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Day 620 – USA (CALIFORNIA): Still in Hemet
3·î 31st, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (California)
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I was going to be heading off today. Started doing some things on the internet at the Medellin-Meester’s place and realised how much I had to catch up on, and ended up staying another night. We had sushi for dinner. Stoked. Thanks guys. You are awesome.

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Day 619 – USA (CALIFORNIA): Fishing and catching in Hemet
3·î 30th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (California)
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Jessie shows how it’s done at Diamond Lake near Hemet today, and catches no fewer than five trout during our day out fishing. I caught nothing. A much as I would like to insist that fishing is all about luck, those odds do not well support my insistence.

Jessie shows his fishing skills at Diamond Lake near Hemet, California

Even five year old Leila showed me up. Her dad hooked the fish, she reeled them in. I hooked one fish, and lost it in the reeling in process.

Leila Medellin Meester fishing at Diamond Lake near Hemet, California

I need to do less fishing and more catching.

Father and daughter show off the day's catch at Diamond Lake near Hemet, California

Or learn some tricks off the old fellas fishing next to us…

Fisherman shows off his catch at Diamond Lake near Hemet, California

Thanks to Jessie and Leila for a great restful day out.

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Day 618 – USA (CALIFORNIA): Lowe Syndrome Fundraiser in Hemet
3·î 29th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,highlights,USA (California)
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This was the big day. 4 months in the waiting, I was finally here in the town of Hemet, California. Rosie Medellin had contacted me waaaaay back before I had even crossed the Atlantic regarding a possible fundraising effort to be held in Hemet when I passed through on my way to Los Angeles (or then, the plan was I was going to San Diego).

Near the beginning of the US leg of the skateboard journey, I told Rosie tentatively that I might be passing through the area around the 28th of March. Timed to perfection, three months later I arrived on the 29th.

Rosie is grandmother to Nathan Medellin Meester, age three, who has Lowe Syndrome.

To be honest, it was a little strange to be greeted as a celebrity by the Medellins and the 100-odd guests at the fundraiser.

Keynote speaker at the Lowe Syndrome Association fundraiser in Hemet, California

I could only feel that what I am doing is such a lark. So pales in comparison to the commitment of families faced with the challenge of Lowe Syndrome. Or any family, for that matter. Me, I can just say enough is enough and give up. Not so for families. Their commitment is for life. Wow. You guys are amazing.

Needless to say, it was an honour to speak about my travels and some snippets of my discoveries about life while on the road. Along with photos and stories from the road, I spoke about the 4 Ps.


I am available for other motivational talks by the way…get in fast! I’ll only be in LA for 10 days!

But anyway. Great fun, and the fundraiser was a great success. The efforts of the whole Medellin Meester Family were well rewarded with a total on-the-day total of over US$2,500 raised. Woohoo.

Keynote speaker at the Lowe Syndrome Association fundraiser in Hemet, California

Jessie Medellin Meester at the fundraiser in Hemet, California Winners of the raffle at the Lowe Syndrome Association fundraiser in Hemet, California

Me with wee Nathan:

With Nathan Medellin Meester (has Lowe Syndrome) in Hemet, California

Me with the whole Medellin Meester gang:

With the Medellin Meester famliy in Hemet, California

If you were at the fundraiser and have other photos of the event, I’d really like to post them here on the 14degrees Blog. You can send them to rob.thomson@14degrees.org.

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Day 617 – USA (CALIFORNIA): From the Whitewater rest stop to Hemet
3·î 28th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (California)
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Today’s distance / ???????: 30 miles / 48km
Average speed / ????: 7.3mph / 11.7km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 07m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 3997mi plus 280mi (?) / 6432km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: n/a

The intense westerly wind was still blowing hard in the morning. No calm morning for Rob this morning.

I had spoken to a reporter from ABC Channel 7 yesterday and arranged to meet him for an interview at the rest area at 6:00am. I was up at 5:30am and just getting ready to pack up when he arrived. Talk about commitment. Handy too, as I needed a one mile ride from the rest area to where the frontage road begins up the road. He did the interview, gave me the ride, and I was on the road at 7:30am.

