Sonora Desert National Monument & Maricopa, Arizona.

I am delaying my posts now due to an incident; a man I didn’t know used my blog to locate me. At the ripe age of 50 I didn’t think that this would be an issue, but oddly it is. For that reason, I’ve delayed my posts by a month for safety reasons. The encounter was benign but unsettling.

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With temperatures reaching low 100’s in October, when I took this photo, I needed to be creative.  In Calexico, I bought an umbrella and jerry-rigged it with some duct tape.  To protect the girls from the heat I started getting up at 4 a.m. to get to the day’s destination before the heat of the day reached its zenith.  The temperatures have been unseasonably high, by as much as 20 degrees.

 

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Janet and I met up and after I had crossed into Arizona, we dismantled the trailer and gear and piled it up into her snazzy RoadTrek to get to the hotel.  I also had several adjustments and repairs that needed to be done.  It took some driving around and visiting different bikes shops before I found the right parts and mechanic.  Janet is not only kind, but patient.

 

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I knew California was a big state but didn’t really get just HOW big until I cycled across it.  It felt like that Monty Python in Search of the Holy Grail scene when the knight is storming the castle but never gets any closer.  I was downright giddy when I crossed into Arizona.  My first 50-mile day.

 

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A regional delicacy?

 

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I passed a few canals along this section, I was surprised how just the sight of water elevated my spirit.

 

IMG_5693Cycling in the Sonoran Desert was magical.  The mountains on the horizon and the variety of cacti was a feast for the eyes.

 

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It was unbelievably hot cycling on I-10 through the sand dunes.  No shade to be found, I envied Bodhi and Dory’s umbrella.  Some of the sand dunes were tall enough that I could feel the heat waves radiating off of them.

 

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Bodhi loves exploring and nesting in little nooks and crannies.  She found herself a cozy nook in Janet’s RoadTrek.

 

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I pity the cow that has to graze in this country.  Slim pickings.

 

IMG_5620A surprisingly successful combination, there was a sign on the window saying they’d moved to a bigger location.

 

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A gas station had this facility for pets, it had cooling mist that I envied.  Great service to prevent pets dying in cars.

 

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My inner child was giddy with the motel’s space theme.

 

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Janet dropped me off at the motel, I was sad to part company but no doubt our gypsy paths will cross again.  Dory was crushed, she was quite smitten with Janet and her luxurious Mercedes RoadTrek.

 

IMG_5649My favorite campaign sign, a giant mustache!

 

More highlights pedaling through the Sonoran Desert:

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First sign of saguaro cactus.

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It’s hard to imagine it raining here.  If I hadn’t worked in the Painted Desert at Petrified Forest for a season I wouldn’t have believed it possible.

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Gloriously flat smooth paved roads.

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I refilled the water bottles at a remote school that seemed to appear out of nowhere.

 

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Felt absolutely decadent staying at a hotel casino.  Gambling baffles me so I stayed clear, but I did appreciate the beautiful room and pool for less than I’ve paid to stay in a Motel 6.

 

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This was a tough day.  Even though I got out early the heat was draining and there wasn’t a shoulder to ride on.  Met with the most aggressive and vocal drivers on the route to date.  Fortunately encountering hostile drivers has been rare, there were more today then the entire trip combined.

 

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A memorial for Sally, who made the olympic team, but didn’t have the opportunity to realize her dream.  While out training on her bicycle she was struck and killed by a motorist.  Poignant and sobering.

 

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Bodhi being creative in her quest for shade.  Lucky gal.

 

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Dory enjoying a solid nap.

 

Shouting Declarative Command Family

I stayed at Ma Tar Awa campground on the Viejas reservation where I encountered the Shouting Declarative Command family. I was marveling at the quiet, being one of just a few campers, sitting in the shade of a sycamore tree, ahh. Then an SUV clambered in, parking 50 yards or so away, and out came tumbling Mom, teen son, pre-teen son, and young daughter.

Birdsong was replaced by their unusual staccato speech patterns. No one in the campground had to wonder what they were thinking, saying or doing. It was all out there for us to enjoy. I think I could count on one hand how many full sentences they spoke. They communicated almost purely in declarations or commands.

My favorite exchange was when mom was in the bathroom across from the campsite. The teen son shouted from the campsite picnic table:

“MOM! You hung up on me!”

Mom bellowed from the toilet “I couldn’t hear you!”

Son “You HUNG up on ME!”

Within seconds, pre-teen son started banging on the bathroom door: “MOM!”

Mom shouted a flurry of something or other back.

