Week 1 of Our Bicycle Ride Across America, April 1-7, 2024

Day 0, April 1st

Today we finished packing and loaded the back of our Waggoneer up to the level of the seat backs. The cooler went in the center back seat so the driver could see out the back window.

We loaded the bikes on the bike rack and started on our adventure at about 11am. In the excitement of leaving, I forgot to shoot a video of our departure. We drove to Yreka, California and ate lunch at ARBYs. Then on to Stockton, California for dinner at the Olive Garden. After which I shot the trip’s first video. 

Our next stop was a hotel at the Frazier Park turn off near the top of the Grapevine, South of Bakersfield, CA. Our total drive time was 12 hours, and we covered 651 miles.

We checked in to a Holiday Inn Express for the night and brought in our bags, computers, and bikes. Not much space left in the hotel room.

The first big problem of the journey happened just before we checked into the hotel. Going down the freeway Keith asked me to pull over. He got out of the car just in time and deposited his dinner on the side of the road. The next few hours found us all getting the same gastrointestinal virus. Rather than sleeping before our big first day of riding, we were competing for the bathroom all night as we took turns vomiting. 

Day 00, April 2nd

As the sun came up it was clear that none of us were in any shape to ride a bicycle. We waited until it was close to check out time to make the final decision. I called the front desk and was able to extend our stay for another night. We did not even want to get out of bed and get dressed.

All four of us stayed in bed all day trying to sip water and eat a few food bars. I can’t remember the last time I was so sick that I stayed in bed all day.

We have Garmin watches that track our stress levels and training readiness. My stress level was through the roof during the night when I was supposed to be asleep and recovering for a big day. By morning my exercise readiness had worsened instead of improved, and I woke up with instructions that I needed another five hours to complete my recovery.

Before we left home, we heard there was a snowstorm coming to the mountains we would cross, East of San Diego. The storm is scheduled to begin Thursday night the 4th. We need to start riding tomorrow to beat the storm. Our plan is to ride 53 miles to the top of the mountain, which includes 6,781 feet of climbing on our first day. The next day we will ride across the mountain tops for another 2,719 feet of climbing and then down the other side to the desert. If we can complete this feat, we will beat the snow. If not, we may end up getting an unplanned rest day at the top of the mountain. 

Everything depends on how we feel tomorrow morning.

Day 1, April 3rd, San Diego to Alpine, 39 miles

Today we woke up feeling better and thought we could start the ride. After sleeping in late we ate our free hotel breakfast and loaded the car for the final three-and-a-half-hour drive to San Diego. We gassed up the car and used the bathroom about a mile before we arrived at the beach.

We parked at Brighton Park where the San Diego River meets the Pacific Ocean. We looked out on the Ocean as we prepped our gear for the start of the ride. After recording a video, we rode our bikes onto the San Diego River Bikeway to start our journey. 

We followed our route from the purchased maps using turn by turn directions I had written out on a 3×5 card attached to Keith’s bike. Every now and then I checked our route on the app when we weren’t sure of our direction. 

We took three different bike paths today as we worked our way inland. After about ten miles we began noticing the climb. Later we noticed the climbing had intensified. I was having a tougher time on the climbs than usual which I believe is residual from being sick.

Our ride through the city was very pleasant. We stopped for the day when we ran out of daylight. Due to our late start, we did not make it to the hotel we were shooting for. So, we found a place in Alpine, which happened to be sold out. They directed us to an Indian casino nearby and we checked into the Viejas Casino & Resort just East of town. 

The evening consisted of dinner, showers and planning for the next day. This time we programmed our watches to give us turn by turn directions. We will see if that is better than using hand-written directions. Tomorrow we will have both.

Day 2, April 4th, Alpine to Calexico, 85 miles

We woke up today much more refreshed than yesterday. My Garmin watch tells me I have recovered from my illness. After breakfast and loaded up the bikes and drove to our starting point. We stopped riding yesterday at the beginning of a construction zone that would not allow us to ride our bikes through. So, our starting point today is at the other end of the construction zone, which is about 3.5 miles long. 

We got suited up to ride and started out feeling a bit stiff. I loved having the turn-by-turn directions in our watches mapping function. We will continue to do this each day. 

What a beautiful ride it was today though the mountain passes and little towns. We stopped to have lunch in Jacumba Hot Springs. But since there was no restaurant in this town, we used our supplies to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we had home-made cookies Carolyn’s mom sent with us for dessert.

