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girls bike pack of coyote canyon with Mary Collier and Hub Cyclery

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Coyote Canyon Ladies’ Adventure: Advanced Bikepacking

Posted on 04 November 2014 by Mary

womens bikepacking hub cyclery coyote canyonThe Hub Cyclery Guided Overnights are taking off and our first supported bikepack was a success. I led 9 women on a weekend trip down Coyote Canyon – in our own back yard.

We started out with the Ladies’ night last Friday. A chance for some of the women to meet and discuss gear etc. and also watch a great flick and share some food. We do these gatherings once a month as an opportunity to mingle with the girls and this was our first ladies’ night in the new space. What a treat.

selfielineupMany of the women stayed over Friday night and Saturday morning we gathered at the shop for last-minute bike prep and bag packing. The women trickled in between 10 and 12 and the advance group headed towards Thomas Mtn at 11:30. I’m very fortunate to live near one of Endurance Cycling’s legends – Wendy Skean. Wendy holds records for many 24 hour and 100miler races in the country and is also a great friend and inspiration of mine. She led the advance group to give her knees a gentle stroll since having recent knee issues – at 70 years old, i’ll be stoked to lead the mellower advance group for the overnighters!

I followed up with the rest of the gals once we were all ready. This ride brought many hammers and long-time endurance racing mavens to the Hub Overnighters.

dawn harris coyote canyon sandy bikepack hub cyclery siren bicycles surly ecr adventure bike bikepackThe Miss Fits:
Ann Z – Downhill diva with style – packs random things like national enquirer in case we need funny stories around the campfire – veteran overnighter.
Carrie H.  – Accomplished enduro momma who can look good in anything from a trucker hat to an evening gown – newbie overnighter
Christine G. – Sage momma and sand goddess – newbie overnighter
Dawne H. – Master brewer and singletrack master – veteran overnighter.
gretchen garcia in her usual fun fashion while bikepacking coyote canyon with hub cycleryGretchen G. – Heart of gold and smile so warm it can keep those around her cozy – also has a crash pad in SD that she’s willing to share while preggers waits to go into labor (xoxo) – newbie overnighter
Krista A. – One tough hot mamma – Undeterred tough gal who will ALWAYS show up (rain, ice or snow) if it sounds like there’s fun to be had – veteran overnighter.
Laurie H. – Queen Girl Scout – One of the few people I know I’d survive with stuck out overnight with no gear – veteran overnighter.
Shelly P. –  Speedy, resourceful and willing to share stories about that crazy uncle – newbie overnighter
Wendy S. – What else can I say? – Endurance racing inspiration, best babysitter… even has a pump track for the little ones! – veteran overnighter

After gathering all the girls together at Thomas Mt. we headed out past the dogs and through the outskirts of Anza to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. I think I was the smallest gal toting the heaviest load. Being the group leader, I carried a full first-aid kit and extra of many things, in case we needed them. I was also riding my new ECR (Escape Children Rapidly) which had the biggest tires and wheels of the crew (29 plus) – making me look like a 12 year old on a grown-up’s bike!

coyote canyon women's guided trip marin surly ecr salsa hub cyclery mary collier Saturday night was somewhat uneventful, other than the sun setting over the canyon as we hit the insane rocky descent. I think I lost a filling or two but just tried to keep the speed up so we’d all ride lightly over all the bumps – that’s my theory, anyways! I’ve been on overnighters where gals had dry bags strapped every which way and have seen a lot of gear go flying on this descent. Not this time, though. Most of the girls had revelate bags from The Hub and all was secure. I even tried out the Salsa Anything cages on my Surly fork and to my surprise, we all held together! We turned on head lights about 20 minutes before the cabin – perfect timing!

cabin_morning_maryThe special moments and silly stories that happen at the cabin make ladies’ trips the best. I can’t even imagine having as much fun with the guys as we had. The weather was perfect and most of us slept under the clear sky with a perfect view of the stars sans bivy or tent.

