The longest day

Yucca Valley, CA to Banning, CA
Distance: 41.33 mi
Total Distance: 3,317.07 mi

I woke up easily around 6 am and made my way out to the lobby for breakfast. Daylight savings time happened during the night so getting up early was not too bad. Sanjay, the owner, gave me some muffins for the walk. I was on the road around 7:15. The plan was to walk 20 miles to North Palm Springs which was slightly out of the way. With an early start and feeling well I figured I would try to push the, what I thought would be, 36 mile day to Banning. The early part of the day was a steep downhill for a couple mills. I would say I dropped approximately 1,500 feet in elevation. I contacted Sanjay to see if he had any contacts in Banning and he set up a room at the Days Inn for me. Thank you again Sanjay. I was on dirt roads fairly early. The dirt road I was supposed to be on had a gate on it at a Wind farm. There was a sign to contact a guy if there were issues. I had an issue, so I called. He was able to give me directions around the Wind farm. I was walking through the highest density of windmills in America. The dirt road he directed me to take, took me up a hill and to the top of a cliff and then it worked its way down. I knew it was supposed to rain but it came in earlier than I thought. The rain picked up and would last all day. I was working my way through dirt service roads for several miles. Suddenly they came to an abrupt end at a barbed wire fence and gate. About 20 feet on the other side was another gate. I dismantled in the rain and climbed all my gear over the two gates taking several trips. On one of the trips I caught my foot on my own pants tearing them and wiping out. Great. I started to push down the dirt road I was now on when I started hearing gun shots. I waited to hear whizzes or cracks as bullets would fly by…. But nothing. I did not feel like figuring out what was going on so I started a direct south bush whacking route to a service road supposedly next to interstate 10. I caved in a hole and heard a rattle coming out. I also did not want to figure out what that was about. I made it to the cement service road with a sense of relief. I noticed that the sun would be setting soon and I was still what I thought was about 7 miles out. I put on my reflector vest, my strobe lights, and put on my rain pants to replace my torn wet pants. Soon it was completely dark. The roads had very limited street lights and I turned under the interstate on to a sketchy road. It was poorly kept and there was vegetation growing over onto it and major pot holes. The road would thin out at times and sometimes turn into sand. Suddenly my hands started to sting and the “rain” turned hard. It started to hail. The hail would remain pretty constant and would grow in size. I saw some lightning in the distance but I thought I would get in by that time. I was wrong. I think the lightning was hitting within 100 yards of where I walked. The lightning would hit and I would not be able to see for nearly 10 seconds and the thunder was deafening. I was drenched and suddenly I was walking through water that was shin deep. It was flooding. My feet were at first in pain and then went numb. I was just waiting to get hit by lightning. There were spots where I would walk the cart into a slump in the road that I could not see and the cart would take on water. I could see my turn off road ahead and decided to run. I wanted to get out of the water and lightning. I could not feel my feet as I ran. I broke through onto the road to find about a ¼ inch of winter mix built up. The roads and sidewalks were iced over. This was almost like the movie “The day the earth stood still”. I took shelter at a gas station to regain feeling in my feet. I pushed on knowing I was only a couple miles out. I finally made my way to the hotel that Sanjay set me up at. Got in my room and started to thaw out. I got in the shower and suddenly the power went out. Nice. I was so agitated with the day and did not stop showering. The power came on a couple minutes later. The day would turn out to be 41.33 miles long. The longest day yet. I ordered a pizza loaded up on some snacks and called it a night.

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Back to civilization

Twentynine Palms, CA to Yucca Valley, CA
Distance: 21.48 mi
Total Distance: 3,275.74 mi

In the middle of the night they had a call, and I woke up but I think I started dreaming as soon as I fell back asleep. I would of said they got calls all night, but apparently it was only that one. Had a goodnight sleep but a stiff neck. Talked with the guys for a while, looked at the map and some route details, and then we did some pictures by the truck. The guys were great and I am thankful for everything they did. Right at the beginning was a pretty steep and decent hill. I left Twentynine Palms and was in some desert like terrain again but not for long. Traffic was heavy and again there were very thin shoulders with soft sand. I struggled for a bit on the sand and with the head wind that had developed. It was a tad bit chilly today and a mountain ahead of me had snow on it. I made decent time and it was a fairly uneventful day. I rolled into Yucca Valley around 2. I was to be staying at the Super 8 Motel thanks to the Chamber of Commerce and the very generous owner of the motel, Sanjay Patel. I walked in and he instantly knew who I was and we got to talking. He introduced his family and they were all asking questions about the walk. He paid for my dinner at the restaurant next door. Great guy and great family. Thank you Sanjay.

