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.

Joshua Tree National Park: Am I Crazy?

Where I came up with this idea, I’m not sure. Joshua Tree National Park has been on my list of places to visit for quite a few years. On Thursday, I had the bright idea that I should make it a point to visit this stunning ecosystem for my birthday at the end of February. Not just visit though. To bike it.

Apparently I'm trying to kill myself.

Apparently I’m trying to kill myself.

Yep, you read that correctly, to bike my scrawny ass about 35 miles to the park, bike around to all the cool shit in the park, and then bike back. The “back” would be back to Palm Springs.

As you can see from the trip I made in MapMyRide, I might have finally bitten off more than I can chew. At about mile 21 I’ll be at 4128 feet of elevation. That is a steep climb from 485 feet where I start. For a woman who hates biking hills, this looks like a trip from hell. I complain about biking up the hill on 16th Ave going up Capitol Hill in Denver. That’s only 2 blocks. And I’m going to tackle this behemoth?

I must be crazy.

I apparently love to abuse myself for some strange reason. The first time I did any sort of long distance was August 2012. I was still healing from a broken sternum and had been on my bicycle for only 5 days when I decided to bike from Boulder to Longmont for a training. Four days of biking about 34 miles round trip. I ended up doing it only 3 days and then a friend loaned me his car. The mornings were wonderful for biking. The crisp early morning air…the lack of cars on the Diagonal Highway…some good tunes…the rising sun…it was heaven. The evening was hellish. Hot with cars and busses zipping past me and a head wind that never gave up. By the end of day 3 my legs were jello. It did something to me that I wasn’t expecting.

I fell in love with distance cycling.

Up until that point, I had done shorts. Six miles here. Three miles there. A 1.5 mile bike sprint to my office. Maybe even a 10-15 mile ride but broken up between stops at breweries. There were days that I could total my riding miles to 20 but never were they in one shot.

I have a feeling once I do this trip, that biking will never be the same for me.

If you ask me, I’ll never say I’m a cyclist. Even though I’m investing in my first clipless pedals and shoes(of which I NEVER thought I’d do, just wait for the video of me biffing for the first time trying to use them), in my mind I just love to ride bikes. Cyclists are those people who wear spandex and have bikes that cost more than the car I used to own but weight less than my pint of beer. They look so uncomfortable and stuffy. I wear summer dresses or jeans when I bike and I definitely do not go fast. The most I’ve ever paid for a bike was $20. The beer bike was found in a dumpster in Boulder by a friend. That’s the bike for this trip.

For a Specialized that was totally trashed out and resurrected, all the times I was told by hardcore riders that I was crazy for taking it on long rides, and bike mechanics looking at me, the bike, and then me again and saying “you did what on this?”, I don’t think I could take a different bike on this suicide mission. She’s been good to me and I couldn’t think of a better companion. She’ll also get the fame of surviving this trip, which I’m sure will surprise a lot of people.

Since this is a multi-day trip with camping, hiking, and what ever other mischief I can get into, I’m going to have to add panniers to my baby. I’ve been eyeing these sassy bitches:

Ultra-lite

At only 14 ounces, they’ll give me a fighting chance of not dying from extra weight on my way there. That is, so long as I don’t die from lack of water. I’m going to have to tote at least a gallon to get there.

Why am I doing this again? Oh yeah…because I’m crazy and I like to bike.

My dad is going to kill me if I die on this one.

Betasso Preserve

What do you mean, I was supposed to bring gear with me?

What do you mean, I was supposed to bring gear with me?

“Would you mind filling out a quick survey about the trail?”

“Ummm…sure. You are kind of blocking our way to the steps, so why not.”

That was at the end of my first time mountain biking on Sunday. I never thought I’d go mountain biking just because I get concerned about getting damaged. In my line of work, a damaged body potentially means no working for months.

Beyond my better judgement on Sunday, I let my friend take me out on what he said was an easy trail. Easy…right. Going up mountains is never easy especially on a bicycle. Not just any bicycle, but my old, broken down, lacking tread, dumpster diving edition Specialized that is more of a commuter bike than anything else. Top that with flip flops and a skirt and we have the classic Sassy Beer Gypsy minimalist “I don’t need no fancy gear” activity style.

Within 5 minutes on the trail, I get the same comment twice “Nice shoes…”

My thought, “Damn. I should have gotten a pedicure before heading to Boulder this weekend.” If I’m going to potentially tear off a toenail on a rock, I’d like it to at least look pretty while it’s covered in blood. Priorities.

Betasso Preserve can be reached by three different entry points. We choose (by accident) the entry on Fourmile Canyon Drive. Apparently Parks and Recs made  this new entry point about a year or so ago and named it the Fourmile Link (it’s only .8 miles long). To find the start of the link, you’ll see a little parking area on the road, then take a serious hairpin turn in the road, then there will be another little parking area (you can’t park in it, read the signs) where you’ll see the sign and the stairs that take you down. We made the entertaining journey up the mountain via the Benjamin Loop trail. Did I reach the top? Dear goodness, no. This gypsy is used to cruising the flats of Denver at 5280 not the 6200-6600 of the preserve. I did give it a pretty good run considering my apparel and the massive amount of huffing and puffing my body needed to get oxygen in.

On the overall, the trail actually was pretty easy. It’s well maintained and besides the occasional small rock formation, the trail itself was pretty level and nicely packed. It’s not very wide which means if you stop, you’re either stepping up the mountain or down the mountain to get out of the way (at least the part we did). There are trees right next to the trail which at times felt like they were only as far apart as the width of my bike.

Let me say, it was beautiful. It’s a multi-use trail which means that you should strap on your hiking flip flops and go for a walk. I’m definitely looking forward to doing it again.

Maybe with better shoes next time….

Yeah…there’s a lot more terrain for me to cover.