Monday, April 16, 2012

Into the Mojave

Day 2. Up at 6:15, coffee from the Arco station. Breakfast is peach cobbler from the restaurant last night. Yum. We leave the teepees at 7am.

The San Gabriels
Above us loom tall mountains. Snow on the higher peaks. Yesterday we rode east, parallel to the range. Today we are going over. Considering their elevation, it might be worth getting nervous about the climb. The first real meal of the day is at the top of Cajon Pass, mile 29 and change. The pass is at 4200 feet. Coffee is essential to face the challenge and the Arco stuff is actually pretty good.

One thing we notice is there's a whole lot of traffic in Rialto at 7am, even though it seems economically depressed. That might be the mark of a working blue-collar community. Not a whole lot of flex time jobs here.

For about 18 miles it's possible to contemplate the local economy. Then there's the climb, first along the old Route 66 (now a frontage road). Our first support stop is across the road from Cajon Mountain Camp. This was a so-called tourist camp, where immigrants to California would have to stop. Yes, Route 66 and this pass were gateways to southern California. During the Dust Bowl migration people would have to prove they had $100 in order to continue and settle in California. The camp is next to a creek, lined with lush trees.

Then we get on the highway, Interstate 15. That's the only way over the pass. It's only about 4 miles up from here, not too long.

During the climb at least 3 long freight trains navigate the pass as well. Apparently the average grade here is high, and so is the risk of a runaway train. Even though Cajon Pass is known for the interstate these days, this is definitely a busy rail corridor.
Jim enjoying the passage of the train.
The highway is busy too. Just before the summit, a CHP car appears and starts weaving back and forth. A moving roadblock. Something must be happening up ahead  - an accident? The traffic is stopped right around a curve where it's hard to see. Cars and trucks are accelerating around the curve, only to slam on the brakes or change lanes on short notice. Riding in the shoulder, I wave a flat hand downward over and over, hoping drivers know this means to reduce speed.

At the top, the Summit Cafe is the last remaining original business on this part of Route 66. And I'm hungry! As we go in, a local woman says the traffic event was a horse on the freeway...yes, a horse. She could see it from the cafe. Sometimes things that aren't supposed to happen, do happen. Everyone, horse included, made it through safely.

Time for another waffle combo, to celebrate!
We ordered the whole menu.
We descend the old Route 66 instead of the interstate. The pavement is rough and the wind is in our face, but it's worlds better than a fast descent with the semis. At the bottom of the pass our next stop is  Victorville, at the museum in town. It's full of local memorabilia and early 20th century objects.

A catalog of types of barbed wire
Early WiFi.
I'm drawn to a relief map on the wall that shows the cities and roads of southern California, along with the mountain ranges in 3D. Earlier I was wondering why such a low pass existed in the midst of high mountains. It just seems too convenient...

The map shows how the San Andreas fault runs right through the San Gabriels. The northern half of the range is on the North American plate, slipping toward Mexico. The southern half is on the Pacific plate, sliding to the north. We've crossed the gap where the plates pull the mountains apart!

After Victorville now we are really in the desert. Yesterday, the dense buildings and streets covered up most of the traces of Route 66. Our route sheets pointed them out. The further east we ride, the signs of prosperity disappear and are replaced by check-cashing and 99-cent stores.

Here on the road to Barstow, you can't go 5 miles without passing some roadside icon. It's a hot day and Rudy and I are working together against the wind. He rides in front for a minute, then we switch places. After the museum, riding to make progress is the afternoon's focus. 80 miles is not just a concept or a story from the past; it's 80 miles that need to be ridden! We want to stop for photos, but we don't.

In Barstow, it turns out that the Budget Motel is a few doors down from Denny's. People trickle in, crusted with salt, and order some form of ice cream. After all, we're in the desert now!

1 comment :

  1. No kidding coffee's essential! :) (Nice barbed wire.)
    Oh, Barstow. I hope you get out of there without any trouble.