29 Palms fire dept.

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The Mojave Desert

Parker, AZ to Twentynine Palms, CA
Distance: 110 mi
Total Distance: 3,254.26 mi

The following blog takes place over four days and three nights.
Day 1:
I woke up around 5:30 to a phone call. It was the other Steve who was bringing in the part I needed for my cart. We talked a bit about what I was doing and he was off. It was just about that time to head next door to meet George, the one who owns the Ocotillo Lodge and set me up last night, for breakfast. I showed up and he was at a table with his employee and her boyfriend. I joined them for breakfast and had some eggs, toast, and home fries. We all went our ways. I got back to the room and packed up the cart. I got on the road around 8 am. It was about a quarter mile before I crossed the Colorado River which is also the Arizona/California border. The bridge was under construction and so was a short section of the road after the bridge creating some sticky situations. Once in California I was greeted by short steep hills. They were pretty constant and had thin shoulders that dumped you into some soft sand. This made for some frustration early and hard times. After a little it eased up a bit into rolling hills but still soft shoulders. The scenery was desert like but with short shrubs and rocky sand. The bushes were maybe knee to waist height. The side of the road was littered with old bottles and cans. About 17 miles in I came across Vidal Junction. At this junction is a California Inspection Station and a gas station. The gas station was the most expensive gas mart I have ever been to. A gallon of water cost me $3 a gallon of gas was going for $5. I thought if all of Cali. was like this, that I was in some trouble. Turns out it is only because it is in the middle of the desert. Soon I was walking in between mountains. Big ones. My pace was slow for some reason not sure but was mentally a challenge. I had been eating left over pizza from the night before as my snacks throughout the day. Towards the end of the day I came across some road work. They had shut down a lane and had a pilot car running traffic. I was passing one of the flagger stations and a guy in a pick-up offered a soda. Usually I would decline as caffeine dehydrates. But he had rootbeer, and rootbeer is my favorite soda so game on. He gave me two ice cold Mug rootbeers. I don’t think I have ever smiled so hard because of food. I got a couple hundred yards down when a supervisor, Martin, of the construction crew pulled over. He was asking questions about what I was doing and we talked a minute. He then gave me two waters, a Gatorade, a banana, an apple, and a reflector vest. I gave him a wristband and thanked him. I continued on as the sun was getting low and needed to find somewhere to set up camp. I was hoping to get out of the road work zone but it quickly became clear that I would not be able to. Towards the end of the zone there were a bunch of vehicles parked on the side of the road and a porta-potty. I asked the flagger if I could camp there. I figured there would be good cover from the road and bathroom use. She said it was ok and the guy she was talking to started in. We talked about what was ahead and so forth. He gave me a bottle of water and it was his turn to be lead by the pilot car. I set up camp in what I thought was a good spot. Everything was calm and nice. As I started to settle in a strong wind picked up. This was no breeze, this was a wind storm. The tent walls were both touching me and I thought the poles would snap. I had no idea if my cart was there any more or if it had blown away. Sand was being sprayed in the tent and everything was plastered including me. I had sand in my sleeping bag and my hair etc. Hard night, very little sleep. I was thinking if every day is going to be like this I am going to be pretty grumpy by Friday.
Day 2
It was an early morning not just because I was struggling to sleep, but because the construction crew showed up around 5 or 5:30. It took a while to take down camp. It was still very windy so taking the tent down was tricky, I had to clean a lot of sand out of everything, and the workers kept coming over to talk. About 5 miles down the road one of the workers pulled over and we talked a little and he gave me some food money. The road was running parallel to train tracks for a while and I guess over the years people had written names and signs on the side of them with rocks. I also came through what was once a railroad stop called Rice. Now it was the remains of a building, a battered gas station that had been abandoned years ago, and a fence that had collected an outrageous amount of shoes and signs of people who came through before. My friend from high school, Fitzy, who now lives in LA, had made a drive out and parked ahead and biked to meet up with me. He brought some lunch. He joined me for the remainder of the day and it was nice to catch up and be able to chat it up with someone. We made it to the intersection of 177/62 and set up camp behind some boulders. I warned about the wind thinking it was going to be another disaster. The guy who gave me water at the end of last night stopped by and gave us a BLT, a chicken and cheese sub, and cookies. Talked about how there was nothing for a long ways ahead and he was off. Fitzy and I chatted it up a bit and checked out the amazing amount of stars and I was quick to bed. There was hardly any wind that night but it got real cold real quick.
Day 3
Got on the road around 830. Fitzy left as I started walking. Every day in the Mojave has been, overall, fairly easy. At sun up I wake up. At sun down I stop walking. I was doing more than what I set as the minimum for each day. Today would be different. From the very start it was uphill. It was approximately 13 miles up and steep. A mile and a half in the middle that was flat. The terrain off to the sides was very rocky, mountainous, and desert like. I had been hearing a rumbling sound that would continue throughout the day. No idea what it was or is. For lunch I had a spicy tune sensation. These are a can of tuna flavored and you eat on crackers. I can’t handle spice well, and my lips and mouth felt like it was on fire. The only thing worse than pushing a 180 lb cart uphill is pushing a 180 lb cart uphill with a burning mouth. I got about 20 miles out from Twentynine palms and had to set up camp. Very quiet night. No wind and silent at times.
Day 4
I woke up and it was silent. Every once in a while a car would pass and that was it. It was very nice. I was on the road by 8. The day started out well. I was making pretty good time and the weather was nice. I started passing some houses. Something I had not seen in a bit. Suddenly a strong wind picked up and a drizzle started to fall. I knew cold rain was in the forecast but was hoping I would get in before it started. I got into town around 2:30. I made my way to the Twentynine palms fire station, as I would be spending the night there. I was introduced to the guys and we got to talking, sharing stories, etc. I was able to take my first shower in four days. It felt amazing. I grabbed some snacks and McDonalds trying to get some calories that I missed out on from the past few days. Did some laundry. They cooked a good dinner but I was still hungry. I cursed them as well asking if they had ever gotten a call while cooking dinner. They got two tonight. We hung out watched some tv and talked.

