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  1. #1
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    Southwest desert tour

    Tucson to Palm Springs in 7.5 days. Has anyone done any biking in this area of Southern Arizona or Southern Cal? I've been playing around with deciding on the best route to take, but maybe some bikers here could help. By the way, I'm flying out of LA, but have 0.0 desire to bike the stretch from Palm Springs to LA, so I'll finish in Palm Springs and take a bus the rest of the way.

    1) I'd like to spend my trip in as many nature protected areas as possible: national parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges. I'd be happy if I could hit most or all of these: Saguaro NP, Buenos Aires NWR, Organ Pipe NM, Salton Sea NWR, Kofa NWR, Joshua Tree NP. Ideally, I'd like to hit both Buenos Aires NWR and Organ Pipe NM, but I'm slightly concerned about the close proximity to the border. Is this a real danger or cause for concern in that area for a solo biker?

    2) Avoiding interstates or major state highways would be ideal, but this would be road biking, so I want to keep it to paved roads. Is there any way to find out which roads are paved in a particular area. Google maps is pretty good becuase it allows you to zoom in and get a close-up photograph of the main roads in the area you are looking at. When you zoom in to a minor road and it tells you "no data", is it safe to assume that this is a dirt road or trail? I'd really like to bike through Kofa NWR but I see only minor roads through there with no data, so it seems there are no paved roads?

    3) ~600-650 miles total is my hope. This amounts to 80-85 miles per day, which is what I would like to do.

    Separate issue: this will be done on a folding bike (most likely Pacific Reach SL). I know it packs up to 58'', so checking it on an airplane shouldn't be an issue, but I have to figure out how to pack it. This is a point to point trip, so I don't want to be lugging a heavy suitcase that I packed my bike in. What do you think would be the most logical manner to transport the bike? I was hoping to do the disposable cardboard box method, so that I wouldn't have to worry about lugging a suitcase on the tour. However, doesn't this raise red flags to the airline that a bike is inside, and thus, most likely result in the separate bicycle fee? Also, a possibilty of getting damaged? Same problem with a durable travel carry bag? I guess I could just use a suitcase, and then once I arrive in Tucson ship the suitcase ahead to LA. This makes it necesary to arrive during post office hours or find some establishment I could ship it to (hotel?).

    Any feedback?

  2. #2
    imi
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    Southwest desert tour

    Beautiful, magical part of the world

    I toured around the desert areas of SoCal a couple of winters ago. Anza Borrego and Joshua Tree were my favourite parts. Death Valley as well, but that is further north than you're planning.

    The roads were all good. I was there january to march. The nights can get down to freezing then in the high desert, so a good sleeping bag and pad are a must. The days warmed up really well. Days are short in winter, so I didn't take as long midday break as I would if the evenings are longer. Early starts are good to get the miles in.

    I would love to go back when the desert blooms usually at the end of march, beginning of april. Next time i'd take Amtrak from LA to Barstow and ride from there.

    I see there's an Amtrak station in Palm Springs as well. That may be an alternative to the bus, as Amtrak are bike friendly according to reports I have read here
    Last edited by imi; 02-27-13 at 09:14 AM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Brennan's Avatar
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    The violence around the Mexico border primarily affects impoverished people south of the border. An American north of the border is unlikely to be affected. For that matter, I recently spent some time in Tecate, just south of the border and had no problems.

    I've seen some people mention buying an old, large suitcase in a thrift store at the destination city for bringing a folder back on the plane. So, you could box up your bike with lots of care and padding for the flight out, chuck the box in Tucson, and try to locate a cheap, second-hand suitcase in LA for the flight back. Or just find another box. Presumably, a folder with fit into a more typical, squarish box, which would be much easier to find, and would not scream "bike" like a large, long, narrow bike box does. When asked by airline personnel about the contents of their packaged folder, I've seen someone else say "sports equipment." Also, I think baggage handlers appreciate good hand-holds, so if you cut a small hole near the top of the box on each side, like on a typical bike box, they might be less likely to chuck it around.
    Last edited by Brennan; 02-27-13 at 10:29 AM. Reason: Additonal info.

  4. #4
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    Can't give you any touring advice except that Joshua Tree NP is well worth a visit. We drove there for a day trip from San Diego and absolutely loved it. It was in late March or early April and many of the cacti were flowering. Temperatures very pleasant with little traffic. As others mentioned, bring a warm sleeping bag and clothes because the desert gets cold at night.

