Riding into the sunset on Furnace Creek Road toward Tecopa

Bicycle camping in and around Mojave National Preserve 2006

Day 7: Cima Dome to Tecopa Hot Springs via Excelsior Mine Road

66.5 miles, 5:29 hrs, 28.0 mph max, 12.1 mph avg

Elevation: 5000 feet to 3300 to 5100 to 1325

I'm still not seeing any sign of civilization, but I know I must be getting close to town. I eventually pass a sign to the China Ranch date farm road, and I instantly know where I am. The gravel road turns into pavement.

Hills off Furnace Creek Road

After another big turn in the road, I'm on an unexpected downhill and I whoosh past a man walking a dog. I'm enjoying the pavement, and the scenario seems odd because I still haven't seen a car nor a house for a long time.

However, this human presence means that I must be near town. Indeed, just a little further down the hill, I start to see houses here and there, so I know that I'm finally entering the town of Tecopa. I keep riding past the houses, a few of which are abandoned.

The town of Tecopa Hot Springs, my destination, is two miles beyond the town of Tecopa, so I keep on riding. I come to the Tecopa Hot Springs Road and it rises slowly over a hill. I can't see Tecopa Hot Springs yet, but know that it's only a couple of miles away.

It's so nice to hit pavement again for better tire traction, even if it's in bad condition! The sun is setting behind the mountains, so it's not shining in my eyes any more and I can see again!

The road seems recently repaved and has a wide shoulder that feels like a bonafide bike lane. As I ride over the little hill and coast down to Tecopa Hot Springs, I see a "bike lane end" sign. Wow, the big road shoulder not only felt like a bike lane, it is one! Great, I certainly didn't expect a bike lane in a rural location like this.

The sun is setting, and natural light is dimming. I'm not entirely sure where I'm going, but seeing that I'm arriving somewhere quells any feelings of uncertainty that I have. I reach a stop sign where there are a few people standing outside a building and lights are on.

A sign says "Tecopa Hot Springs campground," so pull in. This might be the place that I read about on the Internet, but I didn't think I'd be visiting here, so I didn't pay too much attention to what I read.

The parking-lot-style campground across the road is largely empty, but isn't very appealing at first glance. The helpful campground attendant suggests a couple of sites for me to check out based on my desire to not camp out immediately next to a camper trailer.

Houses in the distance! Tecopa is just down the road and Tecopa Hot Springs is two miles beyond

I ride around and choose an empty site at the end of the campground down by Grimshaw Dry lake, which contains almost no water at all at this time of year.

It's dopey here, and I instantly feel happy for some reason, as if I've just come back home after a long absence. I get feelings like this at various locations in the desert every now and then. I'm never sure if it's the people that I meet in these places, the physical environment, or a little of both, which brings them on.

This area is browner and more barren than Mojave National Preserve. There aren't even many creosote bushes here to add some green to the landscape. But there's something about the harsh barrenness here that's appealing nonetheless—I don't know what or why.

A nice wide shoulder labelled as a bike lane is on the road from Tecopa to Tecopa Hot Springs

It's almost completely dark now. I pull out my flashlight lantern and set up my tent quickly. I laze around enjoying the residual sunset, and then the first true darkness.

I eat a couple of bags of potato chips that I bought at the campground office. I dig into my beef jerky stash for protein. No cooking tonight!

I end up with not enough time to take a soak in the hot tubs tonight by the campground office. But I do have just enough time to go up for a quick shower before the facility closes at 22h00.

The basics of life are a little different here. The water in the showers and hot tubs is unheated and is naturally warm. All piped water here is warm, so showers and sinks just have one tap—a warm-water tap that just happens to be the desired temperature.

Even the water in the toilets is warm. The water is also undrinkable due to the high mineral content, and abundant signs remind visitors not to drink the water.

Do not drink the water here! Note that there is just one tap: warm; even the water in the toilet is warm

While at the showers, there's one other guy there just before closing as I dry off. He says, "You're that bicyclist that came in today, aren't you?" Of course I am, and that gets the conversation started. His name is Billy and he tells me that he is the guy who was walking his dog outside of Tecopa, and that he noticed me riding by.

Billy toured the entire west coast by bicycle several years ago, from California to Alaska through British Columbia, and has done other long bike tours as well, far longer than anything I've ever attempted. He has lived in Tecopa Hot Springs for several years now, but he has never done any bike touring in this area and is suddenly excited by the possibility. We decide to meet again tomorrow at my tent and chat some more.

Back at my tent, I prepare for bed. I'm exhausted from the day's strenuous ride, but invigorated by the conversation and the warm shower. It's still fairly warm out, with a comforting cool wind. A brook running next to my campsite makes soothing sounds and I fall asleep in no time, despite my twitching muscles.

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