Posted by: Christopher | July 20, 2007

Sweatin’ to the Moldies

Well, it’s been a bit since the last post. We’re now in Coldspring Texas, about 100 miles West of the Louisiana border.

About 3 weeks ago we cranked it half way across Arizona in about 3 days on a mad dash to get to Tempe. From there, after considering the heat conditions and our own physical condition, we decided to drive over Emory Pass. The idea of trying to tackle that hill climb in such ridiculous heat was not particularly pleasing. The flat desert had been hot enough but hill climbing in that heat was out of the question. The desert itself was actually not as difficult as you would think as long as you were prepared. However, we were ready for a break and decided to skip the mountains and drove on to El Paso.

Where we remained for 2 weeks…

That was not the original plan, of course. But, good friends have a way of making you want to stick around for a bit. In any case, our stay was a lot longer than we initially wanted it to be, but it was nice and relaxing. I had fun playing Amtgard again with old friends(for those unfamiliar, Amtgard is a game of medieval and fantasy reenactment and roleplay, with a hefty bent toward physical combat) and knocking some rust off of my sorely undeveloped fighting skills.

So now we’ve cheated again to motivate us to get out of El Paso. We decided to drive to Navasota from there, in an effort to not have to deal with the morale-crushing distance across Texas. Besides, we REALLY want to see Louisiana at least, even if we don’t make it to Florida in the end.

So, here we are, our 3rd day out from Navasota. We’ve covered almost 70 miles. We’re more or less 100 miles from Louisiana, and the countryside here is absolutely gorgeous. Lush forest is everywhere, along with green, verdent pastures.

It’s in stark contrast to the desert, which seemed desolate. It’s a bit hilly, which wears you out, but not so terrible as to crush you, like the climb out of San Diego was. The only complaints would be the bugs, which I personally believe would eat you alive if not for bugspray.

It is also incredibly humid here. This is probably the most humid place I’ve ever been. It gives it a cloying, musty, moldy feel. However, all things considered, it’s not nearly as bad as the mind-numbing heat of the deserts.

We camped the night before last in the Sam Houston National Forest and had some uncomfortable run-ins with local fauna. It was an itchy, uncomfortable night to say the least. I hate fire ants.

Oh, and I will squash that damned toad if I ever see him again…

Yesterday was a tired run 13 miles up the road in the rain to find breakfast, followed by 23 miles of pleasant countryside riding through wooded pastures. Or it would have been if not for the dogs.

The people here need to keep better handles on their pets. I believe we had as many as 8 dogs chasing us at one time yesterday. That wasn’t fun. I think I might bring a pellet gun or something next time just to keep them off my ass.

In any case, we’ve managed to find  VERY comfortable lodgings here in Coldspring for a very good price. The Coldspring Sunday Houses are very very nice, and the people who run it are exceptionally friendly. I highly recommend it to anyone travelling through this area.

In any case, We will be continuing on tomorrow morning and will be posting again as soon as possible.

Posted by: Alicia | July 20, 2007

Coldspring, TX

Been on temporary hiatus for a bit here!  Well, for those of you that have asked, yes we are still alive.  Chris and I are in Coldspring, TX right now.  This town is about 650 people, but is wonderful.  We are staying in a house currently that we rented out for only $60 a night.  Considering the roach motel down the street wanted $40 a night, I’d say we did well.  The woman who runs the place bought us cookies this morning and left them on our porch: chocolate chip no less.  now we know how alicia loves chocolate!  made my day for sure.  hell, made my whole week now.

In any case, the house is wonderful and immaculate.  I added some pics of it on my flickr account that apparently no one can seem to get working.  (btw: it’s the link above the pic of the boat.  click on it and you will be taken to the pics of the trip)  Coldspring and in fact most of eastern Texas is really beautiful, especially after being in the desert for way too long.

We stayed in El Paso, TX for two weeks, which was not our plan, but we were reluctant to leave good company particularly good company in dire straits.  Meeting Junior, Chris’ friend, was great.  El Paso itself has nothing much to offer.  The people are terribly rude and it is a VERY ugly city.  However, company made it less terrible.  Chris had the joy of playing Amtgard with old friends, which he was tickled about.  We decided to car it to Navasota, TX just to get back on schedule and because after being in El Paso, we had little hope for the rest of Texas.

Well, I think Chris will be filling you all in on the rest.  I covered the more important details: namely chocolate and oh yes, chocolate.  Hope everyone is well and please do comment, we need morale boosters every now and again!   


