Sam and I woke up before our alarm was to go off, and we made an effort to get up. It was cold enough to see our breath, which I guess was credited to the elevation. The water that had covered my tent had frosted over. We packed and went to eat at the hot spring spa/hotel/restaurant in town. We ate pretty tasty breakfast food, and warmed up with some coffee.

We had about another thousand feet to climb today, which was not so bad. No headwind, and the terrain was changing more, and I started to really feel like I was in California. The view from our road on historic route 80 was really nice. I was also glad that Sam had chosen this route, and that directions were one less thing I would have to worry about as I finished this last leg of the trip. It’s nice to feel lazy sometimes.

We stopped for lunch at a touristy little diner in Pine Valley, which was a  cute town full of pine trees, and saw how late it was getting. We had thought we might try to get to San Diego today, but at this hour, it was clear we would be getting there after dark. Since Sam lives there, and our destination was her house, it made sense to do this. So off we went, chugging up some small hills, and then sailing down the mountain.

At a stop sign, there was a man in bright yellow who was flagging us down. He was a cyclist, and we had seen him earlier coming down the hill we had been climbing. He handed me a gold coin to welcome me to San Diego. Robert did not have to be told that this was the destination like everyone else had. Of course, we still had a few hours of biking left, but that was it. He told me it was his dream to tour like we had, and we encouraged him to make that dream come true. It is a pretty good dream to have, and it can be accomplished anytime, anyway, if you want it to. If this girl can do it, any person on this planet can. Seriously. Robert was the first person to congratulate me for making it, and it felt pretty good, I must say.

We rode through the small towns Sam said people refer to as bed towns, because the people who live there sleep there but commute to San Diego for work. We had the strange company of two young skateboarders who were on the road with us. They were pretty brazen about playing chicken a little with cars as it was beginning to darken. Sam said she liked them because they were alerting the drivers on the road, which made them more attentive by the time they saw us. They were only riding down the hill for a few miles, so they would have quite the climb when they were at the bottom. They should ride a bike instead.

We got into the San Diego area well after dark, and I was following Sam’s lead. She had taken this route when she had done some training rides, so even though it was dark, she had a pretty good idea of where to go. We did more climbing, as that is the nature of San Diego. It didn’t really feel like I had really arrived, since it was dark and I had no real knowledge of orientation. But it did feel different anyway.

We pulled into Sam’s sometime around nine Pacific time. She lives in a nice little neighborhood, which Sam says is actually considered a less nice neighborhood by many native San Diegans. She said it is because we have lower standards coming from Philadelphia. Oh. Palm trees make everything look really nice.

We were both very tired. Her husband, Fred, was still at work, but had been nice enough to make a pizza for us. Solved our problem of what to eat since we did not feel like making anything.

I have to say, this is it. The end of the trip. At this time, I still am not sure that I feel like that is true. When I wake up in the morning, I will want to get on my bicycle. Not that I can’t still do that, but it is no longer the same. My life feels like it will take some adjusting to not be on my bike day in and day out. I look forward to my next trip, which I have not decided where or when that will be. If I had the funds to keep going, I would. But now is not the time.

Now, I have a little more vacation. Sam and Fred will let me bum around here for a bit because they are awesome friends. After that, I must get back to being a functioning human in the world again. It has its own merits, but this way of life is difficult to peel away from.

Thank you for coming along this trip with me. Thank you for all the guidance and assistance and support to make this solo trip a group effort. I am a different person now than I was at the start, to be sure. I would not have been able to have this experience without all of you, sincerely. My memories of each person who helped me and friends and family who encouraged me are solidified in my mind forever. I have a deep respect for this country that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and I encourage each person to have as many adventures as possible to know what that can really mean. If you can, do it while riding a bicycle.

If nothing else, just ride a bike, modified if you have special needs, whenever you can and as far as you can.

Total ridden bicycle miles from Pennsylvania to California (not including lost miles) = 3,163
Total vehicular miles to assist me across the country = 183
Total trip miles on my route = 3,346


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Sam and I woke up and she watched me putz around. I warned her that I am slow in the morning, and she didn’t seem to mind as I would start one thing and got distracted by something else before I finished the first thing. That’s my usual.

