We have just spent a glorious hour watching birds on the River Colarado, with the setting sun lighting up the Eastern bank and desert mountains in the distance. The Colarado River marks the boundary between California and Arizona, so we will leave CA tomorrow and venture into AZ. The “campsite” is by the river but it is sort of abandoned, and hence free. The “Rest Rooms” (as they are called here despite the fact that no one goes for a rest there) are closed and there is even a padlock on the external fosset to stop any campers from helping themselves to water. We did not need to be concerned as we still carry our wonderful Platyplus which allows us to filter our own water – so river water in one end and drinking water out the lower end – gravity fed through the filtration system. Worth its weight in gold this evening as the nearest place to buy water is miles away – and it tasted delicious.
So we are all set up for our first night camping. Bernie is cooking supper as I type this – knowing we will not able to post until some point tomorrow as the phone signal here is weak to non-existent.
So we are feeling pretty pleased with ourselves at the moment, but this was a day of mixed emotions. We left Brawley (a non-pretentious agricultural town which we liked very much, and where everyone drives a vehicle with very big wheels) at about 6.15am. It was just light but was 40 degrees – about 3 degrees C (please check and correct me). Our fingers were cold and the light was straight in our eyes as we pedalled Eastwards. Brawley is irrigated desert – mega arable fields growing a variety of crops. It felt like the breadbasket of Southern California. We started below sea level at -138ft and gradually (i.e. less than 0.5%) climbed out of the valley. The gradient was enough to make the water gush along the irrigation ditches, making googling sounds as it went under bridges to the fields.
We passed the canal and it was like a switch had been flicked – no more irrigation and so total desert with hardly anything growing apart from the odd hardy bush. Then, the dunes started and we saw lots of places to the south of the road for sand buggys which race across the dunes for sport. It looked great fun but that is for another day. To the North was the Algones Dunes Wilderness. No sand buggys here – nothing to interrupt the stunning dune scenery.
We stopped for a drink at Glamis – mainly because it had shade and may have been the last shade for the next 40 miles or so. No one here is shy about flying flags in support of Donald Trump. Precisely how this urban shyster who never seems to venture out into the fresh air unless it is to hit balls on a manicured golf course has become the darling of those who still have an “outback” mentality is a complete mystery. However, he is plainly hitting the right buttons amongst those who spend their time on sand buggys. We also met a couple of really friendly blokes whose T-Shirts adopted the same approach. I merely observe!
By now it was about 9.30am and we had covered about 23 miles. We knew it would get hotter, there were no services on the road for the next 40 miles and there was a big hill to climb. What we did not take into account was that the wind would be against us – so much for doing this route with the prevailing winds. When we did Lands End to John O’Groats in the UK in 1991 we picked a month when the wind reverted from a normal South Westerly to a near constant northerly breeze – so we battled the wind nearly all the way despite following the direction which should be assisted by prevailing winds. This feels a bit of deja vu!
On the plus side, the traffic was light (mainly huge trucks which gave us a wide berth and a friendly tonk of the horn), the slopes were not steep and the top was lower than we expected. The desert scenery was amazing – at one point we watched a desert fox look carefully at us to decide if he was dinner for us, we were dinner for him or whether we could live in mutual harmony. This fox clearly had not had lessons from Putin as the last option prevailed. We also saw a huge rapter, circuling in the thermals but could not identify it, but it looked stunningly beautiful.
We pressed on up againt the wind and eventually got to the lunar landscape at the top – rock outcrops with scattered stunted cacti. We huddled under some vegetation in a dry culvert to get some shade while we ate some sandwiches (regular eating today after yesterday’s lesson). We then passed a trigpoint – but not there to note the height but the fact that this was the route for native Americans to follow in pre-Columbus times to move from one fertile valley to another (The Colorado river valley to the Imperial valley). This is a land with a huge history before any European stepped foot on the continent.
After that the road went up and down a series of “dips” – 50 feet down and up again. These are far more exhausting than a steady climb of course but if that is the geography, that is where the road goes.
Finally we arrived in Palo Verde by the Colorado River, where irrigation started again and the desert blooms. 67 miles was a long day but it was necessary as there was nowhere to stop between here and where we started. The light is just fading now, we have had supper and it will be soon time to turn in for the night to read or play cards.
Another day on the bikes – physical and mental ups and down but series of new experiences.