Date: Sun, 21 Apr 1996 09:27:09 -0400
Here's no. 20. I'm taking a break for a while and will continue the newsletters when we get up to the northeast.
Copyright 1996 (c) by Caryl Johnson - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.
Chapter 20 - Apr. 12 - Apr. 16 Palo Verde, CA to San Diego, Ca - 7692 miles cumulative
Just east of El Centro is one of nature's more unusual works of art. Backed up against the Chocolate Mountains, yes they are chocolate brown, are acres and acres of sand hills. The Imperial Sand Hills Recreation Area consists of hundreds of acres of light tan colored sand mounds. Blown about by the daily winds, they take some beautiful formations appearing like tan colored ocean waves frozen in time. Waves and curls of sand with clouds of dust plowing off the tops. These sand dunes are moving at an incredibly accelerated rate of about 6 feet for each windy day. Thus the shapes and shadows you see today won't be there next week. We've heard that 60 years from now you'll have to go to Mexico to see these hills. They won't be here anymore.
Since they move so rapidly this is also one of the few areas in the desert where the "desert rapers" as we call them are not only permitted but also encouraged to roam at will. Motorize vehicles ranging from 2 to 4 wheels, carrying from 1 to 6 people wander up and down the hills, zig-zagging, and spinning. Yet the damage they inflict is only as permenant as a dream. As the wind blows, the tire tracks disappear, and the dunes move on. There are no fragile desert plants to tromple.
Despite this, we still have a hard time accepting the practice of heading to the desert to drive motor vehicles all over the sand. The amount of gas that's used by one family on just one of these weekend jaunts must be enormous. Most people come out in their huge 30+ ft. RVs towing their off road vehicles (ORVs) in a trailer, one for each family member. They then spend all day, each one of them driving around and around and around not really going anywhere or doing anything. Just one family must use over 100 gallons of gasoline resources and just think of the pollution. Granted this amount of gas and pollution is squat compared to the amount used for daily commuting. Still, this form of recreation has no productive or learning value whatsoever. I wonder, if gas cost $4 per gallon as it does in much of Europe would these weekend gass guzzling trips still happen. Probably not nearly as frequently. Either that or they'd come up with an electric ORV.
We also experienced our second taste of California tourist sticker shock at the sand hills. There's a small store in the two house town of Glamis that caters to the weekend ORV crowd. They were listed on our maps and we had made plans to stop for some bread, soda, and other lunch supplies. Gad, what a shock. A loaf of plain Jane wheat bread cost $2, soda $4.50 a six pack, a gallon of water $2.75, and even $.50 just to use the bathroom. Horrendously inflated prices. In addition, the folks at the store weren't exactly the most outgoing or friendly. They give you a cold stare and grunt as you plop down some exhorbitant fee for a can of soda. We wondered how they ever manage to stay in business. It must simply be that the ORV crowd has so much money to burn, like all that gas, that they simply don't care. Otherwise to paraphrase an old saying "Rake me over the coals once, shame on you. Do it twice, shame on me". We certainly won't be taken again and we took care to warn all bike tourists coming in the other direction.
Exhaustion was ready to overtake us. Each morning I'd wake up feeling like I still needed another 8 hours sleep. It was time for a day off and we just happened to find the most perfect spot. Located next to a small palm tree lined lake is the Sunbeam Lake RV resort. With a sparkling blue pool, card room, one of the cleanest laundry rooms we've ever seen, a book room, and a huge rec room with big screen TV, sofas, tables, and chairs we felt as though we'd checked into a posh resort hotel. Even the tent site was located on soft grass under the shade of huge eucalyptus trees. All this for a mere $10 per night. We felt so pampered except for one slight problem. The nice, moist, green grass attracted hundreds of tiny, round bugs. We had bugs crawling over everything, including in the tent. Our tent is getting old, the zippers hardly close and those pesky little bugs got inside. They were all over the floor, screens, sleeping bags, and us. Try as we might, we couldn't keep them out. We gave up and slept in the rec room. Fortunately thesnowbirds had all gone for the season so we weren't disturbed.
It's a small world and our meeting Vic only served to reinforce our strong belief in that saying. Late in the evening as we sat by the palm tree lined lake enjoying the pink sunset, making a generous serving of chili over biscuits, a thin, blond haired, bike tourist mounted on a black bike with all brand new equipment rode in. Vic was from Holland. He had arrived in L.A. two weeks earlier, rode to San Diego and was now headed to New Orleans. As we talked he suddenly asked if we knew Harry in San Diego. We were dumbfounded. Harry is a friend of ours who we were plannning to visit while taking our two weeks rest. "How," we asked "did you (Vic) meet Harry?" As Vic rode through San Diego he was standing on a corner trying to figure out where the youth hostel was located. Harry happened upon Vic, asked if he needed assistance, one thing led to another and soon Vic was staying at Harry's house for two nights. During that time Harry told Vic all about us, our travels and our Web site. Naturally Vic guessed it was us when we met. With over 2 million people living in San Diego and many thousands of bike riders it's amazing that Vic should happen to meet Harry. Yup, it's a small, small world.
