Riverside to Vegas, almost

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Categories: Galleries, Dailies

A few times a year, some buddies of mine do a Riverside to Vegas off-road ride. Due to a few mechanical issues, the guys only made it as far as Ridegcrest this year, but they sent me copious notes and photos to assemble a ride report along with the Google Earth file tracing their route should you decide to follow it. Here's a story we assembled from their notes.

I have been hearing about this ride for a while now and when it came close to this year's, I got a dual-sport and went out one Sunday to ride with the guys to see just what I was in for. I learned two things that day. First, that riding off road with Wes makes you think you are way better than you really are and second, that Lisk isn’t exaggerating when he says they haul ass through the desert. Needless to say, I sat this trip out and will be practicing for the next one.

As you may have noticed, I have friends with stupid names. I know we’re far too old for this sort of thing, but most of my friends don’t go by their real names and I apologize in advance with some hope that the comments section doesn’t turn into a giant pile of hate for my friends Craig, Ricky, Fold, Lisk, Boosti, Tommy, and Brundy who took the time to send me all of their photos and notes and who edited the videos so that you could hopefully enjoy the experience they get to share every year.

The complete route

DAY ONE – Riverside to Barstow
Trip Odometer: 209 Miles
Max Speed: 82.5 mph
Moving Time: 6h 24m
Moving Average: 32.6mph

“We guys planned to leave early but Boosti decided to change a clutch lever at the staging area which, naturally, didn’t fit and set us back another hour while we had to find somewhere to drill it out. Then his camel back leaked all over his stuff and soaked everything and he had to delay the trip further to mend it. Off to a good start!”

“We finally got on the road at 11:30 amidst a combination of excitement and trepidation. Will we make it? Will someone break down in the desert? Will we get lost? Will there be terrain I can’t handle? Is my bike making a weird noise? These questions and concerns dissipated as we found our rhythm and settled into the ride, but these thoughts always add to the existing adrenaline present at the beginning of any journey, especially a longer one.”

“We jumped onto the dirt at Palm Ave off of the 215, a rocky fire road running parallel to Rim of the World Highway towards Crestline, where we had excellent views of the inland empire. There was still a lot of snow on the tracks as we rode up and over the foothill to Highway 138 where we passed through the Miller Flat staging area. Then we continued up Pilot Rock Ridge Road which passes through Silver Wood Lake and Lake Arrowhead. This part of the trail was really nice double track with some technical uphill offshoots which then turned into this really neat section of woodsy single track.”

Overlooking the Inland Empire

“Then we came to the Devil’s Hole water crossing. Devil’s Hole water crossing is about 2.5-3ft deep with really slippery, basketball sized boulders at the bottom. A guy with a 2 stroke KTM had dropped his bike in it and had been sitting with his bike turned upside down for almost an hour trying to get all the water out.“

“We came to a section on 9 inch wide single track along the side of a mountain that had little to no room for error and, luckily, only a little snow on the ground. Once past it, I took a wrong turn and rode about a mile into a valley in the wrong direction which ended up being some of the most difficult terrain I rode that day. It is situations like that which test both your skill and tenacity the most, but finally I was able to reconnect with the group.”

“Is there any mention of Brundy getting lost 5 times the first day? He was easily 5 minutes behind everyone else. That tall bastard.” - Boosti

“We took Old Woman Springs Road to begin our desert riding in Johnson Valley. This section was some great 5th gear riding on wide open trails with lots of whoops. We headed down Bessemer Mine Road in the direction of Ludlow, the halfway point to Vegas as the sun began to set. As we crossed Galway Dry Lake, we came across 4 young marines who were camping for a week in two small tents. Turned out we had run into an impact zone where the military was doing artillery testing. We hung out for 30 minutes or so while we all put clear lenses in our goggles and those of us with shitty headlights taped flashlights to our helmets.”

Galway Dry Lake

“My headlight doesn’t work” – Boosti

“The marines sent us back in the opposite direction and the light was fading fast as we left. We navigated to power line road to get us out of the desert with Boosti and Craig having to ride side by side and Tommy and I having to do the same so we could all see. We finally hit pavement and took a frontage road into Ludlow.”

“We hit Ludlow at about 6:30 and were still about 180 dirt miles from Las Vegas which would have put us there at about 1:00am with our poor lighting situation. We didn’t have a chance to stop for lunch, so Dairy Queen looked like a neon oasis after a long day of riding. We all got food and blizzards and agreed the best thing to do was to slab it to Barstow and stay there for the night.”

“When we got to Barstow, we found 3 rooms in a dumpy motel and a donut shop that had just put out fresh donuts who’s only occupant, the baker or whatever you call him, was incredibly stoned. Lisk fixed a flat and we all hung out and talked about the day and our plans for the next until we crashed at about 11:00pm."

