Sunday 28 February :  Pine Valley to Ocotillo: 47 miles

My head cold has still not settled so I was asleep at 7pm, and then woke at 3.30am; so the jet lag was not getting any better.  But, on the plus side, I managed to get to read for 3 hours and finished the book I foolishly picked up at the airport.  That meant that I could leave the book at the motel (along with my shaving cream) and thus reduce the weight I was carrying to a very small degree.  I hope the next occupant enjoys the book as much as I did.

We left about 7am and started to climb.  Pine Valley was at 3750ft and the first climb topped out at about 4100ft.  The morning mist hung in the air as we got higher and it was a lovely morning, but there was also a stiff breeze.  It is sometimes hard to work out which way a wind is blowing in the mountains, but it was soon clear that it was fairly strong and almost entirely against us.  The next few miles became really tough as we sailed downhill but then had to battle the wind uphill.  Climbing an 8% hill with a 25mph wind against us sapped the little energy we had.  Eventually we topped out after 16 miles – back at 4100ft – and sailed down to a tiny breakfast stop.  Today there was no question of one breakfast between two – we each had eggs, bacon hash browns and toast, with endless coffee to make it all go down well.  

Half an hour later we were human again and were back on the bikes.  Fuelled by breakfast (or more accurately second breakfast) we made it over the next few hills and dropped down to near Jacuma Springs.  Here we encountered a massive structure weaving ominously through the landscape.  This was “THE WALL” of Trump fame – although the history of walls goes back much further and Trump was not particularly effective in getting it extended – either in length or height.  

The academic consensus based on research is that constructing walls is not an effective way to constrain immigration, but they are popular with some voters.  So billions of dollars have been spent building this wall and even more is spent patrolling the wall, and meanwhile those who are determined to come into the USA from Mexico appear to find other ways to enter.  The wall seems to me (and I accept my bias) to be an unfortunate symbol of a country’s value.  But I can see that the politics are difficult and politics is not always logical or evidence based – as those who know me well can hear me saying.

Jacumba Springs got a great write up a few years ago but the resort is closed and there did not appear to be anything to detain us.  Sadly, this town has seen better days.

We crossed the high, dry plane out of the town and got used to the idea of being able to see scrub land for miles in front of us.  Then, we began to climb again, reaching the Freeway (I8) at about 4100ft (our third time of climbing up to that level today).  Cyclists are normally banned from the hard shoulders of freeways, but they make an exception if there is no other route.  This was such an exception and we raced down at about 6% for about 10 miles – passing the 4,000ft, 3,000ft, 2,000ft and finally the 1,000ft signs.  It got hotter as we descended and thankfully it was a head wind and not a cross wind.  

Finally we left the freeway in the desert at about 400ft!  What a descent – 25mph all the way on pristine tarmaced hard shoulder.  Only a few trucks blew their horns at us – but I cannot say if they were friendly or irritated that they were sharing the road with such low life as cyclists.

We pulled into Ocotillo – a friendly but run down desert town which had echoes of  “Nomandland”, but a nice feel to it.  I am now in our motel – cheapest by far to date but perfectly functional.  Tomorrow we experience the desert all day but 47miles and another 3,000ft of climbing is plenty for today.

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