The journey to Mecca… and beyond.

I learned a few things this weekend:
– I can outsprint german shephards with a tailwind
– I do want my toptube a tiny bit shorter for GDR
– Hamburgers make a great breakfast
– Order your sandwiches dry and take packets of condiments
– don’t forget to pack a spoon
– April is a bit late for backcountry Joshua Tree Riding
– April is the best time for backcountry flower sighting
– I did have room for more freckles
Another weekend for the books. I got in 9 hrs of riding Saturday and 9 more hours Sunday. Since my goal was 8 hrs of riding, but I wanted to get somewhere beautiful for the night, I took mostly roads to Joshua Tree. Starting out at 11am Saturday (with the goal to do a little night riding) I rode out our local trails then hopped on the highway down by Hurkey Creek. On my way down, I ran into about 50 mountain bikers on our local trails. I haven’t been on socaltrailriders.org recently, but I guess they had a gathering here that I’d missed.

Taking the highway out was fun and fast. I ran into Dave See and a friend coming back from an early morning ride of Palm Canyon. They told me that the sand down there was hellacious – just what I wanted to hear. As I got close to Palm Desert, the ocotillos were looking beautiful and the wind was crazy. I almost got blown off the highway.
I stopped at a Carl’s Jr. for my lunch. You should have seen the lady’s face when I pulled up on my bike, ordered two six dollar burgers (huge sloppy angus beef burgers) scarfed one down at a table in front of her and packaged the other one neatly into my wingnut for dinner. I also stopped off at a health food store and bought a few bars for the ride and a chicken salad sandwich for Sunday’s lunch.

Riding out hwy 111 was quite an experience. I rode through Indio, Coachella, Thermal and Mecca. Mecca is a tiny town on the Salton Sea mostly populated by agriculture workers. On my way through Thermal, I outran one squatty dog then two german shephards – at least I had a tailwind, cause the german shephards were feeling competetive. I think the cars driving past got a good laugh. I stopped at a convenience store/carniceria in Mecca, which had bars on all the windows. I took my bike inside with me, which the security guard didn’t really like (other note, I need to figure out a lightweight lock for GDR.)

Then I headed up box canyon. From the map, I knew it would be around 1500 feet of climbing, but I looked at the altimeter when in Mecca. I was surprised to see that this crazy little town that was on the edge of the salton sea, was 115 feet below sea level! That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. After stocking up with water, I began the long slow climb up Box Canyon towards Joshua tree. This was a beautiful route. Other than a couple sketchy characters off in the canyons and the dog chases I had on 111, I’d recommend it. 😉
I crossed over the interstate and the sun was setting. I considered stopping just outside the park (where quite a few snowbirds seem to live) but Brendan convinced me to head on into the park. I got in just after dark and decided to go to the cottonwood campground. It was close to the road and had trashcans and a bathroom – why not! I found an empty site, threw down my tent then crashed out. I wasn’t too hungry since I’d eaten so many bars and snacks on my way in as I was heading in a bit later than planned. As I was about to doze off, a car pulled up to my site and then a Japanese couple got out and started cooking dinner and visiting their tent that was a couple of bushes away. I hadn’t seen their dark blue tent in the dark and had thrown down in someone else’s site – oops! I decided to just crash out and I’d wake up if they were asking me to leave their site. I don’t think they ever noticed we were sharing a site since there were a few college kids in the site next to us that spilled over pretty close anyhow.

I woke at 515 with a goal of getting out of camp before the sun – practice for GDR. I pulled out a little before 6. Light enough to see, but still pretty chilly. I stopped just down Pinkham canyon (as my hands were freezing anyhow – good learning lesson that starting to ride that early is chilly!) I brewed up some coffee and had my 2nd huge hamburger for breakfast. I don’t think I’ve ever had a hamburger for breakfast, but this was just what the doctor ordered.
Then I went by the cottonwood visitor center and refilled with water before heading into the backcountry. The first 12 miles of Pinkham canyon were fun and beautiful. The ground is hard for a bit of that and hasn’t become a wash at that point. The desert was alive! Almost any color I could think of – I could find something blooming in that color.


