On the road again

September 6-8, 2015
Posted on June 20, 2017

It was a Sunday morning – great time to be needing to send that last box of leftover motorcycle parts home. The post offices are all closed and usps.com does not accept a non-US credit card billing address. After much trying, I finally tricked it into giving me a shipping label, left the box with the hotel clerk and we were out.

In about two hours we turned off the main highway somewhere in the Coachella Valley and I had to finally stop and snap a photo of these marvellous wind farms, which were literally everywhere.

Upon finishing this masterpiece of desert photography, I was about to start riding again but forgot the WR250R was a tad taller than my previous ride, and the road shoulder had a slant, and the stars were not aligned right… In glorious slow motion I tilted to the side and did not stop tilting until my bike and I were down in the bushes.

Our medium term target was Zion National Park, but first we had a special treat of riding near Joshua Tree National Park and through the Mojave National Preserve.

The Joshua Tree

I was hoping to explore the land of Joshua Trees in greater detail, perhaps even camp there, but the unplanned delay forced us to keep going. So much to see, so little time. We had lunch in a town with a magical name – Twentynine Palms – and moved on to Mojave.

A strange Mexican meal in Twentynine Palms

Checking out the few man made structures in the deserts of Southern California.

Mojave desert

Here we actually rode some off-road trails and even caught about 2 minutes of rain. Oh the irony, in over a month of traveling the only time we saw rain was in a desert in Southern California.

Testing my rusty off road skills in Mojave

The trails are numerous, the views are gorgeous.

Joshua tree grove in the desert.

Heading out of Mojave preserve.

The new WR was making an odd sound and we stopped at some point to investigate. Seemed like the chain was loose. With WRRs it needs to be pretty loose, so it can be tricky to judge if it’s too loose. The trouble is, adjusting it requires loosening the rear wheel and doing that with the small portable tools we got is not a quick job.

Then there was the nagging power issue. Every once in a while it would feel as if it’s losing power despite getting on the throttle. The only logical reason for that was the FMF programmer installed to take advantage of the aftermarket exhaust. It can be set to hundreds of different setting combinations and not all of them are any good. Changing those requires removing the seat (and any luggage sitting on it) and that requires removing some dusty screws. It’s not something that’s fun to do on the road in 30+ ºC heat.

All in all, the bike was declared fit to continue. Wondering where to stay for the night we decided to hit the only large city in proximity – Las Vegas. We were in for a treat: a local advrider, Kevin, was happy to host us, as well as his earlier guest, Argentinian Leo. Leo was on a longer trip that began in the UK, and Kevin was planning something exciting now, and as it always happens, we stayed up for a long time chatting about everything.

After being stuck in a hotel for a week this was so refreshing. We don’t look like most hotel guests, and our journey is not like most of theirs either. People act like you’re a little nuts when you tell them what you’re doing, and after a while you start wondering to what extent is it true. And then you spend a long evening with like minded riders and everything falls into place. Everything is right with the world and what you’re doing becomes normal and accepted and nobody thinks you’re crazy any more.

Kevin’s Vespa is the centrepiece.

Las Vegas started heating up very quickly as we all had breakfast at an outdoor patio the following morning. It should have been a clue to get going, but we decided to look for some parts in a local motorcycle shop (an insert to make Alex’s aftermarket exhaust a little less obnoxiously loud). By the time we said good bye to our new friends it was 1 pm and this time we were determined to make it to Zion. But first, let’s check out Lake Mead, a reservoir formed by the famous Hoover Dam.

A bumpy dirt road led to the shore, although upon reaching it we were not terribly excited, turned around and kept going.

Lake Mead

Landscape near Lake Mead. This is essentially what Nevada looks like, when it’s not flat.

More Nevadan landscapes.

We were disappointed to find out that the only way towards Zion was by interstate 15, but it turned into quite a spectacular canyon road once it crossed into Arizona.

All this gorgeousness is right off Interstate 15.

The reds and oranges of Arizona.

By the end of the day we were a stone’s throw away from Zion National Park and decided to camp on the beach in Sand Hollow State Park. Filled with deep, soft, bright orange sand it was picturesque and quiet.

The sky was moonless and the Milky Way came out to play.

Under the stars in Sand Hollow State Park

The alarm rang at 6 am the next morning. I was planning to watch the stars again, and it was indeed completely dark outside. I gazed at the twinkling through the mesh panels in the tent for about 10 seconds and promptly went back to sleep.

When we finally woke up after sunrise, the tent, our bags, bikes and the picnic table were all covered in what looked like tiny dead bugs. It appears that thousands of them arrived overnight and went through some kind of metamorphosis, leaving behind their empty shells.

The beautiful campsite in the morning.

Zion National Park greeted us with lots of orange: the cliffs, the dirt and the roads were all of a very fiery shade, perfectly complementing the scorching sun. Although it was incredibly beautiful, we could not help but feel that it was on the touristy side, and not as impressive as the crowds would lead one to believe. That’s just what happens when you’re slowly roaming around the magnificence that is the Colorado Plateau. The bar is raised dramatically, you get used to everything being otherworldly and breathtaking.

Acting like tourists in Zion National Park.

Some of the most striking inhabitants of the park are the bighorn sheep. They are easy to spot: if you see more than 3 cars stopped by the side of the road where there isn’t even a shoulder – they must be watching the sheep.

The bighorn sheep drama, Zion exclusive.

If it looks like a completely vertical slope, it’s only because it really is a completely vertical slope.

Zion National Park

Leaving Zion and looking forward to more surreal terrain.

After Zion, our eyes were set on Vermillion Cliffs. Before we got there, we stopped for lunch at Jacobs Lake, a small town at the cross roads between Zion, Grand Canyon and Vermillion Cliffs. There was only one diner in this tiny community and everyone was talking about Grand Canyon, which was 40 miles away. They were either heading for it or on the way out. When we revealed that it was not our destination people thought we were nuts. Not the first time.

We resisted peer pressure and turned off to Vermillion Cliffs. My GPS was firmly set to follow the tracks to White Pocket.

The edge of Vermillion Cliffs

It started rather mildly.

A very mild road to Vermillion Cliffs.

And then became progressively more complicated.

It’s not that I’m tired, I’m just waiting for the dust to settle.

One word: sand. Deep sand, winding track, unforgiving sun, what could possibly go wrong. On the bright side, it was soft when I fell. There was also the overwhelming fragrance of various herbs growing on the sides of the track. It’s what softened the blow when I fell face first off the bike. Not that I fell often. Not that anyone counted. It was exhausting beyond words.

Sweating and not getting annoyed at all the sand.

Hey look, it got easier for 5 meters!

Views off the trail.

Every once is a while the sand cleared off the track and I managed to ride on the hard exposed rock. This bliss lasted all of 2-3 meters, and then it was back to deep sand again. It was tiring and we had to stop to rest a few times. The whole track was only about 25 km, and I certainly did not anticipate it would give me so much trouble.

Making it up the hill while the striped hills are looking on.

After cresting another sandy hill, still a mile short of White Pocket, I declared I was done for the day. We set up camp right near the road, with a beautiful unobstructed view of the cliffs in the distance. Tomorrow will be another day, and today I understood why there are no large markers anywhere inviting people to come visit this remote gem.

Campsite view.

The bikes are resting, too.

There was a flat area, perfect for a tent, right by the road. We generally don’t camp on the side of the road, but I guessed there wouldn’t be much traffic to bother us.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *