The desert is a strange place. It’s dry (obviously) but with an almost a serene beauty that I had not expected. White plains of sand, stretch miles and miles into the distance, it is lifeless for the most part with the odd sprinkling of greenery.
I pedalled behind the RV drafting as we had done over the previous week in order to maintain pace but also to protect myself a little bit. Behind the back of the RV, when in the desert, was a horrendous place to be, it was a cauldron of hot air and dust. I describe it as like cycling inside a vacuum cleaner bag that is above a fire, as you heave in hot air, your lungs feel flooded and strangely warm.
As the heat of the day broke through, I began to slowly roast, like a turkey at Christmas I was starting to cook. The temperature pushed to 39 degrees and with that a drinks break was in order. There was no escaping the heat; I went from a sweaty vacuum bag behind the RV to microwave conditions in the RV.
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We made a plan to try and break the day down into one hour blocks, knowing that if I could keep my average pace up towards 25 miles per hour I would be done in 8 hours with rests and drink stops. I was carrying my water on the bike so that I didn’t have to stop every time I needed a drink, the only problem with that was the fact that my water began to get warm very quickly. There is very little that is less refreshing than abnormally warm drinking water. I can now see why the professional cyclists are so small, it’s nothing to do with power to weight ratios, it’s the fact that when the sun is out your back acts like a giant solar panel. I was soaking up heat extremely quickly and I couldn’t cool down. The air conditioning unit on the RV was as much use as a chocolate teapot. My saving grace arrived in the shape of an outpost shop, the air conditioning in there was nearly enough to make me sleep there for the night.
Day 30 was my last full day on the bike, the last 150 miles I would cover on Tallulah. She had done so well. She might not be perfect, she might change gear sometimes just when she feels like it but she had got me to a point where I was almost finished.
We spent our penultimate evening at an RV site in a place called Victorville, it was a great little RV site where we could watch wildlife and life drift by. I sat and watched some rabbits and squirrels playing around a tree, like a scene out of Bambi they somehow seemed to know each other. At this point, I thought back to my first day in New York, one month earlier – the rain and streets seemed like a life time ago, I could not believe how far we had come.
Day 31 was my last full day of running. We pushed out of Victorville early, passing some of the more interesting inhabitants. One man was carrying a freezer on the front of his bike and a few others were definitely only just coming in after a night out. It was developing into a nice day, the sun coming up over the mountains lit up the little town. Sign-posts and advertising boards pointed the way to LA.
We began our descent towards LA by dropping into the suburbs of Fontana and Pomona. We found ourselves on leafy little streets, with a relaxed what might be described as ‘Californian’ feel. As I looked out towards downtown LA, the smog sat heavily over the city, it was a warning of what was to come but it also showed me how close we were. The roads were wide and quiet, cars shuffled by at a relaxed pace. There was no rushing or screaming on the streets in this area, I was reminded of a retirement village.
We pulled into the RV site in Pomona, our last night on the RV My last night in that tiny sweaty bed, but weirdly I would miss it, I knew already that I would miss it. I still missed the campervan from the original ‘Epic run’. I would miss waking up every day somewhere different. The RV site was just what we needed for our last night; a chance to sit and relax, to plan our strategy for the city and to picture finishing what we had started one month previously – we were almost there.