Saturday, December 10, 2011

Quartzsite, AZ

Thus far, my desert campsites have been pretty cozy. Last night I found a narrow arroyo surrounded by thick brush. A fire down at the bottom, and the heat was held in and reflected. Once the wind died down, I popped out and set up my tent above. No coyotes tonight, though. I've not heard them for a while.

I pulled myself out of bed before the wind got too bad. The check point came up, and I was waved through immidiately. Back into farmland, again, but this time it's nicer. Blue-green fields of Kale, bales of cotton, and the feel of a place where people actually live and work. Palo Verde was a tiny little town. I stopped at a christmas shop/bake sale and talked to an Archaeologist on her way back from monitoring a construction project. She's been looking forward to seeing Quartzsite and Slab City, and regularly drives out into BLM land overnight. Refreshing to talk to someone in California who isn't afraid of bloody everything.

I rode out of Palo Verde and into Ripley craving something sweet. A whole box of those fritters Bob had in Slab City would have been perfect! I saw one seedy-looking little place, with a lively argument taking place out in front, and figured they probably didn't have bakery items anyway. An orange would be really good, too, actually... A few miles out of town, I saw a scattering of citrus trees in a yard. Among these, one limb on one tree was hanging over the fence, within reach. On this one branch on one limb of one tree, was... one orange! I spun around, charged over the dirt shoulder, yanked the orange and fled. Sure, it wasn't a tree-grown cherry fritter, but it was still pretty damn good.

Past Ripley, heading towards Blythe, a truck pulled off ahead of me. By the time I reached it, a young guy in overalls had came out and was waiting for me. Mark offered me some water, then a bag of trailmix. We talked for a bit. He told me his job pays for gas and offered me a ride to Quartzsite. Blythe looked pretty boring, and honestly I was just anxious to get out of California. So, as it turned out, I never rode my bike across the California state line. Train in, truck out. Mark revealed that he was an archeologist as well, working on the same project. He called up Sarah(Archeaologist #1 from Palo Verde) to see if she wanted a lift to Quartzsite.

Mark picked up Sarah in Blythe, which turned out to be a typical truck-stop town. I squished my dirty smelly self in between the two dusty, sweaty archaeologists in the middle seat, and listened to them talk about the strange folks they work with. Sarah had found a dried up dead Coyote at the site and carried it away to pull apart and examine. She offered Mark the skull, who seemed torn between polite refusal and "Oh that's really cool I want that coyote skull!".

Past the Colorado river, the ride through the brownish desert mountains of Arizona was beautiful. We passed by the Dome Rock area, where I plan on coming back to camp. Mark and Sarah dropped me off at a curios shop, and after poking around a bit at the goods for sale, I said goodbye, took a picture, and rode out of town. It was getting dark at this point, so I decided to take the smooth freeway shoulder instead of Dome Rock road, which I've heard is narrow and roughly paved. This turned out be a mistake, as the exit back onto Dome Rock road was six miles west. During the day, I probably could have seen it and just ridden off the interstate, across some sand, and onto the road. For the sake of the air in my tires, though, I didn't want to do it in the dark. So, six miles later, I got off the freeway and found a place to camp, with lights from other campers visible in the distance.

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