the
Let me stop for a second, to give thanks to the Adventure Cycling Association, who created the 5 map sets for the Sierra Cascades Route. The maps are brilliant, each map set comprised of 15 or so map segments, which cover around 50 kilometers. The map segments show turns, towns, and where food, lodging, and camping is available. Through them, we had determined that the campground at Potrero was three kilometers off route The large Potrero sign that had greeted us had not come soon enough and the prospect of any additional riding, even only three kilometers, was less than attractive. The sun had disappeared behind the mountains, and we hastily set up camp behind an abandoned fire station and ate a cold dinner. I set my watch alarm for 6 am, and, exhausted from the day’s riding, drifted off to sleep.
I woke up to the tinny call of my watch alarm at exactly six in the morning, and burrowed deeper in my sleeping bag. The morning air was chill, and my legs were still a bit sore from the previous day’s ride, but I finally climbed out of my nylon shelter and walked over to Sam’s tent, which he had said was, ‘the lightest freestanding tent in the world’, to wake him. There was no initial response, but I then heard the sleeping bag rustling and Sam beginning to slowly deflate his camping pad, so I began to take down my own tent and take in our surroundings in the daylight. The fire station we were camped behind was in a small bowl shaped valley, with rounded sloping mountains on every side and oak trees studded across the field of golden grass, with barbed wire fences extending like the long narrow fingers of some gigantic beast, running endlessly to the horizon.
I stuffed and crammed my tent, sleeping bag, and pad into my miniscule panniers, wondering how the fuck I had ever fit everything in in the first place, and climbed up to a small bench next to the fire station to eat a cold breakfast of bread, cheese, and dates (I had decided, and then regretted for the rest of the trip, not to pack a stove in order to save weight). Sam had barely emerged from his tent.
“Sam, are you awake?” I called toward him, impatiently.
“Just enjoying the morning,” he replied, beginning to take down his nylon castle.
By 7:30 I was finally ready, but Sam was still meticulously applying sunscreen, so I pulled out my Kindle and lay on the bench, reading. At 8:00, I turned off my Kindle, and put on my helmet, thinking Sam would be ready to go very soon.
“Sam, how much longer do you think it’ll take you?” I asked him irritably, riding my bicycle in circles around the gravel parking lot.
“Oh, just a few more minutes.”
At 8:30, we biked down the road for two minutes, stopped at the Potrero Store to use the bathroom, and left Potrero at 9:00. This first morning it had taken him three hours, though later on he was down to two hours to get ready, and when we stayed at motels it was occasionally 1.5. I was usually ready to go in an hour, 45 minutes at a motel. It was one of the few ways in which we were mismatched, and a constant source of friction between us.
Despite our late beginning, we were both in fairly good spirits
as we left Potrero. We were cycling gradually uphill, and behind us, the
We crested a small summit and looked down on a much more arid
landscape. The ever-present oak trees from further west had given way to
a sandy and mountainous landscape, with sagebrush and small shrubs
climbing up the mountains slopes. Just to the south, within spitting
distance (almost) was la frontera con
Around 10, we arrived in the small, dusty, frontier town of
We ate lunch and refilled water at another (working) fire station
just shy of the
“We still have the equivalent of
“If we still have that much to climb, I’d prefer if you kept that between you and the elevation profile,” Sam snapped.
“Well, if we had left two hours earlier, we would be going downhill now,” I shot back.
Our first (admittedly minor) argument.
We stopped to call my Abba, and he told us that a mutual friend of Sam and mine, Jonnie, had commented on my blog, “Hi Zeke & Sam, Enjoy the heat, the uphills, traffic, narrow shoulders, the headwinds, having to stop and adjust/find things; cracked, burnt, chafed skin; flats, mechanical difficulties, etc. Remember it all tops being back at home wishing you'd gone! Jonnie. That raised our spirits immensely, and we rode onto the Sunrise Highway with new exuberance.
