Death Valley and Mojave Preserve Moto/MTB Adventure
Thursday 1/9/14 Day One:
I left Granada Hills at 6:45 am on my XR650L Motorcycle with camping gear and mountain bike loaded. I had been busy outfitting this motorcycle for adventure riding for the past several weeks. This would be her maiden voyage. One thing I did not consider when setting up the Motorcycle to carry my Bicycle was the amount of time I would spend talking to people that had never seen someone carrying a bicycle this way.
The plan was to take the 14 to just past the town of Mojave and then take secondary roads into Death Valley. Things were going well until I was just past the town of Lancaster. The cross winds between Lancaster and Mojave were fierce. It was a battle to keep from being blown off the freeway. This went on for about 25 miles. I was relieved when I made it to Mojave. I decided to top off the fuel tank and stretch the legs. I spent about 10 minutes chatting with some curious local linemen about the bike and my trip plans.
About 10 miles past the town of Trona I came to a road closed ahead sign and a flag man. He informed me I could not go through due to road construction. I could see some power lines parallel to the road in the distance so I thought maybe there was a road there that I could take to bypass the construction. I headed over and found the road of old broken asphalt. After about five miles on the road it came back to Trona Road and I had not past the construction zone. My only option was to turn around and head through Ridgecrest to the 395 then North to Olancha. This detour would add 95 miles to an already long day. Upon later research I found out the road had washed out in July 2013 during two flash flood events. Lesson learned! Check road conditions before heading out in the future!
The scenery started to change about 30 minutes out of Olancha. There were many different colors in the landscape, it was spectacular. I wish I had stopped to take photos but I pushed on thinking my buddies were waiting for me to do a mountain bike ride.
After 375 miles of riding I made it to Death Valley and the Mesquite Campground. It was 2:30. Ross and Mike were hanging around camp. I was really expecting to find a note that would read something like “Went for a ride, see you later”. It seemed they weren’t much in the mood for a ride and I was tired after the long ride so I set up camp and we relaxed.
Friday 1/10 Day Two:
We drove in Ross’s van about 8 miles past Ubehebe crater and parked the van. We then rode our mountain bikes 20 more miles on the dirt road to the Racetrack. This is were the rocks move mysteriously across the Playa. We left our bikes near the road and hiked 3/4 miles to see the racing rocks. There was water present so we had to walk a little further along the perimeter of the Playa. We would later call this road the bone shaker due to the fact that the whole thing was a washboard! It was a rough ride!
Saturday 1/11 Day Three:
I packed up camp and rode the Motorcycle following Ross and Mike to Titus Canyon. This is a slot canyon that runs for several miles. Cars are allowed through the canyon but the road is only wide enough for one vehicle so it is one way traffic only. The road is much smoother then the road to the Racetrack so that was a relief. It was a steady climb up the canyon. I rode up 8.5 miles and figured it was time to head out and hit the road to find a campsite somewhere closer to Baker. I would leave the bicycle and riding gear with Ross and Mike.
I stopped at the Visitor Center. This is something I always do when visiting National Parks. Then I got some lunch in Furnace Creek before hitting the road.
About 2o miles east of Furnace Creek I saw two Coyotes about 4 miles apart. This was the only wildlife sightings I would have in Death Valley. The Coyotes were hanging around the road and were not afraid of me. I am sure this is due to the fact that Tourists must be feeding them.
Ross had told me about a shortcut to Baker. It was a dirt road called the Harry Wade Road. I took this and only saw one other car the entire time. It is a fairly smooth road. After about 30 miles on this road I figured I better find a campsite before sunset. I have camped several times alone but this would be the first time in such a remote location. After the winds died down it was so quite and I slept really well.
Today I will meet Darren at Afton Canon about 36 miles south of Baker. I was up, packed and on the road by 7:00 am. I had a 62 mile ride to Afton but wanted a little extra time to fuel up and see any points of interest that may come along. I arrived at Afton Canyon just before 9:00 am. I met up with Darren after a bit of confusion as to where exactly we would meet. Darren and I would ride through the Mojave Preserve on the historic Mojave Road to his vacation home on the River in Needles. This ride would be about 90% off road with miles of whoops, rocks, Cholla Bush and deep sand. It has been about 15 years since I have done any serious off road riding like this. It was demanding, challenging and fun!
Somehow I managed to do the ride with only crashing one time! I laid it down in deep sand.
With a couple hours of riding to go to Needles we noticed my tail rack had broke. I strapped it back together and kept on riding. After another 10 miles or so the entire rack would brake off and dangle by the strap. I figured out a way to strap it to my side rack. The zipper on my tail bag was also broken so I stuffed some clothing in my backpack and Darren helped me out and stuffed the rest in his backpack.
Today we basically did the reverse of yesterdays ride. I did bypass a few sections in favor of a smoother ride. On one rocky section of the trail I hit a rock pretty hard with the front tire and got a pinch flat. We were about 15 miles from Baker so I kept on riding. We figured if we could not find a tube in Baker Darren would ride back to Afton alone and get his van and drive up to Baker to pick me up. Luckily a small auto shop in Baker had a tube. We set up the bike on a wall in front of the shop and changed the tube. With the tire fixed we continued on to Afton Canyon to finish our ride.