girls bike pack of coyote canyon with Mary Collier and Hub CyclerySunday would prove to be a bit tougher and more of an adventure. Some rains have come through the canyon and moved a lot of dirt. There were sections, normally very rocky, that are now covered in dirt and somewhat tamed. However, the willows entrance is obliterated. The dirt in the bottom has raised up a lot and many trees are down. After spending a half hour bushwhacking into mesquite, we decided to take the high line above the willows on the hillside – through a place Dora the Explorer would call cholla hell. There was much bike pushing and carrying and lots of praying that our sealant wouldn’t fail us.

Shelly Pepenani bikepack Carrie Hammond Hub Cyclery Mary CollierWhen we got fed up with cholla hell, we dropped down into the middle of the willows and finished them out slogging through a bit of water and plowing open the willows that have been choked down. Cutting through the willows was like untangling long hair – the willows from the left side of the trail went right and the willows from the right side went left. My bike and I combed through it and plow it open for the rest of the girls.

coyote canyon, marin, salsa, surly, hub cyclery, ECR, adventure bike, bikepackingBeyond the willows, the canyon is firm for a short while. We then hit the bottom of the canyon (where it opens for motor vehicles) and wished we had boogie boards. The sand was softer than I’ve seen it in the last 6 years. My Surly ECR (Escape Children Rapidly) adventure bike did the trick – sorry girls! Gretchen and Christine were able to keep me within eyesight on their 29ers with a bit of dodging in and out of the wash and onto the crust beside it. “Go for the crust and keep your weight back!”

womens bikepack coyote canyon baby monument krista adamek christine grayWe all had to put our heads down and just pedal for a while… downhill.

After enjoying some fresh squeezed lemonade roadside and stopping at a couple of the art sculptures outside of Borrego we made it to town. We had the adventure bus waiting outside our favorite Mexican restaurant with Brendan, Dave and the boys in charge. The girls quickly cleaned up a little and headed in for food while the guys loaded the bikes for us. Success!

I met a few newbies on this trip and the stoke is high for more ladies’ overnighters. We’ve got a beginner trip in the works as well as another advanced group. Stay tuned!

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MBAU Cuyamaca Benefit Ride

Posted on 07 October 2014 by Brendan

The 24th year of the Cuyamaca ride!

Heading out on the Cuyamaca ride

Heading out on the Cuyamaca ride

The Cuyamaca Poker ride is a fundraising event for the Mountain Bike Assitance Unit (MBAU) within the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The MBAU is part of the Interpretive Association along with the Mounted Unit, the Interpretive Unit, and the Trails Maintenance Unit. The long story short: these volunteers are helping folks have better experiences in the State Park.

The ride was about 27 (dusty) miles of fun singletrack with seemingly all the usual suspects from San Diego county in attendance. A great day on the bike and an opportunity to catch up with friends.

Cranking through meadows on the way back

Cranking through meadows on the way back

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Late Summer in Garner Valley

Posted on 30 September 2014 by Brendan

We met up at Lake Hemet Market for a ride in Garner Valley 

Fobes Ranch road, in the flats

Fobes Ranch road, in the flats

Ten of us, scouting out a part of the San Jacinto Enduro route. A great day to be outside. Folks at horse camp and hikers couldn’t agree more.

Dave rides off into the sunrise

Dave rides off into the sunrise

We rode through the valley, climbed Thomas Mountain and soaked in some rays before descending Ramona Trail

Ramona Trail at Tool Box Campground

Ramona Trail at Tool Box Campground

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Riding the Wrightwood 50

Posted on 22 September 2014 by Brendan

Southern California just got another “Must Do” ride added to the annual list.  

yep, those mountains are BIG

yep, those mountains are BIG

Cut to the chase: if you’re into this sort of riding, you really want to make sure you ride this next year. 
The WW50 is a self-supported endurance ride similar in concept to our own San Jacinto Enduro. A single day ride, totally self-supported… up a bunch of mountains and back down a bunch of mountains. The whole shebang. Real deal big mountain riding. It’s put on by a guy who knows a thing or two about riding mountain bikes. Eric Nelson is a Tour Divide finisher, owner of Wrightwood Cyclery, and straight up good dude. A real ambassador of riding in his area.

