April 2, 2001 - El Centro CA 148m***

Its 9:58PM PDST in El Centro, CA. I just had dinner in the best restaurant in town, the China Palace Steakhouse. $14.95 gets you a pretty good NY Strip, with choice of salad, choice of potatoe (spelling from that Bush Sr. VP who you cant remember) and red, white or blush.

The room at the hotel, at 4th and the interstate (Casa Real, if you must know) is hot because someone opened the window and turned the A/C to high heat to dry out a bunch of clothes. They were cleaned in the shower because they got sweaty on the way to Julian.

The day began at 5:30AM PDST at the Best Western in Oceanside (needs work). The prior night after dinner with Tom, Moira, Rosalina, David and Fred, Tom took me to this place. The Pacific is 3 blocks west. We took pictures.

Tom went back to Irvine. I regrouped, slept and left at 5:30AM. Bike lanes in darkness 22 miles or so to Escondido. (Side note: Its hard to take flash pictures in the dark.)

(side note: CA is a great state. Bike lanes, wide shoulders, emergency call boxes..)

Breakfast in Escondido, then into economic area #2, orchards, where they still pick the hard way, probably the only way.

The first hour I averaged only 9 mph (uphill, darkness), the 2nd 15. Then all hell broke loose. It was uphill forever. By 1PM – 7-1/2 hours later, I had only gone 60 miles. The temperature had gone from 51 to 56, then steadily dropped to 43 as I climbed the 4000 feet through Ramona to Julian. My legs were shot, I was sweating, it was very cold. In addition to the t-shirt, jersey and windbreaker which I started with in Oceanside, I regularly added clothes (leg warmers, arm warmers, an additional t-shirt (long sleeve), an additional jersey (long sleeve.) and when I got to Julian I had to by gloves. It was so cold I couldnt ride well, and I considered calling it a day and staying there.

Laying on a bench outside the Julian general store, a guy come up to me and asked one of the basic questions (Where are you headed too?). I said Savannah, by way of Ocotillo. He correct me, pointing out that Ocotillo was pronounced Ocotillo, as though it has no Ls in it (which it clearly does), but rather a Y in place of the Ls.

Rather than argue the point, we started talking routes and further destinations. He suggested that, rather than the S-2, I should stay on the 78 to the 86 (see map above) and go straight to Brawley. I pointed out that I couldnt walk much less ride, and he said it was downhill for 15 miles or so, then flat. He also pointed out that, at 55 he was retired and did triathlons, had ridden across the US 8 years ago and a bunch of other credibility building stuff.

Julian was too cold to consider staying at, so I took his advice (name forgotten but I gave him my email address) and did the next 60 miles in less than 3 hours. Through Anza Barrago Desert State Park (closed 6/1 to 9/1, I wonder why?) instead of Cleveland National Forest.

It was 18 miles downhill, then into the desert flats. Julian is in the background, up in those Hills.

Last sign with the word Oceanside on it heading east on 78. Lots of cactus. One seemed to be the asparagus god. Others were pretty.

Besides the downhill it was incredibly windy, from behind.

(Thats my windbreaker tied to a pole to demo the wind). All told, the next two hours more than made up for the prior four. I hit 100 miles at 2:45PM. I have never, ever had an easier 40 miles or so. But all good things come to an end (CA86). I had to turn south by the Salton Sea and head toward Brawley. It was below sea level.

Got too Brawley at 5:30. No good hotels. Decided to go another 15 miles or so to El Centro and got to the hotel around 7:15 (legs were still shot).

Tomorrow- The Dilemma. Yuma is only 55 miles away, and then maybe no hotels for another 120 or so. 55 is to easy. 175 too hard. Stay tuned.

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