This area is the San Gorgonio Pass area. Wind funnels through this area, making it a perfect area for wind farms.

Wind farms near Banning, California

All the towers were facing the direction I was going. How I wished they would all turn…how I wished for a tailwind.

Uphill on an insidious incline and into the ferocious wind, I pushed on, largely oblivious to the surroundings.

Rough frontage road near Banning, California

The frontage road was smooth enough, apart from wide cracks every 10m or so. It took more than 3 hours to cover the 20 miles from Whitewater to Beaumont; the top. Ugh. Rough.

From Beaumont however, I had my reward. Downhill into Hemet.

Steep downhill into Hemet, California

I rolled into downtown Hemet and called Rosie, my contact for the Lowe Syndrome Fundraiser to be held tomorrow. She came and picked me up, and I was there at last. One time and on schedule. Whew.

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Day 616 – USA (CALIFORNIA): From Indio to Whitewater Rest Area on I-10
3·î 27th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (California)
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Today’s distance / ???????: 33 miles / 53km
Average speed / ????: 8.1mph / 13km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 03m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 3967mi plus 280mi (?) / 6384km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N33° 55′ 16.14″, W116° 39′ 48.84″

Great morning, but shattered by the end of the day.

I got away from the motel at about 7:30am, and spent the rest of the morning skating through what can only be described as a botanical garden.

Palm Desert, California

The towns of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Thousand Palms, and all the other little towns in between along HWY111 are clipped to perfection. Reminded me of Micheal Grifka’s comment about cookie cutter town development. Also made me realise where all the palms were going from the palm plantations coming into Indio.

Palm Desert, California

Once again I had done well in the morning. 25 miles on the clock. Then the wind began. Copy and paste the following text into Google Maps (http://maps.google.com/maps), zoom in, and select the satellite function.

+33.899125, -116.624294

Sand from the dry riverbed visible in the satellite image was being whipped up by the strong wind into my face. I was only moving at 5mph at times. Just faster than walking pace. What kept me going? Knowing that I didn’t have enough water to camp then and there. I had to make it to the rest stop at Whitewater on the freeway, about five miles away. Patience Rob. You’ll get there eventually.

I got to where I thought I was directly south from the rest area, and started walking cross-country. It was a short walk from where I stopped skating, and I was glad to be at the rest area, fresh drinking water available. I set up my tent and promptly went to sleep; it was only 4pm.

I was woken at 5pm by a horrendous noise. Water was being sprayed at my tent at high velocity. What the?!

Sprinklers. There is a reason why the rest area grass is greener than anywhere else around. Once I figured out what the commotion was about, and was satisfied that my tent was indeed waterproof, I went back to sleep.

Got woken up again at about 9pm by voices outside my tent.

“Is someone sleeping in there?” the voice said.

I said nothing.

“Do you think someone is sleeping in there?” the voice said to some other chattering voices.

“Is someone sleeping in there?!” the voice inquired.

What the heck do you think?! I thought. “Trying to,” I replied.

The voices, apparently satisfied, left.

I slept.

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Day 615 – USA (CALIFORNIA): From the Salton Sea to Indio
3·î 26th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (California)
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Today’s distance / ???????: 52 miles / 84km
Average speed / ????: 9.4mph / 15km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 35m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 3934mi plus 280mi (?) / 6331km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: 270m
Descent / ??: 180m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N33.43.30.3, W116.13.33.4

Great morning, sweltering afternoon. These back to back 50 mile plus days are taking their toll.

I got away from my Salton Sea campsite (which was not on the shores of the sea, hence no photo, about 10 miles away) early, knowing that it would be hot again in the afternoon.

There must have been some uphill at some stage either this morning or yesterday, because on one short 3 mile stretch, I was enjoying a wonderful downhill. Foo Fighters blaring in my earphones, racing down ultra-smooth wide shouldered pavement. Perfect.

On the way to LA!