It was slow moving. The headwinds were mild, thankfully, only coming on strong once in a while. We went about twenty miles to Ocotillo, and then the elevation climbing began. We had a total of 4,000 feet to go. We talked and rode side-by-side, and did not worry about how far we would get. My only hurry had been to meet her, and now that I had, that was all the hurrying I needed.

When we would stop, people of course asked us how far we had come. Sam said, “I feel like a fraud,” when I answered for both of us. Whatever, Sam. She biked last year from Philadelphia to Texas with her husband, so she is no fraud. Also, it is easier to let people think we toured together the whole way – less explaining to do.

Once the elevation climbing began, we slowed down quite a bit. It is nice to have a conversational pace and have someone to talk to during the day’s ride. My bike, Antoinette, does not make the best conversationalist. She looks mature, but has the mental capacity of a twelve year old, and there is only so much we can talk about on account of that factor. She also has a really lame sense of humor, but don’t tell her I said that. I laugh at all her jokes to make her feel better. Sam’s sense of humor and conversation, however, are much more appreciable, and makes climbing seem less noticeable.

We thought we might try camping tonight at the Cleveland National Forrest, but by the time we reached Jacumba (pronounced Ha-cumba), it seemed like a better idea to stay there, since we were not sure how far we would need to go before we would get to the forest. The first building in town was, to our happy surprise, a Youth Center. Seemed like a good place to ask about a place to camp. The director in the center offered to let us into the church yard to camp. We had a nice spot on the lawn, which I know my tent appreciated. It has been some time since I have not camped on dusty hard ground.

We cooked a heavenly meal – polenta with tomato sauce and goat cheese, which Sam had brought with her. She has good taste. It was a real treat.

Sam and I fell asleep sometime around nine, I think. We woke up when we heard the sound of water. It was not raining, so we figured it was a sprinkler, hopefully in a nearby yard. But after some time, the water came down in torrents on us. It was hard to sleep through. Then, we realized the water was actually coming at us from the side, so Sam got pretty wet. My tent is good in the rain, but seems to be less waterproof when it comes to lawn sprinklers. Not to mention it was a chilly night. We had a good laugh about it, but it make for a relatively restless sleep.

I thought I had woken up relatively early, as the sun was just beginning to rise, but by the time I packed up and got to the grocery store to stock up on some items, it was already after eight. The grocery store was a real find. It was a whole store that had expired items from other grocery stores, it seemed, and so everything was super discounted. The best thing about this was that almost everything I purchased was organic. I was in heaven! Also, I love that I can purchase avocados and pomegranates on the cheap. Back east, these items are a fortune.

I got going and jumped back on the interstate. Yuma is the very last town in Arizona, so I was almost in California before I even left. I felt like I had been in Arizona for a very long time, so when I saw the sign welcoming me to Cali, I was relieved. Not that Arizona was a terrible place at all, I don’t want to give that impression. I was ready to move on.
I took an exit about six miles from Yuma, as a sign informed me bicycles were now prohibited. I checked at the gas station to see about an alternate route, but the clerks looked confused. They did, however, point me to the highway patrol office. I made my way over there and an officer there told me which way to go. I informed him that on my gps, it looked like the road he was telling me about ended. He assured me it did not, it would take me straight to where I was headed, Holtville. I would have to jump on the interstate as well, and he let me know where that was acceptable.

I followed his advice, and the road he told me about was on the other side of the highway, even though he let me know it would be on my side. I took it, as there was no other road. I took it until it ended. Yes, my gps was correct. That road stopped and became a sand pit. That whole area was designated for OHV’s, which stands for Off-road Highway Vehicles, or sand dune buggies. The road was not rideable anymore. Thanks, highway patrol! There was a Border Patrol jeep coming towards me, so I flagged him down. He told me that there was also another road I could get onto on the other side of the highway, but I would have to walk about two miles ahead through the sand and climb some sand dunes up to the overpass. I should have taken my chances on the interstate!

