Where did we leave off? Phoenix.
Monday morning dawned bright and early, and hot as hellllll! I had packed my bags up the night before so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it in the morning. When I came downstairs Trish was making me a delicious breakfast! John, Trish, Destiny, Scruffy and I ate breakfast together outside. Afterwards I went to put on my shoes and remembered that I had taken the cleats off of them so I could go hiking. This was one of the things I liked about my shoes, they’re versatile. However, I had lost one of the screws I need to put the cleats back on. John rustled up a screw that fit alright thankfully. I loaded up my bike and said my goodbyes to everyone! Trish got on her bike (she was going to bike with me for about half an hour) and we were off! I was heading to Wickenburg, AZ which was about 40 miles away. It was supposed to be relatively flat most of the way which was extremely grateful for.
By about 9:30 the temperature was already soaring in the 90’s and I was sweating profusely. The water I had frozen the night before had all melted and was hot in my bottles. I reached my mid-point around 1130 where the highway turns north up to Wickenburg. There was one spot where I was able to refill my bottles, although the owner of the establishment really didn’t want to let me, but I think he knew the alternative for me was bleak. There is NOTHING between that spot and Wickenburg. I decided to rest there a moment to eat the delicious sandwhich Trish had made for me for lunch. =) While I waited I called a church in Wickenburg and they told me I could camp on their property. I felt much better knowing I had somewhere I would be able to rest that night. It’s always a big stress off my shoulders knowing I won’t have to panic when I get to town over where to camp.
A few miles down the road I found an old tractor repair shop and went to use their restroom. Two big dogs got up and were growling and barking and were just plain not happy to see me. I talked to them calmly through the whole ordeal and just plunked myself down on the bench outside the shop. (There wasn’t anyone opening the door so I figured I would rest in the shade for a moment before continuing on). While I sat there the doors slowly starting subtly sniffing me from afar like I think they thought I wasn’t noticing them sniffing and getting closer and closer. Eventually the tails started to wag and the y approached me nervously. I put my hand out and slowly and the smelled my hair and then decided I was alright and would I pet them please? We sat for a few minutes before I decided I had to move on. They followed me around back to the bathroom and were waiting for me when I came out!
After that the road was pretty empty for the rest of the day. It was so so hot. I think it was 97 that day. To some people that’s not bad but I’m not used to the heat and it always has affected me and this day was no different. I would pour water on myself and be totally dry in minutes. I finally rolled into Wickenburg and spotted a Shell station. I went into fill up my water bottles and immediately was so lightheaded and cold I knew I was going to faint. I sat down in the middle of the store and everything was fuzzy and I could feel my heart beating in my ears. It’s not a pleasant feeling, let me tell you. That was when I turned my phone on and saw a voicemail from the church where I had planned to camp, they were only a mile away. They told me that they actually could NOT permit me to camp there but that there was a fairground about 6 or so miles away. I knew, KNEW that there was no way I was going to make it any farther than a mile. The girl at the Shell station overhead the entire conversation with the church director and when I hung up the phone and panicked she says ”you know you could just camp out back here if you’d like”.
I was totally floored because it had never occurred to me that she would let me do that. I agreed because I had no other options and she was nice, very good company. I sat in the Shell station for the next few hours because the sun was still blazing hot and there was no shade whatsoever. Finally about 6:30 I went out and set up my tent and then went back inside because it was still SO FREAKING HOT.
That night I slept very strangely. The gas station is a 24 hour stop so there are a lot of lights on. I kept waking up and thinking it was morning because it was so bright outside. Finally in the morning I was up and off because I only had 30 miles to go that day. I was going to a town called Aguila. I had to go a little early because the wind was forecasted to kick up in the afternoon. It was another day of flat biking and the heat wasn’t as bad as it had been the day before. When I got into Aguila I passed a big group of tourists with their van following them, which was cool. I was directed to a little church down the road so I headed over there. No one home. A man across the street waved me over to his yard and said he used to sell bikes and I was welcome to camp on his property. So I sat with him and his friend for a few hours chatting. The neighbor took me to see his horses down the road, which was super cool.
