Almost killed myself today
That requires some explanation:
We arrived in LA. As I expected, LA was a pit, a vision of hell that I wish we had bypassed1. All of our plans fell through at the last minute; we were rescued at the last minute by Chris's mom, who happened to be in LA at the time. Lucky us.
In LA, we got an afternoon's worth of stuff done -- spread out over 4 days in the back seat of a car, in close quarters with someone suffering from the flu. Despite being as careful as we could be, one of us got the disease.
It took us two days after we left LA to find this out. As we rolled into Ludlow, CA, Chris started to feel bad. What I thought was probably slight dehydration or heatstroke (this is the middle of the desert, after all) turned out to be the flu. Ludlow is one of those depressing towns that exists only to serve the interstate, a little bulge on the arterial wall of I-40 which feeds the cars and humans who speed across the Mohave at 1.1 miles per minute. Two gas stations flank the freeway (you don't even need to cross that annoying overpass), and along with an overpriced motel, a Dairy Queen, a greasy spoon diner and a bunch of burned out abandoned building comprise the entirety of the town. Everyone at the cash registers seemed to be angry at each other. After photographing the wreckage of the breakup of 66 and finishing the last unread book we had with us, there was nothing left to do in the town except stare at the television and eat one of the 3 dishes at the diner that didn't have meat in it.
We finally got underway on the 4th. I think Chris could tell how impatient I was to get underway; I'm sure he was eager to get out of there as well. Unfortunately, he wasn't entirely over the flu. There's a big difference between feeling well in a air conditioned motel room and feel well enough to go biking 60 miles in the middle of a desert. I tried to take it slow, but every time I'd zone out I'd leave Chris way behind. Twice I got so far ahead I couldn't see him. By the time we got into Essex2 I was dead tired and Chris was worse.
Team Dada dissolved. Chris decided he didn't want to go through the desert if I was going to be a mile ahead all the time, and I don't blame him. It's too bad we had to find out I'm an inattentive ass in the desert.
This morning, Chris called for a ride to the nearest outpost of civilization. By the time he arranged for a cab ride to Palm Springs it was 7:30 am, and hour after the latest I should have left for the day's ride. And the day's ride was the toughest I'd had yet.
I had known about the gentle uphill that was ahead of me, but 700 feet over 20 miles was no sweat. With a mean-sprited headwind it was a different matter. I was averaging around 10 mph less than I had on similar terrain the day before. I took breaks, but by the summit I was not feeling well. It was already 11:30 and I had 30 miles to go.
The descent was almost as awful, as the temperatures had climbed well above 100 and the headwind had shifted to a gusting wind from the north. At one point I was pushed off the road by a particularly strong gust.
20 miles from Needles, my destination for the night, I felt a little nauseated. I took a break under a train overpass, and felt a little better after half an hour out of the sun. 10 miles from Needles I felt considerably worse and took a longer break under an overpass on I-40. Even though I wasn't feeling great, I didn't think 10 miles was that big of a deal and started down the hill to the town. As I rolled into the city limits my body seemed to shut down. I felt like I was about to throw up, so I dismounted on an overpass not 50 yards from a Carl's Jr. Everything in my body seemed to say that the best course of action was just to sit down and take a little nap in the sun, right by the side of the highway. While it may seem a cliché, I had to force myself into getting back on the bike and rolling just a little farther to the hotel. For the first time in my life I had to "will" mysef into doing something my body very sincerly didn't want to do.
A few hourse of AC restored my sense (if not my strength); I realized how bad it would've been to reach that stage where I gave up 10 or 20 or 40 miles from civilization. When Chris and I talked about this trip, priority number one was not to die. So, I've decided to scrap the remainder of the trip. If I had another person to watch my back and stop me from doing dumb stuff like riding through the Mohave with heat exhaustion3, I'd continue. But I don't, so 1500 miles will have to be enough.
1: This is not to say that nothing was good or that I hated everything I did there. I was glad to have met a lot of good people, and as with all experiences it was important for me to have seen LA, if only to be able to, in ink, cross it off the list of places I'd like to live.
2: Which turned out to be a ghost town, so we had to camp out in the sagebrush.
3: Or whatever I had...