"The world's tallest thermometer" in Baker, proudly reports 106°F, but I suspect that it's really not quite that hot; would I ride a bike in 106-degree temperatures?

Bicycle camping in and around Mojave National Preserve 2006

Day 12: Marl Springs to Baker

29.9 miles, 2:45 hrs, 21.2 mph max, 10.8 mph avg

Elevation: 4100 feet to 4550 to 923

I'm overheating, hungry, a bit physically tired and sleep-deprived, but the endorphins are still pumping me full of wonderful energy that I don't really have.

The Royal Hawaiian Motel has two signs—the one to the right still has functioning neon in it;

I glance over at "the world's tallest thermometer" and see that the temperature is 106°F. So, the heat that I'm feeling isn't imaginary. But is it really that hot? Again, I'm surprised and impressed that I've endured the heat so well during this trip while doing fairly strenous bicycling.

Then again, perhaps I'll collapse from a heart attack within the next half hour, who knows.

I want a big meal, and I want it now. I was hoping for a big plate at Los Dos Toritos Mexican restaurant, but they are apparently closed on Mondays. There's no sign stating that they are closed, but they're not open.

So I go to the Mad Greek restaurant across the street instead. I'm in the mood for a heavy, meaty, protein-rich meal, but I also want something refreshing as well.

So I end up ordering a big vegetarian plate instead, with Greek salad, hummus, tabouli and dolmas. It also comes with tzatziki that I don't want, and which I ignore. Delicious, and the huge cup of freshly pressed apple-carrot-orange juice hits the spot and goes down like water.

Room in the Royal Hawaiian Motel with thick green carpeting, faux wood paneling on the walls and ceiling, and other 1970s' touches

Determined to avoid the sickeningly over-deodourized rooms at Bun Boy Motel again, I ride down the road and check out the Royal Hawaiian Motel. It turns out to be $20 cheaper for the night, and perhaps for good reason, but I'll take the gamble.

I ask for a ground-level room so that I can wheel my bike inside easily. The room that I'm assigned is in a building that was probably constructed in the 1960s or -70s at the rear of the complex.

The Royal Hawaiian is a little dilapidated, but almost to the point where that's starting to become part of its charm (I wish I could say that about the Bun Boy Motel). For one thing, the bed is much better than the one at the Bun Boy, and the room has a functional telephone.

The trashy 70s furniture and faux-wood panelling on the walls (and ceiling!) is appealing in an amusing way.

The rooms of the older building of the Royal Hawaiian Motel near the road are all abaadoned, though it doesn't look that way at first glance

Less amusing is the noisy large group of people, probably a large family, outside my patio door (whose security lock is broken) frolicking in the swimming pool, but they seem to be having a good time. Most importantly, the air-conditioning works really well, and it feels great.

I settle in and take a very long shower. My last shower was at Tecopa Hot Springs 3.5 days ago, but it feels much longer than that! Layers of salt, sweat and grime peel off my surface like an oven being subjected to the best oven-cleaner available.

Refreshed again, I step outside to go for a walk in the neighbourhood, which is mostly just 24-hour gas stations and their attached convenience stores. One thing I need to buy is a new pen because mine ran out of ink last night.

As soon as I open the door, I encounter a wall of heat that makes me think that maybe it really is 106°F after all.

The Royal Hawaiian Motel office near at the front of the complex; note the missing sign below the word "motel;" the non-abandoned rooms are in the modern building behind the office

I walk around the Royal Hawaiian complex. Small signs of disrepair are everywhere, ranging from missing signs, burnt-out light bulbs in light fixtures to tears in the living-room seats.

What surprises me most is that all the rooms in the older 1940s or '50s building out front by the road are decrepit and abandoned—it's not immediately obvious when passing by.

As I make my rounds of the gas-station stores, I look for a new t-shirt worth buying and hopefully good beer. I'm happy to find Sierra Nevada beer at one of the stores, but don't have as much luck finding a suitable t-shirt.

I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry when I see a t-shirt at one store that shows images of hot peppers or a saguaro cactus along with the words "Death Valley" or "Baker, California." Neither hot peppers nor saguaro cactus grow in Death Valley nor here in Baker.

Baker's Royal Hawaiian Motel is open, even though this sign is burned out and broken

It would be nice to have a fresh clean t-shirt for tomorrow morning. I should have bought one of those nice Mojave National Preserve t-shirts back when I was at Kelso Depot yesterday morning, but I just wasn't thinking about my impending dirty-laundry problem then.

Walking around Baker as a non-motorist is a strange experience. This town exists these days mostly because everyone drives. It seems that most people here are only here to fill up on gas and to fill their stomachs if they've gotten hungry on the way to bigger cities like Los Angeles or Las Vegas. The visiting population here likely outnumbers the resident population by a huge percentage.

Happy to have found some of my favourite beer and some new pens, I retreat from the heat to my motel room, rather than to my tent, for a change. Oh, the air-conditioning is so nice!

Sunset in Baker, looking north on main street Baker Blvd.

I settle in to catch up on my journal-writing; in the process I re-live some of my recent travels, already part of my personal history. I'm enjoying the good beer and I smoke my pipe heartily—none of it healthy, but pure bliss nonetheless.

I can't resist turning on the TV to see what's on. I haven't watched any TV at all in about two weeks.

After about 30 minutes, I get annoyed by the hype surrounding this week's news items and all the idiotic advertisements that I'm supposed to accept as normal. I have little interest in anything I'm seeing, yet it overtakes my attention just the same, making it difficult for me to continue writing my notes.

Fed up with the noise and the useless intrusion, I turn the TV off so that I can get back to my journal. I remember all too clearly why I hardly watch TV in the first place, and why I don't even have cable TV installed at home.

The Mad Greek's "Greek Combo Plate" is actually two plates—a salad plate and a meat-and-starch plate; I would typically choose rice instead of french fries, but rice in Greek restaurants is notoriously blah

I'm not sure why journal-writing is such a slow process sometimes. It seems that I just end up drifting off thinking about the details of what I'm writing. I thought that I might get bored tonight here in Baker in an anonymous motel room, but instead I find that I'm almost running out of time.

A little after 23h, I step out to grab a late night meal at the Mad Greek. I'm still calorie-deprived, and it will take me a few days of eating big meals until I start to feel normal again. I recognize this pattern that happens at the end of a demanding bike trip.

Even at this late hour, it's still much hotter outside than in my room; over 80°F. I order the "Greek Combo," which includes kebobs and gyros meat. It would be far too much meat for me under normal circumstances, but it's perfect and tasty right now.

I walk back to my room down the road. Very much mellowed by the big meal and the evening's beer-drinking and pipe-smoking, I quickly fade into sleep with the air conditioner starting and stopping.

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