At the coldest part of the morning I woke up, put on a hat, and went back to sleep. Now I know what "bitter cold" means. Never really felt that kind of cold that hurts, scours, is an adversary. It coated the tent with dry cracklings of ice that fell to the ground when it was time to break camp. It froze the remaining water in a bottle. And it might have done something mysterious to the circuitry of my camera, which no longer takes photos.
Which is so unfair because the scenery today is what originally made me fall in love with this ride. We climb 1500 feet, gradually, inching toward the eastern edge of the plateau. Then there is a little hump where the road doesn't go upward anymore, and the sky is all that lies ahead. It beckons. We crest and start to go down, down, down. The road snakes along the side of the giant escarpment, with each switchback unfolding a different view of the desert down below and the backdrop of giant mountains looming.
I would love to show it to you, the gorgeous layers of pink and grey and tan in the mountains against a clear winter sky. The first time this landscape appeared in front of me I was speechless. It is simply stunning. Click here to see what Anza Borrego looks like on a bicycle. I think the winter light is even more delicate and lovely.
Joshua Tree. I'm gonna go there some day.
The descent is 10 miles, cold until the very end. In Borrego Springs the temperature might be mid-50's and all the riders strip off clothes to put in the van. A little farmer's market is on in Christmas Circle, with citrus fruit and avocadoes as well as some regular produce. There's music playing and local characters greeting each other. I inhale a couple of homemade tamales. It's been a long morning and today by the time we're finished it will be 100 miles.
The first wave of fasties goes by about 10 miles from Salton City. We grab a struggling tandem and hold on for a while. Mostly the pavement is great but we cross into Imperial County and there's one quarter-mile section that is rough. I mean, the roughest pavement any of us have experienced. I survive by riding far to the right, on the white painted line. The tandem is not so lucky; on the final descent their speed and the force on the bike gives them a pinch flat and a blown tire sidewall. They're out of commission for a little while.
Mexican food for lunch in Salton City. Important to have real food for a century ride. I also would love to show images of this place, which has the quirkiness of Route 66 and then some. Here are some photos from Google. Today the color of the water is cornflower blue, matching the sky.
Going north toward Palm Desert there is a tail wind. So rare on this stretch; it is the great equalizer. The pack from lunch never catches me. Another pack that left Salton City shortly thereafter takes 25 miles to appear. They've had 4 flats and are about to have another one. I leave them and somehow pound to the finish behind two fast guys.
Actually one of them is a fastie and the other keeps saying 'you guys are killing me' and 'oh god'. Why are we pushing ourselves? Well, it is not a competition or a race and yet somehow, it is.
It means a really great spot for the tent in Palm Desert.