As I pushed my bike, and made up a delightful song about how much fun it is to push one hundred pounds of bike through the sand. It had a catchy refrain.  In my head, there were OHV’s riding around me in synchronized circles to the song, so it was like I had my own nice little musical number going. Then, I saw a break. I had walked about a mile and was nearer to the interstate, and I could see a sign from where I was that said “No Median Crossing.” That sign told me that is was possible to cross the median, it was just not allowed. So I climbed up and sure enough, there was an open spot. I ran across, hoping I did not appear like an illegal immigrant to the many border patrol vehicles that I saw pass.

Whew. I took the first exit I saw, and saw another Frontage-type road. It said it was “closed,” but I could see nothing up ahead that would make me understand why. It was in terrible condition, so I figured that is why it was closed.  So, should I try to go back on the interstate, where I know I am not allowed, or take my chances with a potential closed road? Potential closed road seemed like a better bet. I could always get back on the interstate, I reasoned.

About eight miles down this very bumpy road, I could see the construction that was happening. There was no longer a road. Twice today, my road ended. There was no other way for me to go except back, and I didn’t feel like it. The headwind was pretty bad today, and I’d already battled to get this far. So, I leaned my bike against a big piece of machinery and stood out so I would be visible to the workers.

A few trucks went by without paying me any mind, but then a woman stopped. I told her my story, and she said she would ride beside me through the construction, about two miles. I thanked her and went to get my bike, but was pretty certain I would have to walk much of it, from the looks of the terrain. Then, another vehicle stopped and I heard her tell him what was up, and he said he would drive me through instead. That was certainly preferable.

This man, Scott, hauled my bike in the back of his truck and took me first to get some fresh water, and then through the construction zone. It turned out Scott had also escorted Marvin, the other cycle tourist I had met a few days ago. That made me feel better, knowing I was not the only one. Scott had lived in Alaska prior to moving to Yuma. He was going to take his wife on a really long vacation to Alaska once this construction project was over to make up for all the time he spent away from her. Swell guy!

I was back on the bumpy path in the right direction, and not far now from my meeting spot with my traveling companion. I rode for about an hour and thought I saw another cyclist up ahead. Nah, I thought. Maybe it is a mirage. But as I got closer, I could see that it was, indeed, a cyclist. Could it be? Yes, it was – Sam! Samantha, my travel companion to San Diego from here on out. Hurray! She had figured I would be on this road, and had pedaled out to meet me. We had the road to ourselves, so we chatted and got caught up. She said she thought I was a mirage as well. “How was the ride from San Diego?” I asked. “Completely uneventful,” she responded. But not so. She had climbed up the mountain, and now she was going to climb up the other way with me. Sounds pretty eventful to me!

Sam and I decided to keep going and see how far we could get. With the headwind, that meant that we got to El Centro, which is where she had stayed the previous evening. We stayed in a cheap motel room in town, and ate really boring Chinese food for dinner. I felt like a real tourist.

As we were falling to sleep, there was a knock on our door. I stupidly went to see who it was. Curiosity killed the cat. I opened the door, and a very drunk man was sitting in a chair in front of our room. Okay, I said, and closed the door. He commenced knocking, and even kicked in the door a little (which I noticed the next morning). Sam called the office, and they sent a security guard around. No one bothered us again.

I’m so glad Sam decided to meet me.

 

I woke up later today, which didn’t bother me because even though I have been warned that I will be headed toward gusty winds from here on out, my miles to cover today were pretty low. As I was packing, I went to my bike, which I had leaned against a nearby tree. I picked up my helmet to walk my bike closer to my gear for packing, and noticed that the straps had two identical slashes in them. The nylon had not been cut through all the way, but it was hanging on my a few threads. Those birds! I thought.

