We left the (non) luxurious Sheffler’s hotel in Salome under cold, grey skies and intermittent rain. We silently rode through Harcuvar and Hope on Hwy 60 angling toward Interstate 10 to the south. Surrounding us were a collection of buttes and mesas with a jagged mountain backdrop. The grey haze made everything appear like the silhouetted paintings of the southwest that you see in your local art festival. For much of the ride today, I held back and let Drama ride far ahead. I wanted him to enjoy the solitude of riding alone through the desert – it’s something special.
Near Hope, we met a couple from Switzerland who are biking to the Grand Canyon from Southern California. A few miles later, we met Neil who is riding to Gainesville, Florida after a tour of the northern U.S. last year. Neil rides extremely light and fast, covering 80 to 100 miles per day with only two saddlebags of equipment.
Passing through Brenda, we were surrounded by RV parks – hundreds of retirees joining together each year to form a community for months at a time in the middle of the dessert, miles from any major city. I found myself asking – “What do these people do around here?”
A few miles past Brenda, we joined Interstate 10. Riding on the interstate is an entirely different experience. Although the shoulder is wide and smooth it is filled with terrestrial jetsam; broken bottles, used diapers, plastic water bottles, fast food bags and wrappers – a minefield of debris. A bigger obstacle is the shredded tire treads of 18-wheelers looking like black skinned snakes writhing across the roadway. For much of the ride from Quartzsite to Blythe we had a very steep descent. Navigating through this was a challenge as were the trucks speeding by only a few feet away. The sound reminded me of the third turn at Indy, a high-pitched drone and then the buffeting of the wind behind the rig. We learned that this “dirty air” at least helped to break up the constant headwind we again faced today.
In mid-afternoon, I crossed over the Colorado River and into California after almost two months away. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling a bit emotional. Tonight, I will be looking at the map and planning the remainder of the ride. I had originally planned to ride up Hwy 395 and over the Sierras, but due to the snowpack, that won’t be possible. Instead, I’ll likely angle over to the Pacific Coast from Joshua Tree National Park (our destination tomorrow), but I’m not yet sure of the exact route. Like Keb says – there’s more than one way home.