Parker, AZ to Twentynine Palms, CA
Today has been a very anticipated day for our group for a while now. We've done a few century rides, but today was 120 miles. It was also through the middle of the Mohave Desert. To try and beat some of the heat and to get in at a reasonable time, we got up today at 3:30am and left our campsite around 4:45am. It was still pitch black outside when we left so we all had our lights on, even though they honestly weren't doing much for visibility--more for saftey for cars on the road. Very early on in our ride we crossed into California! The moon was still out and the sun had barely risen above the horizon when we got there. I can't believe that we've made it to California! It seemed so incredibily far away in Portland, yet here we are on our bicycles.
At our first lunch stop, Jake's parents surprised him with a visit! They live in Southern California so it wasn't that bad of a drive. His dad ended up biking a bit with him and they had brought cold water and gatorade as well as peanut M&Ms! By the first water stop beyond lunch, Sam was really not feeling well so the rest of the ride was just Kamal and me. We got to chat for most of the ride because the road and shoulder were wide and not that many people were driving on the road we were on. We kept chugging through the desert miles, dealing with a few dust storms.
The ride was surprisingly beautiful despite the same tan color everywhere, even on the mountains.
At second lunch the winds started to pick up, which was very enjoyable since it had been a hot uphill to reach the trailer. However, the winds didn't come empty handed. Just a few miles out of second lunch, we saw a flash of lightning over the mountains to our left. The storm only grew bigger as we biked onwards through the desert. Eventually it started raining, the lightning and thunder only getting closer and louder. A few times we thought about stopping but figured there wasn't any real place to find shelter in the desert so we might as well just keep biking until we find the trailer or the car that was supposed to be meeting us 17 miles out of lunch with gatorade and snacks (he was a friend of Kristin's that did Bike & Build back when it was the Habitat Challenge run out of Yale University in '98). The rain eventually turned to small hail pellets and felt like needles on our skin. Visibility was sparse and we could no longer see any of the mountains that were surrounding us. Needless to say it was mildly terrifying but absolutely awesome at the same time. Finally we saw the cars tail lights in the distance and quickly made our way to them and huddled on the side of the car to get out of the rain for a bit. As luck would have it, he was parked at our 100 mile mark. At this point the storm was right on top of us and we could hear the thunder right after we saw the lightning. Just as we were about to all get in the van, it let up and we could see the road ahead so we decided to keep going and finish the last 20 miles. As we got going, we realized that the road had flooded from the storm leaving rocks, cacti spines, and other debris in the road. There were also times when the waters were rushing up to our shins and knees! We walked our bikes and carried them through most of it until the road ahead was clear. It was crazy and insane--drivers going by just smiled and laughed as we laughed at ourselves.
Once we were out of the valley, the ride was relatively easy. We were pretty tired but only took one snack/water break before biking on to the host. The last few miles we passed a lot of creepy abandoned sheds that I was convinced were meth shacks. There were a lot of them and they didn't really make any sense as to what their purpose was, other than of course meth houses. This story line kept us entertained for the rest of the ride. It was the largest feeling of accomplishment when we finally reached the host. Never in my life did I think I would ever bike 120 miles. And to top it off, our ride tomorrow is 90 miles! That's 210 miles in two days. This has been the most epic of adventures, pushing myself far beyond any limit I had ever imagined. The rest of the night was filled with hose showers, cleaning of bikes, and an early bedtime so we can be up at 4:00am tomorrow to do it all again.