When I got back to where I was camping that night I passed a girl who had seen me when I was at the grocery store buying a banana. She invited me in for a chat and introduced me to her friend who lived in the town I would be stopping in the next day. I asked him if I could stay on his lawn and he said sure. He told me that he worked in the local grocery store in that town (Wenden) and when I got to town I should stop there for directions to his house.
That night I slept…oddly. Every time I would move the dog on the fence I was up against would bark, thinking I was an intruder and then the roosters would start going off. Around 2am they wouldn’t stop until morning. In the morning I packed up and departed. It was great, windless riding on flat land all day. I rolled into the town and stopped for a bathroom at a little shop. They told me there was a campground less than a mile away I could use, across from the local library. I thanked the women and continued on my way to the grocery store. I then met the young man, who didn’t actually work at the grocery store. He was hanging around out front. This should have been my first red flag, but it never occurred to me to be suspicious. He told me he liked to just sit and people watch. I said that I had heard of a campground and that I might just go there. He said that I could do that but it was rather dangerous in that area because of rattlesnakes. I said okay, well I think I’ll head over to hang out at the library. (It was noon and 100 degrees out, I was not going to people watch under the hot Arizona sun for 6 hours). He nodded and said okay, but there’s a mountain you have to get up to get there. I stared at him. ”Really?” He nodded again. I decided I wasn’t going up a mountain in the hot, hot sun so I guess I’d just chill there. So we sat there for about an hour, literally, just staring at people driving by. I asked the guy, I believe his name was Rene, if I could charge my phone at his house. He said he didn’t have any electricity but that his sister lived next door. (Red flag #2) He continued to say that his parents had given him the house as a fixer-upper for free as long as he repaired it. We decided to go to his house. It was close and as I drew closer I started getting truly apprehensive. The trailer had no doors, no windows and no furniture or anything. NOTHING. There was one chair in the house and apparently a bed in the far room.
As I sat in the one chair I started texting Kerry about how I was nervous. As I’m typing that out Rene calls to me:
”So, do you have a boyfriend?” I’m immediately on alert.
Him: I see. Do you do one night stands?
Me: Uh no. (texting furiously to Kerry)
Eventually he goes to the far bedroom and falls asleep. I set my tent up outside to establish that I am in no way planning to sleep inside the trailer. Five o’clock rolls around and a woman and seventy children pull in to the property next door. I decide to ask if she is Rene’s sister and traipse over. Immediately I am met with a look of suspicion and an attitude of irritation and annoyance.
Me: Hi…are you his sister? (pointing to the trailer where Rene is sleeping)
Girl: Whose sister?
Me: …the guy next door? He told me you were his sister
Girl: …There isn’t supposed to be anyone there, that property is abandoned and I don’t have any brothers.
Me: *horror* uh…okay… (My mind begins racing as I decide what I should do next. Obviously this woman doesn’t want to help me at all but I need to find out what is going on). Well he told me that you were his sister, do you know who owns the property?
Girl: Yes I do, I was just going to head over there and ask them what was happening. I will let you know.
Me: Okay I’ll…just… go back…to my tent and WAIT.
Girl: Yeah, you do that.
I walk back to my tent and am texting furiously with Kerry trying to decide if I need to leave immediately or if this is all one big misunderstanding. My heart is racing and I’m watching the sun begin to sink. I know that the campground is still an option but if there’s a mountain to get up then I’m truly concerned about reaching it before sundown. Not five minutes after I sit back down the girl returns and says ”I figured out what you were saying, that’s my brother but we’re not close and he’s not supposed to be here. That isn’t his property and there isn’t supposed to be anyone on the land.”
I’m thinking to myself what the hell, you just told me that you didn’t’ have any brothers. So I approach the fence separating us and I say “Okay, as a woman to another woman, what would you do if you were in my position?”
