Day Before #2 - Steve's Trip Report Index - Next Day #4

Day 3: Brawley, CA to Blythe, CA

82 miles (Biked 44 miles; Hitchiked 38 miles) - Broken Derailer Halts Ride In The Desert - February 3, 2008

Brawley, California


I was ready to ride as the sun broke above the horizon. Here is my one and only picture of Brawley - a shot of the Desert Motel's palm trees with some pink clouds behind. It was chilly before the sun was fully out but I was ready to go!

Traveling east outside Brawley, I was rewarded with this lovely view of the sun rising.

Imperial Sand Dunes

Imperial Sand Dunes

Imperial Sand Dunes

Imperial Sand Dunes

I reached the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. These dunes don't compare to Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, but the unique scenery was quite appreciated. Dirt bikers, ATV'ers and other trail riders spend a lot time recreating in this area, and while the terrain seemed quite remote and desolate, the sound of noisy dirt bikes was often within ear's distance. The clouds partially blocked the sun in the morning, which made it difficult coming up with decent photos.

Past Glamis, California, which only consists of a small cafe, convenience store and area for renting dirt bikes, ATV's, etc., there are no services of any kind until Palo Verde. Now this is what I called a true desert experience! At this point, I had about 40-45 miles to reach Blythe, California, and while my body was still adjusting to the demands of my cycling ambitions, I was riding well and making good time.

Chocolate Mountains Highway 78 turns north past the long, horizontal stretch of peaks known as the Chocolate Mountain Range. The Colorado River, which borders California and Arizona, is not far to the east.

Here is one road view of a mountain that looked impressive.

Chocolate Mountain Range Another prominent peak as I continued onward.

Like I said, everything was going great until ...

Broken Bike Derailer Snap! The derailer on my bike broke off the frame! This unfortunate event left me unable to pedal and with no means to fix the problem. I needed to find a bicycle shop to put a new derailer on my bike.

Just like that, my ride was over! :(

Adjacent photo: I held up the derailer, completely broken off the frame of the bike. It is this contraption that creates the necessary torque to turn the back wheel as one pedals.

Ocotillo So there I was on the side of the road, essentially stranded in the desert and needing to hitchike to Blythe. A reasonable amount of traffic cruised on the highway, with many of those RV's and desert recreationists,and so I wasn't worried about failing to get a ride.

Inspired by the beautiful desert views, I took some time wandering about. Across the highway was a field replete with leafy ocotillos. Adjacent was this tall and lush ocotillo.

Hitchhike To Blythe, California

My only photo of the two locals who gave me a 38-mile ride to Blythe. I thought about formally asking for a picture of them, but I did not want to impose.

Just minutes after I stuck my thumb out as I walked down the road with my bike, I was picked up by this couple in their pick-up truck. They were a couple living in Blythe, who were happy to give me a ride. I started to tell them all about my trip and how unfortunate my turn of events were, but soon I learned we had quite a language barrier. They hardly spoke any English, although it was clear from their smile and gestures they wanted to help.

I quietly sat in the back seat - very grateful for the ride but also pitying myself over the entire ordeal as my rescuers spoke Spanish with each other. I really wanted to express how appreciative I was for their generosity, and I trust it showed somehow in my demeanor to them.

Our my ride had a momentary stop at a border patrol check point only a mile or so up the road. My two new friends showed their resident alien cards, then the patrolman looked at me in the back seat.

"Uh, I don't have my ID on me. It's on my bike in the back of the truck." I nervously explained, "I was on a bike and I was stranded ..."

"Are you a U.S. Citizen?" he interupted. He seemed annoyed by my rambling.

"Oh yes, I am." With that assurance, he let us proceed. :p)

Troubling Things To Think About In The California Desert
California Desert

Photo Above: A view of the desert between Glamis, CA and Blythe, CA near where my ride ended.

As I arrived in Blythe, all sorts of menacing questions arose that evening:

  • Was I cheating by hitchiking to Blythe? Was I compromising the integrity of bike ride across America by obtaining help from a vehicle? Now granted, this stretch of Highway 78 in northeast Imperial County mainly travels north, meaning I didn't gain much horizontal distance toward the Atlantic Ocean, but it still bothered me. Maybe I would perform a bicycle "act of penance" later on to make up for the 38 miles I got out of riding. At the time of this writing, I might actually do something like this for fun later in the year. :)

    Soon after, friends by phone would convince me that I had no control over the situation and thus had no reason to be upset. The broken derailer was something I could not have anticipated, and it was not like I had pathetically quit because I was tired and wanted to get out of riding.

  • Is there a bike shop in Blythe or anywhere else nearby that could fix my bike? Road bikes have specific sizes and styles of derailers made specifically by their makers. They are often not interchangable from one bike brand to another. I had a broken derailer problem on this same bike last year, and only when I brought the bike to a Giant dealer was a derailer installed. So this was a risky play of percentages, on whether any bike shops in the vicinity (if any existed) could help me.

    By late afternoon that day, I was settled into my motel room and learned there were two options: A small bicycle shop operated inside a Kawasaki jet ski watercraft store in Blythe know as Fred's Kawasaki; Another cycle shop was 37 miles away in Parker, Arizona. Since it was late Sunday afternoon, I planned to arrive first thing in the morning to the shop in Blythe with hopes they could get me back on the road.

  • What are my options if I couldn't get a new derailer? I would spend much of Day 4 fretting and agonizing about the possibilities, and none of them were good. I didn't want to think much about them, at least for the remainder of the day.

    Meanwhile, I relaxed and watched the New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots 14-10 in the Super Bowl. I felt compelled to cheer for the underdog (the Giants, of course) and figured my attempt to cycle across America gave me underdog status in my own right. I took heart in that memorable and historic game as I huddled up in a Motel 6 room in the desert.


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