Part IX: Leaving Lake Hevila


I leave Lake Hevila campground, which by the way, cost me 54 bucks and that’s about the same amount as I’ve been paying for my motels or lodges I’ve stayed in on occasions. Before I took off, I took time to patch the holes on my Thermarest. I keep having to inflate it several times throughout the night. I’ll have to be careful down in the desert with the thorns. As nice as this new, lightweight equipment is, it is very delicate. My tent is also whisper light and it flies out of my hands when I am setting it up in the wind. I can just see it wrapped around a Cardon cactus once I start camping in Baja.

I was hoping to make it to the town of Julian but had to stop short in Warner Springs after seven hours, exactly 50 miles and only 2588 feet of climbing. It was getting late. I pull over at a gas station. A very nice lady named MaryAnn is at the counter and I ask her;

”Is there a campground or any other accommodations here besides the fancy golf resort here in town?”

I’ve been passing big golf resort billboards on the way into Warner Springs.

“Well,” she said, “the resort is under remodel and most of it is closed, so we actually have some really good deals on a few rooms we have here.“

It turns out that MaryAnn was a receptionist for Warner Springs resort as well. What a lucky day! She even gave me a midweek price deal and the cabins were really cute. Too bad that the hot springs, which are the draw for the town, were closed. I go to the cabin to unload my bike and gear and take a soothing shower. I walk back to the gas station/market and get dinner - Stouffer’s meatloaf and I get one of those small bottles of wine to go with it. I feel like I am on the plane eating a meal you get on an overseas flights. It was not nearly enough though,  so I open a can of liver wurst and some rice crackers and I sit on the porch and enjoy a quiet evening.

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In the morning I ride off by 9 am as I plan to ride to Campo, just before the border, which is still a long ways away. I stop by the gas station for a frozen burrito breakfast and MaryAnn and I chat. I wish I could stay and get to know her better. Originally from New Jersey, she moved out West back in the ‘70’s. She has these striking blue eyes and she is a very special person. We hug and I ride off. Again, I am powered up the hill by love of the people I meet. There is a nice long climb towards Julian and by the time I reach the outskirts, I already have 1800 feet and 20 miles in my pocket. I pass many signs that say “Best Apple Pie.” I am obviously in apple country. I pull over at a barn-like complex that has a bunch of vendors in it. Everything from antique shops to a hard cider bar and a taco restaurant, which is really what I stop for. I was ready for some food. 

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The taco restaurant is still closed, so I venture into a honey fermented drink bar run by Jessie and his wife. Jessie is a very talkative, big guy adorned by tattoos. He makes these really good aged, fermented honey drinks that range from 8-15% alcohol. He serves tasting flights but I tell him I can only try one as I am on my bike. He tells me a funny story.

”Well, I was going to get back in shape!” He puts his hands on his belly and jiggles it laughing.

“So, I decided to ride my bike from my house in town three miles up the hill. Well, this is fun, I say to myself riding down the hill. But then, on my way home it’s all uphill. I called my wife halfway home and tell her to come get me with the truck!”

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We both laugh! When I go back out to the taco restaurant, the line is 20 deep. Where did all these people come from? I stand in line as it it the only food place here and it look really good. I finally reach the counter and order a taco plate. A kid at the register says;

”No need to pay!”

“Pardon me? ”

I didn’t understand, so he says again;

”Your lunch has been already payed for by Jessie!”

I am stunned. I sit at the counter and quiet tears roll down my cheeks. I know it looks weird with all the people around me, but I can’t help it. Even if I quit the trip right here, right now, I will have accomplished the most important part of my journey. My faith in humanity has been restored.

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Back at Warner Springs, MaryAnn asked me if I was afraid of going into Mexico by myself. I told her I wasn’t. I told her despite of all the warnings, I know that people in Mexico are good and kind and helpful. She said,

“That is exactly how I feel!” “

We are animals.” I said.

“If we are fearful, distrustful, or hateful, other people pick that up just like a dog would. They will act accordingly.”

And we both agree that maybe we are naïve, but if you see the good in person in front of you, if you don’t judge by their appearance, they in return will find good in you. 

The meal, by the way, was the best one of my trip so far. I climb a steep hill to an actual town of Julian which is buzzing with people. I guess because it’s Sunday. HW 79 takes me out of Julian and it climbs, but I hardly notice. I am filled and powered again by pure gratitude. My map takes me onto Sunrise HW and I take it, even though Jessie told me to take a shortcut to Campo. I looked at the road he told me to take and it was busy with weekend traffic. Sunrise Scenic Byway keeps climbing up and up on the ridge between Anza /Borrego desert state wilderness and Cuyamaca mountain state wilderness. The road is quiet and my surroundings stunningly beautiful. After 42 miles and 4537 feet of climbing, I happily reach Laguna Mountain Lodge and after a microwave pizza and hot pocket dinner, which is something I would never ever eat at home, I turn the lights off by 8:30 pm. Tomorrow is a big day. I will finally cross into Mexico. 

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I wake up at 4:30 am and I know I won’t be able to go back to sleep. I catch up with my writing, take a shower, and stretch. When I sit in the towel, I notice that my left quad is much larger then my right one. I’ve been hoping that after all this hard riding, my right side would start kicking in. I take my ear buds’ cord to measure the circumference of my quad in a couple of places and I come at least an inch short on my right. My left side is compensating a lot, obviously for the damage on my right. I am going to look like a lopsided hunchback on The Beast by the time I reach the bottom of Baja.

Alenka Vrecek