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Iron out the wrinkles

Bouse, AZ to Parker, AZ
Distance: 26.99 mi
Total Distance: 3,144.46 mi

I woke up and followed the direction of George to head over to the restaurant for some breakfast. I was treated to a cheese omelet, toast, and hash browns. Got on the road fairly early. It started out pretty flat with some slight rolling hills and a fairly easy walk. But soon things changed. The shoulder was pretty much non-existent. I was always at a steep side to side slope with one wheel on the cement and one wheel in some pretty deep sand or gravel. This was making it hard to push the cart making me exert much more energy than I normally would. I was getting frustrated with it and the traffic was not easing up. Besides that things were good. The weather was beautiful. With the 4 day 3 night trek through the desert starting tomorrow, I found it necessary to make all the calls I could today before needing to be conservative with the battery. Everything was going well until I hit a patch of deep sand. The front axle broke. I pulled out the replacement I had. It was not going to hold. There was no tension and the weight of the cart would break it shortly. I also had a blister forming on my left foot. I was informed there was no bike shop in Parker, AZ and I went to a few stores and no help. I was finally put in contact with a man who runs a bike repair business out of his house. He was able to drive me in a new axel. Thankfully it is a good one and will hold. I was able to do some maintenance on the cart, fill up on water and get myself fed. George, the one who owns the Ocotillo Lodge where I stayed last night, set me up at a motel in Parker, AZ tonight. Thank you so much George. I will not be able to access email, internet, and will only have limited use of my cell phone over the next four days.

