Day 1. Saturday, April 23 – San Diego to Pine Valley, California

Saturday 23 April 2016

We were blessed with a beautiful morning and a cool breeze softly blowing off the ocean.  Old Town was quiet IMG_1793as artists and vendor slowly began their set-up for the Saturday morning market. We  wound our way through industrial parks, hotel row and shopping malls then on to a more picturesque DSCN9760and peaceful highway.DSCN9761  Though our first few miles were relatively flat, our legs felt the strain of our bags’ added weight.  The mild rolling hills were not bad and particularly scenicDSCN9753 through Mission Trails Park,IMG_1795 but at mile 27 the uphill became constant and our pace slowed dramatically.DSCN9775  By 12:30 we reached a small town and a chance for rest, DSCN9780refreshment and the best Grilled Cheese sandwich ever (cheddar, smoked gouda and parmesan on the outside); hit the spot.  The climb continued after lunch DSCN9791with a few mile trek on the interstate (the only road available in our direction)DSCN9794and a quick look back at the height we had climbed.DSCN9804The day was still cool and breeze had turned to a nice little tailwind.  The terrain was getting more barren,DSCN9799 though still green.DSCN9808  The continuous uphill did not quit until mile 45 (18 miles straight up) when we finally got a break from the relentless climb. DSCN9810 We had another hour of up and down before we crawled into the motel parking lot a little after 4:30, our legs too exhausted to scream, but our eyes not too tried to enjoy the view. IMG_1811 We had no idea our 53 miles would be over 6000 feet of climbing and require over seven hours in the saddle, but then the map did show a pretty steep climb (we are at the top in Pine Valley).DSCN9814  Dinner did not last long enough on the plate for us to get a picture of the all-you-can-eat spaghetti (only managed one Big bowl).  Hopefully a good long night’s rest will do wonders for recovery.

Day 2. Sunday, April 24 – Pine Valley to Ocotillo, California

Sunday 24 April 2016

It was a cold 40° this morning, before the sun rose to warm the morning.DSCN9817But by the time we’d finished breakfastDSCN9823 at the retro cafe DSCN9821down the street it was 60. We began our climb (that started in the parking lot) and continued upward for a solid mile.DSCN9826 Our legs responded well having Everything to do with the initial climb being only a mile. After a chilly four mile drop, we settled into an up, up then down ride,DSCN9827plenty of opportunity to enjoyDSCN9833 the different landscape.DSCN9847A long DSCN9856climb beganDSCN9831 and finally peaked at 19 miles,DSCN9866 rewarding us with another four mile non-stop dropDSCN9868 as we left the mountains behind. The high plains desert was noticeably drier DSCN9886and barren.DSCN9875 We continued our up and down ride along the Mexican border.DSCN9885

Though well before noon, at 29 miles we reached the only stop for food.DSCN9890 A delightful spot in the shade, plus good food.DSCN9894We continued along the border for the next six miles, a constant up and downDSCN9898 until the road fed directly into the Interstate and our downhill began. The signs warned of strong winds and possible side gusts, they were right.  The 20h winds kept us clutching our brakes, sometimes with white knuckles, for our entire ride down. An occasional stop was the only opportunity to photograph the increasing barren terrain DSCN9907that looked more like piles of rocks, DSCN9908than mountains. It was a tenuous ten mile, 2500 foot drop into the dry and hot Yuha Desert.IMG_1838 The wind that had cooled us all day, blew hot at our backs (a great silver lining) as we pedaled down a road that seemed to go forever.DSCN9910A few miles down the road, we escaped the heat in one of the finest of fine accommodations in the history of our tours.DSCN9914 No internet (or much of anything else), but the shower was hot and the AC cold.  The only dinner choice was the local bar DSCN9915offering frozen and/or microwaved food, but it worked.  On our walk back to the motel, we noticed the winds had increased considerably; we only hope they have calmed by the morning.  Fourty seven miles today, as we try to ease into this tour and not chomp off more than we need to….HA!


