Day 3 – Joshua Tree National Park, North to South
One of the interesting things about cycling is that doing a ride in reverse is a completely different experience. Not only the location of the sun and the shadows but also the time of day and temperature can create a different locale. Today we shuttled up to the north visitor center and started an immediate climb in the section of the park that we had not ridden through the previous day. The plateau we reached was the dominion of the Joshua Tree and the amazing rock formations, known worldwide for their rock climbing.
As you can see from the profile we climbed above 4500 ft and then we had two major descents. The weather was beginning to turn towards the end of the day, but the views were spectacular. We were on plains, plateaus and canyons. We passed many “washes” which were places where during intense rainstorms, rivers formed and flowed over the road. We had none of that today, but rain is forecast for tomorrow, which will wipe out the rest of the trip and I am sure there will be some action in those washes. You can clearly see the canyons we rode through in the following video.
We had the tour leader, Richard who runs Cycling Escapes and two other gentlemen who help out, Adam and Sergio, both ex-pro cyclists. I spent quite a bit of time with Sergio as he was running sweep (ensuring that all cyclists make it to the van). As I was taking quite a few pictures and enjoying the scenery and taking my time (aka not crushing the power too high), Sergio and I chatted it up for about two hours, mostly up the climbs. Similar to yesterday we did have quite a bit of wind, but with the storm coming, the wind changed direction and we had a grueling second climb with a 15 to 20 mph headwind. Not that fun, but knowing we had a cold downhill ride afterward to the van (and an ice cold beer) kept me going.
I had not seen the part of the park with the Joshua Trees in abundance in probably 20 years. The scenery was great.
Day 2 – Joshua Tree National Park, South to North
Today was the climbing day. It was also very windy in the morning. We first shuttled over to the Salton Sea and started our climb on 1500 ft to Interstate 10 for our first rest stop. After that, the ride leader and I biked up through a canyon to the south visitor center of Joshua Tree. It was a 20 mph headwind climbing an additional 1500 feet. One of the craziest things I saw was a police car going well beyond the speed limit with their lights on, followed by 20 Ferrari sports cars followed in the rear by another police officer. Not what you would expect biking up a lonely canyon. Funny thing is that we saw them again in the National Park.
As you can see from the elevation profile we had more climbing than descents. Once we stopped at a rest stop at the visitor center at 3000 ft, we took off on the plains of Joshua Tree, tons of open views and wind. Click on the image below to see the video of the ride.
The rest of the ride involved a major 2200 ft climb through various cactus forests, the Cholla Garden (tall spiky cactus) and the Octillo Patch—which are shorter and even more spiky cactus. I was wondering where the proverbial Joshua Trees were, and it was clear that each flora had their preferred elevation. At the top of the climb at 4000 ft. I met my first Joshua Tree and all the big rocks.
After that was a descent to the North entrance and tons more Joshua Trees. Tomorrow we do a reverse route, but with a different starting point.
Day 1 – Palm Springs Century
These Cycling Escapes tours usually do not start off with a Century (100 miles) but this one did. We have a small group on this trip, only 6 people and many of them from the Bay Area. We started cycling out of Palm Springs towards the west and biked through a major wind power installation (which means wind—not a friend of cyclists). After climbing to our peak elevation towards the north, we cycled a rolling set of hills down towards the Salton Sea. Usually, hills mean that you lose your average speed due to the steep climbs (which I am not too fast at), and the steep downhills (which I chicken out of going too fast). These hills were not too steep and I was able to keep my speed up. The northern expanse above the Palm Spring / Palm Desert was an area with little investment, lots of garbage in the desert and generally not a place you would see on vacation. I actually saw a dead bear (yes I said bear) along the side of the road.
And new for this series, the “Relive your ride” video, click on the image below and a new window will open and you can play the video and click on the arrows to make it full screen.
The weather was sunny, but with some high clouds so the pictures while fun, were not spectacular. You can click on the pictures to see them larger.
Tomorrow we climb into Joshua Tree National Park from the Salton Sea.