Monday 14 May 2018

USA Tour Stage 2: Riverside to Indio, CA (93 Miles)

Click here for route flyby

One of the most important pieces of information we are given is the cue sheet for each day’s riding. This provides a mile by mile, turn by turn set of instructions with additional information on any significant route and safety points. The evening before each stage, the route sheet forms the agenda for the core of the Route Rap and Paula talks us through it. Although I also have the route loaded on my Garmin, the technology is not infallible, as regular readers will know from past events. So the cue sheets provide an additional level of assurance.

Pete and Emil leaving Riverside at full gas
Two things caught my eye on today’s cue sheet. At 1.5 miles “begin 3-mile climb” and then at 31.4 miles “begin 6-mile climb”. So the early part of today after leaving Riverside was going to be largely uphill. But first, let me share a morsel of Riverside’s history with you. The city was founded in the early 1870’s and it was here that the Californian citrus fruit industry was started in 1871 when Eliza Tibet’s received three navel orange trees from Bahia in Brazil. Two of the trees survived – the  other was apparently trampled by a cow! One of the survivors was subsequently transplanted, in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt. To cut a long story short, cuttings taken from the trees were hugely successful and some would say, led to the second Californian Gold Rush. So there you are. Now, let’s get back to the ride.

Nearly at the top!
I was soon onto the first hill which was fairly gentle (by European standards) and as I spun my way upwards I was amused by the sight of slow moving queues of cars with people going to work as I was going to ‘play’. While waiting at one of the many traffic lights on the climb I heard the whir of an electric window winding down followed by a voice asking “Where are you going?” “Boston” was my reply. A considered pause and then “Man, you’re shittin’ me” before the window wound up and my neighbour drove off, no doubt in air-conditioned comfort. Three cheers for the long distance cyclist!

After reaching the top a small group of us formed up and we headed along to the first SAG stop at 23 miles on the forecourt of a gas station. After refuelling we set off heading for the next climb up to Beaumont. With a long ascent ahead of me I got into a lower gear and tapped out a rhythm to get to the top. Ahead of me in the distance I could see, another rider Cathy, who hails from San Francisco, in her distinctive white jersey. I have learnt through bitter experience to resist the temptation to up the pace and chase. I just carried on spinning at a cadence of about 90rpm and keeping my heart rate at about 130bpm. These are the two numbers that matter to me when climbing steady ascents like this one. Slowly but surely I could see that the gap was closing and over the next 3-4 miles I got to within about 300 yards of her. But that was the last I saw of her all day as, looking back over my shoulder I realised that I had to stop to get a photo. I should add that Cathy is a strong rider and she would probably have gapped me anyway, once she reached the top.

By now the temperature was rising so I pulled over at a gas station for a cold bottle of Coke and Pete and David, who’s from Maine, joined me to cool off. We then headed over to Beaumont, linked up with Emil and turned east. With a gentle downhill profile, a strong tailwind, and a good surface, we whizzed along at a cracking rate eating up the miles. This was riding at it’s easiest. My average speed for the first 10 miles was 15mph; my average over miles 50-60 was 25mph. (For the record, my average for the whole day worked out at 17.6mph.)

We rode along beside and sometimes on the Interstate (I-10) which was a totally new experience for me since apart from a couple of closed road events I have never ridden on a motorway. Apparently the low density of roads in California means that cycling on the Interstate is legal. (We have a lot of Interstate riding tomorrow so I will be interested to see how we interact with the motorists.) Although we were making excellent speed I could feel the temperature rising (it eventually peaked at 34C/93F) and I was glad of the breeze in my face as I cut through the air.  Approaching Palm Springs we passed by a massive series of wind farms. Compared to the wind farms off the North Sea which I am familiar with from my coastal rides back home, these farms were GINORMOUS!

Palm Springs
Our route took us round the edge of Palm Springs. Since the early 1900’s this has been a resort city – initially for health seekers benefitting from the dry climate and subsequently for more sporting and artistic pursuits. Palm Springs is also the place where the ‘Desert Modern’ style of high-end architecture originated – open-designs, wall to wall carpeting, air-conditioning, big plate glass windows and not forgetting the swimming pools. As we passed the city I was reminded of an oasis in the desert, which of course it is!

From Palm Springs we continued on the final 10-mile leg to our destination at Indio. As we rode along I was struck by the billboards lining the roadside advertising seemingly every consumer product or service imaginable. I even spotted one with the face of Mr Permatan himself (Donald Duck Trump to you readers). He seemed to be hustling some sort of property deal – there’s a surprise. Talking of billboards, indulge me as I make a small diversion in today’s story. If you haven’t seen the film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” then you simply must. Frances McDormand who plays the lead alongside Woody Harrelson, won a richly deserved Best Actress Oscar. Now, whenever I see a billboard I automatically think of Frances and the wonderful, yet tragic, story she tells.

With the temperature reaching the afternoon peak and the possibility that my Gatorade drink was approaching boiling point I was glad to make the final turn into our hotel for the evening. This was a fast day. This was a hot day. But most of all this was a thoroughly enjoyable day. I’ve been teasing Paula with a range of slightly eccentric English expressions. So the expression for today is “Spiffing”. Look it up.

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