Smoke Without Mirrors

All day, Mt. San Antonio (popularly known as Mt. Baldy), over 10,000′ (3,000 meters) high, snowcapped, was visible from our hot, dry route.



The dry Mojave is ideal for storing airplanes (center right).


Norman is a tow truck operator.  He passed us this morning on his way to an assignment and resolved to greet us on his way back.  He pulled over and brought Jeffrey two bottles of cold water.


Jeffrey admired Norman’s handlebar mustache.  Norman modestly noted that he hadn’t had time to wax it this morning.

After Jeffrey explained how the U.S. government treats asylum applicants, Norman agreed that asylum applicants should be provided a lawyer if they can’t afford one. He sent us on our way with a blessing to go with the water.

We liked this sign—the parrot, the old “ethyl” for leaded gas, the old prices—near Helendale, Calif.  There’s Mt. San Antonio again.


Jeffrey stopped to explore the Bottle Tree Ranch.

There he met a family who were driving Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.


L to R:  Dave, Jasmin, Velma

These New Zealanders are sympathetic to refugees. Dave said New Zealand has accepted people rejected by Australia (which imprisons refugees offshore and refuses ever to resettle them in Australia). Jeffrey looked up the numbers; it looks like NZ is proportionately more generous than the USA.  Hooray for New Zealand! Jeffrey wished the family a wonderful time as they wrap up their holiday.

In Oro Grande, we pased a huge cement plant.


The town center, such as it is, is very “Route 66”.


We had a fine time talking to passers-by.


Bob & Jackie live nearby in Whittier.  They were enthusiastic about our cause, and admiring of our trip.


Ryan & Jesse recently bought an Oro Grande house to restore and resell.  They thanked us for doing the Ride and said they’re glad Human Rights First stands up for asylum applicants.


Don & Samuel are Californians.  Don, who characterized the state as the Land of Fruits and Nuts, waxed philosophic.  Invoking the late Beatle, John Lennon, he characterized the Ride as an act of love.  He likes when people act, even if the actor gets slapped down.  Don and Samuel gave us their blessings too.

At Victorville, we began a 20 mile (32 km) uphill climb. Often we had a headwind, and much of the pavement was terrible.


Uphill, downhill, on the flat, this is one of the pavements that slowed us significantly and shook Jeffrey’s bones.  (I have no bones.)

In the Oak Hills area, Gino, Jackie, and Leilani drove past us and flagged us down.


L to R:  Jackie, Leilani (seated), Gino

We had a nice talk about lawyers for asylum applicants, and about cycling. Leilani has a bicycle and loves to ride. Jeffrey told Leilani that when she’s a little older, she can bicycle anywhere, even to NYC. Her parents said they’ll show her NYC on a map.

Today Jeffrey pedaled us from 2175′ at Barstow, up to over 4100′ (1250 meters) at an entrance to the I-15 superhighway. He was about to get the reward for his work: a 12 mile (20 km) downhill run. But wait. Smoke!


Those aren’t clouds.  The white is smoke from a brush fire along I-15.

George, who awaited us at the on-ramp, said the smoke could be choking or blinding. For safety, George ferried us 7 miles (11 km) by truck to the next exit . . . which turned out to be safely upwind of yet another brush fire. (Reminder: those 7 miles aren’t part of today’s 75 mile total.  We count only the miles we pedal.)  We resumed biking from there.


This smoke didn’t cover the highway, so we braved the descent.


Here’s the second fire area.  The red/pink is fire retardant, dropped by airplane.


A firefighting plane after a retardant pass.

Away from the smoke and descending to 1200′ in Fontana (mostly on rough roads that severely limited our downhill speed), Jeffrey noticed that the dry air lacked the harshness of the air on the east side of the mountains. Here on the west side, there was a hint of freshness, of life. It evoked the scene in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath when the Joad family “gets acrost”.



We’re tired too.

But what a relief! We got through the Mojave!

Los Angeles lies ahead.

6 thoughts on “Smoke Without Mirrors

  1. I was exhausted just reading about your ride yesterday! Glad you got through the challenging desert!



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  2. Thank goodness you are past the desert part of this… when I read that you were riding your bike
    in the desert – oy- I was thinking “Jeffrey, what are YOU thinking?” so glad it is going well ….


  3. So interesting and so very well written. Thank you for what you are doing, Jeffrey … yes, it is important for people to “act”.


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