20th April 2016 Indio, Ca to Blythe, Ca 169.2 kms - 105.2 miles Up = 765m - Down = 701m
April 20th 2016 - INDIO TO BYTHE
Up and off from camp at 8:00 am – this is the “biggie” for the trip distance-wise – expected to be the longest in distance at 167 kms – and completely across the desert. The weather forecast for the day showed it would get to 100F – and as we had discovered yesterday – in total contrast to my thoughts – “dry heat” is much tougher than the “humid heat” we have at home in Brisbane.
We followed roads alongside the I-10 to get through the town of Indio. In so doing passed another huge casino – again run by the local Indians. A quick stop at the fuel station near an on/off ramp to grab last minute goodies for the ride and we were off to the entrance to the I-10. We were thrilled to see the entrance sign only said “Pedestrians Prohibited”. That was a relief as the alternative would have added on about 50 kms and made it impossible! Our elevation profile showed we had to climb for the first 60 kms of the day and that the rest would be “downhill”.
The better thing about today was that finally the van could be in closer contact – and by the later part of the day – thank goodness for that!!! I don’t know how solo cyclists carry enough water to do a journey like this across the desert. We thought we had plenty of water for 2 or 3 days aboard the van but were down to one bottle at the end of the day!!
The climb was relentless and while not super steep just went on and on and on and on – and we got hotter and hotter and hotter. We would stop every 5 kms and the views back to where we had come from were stunning and showed us just how much we were climbing. The difficulty was that there was no shade to stop in when we did. Pat would wait back and time her run up behind us at these intervals and we would try to shelter from the sun beside the van.
We were drinking heaps of water, I was having every second bottle with Endura, we were pouring water over our heads to cool ourselves down and just kept on grinding up and up into the mountains. Our refilled bottles with refrigerated water would be hot after about 10 mins on the bike. The little fridge in the van was struggling to keep pace with the amounts of water required - well, it was way too small to keep liquid cool for 3 cyclists in these temperatures which were now well over 100F. We were frequently drinking "hot" water from our bottles, and this started to taste awful - but we thought we had to keep drinking to fend off dehydration. As time went by, just the thought of drinking made me dry retch. The insides of my mouth were feeling horribly dry. Slight relief was gained when eating a lolly, a hard jube, from the supplies purchased at the service station earlier. But the relief didn't last long - it was all such an awful feeling!!
Eventually we got to the top to Chiriaco Summit – what a relief – we were now in need of food!!! The weird thing for me was although I felt hungry I didn’t know what I wanted to eat and many of the things I usually like actually made me feel sick at the thought of eating them. I usually love food so this felt very odd. I shared a freshly made sandwich with Pat in the end. It was a very pleasant little spot to stop at, and they provided us with liberal amounts of ice and cold water, so we filled all our bottles and set off with renewed enthusiasm and energy particularly as we thought it was all downhill from here!
While the downhill certainly helped it was a lot more gradual than the uphill had been - and I guess it often felt flat at best. The wind was a little swirly and sometimes even a slight head wind. We covered the first 60/70 kms after lunch pretty well, with only 2 van stops, but when we got to 130 kms we started to feel extremely weary. The scenery had been pretty much the same for 100 kms and the sun was constantly beating down on us. We had only found 2 overpass bridges to have good shady rest under – and we still had 40 kms to go.
While we had been drinking constantly thinking we had to keep hydrated, for me it had become harder and harder to actually swallow the water. My mouth was as dry as dry, and no matter what I tried – sucking lollies, chewing gum etc that gave slight relief earlier in the day just didn't work now - nothing seemed to improve the situation.
We decided to meet up with Pat every 10 mile (16 kms) – so the first rider off would do 6 km in front and then the others 5 each and we’d earn a rest break! Mind games I guess – but we had to do something! When we got close to Blythe we started to feel a huge sense of relief. The off-ramps to Blythe started at mile 232 – the exit we had to take was 243 – that 11 miles (18 kms) was the longest I have ever ridden – it felt like we were never getting there! It wasn’t only the longest, but also the bumpiest. Near off and on-ramps there are these frequent 'ridge' thingies across the shoulder - hey seem to start a half mile before the off ramp and end a half mile after an on-ramp. – I suspect to slow traffic down – but they were horrible to be riding over on a bike - especially after so many hours in the saddle! As there were 4 lots of off ramps, and 4 lots of on ramps in this stretch we seemed to be bumping along all the way.
To top it off – at off-ramp 240 – I punctured!! By now it was starting to get dark – I sensed something had been wrong for a little while with my back wheel, so I suspected a slow leak. I grabbed the floor pump from the van, pumped up to 60 psi and then continued on for off-ramp 243. Luckily it stayed up long enough to get to the campground that thankfully was very close to the off-ramp. Strangely in the morning it still had air in it – but I decided to change it anyway.
The campground was in a stunning spot on the banks of the fast flowing Colorado River. Absolutely beautiful but a shame we were too pooped and it was too dark to enjoy it fully. Annie and Don cooled their weary legs in the river, I went over to the campground pool to do so and Don ordered pizza’s for tea.
I have honestly never had such an exhausting day on the bike. I think the early climbing took its toll and then the heat just drained me completely. There were times when the thought of stopping went through my mind, but I pushed it aside and kept on going. What was a little concerning was the extreme dryness of my mouth and nasal passages, burnt lips, difficulty in swallowing things, and a very strange for me sense that I didn’t feel like eating anything. Just the thought of eating would cause me to dry retch, and when I compared notes with Don – this was exactly how he was feeling.
Because we had spent so much energy during the day and knowing we had another big day tomorrow made us think we had to eat. We wondered if perhaps we had picked up some bug – or – if this was a sign of heat stress? Whatever – it was far from a pleasant feeling. I could normally devour 3 pieces of pizza easily – but tonight I struggled through 1 and a bit before giving up – definitely not me!!
Turned in for the night as soon as van and tent sorted and warm showers were had – hoped for some sleep – and could only wait to see what things would be like in the morning.