Photoglimmer: Anza Borrego
From a solo touring trip into the Anza-Borrego desert, 2011. Excerpted from a story first printed in peloton magazine. This photo was made just after I finally made it to the S-2.
Beer Cans and Fried Tortillas
When the third RV runs me off the road into the sandy shoulder, I know I won’t make it through the canyon alive. I lean my bike against the embankment and squint. The road curves to the left. The cliff shoots skyward to the right. The shoulder disappears.
Bicycle death trap.
I’m pedaling through Anza-Borrego State Park and I have just descended Yaqui Pass. Highway 78 east is the only way I can get to Scissors Crossing, which will lead to S-2. If I can make it to S-2, I will get to enjoy 30 miles of downgrade with a tailwind. I want to make it through this canyon.
Instead, I’m stuck sitting in the desert sand watching monster trucks roar by. They’re pulling trailers full of dirt bikes and four-wheelers and everyone is doing at least 80 miles per hour. Every once in a while one of them honks. It’s not the friendly kind of honk that indicates a greeting; it’s a honk that announces supremacy and domination. Fuck you, cyclist!
I am still standing on the shoulder considering thumbing a ride through the canyon when a large truck-trailer combo appears. The passenger in the front seat puts his head out and screams, “CRAZY!!” Then he throws a beer can. When his mouth opens, I can see that his teeth are yellow. The driver honks as they speed away, as if to get his two cents in.
I pull the Styrofoam takeout container from under the bungee cord on my rack and sit down in the dirt to eat leftover chilaquiles. I’m not hungry, but fried tortillas can make just about any situation better.
Technically, this road shouldn’t be so busy, but two days ago a storm blew down from the north and wrapped the entire region in cold. The snow-line dropped to just over 1000 feet and all of the passes heading out of the park were closed after lumbering motorhomes full of clueless tourists started sliding across the road. They came to rest in ditches or lodged against the mountain walls. What a mess.
Now it’s Sunday afternoon and they’re all scrambling to get back to jobs they hate. Highway 78 is the only eastern route available so here we are together: one lonely cyclist sitting in the dirt eating leftovers and a caravan of mega-vehicles clogging the only connecting route to tailwind nirvana.
I came to the desert for peace and got a traffic jam. I came for silence and got a chorus of horns. I came for fresh air and got exhaust.