She backs away and immediately says ”Oh no, I am not going to get in between whatever is going on between you guys”
I’m like ”There is nothing going on between us! We met yesterday” Like, why the hell can’t this girl understand that I’m the victim in the entire situation.
Again she repeats that she wants nothing to do with anything going on in this ”agreement”. I go back to my tent and think it over. I also have been texting with Trish who poses this question for me: “Do you feel safe?” Which at this point I do not feel safe and I don’t trust this guy. This is finally enough for me to realize that I need to get the hell out of there. I have never packed my tent and belongings so fast in my entire life. All while trying to be as quiet as possible so I don’t wake up this guy, who is apparently still asleep in the trailer. I pedal away as fast as I can, thanking my stars that the campground is apparently 12 minutes biking away. The more distance I put between myself and the trailer the better I am feeling. I also realize that I’m on completely flat ground. I’m biking through a beautiful grove of trees and the ground is flat and the landscape is lovely. NO. MOUNTAIN. I begin to realize that this creep ass of a guy had been planning from the very beginning to get me alone and do who the hell knows what. I arrived at the campground and was greeted by a wonderful woman named Sally who invited me in to watch television with her. She also told me that there isn’t a huge rattlesnake problem at the campground because they don’t like the gravel. Another lie the guy told me.
The lesson I took away from this terrifying experience was STOP MAKING EXCUSES FOR EVERYONE. My issue had been that I didn’t want to insult this guy in case it turned out he really was on hard times and was repairing the trailer. But I kept telling myself that and ignoring the fact that I was FEELING that he was not right. The feeling that says something is a little odd and I’m not overreacting. I learned this very, very important lesson, I feel like, in the best way possible. Where the point truly was made without me getting hurt or killed. From now on I’m kind of an asshole to any men that say anything that I find even remotely inappropriate.
The following morning I departed for Brenda and biked all day through beautiful land. I passed lots of saguaro cactus that were flowering and adorable.
I arrived in the tiny town of Brenda around 1pm. I had been told by many people to stop for lunch here so I did. Brenda is a tiny community on Highway 60 that is said to be a ghost town on the west side and was a popular tourist attraction in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. It was named after the daughter of a couple in 1928, Brenda. Interesting enough, I knew none of this until after I had already left. Today it’s a town mostly supported by the RV parks and local grocery/deli (which was incredibly delicious). However I was met with no after no after no when I asked if I could CAMP at these RV camps. Tents are not allowed. When I mentioned this to the girls who run the store they told me I could just go right outside of town and camp on the public land without any problems. So I hung out in the restaurant all day. As the sun began to sink I said goodbye and biked off to where the entrance to this publically fenced area of land was. When I got there, however, I discovered that the fence was closed and locked. I was not going to cross a closed and locked fence. So I called the girls and asked if they could offer any advice. They told me to come back and I could just camp on the store property which was AMAZINGLY generous of them. I am very very grateful to them for this. I apparently camped right next to the ghosty area. I was in a graveled area that clearly had been used as camping area previously and I felt very safe. I walked down and watched the sun set with relief at another safe night of sleep.
The next day before departing I checked Couchsurfing to see if there was a host in Quartzsite, a town that I had hoped to stop in. I couldnt’ get a hold of anyone but passed an interesting page about a guy who was walking across America through Quartzsite. So I had another day of absolutely beautiful scenery while I was biking. Like after the difficult days of mountains I couldn’t believe how lucky I was getting with beautiful, relatively flat lands. It was beautiful.
Sometime in the morning I biked past someone walking on the same side of the road as I was but in the opposite direction. We nodded at each other and a split second after I passed him I knew he was the guy from Couchsurfing. I turned around and went back. I asked if he was on there and he said yes and introduced himself at Nate. We stood there talking for about half an hour sharing stories and laughing. Nate is walking to Washington D.C. to raise awareness on the way that veterans are being treated after active duty. Often I think of Nate and how he is walking and if he walks then I can bike because damn, the desert is HOT. (If you’re interested in reading his blog his website is http://www.NateWalks.com)
It was blazingly hot, as usual. I had been biking early mornings in mid 90 degree weather and was strangely entertained when I realized that hair on my arms was turning golden from being in the sun all day every day. (Don’t judge me it was fun).
