“One of the qualities that draws me to deserts is their sparseness. I go to be scoured by their winds, purged by their silence, humbled by their searing sunsets. The desert dirt, which accumulates in the chapped cracks of my fingers and the pores of my face, brings me solace. It somehow stills the subtle anxieties produced by living in a culture in which what you do is so often mistaken for who you are, where artificialities obscure essences. Immersing in the desert’s simplicity is akin to a ritual purification. As the earth stands naked, so I am stripped to my unadorned self, with little to distract me from the truths of my life.” So writes Michael Benanav in his excellent account of traveling through the Sahara with a camel caravan to the salt quarries of Taoudenni and back to Timbuktu, Men Of Salt.
Apparently I find something about deserts intriguing as well. I live in Boise, Idaho which with 11 inches of rainfall annually is a high desert environment. Early in 2010 I traveled to west Texas to ride my bike through the Chihuahuan Desert and in early 2009 I rode through Death Valley, smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Granted, these trips were designed to escape the doldrums of February in Boise, and I’m not sure I would be as fascinated by these deserts in the summer with temp’s in the low triple digits.
Chris Kostman is behind the Rough Riders website as well as AdventureCORPS Chris organizes several rides in Death Valley and southern California. I intend to take part in one of his Rough Rider Rally rides soon.
The Adventure Cycling Association’s Utah Cliffs route is another desert trip I want to take. Sky King and I did an overnight bike trip in Zion National Park a couple years ago and that country is really beautiful with red rock cliffs and sub alpine forests.
Admittedly, the bike hermit is a little different. My brother doesn’t understand why I would go off and submit myself to the deprivations of bike touring and he doesn’t understand why I go to remote and barren locations to do it. Let me do some ‘splainin; The severe climate of the desert breaks my life down to the most basic elements like it breaks the rocks into sand. The detrition of the wind loosens the sediment in my brain and the subsequent silence when the wind dies makes it possible to listen to the voices in my head. The scenery takes some effort to appreciate sometimes but like anything that requires effort, the rewards are more satisfying. Unlike Montana where around every bend is another postcard view, and you become numb to it after a while. The trips through the desert that I have taken, by myself, have been among the most memorable and rewarding experiences of my life.