Really. Big. Day

Using a title like that this far along on the ride should mean something special. And it does. We entered the 8th state of the 8 state ride Southern Tier. Sometime during the day’s ride, I passed the 3000 mile mark of a 3200 something mile ride. I was simultaneously riding thru a sandstorm and a rain shower. And I saw/recorded the largest cattle feedlot this lifetime cattle feeder has ever seen. To me, that qualifies for a really big day.

That Golden State Utopia doesn’t come cheap!

This part of the desert is bleakly sparse compared to that east of here that we have recently been through. The plants and flowers still offer some lovely counterpoint to that as they respond nearly overnight to recent rain.

Add some outlandishly bright blossoms, and even ten thousand thorns can look pretty.  🙂 

Most of today’s route was through the intensely cultivated Imperial Valley. It is an irrigated cornucopia of food. Along state road 78, our route, that food was about evenly divided between food for direct human consumption (onions, carrots, leaf crops (lettuce, cabbage, celery, kale), date palms, and nut crops. And feed for animals; primarily alfalfa, but also wheat, rye, and limited corn. The common denominator for all of it, of course, is irrigation water. I am still in a state of wonder about how it all gets distributed and how and what agency is tasked with making sure it gets where it’s supposed to be in the correct amount and how it’s all paid for. On a complete side note, I stopped to talk to a fisherman who was fishing in one of the side canals. He says he has good luck in all the canals coming off the Colorado river and catches the same species in the canals as he does when he goes to the river. I had some doubts until I saw a pair of cormorants perched along the same canal. No more questions.

I was totally intrigued by the large machines picking up the “tonner” hays bales in a huge alfalfa field. I spent my teen years working in hay fields around home for a dollar an hour picking up small 60-80 lb hay bales for cousins and neighbors and bringing them to the barns for storage. It was brutal, hot, work. These machines could do more tonnage in an hour than we did in a week. It was enthralling for me to watch.

I learned a new word today: erg; noun, refers to a sand dune field of known size. The “erg” that lay on the route is the Imperial Sand Dunes National Recreation Area. It’s size is 45 miles by 6 miles and it attracts “big boys and their sand toys” from miles and miles and miles!  I’ve been told a million times not to exaggerate, but I think there were thousands of RVs stored in several storage lots for the sand toy boys (and girls) to come live in on the weekends while they roar across the miles and miles of sand dunes. At one time in my (distant) past, I engaged in similar activity on my dirt bike in the Mojave Desert. The dunes are divided into “riding” and “non riding” areas, with the non riding being the large majority of the dunes. A good thing, in my estimation.

We ate lunch in STella in the definitely non-glamorous town of Glamis. We had watched the unexpected rain clouds forming to our west and south, but decided they weren’t going to be in our line of march. The winds had increased in intensity all during the morning, which was out of the norm. Of course, they were definitely head winds, which is the norm. Within 15 minutes of leaving Glamis, I was climbing the hills that made up the Dunes, and the wind had increased to the “howling” stage, with blowing sand and light rain mixed in. Cathy had gone ahead and was at the scenic overlook when the storm front came through. Visibility had deteriorated to the point where everyone was driving with headlights on, and I was in the lowest gear on the bike and making very wobbly headway. She wisely drove back to where I was struggling up the grade and picked me up to wait out the passage of the front.

That haze is blowing sand. Cathy was afraid of getting stuck in the sand piled at the side of the road.

Many people have wisely cautioned me to “be safe” out there. I really try to adhere to that advice. When I come to a a section of road that is very heavily traveled and has no shoulder to ride on at all, as in, the white stripe at the edge of the travel lane is actually painted on the GRAVEL at the road edge, it’s time for me to get off that road. Those conditions put 100 per cent of my safety in the vehicle driver’s hands. I’m not willing to accept those conditions. This situation happened today on a relatively short section of road after the Dunes. Cathy  is well aware of these limitation as well, and will call in to check with me about a pick up.

If there’s no room to get off the road, it’s no road to ride a bike on.

One of the best things about a “no schedule” ride, is that we can change plans on the fly, which we did to account for the road situation and the windstorm delay. I remounted the bike as soon as the roadway sprouted a shoulder (this very often occurs at the county line border). The dunes were behind, the hills were more down than up as we were headed to Brawley, which is about 100 feet BELOW sea level. This change didn’t leave Cathy much time to scout out a camping site. About 10 miles west of Brawley, I rode past the largest cattle feeding feedlot I had ever seen, and I’ve seen some big ones in Nebraska and Colorado. The cattle on feed were exclusively Holstein steers, which leads me to believe this one lot must collect the young animals from every dairy for hundreds of miles around. Based on the numbers of cattle in the other big lots I’ve seen, I’m estimating there were over one hundred thousand head in this lot. I’ve fed Holstein steers myself in my own lot at home for many years, and I know full well how much feed it takes to get one to the 1400-1500 lbs they need to be before harvest. The feeding center operation for this lot was gargantuan! I wish I had more time to explore a little here, but the day was waning and I had an hour to ride yet at the headwind-reduced speed of 10 mph.

There wasn’t much choice or variety for RV parks in Brawley, but Cathy smoozed her way into one at the edge of town that was sporting a “no vacancy” sign. She’s good like that  🙂

The wind is still abnormally active as we get ready to call it a night. At the end of a Really. Big. Day.





5 thoughts on “Really. Big. Day”

  1. Yahoo!!! What a BIG BIG BIG day! So happy you’re in California! Sounds like a crazy windy day with sand and rain. So happy you’ve got Cathy! You stranded out in a storm would be just horrible. That’s amazing you saw the largest cattle feed lot! Whoa! And you’ve been all around the world! Great pictures and great videos too! Thanks for another fabulous blog. Lots of prayers for you two! Ever nearer to the end of your route! Hugs and love!!!


    1. Have you ever wished you had done it west to east since you have experienced quite a few days of headwind? Doesn’t ragbrai always go eastward for a reason? Guess it is a done deal now unless you feel like trying it back to Florida to compare!!! Welcome to the land of fruits and nuts!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have no doubt that you could handle the mountains on day 2 and 3. You didn’t train for this fabulous adventure and look where you are now!!!!!! Keep pushing on:-)))))). Be careful out there.

    Liked by 1 person

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