A subject I often roll my eyes at while pondering has been properly trolled upon by our good friend Guitar Ted and some of his folks on Twitter. Read the article!
This is some good information, thought I’d pass it on to y’all Dirtbaggers out there.
We’re a month into the new year. Here at Bikepacking Roots, we have been working to implement organizational growth to fulfill our mission. A cornerstone of that mission is to conserve the public lands and landscapes through which we ride. As we look ahea
— Read on www.bikepackingroots.org/news/for-the-wild-a-forecast-for-2020-bikepacking-advocacy
Are you a Dirtbagger? If you are, or are aspiring to be, show the world your dirty colors! Our new merch shop is up and running! I know, you’ve all been waiting on the edge of your saddles for this to finally happen. There are a few initial designs and items up for now, with more in the works. Things are print-to-order currently, and take 2-3 weeks for delivery. Once (and if) the ball gets rolling we will be putting out some limited run fun stuff.
Click this link to go to our web store!
All proceeds will go towards the running and maintaining of this site, and probably a couple tacos. I like tacos.
Hey, folks. I couldn’t think of anything remotely interesting to write about today, so you get this.
I’ve been rolling on WTB Riddler 45’s for a few hundred miles of desert dirtbagging torture and they have been…adequate. Eventually there will be a write up, but to date it’s been a little difficult to capture the essence of the whole ordeal. A lot of what happened out there was tainted by some other equipment issues and sorting out who caused what…well, there are some grey areas for certain.
Instead of writing a review of the Riddler 45’s, I bring to you today a simple announcement that I have swapped tires on the Fargo to WTB Nano 2.1’s, currently set up with tubes. I may go tubeless after a few trips to ensure these tires can actually do the job before committing fully. I’m not sure the Nano will be the end-all of my tire search. It seems like the least aggressive tire shops around here carry is the Maxxis Ardent, which is a pretty aggressive tire compared to the Nano, and may end up being a better tool for the job for the Nevada/Arizona/Utah/California terrain I’ve encountered.
Yeah, so I changed tires today. Cool story. I’m taking them out to the SoCal coast this weekend to do some riding and camping. Will probably be a cooler story.
There’s nothing like a desert sunrise to wash away the memories of the prior day’s ride and inspire one to pedal forth into the ether, forging forth further into the sand and rocks. Day 2 began with such an inspiring sunrise, so beautiful I just lay in my sleeping bag watching and waiting for that exact moment to snap a picture then pack up camp and head to breakfast. I was surprisingly only a little achy, my Day 1 recap did not really stress the amount of pain I was in by the time it was time to retire for the evening, and my nether regions seemed like they might be okay for another long, slow day in the saddle.
Sleep was decent considering I was next to a truck stop parking lot, and the wind had picked up overnight to the point of waking me up about every hour on the hour. My old trusty Revelate Viscacha wasn’t quite as comfy a pillow as the Terrapin 14L dry bag I had recently tested, but it worked decently all things considered. I will be looking at possibly getting an inflatable pack pillow for the future, saving pack-up time (re-mounting a fully loaded Viscacha is kind of like trying to get a drunk friend into an Uber) and let’s face it: I’m getting too old to not have a pillow. My bike tour through Oregon, California, and Nevada proved that one of the most valuable pieces of gear was my Thermarest pillow, but I’m unsure of taking that one on Dirtbagging trips. It’s great gear, but doesn’t pack small enough for my current rig. Something inflatable would be better suited.
The sun finally fully peeked out from behind its mountain hideaway, illuminating the valley before me. It was a total WTF moment. The spot in which I set up camp was about ten feet from a short-ish cliff which dropped down to a gully of trash, huge sharp rocks, cacti, and broken glass. I was just a few steps away from some potential pain and serious injury as I set up to sleep the night before. The satellite view on the map showed a path from where I was which led to a few clearings in the brush which I thought would be great camp spots, but I was too tired, lazy, and full of crappy fast food to try making it any further. I’m glad I didn’t, as the breaking daylight revealed what a dangerous and fucked idea that would have been. Sometimes tired and lazy are superheroes and save the damn day.
The gear was packed back onto the Fargo, and I was on my way to the local Denny’s for some all-you-can-eat pancakes (thanks, Biking Eric, for introducing me to that deal back in Klamath Falls), coffee, and some power to charge up the phone. The restaurant was pretty empty when I first arrived, I set up shop at the counter and ordered up the goods. My first round of pancakes ended up being my only round as the cook made three of the largest plate-filling, puffy, pancakes I have seen. This was a far cry from what I’m used to at the almighty Denny’s, and by the mischievous look on my server’s face, this was also not the norm at this particular location. Challenge accepted, and I went about deciding the day’s plan.