After crossing Interstate 8 and riding up a small hill to the Sunrise Highway, it was as if someone had flicked a switch. The air was relatively cool, a slight wind blew at our backs, and the road wound along the rim of a huge canyon. Interstate 8 and the small town of Pine Valley were nestled at the bottom of the canyon, but the Sunrise Highway clung to the mountain side, switchbacking fairly gradually into the Lagunas, towering mountains rising just to the East. It was already 2:00 and we still had 50 kilometers to go, but I figured we would make up the time on the thirty five kilometer descent, so neither of us was worried.
The Sunrise Highway eventually left the canyon’s rim, and meandered uphill through several meadows. I was quite excited when we reached 5,000 feet, because it was the highest I had biked to before, there were several barrels behind us reading MOO, and just up the road was a sign that read, “UNLAWFUL TO THROW SNOWBALLS AT VEHICLES OR OCCUPANTS, Max Penalty: $500 fine AND Six Months Imprisonment.” Both of us were amused by that, especially since it was at least 75 degrees.
As we neared
The descent began well. We switch backed down from
Ten kilometers later, I rolled up to where he was resting at the junction with SR 79. The sun had begun to set, and we decided that it would be difficult navigating out of Julian to an off-route campground, so we decided on a motel. SR 79 was easier. We still had a headwind but it was not as roaring as it was before, and in forty-five minutes, we arrived in Julian, ate dinner at a small pizzeria, and checked into the Julian Lodge.
Day Three went very, very, well. We rode downhill in the morning with nary a headwind, visited a town that advertised a populatuion of ‘97 pleasant people & 2 or 3 grouches, ate lunch at a small dusty taqueria where the waitress payed for our tacos (!), and were buffeted up a substantial summit by a forty mile per hour tailwind, to Lake Hemet, where we arrived, after a 71 mile day, before dinnertime!! We cycled up to a beautiful campsite under the shade of a pine tree and right at the lake’s edge. To the east, the gargantuan granite peaks of the San Jacintos loomed. After we ate dinner, the sun slipped below the horizon, and the temperature dropped by about 30 degrees Farenheit. We went directly to our tents, and I climbed into my warm sleeping bag.
In the morning, as I forced myself out of my sleeping bag, the sun was glowing just behind the San Jacintos. I woke Sam, and he emerged, looking bleary eyed, to the picnic table, where I had spread out some of our breakfast food. We were planning on stopping in Idyllwild to buy more supplies, and at 8:30 we were on the road.
I was riding significantly ahead of Sam in the morning, which was in it of itself unusual, but when we reached Keen Camp Summit, he was behind even on the downhill. As we rode uphill toward Idylwild, I slowed my pace to ride next to him.
“Are you feeling alright Sam?” I asked him.
“It was really cold last night,” he replied. “I didn’t think it would be this cold, so I didn’t bring nearly enough cold-weather gear. I finally managed to hypnotise myself to go to sleep around 4 am.”
“Yeah, I learned how to hypnotise myself when I was a senior in high school and studying psychology. I was telling myself, ‘bodily feelings mean nothing, the cold does not exist’, and then my brain kept repeating nonsensical phrases. I remember, right before I finally fell asleep, hearing a voice in my head tell me, ‘Just put a sock in it and spin it all around.’”
I laughed at that, but we were planning on camping at an even higher elevation that night, and so we decided to stop in Idyllwild to get him warm weather gear.
Idylwild’s closeness was conveyed by the large number of cyclists riding carbon fiber road bikes and clad in skin-tight spandex out riding. They were all very friendly and impressed by our ride, and pointed us to a thrift store on the outskirts of town. I waited outside the thrift store, reading Jeremiah Curtin’s The Mongols, and occasionally packing everything back on the bike in impatience, before boredom forced me to take it out again. Sam emerged from the thrift store about half an hour later, and we rode a short distance to Idylwild’s tiny downtown, joking about how we would have Idyldawild in Idylwild. Sam would go grocery shopping and I would watch the bikes.
Idylwild appeared to be a very attractive small town. Despite its size, it seemed very bike-friendly (Sam later reported that there were three bike stores along one short street in the downtown), and was beautiful, each street corner covered with pine trees, and high mountains rising on every side.