When I passed through Quartzsite (where I stopped for lunch) I called the host in Blythe who I had called a week before and e-mailed only to realize the e-mail never sent. I knew I was going to make it there that day and wanted to confirm I had a place to camp. I finally got ahold of them and was told to come on by. I wasn’t sure at all what the situation would be like but that was the plan! The closer I got to California the more excited I was getting. As I crossed a big checkpoint to get into California I was, again, overwhelmed by a feeling of great accomplishment. I had made it to 4 states! I was in California! It seemed very appropriate that I should enter California and immediately see everything green, growing, alive and water everywhere. The Colorado River greeted me prior to entering the state and after 3 months of traveling through drought and dusty states I was ready.
After I crossed into California I missed the turn off that would take me away from the interstate, which is illegal to bike on in California. I had one mile to bike before the next exit and I hoped the entire time I wouldn’t get stopped and ticketed (although I also hoped that if I did they would be understanding). I took my exit and headed up to the B&B Bait Shop which was where my hosts were apparently located. While heading there I knew that the mountains I were seeing in front of me were called the Big Maria Mountains. I had been looking forward to biking near them for as long as I had been mapping this section of my trip out and as I realized I was biking directly towards them I got more excited.
I got to the Bait shop and pulled in. Immediately a man named Wayne walked up, welcomed me, told me he’d gotten drunk waiting for me and here have 6 beers on me. This seemed glorious after a nice hot day of biking, after all it was about 5pm. Wayne showed me into the bait shop and introduced me to the people working there and a few of the people hanging out around the shop. He then walked me to the pond in the back of the property and said that most of the cyclists would camp on the dock there. Wayne said I was welcome to shower and that he would talk to me after I got set up. I asked him about the canal that I had to cross to roll into the driveway of the property. He said I could totally just jump in and swim in it, that current would just float me down to the bridge where I’d just have to hop out. I did just that.
The water was FREEZING COLD and so glorious I could have stayed all night. However, the canal was very deep and a little terrifying because I had no idea what kind of critters swam in it. Because of the strong current I had no control and just had to relinquish all to the water carrying me. So it was exhilaratingly scary. Afterwards, I took a nice shower, washed all the dust off of myself and went to visit with people. There were a lot of people there and everyone was so friendly. Apparently this was a little community of people who daily would come and drink beer together and just chat and share stories. Some of them had grown up together and some had stumbled upon the shop in their travels and continued to return. Some of the men I chatted with where hysterical. They would tell stories and bounce exaggerations off of each other so amusingly that I laughed much of the evening, a refreshing thing after a week of stressful evenings. I mentioned to Wayne that I wanted to look over a map with him about my next route through the desert. Darcy, one of the women who worked at the shop told me that she works at a border checkpoint along the route of where I would be going. The highway I planned to bike on is notoriously treacherous and dangerous. About 90 miles through the desert with no stops for water, low visibility and literally no shoulder with drops offs into canyons. I asked if she might take me some of the way so I wouldn’t’ have to camp multiple days in the desert (I was worried about how much water I could carry) and she said yes, she could. After some chatting Wayne told me he was going down to Mexico on Tuesday (it was Friday) and that if I could stay until then he could take me until he turned to another highway, then I’d only have about 40 miles to bike before hitting the next big town. I immediately was in.
And this is where I will leave you guys for tonight. I am at a library writing up this blog and have run out of allotted computer usage time. I’ll try to get back here tomorrow and finish up the last month of journey. Enjoy! I leave you with this photo. I’ve had a few people ask me what my tent looks like from the inside and here it is!!