DAY TWO – Barstow to Ridgecrest
Trip Odometer: 109 Miles
Max Speed: 78.9 mph
Moving Time: 4h 34m
Moving Average: 23.9 mph

“We woke up the next day around 8:00am, grabbed the “continental breakfast” in the lobby, gassed up, and got outta town. We decided that between the headlight issue and Boosti’s bike being a general piece of shit, we would head to Ridgecrest instead and leave Vegas for another time. We rode through downtown Barstow, part of the old Route 66, and hit dirt a few miles out at Fort Irwin Road.“

“We headed northwest through the Rainbow Basin which was some excellent wide open desert riding. From there we started climbing hills in and around Owl Canyon where the riding got more technical. There were tons of small hill climbs with hairpin turns at the top which then went back down the other side. We rode some really narrow twisting single track though some ancient canyons and came to a really steep hill climb with granite shelves on it. It took us a few tries, but once we found the right line, everyone got up it. Once at the top, Tommy and Boosti were standing by Boosti’s bike when they heard an explosion and looked down to see that his radiator hose had blown and shot coolant about 12 feet from his bike. The resident MacGyver, Craig, was able to make a replacement fitting with a spark plug tool, fitting it as a coupler between two pieces of hose. This is one of the great parts about riding with a group. No one has everything we need, but everyone has something we need. Between Craig’s ingenuity, my tools, and Ricky’s spark plug tool, we were able to get Boosti’s bike running again. With his coolant all over the ground, he had to empty his camelback into the radiator to keep it from overheating. From then on, anyone who had to pee did so into the radiator.“

“The riding from there got the most technical of the trip. We were riding really tight single track along loose rock ridges in the canyons with lots of hairpins and quick uphills. I high sided off the side of one of the areas when I came around a quick turn into a tight uphill and Boosti and Craig helped me get it up and then back onto the track. We came to another super tough part and everyone made it up but I was really struggling and was exhausted from the crash. I tried to make it up three times and finally Craig had to come down and ride the bike up while I caught my breath under a Joshua tree. These situations are extremely humbling because they push you to your physical and mental limits and make you painfully aware that there is no guarantee you will make it through one of these kinds of rides. There is a huge relief in knowing that you are with these other guys that will do whatever is necessary to make sure you get through it. Sometimes, it’s just that sense of encouragement that enables you to pick the bike up one more time and give it another try or to ask for help and know that you’re not being judged for it.”

“This dumped us out on the southeast side of Opal Mountain and we rode County Road 99 and Black Canyon Road counter clockwise down it at the fastest speeds of the day. I was right behind Boosti, who was leading, at about 75mph when his bike died suddenly. Everyone stopped to try and diagnose it and it was sputtering and sounding like it wasn’t getting enough gas (which was also reinforced by the fact that it took 10-12 kicks to get the thing started every single time he started it). Craig came to the rescue once again by pointing out that Boosti’s fuel lines were kinked, to which Boosti replied that it couldn’t have been the issue since the lines had been that way for over two years. Craig unkinked the hose and Boosti’s bike started on the first kick and ran better than it had in two years.“

"Ok, fine. I'm an idiot. But so is every other person who has looked at my bike or helped me work on it over the past two years." -Boosti

“We got to the North side of Opal Mountain and got to check out the petroglyphs at Inscription Canyon. From there, we continued northwest until we came to the legendary Husky Monument. This is a super great spot to ride to, look around, and be thankful for what we have and that we can enjoy good rides with good friends. It’s also a humbling place because it requires you to put things in perspective and acknowledge that we don’t have forever and that we need to enjoy these kinds of opportunities when we are fortunate enough to have them.”

The Husky Monument

“Lisk had plans the next day and Boosti was still without a headlight, so they decided to head home a day early. They were going to meet Lisk’s girlfriend at Kramer Junction so we pointed them in the right direction and sent them on their way, which brought our crew down to 5. We left the husky monument with about an hour of light left and headed due West through the grass valley wilderness area along the South side of Red Mountain. From there we went north on a power line road and got gas in Johannesburg and then rode parallel to the 395 heading into the south side of Iron Canyon.“

“Craig tried to jump the railroad tracks from a 45 degree angle and got wadded up and high sided on the far side. He and his bike were ok and we continued north into the hills just South of Ridecrest. Craig was pretty far in the lead and blew a Y in the road, leaving the rest of us to guess which was he’d gone. We continued in the direction we though he had went and worked our way out of the hills just before dark. We waited for about 45 minutes before Ricky’s cell phone rang and we found out Craig was wandering the hills with a broken clutch cable looking for us. He finally made it down and we continued into Ridgecrest, stopping at a diner for dinner and a banana split and then shacking up at a Best Western. Another fantastic day of really challenging riding.”

