Wednesday, July 18, 1984
Anza-Borrego to Lake Henshaw, California
I’m reprinting the day-to-day journal entries of a cross-country bike tour my friend and I took in 1984. More about the TransAmerica Tour 1984
The last full day on the road ended in warm camaraderie making toasts around a picnic table. But it began much chillier than that for me.
I was slow waking up as I felt totally exhausted from the day before, when I had left everyone else at a cramped motel room in Ocotillo and headed up here on my own. I was finally breaking camp when I heard the crunch of tires on the road leading to the campsite. It was James in the blue van. Everyone was worried about me. They got an early start and would be passing by soon. He offered to carry my gear. No, I brought it this far, I’ll take it the rest of the way.
I did take him up on the offer of water, though. A sign posted at the campsite spigot said the water wasn’t potable.
He left, and by the time I got to the main road I assume they’d already passed. I was a little upset that my pride hadn’t let me give my stuff to James. This extra gear was heavy.
The lightly traveled two-lane blacktop, S-2, went up, down and around mountains, through canyons and valleys, and over dry washes. It follows the route of the Southern Emigrant Trail, which carried everyone from the early Spanish conquistadors to the ’49ers and the Butterfield Overland Mail coaches.
When I finally caught up with everyone else, they were sitting in the blue van eating lunch. I felt quite a chill, in spite of the heat. I was invited to sit in the van to get out of the sun, but I said it was fresher out in the breeze. That set Widge and Harriet to muttering between themselves and I took off.
A few miles later Bruce caught up with me and said he understood my mixed emotions about the bike trip coming to an end. Of course, he was handling it better than me. He said the Brits didn’t get it; they couldn’t wait for the trip to end. He took back the camping gear that he normally carried, and we headed down the road.
Our route took us over a shoulder of Mount Palomar and through a brief shower to the Lake Henshaw Resort. Since it was their last day, the Brits said they wanted to camp out — their first time camping out in nearly 4,000 miles across the US! I accepted that as an olive branch, and we all got along fine the rest of the trip.
The resort had a store, and Bruce and I bought the fixin’s for our specialty, tuna noodle casserole. We had wine with dinner, and then proceeded to drain all the alcohol in the van. When the Old Matthews Scotch whiskey came out, we all took turns offering toasts.
It was solemn and hilarious at the same time. We all stood around the picnic table in the companionship offered by the light from a Coleman lantern and the alcohol. I laughed and almost cried.
For Bruce and me, it brought the last day on the road to a happy conclusion. Here we were, celebrating the end of our cross-country journey with fellow travelers we didn’t know when we set out from Yorktown. We had started as two groups and ended as one.
Headline: July 18, 1984 — Two mountain men kidnapped a top member of the US women’s biathlon team (Kari Swenson), chained her to a tree and shot her Monday, then killed a searcher and fled into the rugged terrain near Big Sky, Montana.
Another beautiful sunrise this morning; bright orange through the clouds as we left Ocotillo to meet Bis higher up in the mountains. It was overcast all day and the sun was not intense. Nevertheless, it was hot and extremely humid, and strength-robbing.
Most of the 50 miles today was uphill, and it took its toll on all of us. But the desert was giving way to mountains and greenery. It was becoming, rather all at once, less sandy and more rocky, and finally, as we climbed to almost 3,000 feet, cooler as well.
And then downhill for the last 15 miles. Of course, after we beat the heat it rained on us just before Lake Henshaw, but it didn’t matter because the day was finished and only 50 easy miles to the ocean and Marie.
We are camped at a typical (I assume) campground in California: swimming pool and Jacuzzi. We made use of both. We were compelled to cook tuna casserole for the girls, and we all got drunk on wine, beer, Kahlua and Old Matthews Scotch whisky. We toasted everyone and everything, whether it was appropriate or not. It all seemed appropriate.