Berdoo to Victorville

9/9/10, Thursday - I was up in the dark and out on the streets in the morning twilight, well rested. First chore - finding some decent coffee. I cruised around downtown, and found a Starbucks in a strip mall. I got a 4-shot Americano, and gave the barista a good tip - cafés are handy places to have friends. I took a table outside and watched the Berdoovians come in for their morning treats. A big, tough-looking motorcycle cop pulled in for his, and gave me and my bike a hard glare. I found out why at my next stop.

That would be McDonald's - homeless headquarters. It seemed as a biker I was beneath the people living in their cars, and above the people getting around on foot. But when I sat down in the shade outside to eat a light breakfast, a skinny old black guy walked over and gave me the local scoop.

Along with shelters and showers, he advised me the cops'd be doing a homeless sweep to clean the streets for the city's Route 66 fest on the 18th. That's news I can use. He also confirmed the opinion I'd formed last night - the place is tight as a drum. He was doing the Berdoo blues cause he was on parole and couldn't get away.

The sweep was confirmed en route to my next stop. While crossing the railroad yards to the station, I saw several motorized cops crowding a cuffed young guy with his stuff in a couple of garbage bags. Can't have them riffraff hobos scaring the Route 66 crowd - it'd be bad for business. I tried to look small on my loaded Back Road Betsy.

I wanted to see the old Santa Fe station in daylight, and check out the railroad museum there. The museum's only open on Saturday, I found - but I also found an outlet by the door, and plugged in my ThinkPad. A couple of Chamber of Commerce types waddled by smirking at the hobo with the laptop. I got on-line with a USB modem and started getting oriented.

The Cajon Pass is an ancient route over the San Bernardino mountains between the LA basin and the interior desert. Before Interstate 15, Route 66 used it, and the National Old Trails Road used it before that. The map at right is from 1915, when the word "road" was used rather more loosely than it is today.

The Interstate and railroads still take advantage of the long steady grade over the pass, and it looked like the best route for me.

There are others - twisty mountain back roads - but when I asked for a map at a local bike shop, I was told I could get one at a minimart. He didn't have a decent 26" tube, either. He did sell me a plastic tire lever for a buck.

I spent most of the day around town. Had a good lunch - dried out all my stuff in the California sun - played my guitar - chatted with numerous locals. Late in the afternoon I started up the grade on Cajon Boulevard, alongside the BNSF tracks.

The Union Pacific tracks were climbing half a mile west, with the besmogged mountains closing in on the canyon.

I made about 10 miles up the grade and camped in the desert south of Devore.

9/10, Friday - I got en route in the twilight before sunrise, climbing, climbing. I hit a minimart alongside 215 in Devore for morning coffee, and fuel - water and energy chow. Beyond there, Cajon Blvd. dead-ends at the "Screaming Chicken Saloon", cut off by Interstates 15 and 215 coming together in the canyon. My maps didn't show any detail in the canyon, so I took the ramp onto 215.

I got a light breakfast at a McD's at Cajon Junction, where Hwy 138 crosses, but otherwise stayed on the slab all the way up and over the pass at 4190'. The trains were switchbacking up the canyon to make their grade as easy as possible.

The interstate takes a more direct route, but the grade wasn't bad. It was long - I finally got over the top at 1300, damn happy to pick up speed on the downgrade into the desert.

But I soon got booted off the slab by CHP. They sent me onto a parallel 2-lane they assured me would go right into Victorville. After a few fast miles it showed signs of petering out somewhere in the desert. I made a right, and found US 395 - a "legal" bike route with a good shoulder.

I spent the afternoon working my way through mile after mile of sprawl. Most of the way had room for bikes - a nice surprise. I was finally able to pick up a good sealer tube at a Big 5, and there were minimarts full of cold beverages all along the route. I was aiming for downtown, to check out their train station and pick up 66 to Barstow.

I located both at 7th and D, but their "train station" was a bit disappointing - though I'm sure Fred Harvey could do something spectacular with it. North of it, across the tracks, a bikeway ran on a dike along the Mojave River. I got supplies for the evening's camp, and rode on to explore it.

It was another disappointment. It only went a mile before it ended at a homeless hilton under the I-15 bridge across the dry river. I bailed - crossed some big waste land on dirt trails - and got back on 66 heading out of town.

I found a very pretty little park in granite boulders where 66 crosses the river. It was gated against vehicles - access "by permission only". Since no permittor was there, I assumed the position by default, and slipped in clean as a whistle.

I found a goofy old bum wandering around looking for a place to camp. He looked harmless, but just the same I found myself a hidden, defensible niche among the boulders, and had a delicious dinner with BBQ ribs and a bottle of wine.

Ahhh - that hobo's lullabye.


SeaTac to San Bernardino