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Day 4: Chiriaco Summit, CA to Ehrenberg, AZ

74 miles - Bicycling On Interstate 10, Desert Center, Blythe, Across Colorado River - February 23, 2011

The Send-Off At Chiriaco Summit

A nice picture of Brian, Richard and me upon returning to Chiriaco Summit the next morning. It was sad to say good-bye to Richard.

Interstate 10 California Richard captured pictures of us as we cycled on the bridge over I-10 and the on-ramp, and then we were gone.

Ahead was a sign showing Blythe was a palatable 68 miles away. That town would have been 95 miles if we had stayed in Indio. And so we felt the generosity of Richard's help all day. Thanks again Richard!

More good news: Brian's map that measured elevation indicated we'd enjoy plenty of descent for approximately 20 miles before leveling.

We pulled over to allow this slow moving tractor to pass us. It too, was using the shoulder like we were. :)
Interstate 10 California

Interstate 10 California

TOP: Views of the wide open road are common in the deserts of the West. This was one scene I had to photograph.

SECOND: I didn't realize it at the time, but Brian snapped a picture of me riding into the same magnificent scene. I love this picture so much! It looks like it could be a cover for a bike across America book, couldn't it? :)

Bicycle on Interstate 10 I wanted to capture more pictures of Brian, and so I sped ahead, stopped and photographed him as he approached.
Thumbs Up Thumbs up!
Taro Ditch The highway crossed countless ditches. Here's a random shot of Taro Ditch.

Yesterday with Richard and Brian, we discussed the requirements to have a mountain named after oneself. Mount Garufi has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? But come on, I'm not popular enough. Surely I'm not worthy of a mountain, river, creek or even a hill.

As we passed a few ditches, an idea occurred to me. "Maybe a ditch could be named after me!" I shouted. I don't remember how Brian responded, but yup, Garufi Ditch will do! A usually arid and insignificant chasm in the ground that contains run-off only during the wettest seasons might be something to aspire to. :p)

Beautiful brown mountains to the north.
Elevation 1000 Feet 1,000 feet in elevation.
Desert Center, California

Dead Palm Trees

Desert Center, California

Desert Center, California

Desert Center is the only town between Chiriaco Summit and Blythe, and not much was there. The sign reads a population of 125, and indeed a few homes and trailers were in the vicinity.

As we approached, across the highway (second photo) was some kind of abandoned trailer or RV park. It was so sad to see the remaining trunks of palm trees no longer alive. :(

It appeared no services existed in Desert Center. A 24-hour truck stop (third photo) is no longer in operation. From what I observed, many semis had stopped at Desert Center anyway, as there were many open sandy areas beside the roads that would seem perfect for resting and/or sleeping.

Cycling on Interstate 10

Cycling On Interstate 10

Before continuing, I posed in front of the interstate highway shields. Yes, it is legal to ride a bicycle on this long stretch of highway, and I enjoyed the novelty of it. I felt courageous. Like a bad ass. For most of the country, interstates are far too busy and hectic, and cycling on them is unheard of.

On this day, I was keenly aware that my tweets about biking on Interstate 10 would get a reaction from folks - probably those who envisioned we were riding on sections of I-10 that went through gigantic cities like San Antonio, Houston or New Orleans. Naaaah. This was the empty southern California desert. It was different. Sure, vehicles passed us at faster speeds, but so many courteously moved to the left lane while passing. As I stated yesterday, we had a full car's length shoulder and a rumble strip beside the white line.

I can honestly say I felt quite safe on Interstate 10. Why? This is my theory: Most of the problems I've had with vehicles have been where there is proximity among us. Of course, closeness has got to be a factor in raising the risk of collisions between cars and bikes. Also, conflict seems to happen more in busy cities or main roads in towns with little shoulder. That's when drivers tend to become angry, frustrated or annoyed at cyclists' presence, and they might be tempted to harass, yell or do something antagonistic.

Out here on Interstate 10, I dare say most drivers were probably bored with the scenery and our presence was something to look at. "Oh wow, people are riding bicycles in this barren desert area. Can you believe that?!" We may have been a source of amusement.

Bicycling on Interstate Highway

Steve Garufi Cycling

Beyond Desert Center, Brian sped ahead. Then he got into the act of taking pictures of me.

