71 miles - Great Southern Overland Stage Route of 1849; Beautiful Desert Scenery; Ocotillo, CA - February 11, 2017
Anza Borrego Desert Region in Southern California
I posted this image on the Bike Ride For Empathy
Facebook page. You can still "like it" over there if you want. :)
I definitely want to recommend S2 County Road in San Diego County if you're a lover of the desert.
Today would be one of the best days for scenery on my entire bicycle tour.
There are mountains. There is desert teeming with a variety of cactus.
(Pretty much everything except the saguaro.)
There is an interesting road with curves and hills that's regarded as the Great Southern Overland Stage Route
that once was a major artery for stagecoaches in the 1800s.
Above is a modest photo I took with my cell phone. It was so much prettier in person.
There section of east San Diego County is home of the Anza Borrego Desert Park that spans from Borrego Springs
all the way south along our route. Like I said, if you appreciate all the desert has to offer, it is worth visiting.
Two Videos To Start
About five miles south of Shelter Valley.
John and I cycling together.
The elevation in Shelter Valley is 2320 feet; in El Centro (our destination) it's around 0 feet.
So even though the idea of riding 71 miles was intimidating at this point in my physical fitness, I figured the descent would be enough to have an enjoyable ride.
Pretty desert, mountains, and hills were the norm on the Great Southern Overland Stage Route. Scroll down to see. :)
In this valley, the mountains were almost begging to be explored.
We saw a few dirt roads that led into canyons and up hillsides. I wondered if there
were trails to reach some of the summits of these peaks.
As you can notice, it was an overcast morning, and I wholeheartedly welcomed it. The last thing I wanted was the sun
beating down on me - especially after my heat exhaustion issues on
Day 1 in San Diego.
The lighting made for poor photography of the landscapes, but check out these amazing ocotillos.
This is one of my favorite desert plants. You've got to see them in person. :)
It was difficult to capture the size of these beauties, so I carefully leaned my bicycle against one.
As for the third blurry picture, often I would be moving along and would see an amazing ocotillo. I wouldn't want to stop though,
and so I'd do my best with my camera as I went by. This shot captures the essence of this region:
a desert floor teeming with creosote, sagebrush, and a plethora of cactus, with hills and mountains in the distance.
Could you live here? I don't know. I suppose most people wouldn't want to.
Also, temperatures in the summer could be unbearable. Still, I'd love to be a "snowbird" who spend a couple of months down here - hiking and doing many outdoor activies that
this region offers.
I made a Facebook live video ...
John really loved this overlook ... and for good reason!
Agua Caliente Hot Springs, California
At Agua Caliente Hot Springs, we rested, drank fluids, and reapplied sunblock.
The woman in the second photo was the mail carrier who had come by, and she asked if we were doing OK.
We certainly thanked her for asking. (It never hurts to ask a cyclist that.)
We got to talking about her work and this region, and I was intrigued by her brown San Diego Padres hat. She and I are
in agreement that the Padres should revert to their true colors -- brown and yellow -- and get rid of the shameful blue uniforms.
The Padres in Dodger blue? Are you kidding me??? I have been on record that if the Padres would go back to brown full-time,
I would abandon my beloved New York Yankees and
cheer full-time for San Diego. Will it happen? Maybe someday.
Third Photo: Just another stunning mountain and desert scene. You would get spoiled living along this corridor.
As I type this (two weeks after the tour is over),
I am seriously considering returning to this area by car to do some hiking and photography. We'll see.
One Tough Hill
If you are cycling from Shelter Valley to Ocotillo, expect the majority of it to be a gentle downhill. It will be a wonderful ride.
However, there is one ass-kicker of a climb. (I'm not sure of the milemarker or if this hill has an official name;
I may update this page if I get that information.) I'm guessing it's a 2 to 2.5 mile ascent. There are two switchbacks.
John got way ahead of me. In the second photo, I put an arrow over him as he rode ahead. See him? (Obviously click the photo to see it at a larger size.)
And then the hill finally ends. Every cyclist knows this -- there is no such thing as a perfect ride with smooth roads, downhill and tailwinds... all the time.
The cycling gods wanted to remind me of my humility right here. :)
A video showing all the beauty...
The landscape photographer in me wanted to get more and more shots. Adjacent are four.
Peaceful and quiet road ...
At one point, we passed a group of dirt bikers who were headed out.
I just felt "video happy" today ... :)
My gosh, we've got an imposing mountain, wide open space, and a charming desert in that fourth photo. The outdoor scenery was easy on the eyes for John and me. :)
John cycling up a hill ...
Photos of Me
Much thanks to John for capturing photos of me while I was riding.
These shots are rare. After a while, I grow tired of the only images of me being unflattering selfies. :o)
Imperial County, California
My bike tour would go through eight states, but how many counties? I didn't count. All I knew was, this was the first county line I'd cross.
Bye bye San Diego County, and hello Imperial County.
Nearby was a fitting and funny quote about the desert. The structure was worn, and so in case you can't read it, I'll repost it here:
"This is the desert. There's nothing out here. Nothing." - N. Karayasiles.
There was more descent and even a friendly tailwind as we biked towards Ocotillo.
When we saw the wind turbines, we knew we were getting close. You can see these massive windmills from Interstate 8.
In Ocotillo, I briefly stopped in front of the Lazy Lizard Saloon.
Then two people named Joe and Cathy came out and were curious about what I was doing. It turns out they are cyclists who live in San Diego.
They went for a drive to Ocotillo just to get away from the city on a Saturday. We had a nice talk about cycling in the region.
They gave me well-needed encouragement about my trip,
and I talked to them about coming to Colorado with their bikes and doing some
scenic mountain rides.
Soon after, I posted this photo of us on Facebook and suddenly I got a bump in "likes" from their friends
who were now tracking my updates.
Thank you, Joe and Cathy! :)
From Ocotillo, we had 27 miles remaining to reach El Centro.
We took the W. Evan Hewes Highway (Road S80) which runs east and adjacent to Interstate 8 through Plaster City, Dixieland and Seeley. For about 10 to 15 miles, it was miserable riding
on a bumpy and abandoned road that almost nobody has a reason to travel on.
As we approached El Centro, another cyclist rode up from behind me. His name was Ron, a 55-year-old guy from Maine who said he
wanted to shake things up in his life. What better way to do that than bike across the country?
A few days earlier, he also began in San Diego and planned to finish in Tallahassee.
Notice those sandals. He did show me they were shoes that clipped into the pedals.
Long at last, we arrived in El Centro and stayed at a Motel 6. John looked up the elevation in El Centro and his phone reported -41 feet. Wow! :)
Pretty sunset colors in El Centro.
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