Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It's a dry heat

You could feel the tension this morning at the Ludlow Motel. It's the longest day of the trip (108 miles) and the hottest one, too. That's the challenge.

Half the group leaves at 6am, without a formal breakfast. The other half leaves at 7am, after breakfast at the Ludlow Coffee Shop. The strategy is to get as far as possible down the road before the heat really kicks in.

We're riding the old road again, with the rail tracks on one side and the interstate usually out of sight on the other. Sometimes the rail tracks and highway switch sides, in relation to Route 66. There's still an amazing amount of rail traffic. Since it's mostly moving east to west, we guess the trains are carrying empty containers back to a port on the West Coast.

The desert really does something special for me. Maybe it's the simplicity of the lines, the long sloping hills. Or how the light creates regular shapes, bright and dark, on the hills. Layers of color.

Or, maybe it's the huge, open  sky.

To deal with the heat that is definitely in the works, I'm carrying electrolyte pills and ice in my Camelbak. But the one thing I was not prepared for today was so much breathtaking beauty. Some of the beauty is natural and some of it is man-made. Our first stop is Amboy Crater. We didn't explore the crater but it is visually stunning, a black rock volcano rising out of the sand. 

Then it's a long desert climb. It's starting to get warm. Along the road rocks are placed in patterns, which turn out to be words. Somehow this got started. People passing through saw the words and stopped to add their own. Mostly they are names. 

Sometimes the word is a message.
Our second stop is at the summit at an abandoned gas station. Someone has applied paint and turned the ruin into an installation piece. Not sure I would have thought of that. It's great!

We are hammering eastward and making good progress. At 25 mph, it's just a fun, fast ride across a plateau toward Needles. I wave at most of the trains and sometimes the driver blows the horn to say hello.

Rudy stops to sit in the shade at a roadside stand. It too used to be a gas station - we can see the old island under this custom vehicle.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a...bee-mobile!
The bee lady gives Rudy a slice of bread with honey. "Good for energy" she says. The bees are in hives just behind us. It's about 1 pm and I'm itching to keep going. In addition to the heat, now in the 90's, the wind has kicked up a few notches, or five.
Not a hive, but a work of art...
Finally, we get on the interstate for a quick 6 mile run downhill into Needles. The DQ is hopping! A Mocha MooLatte and no need to worry about today's ride any more. This one is in the bag.

The DQ flags are flyin'
(My computer says we averaged 18 mph. Yeah, kinda fast...)


  1. I think we've had both tailwinds and headwinds on that section. Makes a huge difference! The first year, Lon invited me on an off-road alternate scouting route into Needles. I still remember how good a root beer float tasted one year when we finally hit Needles. If you're lucky, you'll only have one or two more really hot days before you start getting some elevation. Isn't the Mojave amazing?

  2. I agree - the desert is breathtaking. :) Glad to hear things went well on a difficult day.