Category California

LAX

I left Lucinda at the bike dealer for a major service before Central America. There’s a good service shop in Guatemala City apparently (edit: this turned out not to be true) so if something isn’t quite right there’s a second chance at the next tire change.P1030027

The list of mods included a new custom kickstand support we had shipped from Woody’s, a permanent fix for the bogus seat fastener, re-wiring the headlights since we’re getting bored of electrical fires and upgrading to a ceramic clutch, although this change may be overkill.

I dumped all my gear with the shop and set off for LAX.

The arrivals building’s super dull
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The Air France check-in is madness which was a cheery sight
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Compared to Air Canada.
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Looking outside, this airline’s branding department is an equal opportunity employer
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Ditto this restaurant chain
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With this sign above. Hey, don’t sweat it guys, neither can we
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Then through security. Very quiet
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Then it’s time to go, settling into the idea of being home for a few days in the City of Glass.

Wind power

P1020925The city of Mojave, CA is not the prettiest place. But on the east side of town is America’s largest wind farm. 290 turbines produce 3 gigawatts of electricity. The windmills vary in size from, say, 80 feet in height to a couple of hundred. For scale look at the steps at the base of this guy on the right

For some reason security was non-existant and we could ride right up to them.

The wind was blowing hard and watching them rotate in apparent unison was mesmerizing. It brought back memories of the vast solo windmill at Pinscher Creek that stood apart from the others and seemed to stand sentinel to the Rockies. They’re so white, wow.

Sorry there’s a rainbow in the next one, we’re not going all Californian down here, it was an unfortunate accident
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Then into the San Gabriel Mountains
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We picked a small mountain road, the Hughes Lake road, up and over the hills, until we hit a ‘closed road’ sign and had to reverse back to the crest and a good road further south. We passed Elizabeth Lake, ignored the Park signs and went for a ride in the sand. Here’s Lucinda wagging her hips. She’s such a bad girl
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Another perfect sport bike road, smaller cc’s though as it was very tight in places
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Then down to meet highway 126 through a citrus valley into Ventura as the light failed
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Then sunset over Santa Cruz Island
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Furnace Creek and back

My small notebook is getting full of  tasks before a flash trip back to Vancouver and rendezvousing for Mexico and south.

Lucinda’s needs are regular service related jobs and small changes/modifications. I’ll leave her at the shop in LA while I’m away. I’ll miss being on the road with her and leaving her behind for a few days is going to be difficult – I can’t imagine getting out of the groove we’re in. Getting on the plane is going to feel like betrayal. You may think this is over-the-top but if you’ve lived a system with a good bike for long enough, well, the feeling is very real. Sailors often feel the same way and whatever ‘bug’ it is, we’ve got it. Going home, despite being homesick for Family and City, is a rough break in the continuity of whatever this is that doesn’t feel right.

There’s gear to be sorted – It’s been a cold few months, now we’re shifting to heat. I have two years of clothes and equipment in four boxes/bags totalling maybe 90 litres and having everything layered precisely can defy the constant aggravation of digging and re-packing.

There are things to be bought, or previously bought and dumped in Vancouver for the next leg. Drugs, maps, security stuff.

Plus furnishing a new place for rental while I’m away, Christmas Dinner for the family to be prepared, people to meet, it goes on. All in a few days. Oh well, we’ll be back on the road soon enough.

So to pre-burn off some energy we plot a 500 mile route From Twentynine Palms to Furnace Creek to Mojave (the town) for the next two days.

Off due north into the Mojave
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If you look at a map you’ll see the Mojave is enormous. By comparison, Death Valley is relatively small. Crossing the Mojave on the short side is still a 150 mile ride across an almost perfect wasteland. It had a rare and solid rain in the days previously so in areas it was green.
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Through some salt flats
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And at one point a very strange man-made trench. The mineral solution was as clear as diamond and blue as sky
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Then, very oddly we pass into the town (if you can call ten buildings a town) of Amboy, which is on the old Route 66, which follows the railroad. The middle of nowhere again. The main, er, only event is this brilliant motel
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Lucinda insisted on this next shot, just to show to her friends
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Then off again
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There was a high pass with granite outcroppings quite similar to Joshua Tree with some Joshua trees. L and I had a helmet discussion (more on this later) and we have a strong belief that Joshua trees outside of Joshua Tree National Monument are alien and should be cut down.
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A dramatic mountain in the distance
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Into Death Valley. Doesn’t look so bad, does it?
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We were surprised, after weeks of huge Texan, New Mexican, Arizonan desert, how small this valley was. About 15 miles wide by about 100.
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But a 100 miles is 100 miles and the GPS said hussle, we’d been stopping too often and would be arriving after dark, so don’t stop, shoot from the saddle and see it better in the morning. As the sun set, it lit up the eastern ridge
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Then it was darkening and we were still 50 miles from Furnace Creek
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This is a great time of day to ride fast. The visual input is limited and other senses are accentuated
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The next morning
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And
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And out
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Because of the speed we went through the northern Mojave and Death Valley, it’s poor blog material. But also this maybe reflects the way we felt about it. We much preferred the desperate distances of southern Texas and the exoticness of the Reserves of New Mexico and Arizona that engaged much more of us.

Nearly Heaven

If you were a stockbroker at the time of the market crash in October 1987, you might head here immediately. I was, and did.
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Joshua Tree
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Water

A huge storm passed in the night. As we set off towards the only dirt road out towards to Twentynine Palms, we passed large scale fields and orchards
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The air was crisp and clear. Pools of water on the road. What a beautiful day!
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Then onto the dirt, and more pools of water. Lucinda having a bath
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Gravel, haven’t seen that in 5000 miles or so
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More great puddles. Hey, this is the first water we’ve seen in a month. A bit slick at times. It’ll be a while before I forget the big crash we had crossing a algae slicked stream in Texas.
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The desert looked pristine
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Eventually, the beginnings of the San Bernardino hills
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Fast bikes

Hum, this bad boy’s all carbon
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Then saw the registration decal. Cool
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Backcountry to CA

With only another two weeks left before joining Helge Pederson’s Globeriders, and my friend DT, from Tijuana to Guatamala City, we’re picking routes that get the most out of the short miles left in the southwest and trying to take it easy and stay safe. A two day route from Gila Bend to Twentynine Palms wound its way across flats through small villages and fit the bill of scenic, backcountry and mixed dirt and small roads perfectly.

We started out of Gila due on a dead straight road through the desert following a power line, going northwest rather than having to ride the only paved way out this far out. The road felt like clay, great, when dry, and graded flat, and followed a power line
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We passed a huge canal, perhaps taking water from inland to LA. After not having seen any water for days it looked magical, running blue, clear and deep
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Then it was a long fast ride cross country. Occasionally trucks would blast by at high speed, kicking up enough dust to slow us down
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Up north a bit, we hooked up with a small road west road at a the truck stop of Aguila. One of the many of these small stops we’ve passed through in the extreme south that they use to film movies about out-of-luck couples who are never heard from again. They live up to the stereotype
P1020583The weather was changing
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We pulled onto a side road to take a closer look at bursts of colour beside the road. Pink
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White
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And a small-flowered gorse
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Unbelievably, we haven’t seen rain since Louisiana (yup I’ll catch up with the back-posts at some time) and these clouds are gonna definitely unload, so we stop dithering and pull the trigger and race west.