Bicycle trip from San Diego to Phoenix (NEW)

posted by Russ, June 18 in travel, united states with tags , , , ,

Riding along the US / Mexico border

Riding along the US / Mexico border

Day 1 – San Diego to Alpine
We left at about 9:30am from Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach after a few goodbyes, and were riding a high heading out of the city. We made some good progress, stopped for a pizza lunch, then hit the road again. Our last 20 miles were a serious uphill battle, and around the time our weary and not yet road accustomed legs nearly gave out, we had completed 50 miles and reached the Ma Tar Awa RV Park just east of the Viejas Casino. We were too late to check in, as the office had already closed, but we saw someone cleaning who let us slip in on the agreement that we would pay our dues in the morning. It wasn’t quite dark yet, but being that it was late April and were at an elevation of a few thousand feet, it got chilly quick. There was no dinner to be had anywhere, so we snacked on what was in our packs, set up our tents, and were quickly off to sleep.

Day 2 – Alpine to Jacumba
Though the chilly mountain air made waking up difficult, the wild turkeys and their noises made waking necessary. I was a bit slow in rising due to the cold and some sore legs, but eventually we made it to the campground store for some snacks, and then were on the road again. The morning started in much the same way that it ended — with an uphill climb. We labored uphill until we peaked at around 4200′, then cruised into Pine Valley for some lunch. After a solid meal and a serious mental pep talk we headed out. That night we made it into Jacumba, after completing only a mere 40 miles. Not a lot of mileage, but after all that climbing and not enough preparation, we were happy to splurge a bit at the Jacumba Hot Springs Hotel, right next to the Mexican border. We soaked in the hot springs, showered, had dinner and a beer at the hotel diner, and set in for another good night’s sleep.

Day 3 – Jacumba to Glamis
In the morning, while eating breakfast, we met another cyclist who had come from Northern California and was heading to Arizona. After introductions and some chit chat, it was decided that he would join us for a bit. We prepped for the day, then headed out. The big event for the day was a 3000′ drop over 15 miles down into the desert valley, on the freeway shoulder no less. We covered this ground in no time, and put in 40 miles before hitting El Centro for lunch. From there we headed north into the Imperial Valley, through Brawley, and riding a tailwind decided to push towards the Glamis sand dunes. With the sun setting, aching legs, and no campgrounds for miles, we decided to do a bit of renegade camping behind some dunes. It was a 90 mile day and I was hurting, so it felt great to put up the tent and have a dinner that consisted of a 7-11 sandwich and a cherry pie. Not exactly healthy, but after a day like this quite satisfying.

Renegade camping in Glamis sand dunes

Renegade camping in Glamis sand dunes

Day 4 – Glamis to Blythe
We woke up and rode into Glamis, which consists of exactly one general store containing supplies for the all the people who party and ride their ATVs, dirt bikes, and trucks in the recreation area in the dunes. I had a stellar microwave breakfast there, and stocked up on water since it would be more than 40 miles until the next place of civilization. Even though it was still late April, we were in the desert and daytime temperatures were soaring into the 90s, so water supplies were essential. The ride was long and hot, and for much of it we were passing through the farmland of the Imperial Valley, which is all supported by a series of canals diverted from the Colorado River. After riding 70 miles today, our arrival in Blythe was joyous, and once again we decided to splurge on a hotel where we could cool off. Our new cycling friend who had joined us from Jacumba was leaving our company here, so we celebrated with some margaritas which were made in a blender he was carrying. (He packed a lot of strange items he brought along.)

Day 5 …
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Packed and ready to go for 7 day bike trip
My bike in the Glamis sand dunes
Long open desert road, Arizona

See all photos…

Originally posted on Friday, June 18th, 2010 at 3:12 PM .

8 Responses to “Bicycle trip from San Diego to Phoenix (NEW)”

  1. Bowers20507 says:

    Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely glad I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back frequently!

  2. […] Bicycled from San Diego, California to Phoenix, Arizona, 400 miles in 7 days […]

  3. Sam Calvano says:


    I am planning the same trip. Is it legal to ride on the freeway?


    Sam Calvano

    • Russ says:

      Hi Sam, As far as I know riding on the freeway is legal unless posted otherwise. We used maps from a reputable biking site online (I think http://www.adventurecycling.org/) and they both show the freeway as part of the route. You actually never notice when in a car, but there are a actually signs telling bikers to exit. And it was only in places where there was no other place to ride, from San Diego to Phoenix there are two spots, the first just past Jacumba where Old Highway 80 ends, right before the drop down into Ocotillo near In Koh Pah, and the second crossing into Arizona on I-10, just past Blythe after crossing the Colorado River. I believe the first was a little over 10 miles (steep downhill, goes very fast!), the second was closer to maybe 20 miles, a pretty solid uphill climb from the river basin. Let me know if you have any other questions! Also, if you had a blog or anything where you’ll be posting let me know so I can follow along! Have fun! – Russ

  4. Louis Jaennette says:

    I’m planning the ride from San Diego to Tempe. I really appreciate your blog.

  5. Andres says:

    Hi ! I am planning on doing this route, i was wondering if you have time to answer some questions. Please contact me to my email. I am from Costa Rica so i was wondering how is the weather like and how much money should I bring with me.
    and other things, but please let me know!

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