Friday, November 9, 2007

We are Borg!

I am Borg, Velo-man, half bicycle, half human, a 21st Century Minotaur. After almost 4,400 miles, who can tell where the bicycle ends and the man begins? Do I exist for the bike or does the bike exist for me? We're an old couple these days, swapping fluids (sweat and chain lube), grinding away the hours in this steady continental crawl. The desert expands and swallows us whole. Distance, sand, wind, the chocolate volcanic mountains sawing away on every horizon.

I've entered California. I can hardly believe it. I'm on my last week of the tour and very happy that I've chosen to cut across the Mojave and the coastal mountains to finish in Ventura. The riding has been wonderful, even the stretches along I40. In a couple of spots I've laughed in the face of regulations prohibiting bicycles on the interstate. Access to water and escape from a slice of Route 66 compelled my actions. The water needs are clear enough, but for those unaware of the section of Rt. 66 from Ludlow to Newberry Springs, beware. The route may be so wonderfully "Historic!" but the pavement is prehistoric. It isn't pavement. It's anti-pavement, the worst of all possible "improved" road surfaces. Jodi and I pedaled it once on the trike tandem, and I vowed to never repeat the experience, even with my soft-ride Mojo. So after a good night in the desert outside Ludlow, I sidled onto the lovely shoulder of the main highway and motored like there was no tomorrow. I ate up the miles, frequently cruising in the high teens. Traffic was light, the morning cool. Uber biker, however, can be stopped. My nemesis was Kryptonite in the form of a drywall nail. Even super goo in the tube couldn't withstand that bit of devilish chicanery. I'm an old hand at fixin' flats, so in no time I was up and zooming.

I arrived in lovely Barstow a little before noon and celebrated with a Starbuck's coffee and a newspaper--good coffee, bad news, as usual. I've decided that a night, let alone TWO, is unthinkable in this place, a raunchy clot wedged in between I15 and I40. I loaded up the mule with a big wad of chow, and I'm heading out for the great beyond. Camping has been a blast, and I'll take a rest day at Saddleback Butte St. Park about 70 miles down the road.

The desert miles have settled into my bones, the long, lonely arrows of pavement that draw me on and on and on. When the going gets tough, I pull out the MP3 and dose on a little Creedance Therapy--or some such elixir of rhythm and rocking and melody to drive my egg-beater cadence and so chew the distance that separates me from the coast and home. What can I say? This continent is going down. I've been lucky and graced and blessed to travel this road. The last few days will be packed with challenges, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Bring on the mountains so that I may taste the sea.

I'll be in the wilds, camping willy-nilly with hardly a Wi-fi or library to be found. I'm going rogue, going dark. I will most likely not be able to post again until the deed is done. I might get a chance in Frazier Park, but I'll likely be too wasted to do much but camp and crash.

Be well! This is Biker Scotty signing off for his last (?) dispatch from the Frontier of Human Powered Travel in the Great American Outback.

A foxy visitor:

Local artists along Rt. 66 before Amboy:

These Germans take their internal combustion seriously!

Relaxin' off the pedals:

A resident of Oatman, Arizona:

A doomed "World Famous!" buffalo burger:

I've been Knighted!

The Colorado River:

Wild camp along Rt. 66, California:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Into the Mighty Mojave

I stood on a high pass and looked down 3,000 ft. to the Colorado River. On the other side, the desert mountains of California lay in rumpled brown ranks. In a couple of hours, I would be in my last state, home.

I still have several hundred miles to go, but I'm writing these words from Needles, CA, where I'll spend the night and push on for the deep Mojave tomorrow. I'll be following "Historic!" Route 66 for much of the way though some stretches of Hwy 40 will be unavoidable. I haven't much time, but I wanted to post a few shots and say that this has been a truly fantastic day, some of the best riding of the trip.

Mike and Mo led me out of Kingman, three bent riders storming the early morning streets. We left Mike at the turn to his work and Mo came along a bit farther. We dropped through a craggy, narrow canyon and out into the basin beyond. I left Mo and fell into a smart tailwind that pushed me on the gentle down grade for many miles. I devoured that basin like a lite snack. Then a big push up, up, up over Sitgreaves Pass, 3,550 ft., then huge, huge, HUGE descent through Oatman and all the way down to the Colorado River. I rolled down the mother of all bajadas until I was almost bored. Then, when I had to turn south, tailwinds again (heh, heh!) and I flew along, managing high teens to low twenties with minor effort. By 12:30pm California time, I was in Needles.

This town is something of a dump, but a motel and an early start tomorrow will get me out of here in fine shape. I've got a very long climb up I40 to get out of the Colorado River basin. I'll post next from Barstow, the finest little desert strip mall hell you've ever driven through.

Be well!

Monday, November 5, 2007

High and Dry

We'll always have Prescott. I'd been feeling antsy and needed to get back on the tour. My experience there was a little strange. Being with good friends in a comfortable, familiar place put me in a kind of tour-limbo, almost as if the thing was done, but, of course, it wasn't, isn't. The large woman has yet to clear her throat on this ride. The mighty Mojave still awaits my presence. I left on Saturday morning, cruising fast and easy some downhill miles to put some distance between me and town.

Route 89 north of Prescott has some busy sections near town, but as I got further north, the traffic dwindled, and I pedaled often by myself, accompanied only by thousands of acres of junipers that cover this northern half of the state. I arrived in Ash Fork on Highway 40 at 1:30pm, far too early to think about camping. I decided then and there over a beefy ice cream sandwich that I'd gun for Seligman, another 25 miles, which would give me 80+ for the day. Light to no wind, bright sun, why not?

I'm so glad I've chosen this northern route to the coast. Rt. 66 was pure magic--quiet, empty, I found myself often riding in the middle of the road. I camped a couple of miles outside Seligman, a bit too close to a railroad crossing, so my night was routinely punctuated by the roar of engines, the clanging of bells, the whistle's moaning cry. The expansive land to the north was a private ranch with restricted access. Little sleep for me, but I spent some contented hours looking up into the blazing stars so clear now that the moon has gone back into hiding.

My next camp, pictured below, was in Grapevine Canyon, a spot recommended by Mike Kitchens, my contact in Kingman. This was an idyllic little spot with magnificent cottonwoods and willows, cacti dotting the dark rock walls, a small stream purling like a zen fountain near my bed. Some dried cow doo-doo sealed the deal on Western ambiance. In the morning, when these pictures were taken, I zipped the easy miles to Kingman where I write these words. The Kitchens have kindly taken me in for the night. Their sweet hounds, the Three Stooges featured below, became instant friends. Joy, the dark-patterned one, is laying on the floor next to me right now. Corgies rock.

Here's the bomb, ladies and gentleman: Tomorrow I land in Needles, California, home state to the elite recumbent cyclo-tourist. A few stretches of I40 will annoy his ears, but most of the rest will be on quiet roads. Stay tuned for a bigger update from Barstow, if he can find an open library.

Grapevine Canyon:

Open country before Kingman:

The Stooges:

"Gum-gum is yum-yum, Dumb-dumb!":

Climbing a grade between Ash Fork and Seligman:

Route 66--Yo:

The stream in Grapevine Canyon:

A character on the road that you'll read about in the book--or see in the major motion picture to follow:

Grapevine Canyon: