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The Mojave Road, Day 3: 140 Miles the Hard Way

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Imagine…you’re sleeping away soundly in your rooftop tent, nestled snugly in your mummy bag, dreaming of dirt roads in all directions that never touch pavement, the temperature is just right to get some good rest…SCREECH, RATTLE, RATTLE, VROOOOOM! What the fu*k? I sat upright in the tent, trying to get to the zipper on my sleeping bag/ straight jacket so I could move toward the window to unzip it and find out what the hell was going on. I started to unzip the window and then I realized it was Bryon taking off at the butt crack of dawn so he could finish the road and still make it to the transmission shop in time to get the Sportsmobile sorted out.

Dazed and confused, I waved goodbye to Bryon and decided I might as well get up and get going too. Dave and I were in no hurry, we only had about 40 or 50 miles to go and we planned to wait for Bryon at the end of the line anyway. We had a leisurely morning eating breakfast, sitting around drinking coffee, and slowly packing up our gear for the final leg of the Mojave Road. We enjoyed the morning as the sun lit up Pinto Mountain to the north and Table Top to the south as well as the various other buttes and rock formations that made up the Rock Spring area.

It was time to bid the campsite goodbye, pack out our trash, and hit the road again. We followed a graded track for a few miles off the mountain top and into Lanfair Valley and then cut off the main road onto the Mojave Road once more. We were again in a massive Joshua Tree forest that encroached upon the road. A word of warning here, Joshua Tree spines hurt like a motherfu*cker if you happen to pass too close with your elbow hanging out the window. Luckily, I was only grazed by one of the spines. The trail zigzagged back and forth through off-camber spots and soft sand. It wasn’t especially technical, you just needed to pay attention. After about a half hour of driving we pulled up to the Penny Can Tree, a sort of “toll road” that actually does help out the Friends of the Mojave Road with trail upkeep. Give early and give often!

A short drive further east revealed an abandoned bus and station wagon which in true desert fashion was spray painted with defamatory phrases about some poor slob named Chip and used as target practice for desert denizens with shotguns. The whole site was a bit creepy, but I REALLY wanted to get closer to the bus to take a look inside. Did Chip live there? Was it infested with rattlesnakes? Were we going to disturb some desert dweller with a shotgun? Zombies? As we crept closer to the bus, I was able to take a peek inside and…NOTHING. Just a few empty beer cans…c’est la vie.

We pushed on to the end of the Mojave Plateau and took another break at the highpoint overlook before we descended into the valley below. It was around 11:00 am and it was already hot at about 4000 ft. in elevation. The valley below was going to be ROASTING! We jumped back into our Land Cruisers and began the most technical part of the trip. The descent into the valley was on an rock-covered shelf road with its own washboard, off-camber, hundred foot drops offs. It was slow going as neither Dave nor myself wanted to put a gash in our sidewalls on this part of the trail. About halfway down, I passed some folks on their way up the mountain. Luckily, the road had widened by that point and passing was a breeze!

At the bottom, we turned left and headed north up Cable Road for about 2 miles. At this point we had the choice to continue east to finish the Mojave Road or turn back to the west to visit Fort Piute. In true explorer fashion, we opted for the fort. The road to the fort was basically a rock garden and we kept our speed down to avoid damaging our tires. Soon we finished the climb and Fort Piute was in our sights. The area around the fort is a desert oasis, covered in deep green willows, cottonwood trees and rushes. It seems so out-of-place to see green trees in the middle of the desert! The area around the fort benefits from seepage of the water table of the Mojave Plateau, which we just descended. The water source here is plentiful year-round.

After exploring the ruins of the fort, we hopped back into our vehicles and pushed on. Though we didn’t want the trip to end, we also had a strong desire to finish this leg of the trip and start thinking about getting to Flagstaff for Overland Expo 2012! The next part of the road ran through a series of very sandy washes as we made our way out toward Interstate 95. As we passed through I noticed an overabundance of empty beer bottles and I stopped a few times to pick up cardboard and beer bottles and tossed them into my Trasharoo Spare Tire Trash Bag. <soapbox>…If you want to drink beer in the desert, more power to you, but PLEASE clean up your own fucking mess. Your actions will get off-highway vehicles banned from areas like the Mojave Road. </soapbox>.

Once we crossed I-95, we took a little detour off the Mojave Road to scout out that night’s campsite. A mere mile off the main trail, you find Balancing Rock, an aptly named area with a large…wait for it…BALANCING ROCK! We took this opportunity to stretch the legs a bit and do some rock scrambling to get to the top. The view was amazing with the Mojave Plateau in the distance to the west and the desert stretched out to the east. Somewhere out there was the end of the Mojave Road, so after a quick lunch and a call to Bryon to check in we hit the trail once more to crank out the last few miles. Bryon’s Sportsmobile wasn’t going to be ready until the next day so he told us to get to Overland Expo and save him a spot.

Down the road, we passed a metal post marking the Nevada state line, and we knew we were close to the finish line. The Mojave Road starts a rapid downhill at this point full of sharp turns, soft sand, and rutted bumps. We flew through this section toward the Colorado River that was visible in the distance. We came out of the canyon at Needles Highway and crossed over to a farm road. It was at that point that we debated whether or not to drive down the farm road to the actual end of the Mojave Road. Since we live life on the edge, we decided to duck any farmer buckshot and take our chances…and I’m glad we did. What waited for us at the end of the road was the Mighty Colorado River. The very end (beginning) of the Mojave Road. WE DID IT! We completed our journey!

After a few victory photos, a cold drink and a hot 20 minutes airing up our tires, we headed into Laughlin, NV to fuel up. If you’ve never been to Laughlin, it is terrifying. I believe the city’s motto is, “Laughlin, The Place Where Dreams Go To Die!” The gas station was full of tweakers and day drunks and we got our fuel and got out of there as quickly as possible. When I went to start the Land Cruiser, it wouldn’t turn over. I desperately kept trying to turn the engine over, once, twice, five times, and finally it caught! My visions of living in the parking lot at a cut-rate gas station in Laughlin would thankfully not come true.

We jumped onto I-40 going into Arizona and never looked back. Four hours later we arrived at Mormon Lake. The craziness of Overland Expo was just around the corner!

Check out my Mojave Road, Day Three photo gallery below!

 

Be sure to check out David Croyle’s blog for his version of the events!

If you plan to drive the Mojave Road too, I suggest the following:

  1. Pick up Dennis Casebier’s invaluable book The Mojave Road Guide with turn-by-turn directions and GPS coordinates.
  2. Download GPX files for the road at www.themojave-road.com.
  3. Download a map of camping spots on the Mojave Road.
  4. And finally, check out the map of the Mojave Road by the National Park Service.
  5. Above all, be safe, tread lightly, and have a blast!

 

 The Mojave Road, Day 3: 140 Miles the Hard Way

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