Early to bed and early to rise. We were out the door around 8:00am needed to make our way to Blythe, California. Today we would be crossing into California! YES!!!! The finish line was in sight and we had a newfound energy brewing between the two of us. Our ride to Blythe was nothing too special. Rough roads, tough winds–nothing new to us. You know, ever since we arrived in Arizona we have seen thousands of RV’s, ATV’s and dirtbikes! On our ride to Blythe we stopped in a town called Quartzisite. It was cool, there were hundreds of RV’s lined up and down the road and in various lots for the stretch of about four miles. In the center of it all was a massive flea market that had various shops and food cafes open to the public. Taylor spotted one and pointed to a sign that said, “Bad Boy Cafe.”
We smiled and agreed that we would eat there. We’re bad boys, right? I mean, we ARE biking across the country for crying out loud. This cafe is perfect for us! The name sold us! We took our timing eating because we biked about 40 miles to get there and that only left us with about 20 miles to get to Blythe. It’s nice when you can actually sit down and eat a meal and not limiting yourself to 5-15 minutes for lunch. Most of our lunches consisted of PBJ sandwiches, trail mix, granola bars, and if we were fortunate enough, a piece of fruit. We usually eat these lunches while straddling our bikes or sitting on the side of the road. So it was nice to sit down and actually let the food digest before hopping right back on the bikes.
Our host for the evening was the owner of a bait & tackle shop. We were staying at her house which is where she also operated her business. We arrived and were escorted to the back yard where there was another cyclist named Adrian. Adrian had arrived two days earlier and he wasn’t alone. He brought his dog, Ferris, along for the cross-country venture. Adrian was doing our exact same route but he was going west to east…like most sane people do. Well, Adrian was waiting for his father to come with some essential spare parts so he could continue his journey eastward. The owners gave us a few cold drinks to cool off to and we got to talking with Adrian. He warned us of the brutal sand dunes that would be awaiting us tomorrow. We warned him of the shady towns and bad motels that we had run into along the way. He should have a pretty good ride– The winds will be at his back, and the weather will warm up back east. I think he left at a good time of the year, but who knows when it comes to the weather?
We all got hungry around the same time and were preparing to order some delivery. We asked if we could use the phone and the owner told us that his wife had just put in an order for three pizzas. Dinner was taken care of, what a nice surprise! These kind of things have happened very often on the trip. It’s just unbelievable how gracious all of our hosts have been to us. While we waited for the pizza to arrive, we set up our camping equipment for the night. We opened up shop right next to Adrian and his dog. By the time we had finished setting up our tent, the pizza had arrived. They ordered three pizzas for the three of us. We each had a full pizza for dinner. I also purchased some Reese’s Buttercups, Crunch bars, Kit-Kats and a few other snacks to cap off the night. Adrian’s dad arrived with the spare parts right before we were getting ready for bed. Adrian wasted no time and immediately went into mechanic mode. After about an hour of him mumbling under his breath and frequent return trips to his tent he finally got into bed. We were both up early. Taylor and I had a 95 mile day planned, so we intended on being out the door by 7:00am which meant no horseplay tonight. Early to bed we went.
We indeed were out the door by 7:00am. We said all of our goodbyes and we were on our way. The previous night one of the guys at the bait & tackle shop gave Taylor and I some backward directions out of town to avoid the heavy traffic in Blythe. This particular gentleman had the physique of the boxer, Butterbean (http://www.pridefc.com/pride2005/images/fighter/354_l.jpg). He also was missing his middle right finger, and had a tattoo of a cobra lining his right arm. The tongue of the cobra hissed all the way down to the space where his finger was supposed to be. My bet is that homie ran into some back luck in a fight with a cobra. He also spent a good hour lecturing us on these back roads. “You don’t want to find yourself on that 78 too early in the mornin.’ OOOOOOhhhheeeeeee, you gon’ get some crayyyze traffic right about then.” He became overly insistent that we follow his EXACT directions. When another local came by and looked at our map and started talking to us about the route, he would intervene, “What’s going on here? Where’s he got ya’ll going?” I’m thinking, “pump the brakes, bud.” We appreciate the help, but let’s sit down for a minute in silence, enjoy this delicious pizza, and let the sunset soothe us to sleep.