  5. #5
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    I see what you're saying, Brennan, about the issue being more south of the border, but I'm just thinking of a border jumper or illegal spotting a nice flashy bike that would be a quick ride for him away from the border.

    Excellent. That's what I was hoping to hear about the desert blooms. I'll be doing this starting March 29, so hopefully the blooms will be in full force.

  6. #6
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Have lived/bicycled in the Tucson and border area since 1978.
    Never had any run-ins or incidents with border crossers.
    You will see more Border Patrol/vehicles in the area and you may run into a border patrol checkpoint on occasion.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Brennan's Avatar
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    I find the border to be a fascinating place. You cross an arbitrary line and you are instantly in a foreign country where things are very different: The language, the buildings, the infrastructure, the vibe, etc. I'm sometimes a bit on edge when I first cross into Mexico, because I am out of my element, because it is so different, and because the legal protections I enjoy here do not apply there, so I tend to behave myself. I imagine those who cross illegally in the opposite direction have similar feelings, only more so. They want to keep a low profile, and not do anything that would draw attention. Causing trouble is a great way to get noticed, and that could earn them a quick ride back across the border. As a result, it's unlikely they would even speak to you, much less mess with you. Moreover, there are a lot fewer people crossing illegally these days. There are a few reasons for this. One is that the sluggish economy means there isn't as much work up here now. Second is the stepped-up border security, due to changes implemented since 9/11, and due to the strong anti-illegal-immigrant sentiment that's been expressed here over the past few years. Anyway, this is just a long-winded way of saying I wouldn't worry about it.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Brennan's Avatar
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    As others have said, Joshua Tree is very nice. I've been there four times. This is the only shot I have available at the moment. It's from a car-camping trip (not quite ready to haul that tent on my bike), but it gives you just a glimpse of what you will see there.


  9. #9
    Fraser Valley Dave
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    I've spent time around Yuma and the secondary roads between Gila Bend and Douglas (85,86,82,80) during February and March the last few years and never had any issues with 'Border Jumpers'. I know this is not where you plan to ride, but it is similar as it is quite desolate in spots, so be self-contained and carry lots of water. Even at those low elevations the nights are often cold, even below freezing.

  10. #10
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    Lew, one of my possible routes is coming up from Organ Pipe Northwest through Yuma toward Salton Sea. Google maps has the most direct bike route to Salton Sea as travelling on Sidewinder Rd. to Ted Kipf Rd. coming out of Yuma. Ever been on or heard of those roads? At least they are named roads, but I'd like to be able to find out whether or not they are paved.

    Also, regarding Gila Bend, I'm trying to find a way to cut over Northwest from Ajo without having to go directly North on 85 and then directly West on I-8 (or a parallel road). Apparently there are some roads cutting diagonally NW that are bikeable according to google maps (am I to assume road bikeable?). However, none of them are named, so I'm skeptical as to their travelability.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Planned to be on unsupported ride around the Salton early April. We might cross paths. Good to hear our timing is right for desert blooming. Check out Salvation Mt and Slab City for some weirdness.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  12. #12
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    Death Valley is also supposed to be nice in winter and early spring, but going there might involve some very long rides between places to camp and get food and water. Palm Springs was nice for a city, but it must be very windy around there because a humungous wind farm is located nearby.

  13. #13
    Fraser Valley Dave
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    I have not tried any roads west of Ajo, only east. As for north west of Yuma toward the Salton Sea, I've been on 115,78 to Brawley, and 111 to Mecca. Was going to circumvent the Salton Sea, but decided to retrace my route. As for many of the dirt roads such as Sidewinder rd., there is a lot of 'Boondocking' by RV campers in the area so the roads are relatively smooth and rideable. Just be careful throughout the region as there is a lot of broken glass and thorns etc.

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  15. #15
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by imi View Post
    I see there's an Amtrak station in Palm Springs as well. That may be an alternative to the bus, as Amtrak are bike friendly according to reports I have read here
    Amtrak is somewhat bike-friendly. Thing to keep in mind is that Palm Springs has no checked baggage service. With a folding bike, it might be possible, but my understanding of their folding bike policy is that a folding bike can replace one carry-on, so it's important to make sure you can get your gear into one, carry-on-legal bag (assuming there's a 2 carry-on limit, which I think is the case). Maybe not an issue depending on your gear. I struggled to get all of my gear into one carry-on bag, but then I don't always pack as light as I should.

    I was contemplating a trip like this, too, so I'm curious to hear how it goes.

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