After seeing Los Angeles, the Sonoran Desert and Phoenix, I will continue my way towards Tucson. I have approximately two weeks left before my visa expires. Therefore, I will directly cross the border after Tucson. The US has been awesome, but I still have the feeling to be ready for the next chapter: Mexico.
Now that I’m in California, I’m not the only one traveling by bicycle. In the past couple of days, I’ve seen more cyclists than in the first 2 months. In the afternoon, I stopped at one of the many state beach parks, where, as a hiker/biker, you can pitch up your tent for a couple of bucks. There were two other guys with loaded bicycles, so I obviously approached them and asked them about their trip. I met Javier and Seven, they both started in San Francisco. Javier is a 37 year-old guy, originally from Puerto Rico, and is going all the way to Southern Argentina, just like me. As an experienced traveler, he gave me some useful advice. He told me that he lives in a pick-up truck/camper, a simple lifestyle that allows him to travel the world. Seven (30), works as a designer for Lyft and is also working on an app called Sprocket. Sprocket is basically a digital marketplace for bicycle (parts) but has the philosophy to promote cycling. Seven’s quite ambitious and sure about the success of the app, which recently launched and is people are starting to use it. He’s going to Tucson, Arizona. The three of us decided to camp at a national campground which was really close to where we were.
Seven, me and Javier
The next day, we cycled together to Los Angeles via the beautiful cities like Malibu and Santa Monica, unaffordable for the average American. We furthermore visited the well-known Santa-Monica pier and Muscle Beach. Initially, Seven and Javier would cycle together to San Diego, but Seven decided to join me and head east from LA. In hindsight, this might’ve been the good choice, because I felt some tensions between the two after only nine days of cycling. In the evening, we went to some bars and ate a lot of tacos, since it’s Taco Tuesday. We ended up staying for three nights in Los Angeles. Seven has worked and lived here for some time. As a Lyft employee, he could shuttle us to the best places in town.
The Santa Monica pier
We went to Downtown LA, Beverly Hills and Hollywood. I am impressed by LA in a not so positive way. Especially the rich neighborhood of Beverly Hills gives a distorted picture of the actual city, which is going through a homeless crisis. I’ve seen city parks full of tents, it was awful to see. I always feel kind of guilty and powerless against those people, and at the same time grateful that I’m not in their situation.
Seven wanted to meet up with an old friend, Yuri, and old acquaintance from his time in LA. Both are from Russian origin, so they wanted me to go to a Russian restaurant. The food was amazing! After dinner, Yuri knew a couple of places in the city that we had to see. We went to some stand-up comedy, a typical American thing I guess. Afterwards, they took me to some random pole dance club where drunk people threw money at the dancers. Quite an experience!
Seven and I spent our last day in LA to do some preparations before cycling through the Sonoran desert in California/Arizona. We bought like a scarf for sun protection, and we checked where we could potentially refill our water. It’s gonna be 95 degrees, that’s doable with enough water. We’ll have a long stretch with nothing, so we have to carry a lot of it.
View over L.A. (No pole dance pictures...)
We left on Saturday morning and decided to skip the first 70 miles via the train, to avoid the busy roads. It took us another 40 miles to finally be out of the busy area. We decided to camp at a church near Cabazon, where I met two interesting young men who devoted a year of their lives for their religion. The conditions were perfect on the following day. We were going downhill with a tailwind, it was clear that we were gradually descending into the desert. The morning was foggy and cool, but the further away we got from the mountain, the clearer it became and the hotter it got. We did like 80 miles, but barely wasted any energy. We camped north of the Salton Sea, a sea that emerged after the Colorado River flooded. There was supposed to be a national campground with a shower, but that was apparently at another location along the sea. Since it was getting dark already, we had no other option but the pitch up our tent at a random spot near the Salton Sea.
Leaving the mountains and clouds behind us
A typical Sunday morning in Southeastern California
We finally started our actual desert journey on Monday. Around 6 AM, when the first ray of sunlight found its way over the mountain, we started cycling. We quickly bought like 3 gallons of water to carry with us. That should be enough! The so called road that Google Maps recommended us turned out to be a sandy road, impossible to do on our loaded bikes. Our bikes sank in the ground. I can’t believe that I made the same mistake after my experience in Canada. After 10 miles of frustration (and time wastage), the only solution was to get on the I-10, the freeway. The surroundings were beautiful and empty, but not as empty as I thought it would be. There was a gas station where we could fill up our water and at the end of the day we arrived at a deserted town near Desert Center. They even had a green (!) golf course and a lake! It looked like a ghost town. They were telling us that basically everyone left and went to their second home in Canada or in a Northern state. That sounds familiar! It’s exactly the same situation I had in the winter Canada and New England, when everyone was in South for the sunshine. We camped at the lake with a beautiful view. The permanently occupied fire station gave us some gatorade and water. The four locals told us rough stories about who many rattlesnakes they had killed this week. I can’t believe how it’s like to permanently live here.
Better safe than sorry
The lake in the ghost town
In the following four days, we crossed the Colorado River into Arizona and made our way to Phoenix. I had a lot of technical issues with my tires, I got a flat almost every day, but I still enjoyed myself. The surroundings remind me of the wild west, exactly how it is projected in the movies. Especially Arizona. Endless roads with empty spaces on both sides, except for the famous cacti. The temperatures are still doable in May, but we tried to take a break in the afternoon anyway. We met Silverio and Susan in Phoenix, we could stay in a very neat house made of straw and mud. They are very inspiring people and help a lot of people in need. A handful of homeless people know how to find them on a daily basis for a shower, laundry, some food or for some work that has to be done around the house.
The famous Saguarocactus with a bird
Susan providing Rooster with work
Susan en Silverio in their special house made of straw and mud.
Seven left the following morning towards Tucson, because he has another acquaintance who’s about to leave the city. I stayed another day to update my blog and to do maintenance on the bicycle. We will meet again in Tucson before he takes the train back to San Francisco, where his work is waiting for him. Eric, my warmshowers host in China Town, NYC, happened to be in Phoenix for his work today. We met in the evening and had dinner together. During my rest day, I met Erick, who runs a café in a bicycle shop called the Bicycle Nomad Café. He promotes bicycle touring and all I can do is fully support him! I think it’s the very best way of traveling if you’re capable to do so. You stay fit, get an amazing view of the surroundings, meet a lot of interesting people (like Erick) and you reach places where you’d otherwise never come.
Seven, Susanna & Eric from NYC, me and Bob
Erick together with me in his cool Bicycle Nomad Bar