Sucking wind at 6:45am

Sucking wind at 6:45am

My buddy Dave and I pulled in to Wrightwood at about 6:20am, 10 minutes before the start. Ideally we’d have spent the previous night in Wrightwood, but the realities of being a dad and a bike shop owner got in the way. And that’s a real shame, because Wrightwood is a cool town to spend some time in.
We huffed up to the line just before the start, and set off.
I hadn’t been on any of the trails before the ride and wasn’t familiar with the course, other than to know the first climb, Acorn, was supposed to be a real ass-kicker.
And it was.
Something like 2800ft of gain on loose trail within 4 miles… with a jaw-dropping view at the top.

The pack was starting to spread out by this point, and I followed the herd down Blue Ridge… and followed the rider in front of me right past my very first turn on the cues. I didn’t realize the error until some point much later in the ride, when I came across Eric. Turned out I missed a singletrack descent, and the following climb. Darnit.
So I decided to ride everything else and have a good time.

Surprise refreshments at the top of a particularly heinous climb

Surprise refreshments at the top of a particularly heinous climb

Ride highlights included “Leprechaun” trail, a thicket of shred interspersed with Troll (or leprechaun) artifacts.
“Manzanita” trail was my favorite; a high speed descent on loose terrain with the occasional death-defying maneuver… followed by a very long climb that demanded inner peace.

There was some of this...

There was some of this…

... and a lot of this.

… and a lot of this.

“Boy Scout” trail’s flow almost lulled me into a trance, but the moments of exposure to long drops off trail kept me alert.
Table Mountain Road? That sucked. Table Mountain Trail? That made it worth it. Super worth it.

"Get your ass kicked... and like it!"

“Get your ass kicked… and like it!”



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San Jacinto Enduro filled up

Posted on 27 August 2014 by Brendan

The ride is full! no_vacancies_sign_143-R20-B We’ll have an email coming out soon with gathering & start info. Tagged: idyllwild, outdoor education booster club, San Jacinto Enduro

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San Jacinto Enduro sign up is OPEN

Posted on 18 August 2014 by Brendan

Sign up, get training, and come together for a good cause


Click here for the registration link. 

Tagged: gotta get up to get down, registration info, San Jacinto Enduro

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May Valley Road Reopened

Posted on 30 June 2014 by Brendan

After nearly a year, May Valley Road has been reopened to public access. 

Dave and Marlin drop into May Valley road.

Dave and Marlin drop into May Valley road.

We took this past Saturday’s shop ride through May Valley, something we haven’t been able to do in nearly a year.
The Forest Service reopened May Valley road last week, which now means cyclists, hikers, and horseback riders once again have an off-highway route to connect Idyllwild to Hurkey Creek and surrounding areas of Thomas Mountain, Rouse Ridge, etc. It also means we will have better access to bikepacking opportunities all over the mountain without having to ride Highway 243. The entire area had been closed to public access following the Mountain Fire last July, which burned nearly 28,000 acres.

The closure is still in place for most of the trails in the May Valley area, including 100% of the burn area. From what we could tell from the road on our ride, the trails were utterly decimated, eroded beyond recognition from rains before new vegetation took root.
However, on the bright side, the area is full of grasses that grew in this spring, hopefully adding some stability to the dirt. In the area near the May Valley/ Bonita Vista road intersection, Ribbonwoods have already been springing up, some nearly 2 feet high.

Entering the burn area, where Spring grasses have already taken root, and browned.

Entering the burn area, where Spring grasses have already taken root, and browned.

The Oak Tree on the old 24 Hour Course survived the fire and looks to be sprouting new growth.

