March 6 - 11: California

3/9 - Brawley (68 miles 148 total)
68 mi from alpine to brawley
my roommates last night, becky & bryn, were early to bed, so i turned in, too....before 8 pm! i haven't slept that long in ages. i wouldn't have guessed that a bike trip would be a rest cure.
we went out to the trailer around 6:30 to put together our snacks & sandwiches for the road....& there was a thick layer of frost on the food tables! someone said they thot it was about 35 degrees. my fingers have never gotten so cold making a pnut-butter sandwich. after i made my big bowl of cereal, i carried it back to the room to eat it.
so needless to say, we layered onto our bodies everything warm we could scrounge up, including ear coverings, before we took off a bit after 7. marilyn & i rode together again today, along with roma & sometimes bev. we had an uphill for about 6 mi, then onto I-8 for the downhill ride to the Yuha Desert. several times the roadway was posted a 6% grade, & there was even a turnoff for runaway trucks. i'd dreaded the long downhill, but it really wasn't too bad. i think we were lucky to be doing it on a sunday morning, trafficwise. & of course most of the bikers loved it. 10 mi worth of downhill after our incessant climbs of the last 2 days was a very welcome change of pace.
as we descended we had beautiful views of the rock-covered hills. the temps rose dramatically as we rode down the hill. by the time we got to the bottom & pulled up to the subaru, everyone was shedding lots of clothes & smearing on sunscreen.
you can see the hills in the background from whence we came. upon reaching the flats, i treated myself to my 2nd chocolate truffle (of the 2 i bought yesterday at the wisteria candy cottage).
then we ventured out onto the flat roads of the desert. soon we started noticing desert flowers. someone told me that this is an ocotillo. those blossoms are probably 4 feet above my head; i hoped that by shooting them against the sky you could see how beautiful they are.
i noticed lots of helicopters as we rode down the hill....& lots of border patrol vehicles, some driving off the road thru the scrub brush in the desert. in fact, kathleen, one of my roommates tonight, just commented, "every time i pulled off the road to find a place to pee, the border patrol appeared in the bushes." it used to be that a biker's biggest roadside potty problem was finding a big enough bush; this is a whole new wrinkle. when i was sitting in the motel office last night sending yesterday's web report, a local woman came in the door & said, "there are thousands of 'illegals' coming across tonight; my dogs are barking like mad." biking so near the mexican border has its excitement.
last night at the map meeting we'd been warned about a particular spot in today's route that has in past years been plagued by dogs, dogs in packs. we steeled ourselves as we approached the spot, & roma got out her new high-pitched whistle. luckily, however, the dogs we saw at that house were behind a fence, perhaps a new fence. & we didn't see any other dogs today....tho' we know we won't avoid them for 2 months.
at imperial we rode past a fairgrounds where they were holding the "california mid-winter fair & fiesta." i can't quite get used to seeing ferris wheels & tilt-a-whirls in winter!
as we rode, green fields stretched out for miles on both sides of us, irrigation ditches & canals running thru & alongside them. i wasn't sure what the crops were, so stopped to ask a couple of men alongside one field. when one said, 'i don't know" i was sorry that my spanish was so poor, because i know he would've understood my question if i'd been talking the right language.
but a little later we got a very big hint about what many of the fields are when we came across these silos & storage bins; many of those fields must be full of sugar beets. perhaps you can't see the line part-way up the silo to the right; beside the line it says 'sea level.' becky reminded me that the sign at the edge of el centro, through which we'd just pedalled, said, "elevation, -45."
we rode into brawley, our destination, & found the motel easily. it's near a shopping center; many of us walked there to pick up things we sunscreen for me. i have managed to get sunburn on my legs & arms---especially the right ones, since we're almost always riding east. i hardly ever burn, but going from an iowa winter to the fierce desert sun is too short a transition for my skin. most others have been lots wiser about the sun.
here's a photo of our current staff...minus sue, who doesn't like being photographed & wasn't nearby when i took this photo. from left, there are catherine, from canada, who just finished a 2-month bike trip from cairo to addis ababa; she's taking turns biking & driving the van with michelle, the cook (a very good one) & tour leader, who's wearing the headband. to the right is frances, who trades off biking & driving the subaru with sue. vicki is in front; she bikes, then helps with supper.
here's a photo of the womantours vehicle setup down in the parking lot of the brawley inn, where we're staying. (it's a very nice place.) you've seen the subaru before, the vehicle that follows us along during the day. then there's the van, then the trailer--the front part for luggage, the back a galley. i took the photo from our door upstairs at the motel; there are huge bushes of bouganvilia (sp?) crawling along many of the railings here at the motel. in fact, we saw lush stands of colorful bouganvilia at many spots along our route today.
for supper we had chicken (or tofu) fajitas with loads of delicious cooked peppers & onions & assorted condiments, a big field greens salad, & sliced watermelon. there was chocolate cake for dessert; i didn't even have a slice after eating that huge chocolate truffle when i got down off the mountain this morning.
at the map meeting after supper, michelle pointed out a stretch of about 12 miles that we'll traverse mid-morning that will be somewhat tricky....with steep "rollers," as we bikers call them (hills that go up & down & up & down), but with no shoulders. so a vehicle coming over the crest of the hill can't see a biker 'til s/he's very close. the rest of our 87- mi day, however, sounds relatively easy & flat. but the temps will be high....85 by afternoon. & the winds may pick up by then, too. so we're being encouraged to start out early....not too long after it gets light. it'll be a long day, at least for those of us who ride more slowly.
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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