Sam finally emerged from the grocery store shouldering a few large
bags, which we divided evenly among our panniers, and biked on, to the
The beginning of the descent was littered with rolling hills, but
later, the real descent began. The road switchbacked steeply down the
side of a bare desert mountainside, and we could see across the smog
covered suburbs and onto the towering
Now enTering Banning, CA
This is What HELL IS LIKE
It didn’t actually say that of course, it had some irrelevant information on Banning’s population and elevation, but if it had read ’This is What Hell is Like’ it would have been much more informative. So how can I describe Banning? Imagine the most desolate desert that you can. Now, completely cover the desert’s surface with red-tiled roof stucco houses that look EXACTLY the same. Put in lush green lawns that are always less than two centimeters tall and always green despite being in a desert and a four year drought, take away any culture or character, take away all street signs and bike lanes, put in a freeway, take away the downtown, put in a KOA campground and no less than 5,678 gas stations and rental car agencies, remove any street signs, make every street under constant construction (and don’t even think about installing detour signs), put in a smattering of crime, and you get Banning. Banning is a suburb, the furthest from LA of them all, baking in the desert badland 180 kilometers east of Los Angeles, and is, without a doubt, the worst place I have ever gone, with no offense intended to any Banningese who may be reading this.
Almost immediately after we entered Banning, we were lost. Banning
had yet to install street signs, so we rolled right past our turn for
From there, things improved, but only marginally. We exited Banning
and entered neighboring
We rode through an endless series of subdivisions into
I was, as I had been all day, ahead of Sam, but he was much farther
behind than he had been earlier. As we coasted down into
“I need to stop!”
“Are you alright?” I asked him, knowing his answer would be no.
“I’m really sorry, Zeke, but I don’t think I can go any
further today. I only got about two hours of sleep last night, and we
have a climb ahead of us when we leave town. On the past climb, I was
really overtired, and kept repeating to myself, ‘I can keep climbing
forever.’ And I really think I could keep climbing, at least until we
camp. But tomorrow, if we do that, I don’t think I would be able to go
on, especially if it’s really cold. Why don’t we find a motel in
I hesitated, but only briefly. On the one hand, we would have to make up 36 kilometers, and 4,000 feet of elevation gain. But, on the other hand, I didn’t want to ruin my ride, or Sam. We had a rest day coming up on Saturday and if worst came to worst we could ride then.
And so, aided by our ever helpful Adventure Cycling Association
Map, we set about finding a motel in
The Sunset Motel was a very small building, two stories, and concave, built around a parking lot that took up at least half of its entire area. In the small corner nestled next to the sidewalk, was the GLASS WINDOW. Do not even think of attempting to check into the Sunset Motel without visiting the GLASS WINDOW. There is another office window next to the GLASS WINDOW. I made the mistake of approaching that other office window and I hesitantly said,
“Is anybody there?”
The owner of the motel rapped angrily on the edge of the GLASS WINDOW. I walked over to it and repeated my query. The owner surfaced again and pressed a button from the inside to enable his voice to come across to us. He was a small man, this much was evident even while he was sitting down, and his features were etched into a deep frown as soon as he took one look at our grimy faces and bicycles. His suit, which had previously been completely smooth, seemed to wrinkle instantaneously.
“Would it be possible to get a room with two beds on the first floor please?” I asked him.
He spoke with an accent, replying, in an exasperated tone, “We have no room with two beds on the first floor.”
I could set up my sleeping pad on the floor then. “Do you have a room with one bed and room for our bikes on the first floor?” I inquired.
His already frowning features became exceptionally distraught. “Your bicycles must stay out here!! They dirty the room! They dirty it!”
I sighed. I was pretty tired, and I couldn’t begin to fathom what Sam must’ve been going through. “ If we leave our bicycles outside, somebody will steal them. Please. We’ve biked here from San Diego , through the mountains. We won’t be here long, we’ll be gone by 7:30 tomorrow at the latest.”
Suddenly, the owner’s deep frown turned completely around, and he beamed at us.
