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Wheels on the bike go round and round 16: Desert Rap
by Mike Jennett
2009-06-27 10:42:13
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The day’s de-briefing and anticipation of next day’s ride is known as Route Rap. For around ten minutes or so, we get to hear how many flats there were, what happened to whom and, most importantly, where we go for dinner.

The session in Indio will be different – we have had free hamburgers (perhaps because the Super 8 management is ashamed of the decayed state of their hotel) and tomorrow is the first day of the Mojave Desert.

Temperatures are generally 110 to 115 Fahrenheit in the shade – but we ride in direct sun. I’ve often wondered why temperatures are quoted that way, since most people outside don’t spend their time in shade.

It is necessary to persuade riders that there are real dangers present that expenditure of their tour fee will not eliminate. There is a real possibility of heatstroke and death, but I find the general low level of acceptance of responsibility these days strange and disappointing.

I am intending to avoid tonight’s route rap. I do not need to know what happened during the day and I already know plenty about the desert. Having been through the Mojave route rap twice and having spent plenty of time in that and other deserts, apart from than riding through on a bicycle, I am aware of the many ways in which it could kill me and what must be done for self-preservation.

Entertainment opportunities locally comprise a film at the 4-screen Metro Theater. That’s it; unless you count wandering the aisles of K-Mart or sitting in Del Taco watching fat people, forms of entertainment.

After wading through the super-heated air and traversing the wasteland to see what’s on (the town stops here and no one ever bothered to build anything reminiscence of a walkway), I am frustrated to find that their offerings comprise Star Trek, which is still too fresh in my mind to see again just yet, Obsession, and a subtitled Mexican movie that has already started. None of these fills me with enthusiasm.

With nothing else to do except walk around alone in the blast furnace that is Indio, even Tracy’s warning lecture seems acceptable. Perhaps she’s added new material – some form of preparatory warm-up show to enliven the audience, helped by the rest of the staff.

Margaret might do a couple of impressions and some slight of hand with a deck of cards, or Rick could tell some pharmacy jokes (ya know the one where we sold the wrong drugs and the patient turned green and died…) Maybe Mack will perform a set of one-liners like a British Seinfeld or Tracy could juggle some flaming torches.

But, no.

Sadly, there’s no new material. It’s still the same old routine about heatstroke, de-hydration and death – and who wants to hear that? Not Peter, obviously, who makes his customary criticism about lack of gradient information on the cue sheets and then wanders off for a drink.

The talk begins and Tracy tells us to cover up all exposed skin, use camelbacks, suck down Gatorade and DON’T WASTE WATER. We also learn the early warning signs of de-hydration: irritability, poor decisions, clammy skin and dizziness – and we’re told about Enduralytes, which supposedly supply electrolytes lost by heat and exertion.

We hear about how to find shade in drains under the highway and what to do if we suspect ourselves or others of de-hydration. We are told to wear a head sweat and pour water over it – what was that about NOT WASTING WATER? We are told not to ride alone but how to manage that in a group of alpha personalities who always ride at their own pace is not explained.

Looking around and, from overheard comments and questions asked, it seems that this audience contains disbelievers. Some do not possess camelbacks and are told to go to K-Mart to purchase one. Nancy is verbal in her reluctance to use one, desert or not. Perhaps her ear rings will guide her through the heat.

Most seem to accept the lesson, but come away thinking that they have been told off in some way. Maybe the flaming torches would be a good idea?

Briefly, it occurs to me to mention what has so far gone unsaid – that the human body needs a minimum of one litre per hour of water in the desert and can only last a small number of hours without any (72 - 96). For the last half of that, you’d be pretty much useless without help, so consider yourself dead.

But that might put me in the know-it-all class.

That would be bad.

Read more at: www.mikeonwheels.com OR www.wheelsonthebikegoroundandround.blogspot.com    

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