Kelbaker Road finally begins its descent toward Kelso Depot—a lot of rough pavement on this stretch

Bicycle camping in and around Mojave National Preserve 2006

Day 10: Willow Wash to Arrowweed Spring

36.2 miles, 4:40 hrs, 23.9 mph max, 7.4 mph avg

Elevation: 2200 feet to 3800 to 2123 to 4000

Yippie! From the Kelbaker Road summit here at 3800 feet, I have almost 12 miles of downhill riding ahead of me, and an elevation drop of almost 1700 feet, to Kelso Depot. This stretch is always a treat!

The rocky Kelso Mountains along Kelbaker Road; Kelso Dunes are in the background, and the Granite Mountains are behind and above them

The pavement is quite old and rough in places, and there's no paved shoulder, so it's necessary here to ride out toward the middle of the lane. Fortunately, there's not too much traffic along here.

Heading downward, the headwind is strong enough that I'm not moving as fast as I thought I might.

I experiment with not pedalling at all, just to see if the bike will keep rolling downhill in the face of the strong headwind without my help. It does keep moving, but it often gets as slow as 10 miles per hour.

That experiment completed, I start pedalling again. I almost reach 24 miles per hour on the steeper segments, but I remember riding down this hill five years ago at almost 40 miles per hour, probably with a tail wind.

Far more important than statistics is that this is fun and that the headwind feels great on my hot, sweaty body. It's a warm breeze and not cool at all, but it's a breeze nonetheless.

The eastward descent on Kelbaker Road into the valley to Kelso, where there are a few trees visible in the distance

While coming up the Kelbaker grade, I was getting a wee bit of this breeze from time to time, but it was always just a tease that never lasted long enough to refresh.

The descent into Kelso is always a big blissful blur each time I ride it. All paved roads toward Kelso are downhill because it's at the bottom of a valley.

Arriving at Kelso Depot, the restored 1920s' train station that is now the park's visitor centre, I instantly notice that it's warmer down here than it was up above—just as I thought it might be.

Vistor-centre staff lets me use their hose in the basement utility closet, as they did last week, to fill up my water bottles and Camelbak. The water isn't cold, but it's not nearly as warm as the water that remains in my bottles.

There's Kelso Depot; I'm almost there again

The book store in the visitor centre sells little bottles of refrigerated water, so I buy two of them, just so I can have something cold. The ice-cold water tastes soooo good. I don't know why they don't sell bigger bottles—this is the desert after all!

I wasn't sure if the staffwoman would remember me from last week, but she did; I guess there aren't many bicycle campers out here! She mentions that she passed another bicyclist yesterday evening on the way back home to Baker after work. I guess that was me again!

I ask her again about Arrowweed Spring. She gave me some information about Arrowweed Spring last week when I passed through here, but I ended up camping at Kelso Dunes that night instead.

She tells me that she has been to Arrowweed Spring since she talked to me last week and she thinks the road is probably sandier and more difficult to ride through than she had originally thought.

The 10-ton bike waits patiently for me in the shade outside Kelso Depot as I go inside to fill my water bottles and chat with park staff

I thank her for the updated information, but I'm not discouraged. I'm a lot tougher now, after a week of touring out here, than I was when I last spoke to her. I let her know that I'm excited to try Arrowweed Spring tonight anyway and that I will just drag the bike through any unrideable stretches of the road.

I step outside and my cell phone (Sprint) says that it is functional right now with analog roaming. I've often had this deceptive message out here in the Mojave, only to find that no phone call can actually be made.

But this time I do manage to call my friend Trennel in the Los Angeles area to tell him that I'm still alive, well, and perhaps better than ever. Unfortunately, our connection dies early in the conversation, and I can't get another connection to call him back.

There used to be a pay phone here outside Kelso Depot, but it's no longer here for some reason.

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