Yuha, Our Desert Storm!

14th – 16th Oct 2018

Pine Valley to Jacumba 48kms

Waiting for a few more degrees, it is bloody chilli this morning. The rain has stopped, but the clouds are low and making it cold. Will went to reception to fill our cups with coffee, we ate our nuts and berries, and didn’t totally rush, just hoping some more heat would burst through. Just before we started up the last of the big hill, we popped in to the town market, right next to the hotel. The plan was to camp out tonight, so we needed food. Unfortunately, when Will came out, he had a couple of bananas, some buns, and a packet of cheese biscuits. Oh, and another onion. Not much of a dinner tonight hey?

Yep, those clouds are within arms reach. We’re cold, and even wearing socks.

So we couldn’t put it off any longer, we rode the last 3 kilometres up, and the heat was sure coming off me. It may only be ten or twelve degrees Celsius, but it was 90% humidity again. I was blind in one eye, from sweat, before the first half hour was up. But, from there, it was more down than up, and we slowly went down the mountain range. We passed the spot we had planned to camp yesterday, which looked okay, and then climbed back up a bit. We were doing okay, and the sun was now out, and the temp was spot on. Humidity gone. So we took a small snack break. Just then, another cyclist came by, and pulled in. “Hey guys, how you going? I was reading your blog on Crazyguy, last night, and thought you’d be a bit further along?” Well, g’day to you too, and nope, we are bloody slow going up hill. Thanks for following us random man, who was riding from San Diego, out to Jacumba, and then back again. IN ONE DAY! I kid you not. What took us three days to do, he’s going to do double in a single day. Bloody hell Dave? All he said was, “I started early this morning.” We were so shocked, we forgot to grab a picture. He then told us there was just one more big climb, then it is down, down, down to Jacumba Hot Springs. Great, no point sitting here then, let’s get it done.

At this point, I was thinking we were on the wrong bikes, going the wrong way.

It was a biggun’. Four slow, hot kilometres, and then we twisted and turned around the side of the mountain, finally coming to The Golden Acorn Casino. We’d had about enough, so pulled into a gravel pit and sat under an old dirt hopper (there was no other shade), and made ourselves some lunch. The next part of the day was to be down all the way, so when it was time to keep moving, we had our fingers crossed everybody had told us the truth.

Pretty much the top of the range, just a few twisty turns with a slight incline and we’re done.
Through that gap, round that bend……

Yep, they had, and we had a very relaxing and enjoyable ride into Jacumba (pronounced Ha-coom-ba). Not far from town, we could see the border fence between USA and Mexico. Wow, that is actually a bit confronting. Not sure what to feel about it, and we’d also seen quite a few border patrol vehicles, helicopters, and even a border patrol check point, back in one of the small towns we came through. They didn’t worry about us.

There you go, it’s real. A fence/wall to keep people out. Is it really a good idea?
It really was unbelievable. Miles and miles of it.

Finally, we rolled into Jacumba, and located the only place in town, the Jacumba Spa Resort. Sounds frickin fancy, doesn’t it? It’s not. But it was pretty good. We went in and had a beer, and chatted to the local bar flies, who happened to manage the “Clothing Optional” Resort 5 miles further on, if we’re interested? They had camping, and heated pools etc! Hmm, I don’t think I want to ride anymore, and I’m not sure anyone wants to see my unkept and unloved hairy body right now. Gees! Jacumba Spa Resort offers a discount rate for cyclists, which was almost half price, so we are in. Another beer each, and a bit more chit chat, then we retired to get cleaned up.


Straight away we fit in here. Just like an Aussie outback town, same humour.

Dinner was in the bar, a couple more beers, then they all convinced us we had to try the natural hot springs. Apparently they fix everything, and we’ll feel a million bucks tomorrow, and ride like champions. What ever, as long as I can wear my underwear, I don’t have a swimsuit with me. No one cares, so in we go. Alex, the barmaid, brings us beers in plastic cups, and we chat away with Matt from San Diego, who had a few very interesting ideas about the world. It was a fun night, and we slept like the dead.


I got my meat on and most of my gear off. We loved the sign in the bar, we thought it said something other than Clint Riders, and meant us. 😂😂😂

Jacumba to Ocotillo 30kms

I don’t know about Will, but I’m feeling pretty good this morning. I still found it hard to get up, but Will (keen to get going earlier today due to wind) brought me coffee and the last of our peanut butter granola, and I was guilted successfully, into moving. In fact, we were packed, paid and rolling down the hill by 9 am.