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Beyond Hope

Salome, AZ to Bouse, AZ
Distance: 29.70 mi
Total Distance: 3,117.47 mi

I filled up my water at the town water and ice vending machine. These things are pretty cool. You put a gallon jug in this window thing and put a quarter in and it fills it up. Also dispenses bags and blocks of ice. Anyways cart packed and I was on the road. It was pretty much downhill for the first 6 miles. I got to the junction of 60, which I was on, and 72, which I was getting on, at the town of Hope. As you leave this small little town there is a sign that says “Your now beyond Hope.” Yes I am aware I used “your” it is a typo on the sign. The road was pretty much flat and strait from here out. It was pretty hot today and the sun was strong. I was making pretty good time. I guess I am pretty much in the desert. It is barren sand and small shrubs all around for miles until it runs into mountains. I rolled into Bouse around 4 pm where I made it to the Ocotillo Motel. The owner, George, was giving me a free room and feeding me for the night. It turns out his uncle had MS.

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Iron Man

Aguila, AZ to Salome, AZ
Distance: 26.65 mi
Total Distance: 3,087.77 mi

I woke with the sun today. Was up and cleaning up camp around 6:30. It was cold. It took a little longer than planned to get the cart packed up when I realized I had a flat on the front tire. It was a mess of a flat. I scrapped the tube and put a new one in. I pushed out of the bushes and got on the road. I got about 75 ft down the road and noticed a dead coyote that had been hit by a car or a truck. It was not there last night. This explains the freaky Spanish devil truck and the loud coyotes. I kept going. It warmed up quickly as the sun rose. Another very nice day but a tad to warm. Again I was making decent time. The road was unbelievably flat and strait. The visibility at times could be upwards of 20 miles, on road maybe 4 or 5. A biker (bicycle not motorcycle), Dave, pulled up on the other side and started conversation. We got to talking about what I was doing. It turns out he was on a 115 mile bike ride training for his 4th Iron Man. Side note he has completed, I think he said, 32 marathons. This guy is an inspiration. He biked next to me a ways talking. It was nice to have some company for a little bit in the middle of nowhere. I caught a huge thorn in the tire I had just changed. When I pulled it out it instantly went flat. He had to get going so he could finish off his ride. He passed me again not long after going the other way after he hit his turn around point. I pushed on. Not much as far as scenery. Desert on both sides that leads to mountains. Every mileage sign points out how far LA is if I could walk Interstate 10 but I have to go up and around. As you can imagine this is slightly frustrating. I got into town around 4 and made it to the motel grabbed a shower and some dinner.

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Border wars

Wickenburg, AZ to Aguila, AZ
Distance: 26.62 mi
Total Distance: 3061.12 mi

I woke up around 7:30. I figured that I would try to get as much sleep on a real bed as I might be camping tonight. The guys had gone out and picked me up a breakfast burrito as well as gave m a bunch of Gatorade powder. They also gave me a patch from their fire dept. We talked a bit about what was to come on the walk. They said that Aguila, the town I was walking to tonight, was like a border town in the middle of the state. Very violent and wild. For some reason I was especially tired today. Once I started walking I felt very sore in the legs. I posted up on a sidewalk and started stretching. Suddenly one of the fire trucks pulled up. I had forgotten my winter cap. The weather was beautiful, sunny, clear skies, but slightly warm. For the first several miles it was all up hill. Once I hit the top it went downhill a bit and then flattened out and was very strait. I was making decent time but still with the late start would be cutting it close to the sunset. Along my walk I was passed, at two separate times, two “Border Patrol” vehicles. I suddenly had this feeling that the firemen were not joking. I arrived in Aguila around 5ish. Made my way to a gas station where the firemen told me to go and ask for Johnnie. She would possibly be able to help me find somewhere to stay. She retired. I talked with the guy who was working the station and his friend. They told me of ghost stories of the town and how dangerous it was. They told me of a woman who was killed in town and dropped off in the desert. They say every so often she will be seen hitch hiking back into town. True or not, I was already tense that was the last thing I needed before camping on the side of the road. I grabbed some supplies and rinsed off as best I could in the bathroom. I made my way out of town by a mile or so and found what I thought would be a good spot. I set up camp behind some bushes 30 or 40 feet from the road. It was a pretty sheltered spot with a barbed wire fence on one side, bushes on another. The sun set was quick and I climbed in and was ready to ride out the night. I forgot how uncomfortable my pad is. It is more of a hard foam than it is cushioning. I apparently picked a camp site that was right across the road from a hog farm. I had squealing and snoring pigs all night. Traffic was pretty steady early in the evening and in the morning. I was constantly thinking that some cartel members would show up and try to intimidate me or something. At one point a truck stopped right out front with a weird noise. Two doors opened and closed. I was pretty tense at this point. Ready to jump out of the tent and try to defend myself I listened. The radio in their truck was playing some weird voice in Spanish, almost sounded like someone trying to sound like the devil. Great setting. I don’t know Spanish either so I was completely in the dark on this one…. Literally and figuratively. The doors closed again and drove off. Phew. Shortly after coyotes started howling, it was very loud and close. The dogs on the farms nearby were going crazy as well. I passed out shortly after.

