Home Sweet Home
Today we welcome guest blogger and FBA Board Vice President, Patty Huff, of Everglades City.
I’ve always enjoyed cycling out west and being in the mountains. My husband Steve and I planned our 3rd cross-country summer bike trip to be just as challenging and exciting as our other trips 20 years ago: the first from south Florida to Oregon and the other from the San Juan islands to Jacksonville.
Looking for a different route and to experience other areas of the country, we chose to bike the Adventure Cycling Southern Tier from San Diego back home to Florida. However, this year there was record-breaking heat out west! And I mean oven-blasting heat! Because we had cycled in over 100 degrees before on our past trips, we thought getting up at 3 am and starting before the sun cooked the pavement would be sufficient. We were wrong.
Our itinerary was to start in San Diego and cycle over the mountains and through the dessert to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and continue east to Florida. It was mid-June when we set off early in the morning from downtown San Diego heading north to reach the Ocean Beach Bike Path, then we cycled along the San Diego River, Father Junipero Serra Trail, through Lakeside, and along historic Highway 80 as we climbed up to Alpine (total 44 miles).
We were feeling great and invigorated as we settled into our room at the Ayres Lodge. The following day was just another 42 miles to Boulevard, but it was another day of climbing, reaching an altitude of 4,239 ft after leaving Live Oak Springs.
Beautiful scenery and, despite the heat, we were still feeling good, especially on our third day as we enjoyed a long descent from Boulevard and Jacumba (where we saw the first of many, many miles of the border wall) and then mostly flat to El Centro to complete a 62-mile day. The road conditions were not good and at times the interstate was our only choice (not much fun) with little or no shade.
Finally, the 116 degrees heat got the best of me after our fourth day of another 63 miles to Yuma, Arizona. Arriving at our nice hotel on the Colorado River and resting for a few hours, disorientation, nausea, and severe cramping sent me to the emergency room. I didn’t even realize my body was under attack. My sodium was 118 (normal between 135-145), GFR (kidney function) was 40 with a normal of 90-120 in women, and a CK (creatinine kinase) of 2,840 (normal 22-198).
I was admitted to the hospital and watched carefully through the night, providing blood samples every four hours with IVs continuing for 20 hours. The amazing thing was that I didn’t really feel ill, just somewhat confused and a little weak; the lesson being that you really don’t know how serious this condition can be; several people died that week out west during this excessive heat wave.
In any case, we realized that we were survivors, as well as victims of the heat. I’m not sure that our ages (75) or other factors made a difference in attempting another cross-country bike tour. I really don’t want to think that age could be a problem; “you’re only as old as you feel”!
So, what could we do; the doctors said it would take a few weeks for my levels to get back to normal and that I should not get back on the bike until I saw my primary doctor at home. Thus, Plan B: we rented a SUV, packed our bicycles in the car, and took off for Tucson where we enjoyed great food and touring around historic areas downtown by foot.
After an intriguing drive through the Saguaro National Park, we continued on to Las Cruces, New Mexico. We decided to travel at a slow pace on our route home to Everglades City. We were disappointed that our bike trip was prematurely terminated, but we would make the best of it. I kept looking out the window for wind and road conditions, imaging what it would be like on my bike.
It was hard to accept that we had to travel in the comforts of a car; it’s a different experience, for sure. However, we continued to appreciate the small towns and learn about places we had never seen before: Van Horn, Texas (where the Blue Origin recently launched from), historic Fort Stockton and Fredricksburg before arriving in Austin where we spent a full day strolling along the river trail, exploring the State Capitol, and relishing the food.
We visited historic Galveston, then a ferry ride to Port Bolivar before continuing east through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and finally home to FLORIDA. It was so wonderful to see GREEN, GREEN Florida after so many miles of sandy-brown dessert in the southwest. I love my State, and there’s no place like home!
What’s your cycling story? Is it in the Messenger? Our quarterly Messenger newsletter is available online for your internet reading pleasure, just visit the FBA website Home page . Want a hard copy of our Messenger? FBA members have the Messenger delivered to their door every quarter. Join Florida Bicycle Association or visit one of our bicycle shop members to pick up a copy and use the membership form inside to join!