There are not many days when we only do about 100m climbing over 55 miles but this was one so you can guess the day was flat. We also reached the low point of the trip – literally and not emotionally as we ended the day about 130ft below sea level. Still 55 miles at this stage of the trip was still quite a big deal for us – especially as we did not pace it properly or eat properly. How long have we been doing this? You would think we would know by now, but there is always a day near the beginning when we think we don’t need to eat as much as we do. Our son Anthony, who is a very experienced cyclist, has told us many a time that we should eat hourly. He was able to admonish us gently when we spoke later in the day on Whatsapp (another fantastic invention for travellers). Lesson learnt again!
So the pacing – I think we got a bit over excited being out in the desert and on the flat. We knew it was 30 miles to anywhere so we pushed it on, glorying in the new desert landscape in the early morning light. Mexico was still just a few miles to our right and the border patrol was one of the few vehicles out first thing. I read the novel American Dirt earlier this year (highly recommended) about a woman fleeing Mexico to the US. The section about crossing the border felt very evocative in this landscape.
After about 20 miles we saw some trees – it must mean water. It was as if a switch had been flipped as suddenly there were green irrigated fields and bird song. There was also a massive solar farm spreading mile after mile into the distance. Seems a very sensible way to harness renewable energy but indicates massive investment. We thought we did well at Hitterhill with 30 panels – here there are thousands upon thousands, stretching for at least 10 miles.
We did feel we were fading when we reached Calexico, a border town with a crossing to the much larger city, Mexicali, on the other side of the border. Options were limited and we had to settle on Starbucks, which we try to avoid (compensation – good coffee).
From Calexico we turned north. The route had us on a busy dual carriageway but we realised after a few miles that it allowed us a cross under the freeway (I8 again). After that we turned onto a very quiet parallel road. This area was still irrigated with green fields – although where it wasn’t the sand of the desert was evident. We passed a derelict industrial site – a cattle manure recycling centre. Clearly not enough cattle manure to keep it going.
As we were ‘nearly there’ we didn’t stop for lunch so the last 10 miles ground by slowly. At last we turned left into Brawley and to our motel, where we finally wolfed down a late lunch. Brawley is a desert town ‘home of the cattle cry’ – whatever that is. We didn’t see any cattle or any cowboys. It still had enormously wide roads and any amount of fast food joints but it felt pleasant. Probably not so pleasant in the summer when average temperatures are in excess of 40 degrees C.
We rested, did our washing, stocked up on supplies and still being only 25 miles from the border had a good Mexican meal with even better Mexican beer! They eat early in the US – the restaurant closes at 8 (imagine that in Spain) so we were eating our evening meal only a few hours after our lunch!
As we left our room, we bumped into a young German couple who were cycling from Florida to San Diego – so they were slightly more ahead with their trip than us. They have been on the road for 7 months and are heading into Mexico and then to South America. We chatted, had a great deal in common of course and left for our meal thinking we were not the only mad fools on two wheels self-propelling acoss this contient.
Back at the motel we watched the analysis of Biden’s State of the Union address on CNN. We have been impressed with their coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine with some powerful reports yesterday. It is always odd when major world events happen while we are away, as often seems to happen. Important to still keep in touch with events, even as we also feel detached from ‘real life’.