Pat and Sari's Honeymoon Bike Ride
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
We went to bed a little earlier last night, since we didn't have access to the internet and couldn't check email or update the website (although we did get it ready to upload) and we slept in an extra half-hour so we felt pretty well-rested today. We had breakfast at the cafe next door, stopped to chat with a fellow resident at the motel, Jim, who had also biked there. He had retired back in 2000 and was basically wandering around the country by bike ever since. We left at 7:10, and even though we knew we had a longer day (67 miles), we were encouraged about it being mostly downhill. We didn't expect it to be very interesting - just the usual handful of small towns dotting the usual desert landscape. We were pleasantly surprised to find some of those small towns to have very quirky personalities. The first town we came across was Wenden, population 556. Since we had already come 23 miles, we were thinking a nice cold soda would be a good thing. Pat spotted a gas station at the same exact moment I spotted a cute little building called Way Cool Cafe. I won. The more we saw of the place, the more we liked it. It was owned and run by a mother and daughter and clearly catered to women; it was decorated very charmingly but with a great sense of humor (see pictures below). Pat had his cold soda while I went for the iced latte, but we were both snared by the luscious cakes on display on the counter, so we each got a piece. Absolutely the best cakes we'd ever tasted. We left, feeling satisfied in both body and spirit - it was just a delightfully cheery place.
A little farther west was the town of Salome, co-founded in 1904 by a humorist, Dick Wick Hall, and Charles Pratt and named after Mr. Pratt's wife. The subtitle of the town, 'Where She Danced' refers to a story Mr. Hall told of Mrs. Pratt taking off her shoes and dancing across the sands because they burned her feet. He is also known for his pet frog who supposedly lived 7 years and never learned to swim. The area around Wenden and Salome is referred to as the Arizona Outback and has several mountain ranges, the Alamo Lake, old mining towns, Indian petroglyphs and other interesting features. There are RV parks dotted all through the area. The main tourist season, though, is in the winter and many restaurants and stores were closed as of March 31st. We were actually lucky to get a room at a motel in Quartzsite, since the only motel within miles was partly closed for the summer. It turned out to be a strange place anyway; the motel 'rooms' are converted trailers with 2 rooms per trailer. Very odd set-up but comfortable enough. We'll be staying here for a rest day to try to firm up plans for the next week's trek to the Pacific Ocean. We hope to be in San Diego by next Monday, May 12th, but there's a desert and a very tall mountain to cross before we get there.
I jumped ahead a little there, but there was not much to report after Salome. A few odd mountains - the Black Rock especially, which looked like the rocks had been tarred. The terrain around that mountain was strewn with black rocks as well, almost like the mountain had erupted and spit rocks all around it. We were going through McMullen Valley through the first part of the day and then through Ranegras Plain where we saw warnings about blowing dust. We had seen dust devils now and then before today - little dust swirls that look like miniature tornados - and we saw 3 or 4 of them here, but none were a problem. It is strange to see a sudden gust of wind stir up a little vortex of dust and send it scurrying down the road. We also saw signs to watch for animals over a stretch of 60 miles. I don't know what animals we were supposed to have seen but all we saw today were a lot of little lizards, one rabbit (not even a jack-rabbit), one 4-foot snake sunning himself on the road (Pat saw it, I missed it), and a chipmunk (I didn't even know they had chipmunks out here). We also saw some good examples of tumbleweed, so we got pictures of it. Tumbleweed is also an invasive species from Russia that propagates by tumbling through the desert. It has a special layer of cells near the root that lets it detach easily from its root when it dries out. The mesquite tree is another interesting shrub/tree that is actually a legume and fixes nitrogen in the soil. It's apparently a food source for wild animals like the coyote who eat its seed pods. It has bright yellow flowers that liven up the desert landscape. There is another tree I usually see near the mesquite trees which may be a variety of mesquite, I'm not sure. It has a light green, almost chartreuse, bark and has a wispy look to it - quite unique looking.
It was windier today and a little cooler than the last few days. The morning was refreshingly cool and we moved along quickly due to the slight downhill or level ground and our being well-rested. Later in the day, as we got more tired and the wind was against us and there were a few uphill parts, we slowed down a bit but the wind kept us relatively cool at least. We also had some clouds accompanying us, mostly over the mountains to the north, a very unusual occurrence of late. We were on US 60 nearly all day with a longish uphill near the end, but then got onto Interstate 10 for the last 10 miles. Those were a nice, satisfying downhill sprint to our final destination here at Quartzsite. Tomorrow's a rest day and we'll post something but we won't have much to report.