I'm predicting the next two days to be the hardest of the trip. Tomorrow will be 100 miles to Ludlow, about 3/4 of the way through the desert. Between Needles and there is one gas station at mile 40. Sounds ok, right? I've done longer rides with heat, wind, and hills. The difference now is the sheer magnitude of the above three factors. Tomorrow begins with a 2000ft climb over 18 miles. The wind is more intense than ever, so much so that the icon on my weather app is a little gust. Lastly, it's hotttt. Really hot. It's not uncommon for Needles to report daily high temperatures for the U.S., competing with places like Death Valley. Apparently a few years ago the rain was 115 degrees, and evaporated on contact with the ground.
Anyway, today's mileage wasn't bad at only 70 miles. I'll leave at 5 am to beat the heat, and maybe wait out the afternoon sun if I find a shady spot. Maybe even look for a ride...
I find myself frustrated that I'm dealing with such bad riding conditions this late in the trip. "Don't I deserve a break for making it this far?" That's a thought that ran through my head when biking up a steep mountain pass this morning. What a silly notion! It's not as if this terrain owes me anything; it's just a piece of land and I'm trying to get across it: up mountains against the wind and in the heat. In fact, I should be glad the desert is at the end; there's a smart way and a not-so-smart way to do a 100-mile ride, and I'm glad I learned the smart way before hitting the Mojave.
The bike doesn't owe me anything either. No flats since Oklahoma, the brakes work fine, and the shifting is adequate. What a champ. *knock on wood*
The sheriff's department here in Needles directed me to the Set Free Church. Here they graciously fed me and set me up on a couch in the nursery. About 30 other people live here at the church, mostly addicts and ex-convicts. I ate dinner with two guys: Ricardo and Smallz. I only know the spelling of the latter's moniker because it's stitched on a black leather vest he sports. A note: Smallz looks to be 6'5, 300lbs. Both he and Ricardo appear sufficiently menacing, but are really kind and funny. No talk of their pasts, probably best to avoid it around here. It's a given that everyone has had a troubled past. We all sang songs and prayed after dinner. I didn't plan this trip with a religious focus in mind (heck, I didn't plan this trip at all), but the amount of time spent in and around churches may speak for itself.
Tomorrow I go with food and water in my stomach, ATP in my muscles, and faith in my heart.
"Beans, rice, and Jesus Christ!"