In the second photo, he went up an off-ramp and on a bridge over the highway. Nice shot!

California Mountains More mountain scenery.

Biking Brian

31 more miles to Blythe!

This was a good place to stop, rest and for Brian, eat half of his footlong sandwich he ordered at Subway this morning. How was your sandwich, Brian? :)

I also called Aimee Spencer in Arkansas, who represented the Smile For A Lifetime Foundation. This is the charity that helps children from low-income families receive braces, whom I partnered with. You can learn more about Smile for a Lifetime on this website.

Anyway, amongst the loud rushing of cars and trucks passing us as we stood on the edge of Interstate 10, I gave her an update on our bike tour. Aimee and I planned to meet in person when I reached Arkansas, but boy, that seemed so ... so ... far away as I spoke with her from California.

California Desert Scenery Only 16 miles to Blythe.
Bicycle on Interstate 10
Wind Blasting

Brian and I benefited from one feature of interstate highway cycling. It's called "wind blasting." Frequently semis gave us a large surge of wind at our back as it approached from behind that would push us forward. When the truck had passed, usually a vacuum of air rolling behind the truck gave us a second push of momentum forward. It was amazing to see how quickly I could increase my speed after a few trucks "wind blasted" us. So many trucks moved to the left lane (of the two lane road) to avoid us, which didn't help, but if the truck stayed in the right lane, I surely felt a burst of wind. Everything helps! :)

Adjacent Photo: A zoom-in of Brian as we approached Blythe, California.

Us biking on Interstate 10. We got off at the westernmost exit in Blythe.
Blythe, California

Photo Above: The Starbucks on East Hobsonway in Blythe, California.

Throughout today's journal, I wrote as though Blythe was today's destination, but it was not. When I biked across America three years ago, I spent a somewhat miserable day "stuck" in Blythe. Although no truly horrible thing happened here, I didn't want any "vibes" from my first ride to be part of this one. Thus, when I learned months ago that there were lodging options in Ehrenberg, Arizona, only seven miles east, I convinced Brian to ride with me.

And let's face it: How could I not enter another state knowing I was so stinkin' close to crossing the border? :)

Interstate 10 California Onward we biked. Soon we entered the bridge crossing the Colorado River. This is the border between California and Arizona!
Colorado River A nice shot of the Colorado River.

Bike Across California

Congratulations Brian!

Arizona State Line

For Brian, this was the end of the line. We'd stay at a motel in Ehrenberg tonight and the next morning, we would part ways. Brian would return to Blythe and take a bus back to Orange, and I would continue on Interstate 10 into western Arizona.

I do want to congratulate Brian on biking across California. Of course, Brian has done much tougher bike tours including biking solo across America in 2001 along the northern part of the country. Additionally I am so impressed that last year he did a century ride from Needles, CA to Ludlow, CA, biking long stretches on the isolated old Route 66 in the Mojave Desert. This guy has earned his reputation as a successful and knowledgeable long-distance cyclist!

Major thanks to Brian for riding with me for four days. For the most part, I think we got along well. We had similar biking styles that gave us good chemistry.

But I do have on admission to make. Upon reaching Blythe, tiredness and the desert heat got to me. My attitude soured around Brian. In Blythe, I grumbled about cycling any extra mileage that was out of our way. Also, I didn't want to rest at all at the Blythe bus stop, after Brian had stopped by to confirm its location for his depature tomorrow. Then when we had difficulty returning back onto Interstate 10, a minor thing really, I cursed up a storm. Afterward, when I had showered, was out of the sun's rays, and was feeling more relaxed and human, I apologized to Brian. Brian, thanks for putting up with that!

Lastly, I encourage you to check out Brian's web pages. He is a great resource about various cycling topics.

Personal Website: www.bikingbrian.com
Facebook Bicycling Page: facebook.com/bikingbrian
Twitter: twitter.com/bikingbrian

Arizona. One State Down, Nine To Go! Arizona State Line
Ehrenberg, Arizona is merely Exit 1 on Interstate 10, but it was so good to cross into another state. On this tour, I would ride through ten states. I conquered one. Nine more to go! :)

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