Day Sixty-Eight

Barstow, CA to Mojave, CA

The day got off to a bad start on the west end of Barstow when a big white sign told me I was forbidden from cycling on SR 58. I kept going on old Route 66, trying to think of an alternative route to the coast if I couldn't take 58. Since there really was no good alternative that would keep me out of Los Angeles congestion, I decided to try to get on SR 58 just a couple miles west of town by heading back north  on Lenwood Rd. Fortunately, I was able to get on there, but I was still irritated with CalTrans for making me detour around a mere three miles of freeway on a quiet Sunday morning. Besides, the more I rode on freeways,  the more I liked them for cycling. I rode on the right side of the shoulder and had a comfortable 10-12 feet between my bicycle and traffic on a freeway. On other roads, I was only be a foot or two away from traffic. The only thing I really didn't like about freeways was that there wasn't as much to see compared to other roads.

SR 58, Barstow Bakersfield Highway, was a busy two-lane from Barstow to Hinkley. When it widened to four lanes, it was a mixed blessing. In California, they often " paint" their shoulders black with oil. This  looked neat, but I didn't like getting that gunk on my tires. Only the bridges were oil-free. I was surprised by how many trucks were on this road on a Sunday morning.

For several days I'd had the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song " California" going through my head:

California's been good to me

Hope it don't fall into the sea

Sometimes you've got to trust yourself

It ainít like anywhere else

The four-lane ended a few miles before the busy intersection  with US 395 at Kramer Junction. A few miles west of there, I turned onto 20 Mule Team Road to ride through Boron, which was bypassed by SR 58. I paused for some water at the county line just east of town. It had taken me 2-1/2 days to ride almost straight across huge San Bernardino County, even with the 109-mile day from Needles to Ludlow. Kern County was another large one that would take several days to cross, but I wouldn't be taking a direct route.

Boron was a quiet town with a lot of museums but not many tourists. The four-lane 20 Mule Team Road was rather desolate since most traffic bypassed the town. I didn't stop at any of the museums, but I went to Betty's Take & Bake on the west end of town for a ham & provolone cheese sub. It was a bit pricey, but it was pretty thick with lots of meat.

Later I learned more about the legendary 20-mule teams that gave the road its name and wished that I had visited the museum because it was a fascinating story. When borax was discovered in Death Valley in the 1880's, the railhead was in Mojave, 165 miles away. To transport the borax to the railhead, teams of 20 mules (sometimes 18 mules and two draft horses) were used to haul two wagons full of borax ore (each wagon carried ten tons)  plus a water tank across the Mojave Desert. Especially interesting to me was how the mules toward the back had to be trained to jump over the chain as they went around curves. The journey took ten days each way. After my own desert experience, I could imagine what it would be like, except that in the summer it could be as hot as 130į F.

I liked the white signs on the SR 58 freeway west of Boron--the line that banned bicycles was covered up, so I was okay to ride. I stopped at a grocery store in North Edwards (Edwards Air Force Base was on the south side of SR 58) for Coke and water. I had 20 miles to ride to Mojave, and I felt confident that I was ahead of the game in hydration. I expected a fairly easy ride for the rest of the day.

West of North Edwards, a brand new stretch of four-lane had been built. According to the dates stamped in the concrete, it was paved just a few months earlier, in January 2002. Only one westbound lane was open, but I still had a wide shoulder to stay clear of the trucks. Around 3:00, the wind that had been predicted for an hour earlier finally hit me. Even though it was downhill for the last 10 miles or so  to Mojave, I struggled to maintain 7-8 mph in the stiff breeze. Just east of town I could see work progressing on a freeway bypass of Mojave. Completion was expected in 2004.

When I reached Mojave, I found that every motel and  restaurant in town had been misplaced on my Microsoft Streets & Trips maps. Consequently, I thought the Motel 6 was at the south end of town, but in fact it was at the north end. I rode a couple of extra miles on the busy, shoulderless highway (SR 14 & SR 58 ran together) looking for it. In two years there would be hardly any traffic here thanks to the bypass, but I hoped for the sake of the businesses that it wouldn't become as quiet as Boron. There was a sign at the Motel 6 front desk that said, " Yes, we have NOISY trains here." That wouldn't bother me a bit--I had been sleeping near the tracks for the past seven nights.

I walked across the street to the Primo Coffee Bar & Grill for dinner. The food wasn't bad, except that I asked for a plain Polish sausage, and it was covered with mayonnaise. Mayo on a Polish? Only in California. I don't think anyone in Chicago would dare put mayo on a Polish.

It was only four days since the last rest day, but I had covered 300 miles, so I had no problem with taking a day off... or two.

Totals for the day: 75.46 miles in 6:11:15 for a 12.2 mph average.

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