Day two started with an early rise on a brisk morning just north of Alpine, CA. My body was sore but I was filled with excitement, as I looked forward to the possibility of making a descent to the desert floor later that day. As the morning progressed, I meandered my way through the small mountain towns of San Diego County. The sun was shinning, trailed heads were littered with cars, and the motorcyclists were out in full force.
It wasn’t until Jacumba that I met the first interesting character of the trip. As I was about to enter a local convenient store, an older gentleman, about 5’9” with a full head of grey hair, approached me. He had a welcoming smile and was curious about my bike. We exchanged pleasantries and began to share stories of our adventures.
It turns out, he was a retired Air Force pilot and seemed to have carried his military discipline over to everyday life. It was clear that he had remained active, as he proceeded to tell me that he was 86 years old. The most perplexing thing to me, however, was the fact that he was wearing a full sweat suit in the 80 degree heat! Eventually, we said our goodbyes and I made my decent to the valley floor.
It was a grueling descent that led me down Interstate 8 for over eleven miles. For anyone who has ever had to ride a bicycle on the interstate, you understand how frustrating it can be. Upon arriving in Ocotillo, I checked in with the local fire department and set up camp. It was an exceptionally pleasant evening that left me with a renewed spirit, excited to start the next day.
The following days would slowly turn into the hell on earth, with temperatures reaching above 100 degrees. I cruised through the small border towns of Southern California, even catching the eye of a border patrol helicopter. Luckily, a friendly wave was enough to reassure them of my intentions and they were soon on their way.
The stretch of highway 78 between Brawley and Blythe should be called the devils highway for cyclists. As you make your way past Glamis, the shoulder disappears and the road turns to rolling hills. I lost track of how many times I was almost side swiped along this section. It was as much of a mental game as it was a physical one with each semi that passed.
Sure enough, as the universe goes, there’s always a balance in life; a yin and a yang. For every bad driver on the road, there’s a good one. For every stingy person, there’s a generous one. I was blown away by the hospitality that I experienced on today’s ride. Between the spare fruit provided by a passerby ans the ice cold water from a camper on the Colorado, today was a reminder about everything that’s right in the world.
In a time where we seem more divided than ever, it amazing to experience the generosity of strangers. It’s a great reminder of the good in the world and the fact that we aren’t so different from each other at the end of the day. A big thanks to the gentleman in the Chevy on Highway 78, Nick the Colorado River camper, and the Army Vet connecting with long lost buddies. You all are examples of what makes America great.
It’s been a long day. I’ve pushed 90 miles and I need to get some rest. Peace and blessings.