Moving towards LA! Keeping out of 18-wheeler's path near Salton City, California

I managed 35 miles before lunch today. Before the heat began. I sweated past palm plantations – some with full grown palms, some with younger palms.

Baby palms at a palm plantation near Indio, California

I began to wonder where all these palms were going…

In the latter 10 miles of the day, the urban began. I was hoping for more open areas where I could camp, but this was not to be. A massive westerly wind blew up at about 4pm, and I knew it was time to call it quits. I checked into a cheap motel and called it a day.

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Day 614 – USA (ARIZONA and CALIFORNIA): From Somewhere near Glamis to Salton Sea
3·î 25th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (Arizona),USA (California)
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Today’s distance / ???????: 62 miles / 101km
Average speed / ????: 10.2mph / 16.4km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 6h 07m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 3881mi plus 280mi (?) / 6247km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N33.06.14.1, W115.48.47.5

Downhill, smooth surface, slight tailwind. It makes all the difference. My first century in the US. 101km. Stoked. And some fantastic scenery to boot.

The first half of the day was skating through the ups and downs again of the hilly rocky area between Palo Verde and Glamis.

Mars-like scenery on the way to Glamis, California

Somewhere in California

I passed through the incredible Glamis Sand Dune Wilderness area near Glamis.

Glamis Sand Dunes, Glamis, California

On the south side of the road, the dunes are naked. Any attempt at plants growing there are thwarted by thousands of petrol-head dune buggy enthusiasts.

Glamis Sand Dunes, Glamis, California

The north side is untouched dune wilderness with small bunches of wild flowers growing in the fragile valleys created by the sandy dunes.

Approaching Glamis is a desert tortoise area. Only authorised persons are allowed to harass the tortoises.

Sign near Glamis, California

I pushed on through to Blythe. 43 miles by lunchtime. It is such a nice feeling to know that you only have to do another 7 miles after lunch in order to meet the average daily mileage deadline.

I pushed on further than those 7 miles however. The more I do today, I figured, the less I have to do the next couple of days. You never know when you’ll get a tough headwind or tough roads. Best to make hay while the sun shines, so to speak.

I camped out just out of sight from the highway behind what looked like a stop bank.

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Day 613 – USA (ARIZONA and CALIFORNIA): From Quartzsite to somewhere near Glamis
3·î 24th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (Arizona),USA (California)
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Darn it. Misplaced my mileage info for today…

Anyway, it was a bit of a lously start to the day. I had to get a ride for 15 miles from Quartzsite to Ehrenberg, on the Arizona side of the Colorado River; the border of California/Arizona. Gutted.

In Blythe in California, I visited the California Highway Patrol HQ to ask about frontage roads along the I-10 freeway between Blythe and Banning. “None” was the reply.

Righto then. A 250 mile detour it is. 250 miles in 5 days. I called Rosie, the organiser of the Lowe Syndrome Fundraiser in Hemet, to let her know that she may need to pick me up. I might not make it on time, I told her.

So…welcome to California. I was stoked.

Californian scenery near Colorado River, California

It appears that this was the only photo I took today. Brutally hot during the afternoon, it was tough going on the steep ups and downs along HWY78. Got about 3 miles past the Border Patrol Checkpoint and set up camp in a dry wash. Dumb idea to camp in a dry wash, but I was shattered. Just wanted to sleep.

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Day 612 – USA (ARIZONA): From Hope to Quartzsite out of hope…
3·î 23rd, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (Arizona)
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Today’s distance / ???????: 26 miles / 42km
Average speed / ????: 9.1mph / 15km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 2h 54m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 3766mi plus 280mi (?) / 6060km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N33° 39′ 54.04″, W114° 13′ 24.49″

Well, after 4,000 miles, bureaucracy has put an end to my hope of using solely human powered means to cross the North American continent.

No matter how much I reasoned with the Highway Patrol Officer, he would not budge. And this time, there were no alternatives.

I left Hope in not much of a hurry this morning. Bill and Gerry invited me to stay with them again in Quartzsite, only 35 miles away. They had had a couple of big days on their bikes, and were going to make it a half day. Conisdering my two big days, I decided to make it a shorter day today too. Since they travel much faster than me on my skateboard, I told them I would call them once I arrived in Quartzsite.