The Oak Tree on the old 24 Hour Course survived the fire and looks to be sprouting new growth.

The Johnson Meadow trail was reopened. Despite the fact the fire ripped through this area, it was hard to tell much had changed. The trail is lined by signs instructing trail users to stay on the trail.
The area of May Valley above the burn area has been getting quite a bit of fuels reduction. The area around South Ridge has stacks of cut vegetation waiting to be disposed of, presumably this coming winter.

Taking a break near South Ridge trail.

Taking a break near South Ridge trail. Fuels reduction efforts have deposited stacks of vegetation nearby. 



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Biscuits & Gravy Ride June 29th

Posted on 17 June 2014 by Brendan

This gravy train has biscuit wheels.

View from Indian Mountain area

View from Indian Mountain area

We’re putting in some good miles on some strange dirt. It’ll be like a shop ride, but bigger, harder, longer… and on a Sunday.
When? Sunday, June 29th. Be at the shop and sign your waiver by 8:30. Buy some stuff while you’re at it. Ride leaves at 9am.
Where? At the shop. Park at Idyllwild Inn, in the middle of town. Book a reservation there while you’re at it.
Who should come? Folks who have ridden our shop rides before, but would like to go further. It’ll be a challenge.
The Ride: about 45 miles, 6,000ft of climbing. 50/50ish dirt & pavement, out to Black Mountain, then waaay up, around 8,000ft elevation. Bonus loop for those who are interested. Some of the very best views-by-bike available in the San Jacintos. Expect to be back around mid afternoon.
GPS track? nope, sorry.
Food & Water: Robot food, energy bars, chews, etc are all available at the shop. Bring plenty of water. Potable water at the spring near the top of the Black Mountain climb. Pine Cove Market will be a good stop on the way back (optional singletrack right afterward)
Why’s it called Biscuits & Gravy? Because we’re country like that.

View at the top of Black Mountain Trail

View at the top of Black Mountain Trail


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72 Hours in the Rabbit Hole- The Mountains

Posted on 05 June 2014 by Brendan

I didn’t sleep well at the beach. 
Three or four hours passed on the sand, but I awoke several times to anxieties of undesirables who might be lurking in the bush nearby.
My day started at 4am.

I clipped in and rode off into darkness, lights on in the haze. I felt tired, and a little hungover, even. A cumulative effect of suboptimal food, a lot of sun, and 200+ miles in 48 hours.  Within a few miles I stopped at an AM/PM, which delivered on their claim of “Too Much Good Stuff.” I stocked up for the day ahead. Nuts & drinks.
I collected myself at the gas station a while with a cup of coffee, yogurt, and chocolate milk, and called Mary to discuss the ride. She knew I could have pushed on further the night before, which would have been a better setup for a final push up into the mountains.
I didn’t tell her at the time, but there at the gas station, I started to consider a monster effort to ride the route from the ocean all the way home to Idyllwild in one push. It would mean a 130 mile day, with the bulk of the route’s climbing ahead.

First things first
The big push concept was daunting. I had to break it into steps, starting with the clearing of my foggy head, and did my best not to make too many calculations about time checks I should aim for along the way.
I soft pedaled to North of The Border bike shop, where there was a care package and friendly note waiting for me. In the package was an assortment of energy gels, electrolyte drinks, and the like. I really appreciated the gesture.

A note from the guys at North of the Border bike shop.

A note from the guys at North of the Border bike shop.

And then there was Penasquitos Canyon. Urban singletrack, early morning stomping grounds for a zillion mountain bikers… and perennial Bermuda Triangle for me. I don’t carry a GPS on the Stagecoach 400 route because having created the route, I know every turn… almost every turn anyway. There are over 300 route cues for the course and I feel utterly comfortable going through the most remote of them by memory alone (I carry maps for reference) but the Penasquitos Canyon twists and turns totally confuse me. The sky overhead is often foggy from the ocean moisture, with city lights reflecting off the haze at night… both take away reference points for me.

