- Posted by Jan
- On February 15, 2017
- 14 Comments
The First Week
I was turned around almost immediately trying to leave the city limits of San Diego. The road my map had instructed me to cross was flooded by the San Diego river. As I stood in front of the street, now rushing with river water, two men of the streets happened upon me. Being both friendly and knowledgeable, they helped me create a detour and I was on my way again. After getting outside the city limits, the climbs were immediate and steep. I had looked at the elevation charts on my map and was mentally prepared for the first couple days of riding to be physically grueling. All I can compare it to is knowing that you’re going to get punched in the stomach; it still doesn’t change the fact that you’re going to get punched in the stomach. After several hours of riding I reached Alpine, California. I found a local doughnut shop and motel (in that order) and after consuming all 12 of the dozen doughnuts I had bought, I collapsed in exhaustion.
I awoke to sunny skies and temperatures in the low sixties. The locals here were complaining about what a chilly day it was. The ride began with climbs that rivaled even those of the day before, but in terms of directions, the route was more straightforward. I was able to listen to music and not worry about getting lost. It wasn’t long before I reached my final destination for the day: Pine Valley, California. On my way into town I stopped at the Trynn Gallery and met an amazing person by the name of Teresa Walker. For more on her story, see below. With no legal or safe place to camp I had called ahead to the only motel and lodging that exists in Pine Valley. The concierge advised me against making a reservation, because if I decided to camp or stay somewhere else, my deposit would be non-refundable. “We always have rooms available,” he cheerfully told me over the phone. Upon my arrival he regretfully informed me that the only room left was a dining room. Just thankful for a place to sleep, I accepted the room along with the over priced rate and filled my lungs with second hand smoke. I got dinner in one of the only restaurants in town where I witnessed a cowboy dancing to Alicia Keys. This made me question everything I thought I knew about cowboys. I returned to my motel room deep in thought and enjoyed a fitful sleep.
Not much to report today. I took a rest day in Jacumba and basically just sat around in the hot springs. I vacated the springs at nightfall, as I was warned by a local that an old hippy nudist colony occasionally takes over the springs during evening.
Feeling rested and refreshed after my day off. I began the 60 mile trek from Jacumba to Brawley, California. I made good time with the wind at my back and enjoyed a descent down the mountains I had been climbing in previous days. I saw the United States and Mexican border for the first time today and rode through El Centro, where the vast majority of American Agriculture is produced. I ate dinner at a Southern fast food chain called Jack in the Box. Big Fan!
Today I severely underestimated the California desert. Still feeling good, I thought I would be able to cross the 70 miles of uninhabited sand and rock that separate Brawley from Blythe, California, in one day. I was wrong! From the moment the ride began, I faced relentless headwinds which at their peak were over 25mph. My average speed was reduced to as little as 4 or 5mph, and I crawled across the desert at a snail’s pace. To make matters worse the strong winds aided by the passing cars continually pelted me with an endless supply of sand. After a full day of riding I had covered less than half the distance I had set out to achieve. I passed a border patrol station, where they replenished my low water rations, and pressed on. With nightfall quickly approaching I was still about 30 miles from my intended destination. I pulled off the road and made camp for the night behind a hill.
I awoke just after midnight in a restless sleep, thinking in my semi-conscious state that someone was outside my tent. I went outside and saw something far better than an intruder. In the middle of nowhere, miles from any sources of light pollution the night sky, was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed: the North star shone so large and bright I at first mistook it for the moon. After some focus, I saw the quick flashes of shooting stars and the more consistent movement of Satellites. All of this was surrounded by the other stars and constellations in a brilliant tapestry of light. Although the sharp rocks on which I slept hadn’t allowed for very much rest, my night stranded in the desert had been more than worth it. I awoke later with the sunrise and finished the remainder of my trek to Blythe.
Meet Teresa. She grew up in the foothills of Guatay, California, and has lived there continuously since 1959, making her the town’s longest resident. Teresa is both a self-taught artist and musician. Her primary artistic medium is painting, and she skillfully plays the guitar, piano, banjo, organ, and didgeridoo. Another one of Teresa’s many talents includes accurately predicting the outcomes of presidential elections. “I have been right ever since Carter,” she told me.
Teresa works as a craftswoman at the Trynn Gallery, where she assists in the process of creating artisanal wooden utensils. Trynn is an old English word meaning, “tools from the tree.” Some of Trynn’s woodshop creations have made their way into the Smithsonian institute, as well as gourmet kitchens and art shows across the country. The entire Trynn gallery and woodshop is heated by a 150 year old wood burning stove.
Teresa informed me that the town of Guatay is built on Native American Lands, and on the front side of Guatay mountain was the Native’s burial grounds. Forest fires are common to the area, and in times when the forests were set ablaze, the Native Americans would take refuge at this sacred site. In all of recorded history, the front half of Guatay mountain has never burned. Some in the area believe it is thanks to the spirit of a deceased Kumeyaay Indian chief who watches over that mountain, protecting it from forest fires to this very day. Those who are skeptical of this theory cite the unique soil content of the front half of the mountain as being possibly flame resistant, and believe this to be a more plausible explanation.
Teresa, like many people of the area, is soft spoken and wise. She strongly believes that we as humans exist to love and do good to one another, and has dedicated her life to following the calling of her own heart.
Meet one of Jacumba Hot Springs’ 600 full-time residents, John King. For 18 years now, John has worked with his partner Chance Rose, creating and selling wood sculptures right outside the Historic Grey’s Motel.
John’s first daughter’s premature birth served as the catalyst for him taking to wood sculpture. He was a single father at the time, and needed a way to not only earn a living, but be home full-time to care for the needs of his newborn child.
The grandfather of John’s first daughter taught him wood sculpture and he hasn’t looked back since. He has already begun to pass the craft onto the next generation by teaching his eldest daughter, now 15 years old.
John is passionate about his trade and occupation to a degree that many of us probably wish we felt towards our own career choices. Not only does he love his art and the freedom it gives him to create, but he cherishes the time it allows him to spend with his family.