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The Road Runner

Surprise, AZ to Wikenburg, AZ
Distance: 31.31 mi
Total Distance: 3,034.50 mi
Got a late start and said my final goodbyes to Mike, Trish, and their dog Bailey. It was going to be about a 30 mile day, and with the late start I figured it would be close to 7 when I would finish and close to sun down. I got underway. It was a very steady and long climb for the first several miles. I thought I was supposed to be downhill from here. After that it broke into very strait. I saw my first road runner. These things are usually really anticlimactic when you see them, nothing like the cartoon. And there was no coyote chasing it. But the sucker was fast. I had heard how fast they are and figured when I saw one I probably would not have time to get the camera out. True. I did not have time, and I did not even attempt to get it out. I was pretty excited due to the fact it seems everyone but me had seen one. On I went on this flat road. The weather was really nice, mid 70s and sunny. Traffic was pretty steady with the occasional honk. Soon the sun started setting. But it was only 5:45 ish. I thought sun set would be around 7, I was highly miscalculating this. I still had about 7 miles to go and the sun was setting. I was also in the mountains which makes it darker earlier due to the high walls on the side. The temperature dropped quickly. Before long I was walking in near pitch black. The only light when cars were not passing by was coming from the amazingly bright and outrageously large amount of stars and my LED bike lamp. The sky here at night is so clear and beautiful. Wish I could capture it on camera. I rolled into Wickenburg around 7:45. I walked to the Fire Dept. where I would be staying the night. The guys had cooked a dinner and served me some pasta and sausage when I walked through the doors. We chatted for a while and watched game 6 of the World Series. They all went to bed, I grabbed a shower and called it a night.

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On the road again

Phoenix, AZ to Surprise, AZ
Distance: 23.98 mi
Total Distance: 3,003.19 mi

Got on the road around 5:40 am. The sun was not up at this time and it was still slightly chilly. The sun was quickly on the rise and warming things up. The highway I was walking was hard at first. No sidewalks, up and down curbs, pushing over gravel etc. Traffic got pretty heavy as rush hour picked up. I passed the Arizona State Fair but there was nothing going on this early. With such an early start I was able to walk a casual pace. There was not much to see as far as scenery. It was more of a busy suburb walk. The walk was pretty flat and constantly changing as far as walking surface, sidewalk to gravel to shoulder and so on. I arrived in Surprise, AZ and grabbed some food and did some work. I continued down the road a little where something started to happen. There was a yellowish haze, either a smoke or dust. I was walking by a big building a thought there might be a dust storm rolling in on the other side of the building and this was the beginning. You know like one of those giant sand walls engulfing cities. Suddenly it started to rain. The rain picked up and was coming down hard. It got pretty cold with the rain, but before you knew it, the rain stopped. It warmed up pretty quickly again. Met up with Trish and called it a day.

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Company on the walk

Salt River, AZ to Phoenix, AZ
Distance: 14.97 mi
Total Distance: 2,979.21 mi

So my good friend from High School, Michael Simmer, joined me for the day. We started at the intersection of 87 and McDowell Ave. The day was going to be about 15 miles in total. A nice short one for us to take it easy on. It was a clear sky and hot sun. The temperature was in the 90s and felt exactly like that. We had a slow pace going and had some good conversation going. The scenery was limited as we were getting into downtown. We walked through some pretty bad neighborhoods, but all in all it was a nice day. It was great to have some company on the day. Mike did well, mentioned something about one day was enough but it was good. We met up with his girlfriend Trish Connelly and grabbed some food and hung out for the remainder of the day. I would spend a few rest days with them preparing for the push into California.

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