Originally this was to be a three day trip, but as I am a mediocre planner I missed the fact that it’s 62 miles to Searchlight via Henderson, then it’s only about 71 miles back home through Nipton, CA. Nipton was only 22 miles from Searchlight via NV164 aka “Joshua Tree Highway,” which is about a level 10 lazy ride according to the Lazy Scale (1 being pretty lazy, 10 being full-on bullshit laziness). Anything over say a 6, and you may as well just be at an off route party on some cross-state ride. Know what I’m saying? wink wink. It was decided that I would try to make it back to Las Vegas that day, taint be damned, but that I would make it to Primm at the very least to assess whether I wanted to make the full push home. LT was busy looking up places for me and sent a link to a quaint burger spot in Nipton that Looked like a good place to have lunch, but it seemed to be a little too close for that. More winking.
Joshua Tree Highway is exactly as advertised. Headed west from Searchlight, the road runs through seemingly endless fields of those eponymous desert trees, beautiful yet stark creatures with limbs and leaves leaning towards the southern desert sun. This is the first time I’ve had an abundance of time to witness and study these desert creatures, and all of this pondering almost helped me forget that I was in the middle of another big climb and on a saddle that was acting like an evictitious ass landlord. The pain was real for both bottom and legs, but after a few miles of steady climb I finally settled into a decent cadence and numbness to reach the summit.
Mile thirteen brought the bomb into the Ivanpah Valley and the California border. I can’t remember a more welcome sight on the road, as the pain had come back full force and I had to climb the last bits standing. The descent was fast and a little unnerving as highway traffic started to pick up a bit. Reaching the border, I stopped to get a picture of the “Welcome To California” sign, but there was none. No signage whatsoever from Cali announced your intrusion upon their land. There was only a “Thank You for Visiting Nevada” sign and one dirty diaper. You can see it behind the rear wheel of the Fargo there in the picture. Yes, a lovely welcome to California in the form of a soiled diaper. At least it wasn’t Anthony Keidis singing about the damn place (we all get it, Anthony. You are way into California. Even John Denver wrote about a state other than Colorado, get over it dude.)
A few more miles downhill and I entered the world of Magical Nipton. It’s truly a magical place, as you breach the city limits you are greeted by a bevy of lager than life white letters housed in a corral with some classic cars and what might be food trucks? To your right is an old classic car, gutted and painted in whimsical patterns and colors. There are a few small homes then blammo, you’re at the end of town and to the proper attraction, a giant orange octopus! The octo is part of an 80-acre Outdoor Art Gallery, and is on my list of things to visit on my next overnight here. The nigh view of these sculptures looks incredible. Crossing the road south brings you to the Whistlestop Cafe, home of some serious burgers. LT reminded me this morning that I need to take pictures of my food. The Black and Bleu burger would have been a good candidate for food tourist picture taking.
Whistlestop Cafe is an order-at-the-counter type spot, and when I arrived the counter area was crowded with a group of German tourists trying to figure out what to order. At this point in the day I was hurting more than I should have been, thanks to my saddle issues, and the tourists were one part entertaining (they all looked really really hung over), one part keeping me from sitting down on something other than my torture saddle. I did manage to arrive just before a large group of motorcyclists, though. That worked out pretty rad. The Germans, instead of sitting at one of the long high top group tables decided to pull another 4 top up to a booth. As a restaurant person this made me want to kick them out of the place myself. They had the person at the counter make them coffee in the afternoon when it was about 70 outside, then complained that it was too weak. She made a second stronger pot, and while she was coming out to refill their cups with the requested brew they all got up and left. I took a cup of the coffee off her hands as everyone else was drinking Ultras. I don’t want to generalize all European travelers as kind of rude, but these folks were some real pieces of work. Speaking of pieces of work, the “motorcycle gang” which was taking up the outdoor seating area had some sort of confederate flag motif going on, but were from Las Vegas. Remind me, which side of the civil war was Nevada on? Use of confederate flag imagery is pretty laughable in the year 2020. Seriously, laughable. Ok, so the burger was great, the service was amazing (for me), and I was able to reset a bit between grumbling about the other patrons.
Next door to the Whistlestop is the Hotel California. I’m not sure that this is the actual Hotel California from the song, and couldn’t find any answers. Wait, it looks like the song wasn’t actually based on a real place. Well, we can all pretend this is the one. I snapped a quick picture then headed towards Primm, via an old railroad access road.
