I had mentally been preparing for this day.
- 103 miles through the Sonoran Desert.
- A climb for the first 10 miles.
- 110 degree+ weather.
- 1 gas station for hydration.
- Riding an Interstate the whole time.
It brought me back to my water polo days. A few days before, I began psyching myself up for the game – a game between me and the Sonoran Desert. I spliced the ride up into four quarters, and I new the 3rd quarter would require the push. I was ready for the opening whistle. But I was missing one thing: a fan club - people that would support me and have an eye on me.
How do you quickly build a community in a town where you know nobody?
- Stay at an airbnb. I stayed with Howard and his family in Indio. I couldn’t have found a nicer family. They were aware of desert race.
- Stop at the California Highway Patrol. I gave them a heads up I would be on the I10 and they gave me a contact number for help.
- Check for uber. They’ve got drivers in Indio! Last resort would be an uber ride across the finish line.
I woke up at 5:45am eager to get the day underway. But I new I couldn’t leave too early since I needed the power of the sun. At 7am, I saddled up and took off.
I took the on ramp to the highway. The game had begun.
A gradual hill up. No problem. The Specialized Turbo gave me the extra kick, and I was trucking. At 8:20am and 87 degrees, my solar panel really started to kick in and recharge my battery. The first 30 were a piece of cake, and I was rewarded with the Chiriaco Summit gas station stop – my only stop along the way.
It was a fast quarter, only 20 miles. I was jamming, swerving around blown out tires and maintaining 19mph. The highlight was passing one of the worlds largest solar power plants - the Desert Sunlight solar farm, a 550-megawatt system that can power 160,000 homes. Take my 240 kilowatt solar panel, you’ll need over 2.3 million to make up this site, which just came online earlier this year. It made me smile and boosted my energy.
Shit started to get real. It hit 113 degrees. I was fully covered head to toe with white sun sleeves/legs and a hat with flaps to cover as much of my pale bod as possible. I was cooking. I spotted an overpass and charged, planning to lunch and hydrate underneath. As I anxiously dismounted, I noticed my rear wheel looked flat. Oh no. The rear wheel is the most complicated wheel since the motor is in the hub. I should have practiced changing it! I decided to first pump it up and see if it would hold any air. Three pumps and my pump gave way. It was leaking. I tried to seal the hole with my fingers and continued pumping. It kind of worked, and the tube somewhat looked like it was holding air. I probably imagined this but it was going to have to do. I scarfed down my PB&J and chased on. It was a rough quarter – two goals shot on me.
Every 5 miles, I’d hop off to give a little more air to the tube. It was barely holding on. I credit it to Specialized tires. Without these durable tires, I would not have been able to pull off this stunt.
The desert made its final play. The shoulder I had been riding along started to buckle. It was dry, cracking and erupting, causing me to slow to 5mph. It was like a speed bump every 5 to 10 feet and it lasted for miles. It was beyond jarring, and I was just praying that my rear tire would survive as well as my seat. Sneaky play desert.
And then the long awaited game whistle was blown. 7 hours 50 minutes of play. And I made it to Blythe. Game over.
The next two days were not as victorious. After changing the tire in my air-conditioned hotel room, I ended up pinching the motor cables. I couldn’t get the bike to work. I was at a frustrated loss, so I rented a car and drove back to Palm Desert. I got to relive the whole journey from the day prior. It felt long, even in a car.
The silver lining, Palm Desert Cyclery. They are the best bike shop in town and came to my rescue. Thank you Daniel for getting me back on the road!
This ride broke me in, and I imagine I'll be pulling strength from it as I push on.