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Reisverslag Desert and coastal biking
18 januari 2017
Desert and coastal biking
What’s it like, biking in the desert? I can only account for the time we were there. We started when it was hot (that is hot for us, summer was long gone). Days were so hot that we got cranky and avidly looking for shadow that was nowhere to be found. The Mojave desert has a lot of low vegetation, spread out, and here and there a Joshua tree forest, but usually shadow is not available. We would drink a lot, but still our mouths would feel dry. It wouldn’t be the hottest during noon hours, the sun would continuously warm up the sand, so that at the end of the day it would feel hottest. I’d say an hour or two before sunset. As soon as the sun was down, there would be half an hour of perfectly ok weather, in which we could walk around in T-shirt and shorts, feeling like the world is ours and life is just perfect. Slowly however, we would start to put some more layers on, and start to rush into cooking, because we could feel the cold coming. We would sleep at times with our puffies in our sleeping bags, fleece pants, and 2 pairs of socks. The first half hour when the sun would hit us, things would be great. But then… the yellow would be right there, all the time, hot and unavoidable. And longingly we would think back to the night, in which it was away. The cold was not bad, was it?
Those were the days before Las Vegas. After Las Vegas it got a bit cooler. The cool air would make us cold on downhills. Less heat during the days made it feel better, but this may also be because we got ourselves Sunday Afternoon Sunhats, so that that yellow thing in the sky could not bug us right in the face anymore.
Riding into Death Valley brought some big changes. We felt wind! We hadn't had any wind all the time we were in the desert, nor seen a cloud. The clouds here looked big. If it wasn’t Death Valley but Netherlands or PEI, I would put on my rain gear immediately. But in a place with less than 2 inches of rain per year? We decided to not camp directly in a wash to avoid getting flushed out at night, you never know. And yes, we did get some rain. Conclusion: those clouds were real, though not more than a few drops made it to our faces.
There is rarely rain in Death Valley because there are a few mountain ranges, somewhat parallel to the coast before air hits Death Valley. Rain clouds that form in the ocean, hit the first range, are pushed up, and lose their water (rain). This makes an ideal climate for trees like the Sequoia’s, that we unfortunately didn’t see, because those altitudes are snowy in the winter and are a lot of work to get to on a packed bicycle. The little bit of humidity that makes it over the the range, is pushed up the next mountain range through the same process and more rain falls out. This process continues, until there is almost no humidity left, and that’s where the desert is.
What this means for us? First, as we paddle over the more mountain ranges on the way west, we encounter more and more changes in weather. There are winds, clouds, sandstorms, more colors in the sky around sunset and sunrise and even spats of rain. Second, those mountain ranges have to be conquered. To get out of Death Valley, we had to climb about 1500 meter to get to the next valley. Lucky for us there was a campground with water halfway, because our desert setup to get in death valley consisted of 7 days of food and 4 days of water for 2 people, and that was heavy!
The more mountain ranges conquered on the way west, the more vegetation, sprinklers and humans. We suddenly biked through orange orchards, vineyards and avocado fields, tempting us to stick out our hands and grab the fruit as we’re biking. Even closer to the coast, in the Oxnard valley, we stumbled upon cabbage, strawberries, cilantro, kale, and lots of other things.
The hills still looked dry, but the closer to San Diego, the greener they got. That might be a result of the weather, cause, as you might have noticed on the news, it’s raining quite a bit more than average in California. This state had a long period of drought and is welcoming the rain, though it gets out of hand here and there. On a little side trip to Joshua Tree with Leighs mom, we came through Palm Springs where it was raining so hard there might not be any desert left now…
The Pacific coast itself is wonderful. We have biked up with some dolphins that were heading the same way in the water below us. We really like the pelicans, who are surfing the waves just above the water surface and are amazing divers. Human surfers are quite abundant along the coast line as well, and it’s fun to watch them catch their waves, though most of the time they just seem to sit around, looking into the distance. Waiting for the perfect wave? Or just watching the whales that are a bit further offshore, just like us. The towns are very colorful and breath a relaxed atmosphere.
We bike the bike paths on the beach of LA and the boulevards heading to San Diego. We see lots of expensive cars driving around, and people exercising, making music or strolling away with their kids. Surprising how crowded it still is during weekdays. The beach has lots of free toilets and drinking water facilities, making life easy for us, but also for the homeless. Campground around these areas have given up their cheap hike&bike options, because they couldn’t refuse the homeless that were then causing all kinds of problems. It’s quite the world here. So different, this highly populated part of the state compared to the empty desert where we could just pull off the road and camp anywhere.
Foto's bij verslag (6)
18 januari 2017 20:45 | Door: sijmentje
he hallo wat alweer een bijzonder verhaal over de voortgang van een bijzondere reis. hier is het -7 graden en de eerste maraton op natuurijs was in provincie groningen op een buitenijsbaan vandaag maar de winter gaat niet lang duren. heel veel groetjes en dank voor de belevenissen dikke tut tante Siem
18 januari 2017 21:13 | Door: Catherine(Cathy) Coles
It's facinating to read your blog Annette!
The desert sounded really rough but you persisted and made it to the beautiful coast :)
I completeyly forgot you had to carry your food + water for days:0
Everytime I hear Joshua Tree, I think of U2 :)
Thanks for sharing! PS we miss you
19 januari 2017 00:07 | Door: Jan Roelof
As always, I'm enjoying your blog. And I congratulate Leigh for persevering to ride such a long distance.
You Annette are already used to long cycling tours. But I bet this will probably be the most extreme ride you have ever encountered.
Enjoy the journey, and keep on riding, writing and smiling.
23 januari 2017 14:03 | Door: Colleen
It is a breath of freshness to read your adventures. my bucket list is growing! Have fun and keep hydrated - what a challenge.