Day 3 Playing with Fire


When I was a teenager my friends and I would have fights with match guns. Made from clothes pins the small wooden catapults would launch a self sticking match up to 15 feet blazing away ignited by the friction of leaving the “ gun”. Amazingly we never got burned but I did nearly set a couch on fire in the basement of my house.


The dumb things we do as “ kids”…

For two days now we have climbed and find ourselves near the top of the mountain range east of San Diego. Amazingly we are still in San Diego County which seems to go on forever.

We pack up our tents and gear while the naked town sleeps. It got down to 48 F last night and I ponder the possibilities of nudists wearing pajamas. Surely they get cold like the rest of us?

We head Northeast away from the border and the Wall and rise to the final crest before the descent to below sea level.

Roads here are scarce and we actually descend on the Interstate but the shoulders are 12 feet wide, freshly paved and free of debris. As I begin the descent my Guardian Duo appear , Angel to the right, Flossie perched on top somewhere to act as a wind sail to slow me down. Two days up, 20 minutes down. Rollercoaster time!


Faster and faster I go holding off on the brakes until I see my speed at 48mph. Angel frowns and Flossie lets out a Mooooooo!!!!! but like a kid with a match gun in tow I am invincible and let the brakes go. Suddenly I notice that I am passing trucks who have a maximum speed of 35 mph down the 8 mile mountainside. At about the same time I notice signs warning of high winds and suddenly the “matchgun boy” gets a streak of Fear? Common Sense? Now 3 miles down I tap my brakes on and off so as not to burn them out and slow to 30 mph just in time as I come out from the walls of a surrounding shadowed  canyon, the sides of a gorge, into the warm sunlight and swirling winds. It takes a fair amount of energy to keep my bike upright as they winds buffet on and off the rocky walls in a totally unpredictable manner. I finally decide to slow and stop completely to gather my wits and there before me is the road 2000 feet below…and off in the distance the desert floor 200 feet below sea level.


After a tongue lashing from Angel, Flossie and even the Spirit of my Mother back from the dead having lived through the “ match gun years”  I start down again but limit my speed to 25 mph. Needless to say I arrive much ahead of the other riders to the flat  expanse below…where we have a wonderful breakfast in a cafe in a town of 200…in the middle of nowhere. The owner used to live in Cleveland but moved to get away from the snow.

He succeeded.

The rest of the day is a practice run for tomorrow, the longest desert ride. Today it is just 40 miles across the hot barren flats below sea level



but still some riders  end up feeling poorly and find themselves parched.

Tomorrow  is a 93 mile ride through the bottom of Death Valley … no towns, phone service, houses, civilization. We will have water stops every 20 miles by the side of the road and we are lucky as the temperatures will max out at 98 F , almost 20 degrees cooler than normal. I will carry with me 5 liters of fluid from each rest stop and I can guarantee they will be gone by the time I reach the next.

I recall this day from two years ago and remember the incredible beauty of the desert.

I can hardly wait…



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