Those crows I had listened to all evening, who woke me up several times by the beak-cracking-open-the-bean-pods-of-the-trees sound. They also, apparently, had a healthy appetite for nylon. I was mad at myself, because I almost always bring my helmet into my tent vestibule overnight. Then I also noticed the birds had snapped one of my bungee cords in half. Then I panicked a bit, because I had woken up a few times and kicked at the side of my tent because they were poking around at it. My guess was that they were trying to get at the bean pod seeds on the ground around my tent, and I had to shoo them away. I get it now, Alfred Hitchcock. Birds are a real threat. No scorpions or rattlers to fear here, only the Dreaded Crow.

I checked my tent and saw no immediate damage. Straps in place, nothing else was affected. I continued to pack up and before I put my bags back on my bike, I saw a thorn in my tire. I pulled it out with closed eyes, knowing I would hear the dreaded hiss. Sure enough, I did. So, this area wants me to suffer. I patched the flat and was happy to find my mini pump filled my tube up to full capacity just fine. I packed everything up and went to the gas station.
After cleaning up, I pushed my bike down off of the curb and felt the front tire not bounce as it should. I looked down – yes, the front was flat again. I sighed and pulled out the patched tube, trying to see where the hole was. Not clear. I put in a new tube and figured I would look at the bad one later.

I got about fifteen miles before I felt the rear tire go flat on me. Here we go. I discovered this flat had been caused by a pinch flat My rim tape was wearing away and it left a hole that the tube had bubbled into enough to cause a hole. I patched the tube and temporarily patched over the rim tape hole with a bike patch. As I was putting my tube back into the wheel, I saw a tiny piece of metal sticking out of the tube in a different spot than the other flat. Of course, why not? I patched that hole as well.

Thankfully, no more flats came into play for the rest of my day. Also, I did not run into any gusty winds, which after fixing four flats (second set of thse on this trip), I would have been running really late. I got into Yuma and followed signs for a visitor’s center, but when I got there it was closed down. Boo. I went to the library and poked around for a hostel or some such thing, but was not successful. I decided to go with a spot I had passed on the way to the library, which seemed more on the outskirts of this larger city. I was happy to find that I was visible from the road where  was unless someone was really, really looking for me. This spot was especially choice because  there was a porta-potty not far that also had a working sink with soap and water on the outside. The water came out with a little rubber button I pushed with my foot. Nice!

Oh, but when I pitched my tent this evening, it was clear that the crows had done some damage to my tent after all. The floor of my tent had two very distinctly crow-like tears, and they were not small. Curses! It’s a good thing I won’t be running into rain, otherwise I’d be one unhappy camper.
As I was getting food prepared and such, I finally talked to the person I was to meet in Yuma the following day. We decided that instead of me waiting for her there, we would meet halfway between where the two of us would be at a Hot Springs area. I would have to get on and off the interstate, it seemed.

I was so filthy by the time I got out of that campsite from last light. I went to wash up for the first time really looking like a bum, with the dust film on my clothes and skin. Pigpen with bike. I rinsed off my clean clothes in addition to the dirty ones from yesterday to make myself blend into the human world a little better. It may have been my imagination, but I think the expression on some of the women’s faces that came into that fast food restaurant were the most shocked I have seen. Sorry, I don’t have time to waste waiting in a stall for every person to leave before I lather my shorts in the sink.

I had checked out google earth the previous day, because I could check to see if there would be any places to stop at all today to replenish my water. Everyone told me there was nothing at all, and I have learned that the general population’s view of “nothing” is not always accurate. So sometimes I need to compare perception with reality, and if that means using technology than that’s what I’ll do. Sure enough, I saw that I would find a gas station in a town that was not on google’s regular map. Go figure.
In real life, there was another gas station even sooner than that one. I stopped at it and was informed that I must purchase something to use the restroom. Fair enough. I used it and when I emerged, I asked if they had any fruit. All they had was one bruised apple that cost one dollar. I bought it, and I decided that instead of complaining about how outrageous that was and this and that like I usually do, I paid the lady and hoped that I was contributing to her grandchild’s college fund or something like that.
I reached Dateland and found not only a gas station, but a Travel Center. I figured out pretty quickly why the town was named as such. I ordered their World Famous Date Shake and it was scrumptious. I highly recommend stopping if you are ever anywhere near this area. I was approached by a motorcyclist while stuffing my face with a peanut butter sandwich (which is pretty much the moment most people approach me and I tend to have to smack my lips a lot before I can answer). This was Mike, on one of his many trips, this time to Mexico to get some dental work done. He was exactly what I needed, letting me know that he also has had nothing but good experiences with people on the road. The world, he said, is a pretty good place. I know it, Mike. It sure is. Let other people continue to exist in their worldview that says otherwise if they must, but it’s just not the way it is.
Tacna was a good place to camp for the night – a tiny town with a restaurant and post office but nothing else and a secluded area to camp with a classy sunset. I meditated for a bit and listened to crows crack open the bean seed pods in the trees around me.