What’s this bloody wind going to do, wonders Will. Jacumba is a funny little town, but had some cool artwork. Luckily it’s the only Rattle Snake we’ve seen.

The wind was already starting to pick up, so it was a slow start. Thank goodness it was not the hill climbing we’d done the last couple of days, this was hard enough. We had about 12 kilometres on the Old Highway 80, into the strong wind, and a couple of small humps. The best thing about going this slowly, was spotting our first tarantula. It was actually pretty cool. It was having a hard time walking back to it’s burrow, into the bloody wind too.

Not the best picture, but it was sitting in Will’s footprint. It was a good size.
And the dust begins to stir on Old Hwy 80.

At last we reached the I8, and we had no choice but to ride on it for the next 20 kays, as it zigzagged it’s way down, through the rocky hillsides. We went from over 3800 feet, to just above sea level, then it started to straighten out a bit, and we were kicked off onto the Yuha Cutoff road (98), entering the Yuha Desert. It is an environmentally fragile area. We are feeling a bit fragile too right now. The wind was absolutely smashing us, coming from the North West, at about 40 kilometres an hour. As we came off the interstate, onto the flats, the sand getting blown around was so bad, we were eating it. We pulled up at the Chevron fuel station, at Ocotillo, and grabbed some goodies to make our lunch. We sculled a couple of Gatorades, and hid out of the wind. 


Check out that dust in the background. The ride down was still fun, although we had to take it very easy with the wind wanting to swipe our wheels from under us. The shoulder was very good.

Under different circumstances, we may have had a chance to break our speed record, but not today. Easy does it Betty.
Still going down, but we’ve broken the back of it now.


The Yuha Desert. It’s a great spot to bust out your ATV, or desert racer, but there’s are some unique plants and reptiles that are in danger because of too many people smashing around on big machines. 

Oh my god, Jenny, look at that sand storm now!
The only spot we could find to get a break from the wind. It still got us and made our Bun’s that never go stale, crusty like toast. We still ate em.

After our short break, the wind and dust storm were even worse, so we decided to see what, if anything, Ocotillo had for accommodation. There is an RV Park/Motel, so we roll in there, and we’ve gone back in time, or into some old trailer park, hillbilly movie. Wow-ee, hooley dooley, Willsie, what do you reckon? Well we had a chat to Margaret, an elderly lady in her Daisie Dukes and faded tie dye tank top, who reckoned she could help us out with a room, and “yup, it ain’t goin-tu git any better, in a hurry!” She was a really nice lady, and we took that room, and promptly had a nap. We didn’t even realise we were tired. Wind will do that to you though.


It looks like a junk yard, but it says Motel. Please make it okay? Please?


Okay, it was outback Aussie dated, but it was calm, out of the wind, and only one small cockroach in the cold shower. But who could blame him, it was aweful outside. 

When we arrived.
3 hours later. That’s more like it.

Rested and cleaned up, we took a look outside, and the wind had died down a great deal. So we went for a walk around town, which took about ten minutes, and spotted the market, and a Bar called The Great Escape. We went inside, and found Debbie, who got us a beer, and told us a bit about her Bar. It was full of old memorabilia which had been donated by locals. The actual Bar was salvaged from an old casino in Las Vegas, that Elvis used to go to (apparently). Pretty cool. Debbie and her husband are also members of Warm Showers, and allow cyclists to camp on their property. No good for us tonight, but good to know for other cyclists. So we had a bit of microwave heated bar food, a great chat with Debbie, and a couple of beers, before heading back and parking up. Another early start to try beat the wind again. 

The Main Street of town during peak hour.


Not the busiest on a weekday, but it gets wild on the weekends….

Ocotillo to Brawley 65kms

Ding ding ding ding….What the hell is that racket? Oh, it’s just Will’s alarm! He’s bounced out of bed, straight into it, packing and dressing for the day. Bloody hell, what time is it? Just after 7am! Ugh, poop! No coffee, no cereal, so we are going to the local market, come cafe for that, then roll straight out of town. The wind is quiet right now, hope it stays that way.

Will was hungry and caffeine deficient, but ready for a big day in the Santa Ana winds.

Margarets daughter, and Debbies husband, were on Cafe duty today (the town only has 290 residents), so we got ourselves some bacon and eggs, and a coffee. Something good in the States, is the free refills on coffee. We had three small ones each before we got moving, just on nine again.