The ride started off super fast, the road was a mixture of pavement and rock that gradually became less and less pavement and more and more rock and sand. I surmise this was paved all the way to Primm and at some point decades ago maintenance ceased and the desert took it for itself. About half way to Primm it morphed into what I had expected, a deep, sandy slog fest littered with giant rocks. A few 4×4 vehicles passed by sporadically, as this is the “shortcut” between the two towns. The long way takes you onto i15 and is about double the length, and I imagine is more likely to be patrolled by law enforcement. I stopped a few miles short of town to have some water and start surveying the hotel situation. At this point I was ready to stay in a room, take a long hot shower, order a pizza, and watch some Forensic Files. That saddle had pretty much worn out my ass, which is a shame because my legs were still fresh enough to probably make the 50 or so miles back to Las Vegas.
After a few miles of barren desert valley riding, Primm came into sight over the horizon. It reminded me of something from a Star Wars film, or more aptly from Firefly. A circus-like oasis in the middle of miles and miles of sand and rocks. It has a very science fiction feel to it which was difficult to capture in a photograph. Maybe part of it was the slight delirium that was creeping into my mind.
The Fargo came to rest outside a gas station near the outlet mall, and I sat on the ground next to a power outlet charging the phone and talking with LT about what was going on. She originally wanted to come meet me for dinner or lunch or maybe even bring the tent and camp. All very rad, but we agreed it was time for me to just come home and we made a bailout plan. I would ride north to Jean and she would scrape me up off the ground there. Fair enough. I started riding the gravel road towards Jean and POOF a flat about 3 miles out. Of course, about eight miles away from the end of my day and I get a flat. I didn’t want to even mess with it at this point, so I walked the Fargo back to Primm. I was sad, defeated, annoyed, pissed off, depressed, and needed something to distract me from the overwhelming negativity. It was time to bust out the headphones and listen to Supertramp’s “Breakfast In America” album. Giving my brain some music to dissect is always good therapy when things go south. It’s like a hound, sometimes you need to throw it a bone to chase to lift the mood.
I set up camp in the Carl’s Jr and waited for my favorite sag to arrive. It was a glorious time, and when LT arrived tears nearly squirted out my eye holes. I was defeated by what should have been a pretty simple loop, all thanks to my old trusty Selle Anatomica saddle. I have never before encountered the amount of taint pain dished out to my nether regions during these two days. I would like to note that this is a first generation SA Titanico saddle, from many years ago, and does not ride the same as the new generation of their saddles. In fact, I may be riding one of the last living examples of said saddle. I will be testing out an R2, their answer to the Cambium saddle, this spring.
All in all it was a good ride that could have been great with some better equipment choices and a little more planning. From the time I started riding through that rocky Dutchman’s Pass descent, I wondered if there was a path that would take me through the next pass down and into the Joshua Tree Highway valley, skipping Searchlight and most of the highway miles. Just this morning I found a birdwatching site that shows the very path I had imagined should be there, and my next ride through this area will be on that path and with 2.1″ tires instead of the 50c Riddlers I have been riding. That’s an entirely different story you can read about once the Riddler review is complete. I’m looking forward to wild camping amongst the Joshua Trees, then catching breakfast at the Whistlestop before riding straight through back to Vegas. It will be a nice 110 mile overnight loop to add to the repertoire.
I hope the read wasn’t as painful as the ride. Thank you for stopping by!
This ride was a bit of an experiment. Utilizing a little combination of Google maps, local MTB’er information, and luck, I threw together a fun little two day loop circling around Sloan Canyon and including a little California gravel. Altogether it was a pretty exciting, yet painful ride. Wanna hear about it? Here it goes…
The sun crested Sunrise Mountain, pouring early morning light into the valley, just a bit of warm wind whistling in from the North. The weather was optimal and the goal of reaching Searchlight, NV to set up camp that night was within well within reach. As usual, the morning slipped through my fingers, it seems that getting out of the house before 9am is never a possibility.
Thankfully the Fargo was loaded and water topped off the day before this time, so there was no further delay past the normal morning routine. I was out the door and headed south on Hollywood Boulevard’s new protected bike lane towards the Wetlands where I got a little gravel-crazy and added some miles to the route by following the dirt access roads a little further south than the original plan had in store. This was purely unintentional, I was just having so much fun that the target road was completely overlooked until a turn back north revealed that the Wetlands visitor center was off in the distance. Said access roads parallel the bike path back towards the bridge crossing the marsh, I paced a recreational rider for a bit before finally passing on the bridge. There were a ton of Coots hanging out having breakfast in the marsh, I love those little guys. I nearly made friends with one who ran to me on the beach at Lake Havasu, but the little guy decided to break away at the last moment and hit the water. So close, yet so far.
