Days 63 & 64: The Mother Road

Day 63 (2016-10-28): ~75 miles from West of Barstow to Amboy Crater, CA. Mostly riding route 66 with mixed pavement quality, including a terrible section where I detour to I-40.

I wake up feeling disgusting after a night of tossing and turning where I wake up drenched in sweat at least 20 times. Added to all the grit, sweat, and sunscreen of yesterday I know I am rank. The only way to fix it is to ride – once I start sweating again I’ll forget how disgusting I feel.

Hitting the road at 8:00 is great. I put in quite a few miles in crisp, 60 degree air with no humidity. About 20 miles in I decide to forego Adventure Cycling’s warning to detour to I-40 to avoid rough pavement – and the accompanying sign saying “Rough Road Next 9 Miles.” I don’t mind a little rough pavement and it looks fine as far ahead as I can see. Big mistake. While it is smooth for about 2 miles it soon becomes horrendous. Don’t do it. I climb through a smashed spot in the wire fence and return t I-40 ASAP.

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The Mother Road for a brief minute of smoothness before it goes to shit.

Now I am sitting in a somewhat shady spot underneath a very small tree just off the interstate. There is trash everywhere and the clouds are doing a better job of blocking the sun than this pitiful tree. It’s the best I could find though – it’s high noon and I need a break from the hot sun. This is part of my strategy: siestas to rest and avoid the worst heat during the middle of the day, which also conserves water I lose to intense sweating.

Well, this is the last photo you will see for a while. My broken phone saga continues as it shuts itself off and enters a boot-loop: turn on, get to the AT&T logo, turn off, repeat. Just my luck. I’ve been relying on music & podcasts to help me through the most boring, lonely riding and just when I head into the solitude of Route 66 it goes to shit.

The sun is hot. So hot. I spent the last hour (maybe, it’s hard to keep track when you focus on a topic, which is why I do it) thinking about how I will pack for the Great Divide trip in July. If you didn’t know my good friend Nick has decided this summer is the time to Ride the Divide – and there is no way in hell I am letting a good friend do it without me! There are so many things I don’t need – especially electronics. Packing is all about the experience you want to have. This trip is pretty cushy. The divide will be simple.

Arriving at Amboy Crater some time later I wonder if I should camp the night here or continue another 3 miles to the convenience store to get water and camp there (okay according to my maps). A guy in the parking lot  a guy in the parking lot calls ahead and assures me they will be open tomorrow. Another group from chat with me for a while and hand off 4 16oz water bottles. I realize that, aside from the one guy at the gas station in Ludlow, these are the only people I’ve talked to today. One was purely business, which leaves me with two short conversations in 24 hours.

One side of the volcano rim is exploded from the last eruption and I climb loose rocks the size of my body to enter the crater. I reach the rim and bask in the absolute silence. No wind, no people, no animals to hear. I slice cheddar and cucumber on a tortilla and load it with humus for a very simple veggie wrap as I watch the sun creep unhurriedly towards the west. Then I do it again. And again. After the third wrap I stand and stretch my stiff, achy legs as I wait for the sun to drop below the distant mountains. It does, sending waves of golden light to illuminate the clouds with golden halos. I watch for a long while and head back to camp underneath a blue-pink-purple sky.

Back at camp I wait until nightfall to hang my MSR bladder and use the extra water I got from those nice folks to take a little birdie bath. I hang it from a picnic shelter and open the tiny valve, releasing a small stream of water perfect for wetting my washcloth while conserving water. I stand butt-naked in the desert, under a night full of stars, and wash the grit of the road off with a cool, pleasant breeze to dry me off. It’s the little things.


 

Day 64 (2016-10-29): ~40 miles from Amboy Crater to Fenner, CA. Entirely along route 66 with mostly decent pavement and very little traffic. Hot.

I wake early and eat my breakfast of oats with a banana as I watch the sun rise over the mountains to the east. Sunrises and sunsets are so different out here, colors stretching across the sky above open land for miles and miles in each direction. It is utterly silent. Peaceful.

Wow, I am feeling lethargic today. My muscles are tired and it is so hot! I am riding uphill. I spent $10 for 10 16oz water bottles this morning in Amboy because there tap is salt water. Gah. Now I see a hazy shape unmoving on the distant shoulder. Car? Motorcycle? Cyclist!? Not a cyclist, but I meet a nice couple WALKING from Santa Monica to NYC, or at least Chicago. They have a year to do it. With two dogs. Seriously… and people think I am crazy. Respect. I tried to look him up on Google + like he said but I couldn’t see his photos – sorry, none to share.

I would like to write more but my brain is turning to mush. I just stopped in Essex and asked and older man with two dogs to rest under the shade of his retired gas station. He agreed enthusiastically, and added that I “better not wander around.” So suspicious. I don’t stick around too long. Back on the road I ride for a while until I see it. Never in my life have I been so excited to see an interstate! Because I know there is an overpass, which means shade! And the gas station not far beyond.

There it is, the gas station! I am so excited for the simplest things today. Wait, what is this? It’s an “oasis!” There are water fountains outside as well as a bunch of tables, benches, sculptures… a mirage? No, it’s real. I wheel my bike up to the front and take in the door – I wish I could snap some photos but I am still without a phone/camera. The Hi Sahara Oasis. A giant sign on the door reads:

We are open 24/7. Our overhead is extremely high. Delivery cost is double with this location. There is a [vast?] of almost 100 miles of desert with no service. Please do not complain about the prices. You have the choice to be a customer or not. We are here for your convenience…

Inside it is half typical convenience store, half lobby with fish tanks and tables. They serve basic food and I immediately grab a Klondike bar. I don’t feel bad paying $3.00 for it. In fact, I feel real good as I eat it and cool off listening to the perfect road mix of classic rock. I meet Aaron and Lucy, two friendly Hungarian travelers. Aaron is very excited to let me know there is a little one on the way, so this is their chance to see America and they’re hitting a lot – from the parks of the west, to Hawaii, to NYC. We talk for close to an hour, the only real conversation I’ve had for 72 hours. What a relief! Aaron snaps a group photo of us by a Route 66 sign and I give him my info. Hopefully I’ll be able to share the photo soon! I say I might find them in Hungary one day when I travel that way, and we say farewell.

I decide to stay here where they welcome cyclists camping for free next to the oasis. It’s loud (run by generator) and bright (it is a gas station, after all) but after a long day of heat it is nice to stay somewhere with a cool interior and I order a burger for dinner. I know it is a standard burger, but today it tastes great!

P.S. Ugh, I am definitely washing my feet tomorrow morning…

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