They’ve done a great job of the cafe, lots of interesting dirt bike stuff, and breakfast was cheap and good. We met Eddie on the way out, with his 1960’s Thunderbird. He’d just bought it for $5K, and was a funny guy. He’s 91, and Will commented how good it was that he could still drive at that age. “Buddy, I’m lucky I’m still walking!” Big smile, no teeth, but still eating “biscuits and gravy”.

Off we head, into the wind, that has begun to blow again. Not like yesterday, thank goodness, but strong enough. Our main road today, is the Evan Hewes Highway, and Margaret told us it was in an extremely bad state, and no one drives it. Excellent, we’ll have it all to ourselves. No more than 2 kilometres out of town, we came to the first obstacle. Road Closed! What? No one mentioned this to us. Fuck it, I’m riding it, you? Yep, we agreed, we’ll just pretend we thought it was just for cars.


This road is ridiculous. I wouldn’t drive my car on it either. It is real desert though, we’ll what I imagined it to be.

Bumpity, bump, bump, bump. Margaret was absolutely right, it is shocking! So we pedalled relentlessly, bashing and bumping along, chewing up the sand that blew into our mouths, and trying to stay positive. We really have to make up some ground, we’re getting short on time now. Up ahead, we can see more signs, and this time, it is serious. There is a barricade right across the road, two in fact!


Keep on riding, that dust storm is building, and it wants to blow us over.

Man we’ve done over 10kms, there is NO turning back now. 

This far along, not much could stop us, and a puny concrete barrier is not enough. Will investigated ways around, spotted some other bike tracks, and we followed suit. We did have to lift the heavy buggers over a wooden fence, which was tough, but worth it. At the other end, we could wrestle them around the barrier without lifting them. Off we go again.


Team Wiljen move into action, and in no time are back to the windy grind.

It’s real desert out here, and with the strong winds blowing the sand across the road, you really feel the remoteness. Fascinating area, this Yuha Desert. Our throats are drying out, our eyes are starting to sting, and we’re getting a bit pissed off with the wind, so we pulled up at Plaster City (it’s actually just a plasterboard manufacturing plant) and fixed ourselves up. Some lubricating eye drops, a huge swing of water, and adjust the buff to block the sand. We looked like we were going to bust up the joint.

Ready for a speedy get away?
buffed over my left ear, it was taking in too much sand. Filling up my head with silly ideas. More silly than this.

Without any violence, we broke on through to the other side…..la la la, and suddenly there was less dust, more plants, but just as much wind. This area is huge for agriculture, with irrigation channels drawing from the mighty Colorado river. Mountains of hay bales, and I mean mountains. All the way from Dixieland (yes, it is a place), through to El Centro. On our way we stopped in Historical Seeley (established in 1909) for a Burrito and a gallon of Gatorade. 


Make lot’s of hay, to feed the cows, so they poo and make fertiliser to grow more hay. Sound like a plan?

El Centro is the birthplace of Cher, according to Will’s mum, and she knows her stuff. We just rode through it, and found it just went on and on and on. Between El Centro and Brawley, it is pretty built up, and the once quiet road, suddenly became a busy four lanes thoroughfare. Traffic lights, headwind and zooming cars, and I’ve spat the dummy. My legs are just tired, even my arms are tired, I am struggling to lift my own spirits. I stopped to take a picture of a cemetery, which was one of the saddest, but also cared for ones I’d seen. When I rode off and looked ahead, Will was nowhere to be seen. Just when I was about to lose my shit, he popped his head out from a shaded spot, and I pulled in. Let’s take a break, he said. Just sit down and rest a bit. Not far to go. I know, 11kms.


In El Centro we could get Salt free water for 25c a gallon. Free tap water tasted pretty good to us. The chicken chain from Breaking Bad. Had to take that pic, and Coors ! Got tabs on themselves hey? You can have a beer real soon Will, hang in there.

Never seen a desert cemetery before, it was beautiful and sad, all at the same time.
A mark on the Sugar silo told us we were under water.
Davo concurs, telling us we 27 meters below sea level and falling.

It worked, and we were able to just get it done. The rode turned slightly coming into Brawley, and that eased the wind enough to get us into town, where the buildings protected us more and more. Already sure we’ll Motel it (only a few dollars more than tenting out here), we pull over to locate a few. Right outside a Boost Telco store, Will goes in to buy another SD card for the GoPro, and I google Motels. There is one right over the road, and it’s cheap. Will comes out, says the lady inside recommends over the road, and that’s us sorted. The Indian guy at reception was great, friendly and organised, we were in the room in less than ten minutes. Hallelujah! Made it again!

Crazy hair, crazy cyclist. I’m so happy to get off that bike.


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