From the Valley Prairies to the Last of the Mountains


The RV parks we have stayed in over these last 70 plus days have run the gamut from super to close-to-awful. Palm Lane, last night’s abode, was in the running for the bottom end. When I rode my bike over to the shower house and walked inside, two guys followed me in and chastised me for not bringing the bike in with me. “It will either be gone or stripped by the time your shower is over”. So I brought it in the shower house and locked the door. Not the kind of message to give you great comfort during the night. All of STella’s parts were still on in the morning, so all’s well that ends well.

The wind had continued strong all through the night in below-sea-level Brawley, which is highly unusual in this desert climate. We thought we’d give it a little more time to abate while we went to a nearby Starbucks and got the pictures/videos embedded in the blog post I had written up last night. That is the part of the blogging process that takes loads of band width, so we need to be in a really “hot” hotspot to make that work. As it turned out, this Starbucks was located in a Von’s Supermarket and its wifi was only semi-hot, which means the job gets done, but not very fast. Even with that extended time, when we went out to the parking lot to prep the bike for the day’s ride, the wind was still very blustery from the west. Cathy did some grocery shopping, and decided that Von’s is the highest-priced grocery store this side of Florida.

As mentioned in yesterday’s blog, this entire Imperial Valley is a food producing power house. I know we are back home in Iowa, too, but the scale is overpowering here. I rode by several “mystery crops” early in the ride, and promised myself to check them out on line when I finished riding for the day. The biggest surprise was finding that “fennel” is apparently in demand somewhere in the world as I saw what had to be 300 acres of it growing. The closest thing we have to it at home is a weed; dog fennel, and that is what these dense looking fields smelled like as I rode by down wind from them. And it’s not even a pleasant odor!

If this was growing around home, we’d probably try to keep it mowed!  🙂

An aspect of irrigation that I hadn’t been aware of has been hinted at by many of the canals I have crossed that are labeled “drains”. That didn’t make sense to me until I did a little more investigative exploring. To demonstrate that everything really is based on “balance”, I discovered these underground tile drains similar to what we use so commonly on the fields of the Midwest. Whereas we use them to drain the excessive moisture in the subsoil, they are used here to signify to the farmers that the fields above are “filled to capacity” and any additional irrigation water will simply “drain” to these channels to be returned to the “fill” canals.

Use and “re-use” the most precious commodity in Imperial Valley.

About 10 miles south of Brawley, a huge sprawling obviously abandoned complex was securely fenced in for a mile or two along my route. When I finally got to what had been the “Main Gate”, the mystery of what it had been was solved.

I’ll bet that the rise and fall of this idea would read like a novel! Just one more thing to look into when Google is available. I could still see one part of the unanswered puzzle several miles to the west as all the essential infrastructure for another humongous cattle feedlot stood out from the laser flat fields. The feedlot is still operating, so those tons and tons of cattle manure are finding somewhere else to go other than a poop-fired generating station.

The road south toward El Centro was smooth, flat and practically traffic-free, as a brand new road with the same number identification had been recently constructed parralel to it. I surmised that the farmer owners of the land that had been condemned for the road building were hating it, as all the canals for their crops had to be rebuilt and relocated as well. There was a huge amount of traffic on the new road, so I was glad I wasn’t dealing with that.

As soon as I turned the right hand corner and headed west, I knew that my goal for the day for riding was going to be cut short. Even on the flat land of the valley floor, 10 mph was going to be operational speed, and that was going to take a constant effort.

The dominant crop on this stretch of road was alfalfa hay. I thought I had seen a lot of it yesterday, but this output of high protein legume was beyond my comprehension. It looks to me as there is enough baled hay on hand NOW to last for decades! And this was just one of multiple storage sites just as imposing.




At the very east edge of the Coyote Mountains along the San Diego County line is the unlikely named “town” of Plaster City. It is basically one huge manufacturing facility that turns gypsum into what we all now call “wall board”. In the beginning, USG, United States Gypsum Corp, just mined and processed the mineral to be used to make, yes, plaster. Times change and all else with it, and now this 24 hours a day plant turns out wallboard of all sizes and shapes at a staggering rate. I’m sure the piles of it in our Iowa City Menard’s store came from right here.

Those thousands of 80,000 lb loads of gypsum ore, plaster, and wallboard have beaten the old highway 80 that runs directly through the plant to smithereens. The road was, in short, the roughest and most beat up 10 miles I’ve ridden on in 3000 miles of riding. The irony is, it is only a mile or so from the plant straight south to Interstate 8, but there is no exit intersection there, so the beating goes on. The Adventure Cycling Maps warned of these conditions, but the road is even worse now than it was when these maps were reprinted 2 years ago. My bike water bottles bounced clear out of their holsters twice before the road finally joined I-8 and the road was relieved of its plaster-past burden.

Wind turbines and solar panels dominated the landscape as I got closer to those last mountains before our goal of San Diego. The wind turbines were clustered at the mouth of the canyon that I-8 disappears into and they numbered at least in the hundreds. They could also be seen on the skyline at the top of the first row of mountains. California is keen on wanting to be “green”, so the solar panel farms were immense and had multiple substations funneling that clean power into the huge ultra high voltage lines that also snaked up the canyon carrying power to the cities on the coast.




My bike route was I-8 as it made its way into the labyrinth of canyons that would eventually lead over the Coyotes and down the other side into San Diego. The wind warnings for high profile vehicles applied equally to STella and made Cathy more uncomfortable than either she or I liked with her driving alone. We rode together the 10 mile stretch to the point where old 80 became the route again. Everybody now safe and happy, so all’s well. Old 80 has the advantage of being more protected from the wind, and less busy, but “balances” that with being steeper and having more tight curves, all of which we’ve seen and done many times before on this little trip.

“Piles of boulders”, seems like a better description than “mountains”.

The almost-not-a-town of Boulevard is home for tonight, and we could tell as soon as we had both arrived that the elevation is going to make for a very chilly night. The weather page on our phones confirms that and we’re expecting a brisk 33 degrees in the morning. Air conditioning last night, furnace tonight. That’s the way it goes on the Southern Tier.

So close now that we can see the ocean spawned clouds on the horizon at sunset!

Thanks for coming along all this wonderful way.

6 thoughts on “From the Valley Prairies to the Last of the Mountains”

  1. Great blog! Great pictures too! Ever nearer to your end destination! Safe travels cousin! Love being on this ride with you! Amazing! Hugs and lotsa love!

    Liked by 1 person

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