There is epic, and then there is truly epic. What we as a team have encountered today during both the ride and the return to the hotel will set new standards for this over-used word. To begin with, as the van began to approach the El Cajon pass, it was impossible to ignore the menacing storm that was embracing the summit.
When we neared the top, the temperatures dropped dramatically and the modest winds increased to gale force. As we gained elevation , the clouds settled to the ground forming a rapid moving fog with near zero visibility. The van was forced to a near crawl and when it appeared things couldn't get much worse, the rain began to fall in horizontal sheets.
Everyone in the van was mumbling curses and exclamations under their breath as we collectively imagined riding in these horrific conditions. It is amazing how dumb a group of men can be when faced with this kind of challenge. No one wants to appear to be chicken. While we didn't take the smart course (stay in the van), we at least decided to shorten the first day's ride by starting a bit further north in San Diego. So it was with a show of great courage that we pulled off the highway and changed into clothing that whi,le appearing warm, wasn't really designed for driving rain and near freezing conditions.
Within just a few miles, I couldn't feel my hands , feet, or face, and with the driving rain, it was almost impossible to keep your eyes open wide enough to see the road (you also couldn't wear sun glasses). To further contribute to the joy, the water on the wheel braking surfaces functioned like a high quality lubricant. The net result is that the brakes have virtually no affect on your speed going downhill. During the long descents in those first few miles, I had visions of reaching warp speed before failing to negotiate a turn (hitting a tree at that speed would add new meaning to the term, "becoming one with nature").
It was something of a stress reliever when Lawrence got his first flat tire at mile 10. When he got his second flat tire 100 feet further, he was only moderately composed. He really lost it when his third flat occurred after 50 feet, and I don't think anyone wants to recall his language following his fourth.
While Lawrence struggled to deal with his tire issues, the rest of the team was complaining of hypothermia and so we set off with the expectation that Lawrence would eventually catch up. With each successive mile, the weather conditions deteriorated further and before long we had separated into three groups; Lawrence in the van (working on his four letter word vocabulary), Jim and Jason hanging back to ride just in front of the van, and Adam and I riding quickly in a vain attempt to stay warm. Suddenly Adam stopped his bike and informed me that his toes were now frostbitten.
Fortunately, we were within 1000 yards of the Indian casino that represents the El Cajon high point and I directed Adam to the facility to thaw. When the rest of the team gathered there, we wisely agreed to end the day having only ridden 23 miles. This means that we will need to ride more than 140 miles for each of the next three days. We are praying for better weather tomorrow and the strength to stand this test.
So we packed up the van at the Casino after making sure than none of Adams toes had fallen off, and headed to the Robert E. Lee Hotel in Yuma for some rest and relaxation. What we encountered at the Hotel were some rather significant surprises beyond anything thing the haunted stories prepared us for;
1) As we approached our rooms on the second floor, there was a communal bathroom with the door wide open and someone taking a shower in plain view
2) Some skid row type people were roaming the hallways and obviously either drunk or on drugs
3) Amy and Adam discovered that their bedspread was saturated with dried blood that extended all the way through to the mattress. There was also blood on the wall.
4) The Police were wandering the hallways looking for someone they wanted for questioning
5) Amy also discovered that her bathroom contained a peephole that originated in the room next store that was occupied by a long time male resident.
6) A woman came out her room into the hallway half naked (and none too pretty).
As a team, we made an immediate decision to run for the hills. In record time we'd booked a new hotel, packed the van, and said our goodbyes to the bizarre residents and hotel owner. Now we're sitting in luxury (blood and drug free) at the new Windham. And to cap it off, each of us received a message from the message therapist, Windy, who is traveling with us.
Well, it's extremely late so I'd better get to bed. Let's hope we have a more productive riding day tomorrow with a bit less drama.
Kerry (and the rest of Team Tolero)