Day 1: San Diego, CA to Blythe, CA

Friday 9/9

After almost a year of preparing for the TAT, we finally left San Diego at 2:00 pm. We had hoped to get out a little earlier, but the massive blackout in the SD-Mexico-Arizona area the day before postponed the final tasks to departure day. The crew right before departure:

We figured that since we had half a day, getting to Blythe would be a good stopping point. We wouldn’t do dirt on the first day, but we’d compromise by staying on as many backroads as possible. San Diego had just wrapped up a heatwave and the weather was perfect when we left. I don’t why, but I was deluded into thinking that just because the heatwave broke in San Diego, the desert region must’ve also benefitted somehow. I’m an idiot.

As we made our way past Ocotillo Wells, the heat was painful. I reached my hand around through the side window I had cut into the backpack and poked Simon. He moved, which meant he was still alive. At least the trip was not off to a tragic start!

We stopped at Salton Sea to get gas (does that area ever not smell like spoiled clam chowder?). This should convey how I felt.

This stretch was through Box Canyon. See those clouds in the distance? They become more meaningful shortly.

When we finally hit the 10, we had about another 50 miles of freeway before getting to Blythe. No big deal — the DRZs were running great and we had worked out my nasty front-end weave so going over 70 was tolerable.

Much to my dismay, as the sun went away, it was getting hotter. Yes, it was because we were going deeper into the desert, but c’mon, shouldn’t trading the sun for the moon buy you a little love on the thermometer? And what’s up with those clouds spreading all over?

Making our way east, we could see lightning flashing in the distance. As we neared Blythe, we were hit by strong wind gusts that moved us all over the lane. At times visibility would drop dramatically. It didn’t help that although the sun had set, I still had my sunglasses on — when you’re slabbing and trying to make time it’s hard to pull over for any reason, even mild blindness. It looked like we were passing through patches of dense fog, but it turned out to be sand. I felt like I was one wind gust away from getting mowed over by a semi, so I tore past Wayne and took the next available exit, forcing him to follow. Fortunately, it happened to be the first Blythe exit so we made our way to the campground via surface streets. It never did rain on us, but the winds were plenty disagreeable to make up for that.

Little did I know my night was only beginning. We got the tent set up, took our showers, cooked dinner, and hit the sack. Wayne was passed out in about two minutes while Simon took an additional one minute. I was tired but the stifling heat of the tent was driving me insane. The wind that was kicking us all over the road only an hour before was now completely gone. I got out of the tent and wandered around. I tried taking photos of clouds lit by the moon and amassed an impressive catalog of fuzzy night photos.

I tried a second round inside the tent and managed to drift off for a few minutes before waking up startled by the sensation of being suffocated. I jumped out of the tent, taking my mat with me so I could try sleeping anywhere except inside the slow cooker. I put my mat on the picnic table and closed my eyes for a while. Sleep still wasn’t possible but at least I could feel the occasional refreshing breeze.

Normally I despise noisy people at campgrounds, but there was something comforting about the people over in the RV section who continued to hoot and holler and clink bottles all night long (we were the only tent campers and had our side of the park all to ourselves). Staring at the night sky from a picnic table at 3:00 am is a lot less lonely when there’s a party, even if only your ears are in attendance.

I eventually slept an hour or two. I was never so glad to have morning come so I could leave somewhere. I could only hope that the next sleeping arrangement would be more agreeable than this:

————

Day 1 overview: 246 miles

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