Posted by: Christopher | June 26, 2007


Posted by: Christopher | June 26, 2007

The Heat is On

Ok. Tuesday the 26th now. Alicia and I are in El Centro, California. It’s getting hotter as we move East toward Arizona, but that’s no surprise. It’s already hotter than all hell here though. People we talk to say it’s been worse than usual- supposedly it was 119 yesterday.

We stayed at the Viejas Indian Reservation after our library stop in Alpine- the climb was just too intense to continue that day. The campground there was very nice, as were the people. The valley that the reservation is in is incredibly beautiful, hidden in the rocky brown hills, with green pastures and trees. We stayed there two nights simply because it was so pretty, and we really needed another break to recuperate.

 So we climbed out of Viejas, and climbed yet some more. Then we stopped to camp in Live Oak Springs. Couldn’t wait to get out of that place. Talk about a big change from our previous experience. Here the place was ugly, unclean, and totally unkempt. The people sported an underlying rudeness and dislike despite running a facility that depends on strangers passing through. Did I mention that the “campground” was in the middle of a trailer park? Yeah. Nice. We got out of there as fast as we could.

 So we rode out of the pit of Live Oak Springs, climbed a bit more, passed through some small towns, and tasted some damn good Mexican food on the way. Had an accident in Jacumba- no serious injuries though. Alicia has a scrape on her leg and I have a few bumps and bruises. Apparently Alicia had decided to stop to take a picture, but I was too busy enjoying the view to take note and ran into the back of her bike. I think I flipped clear over her but I’m not sure…

Thankfully the injuries were minor and no damage to equipment was sustained.

But the trek continues, slow though it may be. Coming out of the mountains after our intense hill climb out of San Diego, we traversed the dizzying 3000 ft decline of In Koh Pa Pass down to the Yuha Desert floor. That was painful for an entirely different reason from the climbing. Pulling your brakes like mad for minutes at a time really wears on the ol’ arm muscles.

Our destination yesterday was Ocotillo. The last mile was hell- the sun beating down on us, rough pavement, uphill, with a 50 mph headwind. Not fun. Thankfully John at the Jackson’s Hideaway RV Park was more than kind and set us up in his own rec room with full amenities (including AC) for the night- for free! We really can’t thank him enough for that. It was well needed before hitting the desert full on

So, today, as I said, we’re in El Centro. We got out early and beat the heat, covering the 28 miles across the first half of this desert before 11:00 and before it got REALLY hot. Experiencing this sweltering heat first hand, we have decided to get out before dawn and cycle only in the morning from now on- with perhaps some more in the evening if needed.

That said, we also need to start putting some miles behind us. We’re WAY behinid schedule right now due to terrain difficulties. We’ve gotten about 125 miles from San Diego so far- not as much as we hoped, but also what I think is a considerable amount for having to climb up so many miles of hill. With any luck we’ll be in Palo Verde tomorrow when we stop.

Posted by: Alicia | June 26, 2007

Almost Arizona

Today we have landed in El Centro, CA.  We arrived a couple hours ago after beating the heat and starting our ride at 5:00 am.  We only rode about 25 miles today, but arrived after only a few short hours as the land has been relatively flat.  Our ride to El Centro has not been cake, but it has been an adventure.  I would have to say my favorite part has been our time at the Viejas Native American Reservation.  We spent a couple days camping and met a lot of really sincere people.

The reservation is located in a valley which meant that after a long 10 hour day of riding through the relatively colorless mountains, we arrived to this beautifully lush environment.  The Native Americans have farm land here and keep the place VERY well maintained.  Everyone we met had good advice for us and cheered us on.  It was definitely hard to leave the place.

After a day of riding from the reservation, we arrived at Live Oaks Spring Campground which was a stark contrast to what we had left behind.  Along the way we met people willing to refill our water bottles, offer us more advice and many people honking and waving.  The campground itself was surrounded by a trailer park and the sanitary quality of the place was definitely questionable.  The next morning we were more than ready to leave the place behind. 

Just outside of Live Oaks, we came to Jacumba where we couldn’t resist the opportunity to try our first bit of authentic Mexican food.  Passing the place, I saw a sign that said $0.99 tacos and shouted to Chris that we should stop.  A passing pedestrian shouted back at me that they were great, so of course I had to try it out.  The food at this restaurant was great though and the people of course were extremely friendly.  Jacumba itself is located right next to Mexico, so border patrol was incredibly tight. 

