(Feb 18, 2022 – written by Dave)
Today was our last day with the REI tour. We (ok, me) kind of introduced a fun who’s the best guide” contest at the start of the week – to have some laughs with Jason and Jerry, our guides. Well, now that the week is done, I can officially confirm that the winner is….. drumroll….. the winner is US!
Äs good sports playing along with our ‘contest’ Jason and Jerry tried one upping each other during the week as they traded off sag duties. We had special treats at the stops, more stops than we can count, constant positive words of encouragement and all week, they laughed at my jokes. Both of them laughed at my jokes! By week’s end they were giving each other funny little jibes and naturally, the rest of the clients were chipping with special point awards. Thanks for playing along guys, if you read this.
Today we were up a little later because none of the Julian cafes open until 8AM. This worked out well as the overnight low up here at 4,200 feet was 32F. We were more than happy to linger over brekkie and didn’t get on the road until 9:30. It was already starting to warm up but the opening 5k downhill meant that we had to rug up. We had almost no traffic for the first 10k because there were two road construction sites that blocked traffic. We had maybe three waves of back-up traffic pass us in bunches but otherwise nothing. The nice folks at the first traffic stop even let us through first and held back the cars so we wouldn’t feel rushed.
After the initial 10k, we had about 15k of crosswind, traffic-filled roads from hell. At 10k we joined up with a major road coming up out of San Diego that was full of massive camper trailers heading into the desert for the long weekend. The trailers had names like Warrior, Iconic, Freedom, Savage and Enraged. And all of the names fit. The 4×4 crowd here apparently likes to go out and smash through the desert on their long weekends and anyone who doesn’t get there by noon on Friday ends up camping out in the desert (no wait, they are all out camping in the desert). Regardless, the crosswind tried to push us into the traffic lane and the RV monsters tried to intimidate us. It was some white knuckle riding.
We were assigned to ride behind Asha and call out the traffic, which we duly obliged. But it was not overly fun. We finally turned right on state route 3 and things got better. Almost all the traffic went this way but we had a headwind at this point and Highway 3 had a good shoulder. It was harder riding into the wind but infinitely more calming without the side wind. Asha was a little rattled and decided to hop in the sag for a spell. We could certainly understand that.
It was uphill and into the wind for the next 16k but we enjoyed the ride. It was our last uphill of the trip so we weren’t going to let a pesky headwind spoil the day. It had warmed up enough so Nancy took off her bright vest. I gallantly wore mine and rode behind Nancy in her slipstream. The gallant part was being bright and keeping us safe, not the part where Nancy did all the hard work facing the headwind.
The last 16k were a 3,000 foot drop ripper downhill back into the Borrego Springs valley. We had some amazing views here all the way out to the Salton Sea. Hard to imagine this scene three days ago when the sandstorm was blowing through. It was hazy but today you could see for miles. We took it easy on the downhill, checking our speed but still managed to pass a big truck that was holding up traffic.
We pulled up the bottom of the climb at the Anza-Borrego visitor centre. While Jason and Jerry made lunch, the rest of us had a look around the centre. It was fun seeing the 3D maps of the park and all the ground we’d covered the last few days. Before this trip, Anza-Borrego was just a random park name on a travel brochure. Now that we know a little more of the area we may come back for an extended winter stay to get out of the Oregon rain – one year…
Lunch from the Js was good, as we’ve become used to – hard to imagine that they buy all the food for a week in advance and somehow keep things fresh and tasty. Before long, we were all trundled into the van, bikes packed up and on the road back to Palm Springs. In the two hours it took to get back we saw hundreds more big camper rigs with associated off-road toys heading south to the desert. There was even a bit of a traffic jam going opposite us. I think that we were lucky to see the desert in a more or less quiet time. In addition to the traffic, we spotted a stack of camps where groups of 5th wheels and the like had been circled-up in the desert. You never know when bad guys will show up in the desert I guess.
We’re happy with our choice of the REI tour. I’ll post more summary notes of this in a few days. Thanks for following this far if you’re still with us. Signing off for now…