Sunday, January 20, 2013

From the California Desert to Phoenix

Brawley City Hall, Brawley, CA
Monday, January 14, was our first day off the bike.  We walked through the town and found the classic city hall shown here.  The weather was unseasonably cold and windy.

Fields of alfalfa outside Brawley, CA
We left Brawley just after sunrise on a very cold morning, hoping to reach Blythe, 90 miles to the east, by sunset but strong head winds and rollers from hell (think doing multiples of the Texas dip) got in our way. The first part was smooth going through Imperial County’s farming areas with alfalfa and other green crops, and then we found sand.  We were in the Imperial Sand Dune Recreation Area near Glamis.  The dunes went on for miles, along with the ATVs, and the farming was behind us – until the next plateau.  

Imperial Sand Dunes outside Gleams

Plowing sand off the highway
Then the rollers and wind hit us.  At 2 PM we were still 40+ miles from Blythe so we hitched a ride in a pickup truck from the immigration check point into Blythe.  The drive took us past some of the poorest farm communities we have ever seen.  Cotton appears to be the main crop.  Pods of cotton littered the side of the road and there were bales the size of a small railroad container around many of the fields.

Hank at the Colorado River
Entrance to Quartzsite Yacht Club
After our Brawley to Blythe misadventure we decided to split our next day’s planned ride into two days.  From Blythe we crossed the Colorado River and climbed into the mountains on Interstate 10.   It was actually a nice ride, with wide shoulders and smooth steady climb with none of the rollers from the day before.  Our destination was Quartzsite, AZ,  which is little more than a site for retired RVers to hang out for the winter.  Our lodging was in half of a prefab trailer at the Quartzsite Yacht Club. (There is no body of water within 25 miles of Quartzsite; it is in the middle of a high desert.)   We met the Yacht Club owner at dinner that night.  Seems his father bought the bar back in the 70’s and had the absurd the idea of the yacht club, selling memberships for $10, which included a membership card and a tee shirt.  Rumor has it that some members have used the membership card for reciprocity privileges at real yacht clubs.  Anyway, the food was great, the lodging comfortable and we had a red sunrise over the desert.

Cafe, Quilt Shop, Plumbing and Electrical Supplies in Brenda, AZ
Westward Motel in Salome, AZ
From Quartzsite we continued east on route 60 across more high desert, passing through Brenda where we stopped for lemonade at the cafe below.  

Our destination for the day was Salome, a tiny community in the high desert with very limited services.  Our hotel, the Westward Hotel, had four rooms and didn’t look like much from the outside but was nicely decorated on the inside with antique furniture, an Indian pattern rug, a cattle hide rug and a gas pot belly stove for heat.  It was very pleasant!

Cactus growing on the hillsides east of Salome, AZ

From Salome we continued east on route 60 across 45 miles of monotonous oil and gravel road across the high desert.  In 45 miles our Garmin recorded 1 ft. of elevation change.  After a short climb we descended into Wickenburg, AZ, and civilization.

Our Saturday ride from Wickenburg, into Phoenix was delightful, with smooth roads, no wind, warmer temperatures, and a slight downward grade.  The scenery was still rolling desert scrub, cactus, and now horse ranches. 
We’re now on the west side of Phoenix, heading out Mon. morning to cross the city and  back into the hills east of Phoenix.  

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