Day Seven, Gila Bend to Casa Grande, AZ

Today was 67 miles of relatively flat ground. We were blessed today as we timed the storms perfectly other than some light sprinkles pretty much staying dry. We were told by others that went before us and came in after us that they got caught in heavy rains. We were supposed to do 85 miles and stay in another campground tonight but the campground was flooded out so we stayed in a hotel and cut the day to a 67 mile day. Perfect. They had to double us up at the Hotel so we shared the room with Lee and Vickie another tandem bike couple. Lee had taught me how to clean our bikes the night before so it was great to share the room with them. Turns out the room had two bedrooms so we really only had to take turns in the bathroom. We spent the evening in the hotel laundry washing and drying all of our bedding and clothing. It was great to have everything clean and dry.

Coming in the last 5 miles the roads were flooded and cars and trucks were driving through them spraying water ten to fifteen feet in spots. We found an ally way about a half block away that paralleled the road so we were able to avoid the worst of it. That and then riding up on the sidewalk kept us relatively dry. The best thing I did to the bike to prepare for the trip was to have a front fender installed. It has paid huge dividends with all this wet riding.

Day Six, Dateland to Gila Bend, AZ

Rained all night in Dateland making the campground into a literal lake. Luckily as long as no cars drove through the lake that was the road in front of our tent washing muddy water into it we stayed semi dry except when we had to wade through it to get to the bathroom and breakfast. Once out of camp and on the road it was 70 miles of fairly uneventful highway. Good weather not hot, breaks at good times, a few stops along the way to refuel. All was good.

The event of the day was in the evening at Gila Bend. We stayed in a nice updated KOA campground that was Shangra La compared to Dateland. After an hour cleaning the bike of all the mud and grunge we went to dinner. After Dinner during our meeting Richard showed up. What a welcome sight to see my favorite oldest brother. He asked what we needed so we gave him a list, mostly bike cleaning supplies, and he stayed and mingled with the folks we were riding with. It was great to see Richard as it always is.

The real event of this day was the night. We were in tents and the weather got intense. Thunder and lightning with heavy rain all night. We laughed at our predicament and held each other tight all night. I got up about 2 AM because I couldn’t hold it any longer if you know what I mean, there was a river running through our camp about 6 inches deep and fifteen feet wide two tents away that I had to wade through to get to the clubhouse bathroom. Some of the tents were moved and those people finished the night in the clubhouse. The water got about an inch high around our tent which had everything touching the floor wet. Storm was gone by morning thank goodness.

Day Five, Yuma to Dateland, AZ

Yuma to Dateland. Started in the rain but the day cleared up after a while so not too bad. Weaving through farm land with some muddy flooded roads and then onto the I-8 freeway most of the day. Bumpy roads today too. Had lunch at a roadside burger joint that was the highlight of the day. Other than that a lot of farm land and desert. Dateland’s big thing is a Date Shake at the one convenience store truck stop. They also had a cactus shake so we had both. They were both good mainly because we were starving. The cactus was close to a weak cherry flavor and the Date shake was like a weak chocolate flavor. Maybe because one was pink and the other brown. On to Gila Bend tomorrow.

Day Four, Calexico to Yuma, AZ

Today absolutely sucked so bad it was awesome to just complete it. Long sustained up hill and rain rain rain. Then it kept raining. Did I mention it rained? Decent shoulder on the roads except in spots that were scary. Big trucks, rain and no shoulder to ride on was part of the rough day. You are probably thinking no shoulder to cry on. Quit whining and ride. We had no choice so we peddled on. Rain gear held up and didn’t keep us dry (nothing would) but the combination of peddling and the rain gear we were reasonably warm. That made it tolerable. After 4 plus hours of rain it seemed to let up. Sun came out, clouds broke up so now we were hot and sagged the rain gear at the sag station meaning they took it only to be seen that night at camp or in this case an armory. We had lunch at a place some guy declared the Center of the World and put up a huge monument the size of a football field to declare such. I guess if you live in the middle of nowhere a positive way to deal with that is to declare it the Center of the World. Same thing, different spin. The roads today were super rough as the asphalt gets hot and expands and contracts over time cracking up into honeycombs then all the cracks expand upward making the roads extremely bumpy. Since we were on shoulders and less traveled roads where maintenance wasn’t a priority we got shook up pretty bad for a good part of the day. Luckily that wasn’t during the rainy part of the day. We were good for a couple hours then the clouds regathered and dumped hard rain. Even though it was mid to late afternoon it got dark because the clouds got serious. Since they don’t get big rain storms that often in Arizona they don’t really prepare that well so the roads began flooding. It’s also an agricultural mecca so there are constant big trucks driving in and out of the fields harvesting and doing all they do. This turned the roads into muddy messes forcing us to mingle with the cars and trucks in the dark. We got splashed so much we quit feeling it. I remember seeing a truck just flood splash the cyclists in front of us saying to Becky that sucked while we both realized we were getting it just as bad. As the day went on we were cold without proper gear and still not close to our destination. We stopped to look at our soggy unreadable map to figure out were we were and needed to go. Did I mention it was pouring rain. Just then Rick Ski from our group came up. He said he knew the way so we got behind him and followed him threw the dark, super busy traffic, muddy, flooding road to the Armory. We were so happy to see that Armory. We thanked Rick Ski the rest of the trip as our hero of that day. We were on the right track but it was awesome to not be alone through all that crap with people honking at us and the cars that were veering into oncoming traffic avoiding us and have the confidence of a steady rider in front of us to get there together. I will always be grateful to Rick Ski.

Day Three, Jacumba to Calexico, CA

Day three began leaving Jacumba, CA. The fun thing about Jacumba was the giant community hot tub we got to sit in after riding all day. Great people and conversation. Jacumba is a virtual ghost town on the border of Mexico with two open businesses. A convenience store and a Hot springs hotel where we stayed. It was nice and with our sore muscles it was a wonderful thing to enjoy. After the hot tub it was a shower, dinner, prep for the next day and then to bed. We did squeeze in a walk of the town that consisted of two blocks on shut down buildings so it didn’t take long.

The ride today was a climb of 1,100 feet then a huge downhill on the freeway I-8 where we reached 39 MPH blowing past everyone. Lots of fun after being passed by most on the climbing portions of the trip. The bike is solid and stable working well. With close to 340 combined pounds on the bike we are one of the slower riders on the up hill. Hold our own on the level and blow past everyone on the downhills keeping us about average overall. Its nice to have a group all wearing the same safety vests so we can see those ahead to know where we are going. They do a nice job of marking the roads but there were a lot of turns through San Diego that it was really nice to be in the pack.

It was interesting riding along the border of the country. Seeing the fence and the Border patrol. They are very active in watching out with trucks, Suv’s and some even on horseback. They drag tires through the washes to smooth out the sand each day so they can watch and follow fresh footprints. — Steve

Calexico, CA was our first Indoor stay of our trip. We all stayed in the auditorium in our air mattresses. It worked out well. The students hosted dinner and breakfast as a way to raise money for their school. Many of the students live in Mexico and walk across to Calexico each day. Their stories were inspiring of hard work, dreams and ambitions. We walked the streets before dinner and found a cute little restaurant to eat. That evening after dinner we heard from one of their teachers and the principal.

This was hanging in their school – it reads: I want every girl to know that her voice can change the world. Malala Your power is your radical self.

Today we cycled 51 miles. Making our total so far — 136 miles! Although we’ve cycled more miles in a row … three days is the longest we have ridden back to back days! We are so grateful for this experience.