It was all fun and games, until I got to the Thermal canyon turnoff. This loop created by the lower end of Pinkham and Thermal canyons had high motorcycle traffic. I actually saw 3 bikes turning onto Thermal as I approached it. The sand was so deep that I decided to continue down Pinkham (it’s downhill, no problem right?) I ended up walking half and riding half of the lower portion of Pinkham. I’ve never been so happy to get to that darn powerline road.

I decided to head east back towards Cottonwood Springs Road. Powerline road was a bit long in the hot sun – this is where I mostly picked up the new freckles. I saw lots more flowers, a burnt out old bus and a crazy old dumped JCPenney bike.

Finally, reaching cottonwood Springs road, I was ready for lunch. It was almost 1p and I sat down under a tree to eat my Chicken Salad Sandwich. Suprisingly, it was pretty good – I guess the longer you are out there, the lower your standard gets because I do remember the bread being pretty soggy. 🙂 At this point, I decided to let Brendan know where I was and that I was headed his way. He had originally planned to pick me up at J-tree, but the ride back through Box canyon sounded fun. It took me half the time to get down box canyon that it took me to get up it. At one point, I passed a car that was kinda hidden behind a bush unloading his trunk. I didn’t stop to ask questions and I was glad I was on a downhill.

Reaching Mecca, I stopped off at that quaint little carniceria, had a Pepsi and loaded up on water again. I called Brendan and asked him to meet me on 111. I knew it would be slow going as you could start to feel the winds just after coming out of Box canyon. Sure enough, pretty strong headwind. I wasn’t getting anywhere very fast. Saturday I had covered 100 miles, but today I’d only cover 60. With the sandy wash and the headwind up 111 – the odds weren’t in my favor.
I was super happy to see Brendan in Indio. He brought the Ghia so we had to disassemble my bike completely to fit it in (well, take off the handlebar, the seatpost, and the wheels.) Whoah, this thing needs a roofrack! Somehow we managed to put two bikes in it, between the back seat and the trunk – only Brendan’s two 29er wheels fit in the trunk! The good thing was that Brendan hooked up some tunes in the ghia, so we could drive back up in style.

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12 Comments Add yours

  1. Chad says:

    160 miles, nice job. Great pictures and write-up. Have you decided to pack a stove for the GDR or go stoveless?

    I look forward to reading about your GDR epic 🙂

    Like

  2. Maria Rose says:

    I seriously misread top tube and thought you wanted a shorter tube top. I was wondering how tube tops fit into your gear. Thankfully I had the sense to reread. Oh well, I had a picture of you riding bike with a short tube top. You have always marched to the beat of your own drum…

    Like

  3. sirenbicycles says:

    Carl’s Jr, with a health-food store chaser- I love it!

    Mecca: below sea level, right next to the Salton Sea?!

    It’s been way cool seeing you get this all together.

    Like

  4. Hilton Meyer says:

    Great balance there. Health bars with two burgers. well done on the riding. I wish I could spend that amount of time on my bike over the weekends. not too bad for a girl;)

    Like

  5. SSIDYLLWILD says:

    Great story and a good adventure.Don’t you love those barred up lil Mexi markets always lil treasures to be found in them.

    Like

  6. Chris says:

    I MISS CARL’S JUNIOR! That was totally my favorite restaurant when I was a kid — there was only one in Corona, but it was my landmark!

    Nothing refreshes like horchata from a MexiMarket!

    Like

  7. Cellarrat says:

    Nice work!

    Like

  8. Namrita O'Dea says:

    ok, you are a bad ass. i’m highly impressed!

    Like

  9. Namrita O'Dea says:

    ok, you are a bad ass. i’m highly impressed!

    Like

  10. Sarah K says:

    Way cool, Mary – you’re an animal.

    Like

  11. Dave says:

    Great ride! Tube tops can’t be short enough!!

    Like

  12. ojulius says:

    Oh wow, looks like you had some awesome riding!! Great scenery to take in while getting all those miles on the legs.

    I did the tube top double take too. 😉

    Like

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