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John McCain, Where is my Tailwind?

By | March 30, 2011

Wednesday, March 30
Palo Verde to Quartzite, AZ
44 miles

Dan from the Wheelers passed me again this morning, even though I left before they had even started breakfast! He stopped and took some pictures of me riding, though.

I made great time (for me) on the 20 miles in to Blythe this morning. Just over two hours! It was pretty flat and windless, right up until I could see the freeway ahead of me. I needed to cross over it and turn right, and a sudden headwind made that slow. After the right turn, the wind was a little weird, but not really affecting me.

I found Dan at Starbucks, as well as two other self-supported riders, Jerry and Galen, a father and son. They were also heading to Quartzite, having started in Ramona, but they were only going as far as Salome, AZ, where Jerry’s wife was at a horse show. I had first met them at Ripley, nine miles back, and they had quickly gotten ahead of me, of course.

From my calculations, I had 27 miles ahead of me for the day. (It turned out to be 24.) I spent nearly two hours at Starbucks, blogging and snacking and texting. I also chatted with a Harley rider named JD, who had lost a foot and was really into camping. The way to do this ride is to take it slow and stop a lot. A nice break in the middle of the day is really helpful, but this was the first day since the first day of my ride where there was somewhere relaxing to sit for a while. You can only stop by the side of the road for so long when it’s too hot or too cold out, and there’s nowhere to go but the shoulder where you’re standing. I haven’t been so thrilled to see a Starbucks for a long time!

I stopped at the grocery store on the way out of Blythe and ran into another group of Wheelers. They were having a short day to do laundry and whatnot, and Blythe was their destination. As I returned to the road, the wind grew stronger and stronger, and it wasn’t pushing from behind me.

Looking back after crossing the Colorado River into Arizona. The pedestrian/bike path is not well maintained.

I slowly made my way a few more miles to the Colorado River and the Arizona border. You have to walk across a pedestrian bridge on the north side of the 10 freeway. Then the route goes under the 10 and gets on the 10. The freeway has a huge shoulder, so it’s not to bad to ride on, but by now the wind was a strong and difficult crosswind, and the freeway was headed uphill.

Four miles on the freeway to a rest area seemed like it took forever, and it probably was nearly an hour, based on my speed. The climb wasn’t too steep; it was just long and windy. I rode and stopped, rode and stopped. The rest area had come highly recommended from one of the Wheelers who lived in the area. Apparently it had recently gotten a new water filter!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t really take advantage of the new water filter. As I attempted to fill my bottle at the drinking fountain, the water just blew away. Maybe they need some new faucets, too.

I met a woman named Kirsten, who was on her way to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico for a stint as an artist in residence. She was driving a hand-painted VW Eurovan with no air-conditioning from Davis, California. She said she had just started to feel sorry for herself with no AC when she saw me riding up the freeway! Then her directions blew out the window. We looked them up again on my iPad. Turns out she’s a burner, too. Perhaps we’ll see each other on the playa this year! (I have a picture of her, but can’t currently post it due to technical difficulties.) While we were talking, a man in a utilikilt stopped to say hello. It’s been so fun to meet so many great people over the last few days.

One of the rest area attendants also stopped to talk for a few minutes. He said he’d only had that job for a week, and already he’s seen at least a hundred cyclists heading cross-country!

About two miles after the rest area, the wind began to calm down. Though I continued to climb, it was a gentle slope, and I didn’t even have to be in my lowest gear the whole time. I couldn’t decide if I was feeling stronger, or if it was just an easy hill.

After about four more miles, I exited the freeway to a frontage road that ran past BLM free camping areas. It was pretty empty, as this is not really the season. I understand the population of the area balloons to a million over the winter, for the weather and the rock and gem shows. For me, it was about seven miles of downhill. It was a generally trending downhill, not a steep descent. Still, I only pedaled when absolutely necessary! I was parallel to the freeway, and that slope seemed about the same.

I rolled into Quartzite, found out which gravel lot trailer park accepts tents, and set up. I took myself out to pizza for a treat and did laundry. A few of the rock shops and flea markets are still open, but I would only buy something if it would make my gear weigh less than it does now. It’s hard to see all the sights when you’re traveling by bike, especially when you’re moving as slowly as me, but I think I didn’t miss out on anything today.

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