Day 3. Monday, April 25 – Ocotillo to Brawley, California

Monday 25 April 2016

We woke to a howling wind, the tattered fencing banging hard against it’s post and palms bending mercilessly in the wind driven sand.  But the direction was out of the west and we were heading due east; time to enjoy the ride.  First however, we had to backtrack westward to get on course.  We attempted to pedal it, but the wind kept blowing us the other way; the only choice was to walk our bikes (or get blown over).  It was a slow push, but soon we were facing east and coasting with the wind. DSCN9918 Even at 7:00 a.m. it was a comfortable 60°, as we began our ride without breakfast.  The only place in town didn’t open until eight, so we choose to head out early and get our first meal in the next town.  The desert was a flat,IMG_1847 dry dust bowlDSCN9926 silhouetted by the Coyote Mountains to the northDSCN9920 and a very rough road beneath our tires.  Had we not had the non-stop speed bumps of the under maintained road, we could have managed 20 mph while barely pedaling; small price to pay, though, for the incredible tailwind.  We passed Plaster City; DSCN9934no city just a manufacturing plant for plasterboard.

An hour later the dry sand turned green,DSCN9943as we biked through miles of agricultural fields.DSCN9951  It took us just over an hour and a half to reach 25 miles and breakfast at a local diner,DSCN9957 great choice.

Thoroughly stuffed, we continued our ride; little did “I” know our course would slowly turn north.  The pretty farmland framed by palm trees DSCN9963turned back to sand; the horizon hidden by the blowing sand. DSCN9964 We now paid for the tailwind giftDSCN9960 we’d been granted on the first half.  Our last ten miles was a struggle against the broadside wind,DSCN9968 often stopping in an effort not to be blown over; it took us 20 minutes to go the last mile and a half.  But the day had remained cool; by the time we checked in, it was still in the 70’s  The short 42 miles today was an effort to rest for tomorrow’s long ride; not sure the 17 miles fighting the wind helped.

The winds were still howling at 30 mph when we walked across the parking lot to the best restaurant choice in town.DSCN9976Today was a Fabulous culinary delight; between the delicious breakfast and the perfect dinner, we did not even miss not having lunch.

Day 4. Tuesday, April 26 – Brawley to Blythe, California

Wednesday 27 April 2016

It’s Cold – 46°

Thanks to our hotel’s early morning breakfast, we were able to start pedaling by 6:00, just as the sun was rising. DSCN9991 There was not even a hint of breeze, which we could have used (to our back, of course) as we had a very slight, but always noticeable continuous incline.  Still in agriculture country we passed beautiful fields of greenDSCN9998 and sunflowers.DSCN0002We crossed a canal and all civilization stopped, DSCN0026even the power lines ceased to exist. DSCN0043 Next up, the Imperial Sand Dune Recreational Area, DSCN0040not our idea of a great vacation spot.  The dunes however, were beautifulDSCN0062 and stretched for miles;IMG_1868 the Chocolate Mountains on the horizon.IMG_1865  Twenty miles out, we stopped at the last refreshment outpost for the next 50 miles.  A nice rest in the shade and chat with the locals DSCN0074and we were on our way.  Once past the sand dunes, we were left with blooming brush andDSCN0071interesting cactus,DSCN0106 the one below is an Ocotillo.DSCN0105A huge (operating) gold mine stretched for miles;DSCN0089  no chance of finding a nugget here, the place was surrounded by some very serious barbed wire.  Finally our long desert roadDSCN0108 took us close to the Chocolate Mountains,DSCN0092 quite impressive,DSCN0097 even without Willie Wonka.

Reached the top of our climb shortly after 11:00 and 45 miles complete, we stopped at a border inspection station and borrowed their shade to have a quick lunch.DSCN0112  A grocery store stop last night had us prepared for this long (no food outpost) ride.  Equipped with a power bagel, fruit and still ample water, we replenished and hit the road.  We were looking forward to the coast down hill,DSCN0115but the wind, that hit us in the face as we rounded the corner, was not going to let that happen.  The day was still quite cool (70’s), which was a Godsend for our long trek in the desert wilderness.  The landscape continued to change, offering welcome variety. DSCN0121 Then once again, we were surrounded by green DSCN0123as farmland DSCN0128appeared from the previous sandy scrub.  We were beginning to fade, actually just dog tired, so our 68 mile stop at 2:00 came none too soon.  It also gave us the opportunity to meet Bernd und Mario from Munich,DSCN0130  doing our same course, only faster.  A nice chat and rest helped as we were sent on our way.DSCN0131  But we were tired and the wind was becoming an exhausting nuisance.  Though the afternoon was still cool IMG_1881and an evening under the stars would be comfortable, we were not ready to pitch a tent yet, so we had to continue on.  On the edge of town, we grabbed the first hotel we came to, checked in and collapsed.  A refreshing shower and then dinner at the Sizzler a block away.  Steak was good, ice cream fixin’ bar was better.  Almost nine hours in the saddle and 88 miles survived, it was time to rest.

