Shaun being appropriately initiated with an almost 300 mile ride, this ride was supposed to be easy-about 211 miles.
We each had a fair amount of gas and planned to gas up on the outskirts of town. But that happened rather quickly. And then suddenly we were also at the Mexico Border. The clue was “Last U-Turn.” Oh, and the massive Corona beer advertisement. The google directions were horrible. We retraced out path, looking for a frontage road. We found it. Here it is:
We should have gone back into Yuma for gas. Feeling brave from the night before, we jumped on I-8. I don’t promote Interstate travel; 6 lanes of traffic and two shoulder separate you from the landscape. The back roads are rich with true culture, not a homogenous American consumer culture. I was itchy though-this last leg was meant a huge portion of the peace sign would be complete- 2,112 miles covered from New Orleans!
They call California the Promised Land-maybe the homestretch wasn’t supposed to be easy. The road was busier than the night before. We still felt pretty comfortable, but the wind was hurting our top speed. We kept our emergency signals on and hung together. For miles, the pinkish beige sand was shaped into various, careless piles by the wind. The wind was whipping heavily through the dunes that surrounded both sides of the Interstate. I saw an exit with a state road that I knew would take us north. We took the exit, but stopped to look in all directions and decided there would be NO fuel ahead. So we pushed on.
And there was no fuel ahead that direction either. I mean, REALLY. It’s preposterous to me that these areas are so under developed. One godsend exit appeared, proclaiming no more services for 39 miles after. Not godsend at all really. Unless you stop to speculate that maybe we avoided a worse fate by our delay. The delay that happened because the only fueling station in the middle of the Sahara was closed-closed for three hours.
Nothing left to do but keep scootin. Since it looked doubtful for Shaun, we agreed to just pull over on the shoulder when he ran out. It happened. There is a 30-40 mile difference between our tanks. When he is out, I have yet to hit the red zone on mine, which can get me about 20-30 miles. I considered pushing ahead and picking up gas. This would mean braving the Interstate alone, with a top speed of 55-60. And a 30 mile roundtrip. We decided to see what would happen first.
Being so close to the border means that Border Patrol cruise the area, in abundance. Yet, the only two we saw where on the back of tow trucks. The sun was branding us and water was running low. One guy who stopped had no gas, but gave us 6 bottles of water. Jeremy stopped next and offered us a sweet situation. Godsend. He was delivering equipment and had a lift, moving blankets, tiedowns and space. And was going to the exact exit as us. As a motorcyclist, he sympathized with our lot. 15 minutes later, we were ready to roll.
We lost about 2.5 hours there. We pushed on after lunch, coffee and lively political conversation with the locals in El Centro. I was feeling optimistic that we would make it. Outside of town the wind almost toppled my scooter. It was the closest I have come to wetting my pants-instead I was screaming in the helmet. Not in panic, but in frustration. I stopped to adjust the saddlebags, bringing them up higher. This seemed to help, but the wind was still wicked.
Once we turned onto the road that winds through Anaz-Borrego national park, traffic disappeared, and we could drop to a safer speed-about 45 mph. Shaun seems to have less problems in the wind and I suspect this has to do with all my gear. I couldn’t even stand in place when I stopped to film some of the landscape with the wide angle lens.
The terrain however, was stunning. Although, I do miss the cacti of Western Arizona, which had faded by Ajo. There were mountain chains running beside and ahead of us, with desert pushing up to their base. The sun was low, it was after 5pm. The straight away began to curve through hills; hills made of little boulders. Soon we were taking sharper curves through mountains lush with green trees. Great curves. Really, aside from the wind, you couldn’t ask for better riding. This national park has 500 miles of well developed trails. For some videos of the rides, I’ve created a set through my flickr account.
We passed a road leading to Borrego Springs and I thought about Chris McCandless, Into the Wild, and his odyssey-his grand journey to seek truth and change his life. I wanted to go visit and soak in the springs. I wondered what experience Shaun was having-wondered actually, just who this guy is. We barely know one another. It was quite an honor that he wants to be on the P.E.A.C.E SCOOT. The mountains were pretty steep and as we climbed, the temperatures dropped. It’s been hot since New Orleans. This was cold.
I was zooming along through the curves, lost in the smells and sights of a forest-it’s been awhile since I’ve seen anything but desert. I noticed Shaun wasn’t with me. Julian was 2 miles ahead and I thought he would meet me there. I pulled into the gas station and see it’s closed. We were counting on this petro stop. We hadn’t fueled since El Centro.
Then I get a text from Shaun-out of gas.
I set about asking the locals for some tips. Turns out the closest place was 7 miles. Not bad. Just then a girl says,
“Hey, My Mom will help you-I’ll make her.”
Thus spoke the future Ms. Julian pageant queen, Amanda. I walked over to the scooter and called Shaun to let him know it would take a while, but we would be there with gas. Carrie screeches up. I ask if she is the one helping me. I get in the car and then we get out of the car and I follow her into the store and then we get back in the car and she got back out and went into the store again- I stayed put that time. Then, we were on our way. We were careening down a mountain, rather fast. Amanda was talking about her day at school. Just chit chat, as though I was someone they had known for awhile.
It was a rather entertaining situation and I felt bonded with them right away. This somehow seemed like a perfectly normal thing. I was in town 10 minutes before a total stranger offered to help. Everything in Julian and surrounding Julian shuts down at 9. They tell me this as we are on the way to get Shaun-it was 8:45. We have no food, no lodging. 60 miles of mountains were ahead and the temp was 50 degrees cooler than what we were accustomed to.
Carrie wanted to turn around and take me to the store, but I was pretty fixated on getting Shaun out of the remote area. We found him with an audience, met them and gassed up. I rode his scoot back, he’s not used to night riding and curves. On the way to get him a truck almost killed us. I was on the phone with Daphne, asking her to search hotels/campgrounds for us. Turns out the tourist trap priced hotels at $90 a night. Amanda overheard my conversation and asked her neighbor to house us.
After grabbing my scooter we went over to Blind Dave’s. It’s hard to believe he is blind, he moves remarkably well throughout his house. It was a humble trailer and he offered us everything in it. Including tootsie rolls. We ate tootsie rolls with him and he told us about his ramblin days and career as a singer. Carrie popped over with a pizza. Then came back with provisions, water, Sprite and sweatshirts for Shaun. Shaun hadn’t anticipated colder weather than Tucson and had no long shirt.
Can you believe all this generosity? It was really cool to watch Shaun have a life defining moment. I told him today over breakfast that I first truly realized how to be good to others when I started traveling. To treat those you love with kindness is easy. To trust a stranger and to be compelled to help them, even if it means interrupting your own day,is a profound measure of compassion.
We slept very well and woke early, but couldn’t go anywhere. The fog was so heavy that the trees collected it and showered water on us when the wind blew. It made traveling the mountain impossible. About noon we set off, very content with our unexpected adventure.
The ride was incredible, with many curves winding through a burnt forest. There were no guard rails and the cliffs plummeted down about 500 feet.
We arrived in San Diego around 3 pm. Not sure what to do, we drove along the harbor. It began raining and we coughed up some cash for a hotel room. I have hosts here for the next two nights, and will attend some Peace events. I’m looking for somewhere to volunteer and I might have a lawn to mow into a Peace sign.
My host is with the Department of Peace chapter here in San Diego. It’s exciting to be back on the West Coast. Gas will be easier to get, but not cheaper!
Here is the completed Southern route: