19 March 2008

In the Land of Milk and Honey

I was pretty relieved to have made it to Globe, but the town was pretty blah. A couple of fast food joints and the typical motels. Had another pretty blah Mexican dinner, tuned in to the Weather Channel, and hit the rack early.

Once again, it was raining when I went for breakfast, but had pretty much stopped by the time I hit the road. Again it was about 34 degrees, and as I left town, I was in for a surprise--I wasn't out of the mountains yet at all! I don't know why I assumed that there were no more mountains after Globe--I hadn't researched the question at all, hadn't even asked anyone in town--but that sometimes happens on the road.

The road climbed, the temperature dropped to freezing or below, and soon there were patches of ice and snow all along the road. Given the recent rain, I was once again worried about black ice so took it slow and easy and gradually wound down to the lowlands. As I rode toward Phoenix,
the temperature was much warmer, and desert wild flowers were blooming all along the road. Think I rode right through the middle of Phoenix and Tempe, along the Old West Highway and Apache Blvd. Miles and miles of traffic lights and huge RV sales lots. Tempe looked nice, upscale college-town kinda place. Finally turned NW toward Kingman AZ, where I encountered more traffic light hell. Some guy from Louisiana in a caddy pulled up next to me and asked why we had so many lights in "my" town. Shrugged my shoulders, he wouldn't have been able to hear any answer.

Finally broke free of the traffic lights and rode for a couple of hours. Pretty boring ride--straight, flat, and windy. As I pulled into Kingman, looked around for traces of Route 66, but didn't see anything. A little disappointed, I pulled into a Jack-in-the-Box for a quick lunch. As I was going over my map, a guy came up and asked me where I was headed. I told him wasn't really sure, maybe Twentynine Palms or Palm Springs, maybe Idyllwild. Those destinations were all pretty much the same direction, so he pointed the best road to take (through Needles and Amboy), and said to forget Idyllwild, because there would be too much snow up there.

Huh? Snow in Southern California? I didn't know there were mountains that high down there. Anyway, I took his warning about Idyllwild with some grains of salt and set off on the route that he recommended. I'd planned on taking Interstate 40 west for awhile before cutting south, but after a few miles on 40 I saw signs for the "Historic Route 66"--eh, what's this?

Got off the Interstate and started along a fantastic stretch of road--part of the original Route 66--very narrow and twisty, with a couple of cool little towns thrown in. Here's a pic from an old gas station along the way:
A little further on, after some serious twisties, I ran right into the town of Oatman, a full-fledged tourist trap. Dozens and dozens of cars, a crowed of people, some kind of Old West Show right in the middle of the road that blocked in my bike for half an hour until it was over. And this was on a Monday in March, jeez what happens on summer weekends? Cool little town, but kind of a surprise in the middle of nowhere.

Kept right on, pretty soon turned south through the desert to Twentynine Palms. Nice and warm, if nothing else. More desert wild flowers. More wind. Pulled into Twentynine Palms with about an hour till dark, decided to keep going to Palm Springs. Lots of traffic and lights between 29Palms and Palm Springs, but finally made it there, after another GPS-induced detour: it directed me onto a gravel road through a huge wind turbine farm--kind of fun! Should've taken pix...

Palm Springs was horrible. It was getting dark as I pulled in, so I wanted to find a hotel quickly. All were either full or too expensive, but finally I had to settle for one of the too expensive ones. Dinner was miserable, with the restaurants near the hotel simply packed with geriatrics, and terrible service. Had to walk out of one restaurant when they didn't acknowledge my presence after like 20 minutes. But at least it was warm, with no threat of snow.

For the next day, I decided to check out Joshua Tree National Park, do a lap around the Salton Sea, and maybe head up to Idyllwild before riding to the coast to spend the night. Joshua Tree was very cool, again there were lots of desert wild flowers blooming. This time I got some pictures:
It had definitely warmed up while I was in the park, up to maybe 80 degrees. At this point I set off for the Salton Sea, which I have read much about over the years--wasteland, environmental disaster, horrible investment for beachfront property, and more! So I eagerly set off to see it for myself. As I approached the sea from the north, the first surprise was that the area looked rather lush and was quite beautiful, with mountains overlooking the blue water of the sea. The wasteland appeared soon, however, as I headed south along the eastern side of the sea. Not so lush here, in fact it was pretty much just dirt. Lots and lots of dirt. I figured I'd get gas and lunch at a little dot on the map called Bombay Beach, which sounded rather inviting. Unfortunately, Bombay Beach turned out to be just a collection of dingy mobile homes, and I decided not to venture into them in search of fuel and food.

I was getting low on gas, though, and who knows if the little dots on the map ahead of me had gas stations? This is where the GPS comes in handy--it gives a range for known gas stations--while these individual locations are wrong more often than not, it at least helps pick out the bigger town by the clusters of gas stations. A little ahead I found a gas station, but no where for lunch, so I ate some trail mix at the gas station and headed off to round the southern end of the Salton Sea.

Given how warm it was--now about 85--I decided to take my chances with the snow in Idyllwild--yeah, right, snow!? I figured it was only a couple of hours away, so I'd run up there and decide whether I wanted to spend the night there or keep going to the coast. Things went fine until the last town before the road started climbing--it got hotter and hotter--north of 90, and there was tons of traffic and stop lights, so I was about to pass out by the time I finally broke out of the traffic and headed into the mountains.

It was a beautiful ride up to Idyllwild--hilly, curvy, lots of flowers then higher up lots of pine. And a few patches of snow. When I finally pulled into Idyllwild, there were snowbanks all over the place, although the roads were fine. I was really hungry and thirsty, so picked out a cafe with a table outside and enjoyed some leftover St. Paddy's Day cookies and some coffee. Also pulled out the map, trying to figure out if I should stay here or keep going, and if so, where to?

Idyllwild was nice enough, but a bit sleepy. And if I stayed there I'd probably have to worry about black ice in the morning as I rode through the mountains. Staying on the beach somewhere was generally a more attractive option anyway, so I decided to head to Malibu.

As soon as I left Idyllwild and headed down the mountain, I hit the big snow banks on the side of the road--LOTS of snow:

But the roads were good, so I made good time, just in time to hit rush hour in LA...traffic kind of sucked, but the worst was when the GPS directed me off the freeway at one exit, through a massive traffic snarl, and then back on to the same highway--probably cost me half an hour.

Hit the coast at Santa Monica and rode up the coast highway just as the sun was setting. Got to Malibu as darkness fell, and checked into the first beachfront hotel I could find--Casa Malibu or something. Not cheap, but a nice place, and right on the beach:
I retired to the sound of waves crashing on the beach after a long day in the saddle, an over-priced pizza, and a cigar and beer on the balcony.

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