Elevation gained: 2,290 ft/Miles 74/Total Miles: 2,902/Total Fast Food: 20
I would like to go on record and say that I most emphatically disagree with the sentiment expressed above.
I pulled out of the hotel this morning, but the magnetic force of the Winchell’s Donuts across the street sucked me in. (And, yes, for those of you counting, I did it add it as fast food above.) While enjoying my belly buster and a cup of Joe, I looked at the map and decided to follow Route 66 through Antelope Valley toward Palmdale. Of course, since it isn’t marked as Route 66, but a series of different roads, I had to stop periodically to ask for directions and ensure that I was on the right path.
One of those stops was at an AM-PM Mini-Mart a few miles beyond Victorville. I picked up a Gatorade and brought it to the counter and asked whether I was on the right road. The clerk was uncertain, but a customer chimed in with what he thought was the correct directions. He was in his mid-20s, wearing a slouch hat, gold earrings, black Ray-Ban shirt and chewing on a toothpick – looked a bit like a younger version of Snoop Dogg.
“Ya goin’ there on your bike?” he asked.
“Hopefully, depending on the headwinds,” I replied.
“You the man, homeboy,” he said in smooth voice.
“Not really, I’m just a middle-aged guy trying to lose some weight.”
“Ya goin’ ta lose a lot of weight if you ridin’ all the way there!” he exclaimed.
“Actually, I’m riding across the country. I started in Florida a couple of months ago.”
“Whaaaat? “Whaaat”?, he exclaimed.
At that, all of the sudden everyone in the store started speaking at once, offering me directions. I couldn’t keep track of all the different routes recommended or understand the differences, so I thanked everyone and took my drink out to my bike. As I did, the same guy followed me out and stood next to me, as I was getting ready to go.
“Why?” he asked with his hands outstretched.
“Why what”? I replied
“Why ya doin’ this?” he said.
“Because I have some time off and I thought it would be a great chance to see the country and meet people.”
At that, he looked at me for a few long moments, shook his head slowly and walked to his car without another word.
From there, I skirted the edge of the still snow capped San Bernardino mountains to the south and new housing tracts to the north on a shoulderless road with truck traffic everywhere. Near Llano, the road was newly surfaced with room for cyclists but, of course, that is when the wind hit. The forecast had been for strong winds, but I had no idea how forceful they would be.
The difficulty with headwind isn’t just inefficiency, although that is a big issue. When I rode directly into the wind today, my speed dropped 40% or more. The bigger issue is psychological. The relentless sound of the wind drowns out everything, including the iPod. After a couple of hours, it starts to wear you down mentally; so, I tried to take a break whenever I could. Near Littlerock, I stopped at a tourist place called “Charlie Brown’s Farm” and ate a buffalo burger (they also offered venison, turkey and ostrich) and tried to give my nerves time to regroup. I was tempted by the deep fried Oreos, but decided against it given that I still had 40 miles of riding left.
After lunch, I spoke to a bread deliveryman and asked him about the road to Santa Clarita. (I’ve found that they, along with FedEx and UPS drivers, are great sources of route information.) He advised me to take the Sierra Highway/Soledad Canyon Road, which was great advice as it turns out that Hwy14 doesn’t permit cyclists.
One advantage of the route was that Soledad Canyon is deep enough that the headwind subsided. The other was that the scenery was fascinating. The road curves along the edge of the Angeles National Forest. On the other side, you see beautiful gated homes and ranches as well as places filled with decades of junk that look like they belong to Jethro, Ellie May and their progeny. There are also multiple private campgrounds with everything, including baseball fields, swimming pools, paddle boats, horseshoes, volleyball courts and BBQ pits. However, I didn’t see a single person anywhere. It made me feel as if I were in one of those late 1950’s science fiction movies where the protagonist is the last person on earth. At one point, I descended past the Shambala Preserve. Set against the creek that runs through this area, it appears to be a large private zoo, with many acres of cages and artificial animal habitats. Again, it was completely empty. (I later found out it is run by actress Tippi Hedren for abused wild animals, but no word as to why it is vacant.)
As the road pulled out of the canyon and crossed under Hwy 14 toward Santa Clarita, the full force of the wind slammed me. My face was pelted by sand and dust and trash was frequently blown into my spokes. I wasn’t riding anymore; it was more like wobbling. I was just trying to stay upright. Over the next 15 miles, the wind continued to strengthen. On the news tonight, it was reported that it hit 25-35mph and will be worse tomorrow.