Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

Back To Palm Springs

I rode back to Palm Springs from Phoenix on Friday. I had a nice visit with many old friends in the Valley of the Sun, and got the bike's exhaust system updated. It really runs a lot better, and sounds better too. I lived in Phoenix from about 1983 to 1989, and other than Salt Lake and Seattle, it's the place I lived the longest, so there is a sense of "home" there. However, Phoenix is always in the mode of rebuilding itself, so very little from my days there is left.
I had to wait for it to warm up a bit before I could leave, seeing as I had no real cold weather riding gear with me. Plus I wanted to wait for the morning rush hour traffic to dissipate. I finally hit the road about 10am and struck out West on AZ-202, which turned into I-10, which was essentially the ONLY road I was on the whole day. It's a long haul on I-10 -- and it's boring and flat and straight. The 70-75mph speed limit and city traffic means lots of wind noise which tends to drown out my headphones. The city just goes and goes and goes, and finally it peeters out around Goodyear and Buckey and the freeway cuts through the open desert heading West.

I had forgotten the difference between the Sonoran desert of the Phoneix area and the Mojave desert in California. The Sonoran desert is very green (for a desert), and I always loved the tall saguaro catcus. I got a great reminder on a long ride with several of my Seattle biker friends who are wintering or have permanently snowbirded to the Phoenix area.
The Mojave, especially here in the Coachella Valley, is sandy and flat -- much of it below sea level. The vegitation is thin and scraggly, and the gray sand is everywhere. The change is rather drastic and happens just about at the state line as you drop down and cross the Colorado River at Blythe. I must say that I found the Sonoran desert much prettier, and the ride with my friends was a wonderful all day affair winding in the hills and mountains NE of Phoenix while avoiding much of the megalopolis sprawl that is the Valley of the Sun.

It takes about 6 hours to ride between Phoenix and Palm Springs -- at least it does me, even on the Interstate. I need to stop and stretch and walk around, and I tend to stop in every semblance of a town at an exit to ride around and see what's there. Alas, there truly is almost nothing between Phoenix and Palm Springs, other than a couple of rest areas, a truck stop about half way there in the middle of nowhere at the point where AZ-72 takes off for Parker on the Colorado River, and the town of Quartzite which is essentially one big depressing used RV sales lot and swap meet.

Blythe is the first town in California, right after the Colorado River and the CA fruit inpsection station. Why they still have these I don't know, the inspectors just waved everyone through. I remember as a kid on a family trip to Disneyland having to stop and they actually searched our car and made us throw away some grapes. I was feeling hungry and swung off the freeway to take the old road through town -- what was US-60 back in the day. No ghosts here, and I was hoping for a taco truck with some real tacos but didn't find anything either and settled for a Del Taco with an outside patio.

I did stop again in the ghost town of Desert Center (top picture) to stretch and explore my favorite old gas station again -- pondering how best to preserve one of the old gas pumps in my living room/den. I also rode out a bit towards the abandoned Kaiser Steel mine and found the remnants of their railroad, something that warrants further exploration in the Hummer with my best friend Dave sometime soon.
The last 75 miles into Palm Springs on I-10 was the same straight flat ride I'd been on since Phoenix, and a great reminder of how much I detest riding on the freeway, but here I had no choice. A large storm was brewing on the California coast and pushing inland, so I knew that it would be windy in the Coachella valley where the weather systems and pressure differential force some heavy winds through the San Gorgonio pass, and I was right. As I crested the climb at Chiriaco Summit the incoming West winds hit like a wall, and I fought the wind all the way down the slope to Coachella where I exited off and took Dillon Road back to the house in Desert Hot Springs.

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