Las Vegas is a great place to be leaving.
Especially if you happen to be heading towards Death Valley,
apparently the driest hottest place in North America.
Yeah. Right. Is all I have to say to that.
Maybe it was just my luck that at the start of January a big storm came rolling through but dry it was most definitely not. Not Death either, as I spotted many little critters and some lovely flowersAs I headed south on a back road that looked rather nice on my maps, and also on the ground. I was rather pleased to be on my bike after a little break but maybe I should’ve checked the weather forecast.
I cycled over the salt flats and was headed south, on the other side of the valley is a paved road that would connect with my track 64km further south.
I did not see any vehicles all day.
But I only managed to get about 40km south when a super strong wind sandblasted me off my bicycle.
Not impressed I kept pushing on a little further, sure that at least around sunset the wind would die down.
No such luck, as I tried to get some cover next to my bike from the sandstorm a ranger vehicle pulled up. They mentioned this storm would last at least three days and if I wouldn’t want a ride back to the visitors centre.
I had more than enough water and food with me to wait it out, I just didn’t have enough days on my visa left. I really had to start moving towards the Mexican border.
So when I got chatting to Joris, a Dutchman who’s done some bike touring himself and told me he was heading towards San Diego for a conference I took him up on the offer to get me a ride a bit further down the way.There is some wonderful roads with absolutely nothing but far stretched desert views and strong winds.
But the desert is very interesting. I like the different cacti and slowly I saw the odd-shaped Joshua trees appearing along my road.Riding into the national park I was told by the lady at the entrance station that I would be able to fill up my waterbottles at a ranger station at the other side of the park. That was good news, as I hadn’t been sure and was dragging 12 litres with me up the hills.
I have sent my cold weather gear away as I figured it’ll be getting warmer from now on. It is getting warmer, but still well below freezing at night.
I enjoyed the sunshine and the easy roads out of the park.At the ranger station I was told the washrooms were closed and they had no water. They didn’t care I was on a bike and were extremely unhelpful and not very nice. It surprised me, as there were signs everywhere to remind you to drink enough water and the dangers of dehydration. Lucky I still had a couple of litre so it wasn’t an emergency. But I wondered what would have happened if it was.
I had another 30-odd km to go before I’d find another place to fill up.
Again, lucky, I was going downhill with a tailwind.
But down the hill I found my road closed. And the only other option would be to take the freeway.
It’s not legal to ride on the freeway. It’s not legal to ride on a closed road either, but I took my change and only a few km in I ran into David. The first other bike-touring dude I’ve run into in the US!
He’d come up the same way and confirmed that the road was flooded out but still passable. Just watch out for the big machinery.The first Machine operator was real friendly and had a chat before moving on. But all the others seemed severely pissed off by idiots like me ignoring the ‘closed-road-sign’. But there was no choice!
I had to get to the Salton Sea,
Trying to find a spot to camp I came across a proper campground, where I found a friendly fella who agreed to share his patch. (you always pay per place, not per person. And since a place is large enough for 6 tents it seems not more than logic to me to share the fee)
But my new friend would not have me pay and whipped up a delicious meal in no time at all! And was very intrigued and a bit surprised that I wasn’t afraid. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be afraid off.
After a lovely breakfast I set off along the long straight empty roads. There is a lot of forlorn glory and all the abandoned resorts and empty villages gave the place a bit of an eerie feel.Until I reached the small settlement of Bombay beach, with a name like that I had to go check it out and found a sign informing me I was just in time for my 2nd breakfast 🙂Score!I met another man on a bicycle there too.On the south side of the Salton sea is a large bird sanctuary, I ran into a ranger telling me that there is a camp area. All the other people there are duck hunters. I found that mildly odd in a bird sanctuary. He then told me he just left the camp area and wouldn’t charge me if I wanted to pitch my tent there for the night.
So I did and headed the last few miles into El Centro the next morning, where Jacob welcomed me into his parent’s house, showed me around and headed back to San Diego.
Here I had the chance to have a wash, sort out a few bits and pieces, tried to fix my brakes that were still giving me shit and have a glass of wine with Brian my warmshower host. Who showed me a very interesting video he made about the history of the area, the Colorado river and the canal system that makes the land here so fertile.