“You have ridden here from
“Yes, I’m raising money for the Sierra Club and…”
“You are going…”
“On bicycles? And you want to stay at my hotel? Of course your bicycles can go in the room with you!”
Very gratefully, we wheeled our bicycles into the room with us, ate a quick dinner, and fell asleep at 7:45.
The next morning, after checking out, we set out at 7:30 am, and
the owner, watering the hotel’s small raised bed garden next to the
parking lot, gave us a big smile as we rolled past. Yucaipa ended
somewhat abruptly, and then we were cycling next to Mill Creek, on our
way from 2,800 feet in Yucaipa to 8,400 feet at Onyx Summit, the planned
SR 38 was quite scenic, weaving along the Mill Creek Canyon, between two huge mountains, but it was plagued by an excessive amount of traffic, a lot of it construction, and the highway stunk of fresh tar. Before Angelus Oaks, I managed to receive the first flat tire of the trip, and could not for the life of me figure out what was wrong, thereby managing another flat right after changing the inner tube, until I realized that the rim tape had completely snapped. I replaced the tube, patched the rim with duct tape and hoped for the best.
Past the construction site near Angelus Oaks, the traffic thinned
out, and we climbed gradually through a pine forest. We had just passed
Barton Flats Campground, which had been our planned stop the previous
night, and the thought of making it another 100 kilometers to Crestline
seemed impossible. We planned to spend the night at
The next morning, we packed up our stuff, left the serenity of our
campsite, and hightailed it out of
West of the lake, the Rim of the
On the Adventure Cycling map, the Rim of the
As we neared the end of the Rim of the World Highway, lush
greenery, looking quite out of place in the allegedly desert mountains,
lined the road, and we began a swift descent, with the road
switchbacking along the mountainside, and plunging down, down, down to
San Bernadino below. But wait!
Several kilometers of steep gradients later, we shot down out of
the pine forest and into the baking scorched, parched, burning, flaming,
charred, not to mention hot, badland known as the
Somewhere in the Nothing of the desert, I felt a queasy nauseous sensation from cycling in the heat, and we stopped under the non-existent shade of a sagebrush. Sam taught me some tricks for cooling down, pouring water on your thighs, or your neck, or back. Eventually, I was able to go on, but I remember clearly the feeling of sitting there, in the middle of the desert with absolutely nothing around for kilometers. Two hundred yards later, we came to a Japanese restaurant, parked in the middle of Nowhere. We drank as much tepid bathwater from our bottles as we could, leaving more space to fill them with heavenly ice from the restaurant.
Onward! I felt quite slow as we slogged across the desert, over each small rise, and we elected to stay at the Western Express motel, right next to Cajon Junction. The air conditioning, terrible for the environment, hit us like a polar blast as we walked into the motel. It is terrible for the environment, and if the motel had cooled itself to 73 instead of 61, they could’ve built and powered a massive jump house in their courtyard and still come out ahead. But right then, the air conditioning felt wonderful. Inside the hotel lobby, we chatted with a PCT hiker, who was quite pleased when he discovered that we were taking virtually the same route.
“How long have you been on the road?” he asked me.
“Since last Sunday,” I told him. “And you?”
“Since mid May,” he replied, with a grin on his face.
That was amazing. We had just biked, in less than a week, what it
had taken him to walk in over a month!! And he was not even a quarter of
the way to
PCT hikers have my utmost admiration. While we considered a day without services to be “scary” a PCT hiker would think, “only a day without services?” PCT hikers often hike for five months, hiking 19 miles a day on foot, and crossing glaciers and deserts. To call the Sierra Cascades Route the “Pacific Crest Trail for Bikes” is quite the overstatement.
The next morning, which we had planned as a rest day but we would have to ride on anyway (we were considerably behind schedule), we sat in the lobby of the hotel eating the complimentary breakfast, while the weather channel blared on a TV nearby.
“We’re going to see a record setting heat wave coming to
In other words, just where Sam and I would be biking. “And what’s more, in the San Gabriels [the mountain range we were going to cycle that day], the smog will be dangerous to sensitive groups.” The weatherman sported an enormous grin.
