0 Miles; 0 Feet of Gain; El Cajon, CA
The school year ended after an extension to June given the postponed start due to COVID-19. And with it came the close on my first year working and living at the Grand Canyon. It felt a little off-kiltering to realize the year had come-and-gone all while COVID-19 continued to press down on the world sizably. With summer break nearing, Janna and I fleshed out our adventure plans. We settled on the Sierra Cascades Bicycling Route by the Adventure Cycling Association. The route is a road/pavement-based tour that acts as the bicycle equivalent of the Pacific Crest Trail. It starts in the mountains along the US/Mexico Border and continues across the crest of the western-coast states all the way to Canada. We had eyed the route several years ago when deciding our first tour and wisely thought it too difficult to start with. Our original plans for this summer were to bike the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. However, an injury I sustained in February resulted in medical advice to avoid jostling rock/dirt surface for pavement.
I had injured my right foot bones with expansive and severe bone contusions. I was merely eating lunch at my kitchen table, leg crossed over other, when I stood up to put my dishes away. Unknowingly, my right foot had fallen asleep so thoroughly with numbness that I didn't realize or feel it as I took a step forward and placed all my weight on it. The moment I didn, the foot collapsed from lack of muscle tone and experienced a torsional force that flipped the ankle 180 degrees and crushed all the metatarsals. An audible series of loud cracks from bone crunching bone alit the kitchen, and I went to the floor in searing screaming pain. A trip to the doctors along with X-rays revealed substantial contusions with a risk for bone infection. I was subsequently put in a supportive boot with crutches for several months. As summer approached, I consulted with my doctor about mountain biking the Great Divide. She told me biking was fine but nothing off-pavement where vibrations would certainly lead to pain and possible reinjury. The Great Divide was out. But I wanted something beautiful and epic. The Sierra Cascades seemed to tick those boxes.
The school year was wrapping up late due to our delayed start from COVID-19 in September. We extended into early June. I decided that riding the Sierra Cascades in June meant we needed to head northbound, starting at the USA/MEX border in an attempt to cross the heat of the Mohave Desert before full summer truly set in. Most riders take the route southbound, starting at the USA/CAN border. The bottom two sections of the route (the sections we were starting with) are the most difficult in terms of both resupplies, distance, exposure (heat!), and elevation gain per mile. We told ourselves that getting the hard part done first would mean a more relaxed approach to the upper half our ride when we could bask in summer in the evergreens of the Pacific Northwest. As the school year wrapped up, I attended graduation, and Janna and I immediately drove south the next day to Phoenix to meet up with our friends, Matt and Colleen.
Matt and Colleen are truly amazing friends as this was the second time they had agreed to help facilitate our travel to/from the beginning of long-distance adventure. Previously, Colleen drove us to the start of our thru-hike of the Arizona Trail in 2019. And now both she and Matt were to drive us to Tecate along the USA/MEX border for us to start this tour. We left the Canyon around 6 am and go to their place in Mesa by 10:30 am. We all jumped in our car (we had bikes on the back) and started the drive to San Diego, CA. The stress of the end of the school year was so recently upon me that me body was still letting go of it; the result was massively tight shoulders/neck and a headache I couldn't shake. Plus, pure exhaustion (as always happens when the school year ends). I was incredibly sleepy and ended up passing out for large chunks of the drive between Phoenix and San Diego.
We rolled into El Cajon on the outskirts of San Diego around 4 pm, where I had made some hotel reservations. The hotel was cheap, and super sketchy. We figured it was only one night, so no big deal. We dropped the bikes and ended up driving down to Point Loma to catch the sunset and get some fresh seafood from Mitch's. We all ate the awesome seafare before heading over to the beach to watch the sunset hazily among the marine layer. The temperature was brisk, and a quick check of the weather for tomorrow thankfully revealed cool and cloudy conditions for our start across the desert. We lounged on grass and looked over to watch a marriage proposal happen right in front of us. The beginning of summer break always feels chock full of anticipatory potential and sitting along the beach cemented the feel. Evening came on and the four of returned to the hotel to get to sleep early so we could wake up early.