He was completely incredulous that we were going to bike 80 miles in a day on the 78. “Pickup truck gonna come and ride ya’ll asses right off the road,” he told us. He worked for the fire station (allegedly) and told us of all the bikers he had seen get thrashed on the side of the highway. Dude didn’t even know what we had been through. Biking crowded interstates with ridiculous gusts, getting sucked by big rigs, getting shouted at by hicks in four-wheelers. Riding a skinny shoulder didn’t really phase us at this point.
Butterbean had us on a series of backroads that should have eventually lead us onto route 78. Well, his directions ended up leading us into a conservation site. We were lost and there wasn’t really anywhere to ask for directions. I suppose we could have gone back 15 miles in the reverse direction but we figured we could find out our way out faster on our own. I’m not sure if that was correct decision or not. After a while we did come across a Latino gentleman who worked on the conservation. He gave Taylor some very detailed directions and even drew us a small map to help us out of the conservation site. Side note – this whole conversation happened in Spanish. The gentleman said we had some pretty rough roads ahead of us but said it would be quicker than turning around and going back. We followed his directions which lead us on dirt roads and tough rock roads which actually forced us off of our bikes. We probably walked a full two miles on this rocky road which took us over 60 minutes to traverse. It was brutal! Eventually we did make it to route 78 but at that point it was almost 11:00am. We had been on the road four hours and we had only traveled about 25 miles. We still had close to 70 miles to get our destination. We still had hills in front of us and we had the sand dunes were not far ahead. There were no services from Blythe to Brawley but we had prepared quite well the night before with snacks and water.
We rode hard and passed one solo rider named, Nathan. He had just started his west – east cross country journey. He had actually stayed with our host in Brawley two days ago. He told us he didn’t think we would make it to Blythe because it was already a little late in the afternoon. We made it though, we biked really hard this day. There was no cover from the wind. We just put our heads down and grinded out 95 -100 grueling miles. With our detour to the conservation we aren’t exactly sure how many extra miles we logged but I wouldn’t be surprised if we rode over 100 miles. We rode so hard that we came to a border patrol stop and rested there for close to 20 minutes. We stayed there and refilled our water supply and took a nice snack break. The border patrol agents brought out a big five-gallon jug of water. I think Taylor and I consumed close to two gallons out the tank. We drank like fish and made sure all of our bottles were filled up because we knew this would be our last stop. We left and after an hour of riding we ran into a couple of girls who were also doing the Southern Tier. One of the girls had a dog with her. She built her dog a little trailer—it was cute. The pup had a ton of blankets to sit on, it looked pretty comfortable to me. One of the girls was actually from L.A. so she and Taylor hit it off. We chatted for 5-10 minutes and then we cut the conversation short. We had a long way left and we would be losing daylight shortly.
We passed sand dunes, mines, bombing sites for the Air Force, lettuce fields and cow farms.
Finally around 6:30 pm we arrived to the center of Brawley. We went straight to McDonalds and spent $30.00 on our dinner. We ate as if we hadn’t eaten in weeks. Even the servers were impressed by the quantity of food ordered. They were even more impressed when we actually finished the entire meal. From McDonalds we only had two miles to ride. We had to stop at the gas station before leaving because both of our front lights were not working. We figured it must be the batteries even though we almost never used our lights. A few AAA batteries solved our problem and we began our first night time ride to our host’s house.
Our host for the evening called us to make sure we were alright. By the time we left McDonalds it was close to 7:15pm and it was extremely dark. Fear not, we both had red rear flashers and front lights. We were OK! I gave our host, Bill, a call to tell him that we would be arriving shortly. When we pulled up he and his dogs were in the garage waiting for us. His wife, a nurse, was still at the hospital but would be arriving shortly after us. They were both avid cyclists and were happy to take us in for the evening. Bill’s wife was actually from Brazil so our story hit close to home.
She was familiar with the brutal conditions of slums like the favelas in Brazil, so she understood what our mission was aimed at.
Bill and his wife have participated in numerous mission trips and service trips all over the world. Bill was also quite the photographer—he had a great collections of shots that he had taken throughout his lifetime.
We left Brawley around 9:30am or so. Bill had a racquetball match with his friends over at one of the local air force bases. Taylor and I only had to bike 40 miles so we weren’t too worried about our departure time. We snapped a few pictures with Bill and we were off to Ocotillo, California.