May 3, 1914 San Diego to Yuma

In His Own Words

Day 1. May 3, 1914: The Ride Begins

Leaving the Rain Behind

The morning of May 3 found me dressed in leather riding trousers, short raincoat and a khaki shirt, while I had a special canteen made to hold a gallon on water to help me across the desert. A beautiful rainstorm made its appearance, going south on the coast, and my good friends who were putting their money on me as a winner tried to prevail on me not to start, and those who were figuring on me to lose seemed to be very anxious for me to get on my way. But none of them knew I was using science in this thing and one of them figured this was only a local storm which I knew I was going to start out in, and at 9 a.m. Pacific time, I made my start before a battery of cameras and moving-picture machines.

Thirty miles out from San Diego, in the Cottonwood Mountains, the sun came out in all its glory, together with a strong wind, While passing along here I met a regiment of U.S. Infantry hiking along the Mexican border. The road where I met them was in a mountain pass and they formed in line and gave me enough room to pass through them on the mountain trail, all cheering and waving their hands. About five miles further on I came on to another body of soldiers, who were all at rest. It certainly did seem as if war had begun with the Mexicans, for it looked as if the boys had enough cannons and ammunition to blow up the whole of Mexico.

From that time on I had sunshine with a very strong wind. I stopped for dinner at Mountain Springs, at the mouth of Devil’s Canyon. The dinner was served at a slab-boarded shanty, where I had a handout of sour-belly beans and a cup of coffee, for which I paid liberally.

Fighting the Demon Thirst

From there I started through Coyote Wells, which was a stretch of 15 miles knee-deep with sand, cactus, sage brush and mesquite bushes, which was nothing more than a trail to Imperial Valley. This point is 250 feet below sea level. Then I found good roads from the end of this sand stretch into Brawley and from there on I was riding silt, which was axle deep for 19 miles to Mammoth Wash. At this point I decided to do the camel act and go without drinking water. I picked up a small black pebble about the size of a dime and placed this in my mouth under my tongue—same as the desert Indians do—in order to keep from drinking water. About one quarter of the way onto New Mexico I decided I would have just one swallow of water, and after going a little bit further found I would have another one. By the time I reached the railroad track I decided on taking one more swallow of water, and one more only until I reached Yuma, Arizona, which was the stopping point for the night. However, had I not carried the little pebble in my mouth my stops for water would have been multiplied many times.

The riding from Mammoth Wash was sand for five and one-half miles across, and when I got halfway across I met a young sandstorm which followed me a considerable distance. I began to think that I would never reach the Southern Pacific railroad tracks, but I managed to do so without being affected or held up by the sandstorm. On reaching the railroad tracks I rode 64 miles on them into Yuma, Ariz.

That night I spent in Yuma. I left word before retiring to be called at 5 a.m. as my intentions were to make Phoenix the next night, and having been over this road before I knew the hard going I was up against. I sure did have silt sand to plow through, and rocky gulches to bound over, to say nothing of the mesquite bushes and cactus that I would have to dodge and all the time riding in that terrific heat, which makes a man feel that he is just about six inches from h—.