Preteen wailed “I JUST WANT A HUG!”

One minute it was harmonious chaos, the next an eruption of angry words, shortly followed by someone shouting “I LOVE YOU!” Then giggling and back to harmonious chaos.

From what I could tell none of them had a private inner thought bubble, it was all expressed. “I’m playing! I’m playing” “I’m eating!” “I’m going to the bathroom!” “Watch me!”

It was such a scene it was amusing and not irritating; I felt like Jane Goodall stumbling onto the set of Saturday Night Live.

You never know what you’re going to get at a campground. It keeps it interesting and fine-tunes your ability to find humor and ways to maintain your sanity and peace of mind.

The days journey in photos:

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Chuck, he races now in the Master’s division.

I met Chuck while I was setting up the sisters outside of Starbucks in Alpine, California.  We struck up a conversation and Chuck graciously offered to go over the rest of the route in California and Arizona.  We poured over the maps, and he shared with me his assessment of the different routes available.

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The morning ride, leaving Ma Tar Awa campground.  The mist from the coast made for a dramatic ride.

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Looking back towards the campground in Viejas.

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The morning started with a push up to Old Highway 80.

McGrath Campground, Oxnard, CA

McGrath was a trippy campground. It was officially closed but sort of open to hiker/cyclists, if you knew they had that caveat and if you happened to stumble on someone near the gate. I arrived to find the gate locked and impassable. In frustration, I called the campground and got a VM and left a frustrated VM. Then, like magic, the host appeared and let me in as he was leaving.

The campground was empty save two campground host couples. One couple was packing up; it was their last day.

It was ghost townish and looked abandoned and way past the expiration date. Eerie to see a campground so naked and empty. That said it was super fun too, no leash law for the girls. They had free reign and were beside themselves with joy with their new found freedom. They set to exploring instantly, never straying too far from camp. They visited the hosts and their dogs first and fanned out from there.

After I had put up the tent, we walked to the beach. A longer hotter walk than I anticipated with evil little star shaped seeds that bit into flesh and paw. The surf was crazy rough, rough enough to throw fist size rocks at one’s ankles. Yes, fist size and larger. It seemed a sadistic surf, luring one in and then blasting sensitive ankles with large stones. I tried to tough it out, but the waves and their stones were relentless. I splashed myself down from head to toe to at least cool down and get a feel of the ocean.
Even Bodhi, who loves the water, wanted nothing to do with it. They ran through the tail edge of the surf to freshen up, but there was no swimming.

We made a disappointed retreat to the campground.

Beautiful little mini wetland alongside the campground. There was ducks shoulder to shoulder, an aquatic duck version of Jones Beach. There was barely any space on the surface. When they spied the girls they took off with a lot of squawking and quacking, forming a thick cloud of duck chaos. There seemed to be a variety of ducks in the mix.

A little reluctant to admit this—but I set the picnic table on fire trying out the MSR Whisperlite International stove for the first time. I would roll my eyes at any camper who was foolish enough to take equipment on a trip without testing it beforehand. And there I was, so unfamiliar with the stove I lit up the picnic table.

It wasn’t engulfed in flames, but there was a healthy patch of flame about the surface area of an adult hand. My brain is challenged by things like diagrams and instructions. Clearly it wasn’t very present for the initial lighting of the stove. I came to realize I had the stove upside down, so when I primed it, I was, in reality, priming the picnic table. Oops. Is this how picnic tables end up with those burn hollows?

When the table lit up, I tossed the entire stove onto the sand. I blew furiously at the table while frantically fanning with my hands. Flames out, back to the stove, still burning on the sand. Picked it up, it flared up, and I instantly had a vision of myself without eyebrows and eyelashes. (This happened once while lighting a stove in NYC.) Mercifully it went out.

People with brain damage should probably stick to stoves they are familiar with, lesson learned.

Painstakingly went through the directions, googled a video on YouTube. Success. It makes a big difference having the stove right side up. Who knew?

Beautiful cool night serenaded by strange piercing birdsong throughout the night. Despite off-tune birds, I slept well.

The morning was beautiful; the lighting was moody from the mist that was still lingering from last night.

 

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Setting up camp at McGrath Campground, Oxnard

 

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Love these funky coastal trees.
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Ghost campground
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Little wetland area alongside the campground.
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Starting to play around again with B&W.
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Anyone know if this fall color or year round? Not familiar with local flora.
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Girls were in heaven, off leash with dunes, water and an empty campground to explore.
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Mist came rolling in like a white wall around 4pm.

 

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Bodhi’s quest for the highest and softest perch has been realized