March 6 - 11: California

3/10 - Blythe (91 miles 239 total)
91 mi from the brawley inn, brawley, to comfort suites, blythe, CA
they're serving up something new in blythe this evening: sun-seared baked bikers.
the word grueling was coined for days like this.
by 5 or shortly thereafter, we were filling up the continental breakfast nook in the brawley inn, & by 6:15 or so, many bikers had started the day's ride. it was still chilly & we had the rising sun right in our eyes, but we knew we needed to get an early start on what promised to be a very long & hot day.
initially we continued riding thru the irrigated fields that i described yesterday. here's one of the larger canals that we passed over. from left, there are roma, becky, bev, & loralee. i rode today with roma; she did the odyssey bike ride around the world in 2000. i really enjoy hearing her stories from that ride...& lots of other adventures.
a little later, roma & i came upon this lineup along the road. in front is sandy from georgia, then vicki, donna, & karen. i can't tell beyond that.
we traveled all day on state road 78, a narrow 2-lane road that provides the only connection between brawley & blythe. unfortunately, we had to share this road today with quite a few semis...many with 2 trailers...& lots of RV's; some sections of the road didn't have a shoulder, so sharing really didn't work well. more than once, roma & i simply got off the road altogether, because there was really no place for 2 semis coming at each other to go to avoid us. i noticed that several of the larger trucks that passed us were carrying the carnival rides that i'd seen operating at the fair/fiesta in imperial yesterday.
in the first 20 miles we rode through the imperial sand dunes recreation area. here's roma with the sand dunes behind her. they were really beautiful & interesting to look at. you could see tracks all over the area....from dune buggies, i assume. we didn't see any out on the dunes today, but i saw some being hauled on trucks.
you notice that we still had on warmer gear along the canal in the first photo, but by the time we reached the dunes, we'd stripped, because the sun was heating things up in a hurry. michelle told us yesterday that she & catherine would drive the van to a point 40 mi out into the dessert & have lunch for us there. as it turned out, we had a very rough stretch of headwinds just before lunch; as we pedalled against the winds, our eyes searched the dunes for the white van. & when we thot we spotted it, we feared it was a mirage. but fortunately it truly was the white van...a real oasis!...& we were very relieved to stop, eat, & just rest for a while.
here we are huddled against the shady side of the van; that was the only shade we'd seen in a very long time. catherine is there sprawled in the sun...& she wasn't even riding today; she's probably still recovering from her recent bike trip in africa. to the left is michelle, our cook & tour leader, who kept lunch provisions well-stocked.
with almost 50 mi yet to ride today, we couldn't tarry long, so as soon as sunscreen was re-applied & water bottles & camelbacks filled, we headed down the road. on all sides were sand & scrub bushes. much of the time we rode up & down those "roller" hills that i mentioned yesterday, a few pretty steep. in general, however, we were glad for the variety provided by the uphills & downhills; the level straightaway can seem to go on forever. the only problems came when the large trucks & RV's were on those rollers with us.
sue did a great job today with the subaru.....providing us water & other assistance at crucial points along the way. as she said, there was no way to drink enough water today. no matter how much you drank, the winds & heat took their toll in a hurry. at about 25 mi out of blythe, there was a group of us stopped at a wider place in the road (there weren't many of those, so we tended to take advantage of them for a short rest stop). it wasn't long before sue pulled up in the subaru with her welcome load of water. as several of us were about to leave, we heard a sssssssssssssss & looked around. there was karen's back bike tire deflating before our very eyes. as discouraging as that was, how lucky that sue was there with everything needed to fix the flat in short order.
you see sue (purple shirt) & vicki working at fixing the flat in this photo. notice more sand & scrub bushes in the background, & that same narrow road going off to the left.
soon we went out of the dunes area & back to flat, irrigated agricultural lands. about 20 mi out of blythe we came to ripley, a tiny tiny town (probably unincorporated) that had a convenience store....with an ice cream freezer inside ;-> many of us bought ice cream bars to enjoy as we sat along the curb in front of the store. the parking lot & store were full of hispanic fellows who had first lined up along the front of the store to receive what i'm guessing was the day's (or week's) pay for work done in nearby fields.....then lined up inside the store to buy beer, pop, & other snacks with their pay. we & they made up quite an eclectic crowd at that little store out in the middle of nowhere.
roma & i turned off our odometers so we wouldn't be tempted to watch every turning of the mileage counter. we were afraid we'd lose our momentum if we realized how slowly those last 20 miles were disappearing. finally around 4 we reached blythe, the only real town we'd seen since we left brawley early this morning.
our rooms here at the comfort suites are very nice, & there's a pool again, too. we're ecstatic at being able to enjoy a day off tomorrow. it'll give our sore muscles & sunburned parts a day to recover.
If you would like copies of the original, full-size photos, feel free to e-mail my son Mark with your request. Stay tuned....

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