Was it 4:30, 4:45 I couldn't remember what time I set my alarm for it felt like I had been waiting for it all night. I stirred then laid there for a moment and thought, "400 miles, argh" then headed towards the bathroom. The cabin was cozy but I could tell that wasn't the case outside so a warm shower set things off right and the preparations began. As I begin to wake and think about the coffee and scone I would soon have I looked over at my bike. We had become good friends, I had the notion that a steel fully rigid bike with 3" tires was the way to go for my first 400 mile bike-pack trip, so I spent a lot of time riding it to prove myself right. Every time I picked it up it seemed really heavy, I had convinced myself that it was normal but cringed every time someone went to handle it for fear they would call me out and say "That things a pig your never gonna make it!" or something to the sort. There it sat waiting to be brought to life by the energy stored in my legs or so I hoped.
I set out towards the intended start spot early enough to get coffee before the intended start time. I made just in time to find out the coffee shop would not be open before our grand departure, oh well, this pattern would repeat itself. A quick adjustment and the intended hot caffeinated liquids were found and all was right. What was I doing? Oh yeah 400 mile ride with 70 other like minded individuals. Still sounded like fun. Small talk was prevalent then a hush as Grand Master Brendan explained the rules. Follow the course, self supported, you're on your own, don't call us, high fives and smiles when you get back and maybe beer. Then we were off somewhere around the intended time headed in the intended the direction.
The banter out of town was nice I knew before long it would cease and all men would be on their own. The air was cool and crisp as we zipped through the mountains, I relished in it's sting as we headed out of Idyllwild towards what we all knew was gonna be a HOT day in the desert. The news had reported all week that their would be record temps around the county and especially in the desert. Hell awaited with open arms and intoxicating views ready to pounce on the unwary traveler with fits of body cramps and nausea.
So we went, I was in good spirits as we entered Coyote Canyon the first of the desert sections. The bike handled well in the sand and I was having fun, friendly rivalry ensued on the washes out of the canyon and candles were burned too early.
I made it to Borrego Springs in not too bad of shape but the heat was present and it was climbing in centigrade by the minute. I had told myself I was too "try and eat healthy, don't load up on crap". I had done well up to this point and was convinced I could make a go of it. Unfortunately or not so unfortunately depending on whom you ask tacos was the easiest thing in town. So tacos it was followed by horchata and a red bull. Fueled??? and hydrated I set off towards the second desert section Fish Creek.
The wind and heat on the road to Fish Creek started to do its damage on me and my pace slowed, I caught up with some over riders along the road all had the same look. IT WAS HOT!! So hot that one rider was overcome by it and the desert heaves set in, I felt bad for him and quickly assessed my odds. They were still good I had plenty of energy despite the repressive heat.
I saw a purple lights dance on the hill interrupted with some intermittent green ones in another area, I was close or about to be abducted by aliens, either one was preferable to my recent condition. My condition on the approach was not good, muscles fired randomly in my legs and I was on the verge of seizing up. I had gone to hard in the heat and I was about to pay the fee. I stumbled into Mecca noticed some familiar faces, gave a random high five, walked in the store, couldn't comprehend what I was doing, walked back out of the store and over to a picnic table were I gingerly tried to stretch out and rest. Cramps ensued and I tried to mute my pain from the others around. Riders came and went some stayed, some dropped out, electric dance music played in the distance and yes purple lasers caressed the plateaus of the surrounding desert hillsides. It was surreal and calming, I gained enough energy to try and find supplies for the next day. I at least needed water, the store would not be open early enough to re-supply before departure. It was still my plan to depart in the morning despite what my body was telling me. The night was nice, warm and occasionally interrupted by cramps.
I awoke early with sore legs but no more cramping. Ran into Brendan again on the way out of the head and commented on his dapper PJ's, he had obviously had a better night than I. He was also on the same flight plan so I decided to hook up with him and some others. I needed help to get me through day two. Alpine was the goal but over 7,000 feet of mountainous terrain stood in the way. It would be a pivotal point in my ride.