I arrived in New York on the hottest week of the hottest year. My third day here was a hellish, sweltering sauna of humidity and high temps. Rolling over in bed was enough athletic activity to baste myself in thick, sticky moisture. Eventually my own sweat and the ambient moisture would converged into the same juice: a sticky, swampy pull in the tight nooks of my clothes that uneeringly warded off movement. The great outdoors resembled a convection oven, with steamy hot winds rolling over dirty pavement that smelled like sewage, burnt to a cast-iron black that tepidly absorbed all the sun’s rage. On day four, I stayed inside.
GeoSaga returns! After another trip (this one a much shorter ten-day crawl across New York City) I’ve decided to keep this blog going as my own personal work blog, recounting tales of adventure, suspense, or romance from whatever weird travels I’ve decided to dedicate the next chunk of my life towards.
I’m a recently-graduated “Gen Y”er with a discount degree and a burning sense of wanderlust. I’m also an introvert and a writer, with a handy outlet for expressing myself to thousands of strangers on the Internet. I’m also financially lustful, with no low that I won’t stoop to in order to have someone throw a dollar at my face. This is gonna work spectacularly.
GeoSaga will continue to be updated sporadically, albeit I can’t guarantee a regular schedule of new posts. I will keep writing about my adventures away from home, but the scale of these new adventures isn’t likely to measure up to my previous cross-country bicycle trek. However, that’s all hypothetical. Who’s to say that another grand daily adventure isn’t right around the corner? At this point in my life, I simply can’t say “no” to travel anymore.
I’ve upgraded my own personal blogging arsenal with a fancy new Canon and a new tablet. I also built up a new Raleigh road bike (maybe next time I can bring a friend?) and quietly added a donation page. Look forward for more adventure!
The next big adventure is a simple train ride home. The spirit journey is over, and the rest of my time abroad will be concerning an utterly more concrete and practical goal: get my and my stuff home.
The whole process will take seven days. The first three were spent in San Diego, where I stayed with a husband and wife who were friends of a relative. They both had a background in journalism and academia, and I couldn’t have felt more comfortable. Their house was a corner lot in the midst of a gentrified yuppie neighborhood, next door to a well-stocked grocery store and bike shop, two blocks away from an Internet-equipped coffeehouse and gastropub. Couldn’t be more perfect.
Every morning I would head to a neighbor’s house for a shower, then sit around to drink coffee and chit-chat with the family. Every day would be spent taking care of one hour-long odd job (checking baggage, patching tubes, mailing off paperwork,) then I would explore the rest of the day away on bicycle, discovering some of the best Mexican food in the country and checking items off of the world’s shortest to-do list. A vacation at the end of my vacation.
Even when I finally saw the ocean, I still didn’t stop. I had no traction in the sand, so I pulled the bike by its handlebars to a rocky outcropping at the land’s brink. I hoisted the bike up over my shoulder and climbed from rock-to-rock as far as I could go, skirting the edge of that ancient and crashing blue abyss. My human-powered trans-American odyssey was complete. At this beach, where the ground ends, I had no more continent left to travel.
“If it’s not today, it’s tomorrow.”
I kept repeating this phrase to myself to keep me going. It’s all uphill from here– there’s no telling how fast I’ll descend the other side, or how high and how far I’ll finally be done climbing. San Diego sits at the other side of the tail end of the Santa Ana mountains– just 100 miles of mountain lay between me and nirvana.
One-hundred and six degrees, no wind, 13% humidity. It’s so hot. I’ve never experienced such an oppressive, overbearing and heavy heat in my life. It’s humid and dry at the same time, with a sticky layer of sweat and sunblock soup insulating my body temperature ever higher. The sunlight stings on top of my leathery red skin. A reassuring cool breeze that would regularly chime in on other days wasn’t here– today was the transition day between Spring and Summer, the day that marks the beginning of the no-bicycling season. I’m sure to be one of the last Westbound arrivals in San Diego.
I have never sweat so much in my life. I’d look down and see a stream sweat drops fall from my cheek, leaving a trail of my own bodily fluid up these final mountains. Flies and crows crowded around the only source of water in sight: sun-bleached barrels of dirty radiator water meant to cure an overheating car. Bicyclists don’t have such luxury.
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?”
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.
So I just went through one of the longest days ever in one of the hottest deserts ever. The fly is the mosquito of the desert. Back in East Texas, there were clouds of mosquitoes so thick that I couldn’t stop the bike for fear of getting eaten. When the light shined through the trees at the right angle, you’d see ‘em. Clouds of them hovering above the ground like a buzzing, vibrating mist. It’s the same deal here, except the dots are black and the forests are beige. Flies also don’t leave bumps after biting.
The question of the day: what did I do with the day?
Honestly, there are some days out here that defeat the purpose of a bike-touring journal. Days like today, in which no bike touring happens and almost no real events of circumstance happen.
Scratch that. I would actually be touring is something of circumstance hadn’t happened. I woke up around 12:30 a.m. last night vomiting up a little pile of water. Unwelcome but not unexpected after having a monumental vomit 48 hours earlier. I wasn’t too discouraged until my body began shedding fluids out of, well, other orifices.
Diarrhea, vomiting, headache and muscle ache. I could have anything from swine flu to food poisoning. Maybe dehydration or heat prostration? I wouldn’t like to think so, as I have to make a 90-mile jump tomorrow through some of the hottest and lowest desert in America to get to the next pocket of civilization.
The drowzy strikes again. The 85 mile trip into Blythe, California still didn’t feel as energetic or spirited as 80+ days used to. I don’t know if its the heat or if I’m still sick, but there’s no comparison between the lethargic, slow and sleepy feeling I get out here with the just-plain-winded feeling that I’d get after long days elsewhere. It’s an entirely different beast.
Yesterday’s panacea took a toll on my body today, weakening my legs and filling me with drowsiness. There’s something alarmingly lethargic about bicycling through a desert, especially into a headwind in this time of year. The ambient temperature isn’t too hot and the wind chill is just barely 10 degrees lower, blowing at a temperature that is juuust right.
This blanketing warmth blowing all over your body is terrifyingly soothing– so much so that I was fighting the urge to doze off and daydream even while pedaling. This problem was worse today, and I suspect that the vomiting and undernourishment from yesterday is the cause. A random encounter with friendly Lutherans who offered me cold water and macaroni salad improved my spirits though.