And I got lost.
I charged off in the direction I thought I needed to go… then second guessed the decision about a half mile out, and turned around. Then charged up a hill to gain some line of sight perspective. Nothing looked familiar.
I saw a guy on a bike and flagged him down. He was in a hurry, blurted out something about “go that way,” so I did… a mile later it became apparent I was way off track, by a mile.
I turned on my smartphone map and did my best to compare “current location” to the red line on the Trackleaders website. I reminded myself that this too, is part of the challenge. I needed to slow down and solve this early morning riddle. Eventually I found the way and soft pedaled out of my least favorite canyon on the route.

Mile 256
The Circle K where I pulled out, sick, last time. I have bailed on ambitious rides here in the past too. I love and hate that spot. This day, I was feeling stronger, even a little buzzed to ride away from that point under my own power.

Loaded up and ready to press on past where I'd stopped on my last attempt.

Loaded up and ready to press on past where I’d stopped on my last attempt.

I pressed on through Black Mountain and into the San Dieguito River Park area. Great pedaling weather with cool temps and a light breeze. I indulged myself to go ahead and start making plans for the long day ahead in the mountains. The I-15 crossing would be my last viable stop for all resources. I drilled my mind on what I’d do there: order a sandwich, drink chocolate milk while it was being made, stock up on more nuts, mix up some robot drink, etc.

Ranger Dave from the river park Spot stalked me, and provided escort through to the end of his turf. A nice gesture for sure. We moved along at a fast pace, perhaps faster than I wanted to go, but slower than he wanted to go… so just about right. I hit hwy 78 at high heat, and seemingly high traffic. The climb up this long stretch of hot pavement would be the last I’d see of San Diego county’s hustle before turning off into the ranch lands of Pamo Valley.

Up into the hills
When the heat started to break I mixed my last baggie of Perpetuem, which I had been carrying since I left Idyllwild. I had four servings in total and had saved the last one for this climb. I turned the ipod on, more Daft Punk and Pixies. I felt this was a make or break moment of the day- if I could get in a groove and climb strong, I would make the effort to push all the way home.
The climb out of Pamo Valley is a bitch, but I crushed it. Just blew it away. I felt almost too good going up toward Black Canyon, but monitored my legs and breathing to keep it consistent.
Then Sam Johnstone showed up. Sam is an extraordinarily strong bikepacker, and an exceptionally good guy to ride a bike with. He rolled down from his home in Julian, down into the deepest depths of the worst part of the Stagecoach route to come ride with me. Crazy!
“How far you wanna ride today?” he asked
“Well, I’m kinda thinking of going all the way.”
“To Idyllwild?”
“Yep, but that’s just an idea. We’ll see after Warner Springs.”

Sam was fully loaded for an overnight trip, all in. We pushed on up the Black Canyon climb, riding strong. I was amazed and thrilled to see my legs going strong. Some of the prettiest countryside on the route revealed itself at the top, near Mesa Grande road.

Me and Sam Johnstone at Mesa Grande road. Sam is a great rider and a great guy.

Me and Sam Johnstone at Mesa Grande road. Sam is a great rider and a great guy.

I checked in on Facebook and saw I had quite an audience following my SPOT track, and read through all the well wishes. They all expected me to turn off to Lake Henshaw resort, over a mile off route but the obvious resupply point. I talked it over with Sam, who was loaded well enough that he didn’t need to stop. We blazed the Hwy 79 section to Warner Springs in what felt like record time. We had a strong tail wind, even. I checked my Facebook one more time to see Kevin Hinton’s update on the Stagecoach page: “HE”S GOING FOR IT!”
I phoned Mary to let her know to keep the proverbial light on for me that night.

