After that nice breakfast and a nap, you would have thought I had a nice start on my day. Well, it was all downhill from there, figuratively speaking. There were few downslopes, and even on those the headwind was so strong I had to pedal pretty hard just to move at all.
Most of the ride was at walking speed; sometimes, in fact, it was easier to get off and walk. The headwind was intermittent at first, but as the day wore on it got steady and stronger. What I had thought was plenty of water was running out; my new goal was not the next rest area but the town of Wilcox, Arizona. By 20 miles away I was rationing my remaining water. By 15 miles away I was drinking in sips, not gulps. And at 10 miles away I drank the last drop.
Have you ever been really, really thirsty for any length of time? My mouth, normally used to having plenty of saliva in it, spontaneously wants to swallow at times. When the mouth is completely dry, this is a bad idea. There's nothing to swallow so I almost choke. I then tried eating some almonds to see if it would stimulate saliva production. It worked, but just barely. I figured it wouldn't work for long, and which is worse, to choke on a dry mouth or on a bunch of dry, chewed-up almonds? I opted for the former.
4 miles outside of town, the exit sign showed gas and lodging available, but no food. No matter, a gas station has to have at least a soda machine, right? I took the exit. No gas station. No nothing. I just kept heading into town, now on the Interstate 10 "business loop" instead of I-10 proper. Business loop? Give me a break. The goddamned road is empty for miles. Finally up ahead I saw the nondescript "Budget Hotel", of which there seems to be one in every little stinking town in these states, and there, in bright living white and green, was a 7-up vending machine! 50 cents later and I was letting that stream of sugars, chemicals, and lovely water slake my parched throat. I had made it back to civilization. I realized right then, in a flash of insight, that, for me, desert survival boils down to one thing, and one thing only: getting the fuck out of the desert. I may someday have the wherewithal to tackle the desert for weeks or months at a time, hunting and extracting water out of the earth, but for now, it's get in, get out, and get the hell back to my Starbucks and Guinness.
Speaking of beer. After MickeyD's, I went to Safeway and bought some bananas; while rearranging my stuff on the luggage rack of the bike, this guy asks if I'll watch his bike while he goes into the store; he just bought it and he saw some kids eyeing it as he parked. Sure, I said. When he came out, he and I shot the breeze for a minute and then he hands me $5. Are you sure? Yes. Thanks very much! I took it and prowled around for a bar seedy-looking enough to possibly not mind my looks and smell. Not finding one, I went into a convenience store and bought some more water, and a 24-once bottle of that lovely amber elixir from England, Bass & Co. Pale Ale. Went across the street to a construction site, sat down in the quiet night, and enjoyed my beer the best I could. Somehow drinking alone doesn't really appeal to me. It did taste great, though. Usually bottled Bass doesn't do anything for me, but this time it tasted just as good as any I could ever remember from a tap.
After that, I was sleepy. I lay down on the new concrete, as this looked like a safe enough neighborhood. The worst that could happen was a cop would chase me out. Which happened within 5 minutes. He didn't really chase me, but cruised by and shined his lights on me, which was sufficient. Then as I was walking away he asked for ID and asked a bunch of questions, the usual stuff. Friendly enough. He told me where I could get coffee, and where there was a park I could crash in, in the morning. I went to the truck stop and ordered coffee.
Coffee after beer is always a bad idea. After midnight I pulled my new day's $10 out of my right-hand pocket and added to the disaster by buying an overly sweet chocolate brownie. Can't wait to get to Tucson where there should be a Starbucks and their bittersweet espresso brownies. Everybody else seems to kill the chocolate with too much sugar.
Well, I didn't spend the night. After a couple of hours or so, I got back on my bike and headed out of town. The rest area was about 20 miles ahead, and this time I wanted to get started before the day's winds. For some reason the nights are still; the winds build up along with the sun, and fade away after sunset. But there was no starlight, due to cloud cover, and the traffic behind me wasn't sufficient to light up the road, so I ended up walking most of the 10 miles until twilight. Then began the upgrade. Not steep, but steady; I was able to go in 13th gear most of the way. The rest area was at the very top. There was another truck stop before it, but I wasn't so hungry, and in any case I had already spent too much of the day's money, about $2.50. So I crashed. Slept until around 1PM, then washed some of my clothes in the sink and hung them on a mesquite tree to dry. Sat there and ate almonds and a bag of M&M's that cost $1 in the vending machine. Drank lots of water. Still felt weak and unambitious, probably due to the beer last night. Finally the clothes were dry enough, and I got back on my bike.
When not in a coastal town, my personal hygeine routine goes to hell. On the coast, I can always jump in the ocean or use a public shower near the beach. Not that I always do, but it's there, and when I think about it I use it. In the desert it's another story. I hadn't had a shower since visiting City of the Sun a week before, and I hadn't had washed before that since that ocean jump off Santa Monica Beach. Besides the smell and general discomfort, not being able to clean and dry the nether regions causes rather severe irritation around Uranus. There are no bidets in the desert. No toilet paper, either. Prickly pear is not a useful substitute. I started using hand towels, which I'd then stuff back into my rear pocket, all shitted up. It's pretty disgusting. When people see you washing out those nasty rags at public restrooms, they usually turn around and leave without doing their business. Anyway, just before dawn this morning I hid behind some mesquite trees off the roadside and scrubbed down with just water and my cleanest (!) towels, and those, along with the sweat pants I had worn for the last week, were what I was washing out at the rest area.
Going from the rest area to the next town was mostly a downhill coast. About goddamn time. There was the same headwind, but the slope was enough to overcome it for the most part. I'm at the Wendy's here in Benson, AZ, where a triple cheeseburger and coffee set me back $5.08. What can I say, I wanted some beef. I'm back on Pacific time, where it's now 5:44 PM; Deming was an hour ahead. 44 miles into Tucson, guess I'd better start soon so I can get some daylight riding in. So far I'm averaging over 50 miles a day, hope I can keep this up.
If and when I get to Tucson, I might just stay for a while, if I can find free wi-fi access somewhere. Stay and make some money on Rent-A-Coder. Wait and see what's going on in my lady's life. Then maybe go back and chill in Baja, or head North for the Comeau family reunion and a visit to Ma. Or both. I'm glad this bike is working out. No more worries about transportation, I can cross the country in 2 months. Now if I could just improve it so I can harness the power of the wind! All in due course.
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last updated 2013-01-10 20:22:03. served from tektonic.jcomeau.com