Day 40 – Imperial Sand Dunes, CA to Ocotillo, CA (74 mi)

We woke up after a not particularly restful night of sleep. Our neighbors spent the evening flying a drone around our campground and the whirring noise over our heads made it hard to sleep. Moreover, they blared loud music out of a speaker directly facing our tent. Just after midnight, I finally found the energy and the nerve to crawl out of my sleeping bag to ask them to turn down their music. They were incredibly gracious and immediately turned off their music completely, which made me regret not asking earlier.

Despite the lack of sleep, we woke up early because we wanted to get some miles under our belts before the full intensity of the desert sun. To our surprise a line of four ice cream trucks arrived at our campground before we left, despite it only being 7am. Apparently ATVers like their ice cream early.

Carsten and I had an extremely hot ride today. We spent most of the day biking through the monoculture fields of Imperial Valley. The scenery wasn’t particularly interesting, but we entertained ourselves by chatting more than usual. Having heard back from all of his schools, Carsten has to decide what college he wants to go to in the fall. He asked me to tell him all about my college experience. We also spent time discussing western water rights. In the west water rights have some backwards incentives. One being the use it or lose it clause. This means that farmers have little incentive to save water for fear that their actions will actually cause them to forfeit their rights the following year.

By midday the heat began to really get to me. I convinced Carsten to take our midday break in a basement pub in a tiny town, featuring said pub and a convenience store. We both downed glass after glass of ice water and an entire cheese pizza and large turkey salad.

Further west open desert once again took the place of agricultural land. We had skirted south once again, so we could see the border wall to our left. As we biked Carsten and I noticed flags every hundred yards or so. Unsure what the flags were, we went to investigate. They demarcated the location of emergency water for migrants put, out by a nonprofit organization. We spent some time discussing immigration. I told Carsten some of the things I had learned from an educational trip I had taken to the border in high school. The thought of crossing this barren desert by foot with the constant threat of border patrol put us both in a slightly somber mood.

Around this time we passed by a cyclist heading east, whose bike was piled high with gear. He slowed his bike and signed something to us. I don’t know any sign language, but I presumed he was indicating that he was deaf as an explanation for him not stopping to chat. After signing, he blew us a kiss, which Carsten returned. I was humbled by the feat it would be to cycle cross-country as a deaf man.

Tonight we are staying at a small RV park run by an incredibly kind, elderly couple. They set us up inside the RV parks rec room and gave us cold lemonade made from their very own lemons.


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