Kelbaker Road descends slowly past the lava flows; the Mojave Road crosses here just ahead at the sandy section

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

Thanks to my unplanned side trip to Marl Springs and along the Mojave Road, today has been much more interesting than a necessary "return to Baker" ride.

After riding around the big curve on Kelbaker Road, the last 10 miles toward Baker (at the foot of the mountains in the distance) are slightly downhill

I begin the slow 16-mile descent down Kelbaker Road into Baker for the last time. I love the scenery along here with the lava flows off to my right and low mountains off to my left.

A couple of miles pass and, oh look, there's where the Mojave Road crosses. Just after that, oh, there's the area by Willow Wash where I camped out a few nights ago. A bit further, there's the Indian Springs Road that I still haven't gotten around to exploring.

A couple of miles further, I arrive at the left-turn in the road—look, there's that campsite just inside the wilderness area where I camped five years ago.

I ride around the corner, and it's almost straight ahead from here into Baker for the last 10 miles. It's downhill, but only a little—the elevation only drops 1000 feet between here and Baker.

Graffiti on Kelbaker Road as it approaches Baker

The heat of the day has created some haze off in the distance toward Baker. I'm feeling the heat too and am wondering if my body heat is contributing to the haze. It has gotten quite a bit hotter since I left Marl Springs this morning, and it was already rather warm then.

I have a headwind on this final stretch, so it doesn't feel much like a downhill. Nonetheless, I'm maintaining 14-17 miles per hour. I pedal hardily, mechanically, like the human-propelled machine that I am.

My mind is drifting. I'm thinking about restaurant food in Baker and about food that I've enjoyed in other cities in the past, and which I can't have here.

I'm also thinking about how my eyes have adjusted during the past two weeks to landscape tones of beige, brown and black, dotted with greenish plants, and capped with blue skies.

The unimposing olive-green of the ubiquitous creosote bushes here in the Mojave here now look as normal to me as the man-made green of the typical San José suburban lawn.

Crossing Interstate 15 on the overpass and arriving at Baker's four-way main-street stop sign; Los Dos Toritos Mexican Restaurant, straight ahead, is closed today

I keep drinking my water to stay hydrated, but in hot weather like this, the water is too warm to be enjoyable. The water in my Camelbak is the worst. But I've gotten used to this fact of desert-camping life. I've come to associate cool water in my mouth with morning because the sun hasn't had time to heat up my water at that hour.

Thoughts about how I was before I came here, and how perhaps I've subtly changed while being here, all dissipate when I get close to to the freeway and cross the Interstate-15 overpass and land at the stop sign at Baker's main intersection on Baker Blvd.

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