Day 5. Wednesday, April 27 – Blythe, California to Salome, Arizona

Thursday 28 April 2016

Little did we know when we began, how much we would enjoy our quiet two mile bike out of town;DSCN0144just about the only flat stretch we would experience the rest of the day.  The “climbing” began with a short walk up a dirt path DSCN0150to the bridge that would take us over the Colorado RiverDSCN0151 and into Arizona.DSCN0166 A few minutes later, we had to get on the interstate for a long and loud ride with the trucks. DSCN0159 Though the shoulder was wide, the road/tire wire and glass kept us focused down.IMG_1893  We crossed dry river beds,DSCN0168 saw lots of Cowboy cactus (Saguaro)DSCN0202 and enjoyed the varying hills (from a distance).DSCN0175

We took advantage of every possible water and shade stop.  This rest area had exotic green trunked treesIMG_1891 and other critters IMG_1890we’d prefer not to see.

Climbing was slow but steady, even with a 12 mile stretch on the highway;DSCN0177 it took us two hours of biking to go only 17 miles.

Our return to a quiet service road took us past Dome RockDSCN0186 and more beautiful desert mountains.DSCN0176  It was only 11:00 a.m. when we choose to take advantage of a food break at a truck stop.  A good lunch and freshly iced water bottles, we returned to the interstate on our eastward trek.  The southwest wind reminded us that, though the sun was hot, the temps were still in the low 80’s; a very pleasant day.

Blooming wild flowers,DSCN0197 exotic treesDSCN0184 and cacti,DSCN0171 wild animals DSCN0217and continuous climbing filled our afternoon.  A short ride through a nice valley, again offered variety we were not expecting….DSCN0227…the sign was right (look at that swirling dust)IMG_1911  This couple mile flat stretch had an eire,DSCN0229 ominous feel.IMG_1908  But our little valley soon came to an end and once again we climbed;DSCN0244 the wind now behind us and offering a much needed boost up our last hill.  The “town” of Hope was six miles from the end of our climbing for the day; we hoped this sign DSCN0240was not an omen.

Our last mile into town, left us with some misgivings DSCN0259as to whether it was now a ghost town.DSCN0258  But our motel, though scrappy on the outside, was clean and comfortable inside and dinner was across the parking lot and delicious.DSCN0263

Our 63 mile day, included three good climbs.  Still hungover from our long ride from the day before, we were (once again) exhausted……kinda felt good!

Day 6. Thursday, April 28 – Salome to Wickenburg, Arizona

Thursday 28 April 2016

A Gorgeous 66° morning,DSCN0265 but first let’s get some breakfast.  DSCN0264Love to start the morning with an omelet filled with a slab of bacon and a pound of cheese!

Okay, now we are ready to start to bike.  DSCN0285The forecasted 4 mph winds were starting off with at least a 15 mph push at our backs; the wind and slight downhill start was a perfect start!  Though the strong tailwind remainedDSCN0287 for over an hour, our gradual climb began within the first half an hour, just about the same time the farmland DSCN0283yielded to desertIMG_1930 framed by the Harcuvar and Harquahala Mountains.DSCN0289  We enjoyed the various cactus….IMG_1925……OuchIMG_1928and out-of-place palm trees.DSCN0294Shortly after ten with over 25 miles complete (thank you, wind), we took a saddle and refreshment break at our only available stop of the day.  As we munched on muffins and oranges gusts of wind blew in as a storm was collecting strength.  During our 20 minute stop, the clouds had gathered and the wind had switched directly to our side; no more wind assist ride.  Back on the road, we watched as rain fell in the distance.DSCN0305  Slowly, the sky became totally overcast,DSCN0313 the breeze turned cold and the temperature dropped to 59°; we figured it was only a matter of time before we got hit by a downpour.  Thankfully, our steady climb kept us warm as the thermometer crept to 62° and the rain never hit us.  The beautiful DSCN0314desert flowers DSCN0327were in such opposition to the cool weather; we were loving it.  Amazing how prettier everything looks,DSCN0325 when you are not expiring from the heat.

