David Freeze: More than expected from western heat

Published 12:05 am Sunday, August 1, 2021

Day 4

I had a plan to attack big heat on the hottest day yet. My goal was to cross the desert at its most famous point, from Brawley to Palo Verde, California. That is about 70 miles from my motel.

Part of my Adventure Cycling map is an elevation description, and I didn’t expect today’s ride to be as hard as the last two.

My heat plan was to start riding in the dark, at  4 a.m., when the low for the night was 87 degrees. I left the motel in Brawley and had ridden a  couple miles but wasn’t sure which way to go. I asked an employee for the Department of the Interior, who said, “You certainly are not going now, are you? It’s dark out there and there are cows and plenty of speeding vehicles.”

I just told him I was going now because the expected high was going to be quite hot.

I rode holding a great little flashlight and just missed hitting a possum, but no cows got in my way. The first 25 miles went perfectly and I saw a wonderful sunrise. Through this area is a big Navy reservation where I heard planes and gunfire for hours.

I stopped in Glamis when I found a store open that was supposed to be closed. I had a nice talk with the store owner about all the cyclists she has met. The owner gave me a bag of ice, too, good for keeping my water cold for about 10 miles as the heat rose.

Just before Glamis was 6 miles of huge sand dunes, something that locals celebrate with a beach store. Just after were miles and miles of the Chocolate Mountain Range. The heat was really up full blast as I pedaled for miles over rollers that the locals signed as “dips.” Up and down, some hard climbing involved, even though my maps didn’t show it.

Next came my first sight of a Border Patrol station, with all vehicles required to drive through. I stopped after pedaling though and seeing a sign that said “Don’t stop.” Then I sat outside under the overhanging roof for precious shade.

Thinking it a long shot, I decided to knock on the door and get some cold water possibly. Border Patrol Agent Fraser was most accommodating and filled my bottles with ice and water. He told me that local agents were working hard and were away today while processing undocumented immigrants and that a very large number are trying to get in.

On a day that my face and ears were burning out in the desert, I made it through, sort of. I will explain later after a shorter ride and part of a rest day.

Let’s don’t forget Skinny Wheels Bike Shop as one of the trip sponsors. They boxed and shipped my bike perfectly. No damage! Eric and Scott are a wealth of knowledge concerning all things bikes.

See you tomorrow!

Day 5: A comeback from early adversity

I knew it would take all I had to get across the desert yesterday, especially with the predicted high temperature of around 113 degrees.

Something happened near the end of the ride a day earlier. Although I have been in slightly warmer temperatures, the ride through the Mojave Desert didn’t seem as bad as yesterday. I caught a couple of fortunate breaks to get ice water, but that same refreshing water becomes very hot quickly, bath water hot. Drinking that water did nothing for me and I could barely get it down. I stopped at the first farm I saw at the end of the desert and was given ice and water. It took a while to come around, mostly the ability to stand and purposely walk.

Riverview County sheriff’s deputies responded, and after they saw I was OK, took me and my bike to my planned motel. I was severely dehydrated and possibly overcome by the heat index. My promise to everyone was a half day of riding today and taking the rest of the day off to rejuvenate after the incredibly challenging first few days of the trip.

With that, I left America’s Best Value Inn about 7 a.m., only deciding to go at all about 6 a.m. I planned a 37-mile ride and rest in the afternoon. I crossed the beautiful Colorado River and into Arizona, no regret leaving the bad road state and on into Ehrenburg.

God rode with me for sure this morning on I-10 as low clouds and light drizzle cooled the air.

The next town was Quartzite, where I called the motel in Brenda that I wanted to stay in tonight.

Closed for the summer I was told, and that extended my ride to 61 miles and a 4 p.m. dismount.

Four steady climbs made the day tough, but I’m feeling good and cool now, made better by the rain and a high of about 95 — well off yesterday’s official 114. Also made better by my first egg, cheese and tomato breakfast sandwich at Subway. Now, I have an affinity for ice, looking for it all the time out here.

The sun came out in early afternoon, warming the air just ahead of the last climb that took me to Salome, Arizona, and Sheffler’s Motel. This is a small town of a little over 1,000 people but with a convenience store, a very important Family Dollar and two motels. My ride totaled 61 miles.

I am back up at more than 1,800 feet elevation and will go slightly higher tomorrow, before a welcome descent into Phoenix, probably day after tomorrow.

Father and Son Produce has been sponsoring my trips since the first one. Stop by and pick up some of the fruits and vegetables soon. Linda has access to all my books too.

Thanks for riding along!

Day 6 — 40 miles of steady climbing and the heat returns

I found the first town that I really like at Salome. It’s very small, at less than 2,000 people. But I had nice conversations and slept very well there.

Last night, northern Arizona had solid coverage of big thunderstorms. I got caught out in it after a trip to the Family Dollar and the convenience store for pizza. Nice people all around, including at Sheffler’s Motel.

This morning I was late by 30 minutes on riding at first light. That is my goal for each day. The road was wet and had standing water, an oddity for this area. The first town was Wendell, and all the supply points were closed that were supposed to be open. The next town, Aguila, was supposed to be closed for the off-season and I worried about having enough water for the day’s ride. No other towns were on the route.

I rode into Aguila and spotted a store with a vehicle parked in front and was amazed to find it open. Not many supplies available, but I got extra water and a muffin. The 12-year-old running the cash register counted out perfect change, something I saw the previous night in Salome. I was very happy that I found an open store when under duress and lost some steam when I found yet another new Family Dollar on the other end of town. They are big stores and sell vegetables and produce.

Lots of vultures were out and one picked up a snake off the road and flew off with it. Hay was being raked even though it had been rained on the night before.

It was hot by 1 p.m., and I couldn’t make it to Phoenix anyway. I stopped for the day in Wickenberg, which is rich in gold history, Indian conflicts and stage coach happenings. Population is around 7,000.

I rode 55 miles on U.S. 60, straight as an arrow. Nothing unusual, light traffic, but after climbing to about 3,000 feet yet again, I dropped back down to 2,200.

Tomorrow is Phoenix and maybe something past it, with the heat burners back on. I’m grateful to have a mostly downhill ride, but cycling through a big city is very challenging.

Thanks to Frank and Janis Ramsey for sponsoring this ride. They’ve been friends since I met them on the Alaska trip. Frank is from Salisbury, and he and Janis now have an apartment in Salisbury as well.

This week, I will finish off Arizona and get into New Mexico, where I will cross the Rockies. Can’t wait to be downhill toward Texas and the lower South.

Keep riding along!

David Freeze is riding from the West Coast to the East Coast along the southern border. Email him at david.freeze@ctc.net.