DAY THREE – Ridgecrest to Riverside
Trip Odometer: 146 Miles
Max Speed: 85.2 mph
Moving Time: 3h 51m
Moving Average: 37.7 mph

“I woke up to Craig hammering on his bike with a big rock. Not sure what that was all about. We geared up and headed to Denny’s for breakfast, I couldn’t do another day of riding with a “continental breakfast” in my stomach. Craig had to be somewhere by 2:00pm so we knew we needed to jam to get him to Kramer Junction in time. With his broken clutch, he had to run alongside his bike and then pop the clutch to get it to start. We rode back into the hills where we had lost him the night before and, with a good meal in our bellies and the end of the trip in sight, our confidence and pace increased. With less people to potentially lose at turns, the efficiency cranks up and everything flows a little better.”

“We crossed the legendary Trona Road, home to countless off-road races and the entrance to the Trona pinnacles and turned south. We passed through Johannesburg again where we fueled up and the continued south where we briefly connected with the trail from the previous day until we linked up with a pipeline ridge about 5 feet tall that ran parallel to the 395 for miles.“

“We made it to Kramer in time, got more gas and said goodbye to Craig, who’s girlfriend was kind enough to come and pick him up, and then we were four. From here it was a straight shot south hugging the 395 on wide open power line roads until we hit “civilization” in Adelanto. Every time we pass through one of these forgotten towns, I can’t help but wonder how many generations have lived there and how many more will live here. I imagine it is probably not by choice as I cannot imagine having the means to leave a place like this and choosing not to.”

“We made our way southeast to the El mirage OHV area. We were flying though some dirt roads along an irrigation canal and somewhere along there I lost my left foot peg and my kickstand. Standard procedure, we all stopped found a way to prop the bike up, and found a way to rig a solution and then we were back on our bikes. One of the reasons I love motorcycles is that, even though I can’t fix a damn thing on my car, I can fix just about anything on this bike even if I’m on the side of the road. I love that.”

“We passed through Phelan, home of the most convicted child molesters per capita, and ended up in the Wrightwood foothills. These trails are great, up and down hills across valleys and onto a ridiculously high and steep sandy hill. The hill always has at least 4 or 5 motocross bros hanging out on two-strokes just going up and down, over and over again. We always exchange pleasantries, summarize our trip as briefly as possible, and then cringe while we wait for inevitable bad jokes. “Whoa, nice lights! Can I motorboat those things?!” We climb the hill quickly and make our exit, leaving the bros to jump their hill over and over again and contemplate how awesome they are. Pulling up to these guys always makes me feel like some kind of cowboy, riding into town looking like an alien. These guys are all on two-strokes pulling wheelies and we pull up with big four-strokes packed with luggage and a 3 day/500 mile loop behind us. Always gives me a feeling of accomplishment.”

“The trails here are amazing and we head southwest along a ridge line road paralleling the 138 which dumps us out at the Cajon Pass. With lots of hill climbs and whoops, it’s great for a quick and easy day ride or an excellent way to end a larger adventure. We drop out of the hills and end our journey at the intersection of the 15 and 138. From there it is a quick jaunt down the freeway to Riverside, the mindlessness of the highway leaving us to our thoughts about the journey we were about to finish.”

“There is so much satisfaction in finishing a ride like this. I love the feeling of setting out with just the bike and knowing that no matter what happens, I’m going to share an amazing experience with people I love.”

Crew
Craig - 2005 Honda CRF450X with 4" Fuego Baja Designs lights and Wolfman Rolie Bag luggage
Ricky - 2007 KTM 450EXC with Squadron HID conversion and Wolfman Rolie Bag luggage
Fold - 2009 KTM 525EXC with Dual La Paz 8 inch HID lights
Lisk - 2010 KTM 525EXC with Squadron HID conversion
Boosti - 2005 Honda CRF450X with no headlight at all and a slew of other problems
Tommy - 2012 KTM 350EXC with a Squadron HID conversion
Brundy - 2005 Honda CRF450X with a Giant Loop Coyote bag and Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx Handheld GPS Navigator

Gear Notes:
“I use a Garmin 60CX which has been extremely good to me. Super reliable, durable, and has been foolproof even in different countries on rides.”

“I bought the Gaint Loop Coyote Bag before this ride and used the shit out of it. I’m super impressed with how much stuff it holds and how well it held up, even in my crashing. Getting any extra weight onto the bike and off of your body made a huge difference.”

Download the KMZ (Google Earth) file marking the GPS route of their trip here. Brundy says you should be able to convert this to a .GPX file, import it to your GPS device, and it should lead you along their route. If you need help with any of the conversions, check out GPS Visualizer.

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