It was a nice downhill for five miles from Hope to the bottom of the wide valley, before US60 began a slow insidious climb. The road surface was rough, and a slight headwind was blowing. It felt like an age getting from Hope to where US60 joins with the I-10 freeway. I didn’t like the thought of going on the freeway again, but since there was genuinely no other alternative (well, apart from a remote 150 mile detour through scorching desert with no services compared with a ten mile downhill stretch to Quartzsite on I-10), I felt I was justified for using the freeway.

I was two miles into a nine mile wondrous downhill on the smooth, 10-foot shoulder on I-10, seven miles from Quartzsite, when I heard a short chirp of a police siren behind me. I pulled off the shoulder onto the gravel, and waited for the police officer to get out of his car.

We went through a similar dialog as I had with the other officer two days ago just out of Phoenix, except that I emphasised the fact that there were no alternatives, and that I was only going to be on the highway for another 7 miles, down to Quartzsite.

“I’m sorry, but this a controlled access highway…” the officer recited.

I reasoned with him that I was not just some young punk on a skateboard out for a joy ride. I reminded him that in order to skateboard to this point, I had spent a total of more than 600 miles on this very I-10 highway without either being kicked off by police or being run over, and that it was entirely ridiculous that I should be viewed any different from a bicycle (which is allowed on the freeway shoulder).

He was as firm as a rock. “I don’t mean to be a kill-joy,” he said as he continued to recite the law.

“You are being kill-joy,” I said. “Why is it that the dozen or so officers that I have spoken to over the last 3.5 months have allowed me to continue, seeing that I am conducting my travel in a safe way, and you are the only one that is creating a problem?” I said, all rather too emphatically, getting more and more worked up.

Another police officer, who had been attending to another matter a few hundred metres up the road, once finished, now arrived to see what was going on. I told him I was skateboarding across America. “That’s awesome!” he said. He was the good cop. Had it only been him, I’m sure he would have let me off. Bad cop was not budging.

“You cannot skate on the highway. I’m going to write you a warning.” Bad cop continued.

“This is ridiculous!” I repeated. “What is more dangerous, me rolling downhill for half an hour on a skateboard, or me walking two hours through the desert in the middle of the day? Actually, mate, I don’t care. I’ll take my chances with the rattle snakes. Oh yes, that will be much safer than the highway.”

Good cop went and got me a couple of bottles of water. Bad cop offered me a ride to Quartzsite. I declined, in a huff. I may as well have said “Screw you!”, such was my attitude at that point.

I wandered towards the barbed wire fence that marked the freeway boundary. Half way there, Good Cop called after me. Looking back, the two officers were consulting a thick book, laid out on the boot of one of the cars. I walked back, and Good Cop explained that he was trying to give me a break. Trying to make sure there wasn’t some clause that would allow me to be on the freeway shoulder.

“Ummmm. Ah, actually, sorry, Mr. Thomson,” he said. Then turning to the other officer, “The wheel diameter has to be 16 inches or more. His are only three inches at best.”

I turned away and scuffed my feet as I walked towards the fence. Climbed over it. Re-adjusted my pack, and began the long walk down to Quartzsite, the town infuriatingly visible in the distance.

About ten minutes into the walk, I was still fuming at the unreasonableness of the police officer. I had however realised that I may as well have taken a ride in the police car. From Quartzsite to Ehrenburg, on the Californian border, a distance of about 15 miles, there is another unavoidable stretch of the I-10 freeway. I guess I won’t be on that on my skateboard.

Looks like I screwed myself. It’s hot, dry, and these shoes were not designed for walking with a pack on one’s back. I’m getting blisters.

Desert road near Quartzite, Arizona

I was upset. Cried even. Things like road construction or snow or other conditions that would force me to walk would be OK. Bureaucracy is such an invisible, incredibly insurmountable barrier. So frustrating.

