Sons of Gondor! Of Rohan! My brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of Men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand! Men of the West! - Aragorn, Lord of the Rings - Return of the King
Day three dawned clear and windy and we broke camp after watching a brilliant sunrise. We had a few miles to make up that would put us even-steven and on track to complete the loop in a timely manner. I thought we had 10 miles to get to refuel, but instead we had 20. Oh, really? OK.
|The next morning at camp.|
|Andrew greets the sunrise in high tech worship.|
Looking at the water supply, we were all pretty low. I had maybe 1.5 bottles left and about the same for the rest, but one rider had a decent surplus. It came to me then that I should have pressed that extra 70oz bladder into use yesterday.
Still, we were in good spirits but a bit weary. My posterior was letting me know that I needed to relieve some chafing by a new pair of shorts. The Ibex woolies I had been in are not up to the task of long, long repeat days. The chamois just is not that good. Pity. I slathered on a bunch of Chamois Butter, changed into my Specialized RBX bib shorts, and winced into the saddle. Pedaling out into the hard pan of the ever present desert wash, we were off.
|"Eat me, please and stop the misery"|
Now I do not know why I had thought this, but I was thinking we were going down canyon. Stupid, cuz anyone with any time in the desert wash system would have known better and I have quite enough time in that type of environment. Dunno? In any case I could see that the canyon was narrowing and climbing. This made it ever harder to find a hard path to ride and it was so sloooow.
At some point we hit this. Sandy jeep road with cactus and unrideable borders made for walking. And walking.
|Friendly plants out here. Desert ferns, perhaps?|
Now keep in mind that our bikes all weighed between 45 and 50 pounds, maybe less today as we were low on water, but they were hardly easy to push through the sand. At some point I realized that my right outside ankle was irritated. Walking was becoming very painful. Oddly enough riding was OK, but we could not ride. Sucks to be me. We were moving at around 2 miles an hour and we were functionally out of water. I mean to say that we had some swallows left between us, but not enough to make up for what we were losing in the effort.
Most of the calorie and electrolyte replacement I had along required water to mix with it and that option was not on the table. Or under the table, which is where I would have crawled if I had had a table with me. We were reduced to walking/pushing/slogging in sand that spilled over or rims and tires and shoes as we plodded along from shade bush to large shade bush. It was not a hot day, thank God, or we would have really been in for it.
It was too bad really, because it was a beautiful place in that desert kind of way. The Ocotillo was green and vibrant and the sky was blue. I passed a spot where a double mortero was alongside the road and that was right when the road was beginning to look like we could ride part of it. Good thing, because my ankle was really on fire. Each step was pain.
|grindstone or spooky skull of death?|
But there was more sand. The sight of Jason B. pushing along the sand in his wool socks was remarkable. I actually changed into flip flops to try and help the ankle, but the hike a bike began in earnest and it was time to get real shoes back on. This was now a recreational jeep trail, the kind that jeepers use to challenge themselves a bit and break axles on, etc. We were having to lift and portage our bikes up one granite face after another, then down, down more hike-a-bike. It seemed like it would never end.
|Yeah, we hiked down that, but up others that were nearly as steep.|
I was beginning to feel the leg cramps, mostly in the hamstrings from all the sand slogging. Thank goodness for Elete Tablytes and a few swallows of water I had left. I stopped taking the camera out about now and was getting concerned for our safety. If someone got hurt or seized up, we would have been in a pickle. I figured this old guy would be at the center of a dinner plate for the vultures.
|Errin's leg mojo.|
Finally we were in sight of a town of sorts and that meant water. I really wanted water. You have to not have had it and really needed it to appreciate that feeling. The jeep road turned downhill but was still deep, deep sand. I was able to ride most of it, but it took a ton of energy and skill to do it. I skied past the others with only Jason B out in front and finally hit pavement, only to see him coming back my way with a gallon of water. Yes, please.
He went and rescued the others who were a bit behind and similarly crushed. Man, that was hard. Soul breaking hard. It had taken us 7 hrs to go 21 miles and we were now about 60 miles behind schedule. When I walked into the little RV camp's store, I realized how fried I was. I could hardly string a good sentence together and I was wobbling all over the place, shivering cold. A bunch of water, a chocolate milk, and a Dr Pepper went down in short order. As the others filtered in, I had the best microwave burrito with green sauce and chicken that ever existed on this or any other planet. Oh man.
When two of the others came in, two of the guys with tubes, they must have strayed off the main track somewhere at the edge of the highway as they had enough goat head thorns in each tire to actually hear them rolling up to the stop. **clicky...clicky...click**
|Mile 111 and the end. Home of the best microwave burrito in the known universe.|
It was past 3:00 PM and the wind was up hard. We were crushed pretty good, but recovering and we discussed our options. This was not even a one dog town, much less a horse, so no bike supplies here. We thought about finding a paved way to San Diego but the tubes thing was a problem. No way could we patch all those tubes and we were down to three tubes between all of us. My ankle was pretty screwed up and I was limping badly with each step. Since I did not know for sure what I did to it, I could not predict how it would take to another day of hike-a-bike, if that was required. I did not want to so injure myself that I would cause a chronic issue. Between the beat down, the schedule in tatters, and the possible mechanical drama, we were looking for a plug to pull.
111 miles. Not 375. We came to ride 375, not 111. But sometimes discretion over valor. So we found a kind heart who got a couple of us back to Idyllwild to retrieve vehicles. I sat with Errin in a pizza joint and ate a medium pizza all by myself without even breathing once in between slices while the others set up back at the RV park with hot showers and a cabin for the night. Errin took back a six pack and a large pizza with everything to the waiting group of warriors.
I guess that was that. The Tour De Diligence was officially over. It felt odd to be driving a car again but 2.5 hours later I was home and eating a double bacon cheeseburger I picked up along the way. Man, I was hungry for two days after that and my ankle still is irritated as I write this now. Still not sure about that one.
It was quite an experience and obviously our timing and expectations for that route were a bit off. In the spring that would have been hard packed sand and mostly rideable. It would have been a much more doable deal. But we survived to ride another day and I found myself looking forward to another adventure with the Salsa crew and interested parties. We had a good time despite the hard day and the camaraderie was a high point as was the time rolling on our bikes through the So Cal backcountry.
A bad day on a bike is still a pretty good day.
Sign me up for the next one, guys.