Part VIII: The Way Back Home

I remember flying through the valley but it’s more lush. Flowers that I hadn’t seen on this trip were blooming. The bushes looked green instead of brown. It was still desert, but different. I dip into what looks like the Pinto Basin and then hug the mountains until I see him. He holds out his arm and I settle myself on it. He speaks kindly to me in a language I’ve never heard but oddly I understand. His face is a mix of Mayan and some other Native American. We’ve been here before…

Often I dream of flying. I’m usually a very large hawk or an owl in these dreams and meeting up with an Indian man. I’m never quite sure if he’s a medicine man but I always feel like we’re looking for something.

Waking from this dream, I notice the sky not being so dark. It’s probably about 6:00am. The dream weighs heavy on my mind and I lay there so I can commit it to memory. I dread climbing out of my cozy down sleeping bag, knowing what I must do today.

Leave paradise.

Sunrise over my camp.

Sunrise over my camp.

Breakfast, pack, check the tires, load the bike.

My heart hangs heavy as I start my journey back to Palm Springs. The only motivations for biking a decent speed are the possibility of a hamburger and definitely a shower, though it isn’t that motivating. This road is familiar to me since I had biked it on Sunday to grab supplies. Once I get out of the town of Joshua Tree, it’s unknown territory amidst cars and large trucks. So what do I do? I lollygag through the rest of the park.

 

Do I really have to leave?

Do I really have to leave?

That thing is HUGE, like bigger than my hand huge.

That thing is HUGE, like bigger than my hand huge.

You'll always be in my heart, Joshua Tree. You were my first.

You’ll always be in my heart, Joshua Tree. You were my first.

After having biked I-10 at night, I was hopeful that route 62 wouldn’t be worse.

I started to wish I had taken I-10 again.

Route 62 has a lot of local traffic: cars, small trucks, the occasional semi. The down side is that on many parts of the road there is very little shoulder and it’s in super crappy condition. The super downside is the areas you want a shoulder, there is NONE. For example going down all the hills…there is no shoulder, there is a super strong head/side wind, and it’s curvy with concrete dividers. Even if you hopped the divider to get to what could be a safe spot, there’s no land to step on. It’s pretty much a cliff.

I had the fear of death on I-10 but at least there was a 5 foot shoulder the whole way. Route 62 scared the living bee-jeebus out of me.

When you crest the hill, the shoulder magically disappears as you gain light speed in a head wind.

When you crest the hill, the shoulder magically disappears as you gain light speed in a head wind.

Normally, I would take a food/water break. I took “get my nerve back up” breaks instead.

With the worst of route 62 behind me, I found myself looking at Palm Springs and the massive wind farms that preside to the North of the city. Almost there! Wait…what’s that sound…

With the little bit of shoulder I had and being careful to keep one eye on traffic, I start searching my bike for a strange whirring sound. Turns out, I lost a screw on the bottom arm of the bike rack so the rack itself was resting on my back tire. Fortunately, I had brought with me the extra screws for my clipless sneakers. It was a perfect fit. No MacGyvering it with duct tape and zip ties!

I exited Rote 62 onto Pierson Blvd, then took North Indian Canyon Drive all the way into the heart of Palm Springs. Civilization again. It was much hotter down here than in Joshua Tree. Exhausted, hot, and smelling horrendous, I arrived at my Air BnB hosts’ house. After dropping off my stuff, I hit the local bike shop to pack my baby up and get her shipped back home to Denver. With that done, I can relax.

Thank you to the bike dudes at Palm Springs Cyclery for all your help!

Thank you to the bike dudes at Palm Springs Cyclery for all your help!

Shower then food.

It was the weirdest thing. Even though I had a good burger, it just wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be. I found myself wanting a salad instead. I guess that is what happens when you eat nuts and fruit for a week straight.

I can’t remember what time I fell asleep. I just remember laying on the bed, which was so comfortable it became uncomfortable, thinking, “How the heck do I assimilate back into my normal life after this? Is it even possible?”

Not really.

Part III: The Lost Day at Joshua Tree National Park

Maybe I slept so well all day due to the zen raking someone had done.

Maybe I slept so well all day due to the zen raking someone had done.

It’s so bright.

I must be dead.

Oh wait…there’s a drool puddle.

Does that mean I went to hell?

As my eyes adjust to the sun lighting my tent up, my body yells profanities in protest of even moving an inch. I awoke in the same position as I had fallen asleep. Screw the rangers. I’m not getting up until I have to.

When we last left our heroine, she had set her tent up in the picnic area and fallen asleep around 11:38pm.

Time was irrelevant. All I knew was my body hurt like nothing I had known before. When I say body, I mean my whole body, toes to top. I fell in and out of sleep a bunch of times until I finally decided that I should go pee. Putting my sneakers on when I’m trashed is much easier than it was that morning. Nothing wanted to work. I wondered if babies learning how to walk felt the way I did those first few steps.

Once I gathered myself a bit, the hard decision of packing it all up and searching out the actual campground was made. I sat on my packed up bike for about 20 minutes debating how much I had in my legs and if it was enough. As it turned out, the campground entrance was about 300 feet from where I was. Doh…

The campsite I picked was right across from an older couple that were also bike touring. They had been on the road since last June and biked from Maine. Since the weather wasn’t warm enough yet to head back, they were just burning some time in the lower parts of California. Their plan was to eventually head north and cut across Utah so they could visit Salt Lake City. They asked what the road was like coming in (they were leaving that way) and wished me well with, “Be careful. There’s not a lot of us out there touring.”

After setting up my tent, I go against every muscular fiber in my body and head to the ranger station to check in. Why am I abusing myself like this? I could have just paid for my campsite and then tomorrow when I’m on my way to the rest of the park, stop in and get my park pass. NOOOOooooo…I just have to do what’s right. My body hates me. It really does.

I peddled all the way there and back (about 2/3 mile) in the absolute lowest gear I had. My legs almost didn’t make it back to the campsite. The promise of sleeping for the rest of the day was the only motivation.

Which is all I did that day besides eat, drink water, and get up twice. One trip to pee and the other to pee and brush my teeth. The latter was around 8pm but it was worth every achy step.

As I stood outside the bathroom, brushing my teeth and staring at the night sky, a big, bold shooting star goes streaking across the darkness. It wasn’t one of those quick flash ones. It went slow and had a sparkly trail. I took this beautiful occurrence as a good omen for the rest of my trip.

It better be a good omen.

I’m going back to sleep.