Sam and I had a conversation about whether or not to ride across
the Mojave, or to ride to Burbank, Palmdale, or Victorville (to rent a
car). I argued that if it was dangerously hot, we could always coast
It took us a couple hours for us to reach the charming town of
The day was very scenic, but our long breaks and the constant hills made for relatively low mileage, yet by the time dusk fell and we cycled into one of the many campgrounds lining the highway, we were ten kilometers ahead of schedule.
The next morning, I woke Sam at six as usual, and while we sat
around the picnic table plotting the distance we had come after exactly
one week on the road with my big
He had been very tired at the end of the last day, and our next scheduled rest day wasn’t for another week.
“This is the hardest tour I have ever done in my life,” Sam
went on.“Yesterday we cycled fifty miles, with eight thousand
feet of total elevation gain. When we looked at the maps, they were each
divided into panels, and I thought we would be riding each of those
panels a day [40-50 kilometers]. I brought my fat tires because I
thought we would arrive at a campground at one, and I would spend the
afternoon doing some off-road riding. I don’t want to strand you here,
so maybe we can get to the
This would definitely be something I had never done before. And
there was still the issue of the impending heat wave. But I had worked
hard to make this ride happen, and my grandfather would be joining me in
“OK,” I said. “Let’s go.”
We cycled over the last steep hills of the
Into the Mojave and the rain shadow. What little water makes its
way to the Cadillac
This section of the Mojave was the arid foothills, and the
mountains were devoid of any kind of vegetation. We climbed the last
mountain before the
In a matter of minutes, we had reached the
We crossed the Los Angeles Aqueduct, one of the many that flow
south from the Sierra and uphill
toward money over the San Gabriels to
’s largest city, and entered the largest town in the
From Palmdale, the
The land west of Lancaster seemed like an unfinished housing project, each square inch of land was occupied by a sign saying, ‘this land to become such-and-such a property, or so-and-so’s subdivisions.’ Sam whizzed past me in his new bright red rental car, and reluctantly agreed to carry most of my stuff to the spot of ground on the map where I wanted to camp.
When I finally rejoined the ACA route, I enjoyed shelter from the winds on my new northerly route. Huge bluffs raised themselves from the earth randomly across the desert, and in the distance, wind turbines. At least these winds were being put to good use.
“How do you like that, Aeolus?” I crowed, raising my middle
finger to the slow, variable wind. “Scared of me already aren’t
you?” My sanity, at this point, had become quite worried that after
only an hour and a half of solo riding I had already started talking to
the wind. It was concerned about what would happen by the time I reached
Aeolus had also been concerned of the hubris from this loathsome human, and headwinds came back with fury. Lowering my head and promising never to curse Aeolus again, I ground the pedals and repeated, checking off the distance markers, “10 more kilometers, 9 more kilometers, 8 more kilometers…”
At 8:00, I reached the end of the wind farm and found Sam’s car
there. Dusk had already fallen, and the sun was only a golden glow
Have you ever tried to set up a non-freestanding tent in a 90 km/h wind? It is very difficult, especially since despite the rumors of deserts being sandy, the Mojave ground was not susceptible to tent stakes. My tent billowed like a balloon, but, with Sam’s help, I managed to set it down. I had cycled 150 kilometers (90 miles) that day, and I was extremely exhausted. I skipped dinner, lay down on my sleeping bag, and listened to the roar of the wind, billowing the corners of my tent, louder than a car alarm with a cymbal accompaniment. I finally fell asleep sometime before midnight.
When I woke up at 5:45, it was completely still. Not a sign of my
endless tormentor Aeolus. I pulled on my clothes, half expecting to see
another tent out there in the desert, to wake Sam, but there was no one.