And then it was time to leave the USA and go cross a border.
Country 62 on my list of countries visited.
If I could only find the border crossing,
doesn’t seem like a very difficult thing to do. But I was firmly told upon entering the States that I had to return the little piece of paper they stapled into my passport upon leaving.
But there was no US custom officer in sight! So I wandered around a bit and then went against traffic and made a random guy in uniform take my piece of paper. Not sure if that did any good, but hey. I tried.
Got in line and BOOM. I was in Mexico. No question asked.
Well that was easy.
That very evening I found myself in a Mexican hospital.
Not too worry! It’s just that my host here in Mexicali is a doctor, who loves cycling, and lets bike-touring-folk stay in his clinic.
Roberto loves good coffee too. So that’s a plus. And the lovely Gladys,who works for him, helped me a lot by coming to find me a Mexican sim card. I can finally use a phone again! After the ridiculously expensive and weird mobile-services in the rest of North America here I can pay 200pesos a month (about 14euro) And get free calls and txt all over Mexico, Canada & the US! On top of that I can use unlimited whatsapp, facebook and twitter.
I couldn’t believe it! Sweet deal indeed.
In the same street mister Barrios has a small restaurant which is an excellent place to stop for breakfast. Even more so when he mentioned that I could come there any time, eat whatever I like, free of charge! He even organised a special breakfast on the morning that I left.
….and welcome to Mexico. People kept telling me.
After all the dire warnings I got from just about everybody in the States on my way here I was relieved, although not very surprised. After all, it’s been happening all over the world. People warning you for all the bad folk in the next country and all you encounter is friendly faces, waves and smiles and people wanting to help you along the way.
The road south of Mexicali was slightly uneventful. I had a tailwind and things were pretty straightforward. It’s about 200 km to the next town and halfway there is a small store that has closed down, but Oscar looks after the place and let me camp behind the old house.The next day it was a long ride to San Felipe, I was flying along and decided to have some lunch at the first roadside stop I could find. The first one was closed and so was the second. Since I do have the tendency to get a wee bit grumpy when I’m hungry I wasn’t impressed when the girl in the third place kept serving people who came in after me first. So I stood up and was on my way out when I heard:” Hey! Is that your bike out there?”
Melody, who’s been in the process of painting things,and is from the States originally has lived here for over 15 years and was just enjoying her lunch, she invited me over and I ended up staying at her spectacular beautiful house for a fair few nights.
she introduced me to her friend Randy who helped me fix my charger and showed me a really large cactus.It was there I decided to do a little side trip.There was this road on a map that goes straight up a mountain to an observatory at 2500m.
Sounded lovely to me, but to get there I had to get across the mountains and over to the other side.And there happened to be a back road! It went straight out from Melody’s place into the desert and across the salt lake. It didn’t seem very complicated on the map.
But the map was wrong.
As I got over the first little bump and navigated my way through a lot of sand I could see the direction I was supposed to be heading in. But there were so many tracks in all directions and looping around that I spent over an hour trying to find the right one.
It was getting dark so I made my way to a big pile of rocks from where I could scout the surrounding area’s. I could make out a trail in the distance, but I couldn’t make out which track would lead me there.
So when I heard a vehicle at 4am I jumped up and tried figuring out where the road was, it was only about a km from where I camped! As I packed up in the morning I noticed my water bottle leaking, a big prickle had punctured my 10 litre container which is highly inconvenient when you’re lost in a desert.
I fixed it with my tire-repair-kit and wished it could have just been a tire.
I shouldn’t have.It was getting pretty warm now, and I’d seen no traffic apart from that one car at night and a trailer with a horse.The salt flat was nice cycling though.And I was pretty impressed with the lunch I managed to make myself.I finally found the right road and made my way around the mountain range, That road wasn’t very busy at all!But it did take me 7 hours to cover 30km and I kept thinking that Iohan and Lael & Nicholas are all a lot smarter than me by going bike-packing.it’s taken me a few days longer than planned and I wanted to be back in San Felipe in time to meet up with a new friend.So I never quite made it to the observatory yet, but that’s ok.
With this moon you wouldn’t see that many stars anyways.