Desert road near Quartzite, Arizona

The pink shoes did get me to Quartzsite eventually however, and I met up with Bill and Gerry again at their campsite. Thanks guys. It was great to be with people when I was feeling down!

My biggest concern now is how to get across California. The plan was to travel on I-10. Other campers are of the opinion that if the Highway Patrol is strict here in Arizona, I’ll have no chance in California on the freeway.

What to do? I still need to make it to Hemet in….5 days. Along the freeway, this would be no worries.

With the help of Bill and Gerry, we looked at a map and calculated the distance on the only other feasible alternative route; south around the Salton Sea, via the Glamis sand dune wilderness area.

The alternative route worked out to be 250 miles. That’s 50 miles a day I would have to do in order to get to Hemet on time for the Lowe Syndrome Fundraiser. That’s a big ask.

Perhaps I should just hitch most of the way across California? Having to go 250 miles out of my way is a little too much to ask, surely.

I went to sleep undecided.

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Day 611 – USA (ARIZONA): From Tonopah Valley to Hope
3·î 22nd, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,USA (Arizona)
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Today’s distance / ???????: 62 miles / 100km
Average speed / ????: 8.4mph / 13.5km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 7h 22m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 3740mi plus 280mi (?) / 6019km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N33° 43′ 18.07″, W113° 42′ 17.42″

Massive day today. Massive. Gnarly headwinds in the afternoon. Ugh.

So I got away from the Fire Department early at 7:30am. The morning was cool and crisp, belying the heat that always comes in the afternoon. The Salome highway took me through cotton plantations, up and down dips in the road, signs warning of flash floods one minute and dust storms the next.

Dips in the road near Wintersburg, Arizona More dusty desert near Salome, Arizona

I had made good time and was taking a break in the shade of a large tank at one end of a cotton field when I noticed two cyclists making their way towards me along the same road I had been on.

Bill and Gerry Myers started from Phoenix the day before, and were on their way on a circular tour of Arizona and California. From Phoenix to Phoenix via San Diego, up the coast, then via Death Valley back to Phoenix. The offered for me to stay with them in the campsite they were planning on staying in about 40 miles up the road. To do another 40 miles after already being on the road for 2.5 hours was a big ask, so I said that if I made it, I would give them a call.

The wind was at my back as I made my way over the I-10 highway and onto the 25 mile stretch of straight smooth road towards Salome. I was enjoying it so much I even had time to check out the smaller things in life. Strange little beetles all over the dry desert landscape.

Crazy beetles near Wintersburg, Arizona

I stopped for an early lunch at 11:30am. I figured I could have a few hours siesta before hitting the road for the afternoon.

By the time I was ready to hit the road again at 1pm, the wind had turned, and the nice tailwind was replaced with a vicious headwind. I shouldn’t have been surprised. The last few weeks have followed this pattern. No wind, or even a slight tailwind in the morning is always replaced by a strong headwind out of the west in the afternoon.

Desert road in Salome, Arizona

At my slow pace, I would have been happy to have come across a cow. Perhaps I could have lassoed one and trained it to pull me. Neither did I have to worry about screaming up to a cattle guard and not being able to stop.

Sign near Salome, Arizona

I was running out of water, and knew that I at least had to make it to Salome before dark. So I pushed on and arrived in the small town of Salome at around 5:30pm. In Salome, the Salome Highway (the road I had been following since the morning) hits US highway 60. Once on US60, the wind was on my right side, no longer blowing in my face. I had a bite to eat in Salome, and resolved to surprise Bill and Gerry by skating the remaining 8 miles to Hope.

From Salome to Hope, it is all downhill. Wondrous smooth gradual downhill. I was elated. After 6.5 hours of pushing, I could just coast for an hour. Very nice.

Bill and Gerry, as I had expected, were not expecting me. “When that headwind kicked up in the afternoon, we were thinking of you,” Gerry said. They had made it all the way to Hope, a total of 80-odd miles from where they started in the morning, by 3pm. Thanks to Bill and Gerry for letting me share their campsite tonight!

With fellow travelers in Hope, Arizona

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