I was alone, at the northwestern edge of the
I am alone in the desert. I write these words on a little notepad,
sitting crosslegged in the dust of the Mojave Desert at 5:57 in the
morning, surrounded by Joshua trees, cacti, wind turbines, and rimmed by
mountains. The Tehachapis are not far in the north, the San Gabriels lie
30 miles south. The sun is just starting to appear out of the
breakfast and savored the morning, the solitude, and the unique desert
plants. A Joshua tree stood next to my tent, its leaves spiky, its arms
twisted around, shaken and stunted by the harsh land. After packing my
tent and climbing on my bike, the desert air was still windless. I
smiled, ready for a fast, fairly easy ride over
The road started out flat across the desert, but the minute it began to slant upwards into the Tehachapis, Aeolus started blowing. Hard. The wind turbines that had previously stood still, began whirring as if it was their only chance to grab at the renewable energy. I was riding for the Sierra Club, so I tried to be glad for the wind, but I couldn’t help but think that if it had been a tailwind it would be doing the same thing. In addition, though I definitely support renewable energy, if United Statesians switch their average cars’ mileage (22mpg) to British average mileage (38 mpg) we would save more energy in a year than the entire wind industry does in a decade.
I decided that instead of antagonizing Aeolus, I could try to butter him up.
Me: O Great Aeolus, whose very breath streaks fear into the heart of the lowly cyclist…
Aeolus: Strikes fear.
Me: That’s what I said.
Aeolus: You said streaks fear.
Me: I’m positive I said strikes fear.
Aeolus: I’m a god. Therefore, I am right.
Me: Fu** you.
Aeolus resumed blowing in earnest. I took a short break, watching as the wind pushed the heads of the grasses flat against the Earth. I pulled out my camera and filmed the wind, sounding on the camera as if it were tearing a giant piece of paper.
“It is so windy!” I yelled at the camera. “It’s coming straight at me!”
This film, unfortunately, was not nominated for first prize in the Berkeley Film festival.
I crossed Oak Creek
and arrived in the city of
Sam grinned when he saw my expression. “I figured you’d be hungry and tired after crossing the Tehachapis in that wind,” he said. “The hotel’s barometer said it was 60 km/h! Where do you want to meet for lunch?”
Studying the map, we decided on a small dot called
Despite a headwind and my getting lost once, I enjoyed the ride
“Sure, of course you can have some water. I always let PCT hikers have water, so why not cyclists on the same route?”
I thanked him profusely, and he said, “No need to thank me, but I have received some very nice postcards from PCT hikers I helped. One person even called me a Trail Angle!”
“Do you mean Trail Angel?”
I rode swiftly down a series of switchbacks into
I flew downhill on SR 58, sailing down, down, down. The
temperature rose quickly, and by the time I reached the aptly named town
Then, as if by magic, the shaded river valley ended, the road swung up a mountainside so steeply, that a goat would need ropes to scale it, and the ambient temperature was at least 115 F. My pace dropped from eight kilometers an hour to three, and I was very swiftly overheating. Finally, I saw a familiar red rental car rounding a bend. It was Sam! He had gotten worried that it had taken me so long, so had driven back to look for me.
“You look like you have heat stroke,” he told me. “Can you cycle up a bit further to that turnout?”
I could. I sat under the shade of an oak tree feeling terrible
while Sam disassembled my bicycle in about two minutes, threw it in his
car, and I climbed in. The red car tore around the tight corners of the
one lane road, Sam swerving madly past huge drops. Finally, the car
crested the final summit, and plummeted to
“No,” he argued. “It’ll be too hot, the heat wave is supposed to last through the next few days. And I can’t reassemble your bicycle without the proper tools. I’ll drive you back to the Bay Area.”
We flew along the one lane road, swerving around curves as we
climbed the hills I was supposed to be cycling. It is always strange to
enter a car after more than a week of cycle touring, and this was no
exception. I was annoyed at myself for my joy at this ease, kilometers
flying by with no effort what so every, air conditioning blasting away
the remnants of 115 F hell. We drove to a motel in Kernville, and the
next day, the car careened over the mountain roads before entering the
We stopped at Dullard’s Bike Shop, where they began to assemble my bike. They needed to install an extra ball bearing, which they did, and I biked home. The temperature was about seventy degrees, and I marveled at how nice it was. Pre-bike trip, I would’ve considered 70 F unbearably hot, but now, it was pleasantly cool.
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