Boulevard of Broken Spokes


The 20 mile stretch from Ocotillo to El Centro on Hwy 78 is a testament to current federal and state funding priorities: topping the charts are the ever-popular platinum-selling winners - Alien Repulsion and The War on Drugs.  Then, several thousand line items, B-sides, and afterthoughts later, we reach health care and road repair.  For 20 miles, Seb and I steered, swerved, and skidded through a sea of potholes.  There was no conversation as each of us had an inner tube stuffed in our mouths to avoid shattered teeth.  Inner tubes taste like ass.  Speaking of donkeys, allow me to share that wild burro are common in this part of the world.


I write from the Palo Verde home of the lovely Nancy, a Warm Showers hostess with the most-ess.  Warm Showers is an organization comprised of homeowners who, lacking the DNA strand responsible for caution and cynicism, welcome touring cyclists into their homes.  Modeled on the couch-surfing template, bikers crash for a night with a real roof over their heads and a sympathetic ear for their troubles.  Two nights ago we stayed with Jim who, despite suffering from a plethora of personal pain, suffered us.  Pretty cool folk.


So we crossed the Sahara yesterday.  The North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area is a stretch of sand 7 miles wide by several hundred miles long and home to many species of loudness-is-next-to-Godliness dune buggies.  An entire sub-culture of sand machines frolic here.  All you need to fit in is a VHS copy of Mad Max and a hearing disorder – tattoos and obesity are encouraged but not mandatory.


Seb and I left Brawley at 6:30 am for the 100 km crossing to Nancy’s house.  On a road bike ride that might take you 3-4 hours, depending on how powerful you were feeling that day, and always assuming that a highly-elevated heart rate and a tragic sense of only-discomfort-will-bring-me-completeness is what you call fun.  Well, Seb and I took 9 ½ hours.


We were good for the first couple of hours, propelled by tailwinds both elemental and burrito, but as soon as we hit the dunes, evil Stepmother Nature produced a headwind of encephalitis proportions.  Over the next 7 hours, gaiety and cheer were gradually sand-blasted away, replaced by an appalling tendency to look at your Garmin every fifteen seconds and, every time, be shocked and dismayed that you still had forever to go.  Mental toughness, wherefore art thou, mental toughness?


In another twist of fate, we managed to bend the towing arm of Barc’s Bench when the bikes blew over at one of our rest stops, resulting in the bench being towed into Palo Verde at a 45 degree angle, with all Seb’s gear strapped precariously at the fat-boy end of the teeter totter.  


Time to fix stuff.  Barc out.