Our downhill turn into townDSCN0332 began much sooner than expected, but then we didn’t expect the wind to be blowing Up the hill we were descending, either.  It took us close to an hour to give back the 1000 foot climb we had just completed.  The town stretched for miles as we became surrounded by trailwagonsDSCN0340 and memories of yester-year.DSCN0339  Too early to check-in, so we stopped for a bowl of delicious homemade chili to warm up.DSCN0343

A relaxing afternoon (for a change) and time to catch up and make room for dinner.  We swaggered (cowboy talk) down the street, finally getting close to one of the colossal cactus,DSCN0349 to a local saloon.DSCN0351We enjoyed an amazing salad DSCN0354and Roast Pork on a bed of stuffing and fixins’.DSCN0356  Not sure we burned that much in our 53 mile day, but we sure did enjoy it!

Day 7. Friday, April 29 – Wickenburg to Tempe, Arizona

Saturday 30 April 2016

Pulled out of our delightful little cowboy town DSCN0366to a cool, 59°, no wind morning.  The charming town of Wickenburg would be worth a longer visit, but definitely off season.  Saloons and restaurants had a warm local feel; but during the high/winter season it is filled with cowboys (three roping arenas) and RV’s. DSCN0369 In fact the last three days we’ve ridden by ghost towns that come alive in the winter, as the RV-driving snow birds flock in.

Crossed the very dry Hassayampa RiverDSCN0368 into the uninhabited Arizona countryside.DSCN0377  The word desert DSCN0384does not seem applicable to such pretty surroundings;DSCN0383flowers were bloomingIMG_1941 and even the roads wore a smile.DSCN0389  White fluffy clouds obscured the sun from heating the morning and a breeze had begun to kiss our shoulder, so our slight downhill ride remained cool and comfortable.IMG_1943   It was two hours before we saw civilization, DSCN0399as we entered Surprise (yes, that is a town name) and another hour later before our course became a busier roadway.DSCN0400  Shortly thereafter, our map directed us through quiet neighborhoodsDSCN0418 where golf carts were the preferred mode of transportation;DSCN0408 it was a delightful ride. DSCN0420 By 11:00 with 40 miles under our belt, we took a rest stop at a local park and enjoyed an orange.  This was the beginning of our Greenway Channel Trail, a paved path along the overflow canal DSCN0425and Phoenix water supply canal. DSCN0444 The canal wound through the backyards of neighborhoods and parksDSCN0441 avoiding busy roads.  With the day still cool, we enjoyed the quiet and sceneryDSCN0445 this path provided.  The downfall of neighborhoods was no places to eat and we were getting low on energy.  After five hours of biking and 56 miles, we finally found the perfect place; a bike store and cafe.DSCN0448  The hour rest was not only delicious,DSCN0449 but informative.  Suggestions abound for the perfect route to get us to the end of the day.  Instead of traversing roads as our map directed, we were told of more canal routes; we were in!  This new route was filled with a variety not seen from a car. DSCN0460 We biked past the front door of the Arizona BiltmoreDSCN0453 and Country Club,DSCN0457 and the backdoor of Scottsdale neighborhoods.  Our ride through Papago Park took us through the Desert Botanical Garden and past the Red MountainDSCN0474 and Phoenix Zoo. The scenery was stellar. DSCN0461By 3:30, we crossed the Gila RiverDSCN0477 into Tempe and our hotel on the edge of the Arizona State University campus.  It had been a cool, downhill, Gorgeous ride; we actually felt pretty good having polished off 70 miles.  But we had promised ourselves a day off and we knew the following week was going to be grueling, so rest was in order, but so was dinner.DSCN0492Now we are ready for bed.