(Feb 14, 2022 – written by Dave)
After a leisurely Valentines brekkie, we checked out of our hotel and regrouped at the van for a ride brief. Today is super easy navigation wise – one turn the entire day (if you don’t count the small bit of back street turns we took to miss riding on the main highway first thing). We headed back over to Utah Road, where we rode back up our finishing straight from yesterday and back into Joshua Tree National Park.
For most of today’s route took we cycled in Joshua Tree National Park. We rode from the 29 Palms gate, across the park and onto the Interstate 10 gate. We rode uphill for 20k, downhill for 20k, uphill again for 20k and then had a short downhill burst to the finish. Though we were in a desert, it didn’t feel like we had much flat riding. It was windy but traffic was much lighter than yesterday and it was a really nice ride under sunny skies.
We started the day in the Mojave Desert and about half way through the day passed into the Colorado Desert. On the Mojave side we had more Dr. Seuss gumdrop rocks and Joshua trees. On the Colorado side it was much starker but almost as interesting. We stopped at the boundary between the two deserts for a Valentine’s day photo. I may be biased but I think Nancy looks pretty in good in her magenta “special Valentine” Kitsbow jersey.
If you don’t count the Joshua tree scenery repeats, our first major visual highlight of the day was the spectacular Cholla Cacti Garden that we came upon in the Colorado Desert. They call it a garden but it is not man-made. There is just a small section where the weather conditions are just right to get a massive group of Cholla cacti to grow. We had a lovely second morning tea at the garden (put on by Jerry, our other guide) and stopped to have a walk around.
The cacti are quite amazing with their bright green and yellow tops – very photogenic, even with few flowers to be found. The Cholla is called a jumping cactus because if you (or an animal) bump up against it, a small section of cacti will jump off the plant and connect to you for transport to the next growing location. I gave one of the small pieces a nudge with my foot and it took an effort to get it off my foot. Every one of the pointy bits has a small “sun sleeve” that helps the cacti retain water. Thanks again to Jerry for showing us how to gently rub one sticker and see how the “sleeve” could be pulled off.
At the garden and throughout the next 10k of riding we encountered a bunch of Creosote bushes. Jerry gave us a quick guide to them. If you crush a leaf, they have almost no smell. However, if you cup your hands around a group of leaves and blow on them, wow, the smell of creosote is very strong. Later we rode through on moister section of desert where overnight dew had caused the release of the creosote. It was quite fragrant – sure glade Jerry gave us the lesson so we knew what we were smelling.
We had lunch in the middle of nowhere with distant views out to the Colorado Desert. It was hot but Jerry put on another amazing feast. He even wore an apron for show. We can hardly wait to see what tomorrow brings when Jason is back on lunch/snack duty. Someone mentioned something about smoothies but I’m not holding my breath. These guys are amazing!
We found the last exciting new plant of the day over on the Colorado Desert side of the park when we came across a small stand of Ocotillo bushes. They look like a tall spiky cacti but are actually a bush. Their growing cycle takes them from sticky brown stalks to bushy green stalks with bright red flowers on their tips. Because there has been limited rain lately, we only saw a few flowers but we spotted plenty of plants in the rest of the growing cycle. Close up it looks like the plant would really hurt but the spikes are pretty soft. I wouldn’t grab a branch and shake it but it was wasn’t cactus pokey.
After the last ripper downhill, the whole gang pulled up at the park’s gate near Interstate 10 and loaded up n the van for a quick ride over to our home for the night – The Fantasy Spring Resort and Casino. It’s massive, sitting out in the desert of Indio, CA. We probably wouldn’t pick this hotel had we been travelling on our own, not only because of the size of it but also because you’d have to ride the freeway to get here. Hopping in a van at the end of the day is a great way to eat up those endless suburban sprawl miles that you find in this part of the world.
We had a nice Valentine’s dinner at one of the casino restaurants. It was much better than we thought it would be. Somehow I missed a photo, even of the heart shaped desert that we shared – ahh…
High winds forecasted for tomorrow but our guides say “we’re riding!” – we like it, ya gotta be haad mate, ya gotta be haad!