Danby to Needles

9/14, Tuesday - I woke at 0300, and I was so pleased by the solitude and stars and silence I just stayed up to enjoy it. I also had enough water for the luxury of 2 mugs of rich, strong coffee, so got to it. I sure dug the coffee, but didn't appreciate the light and heat of the little twig fire. I saw more shooting stars that morning than I saw during the Perseids in Seattle. It was truly marvelous.

I was en route at first light to make miles before it got hot. I wasn't sure exactly where I was, but reckoned it couldn't be more than 20 miles to Fenner. That was about right. I passed Danby as the sunglow blazed up behind the mountains.

These siding are named aphabetically - Amboy - Bristol - Cadiz - Danby. Essex would be next, before Fenner, but somehow it's missing on the 1915 map. It is out there.

The sign says "Population 100". I didn't see even 1. I don't know who goes to the school in Essex besides the buzzards.

It was already getting hot - high that day in Needles was 106 - and I was again dogged by that cusséd shadow breeze. To top it off, I took a wrong turn out of town, needlessly climbing an overpass crossing the railroad tracks.

The correct route is a left just before the overpass, along the tracks - Goffs Road. The oasis is a half-mile north of I-40. On the other route there's nothing but desert til Needles, 40 miles away. I was down to my last quart of water, and that wrong turn would've been disastrous. Luckily my over-heated brain caught it in time.

Just making Fenner was an exercise in toughness thanks to that damned shadow breeze. Every hundred yards I'd get red hot and have to stop so the feeble breeze could cool me off. By the time I made the oasis I was about dead on my feet.

But I made it, and immediately set to the pleasant work of recovering - swilling all the ice-cold beverages I could carry out. I must've spent $60 there over 4 hours, but I won't bitch about the price of refreshment out there in the middle of nowhere.

Two big groups of Europeans touring 66 on rented Harleys stopped by, and another group of Australians came by on their own bikes, including a vintage police side-car model.

My $60 was well-spent. By 1500 I felt miraculously recovered, and the feeble breeze had grown into a potent tailwind to boost me up the road to Goffs. I bought 8 liters of water for the road (at $2.50 each!), and took off.

After my heatwreck in the morning, I was amazed at the power I had riding on just 4 hours later. The R&R worked, and the tailwind sure helped. The road climbs gradually til it peaks a little past Goffs. From there it's downhill all the way into Needles - a 30-mile free ride.

I stopped by Dennis Casebier's place at Goffs for a look around at what might be new since I was last there years ago. The restored 1914 Goffs Schoolhouse is there, in pristine condition, along with a huge open-air collection of desert artifacts and a world-renowned research library for students of the Mojave Desert history and cultures.

The gate was closed. The place used to be open to the public on winter weekends, and it's well worth visiting. Their website may have the latest on it - http://www.mdhca.org/

I got over the road's summit, and stopped in a wash under a railroad bridge to tighten my load for a long, fast downhill ride. Then, Geronimo!

66 becomes US 95 at Arrowhead Junction, then runs onto I-40 the rest of the way into Needles. All I had to do was hang on, and by sundown I was swilling expensive water under tamarisk trees in town. Tired and dirty, I got a room for $30, and conked out.

9/15, Wednesday - I was out before sunrise. With just 15 miles to go that morning, I made a little detour into downtown Needles to check out their Harvey House - "El Garces", named after an early Spanish desert explorer.

The place was once glorious. It's now gutted, but that's part of the restoration process by various groups of citizens and government entities. May I live to see it returned to glory.

May I also live to see Amtrak figure out how to handle checked baggage at this station. Adios!


Barstow to Danby