Vic chose this southern route specifically becuase there's nothing like the southwest deserts in west Europe. His eyes lit up when I told him he was headed for the land of the saguaro cactus and that he could expect to see rattle snakes along the road, tarantuals, black widows, and scorpions possibly even in his shoes. He got even more excited when I pointed out the black widow sitting camly on its web wrapped among the legs of the potted plant stand next to the sofa. If you haven't been around these rather poisonous creatures before their reputation can make one rather nervous. But, it doesn't take long to realize that they are very timid and try to avoid human contct as much as possible. Their reputations are a bit overblown.
After arriving in New Orleans in June, Vic will head to Anchorage, Alaska for a month of riding. It just so happens his route is clockwise while while ours is counter clockwise around the same roads. So we are bound to meet again. With the help of email we plan to keep in touch and hopefully a June meeting will happen.
One last ride up and over the In-ko-pah pass, through Potrero, Campo, Dulzura, Jamul, Spring Valley and we arrived in San Diego. I remember when I first arrived in southern California back in '78 I found the contrast between the dry east side of the mountains and the "relatively" wet west totally fascinating. I've seen the contrast from the cockpit of a private plane back in my piloting days. You can literally draw a north-south line along the mountain peaks. To the east is dry, brown vegetation. To the west is green. The transition from brown to green happens in a matter of just a mile or so. This time of year the desert is actually a little green. The strange leggy ocotillo which normally look like little more than a cluster of 8 ft tall branches stuck in the ground are coated with small green leaves. Some green grasses line the highway and even a few of the blooms from March still remain. So the contrast wasn't quite as sharp as it is in late summer. But, it still is quite distinct.
We stopped for a couple of nights at the Potrero County Park enjoying a day under the shade of the beautiful huge live oak trees and then headed into the city. We rode into town, up Harbor Drive, stopped at Seaport Village for lunch at Anthony's fishette, and then walked along Mission Bay. As we admired the blue bay with white triangular sails of the small boats skimming the surface, the green hills, palm trees, and plethora of colors from buildings, flowers, cars, and people surrounding us, we were filled with a strange mixture of emotions. Brian had lived in San Diego for 12 years and I was there for almost 14. So there's a large part of our hearts and memories still left in this city. We felt like we were coming home from a long vacation. On the one hand we felt as though we'd been gone forever yet so little had changed it was as if we hadn't left at all. It was hard to believe that we didn't live here anymore. Even listening to the traffic reports on the radio bring back vivid mental pictures of each intersection, each exit, each highway being discussed. We had a nice comfortable feeling that comes from being in an environment where, for once each corner doesn't bring the unexpected.
We were glad to be riding down familiar streets again, stopping at familiar places, seeing familiar sites, saying hello to old friends. We were looking forward to time off, not having to pack up each day, not having to ride every day, to having simple comforts like a refrigerator. But, we both know that after a few short weeks we'll be more than ready to head on once again. We need and want time to live as normal folks every few months. But our wanderlust still lives on and we're simply not ready to stop traveling as yet.
Continuing around the bay we made a beeline for the home of our friend, Charlie. Measuring in at over 6 ft 10 inches this incredibly gentle, basketball player sized man is one of the most generous people we know. He's invited us to stay at his ocean front house where we could wile away the hours watching the gray/green waves roll in and the skaters, skateboaders, bikers, joggers, and runners passing by the windows. From there we'll head up to Del Mar where we'll spend two weeks at another incredibly generous friend's, Mary, house for two weeks. In fact I've found over the past year one of the main things I miss is the friendships we left behind. The people at SDRC are a group of some of the nicest, most helpful, likable, and generous folks I've known. I don't miss the reports, project billing hassles, deadlines, presentations, politics, and all that other baggage that comes with project management. It's the people; James, Chris, Mary, Gareth, Mark, Doug, Charlie, Paul and all the other folks that I miss.
It's time for a vacation from the bikes and from the newsletter. After all my creative brain cells are far and few between and have been working a lot of overtime lately. We'll pick up once again after we get up to the northwest. You might say it's the summer rerun season. See ya all in a few weeks.
Appendix A - Route
Rt 78 to Brawley Rt 86 to El Centro Even Hewes Road road to Ocotillo I8 to In-ko-pah pass Rt 94 to Spring Valley Jamacha Rd, Paradise Valley Rd, 8th St, and Harbor Dr to San Diego.
Appendix B - Camp sites, motels
Desert Inn Motel in Brawley ($) Sunbeam Lake RV resort 2 nights ($) Potrero County Park Campground 2 nights ($) Charlie's house
($) indicates fee camping
Copyright © 1995-2011 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.