Our next task was to get down off the mountain and see what this 25 MPH wind was going to be like at the bottom of the mountain. The wind storm preceded the incoming snow storm. We rode ten miles down the mountain on I-8. It was a fast and very nice road, but the 25 MPH cross winds made it very dangerous for us. We slowed our speed for our safety. Going 40 MPH down the mountain with an additional 25 MPH crosswinds was very unnerving. 

By the time we left the freeway at the bottom of the mountain, we discovered the wind on the valley floor was a direct tailwind. That created an amazing ride. We went 30 miles with a direct 25 MPH tailwind. I could see all the bushes and trees being violently blown in the wind, but didn’t feel any wind at all, not even in my face from the bike movement. For those 30 miles we rode 25-33 MPH with very little effort. My watch said it was a new personal best. I rode a 40k in one hour and five minutes. 

We stopped because of road construction again just as we were to turn north in Calexico. So, we got into the car and drove to a nearby Best Western for the night. After walking to Applebee’s for dinner we showered and set up our watches to show us tomorrow’s course.

This was one of my best cycling days ever!

Day 3, April 5, Calexico to Blythe, 76 miles

The great tail wind we had yesterday was still blowing, but today, since the first 20 miles headed north, it was quite a side wind. Fortunately, once we turned East at Brawley to ride on highway 78 for the rest of the day, we regained our tail wind of about 20 MPH as we began a long slow climb.

We rode through the sand dunes at Glamis. Back when we were riding quads, Glamis was a well-known sand dune area that I wanted to ride, but we never made the long trip with our quads. It was impressive to see.

After about 46 miles, we met the sag wagon in the dunes for our peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunch. There’s seldom a restaurant where we want one. Looking at the map we had about 14 more miles of climbing and then a nice long descent into the valley. That was the most disappointing descent ever. Although it was true we were generally headed down, it was full of rollers. There was a lot of climbing on that descent.

After 76 miles my low back was talking to me, and when the sag wagon caught up with us, we called it a day. We drove into town ready for a good night’s sleep.

Day 4, April 6, Blythe, CA to Salome, AZ, 63 miles

Today we began our ride only to notice I had a flat tire. We changed three flat tires today, my back wheel twice and Keith’s front wheel once. Each had a metal sliver though the tire. I had never seen one of these before. We had a great riding day with little to no wind. 

After about five miles we crossed into Arizona and said goodbye to California. The scenery introduced saguaro cacti. We stopped for lunch after riding 40 miles, with not a restaurant in sight. Another peanut butter and jelly day. 

Since this was the weekend and the town of Salome we planned to complete our ride in was so small, we called ahead to reserve a room only to find all three motels were sold out. We found a motel 53 miles farther down the road in Wickenburg, AZ. So, after we completed our ride, we drove to the motel. Realizing we had to go back 53 miles to start our ride tomorrow, we decided we could stay in this motel for two nights and not have to load the car tomorrow.

We took Paul out for a birthday dinner at a BBQ place and had a great meal.  

We are definitely in cowboy country. Almost everyone had on a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. I noticed that half of the boots had spurs on them. It turned out there was a rodeo in town and the motel we were staying at was sold out by the time we arrived. So glad we called ahead for reservations.

Day 5, April 7, Salome, AZ to Wickenburg, AZ, 63 miles

I wasn’t feeling the ride today. It feels like I need a rest day, which is still two days away. My seat is bothering me the most. After driving 53 miles back to where we left off, we cycled East again on a long uphill trek. 

Along the ride we overtook another cyclist who was riding across America. He started at the Santa Monica Pier, and this was his seventh day on the road. I pulled up alongside him and we talked about our journeys. We then came upon Carolyn for lunch. He stopped and talked with us at our lunch stop and we interviewed each other for our respective blogs. He is self-contained and uses both camping and hotels along the way.  

Lunch was after about 40 miles of riding and just before the peak of our climb. After lunch we had a short climb followed by a long downhill to complete the ride. I felt good during our downhill ride. 

Our ride extended ten miles past our hotel, so we drove back in the car. No check-in and no luggage to move. It was nice staying two nights in one hotel.

We ate leftovers from last night’s dinner and watched the replay of our church service from earlier this morning. Time for bed as our first week comes to an end.

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