This morning I awoke before my alarm went off. I laid in bed until a little after six, then decided to get up. It would be light soon, and I wanted to be out of that spot before that happened. I went to a fast food joint to wash up, and then I made a grocery store stop. I had already eaten a bunch of other things. But I really wanted yogurt, as was disappointed that there was none in sight. I purchased rice pudding instead. It’s for breakfast now!

I was on my side road, route 84, by eight. This would dump out on interstate 8. I encountered a little headwind pick up that would come and go all day. It was welcome, actually, as it kept the sun from seeming too hot.

One thing that I appreciate about the interstate traveling in Arizona versus the side roads is that the interstate does not have the heavy amount of dry dirt. Even though I tend to breathe through my nose in general, it was still intense, and I needed to blow my nose frequently.

When my road ended and I was about to merge onto the intestate, I saw a gas station and crossed over to it. I ate my lunch and talked to a small gathering of people. It felt like story hour for an older crowd. The clerk was younger and nice, and offered me free bread. I would have accepted it, but I had just purchased bread, so I turned it down. Everyone was really friendly, but I got pretty tired of the one old dude who had a few screws loose who said “if I had a penny for every mile I’ve ridden on a bike, I’d be a millionaire” about twenty times.

That guy grated my nerves for other reasons, namely his sexism and so on. I’m a little tired of hearing that reaction, too. “You couldn’t get a man to go with you?” Oh, weird old man, I tried so hard, but all men everywhere were busy. They have to make the money to support me, so how can they possibly take time off for three months and go on a bike trip with me?

So here’s a rant inspired by this man. I don’t know what it is with some people who want to talk about how dangerous people are and how easy it is for a girl all by her lonesome to get killed and/or raped. A girl who is with people can be killed, a man by himself can be killed, groups of people can be killed, all very easily. Everyone is at risk of being killed all the time. If someone wanted to kill me, they were going to do it regardless of whether I am on a bike or walking down a street or what have you. For goodness sakes, if this was what was on my mind, I’d never do anything ever. So many people talk about this it exhausts me. When some people tell me “but aren’t you scared of all the dangerous people,” my automatic response is, “like yourself? Should I be afraid of you?” Usually that gets a chuckle or at least shuts them up. I have zero problem answering the dozens of questions I have been asked that are identical, because they satisfy general curiosity, but this one does get old pretty quick.

Okay, rant complete. The rest of my ride on the interstate was mostly uneventful. I am starting to get excited that I am getting closer to finishing. When I see signs that say “San Diego, 297 miles,” it becomes more real to me. I am excited, to be sure, but I go through periods of wishing that I could keep going. But, it passes. When I am done with this trip, I can start planning for my next!

Bopping to music like That One Guy, who is an amazing solo artist everyone should at least check out for a minute (every sound you hear in all his songs are all played by him), I reached Gila Bend much earlier than I thought I would. I found my camping spot without trouble, so off to the library I went. Starting to take care of real life things again means I ought to spend more time online.

I went to the spot I had decided to camp at, and did not realize I would have to push my bike through sand to get there. The ground looked pretty solid from the road when I drove by. Oh, well. Sometimes you have to work for a place to rest. I cooked some pasta with zucchini (cheaper in season!) and ate really tasty dark chocolate with orange peels. I went to bed with knowledge that life is still so good!

