Touring the Mojave National Preserve by Bicycle
Food, Water, Sleep
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8

Day 8: One Lazy Last Day in Baker, California

DISTANCE: 7.5 miles
ELEVATION: stay at 923 feet

It's so nice to sleep in late. Better get up and take another shower though before my 11 a.m. check-out time. Then it will be off to Los Dos Toritos across the road for a huge, scrumptious breakfast. I'm still starving from all the riding I've done during the past week.

I consume my plate of huevos rancheros with excitement and restraint and I study my maps. I have no plans for today, but a ride in the immediate vicinity seems appropriate. Highway 127 just outside the door would take me 5 miles north past the Hollow Hills Wilderness area, or I could head south on the dirt roads off Kelbaker Road and across the flat desert toward Soda Dry Lake.

By the time breakfast is finished, I've made the random choice to head in the direction of Soda Dry Lake. I stock up with just two bottles of water instead of the usual five since I'll be coming back in a few hours. I venture a mile out Kelbaker Road and turn down a fairly well-maintained dirt road as per my map. Soon, I reach a now-defunct landfill site. As I follow the detour around this fenced-off area, I'm finding that the road is becoming extremely sandy. Hmmm...

My wheels slip in the sand for almost a mile. Suddenly, it occurs to me that my heart isn't in this. The "big trip" is over and I feel like all I'm doing today is imitating the events of the past week. I'm still enjoying being here, but what I really want to do right now is lounge around and do nothing until I catch my Greyhound bus an hour after sunset.

I turn around and head back toward Baker, as if there were something or someone there waiting for me. Before I reach Kelbaker Road, I pull over and walk 100 feet up the shady side of a rocky hill and scope out a comfortable sitting spot. I plant myself here and drink water and eat the apple turnovers I brought from The Mad Greek restaurant on the way. There's no one around anywhere, but I have a nice view across the desert to Baker and the traffic on I-15 a few miles away. After spending a week out here, Baker appears to have a skyline to look at with its tallest-in-the-world thermometer.

Perhaps 45 minutes has passed. I still don't know how I'll pass an afternoon in Baker, but I get back on my bike and lazily aim at it. The Mojave National Preserve's visitor centre seems to be a good place to start. I manage to spend an hour inside looking at books, pretending to be the library rat I was before I owned a computer. The concrete plaza out front has a shady spot that turns out to be perfect for sipping coffee from the Bun Boy next door and writing in my journal while thoughts are still fresh. The coffee is rather industrial, but satisfies this double-espresso fiend nonetheless.

It's amazing how quickly a sunny, warm day can go by. At the the General Store where Greyhound stops, they've faithfully kept my bike box for my return trip. I notice that I'm much better at taking my bike apart and boxing it this time. For one thing, I've arrived plenty early and there's no rush whatsoever. For another, I'm so content with the week I've just spent cycling the Mojave National Preserve, that I'm not sure anything could bother me right now.

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