We took some time visiting with a firefighter in Warner Springs to stretch legs, lube chains, and organize my gear for the night ahead. By this point in the route, well over 300 miles in, my gear became an extension of myself. I could access clothing layers or food items blind, which I figured I’d have to do the final night.
The sun set as we churned up into Lost Valley.
In darkness, I did not turn on my light. “Imagine it’s all a climb” once again my mantra. It was easy to fool myself into believing the whole thing really was “all a climb” since I couldn’t see very far ahead. Every now and then I’d feel my front wheel drop down into a descent. Bonus points, in my mind.
Through Chihuahua Valley and on to the Cienega Truck Trail. The place Kevin and I have called “nut punch mountains.”
UP, down, UP, down, UP, down… Sam disappeared far beyond me. I continued to ride with no light, which meant Sam never really knew how far behind I was.

After Midnight
Body soreness set in. I kept an even pace but allowed very few full stops.
I could not stop and sit, for fear of cramping, or falling asleep.
My mind started to play tricks on me. My vision was off.
I walked a lot.

Jim Truck Trail, climbing out of Anza. The entire thing was a walk. Sand slog at the bottom, rocky at the top. I tripped and stumbled a few times. The cold of the mountain night set in, I donned all of the clothing in my bags at the Speed of Light Reflector.
I don’t remember the conversation Sam and I had at the top of that hill, but he tells me I said something about “Gotta keep moving or the Sleep Monster will get me.”
I do remember a very strong desire to sleep, but at this point I was a scant 14 miles or so from the end.
Garner Valley was very cold, freezing. Ice crystals formed on the road. Sam, underdressed, blazed ahead never to be seen again.
Leaning hard on my aero bars, I was falling asleep on the bike. I would “come to” every now and then and find I was swerving in the road. Thankfully it was about 3am and there was absolutely no traffic at that hour.

I turned on my phone. I texted Mary to let her know I would be back soon. I was still in striking range of keeping to my sub-72 hour goal, but it wasn’t in the bag anymore. I walked up Keen Summit. I walked up past my son’s daycare… a gentle grade even most kids could ride. I gazed at a couple grassy spots and wondered what it would be like to curl up and sleep.
On the bike… time ticking down.
I had less than 20 minutes left to keep the ride under 72 hours.
10 minutes left…. creeping in to town.
5 minutes left… around the bend entering town. Big chainring, out of the saddle 100% effort down to the elementary school. Aero tuck.
Climb up North Circle, 3 minutes left.
Time check 71 hours, 58 minutes. Done.

I cried. On the steps of the bike shop, accomplishment.

I floated in a sense of bewilderment the next day. Folks around town asked how my ride was; I puffed with pride. The route I’d created was no longer my own nemesis.

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72 Hours in the Rabbit Hole- Day 1

Posted on 30 April 2014 by Brendan

 71 hours, 58 minutes and so much more 
I left Monday after delaying the start a full day… which would’ve been a move up in the first place. I had the opportunity to see the Pixies live at Pappy & Harriets… a barnlike venue in Yucca Valley described as a “hipster honky tonk”. The chance to see Pixies was worth shuffling my days, I figured. But duty called, and it turned out I didn’t have much time to spare. A guy can only have so much fun.
Jump in
Higher Grounds Coffee Shop, the starting point of the ride.

Higher Grounds Coffee Shop, the starting point of the ride.

I left the house around 4 am Monday morning, stopped by the very closed coffee shop for the obligatory SPOT turn on and called the start of my ride at 4:20. I rolled off in the cold & dark, down the route into Garner Valley. Dave See, my riding buddy, happened upon me along his commute some 10 miles out, just before my first turn off on to dirt near Thomas Mountain. He pulled his car alongside and gave me a shot of enthusiasm with a pumped fist & raised cup of coffee.
A very red sun rises over Anza.  Day 1