I woke up at my usual seven in the morning. Today, however, I had decided to take a rest day. I am still two days ahead of schedule, and since Casa Grande is a bigger city, I was hoping to find some things to do.

First thing I did: I went back to sleep. I did not mean to, but I slept until sometime around eleven. I was sticky with sweat when I woke up, and the buzzing of flies was intense. There were swarms of them outside of my tent. Though I did try to prevent them from coming inside my tent once I unzipped it, a few  made their way inside anyway. Since I was packing up anyway, it did not matter too much.

My plan was simple: first, wash up. The Target was a good place for that, and so I took my hobo bath and washed my shorts and socks without anyone saying a word to me. I was trying to at least be a little discreet, as to not dismay these poor defenseless shoppers.

My next stop was to be the Cracker Barrel. Not to eat there, but because I have a deep-seeded weakness for maple sugar candy and I know they sell it in their gift shop. I have little willpower when it comes to that stuff – it is my own personal crack, and the knowledge that I could get it here was overpowering. So I made that stop. I’m glad the stuff is so expensive (I do believe it is more costly than actual crack), otherwise I would be in some serious trouble.

Next stop: post office. I overshot it by about three miles, but I was trying to multi-task and also look for a new spot to sleep for this evening. I found nothing. I then went to the library, surprised to find that it was already three. I was  slightly disturbed that I had to not only sign up for a library card in order to use their wireless, but I also was charged two dollars. They said my card was good for a year, and that was the only time I would need to pay for the life of that card. This was despite the fact that I insisted they ought to have a card for people to borrow like myself. The explanation I got for why they need to charge was not a suitable one, but I forked over the money. At least it is going to the library and not some dumb travel center. I only had two hours to use it before I would need to leave to find my home for the night. I returned the card as I was leaving and asked them to please let someone else use it. They told me that was against the rules. Bah to that rule, I say.

I had a very difficult time finding a new camping spot. I did not want to return to the same place I stayed last night, since I would need to go back ten miles. I wanted to be closer to where I would need to leave from in the morning anyway. So, I found a potential spot and bookmarked in my brain. I went through this field, and when I got to the other side, I saw a beam of a flashlight coming from a car. As I turned onto the road, I saw another car scanning a flashlight over that field. Police. I guess they were looking for people like myself, camping where they ought not to. Or, maybe they were looking for a criminal. Either way, it was not looking good for me.

So, I went back to the bookmarked spot. It was dark, and as I unloaded my bike, I went back to the tucked away spot and saw that it was already occupied. A sleeping bag and some other items, including an open book, indicated that someone was going to come back that evening. Darn. I left my stuff there temporarily and walked to see if I could find something else. Not having much luck, I returned to my stuff and heard a rustle in the leaves. “Hello?” I called out. “Hello.” An older man came out of the bushes. “Just looking for a spot to crash, I see you already have this spot,” I told the man. “Yep,” he said, with the confidence of a homeless man who was not in any trouble by me. “Have a good night,” I said as I packed up my stuff. He said nothing more.

I went to the worst spot I have camped at yet. There was a small bundle of trunks and trees that I could tuck inside of, but the ground was curved and not very hidden. If a flashlight scanned there, I would have been found in a heartbeat. But I decided not to worry about it. My other options were nil. I could have asked at the police station, which was right next to the library. But, cities like this tend to be less helpful when it comes to helping me find a spot to camp. Next time, I’ll try my luck with the police. It’s better to expose myself in these situations than to hide.

I cooked with my stove in those trees, turning off my light when cars infrequently drove by, and hoping the flames were not visible to them. The road was a dirt one, so only ten cars passed all night. I was grateful that if anyone had seen me, they paid me no mind.

I read and was glad to fall asleep at a reasonable time, despite all that sleeping I had done earlier in the day. Today was a bit of a waste of a day off. A small town day off would have been better.

Day 72 - Looks more tucked away than I actually am

It looks like I am more tucked away than I actually am