End of the American Dirt Road

From Las Vegas, I rode south. Many a powerline service road, some National Park travel, great family time, and plenty of the sun.

It was a great section but I was ready to get to San Diego to take a rest and see some family and friends.

After a good rest in Las Vegas which included watching the World Series games and witnessing what happens to the city during Haloween, I was on the road again. Getting out of the metropolitan mess of LV was easier then I expected. Some good bike paths and the ever-so-helpful google maps helped me avoid major roads. Soon I was out in the desert again, leaving behind the towering casinos and continuous sprinklers.

Because the city pulls so much electricity, there are power lines everywhere–and decent roads that run along them. Using these, I made my way south toward Lake Mead. I felt like I was the only one out there– just me, some great looking cacti, and a baffling number of pet cemeteries. For some reason, this is a thing in Nevada, or at least it used to be.

A winding path and a few stupid drag-a-bike sections got me to Christmas Tree Pass, an amazing dirt road where people decorate the Juniper trees with tinsel and ornaments.  However, seeing how Thanksgiving had not passed yet, it was not ‘appropriate’ to start decorating. Nonetheless, the pass needed no decorating since it was so spectacular by itself.

Dropping into Bullhead City, I prepared myself for the next leg heading almost due west through the Mojave National Preserve along The Old Mojave Road. A popular 4×4 trail, the Old Mojave Road traces an old wagon route used by traveling pioneers and ranchers. It strings together a few springs, tackles some cool volcanic mountain ranges, and slogs through some sandy basins.

J-trees starting appearing along with cholla cacti…luckely these were not the jumping type. The road was well grated in places and sandy in others. In general, it was great riding with spectacular views and some hidden gems.

The main concern for this section was water. I was no longer following a developed route with waypoints and information like during The Colorado Trail and the Plateau Passage. I had gleaned some information from jeep guides, forums, the park service, and the like. However, I was still a little hesitant to take off into the Mojave without some backup…hauling 4 days of water is just gross, wouldn’t you agree?

Luckily, I have great parents who want to see me! Thus, mom and dad loaded up their Subaru Outback and met me about a third of the way through with lots of food, repair stuff, and gallons of water.

They stayed with me for three nights! I would ride my mileage, they would go off hiking, and we’d meet up at the next camp spot. We ventured into some lava tubes, ate cherry cobbler made in a dutch oven (and lots more food too), and just had a great time in some beautiful spots. It was great to spend some time with them.

The rest of the Mojave Road did not disappoint, even though there was a lot of deep sand.

With a full belly, a lightened heart, and some new tires, it was time to part with my parents again. The next destination was Joshua Tree, about 100 miles south as the crow flies.  However, between me and J-tree was an Army test site–basically a piece of land which looks a lot like the Middle East (I guess?) where The Marines can train and blow things up. Thus, I had to go around…the long way…on pavement. Fortunately, Route 66 was pretty cool.

I finally reached Joshua Tree along with a few thousand people setting out early to take advantage of the long memorial day weekend. By the time I climbed into the park, all the campgrounds were full and it was getting dark. I had little choice but to poach a camp spot among some boulder and stay low–the park service made it clear that camping was only allowed in campgrounds. I made sure to make only a teeny tiny impact…I wish there was a better way.

The next morning, I was up early and rode around the highlight areas of the park before anyone woke up. In comparison to the bustling and frazzling day before, the quiet roads winding between big boulders and towering J-trees was a relief. That being said, I was quite underwhelmed by the park. It’s beautiful, yes. But the volumes of disgruntled people and unhelpful park staff, along with the fact that I’d been riding through very similar (if not more striking) environments, made the park a bit of a letdown.

However, The Geology Tour Road, which drops out of the south-west side of the park was awesome–a five thousand foot descent through a narrow canyon!

This road dropped me out the bottom of the park, in an area where apparently all of Palm Springs goes to shoot things. I’ve never seen so many shells, rounds, targets, blown up TVs, and clay pigeon shards.

Once in Palm Springs, I got a hotel room and treated myself to a double order of In-and-Out shakes and fries. After a nights ‘rest’ (a 9 hour binge of Stranger Things 2), I rode out of town on the Dunn Road, an old abandon dirt road which cuts up the mountains west of the city. Apparently, the road was planned and built by one guy, Mr. Dunn supposedly. However, due to a number of land management issues, the road was never completed/maintained–much of the equipment is even left behind.

This road eventually lead me to the last leg of this route which utilized the lower half of the Stagecoach 400 mountain bike race route. This took me through the Anza-Borrego Desert, a diverse and extremely well-managed state park. The riding was mostly through sandy washes, hardened mud badlands, and the occasional jungle-like oasis.

At this point, I was pretty ready to get to San Diego. The riding was getting more urban, my feet hurt, and I was ready to take a week to rest the legs. And soon I was in SD, ready to eat a lot, see friends and family, and just hang out.

My Aunt, Betsey, and cousin, Rachel drove out from Tuscon and we spent two fabulous days hanging out by the beach and enjoying each others company.

I also had a chance to reconnect with more family! Chris (my cousin), and Clair had me over for an afternoon of playing with their new son, Will who is the super-playful age of 16 months (if my memory is working).

Once family time was sadly over, Adam and Athena, some friends from college, graciously took me in for a few more nights. We had many a laugh I changed up some stuff for Baja and kept eating a lot.

The socializing continued when I met up with an old high-school friend, Franky who ended up going with me to a Jenny and The Mexicats Concert. If you’ve never heard these guys, check them out–they’re a blast and a half!

And the cherry on top was being able to see Maria, a college friend, past housemate, and fellow fork tattoo partner on her birthday for breakfast before heading out of town toward the Mexico/USA border. It was a busy socializing week, full of special people and lots of smiles. Having such a great community of loving family and friends is a blessing–something I hope to never take for granted.

But alas, it was eventually time to leave again and start sleeping in my tiny tent again. New adventures, challenges, and fun were to be had ahead on The Baja Divide.

So, I’m off to Mexico!


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