Our journey for yesterday ended in Ocotillo where we had been promised free camping at an RV Park by a guy who claimed that he would feel terrible charging anyone crazy enough to ride to Florida on a bicycle.  When we arrived however, instead of letting us set up tent, he insisted that we stay in the Recreational Room.  He told us to basically make ourselves at home and make sure to fill up on ice and water before we left.  After picking our jaws up off the floor, we did some laundry and toyed with the local cat a bit. 

This morning, we set out bright and early to beat the desert heat and thanked John, the owner of the RV Park for his hospitality.  Setting out from Ocotillo we stopped at a Mexican restaurant that John has recommended and had a plate of rolled tacos.  We watched as several members of the Navy strolled in and ordered food and listened to the roaring of jets overhead. 

The remainder of the journey for today was pleasant as it was relatively flat compared to the 3000 foot drop we had coming out of Live Oaks Spring riding through the In-koh-pah Pass.  However, this was a bit easier on us physically than the 3000 foot climb to the top.  As you can imagine, the view was amazing.  We also noticed that the people of California had placed flags along the highway to mark boxes filled with water for people stuck without water in the heat.  

Well, today we are relaxing in El Centro since they have a bike shop and we need maintenance done on our bikes.  Our brakes need more stopping power for when we come down off of hills.  The town itself is pretty desolate, but tomorrow morning we will be on our bikes bright and early to continue our journey.  

Posted by: Alicia | June 22, 2007

Groove Thang

Alright!  So it’s not exactly Tuesday, but we finally managed to make it to Alpine, Ca from San Diego.  So what has delayed us?  A: Just about everything (and I say this with a satisfied grin).  Some of you know that we intended to fly down here from Chicago, but that did not happen.  Saturday night in the midst of packing our bikes we realized that we would not be able to get them in boxes sized moderatley enough to bypass the airline’s restrictions.  Knowing this meant another $200+ to fly. 

After spending an exhorbitant amount of time knocking our heads together and inventing every bicycle packing maneuver possible, we gave up and decided to drive down to San Diego.  This at least would ensure that our sprockets and spokes would arrive safely and to the battle-conscious, meant that the airlines would not get money for absoloutely nothing.  So we arrived in Cali Tuesday night and spent the night in a hotel loading our panniers and tuning our trusty steeds.

Happily setting out on our trip the next morning, chipperly walking our bikes to the starting point, we began to, shall we say, admire the hills.  Our route began next to the Pacific Ocean next to a bunch of old ships docked.  The view was incredible to say the least. 

The rest of our journey did not go so well however, mainly due to the fact that our initial route was peppered with speeding motorists and off-ramps for highways!  SCARY!  Yet the cyclists of San Diego seem well acclimated to this little fact as they veer past the exit ramp into the next cycling lane sometimes without looking.  Inevitably, we Chicagoans ended up cycling when we could and then waiting for an opening between speeding cars.  I’m sure you can imagine that this led to a pretty long journey. 

In the end after cycling for 12 long hours we arrived at our camp site and dicovered that it was, well, closed.   After pedaling for that long, we gave up hope and decided we would pitch tent off the side of the road.  Let’s just say an unamused resident was involved and leave it at that despite the fact that it was not her property or anyones for that matter.  Later, an even more unamused cop was involved.  By that point we already booked a hotel and had called a cab.  After much hesitation our cabbie finally arrived and proceded to rip us off mega style, not to mention examining us to make sure we weren’t meth-heads.  According to him they’re the only ones out at night in Santee, Ca.

Not all of the residents of Cali have been so inhospitable though.  In fact, most have been absoloutely awesome. We have had people ask us to call them if we needed help and just today we had a gentleman stop and offer to take a picture of us together.  Most people have been incredibly interested and extremely giving, which we are thankful for.

Today has been an incredible test in the sense that we have had to journey several miles uphill.  Most of the journey so far has been shake, shake, shake, stop, breath and then proceed.  Very slow, but very rewarding.  The uphill has been an ultimate test so far.  After this post, we continue and hopefully end in Live Oaks Spring, Ca.  

In two days, we have already learned so many valuable lessons, but I will have to talk about that some other time as I have 17 minutes remaining on this computer. I’m not sure when we will post next, it will depend on when we can get to another library with computers.  Til then, shake your groove thang!