The Blog

Friday, April 30, 2010

Barstow to somewhere in the Mojave Desert

Heading out of Barstow we hit the worst roads we have seen.  Barstow seems to be a combination of motels and car repair shops which may explain the bad roads.  Right after leaving town, we were stopped at a Marine base and had to go around via a fairly nasty dirt road.  Back on Route 66 things went all right for about 20 miles before the road became kidney killer and Catherine quickly decided it would also become an electric bike killer.  I talked to a Highway Patrol officer who told me the road stayed bad and that if we went on the freeway he would tell us to get off.
So with some chagrin, we loaded all the bikes in the back for the first time and drove off into the desert about 90 miles down the road.
To pay penance, we decided to wild camp and as I sit here now, we are in the middle of the Mojave National Preserve and we just took a hike up a mountainside where we got to enjoy some of the most beautiful desert bloom I have ever seen.  The sky also obliged by providing stunning cloud formations and the wind is still biting at my hands as I type.
While hiking around I thought about our project and the fact that we "cheated" today and I came up with a rather elegant rationalization for our impure action today.
Sustainability is our cause.  But what is the reason for wanting to create a sustainable future.  It's not because we want a world where our children will be able to shop to their hearts content.  It's not because our species is so marvelous that we deserve this planet to trash or cherish as we please.  Seeing the beauty of the desert in bloom and the sky convulsing with cloud designs, I was reminded that this planet is such an incredible place.  Whether humans are here or not, this place is truly a miracle not to be wasted by foolish human greed.  
So even though we chose to drive today, the gift of the desert added its voice to our sustainability message in a way that affirms our goal to contribute to the creation of a sustainable future where desert flowers can continue to bloom.

Wind and Solar

Loading up the bikes

Rock art tagged by those pesky Green Riders

Our desert sanctuary

Goddess of Light and Pedals

We know how old Catherine is.  How old is the cactus?

Some of the treats we enjoyed

Blogging in style!


  1. Hi Catherine and Oliver,

    First of all, I am greatly enjoying the write-ups of your adventures - good stuff!
    And the photos are great too - especially the latest ones of the cactus and clouds - beautiful!

    And then, on your comment about your "impure" action of taking the car instead of the bike for 90 miles, I had this thought: All life uses energy to live - is just that man uses too much energy doing useless stuff and making useless shit, and most of that energy is non-reuseable. What you are doing is showing what one can do with energy that is more reusable, increasing sustainability. However, if you ride on a road that will damage the bikes, that seems to me to be less sustainable than taking the car, because the bike has been manufactured (using non-reusable energy) and would have to be repaired (again using non-reusable energy, at least
    for the most part, probably). So it's a trade-off, in a sense, and you might even be using less non-reusable energy by using the car instead of damaging the bikes. (You could have walked the bikes for those 90 miles, but that would have thrown off your schedule quite a bit.)

    My two cents... I have no idea if that makes sense and/or of the math would work out...

    Last summer I read a book about a man who walked from the southern tip of South America to the northern tip of North America, and whenever he
    had to ride (illness, breakdown of material, etc.), he went back to where he left off and walked the part where he had ridden. But he was on a personal mission, whereas it seems to me that your trip is to show what can be done and to publicize a more environmentally-friendly mode of transport.

    In any case, keep on keeping on - onward and upward!


  2. Thanks for all the updates, you wonderful siblings! And thank you for inspiring us all to greater sustainability! I'm eagerly reading everything you send, every day.

    Regarding fudging: for me, the more important message is that given the diversity of terrain on our wonderful planet, bicycles are not the only answer. As inspiring as riding a bicycle can be, there is very little margin of error -- if I crash on my bike, the chances of getting killed or permanently injured are huge. I ride in a 35 MPG car, because I believe it's safer -- not that it necessarily is safer, but I just FEEL safer -- and, frankly, because it's more comfortable; and because I like to have my wife and dogs along, too, not to mention groceries and peripheral supplies.

    When we get 100MPG, biofuels-powered or hydrogen powered, or PHEV cars, I'll probably choose one of them, or a combination of car-to-rail-to-dirigible-to-jet or whatever.

    Clearly, cars and trucks running on paved roads are not the whole answer, either.

    Meanwhile, no matter what mode of transport we choose, this wonderful earth has deserts, rivers, oceans, and mountains for which bicycles are ill-suited as a sole mode of transportation. Sometimes walking or biofuel- or hydrogen- or wind- or solar-powered dirigibles might be the more appropriate mode. E.F. Schumacher taught us that appropriate technology matters -- a hammer is not the most appropriate tool for all tasks, neither is a bicycle, no matter how it is powered.

    Your message is that we need to live in greater harmony with the earth, and that no single technology provides the whole answer -- it takes diversity.

    So I have no problem with your riding in a car, on a train, in a boat, or a dirigible for as long as it takes to get back on a path that is safe and well-suited to your PRIMARY mode of transit. If you ride 99% or 95% or 75% percent es macht keinen Unterschied für mich -- you're out there feeling the wind and the sun and the cactus, meeting the people along the way, inspiring us all to pay attention -- that's what matters. Keep on peddling!

  3. Wow, what a treat to be out in the blooming desert. I'd love to be there with you!