Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Cycling through the desert in the rain

Well on my third day I decided to risk the weather and tried to set off through my second stretch of desert. I got plenty of water, and had two options - either do 40 miles to a campsite half way with no water, or head right through to the next town 85 miles away. The first 14 miles were OK, but then I turned east and hit the wind. At first I was struggling along at 10 mph, then 9, then 8, and then 7mph. It was so seriously demoralizing. It's difficult to describe. And it was in a straight line, first through farmland, then through gravelly desert like yesterday, then into real sandy desert where loads of people take their dune buggies and bikes. In the sandy part the sand was blowing everywhere and into my face. At least there weren't any dogs! But the shoulder was getting really narrow, so I had to keep checking for trucks and RVs, and had to get off the road if there was something coming the other way at the same time.

After about 35 miles of this a woman stopped and offered me a lift. She took me to where the half-way campsite was supposed to be, but it was in the middle of sand dunes with really strong winds and tonnes of sand flying everywhere - there was no way I could camp there. So she very kindly drove me back to where I started that morning at (which was pretty depressing) and dropped me at the Greyhound station. She was a great woman. She owned a chain of icecream vans in the area, and really hated all the tourists who came to drive in the sand. She chatted like crazy. She said the only reason she gave me a lift was because she was bigger than me! Being a skinny kid has its bonuses sometimes!

I hung around in the greyhound terminal for a while chatting to the guys at the desk who were really friendly, then got a bus to Indio, and then another to Phoenix. The bus was busy, but fine, and the terminals were nicer than in LA. We stopped for half an hour in some random town full of fast food places, and I attempted to get something to eat at Jack in the Box. There was hardly anything veggie there. I ended up with an egg roll (I think it was basically a spring roll) and a portion of fries. Not particularly appetising. I got chatting to the guy next to me on the bus. He was a journalist who'd spent the last few years in Thailand and had two adopted sons out there. He'd worked in London for a while for the evening standard, and had worked for lots of the gossip and scandal magazines in the US. Interesting guy.

In Phoenix I got a free bus to a rather dull motel, which ended up costing me $44 - they never advertise the tax here, I always forget.

And the weather is still foul here - heavy rain showers, windy etc. They're getting it much worse on the coast though. The locals are really glad about the rain, but I'm hating it. Because it's desert here the rain doesn't soak into the hard ground, and there's flooding and warnings of flash-floods, and i really dont' want to be in the desert in that. Especially with the wind.

This morning I managed to find the Youth Hostel here (the only hostel in the whole of this 40 mile wide city!), which is a really cool little house on a suburban street - I almost missed it. I've left my stuff there and will stay for a night or two until the weather improves. I was hoping to meet up with a friend of a friend of Jimmy's, but I've not been able to reach him on his mobile (or cell phone as I'll have to start calling them here). So I'm killing some time in the library doing this, and will maybe go explore downtown soon too. I'd hoped to see Frank Lloyd Wright's stuff because I saw it on the city map, but I asked someone and it turned out to be 30 miles away! I really struggle to grasp the size of these cities!

Well bye for now, I'm really hoping the weather improves soon. I might hang around here until new year, or I might head off back into the desert...


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