Winter 2021 has been especially cold and damp in the Pacific Northwest. It bothers me less than many, as I am from Eastern Canada and forever grateful not to be digging out of snow each day! Plus, I have recently picked up outrigger canoeing and winter days are perfect for a peaceful workout on the water.
That said, even for me, the dreary skies and continuous rain were getting old; the chance to get out and ride some trails under the desert sun seemed like the perfect antidote to winter blues. As it happened, this trip that started in PNW winter rains ended in Californian desert snow!
My buddy Rob is always the instigator and organizer of our moto trips. He’s good at it and takes pride and pleasure in mapping out interesting routes. For this trip, he was also able to trailer my bike and his to the trailhead outside Las Vegas – no small drive in this case. I try to repay him with good whiskey – in this case a bottle of our double-oaked, 6 year old limited edition American single malt whiskey , Batch No. 4.
I met Rob in Las Vegas. The Vdara hotel was very gracious and gave the truck and trailer a great safe place to rest before getting into some dirt riding. From Vegas we headed for the Mojave Desert and staged the bikes at the northern entrance.
The goal was to ride to somewhere in the middle of the park, camp out overnight, then ride the rest of the Mojave and drop into Joshua tree the next day. We are fairly large fans of the KTM bikes, and for this trip, we were riding mid size 500 and 690cc bikes.
We carry our gear in Mosko Moto soft bags designed by our good friends Pete and Andrew. The weather was amazing – sunny, yet cold and clear. The riding was super fun – rock and gravel with very few other riders and a good match for both our bikes. The scenery was epic and discovering a disused water tower was a highlight for sure.
As the sun began to sit low in the sky, we started our search for a campsite. After a while, we found an epic spot near a huge granite boulder. It had a viewing point where we watched the sun set and a sheltered area to keep us out of any winds.
A lack of recent campers meant there was plenty of firewood. With the stars and satellites passing overhead, we spent a fun night shooting the shit and sipping Wanderback. The temperature dipped below freezing that night, so as the warmth of the whiskey faded, I was happy to have my new down sleeping bag.
On our second day of riding, we met up with another Hood River friend, Dave, and did an out and back through a beautiful canyon at the north side of Joshua Tree park. The trail was mainly used by four wheelers, but was ideal for the enduro adventure bikes. We rode through granite, gravel, and sand.
That evening, we had planned to stay in a rental house. This was a good job as the winds whipped up and temps plummeted. The house had a great vinyl collection- Tattoo You released in 1981 by the Rolling Stones turned out to be the album of the night. It’s worth a listen! The next morning – feeling slightly worse for wear – we rose to snow underfoot and in the mountains. A pretty rad sight.
The third and final day of riding was near Palm Springs – my exit airport. Turns out the Palm Springs Airport offers a pretty sweet bike staging area. As we were back to sea level, it was way warmer (it felt good to ditch the heated vest!) and we did another out and back along the south side of the park. The section was part of a larger loop we will be sure to return to.
No trip is without a harried moment. This time, mine did not involve breaking any bones. Instead, I ran out of gas returning to the airport. I was already cutting it fine so it was kind of stressful. Luck was on my side and I managed to coast to a gas station and make it back to the parking lot come staging area with time to apply deodorant (you’re welcome fellow passengers) before running for my flight.