A very red moon sets over Anza. Day 1 at daybreak

I lingered a bit at the top of the first climb near the Speed of Light Reflector, which is an artifact left over from scientific experiments of the 1930’s. The setting moon was red and fat on the horizon. Commuter traffic was building on highway 371 below, I noticed the motorists seem to zip around a bit quicker when that first hint of civil twilight breaks. Just like the critters rustling around in the bushes.
Descending into Coyote Canyon, the day matured. Pines and Pinyons gave way to Creosote Bush and Ocotillos. Lizards scurried on rocks and sand, warming in the low yellow sun. I settled into solitude for the long haul across the desert. By the time I reached the Ocotillo Wells General Store a number of hours later, I was deep enough within my own head that I could barely hold conversation with the resident desert socialite. A chatty blonde girl with a pack of cigarettes, legs dangling over the arms of her plastic chair.
Summer is coming early
The route jumps deep into the Anza Borrego desert from Ocotillo Wells. Soft sand, churned by Jeeps and dried by intense sun and too few rainy days. Southern California has been in a drought of historical significance. Desert dwellers from Borrego Springs to the Imperial Valley can see it in the vegetation, and even in the ground they walk on. Prior to my ride, I had talked with Carter Taylor, from Brawley, who told me of the recent changes he’d witnessed in his home turf: the wind had been busy moving dry sand, and the firm layer of “crust” was thin and fragile.
I stopped briefly at the mouth of Fish Creek wash to air down my tires and give myself a pep talk. I’d been feeling pretty good on the bike to that point and decided to press into the ride with effort, to make my mark on the ITT right there. “Effort” is a relative term on a hot day in the desert. It is nothing at all like effort in the hills, or effort on the flats. Effort in the desert for me means holding a sustainable exertion for a long time, with few stops. It takes a constant self-diagnostic check of breathing (don’t get too deep) and pressure on the pedals, combined with a carefully reading the sand for firm spots and avoiding the impossibly soft ones. The margin of error is razor thin. Get breathing too hard, hit a soft spot and be forced to push… and you’re done.
Getting settled in the desert.

Getting settled in the desert.

I started off during the day’s peak heat, a temp in the mid 90’s. The sand in wash was soft, as predicted, and the steady breeze came through the valley like a hair dryer blowing on my face. Forward progress came from about 80% pedaling, 20% pushing and walking.
I kept at it with businesslike effort, running calculations in my mind for arrival times at various goals that day. I was anxious to get to the shade beneath the tall rocks near the Wind Caves, a few miles up the wash. By the time I got there, I’d spent about 2 hours straining in the heat since leaving the store in Ocotillo Wells. My stomach had knotted up, and my energy level was quite low. That “effort” in the sand- and the focus on time goals- was a mistake. I sat in the shade for quite some time reevaluating the situation, and decided to walk at a slow pace until the heat broke.
I walked for hours, stomach distended and head hot. When I allowed myself to ride it was at a creeping pace, barely turning the pedals. The push up Diablo Drop Off, a deep silty grade up a steep hill, was particularly heinous. I took three breaks on the way up, covering less than a quarter mile in probably a half hour.
By the time I reached Arroyo Tapiado the sun had relented, and I finally had gravity on my side. I pedaled at what turned out to be a more reasonable “effort” for the rest of the day until I reached Highway S-2 around dusk.
Blood Moon
Mark puts on a laser show

Mark puts on a laser show

I pulled up to the Agua Caliente General Store in the dark and located doorbell: a tethered ingot of steel the visitor whacks against a hanging oxygen tank with the bottom cut out. Mark, the store owner, welcomed me into his home for the evening and immediately provided for my every need: a home made turkey sandwich and cold Dos Equis, which he described as “clean and refreshing,” and he was right.
It was the night of the Blood Moon eclipse; cause for celebration. We stayed up a while, visiting and enjoying the night sky outside his compound, which is equal parts health food store and repair shop. Mark put on a laser light show against the nearby mountains and we related stories of tourists and the state of the world.
I laid back in a hammock below a large Ocotillo, rocking in the gentle breezes. I listened to a symphony of frogs from the nearby spring, and lingering notes of wind chimes in the air… I drifted off to sleep.

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