The kid’s eyes bulged wide with excitement. It was impossible for him to hide such enthusiasm.

“All the way, huh? How many flats have you had?”

“About nine.”

The kid was about nine, the son of the bike shop owner. He watched with fascination as I struggled to squeeze a quick-release lever closed. With my wind-swept mad scientist hair and sand-coated face, I must’ve looked anything but misanthropic to the two bike-savvy kids watching me in the shop.

“Look at those bags, he’s got the tools and everything he needs.”

“If he had machine guns and lasers, he’d be set.” A similarly-aged boy with the kid was less impressed, and a bit more sarcastic.

“Here– let me hold that for you!” said the first kid as I began to put my bags on the bike. He was eager to help in any way possible, and it wasn’t unwelcome. When I kick-stand the bike, it messes up the cable routing. That’s one problem I don’t have to worry about with this little guy buzzing around.

The good thing about a water shortage is that you’re carrying less water. Well, that’s relative.

I zipped back into civilization at high speeds today, thanks to my lower weight load and a tail wind that sent the bike into warp drive. I had time to catch up on chores like replacing that broken spoke, refilling my food and water supply, and catching up on writing and photos.

Maybe I took too long basking in civilization. When it came time to leave the city of El Centro and head out to the next town, I got caught in the sunset. I don’t want to stop anymore– I’m so close to the finish line that there’s literally not enough time left in the day for me to keep bicycling. I don’t even get worn out anymore, I just want to keep going and going until I’m there.

The deserts of California look absolutely unreal just after sundown. A cyan and turquoise haze shades over the distant mountains so thickly and solidly that it almost looks like a cartoon backdrop superimposed on top of real life. Then, black.

The dangers of riding at night are multifaceted. For one, there’s the stunted visibility. Bumps and potholes in the road are that much harder to spot under the cover of darkness. As am I to other drivers.

Someone turned on the wind right at sunset, too. Torrential, sandy wind. Then I heard a hiss, and I froze.

Humans aren’t the only ones using this road. The grounded wildlife of the desert is nowhere to be found during daylight, but nighttime is a whole different picture: a venomous safari of snakes, scorpions and rats. Tiny monsters.

I had my headlamp pointed directly at the ground for the night, the dim cone of light jiggling uncontrollably for my six-or-so feet of visibility. Every squiggling line of road paint or scrap of debris looked like a new threat. I pedaled hard to Ocotillo, where I found a lit-up country dive bar poking out of the darkness, its awnings flapping in the black wind. Inside, I asked for directions to the nearest motel. I didn’t want to stay outside any longer.