Cycle Across America — Part 89
November 16, 1996
You know you’re in the desert when the road is lined with beer bottles. I’ll be seeing a lot of bottles today.
Only last night, five days late, did I find out how the Chiefs did against the Packers last Sunday. HBO NFL coverage showed some clips of them beating Green Bay. I see the Chicago Bulls have moved to 9–0 with Jordan getting 38 points in their last game. I still don’t know who won the All-Ireland.
The coverage of the death and life of Cardinal Bernadin goes on. President Clinton gets reported on going back on his promise of troops leaving Bosnia yet I seem to remember everybody expected this to happen. Texaco have settled their racial discrimination dispute although Jesse Jackson is still calling for a boycott starting today.
The Colorado River Indian Reservation is unique in the sense that it is occupied by 4 distinct tribal groups. The Mohave, whose tie to the land dates from 9,000 years ago, are followed in number by the Chemehuevi who also resided on the land before it became a reservation. The Hopi and Navajo were relocated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1945 from their home reservations in north-eastern Arizona.
I was heading for the Tribes Museum when I realised I’d forgotten my coat. Back at the Kofa Motel the receptionist told me I’d had a phone call just after I’d left — an international one. Breakfast had been next door at a place called Coffee Ern’s. Again I tenderly ate some French toast and a muffin. The hot tea on the menu said “one package only” in brackets which annoyed me so I got none.
Prior to the influence of modern farming and irrigation techniques, the Mohave depended on the bi-annual flood of the Colorado River to irrigate and bring fresh top soil and nutrients to their crops which included corn, beans, squash, and melons. The Mohave are noted for beadwork, pottery, dolls, gourds, and cradle boards and straps.
The Chemehuevi name comes from Mohave , meaning something to do with fish. They call themselves Nu Wu, or simply “people”, which is what a lot of Native American tribes call themselves. They obtained most of their food by hunting game, gathering wild plants and fishing, only recently turning to ranching and farming. They excel in basket work using such materials as willow, devil’s claw fibre, and juncus.
The Hopi adapted well to the modern farming practises of this reservation because of their expertise at dry farming. Crafts of their artisans of this reservation include pottery, overlay jewellery, and kachina dolls. The art of the Navajo is silver smithing. Also, the women are known for their rugs. I left the museum after buying a necklace.
It was 12 miles to Agnes Wilson Road and virtually nobody uses the bridge. I couldn’t believe the previous day when people in Parker didn’t know of its existence. It would be like me not knowing there’s a bridge across the Liffey in Lucan. The Riverside Mountains dominated the view. Agnes Wilson Road heads straight for them on the California side. They also feature on the seal of the reservation designed in 1966 by competition.
The Lost Lake RV resort had a sign for a store. I went in for food and drink. The whole thing reminded me of a sanatorium, with a “One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest” feel. Jack Nicholson befriended me with maps and conversation. He told me to wait while he went to get someone he said I’d love. He said this because I’m Irish and the person he was getting hated English people. Once he was out of sight I quickly left.
I had to buy much more water than I wanted just to shut people up who keep telling me I need water. At this stage I know my body, the temperature, the humidity, the desert, and how much liquid I need.
The wind had me going slow. If it’s like that now then I’ll have serious trouble making it to Brawley today. I really had to fight it for the last couple of hours and was pleased I’d made it here before 5pm giving me the time to go to the Chamber of Commerce and a travel agency to pay for the Amtrak tickets. But. There was a homecoming parade and the town was closed.
I bought a dreadful map of California not far off useless. A lot of little things seemed to be going against me and I was ready for a fight. A Bud Light truck had blown me off the road almost making contact with me. It took me half an hour to get my necklace on and I was now wondering if I’d ever get it off.
The clouds had made the day a lot less scenic than it could’ve been. In the distance (from as little as 5 miles away) mountains were only feint lines. Closer up they were as fabulous in California as in Arizona and New Mexico. Sometimes they look like big sleeping animals and other times, like the Big Maria Mountains, they’re all jagged and rocky. There was a mountain top in that range that looked just like a dog’s bottom row of teeth. In between the Big Marias and the Riverside were sand dunes. I’m supposed to go past much more of them today.
I had cycled alongside that Arizona canal for the first 12 miles but without the likelihood of traffic it’s not like cycling beside a railroad. The day before I had seen a pick-up with extra rail wheel fitted driving along the rail tracks at over 30 mph. I had first seen such a sight in the San Carlos reservation. I’d like to see them getting on and off the tracks.
Along the greener elements of vegetation that accompany the river, bird life was greater than it had been. I still saw some hawks and those little birds that cling on to the grass, but now there were flocks of birds. One such flock looked like a mini-cloud or a tornado almost, as hundreds of birds — if not thousands — all twisted around together in one shape. Another flock which followed me along telegraph poles and lines was mixed with starlings, jays, and finches I think, but could be wrong on all 3 types.
Over dinner (all you can eat pasta — a bit more than I could eat the day before) I wrote cards to family and friends but I’m running out of stamps and it’s now the weekend. Rang a friend and said I was feeling a lot better than I had been even if I wanted to vent over 5,000 miles of road rage — on anybody.
It’s after 6am. The sun’s up. I need food for now and the day ahead. The wind is against me. Today is a big big day.
If the wind isn’t too strong I’ll be okay. A shoulder would be nice this time.