We rolled, slowly out of Agua Caliente in the cool morning air of the desert, it was refreshing. As the body slowly started to wake I begin to feel the aches and pangs of the previous nights fits. I adjusted in the saddle continuously as we snaked our way down the desert highway towards the first real climbing of the trip. Down to the Butterfield Ranch for some coffee, maybe breakfast, again sounded good, again we got their too early. I grudgingly followed on towards Oriflame Canyon, I had never had the privileged of meeting the canyon before so I really didn't know what was in store. I started to follow Brendan up the canyon, it wasn't so bad, legs felt ok, continued climbing things were getting pretty technical now. Switched down to my bail out gear and continued on and on and on and on. The heat slowly crept back and soon I was walking, pushing, sweating and cursing again. This sucked my mind kept shouting at me, but the body kept on, it was going to be a long day.
The battle between mind and body ensued. We broke out of the canyon and hid in the bushes for shade. At this point my food consisted of granola, dried fruit, some trail butter, gu's and some random cinnamon bears. I would save those as rewards. Besides the gummy bears nothing really seemed that appealing. I was depleted and forced myself to eat. Off to the next hill, all I could really do at this point was to follow someones wheel and I desperately hung on. The mind truly checked out, it looked for escape strategies, and saw demons behind every false summit. At one point those demons conspired to pull me off the trail and have their way with me. They reached out at me with long thin branch like fingers, grabbed my front tire, yanked on my bars flashed bright lights in my eyes. Where the hell was I, the body was now on full auto pilot while the mind watched for demons, good places to bail out and was fascinated by the occasional wild flower.
I got really quiet, I thanked the people around me for their effort and strength. I found energy in their perseverance. The hills started to blend and the mind continued to wander. I looked back over my shoulder down towards the desert and could see the vast distance we had traveled, I found energy in that. After what seemed like days we came to the Oakzanita camp ground to refuel with snacks and water. Much to my surprise the owners were watching us all on the computer via Spot Tracker and had prepared soup for the riders coming thru. BONUS, that soup was the best ever soup I ever had in my life ever. I had both the chicken with matza balls and the beef. Nothing better to get you motivated than salty, fatty soup with chunks of meat in it. I was a new man, well almost, there was still plenty of work to be done. Alpine = bed, food, beer and it was just over the ridge.
Food changed everything and my mind slowly started to reengage. The last miles into Alpine flew by as I anticipated the icy cold beer and much needed rest. I stayed at Alpine Apartments/Hotel a funky situation were you call a guy, give your cc and he texts you back with a code to room. I was tired, it worked and the bonus was Alpine Brewery was LITERALLY a stone throw away. We regrouped in the arms of the brewery and we ate and we drank and life was good. I headed back to the room with a little buzz only to find a stick lodged in my back tire. Upon removal a torrent of Stans erupted from the tire. Late night repair while buzzed, fun! Eventually I slept.
The next morning I felt great hopped on the steel stead and set out to meet up with my riding partners. Their hotel apparently had breakfast, today we would finally cash that check. Sausage gravy never tasted so good. We again rolled out in the cool morning air. It was great and I was able to actually enjoy the ride.
|View down to the Ocean.|
The ride down towards the ocean was great, all the trails we came across were new to me and I embraced the sights and sounds. Sloan Canyon, Sweetwater, Bonita all fun. The hills were full of wild flowers and magnificent. Most of the focus was on calorie replacement, every chance we got we ate, a sandwich here, pizza slices there, cokes, candy and so it went.
As we popped out of the trail systems and onto road we begin to open it up and put miles down. A one point as we were turning towards the Silver Strand we found ourselves in the midst of a sea of fixie hipsters out for a Sunday ride. They rode with us awhile asking the various questions one would ask someone on a 400 mile ride then they were gone. The Surly was a big hit with them. The ocean air hit our senses full on as we rode towards the ferry. We were almost there when crossing the street my front tire let out a hiss followed by Stans that would again not be able to seal the puncture. I had no more 29x3" tubes as I had used the spare the night before. I'll admit I had a little panic attack until someone on the sidewalk said "There's a bike shop right there." there was Hollands Bike Shop, but before I had a chance to go in Brendan produces a tube of super glue and goes to work. It held enough to enable the Stans to do it's magic. After a quick air up I quickly bought a regular 29er as a back up just in case. From this point on I would worry about my tires.
We were finally on the ferry and on our way into downtown San Diego. The ferry was hot and stuffy but an interesting addition to the route. Working our way back up the coast the game plan was to push on until we saw fit not to and that was about the size of it. Various groups of people that had been stalking I mean watching us on Spot Tracker came out and joined our caravan as we turned from the coast to start our return ascent back to Idy. While I appreciated the company it kinda freaked me out a bit. Sure they were friends, but after almost 3 days on the trail I almost didn't want the interaction. My mind became incapable of holding or relating any meaning of the conversation that was going on around me. It was explained to me later that it was a symptom of what was termed "Trail Brain".
Darkness set in as we made our way back onto the trails. It was decided that a beer stop was in order, upon finding a location to drink said beer we would determine a sleeping spot for the night. Turned out the drinking spot would be our sleeping spot. We set up camp under a nice moonlit night and I fell asleep looking into the vortex of infinite stars.