Day 23: Yucca Valley - Mecca
Thursday, September 29, 2005

88.67 @ 17.1 = 5:09'57, max: 42.8, trip total: 1859.9

warm, sunny, hot, sunny, hot, real hot (into the 100's)

pop tarts, donuts, chips, apple, crunch bars, turkey, chips, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Bud Light, Dos Equis, salad, carne asada, rice, beans, 2 brownie sundaes

Calipatria Inn & Suites, $19.60 p/p

The joy of fresh donuts at the local grocery store had us all on a sugar high. Plus we were not as eager to get back on the bikes. It was warm to start and that was a welcome thought- no jackets and gloves. It was nice - maybe 70, crisp and clear. We were about 10 miles from the park entrance and ready for a nice day.

When we got to the park we were greeted with nice roads and hardly any traffic. It was awesome. The landscape was out of a movie- oversized boulders stacked like enormous sand castles. Cactus and joshua trees filled the valleys. And one newly paved road crossing through to eternity - just fading into the distance.

There were so many scenes- one right after another. Every crest or turn or dip there was another perfect shot to take. All of which didn't really translate that well. But the sky was crisp, and the boulders smooth with delicate balanced precision lined up. The heat sonn started to sink in.

We climbed slowly to about 6000 feet - exactly how high I have no idea. But we started at about 3000 feet in town and we went up and up - each time getting to a higher mesa. All with the anticipation of dropping to our final destination - 256 feet BELOW sea level. But we would find out that we had plenty more climbing to do.

video clip: Joshua Tree 360 »

As we started we were in the Mohave Desert (as we were all day yesterday) and near the middle of the day we crossed into the Colorado Desert. The difference was precisely marked on the map but each side was as hot as the other. There was little difference to me.

Full Size Panorama
Photo by Todd Lindeman, rider

And overall there was minimal traffic - a blessing that didn't go unnoticed. To have only a handful of cars pass every couple hours was like having your own road. Especially after the previous day and all of the coastal highways throughout the trip. This was different and we soaked it in.

video clip: long wonderful descents »

We went up and down a few times looking at all the different rock formations and cruising at a tourist pace. It was like we had a day off and we were browsing all the amazing sites. But the heat wore on us. The hills not as nice. There was a huge downhill at around mile 35 - in the middle of the park.And then after climbing to another pass a great drop into the Mojave valley. The descents were precious. The views majestic. The feeling was superb- unstopable. Well, until the next climb.

Full Size Panorama
Photo by Todd Lindeman, rider

And then, before we knew it, there was THE downhill - 25 miles to wrap up the day. Yes, all down. 3000+ feet of drop in a single swoop. The first 6 or 7 miles of it truly spectacular. Minutes on end at speeds over 40mph. Snaking our way out of the mountains through a river channel to the real desert floor. Miles whizzing by at lighting speed. It was a great gift. Long enough to make your body ache from crouching in the "drop" position. The wind blew by in waves- some of it very hot- and the lower we went the hotter it got. What a thrill.

The last part of it was gentle but still dropping, letting us cruise in auto pilot for a good deal of time, stroking the pedals at times to keep the pace. By the time we got to town it was scorching hot. No cool breezes left. The burn on my skin wasn't any joke now. I was turning my arms in the aero position to avoid over cooking one side.

Then we entered into Mecca. Not the most exciting place. Not even much of a place. We met some nice people that steered us away from there - to find a better place to spend the night. Unfortunately that took us quiet a bit away. But we'll head back in the morning and start back up. We're all ready for the last day. Some of us, maybe only me, might be a bit sad. And yet very happy. But we'll leave that for tomorrow.

Do all the pictures look the same? A road here and there. No hills that you can really see? Well, there are plenty of climbs and there are plenty of scenes but when it's all wrapped around 300 pixels it seems to loose much of that. These days, on the one hand, are great fun while also being incredibly tough. Mentally and physically. But that's just hard to capture.

There are so many things to try and describe the total experience. Imagine riding hads free for three and a half miles straight. Where else could you do that? Or how about drinking 8 bottles of gatorade each day? Or sitting at a stop sign and suddenly hear a bike tube explode? What about using 100 different bathrooms (many on the side of the road) in a month? Or forgetting what day of the week it is? Or using only gear #6 because - well, there's no logical explanation.


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