Aiken Mine Road to Field Road: Return to civilization

Sagebrush, Saguaro, and Sweat
Statistics for today
Distance 87.70 kms 54.68 miles
Climbed 574 meters 1,883 feet
Ride time (hours) 4.71 -
Avg speed 18.7 kph -
Statistics for trip to date
Distance 775.74 kms 482.18 miles
Climbed 5,993 meters 19,662 feet
Ride time (hours) 66.43 -
On this page

Friday, October 27th, 2017

I've got any easy ride into Baker this morning: first a long descent down the slope of the valley, then I pick up the wind from the north across the valley floor where the road turns southwest. I can taste those eggs and bacon...

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Casting a shadow as I descend to the valley floor.
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I can make out a line of trucks traversing the valley on I15.
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The white pools of a couple of salt flats to the south.

I find my breakfast at the Mad Greek Cafe. I get the special with eggs over-easy, sausage, bacon, ham, and two pancakes for good measure. I chat with two BMW riders in the next booth. One of them just bought an R1200R in northern California, they are out for a maiden voyage ride. They are seriously hungover... they say they just spent 3 days in Vegas. I'm availing myself of the ridiculously fast internet (probably tapped into a fiber optic cable running through town) when the BMW guys leave; I see one of them walk over to the gas station to get himself a 20 ounce beer that he chugs in the parking lot. Yikes. Drive safe.

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My breakfast. It was righteously fucking good, I must say.

I walk out of the diner to find my rear tire flat. Shit. Not what I want to deal with after a big breakfast. I take all the bags off, remove the wheel, find the hole and patch it. I can't find whatever caused the puncture, however. Past experience tells me that might come back to haunt me.

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All my stuff spread out while I fix the flat.

Baker is a strange place. Really just a highway stop with a bunch of gas stations, restaurants, souvenir shops, and a few motels (some of them abandoned). It has that crazy Americana feel of road trips, kitsch, and excess. A place to gas up and eat (or drink a 20-ounce beer to nurse your hangover) on your way to or from Vegas.

I find a small grocery store/convenience store to buy supplies for tonight. I'm just getting enough for lunch and dinner since I should be in Barstow tomorrow to visit a proper supermarket. The food is over-priced but I'm not complaining after 5 days of zero options in the desert. There aren't many options to get from Baker to Barstow by bicycle. Google and OSMand both give me the same menu: 1) I15 2) East back into the Mojave National Preserve to pick up Mojave Road heading southwest. I know from the motorcyclists that it's very sandy, and I've about had enough of sand for now. 3) North towards Death Valley, then southwest through the Fort Irwin military reservation. I can't believe Google shows this as a cycling route. I doubt the army would appreciate seeing me rock up to their base on a bicycle; and I'm really not in the mood to become someone's target if they happen to be having artillery excercises today. I15 it is. I'm not looking forward to getting buzzed by 18-wheelers all day...

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Baker. They claim that the thermometer is the biggest in the world. Like I said: kitsch.
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I guess the Hawaiian motif didn't really work out.

On my way out of town I see a sheriff filling his truck at a gas station. I stop to ask him if the Midway rest area is open and has water. I remember from when I went through there 3 weeks ago on the motorcycle that it was closed for construction. He says the rest stop is closed on the south side of the highway but open on the north; and yes, there is water. Good news for me, I only have to leave Baker with 3 liters, I'll cross the highway when I get to Midway and fill up for the night.

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Begin highway madness.
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Someone was flat out of ideas when they named that place.
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When I heard clicking from the front wheel I thought: oh shit, not another flat...but miraculously that thing didn't puncture the tube.

I've got the wind at my back! It's hot and there's plenty of climbing but I'm thoroughly enjoying getting pushed along by this 20mph helping hand rather than fighting it like I have been for most of this trip. At one point I can hear loud explosions coming from the west, that's the Fort Irwin boys blowing shit up. Yup, glad I didn't try to cycle through it.

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Taking a break in a culvert. It gives me momentary peace away from the trucks.
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Like a glacier made of sand.
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A spot of Sahara in the Mojave.

At Midway rest stop I wait for an opening then dash across the highway. Not the most intelligent thing to be doing but water in the desert is not to be passed up. I get 5 liters from the bubbler. The travelers coming in and out of the bathroom are giving me that: "What's up with the crazy homeless guy riding a bicycle on I15?" look. I haven't had a shower for 6 days, my legs are caked with grime, my beard is shooting off in weird directions. I can understand why I might frighten a tourist or two.

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This access road next to I15 is closed but I'll just borrow it for a bit to find a place to camp.

Another 5 miles down the road I get off at a ghost exit. The roads it gives access to are closed; perfect place to find a camp site. I head off into the desert to get behind a hill which will give me cover from the sounds and sights of the highway.

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On the menu tonight: 4 bars of 4G.
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The setting sun turns the sand almost pink. I can't get enough of these Mojave sunsets.
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Dinner tonight: noodles, tuna fish, tons of fried garlic, spices and lots of olive oil. The best I could come up with from a convenience store. It was pretty good though.

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