Cycle Across America — Part 91

Excerpts from the journal of my 1996 solo cycle across the US. Read the entire story from the introduction in Boston or see links to all segments of the trip.

November 18th, 1996

Taking a photograph of the rodeo statue in Brawley I decided on going northwest to Salton City via Westmorland.

Brawley, California Cattle Call Rodeo statue of Casey Tibbs on a bronco (Nov 1996)

Traffic was a bit too heavy and frightening so six miles into my day, while eating a chilli omelette with hash browns in Westmorland, I spoke with two blokes with bikes who told me of all surrounding roads and the availability of lodging between there and my overall destination of San Diego — and I changed my mind. Just five miles away from the Salton Sea I switched direction and headed due south aiming to then go west to Ocotillo.

That was the first piece of indecision yet regarding the cycling route when I went one way then the other.

My food stayed in and I felt better but after leaving so late I was chasing the sunset once again. South on Forrester Road which is S-30. To avoid the traffic I then took Imler Road west. The surfaces were dreadful. The worst roads in America for me have been here in California. It reminded me how some of the worst roads in Dublin are in Foxrock. Are their vehicles so good they don’t notice?

Back in the desert west of Brawley, California — the Yuma Desert

The road took me quietly back into the desert again and away from the fertile Imperial Valley. After the sand sculptures was the US Navy bombing area. It’s an air to ground target area and you’re not allowed to stop so when I saw 5 parachutists land beside me in the desert I didn’t take a photo.

Bumping along on the melting road I watched them gather their guns, equipment and chutes together. Then I noticed up in the blue sky that another 5 were descending. The chutes were almost turquoise. Again there was no sign of any ‘plane and I had heard none. What height were they dropping from?

By Superstition Mountain there were a few more of those dune buggy people. This made framing a photograph difficult.

Huff Road ran on into Evan Hewes Highway which I went west on. Running parallel with I-8 it was cracked up really badly making cycling very frustrating. It was 17 more miles to Ocotillo leaving me a few minutes before sunset. It was also a very sandy pure desert with the Coyote Mountains as the backdrop. This is called the Yuma Desert. I passed a signpost for the State Prison, but little else.

Self-timer east of Ocotillo, California — with the Coyote Mountains in the background

A car slowed down beside me and asked if it could get onto I-8 the way it was heading. I said yes, but it was another 12 miles so it was quicker to go back a mile to the last exit. Plaster City was just a Gypsum Plant and an OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) area.

Stopping for a drink a persistent bee harassed me for a few minutes. Over dinner I read an article in a local paper which said :

“Africanised Honey Killer Bees don’t like the cold (including coast and mountains) and so haven’t gotten beyond the desert Southeast. They entered California two years ago from Arizona and were sighted last month in Northern San Diego County. Killer bees began their spread through the Americas in the 1950s when the wild strain escaped from an experimental park in Brazil. Their expansion is estimated at 200 miles per year. Most humans can easily outrun the aggressive strain which looks much like the domestic honey bee. They are known to have attacked 3 people in California. Two were in Blythe, onein Brawley. The latest killer bee collection is in the San Diego County in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park.” This is where I’m going today.

NFL Week 12. The Chiefs beat the Bears. My last NFL Sunday on the bike. All being well tomorrow morning I’ll pay for the Amtrak tickets and have them posted on to Oceanside. That means this time next week I’ll be on a train going East. It’s difficult to think that far ahead.

Today it’s only 55 or 60 miles to Julian but it’s the biggest climb of the entire trip. I’m climbing over 4,000 feet I’ve been led to believe, with the elevation here being just a couple of hundred feet. That will test my legs and their currently dormant pains, my pedal and its widening crack, and my ability to beat the sunset. The last 11 miles have me particularly worried. That’s when I rejoin Highway 78. Without a shoulder and accompanied by heavy fast traffic — I have noticed that traffic in California is certainly fast — possibly fighting dusk, and all the time worried my pedal will snap off as I push up the winding hill. With the weekend over at least all the dune buggy traffic should be gone.

I feel very nervous today. This is probably because it’s a big day. It’s difficult, it’s long, and it’s dangerous. I’ll go back up to the cafe where I ate spaghetti last night. Afterwards I had made contact with my San Diego host, but the highlight was a coyote which casually walked by in the black.

Read the next segment — Part 92 California: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
See: links to all segments of the trip
Read from the beginning of the trip in Boston




Artist from Ireland. Paints pictures. FB: LiamDalyArt. Cycles long distances; has a beard, an XtraCycle, a Brompton. A Dub. Drinks tea. Loved a dog.

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Eolaí the Artist

Eolaí the Artist

Artist from Ireland. Paints pictures. FB: LiamDalyArt. Cycles long distances; has a beard, an XtraCycle, a Brompton. A Dub. Drinks tea. Loved a dog.

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