Gas station at junction of Cima Road an Interstate 15

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

Wow. This gas station has the highest prices I've seen yet: $3.99/gallon for unleaded. I'm glad I don't need any of that stuff, and I can see why it's not all that busy here.

75 degrees (Fahrenheit) at the junction of Cima Road and Interstate 15

All I care about is the gas station's store. Is it closed? It looks dark inside.

I step in and it turns out to be adequately lit after all due to the bright sunlight outside. I guess I'm just used to stores like this having too much light. The store does have a somewhat empty feeling nonetheless because there's almost no one inside, and it seems like there should be a bit more merchandise for sale.

I buy five new 1.5 litre bottles of water and throw out my empties, which are getting quite worn. I refill the water in my new Camelbak, which I'm still trying to get used to wearing.

I supplement the breakfast I ate an hour ago with two eight-ounce bottles of cold juice, a granola bar, and two bags of salsa-flavoured corn chips, which taste surprisingly good.

I do all this slowly and my this stop has turned into a half-hour break. I chat briefly with a couple of motorcyclists who are filling up.

Looking back at the gas station from the Cima Road overpass over Interstate 15, with Cima Dome on the horizon

The woman working in the store, probably in her 50s, comes out for a smoke break while I'm still fiddling with my bags. She jokes that I "must really like water," since I bought so much. At first, she's a bit aloof. I mention to her that something about this area feels homey to me, and tell her what kind of trip I'm doing.

Suddenly, she realizes that I actually like the desert and that I'm not another freeway motorist passing driving from Las Vegas to Los Angeles for whom the desert is an unavoidable inconvenience.

Words start flowing out of her, and we have one of those "desert conversations" that I enjoy so much. She explains that when she first visited this area many years ago, she experienced that same "I'm at home" feeling that I described.

Crossing Interstate 15, I looking west toward Baker

She tells me about the semi-primitive two-building home four miles in from here where she lived for several years. Both small buildings were built from old railway ties; one housed the kitchen and living areas, the other serving as sleeping quarters. Completely off the grid with no electricity, she says that she had drinking water delivered, and a propane-powered refrigerator kept it cold. On hot summer nights she slept outside under the stars.

She expresses the irony of feeling like queen of the world living in these rough conditions that were so much less comfortable than what she grew up with back in New York state. Such talk is refreshing to hear in contrast to the Silicon Valley materialistic culture that surrounds me back home in real life.

I tell her that I completely understand, and how I feel similarly wonderful in my temporary minimal existence as a bicycle camper without the comfort, mobility or glamour of a car, motorcycle or the latest, most advertised SUV.

I wish my trip could be easier and more comfortable in some ways, but then it wouldn't be the same. So often, less is more.

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