Saturday, 5 January 2008

"Goodbye California"

With few cities to act as landmarks along the way in this part of the United States , it is probably as well to start with an overview of the route.... The 4th january took Mark from Imperial valley, California, across the Chocolate Mountains (honestly!), down into the irrigated valley of the Colorado where he crossed into Arizona and from there eastward up into the Sonoran desert in the direction of Phoenix.
The web diary from yesterday recounts an 'adrenalin rush' in the desert "Stopped 10 minutes ago for 15min break - desert in all directions. Only a couple of guys were testing full size beach buggy with full suspension like in the Paris Dakar Rally. Started to film them, and just like in India when filming first elephant, the guys came over and offered a ride in the buggy. Taking time out anyway - so why not! Climbed in through the window, mesh on, helmet on then took off for 10 minutes. Air bourne for half the time - flew off one sand dune, landed half way up the next and flew off again. Proper race speed of 85mph over massive sand dunes like walls - buggy landing on its side and somehow taking off again! Laughed all the way, and got back onto the bike with heart rate sitting at 120 without pushing a pedal!"

Mark is almost certainly describing the great sand dune ridge known as the Algodones which lie to the east of Imperial valley and seen clearly here in this NASA image (north to the left). Also on the image is the All American Canal bringing irrigation water from the Colorado to the Imperial valley farmland.

Some further searching on Flickr produced this image of the dunes and below, from You Tube, a small sample of dune buggies in this very area.....

And here.... Glamis Beach , a small settlement on the eastern edge of the Algodones dunes which Mark would have passed through en route to the Chocolate Mountains ....
... and here, the wonderful Chocolate Mountains (which I had never heard of until today but will not now forget!). These images and many more excellent ones which illustrate this part of Mark's route are available on the University of California , Santa Barbara, Department of Geography website and can be accessed here.

Beyond the Chocolate Mountains, Mark would have descended into the irrigated valley of the Colorado river which, like Imperial Valley, stands out clearly from its desert environs on aerial imagery. The river is literally the life blood of the area since with annual precipitation in Blythe of less than 100mm, any form of cultivation would be impossible without irrigation. To the north the river is dammed in many locations, most spectacularly at the Hoover Dam, and these dams control the flow of water in the river throughout the year ensuring a sufficient supply for both this area and the abstraction of water for farming in Imperial valley. The image below shows the city of Blythe.
... and here the River Colorado near to Blythe. Mark crossed the river just to the east of Blythe and at that point crossed into the state of Arizona..

 the same point also moving ahead one hour bringing him to GMTminus 7hours.
If you follow the link, you can read a great deal about Arizona but here are a few bits of trivia which I found interesting. Arizona, despite being largely hash desert is the fastest growing state by population in the USA. It is one of the 'Four Corner' states (the others being Utah, Nevada and New Mexico which have a common point of intersection on their state boundary, this being the only place in the US where four states touch). The final bit of trivia is that the largest private employer in the state is Wal Mart!

East of the Colorado river, Mark's route took him past this spot near Ehrenberg and past Quartzite
before heading out into the Sonoran Desert . But that is perhaps a story for another day!

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