Southern Tier 2010

Day 2: Lakeside to Ocotillo

Started: Sep 19, 2010 7:57:40
Ride Time: 6:41:11
Stopped Time: 3:16:39
Distance: 73.43 miles
Average: 10.98 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 47.12 miles/h
Climb: 7700 feet
Calories: 3998

This was a long day, with some serious mountain climbing, and I’m quite pleased I managed as well as I did.

I spent much of the day on Olde Highway 80 (they really spell it like that), where there is a bike lane the whole way. It’s surface varies between pretty good and unrideably bad, especially in the empty region between Live Oak Spring and Jacumba. Because there was so little traffic, I would take the car lane on descents. Most of the vehicles I saw on this stretch were border patrol—in fact, I think they were driving laps.

The first part of the day was a long, steady climb. I dropped into a pretty low gear and ground away. By the time I had reached Guatay, I think I had all of the initial ascent behind me, but there were still a lot of shorter (but still hard) rises and falls along the way. The area was very popular with motorcycle riders, sports-car drivers, and cyclists. Somehow all the cyclists I saw were going downhill when I was going up. Had lunch in the town of Pine Valley and pushed on. Made it to Jacumba and thought about stopping there. But it still felt pretty early, and I knew the road to Ocotillo was all downhill, so I decided to press on.

Well, it wasn’t all downhill, but the part that was, was really downhill. Got on I-8, which had a 6% grade and flew. My GPS tells me my max speed was 47 mph. I think it’s lying. I-8 has a wide rumble strip on the shoulder, and I had to thread the needle between that and the edge. One of the craziest things I’ve done. All the altitude I had struggled so patiently to gain early in the day was stripped away from me in 20 minutes or so. The part between Jacumba and I-8 was incredibly barren, and I was worried about what might happen to me if I broke down there, or had to stealth-camp within eyeshot of the border fence.

I am now in a hotel that can charitably be described as rudimentary. Tomorrow will be a shorter day into Brawley, where I’ll have to stop early so I can cross the emptiness of the Yuha desert in one day, I hope.

Today has taken me through a huge geographic and economic range. Lakeside was a down-at-the-heels town with a lot of hotels advertising weekly rates. Pine Valley, where I lunched, and it’s neighbor Alpine both seemed posh and pleasant. Every town since then has been a dusty spot in the road: in Jacumba, I wasn’t picking up an AT&T signal, but I did pick one up from Movistar—in Mexico.