I finally got back on track and cruised through Henderson, stopping at a Del Taco for a couple bean burritos for lunch. I got back on the road and over to climb the remainder of College Avenue before hitting an abrupt end to civilization and the beginning of the real adventure. One thing you might miss if you don’t live in the Las Vegas area is that even though the city is smack dab in the middle of a bunch of BLM land and amazing mountain biking, hiking, etc, that you are looking at a pretty long ride to get out of town to those features. Heck, yesterday I rode to REI and that was 36 miles round trip to the CLOSE location. First world problems, indeed.
I immediately got lost in the dirt bike trails above Henderson. It was like an M.C. Escher work of art. Wherever you stood you could see where you needed to be, yet no matter what direction you go there is no way to get there. It was near-Lovecraftian madness as I broke out my phone multiple times trying to figure out why progress was impossible, even looking at the radar view was no help. The trails up there are basically dirt jumps for motorcycles too steep to ride up, and too loose to ride down. Did I mention that I opted to use my Giro MTB shoes this trip? The route, on paper, looked to have very little hike-a-bike so I figured why not clip in for this one? Spoiler alert: This is my last dirtbagging trip without the lovely convenience of flat pedals. Look for a review of the Crank Brothers Stamp 1 pedals soon.
After sorting out the insane bucket of worms at the beginning of the dirt, things settled into one clear path up over Dutchman’s Pass. Upon cresting the pass, I encountered the usual sight of ATV riders with cameras in tow getting some footage of riding around in the rocks. They are more prevalent than any other form of wildlife out here in the Nevada desert, outnumbering even bird sightings. I wave to them as I begin the descent into further madness. On the map there are two parallel trails, within 10 feet of each other, which head towards the solar power field I am to ride through before turning east to ride up to the highway. I chose the left path, and all of my bad choices became glaringly evident within the first quarter mile. The loose “gravel” path was also full of giant rocks, and about 8 miles of washboard. I have never had a slower ride down a hill in my life. The trail conditions paired with the clip in pedals and the WTB Riddler 45’s I was riding made for a very painful and sometimes treacherous descent.
I finally stopped and jumped over to the right-side trail and was immediately granted a short stay of execution. Things smoothed out and sped up a bit, I have modified my gpx file to make this the correct trail to use, and in no time I was back to slogging through the hyper-baked sand-dust next to the solar arrays. I learned later that I should wear a mask through this area as when the sun hits and reflects off the mirrored panels it cooks and breaks down the sand into finer particles that can ultimately lead to some sort of respiratory disease with extended exposure. The woman who was giving me the lowdown the next day in Nipton has a family member who works out there and was describing the hazmat-like suits they are required to wear when working outside because of the dangerous conditions. I did have a very odd cough that night, odd in the fact that I don’t generally have a cough. It was similar to, but worse than, the cough I get after riding miles of dry dusty gravel. Come to thing of it, I wonder how my lungs have been adversely affected from the years and years of dust inhalation. Time to get a freaking mask of some sort.
After trudging through the fine desert dust of the solar fields, it was time to climb to the climb. You head east on an access road a few miles up to I95 where you begin the 22 mile, 2500ft climb to Searchlight. I wasted a lot of gas getting down from Dutchman’s and through the flat, deep sand to the pavement so it was slow going climbing up to 95. My neck ached, my hands felt like a couple of cracked open lobster claws, and my nether regions…let’s say that the choice to not change saddles from the one that foiled my last long ride was the absolute worst of the worst decisions made prior to rollout. My taint, at this point, was ready to call it quits more than any other of my complaining body parts, yet I drove on as the rest of the day’s miles were paved and I could kind of get my bottom settled in a spot that didn’t wreak too much wrath.
The climb to Searchlight seemed to never end. As I trudged nearer to town the temperature dropped, wind picked up, my muscles (and taint) started to ache more, but the sunset was incredible. I will never complain about a sunset in the desert. It’s always beautiful, even during a taint-ache. I stopped to sit on the side of the highway and watch the sun go down, and decided I should probably get a hotel room and take a very long, hot shower to ease my aches. To be honest, I did not expect a 62 mile ride to tear me up the way it did. At one point I even though I’d be able to bust out a few more miles on Joshua Tree Highway (Nevada 164) to camp out in the amazing fields of those beautiful desert trees.
The final push into Searchlight led me into what can only be described as a Ralph Steadman painting. Odd humanoid creatures roaming streets littered with torn apart cars, trash, and one dirty dirt bagger looking for a roof to reside beneath. A check at both tiny roadside inns revealed that there was no hope in lodging and I would have to ACTUALLY CAMP. I decided to have a quick dinner first at the local McDonald’s, a chain I haven’t eaten at in years, to assess the current situation and maybe get some local tips on the in-town camping situation.
I walked into the Convenience Store/Casino/McDonald’s (practically every business in small town Nevada is a Casino/Something) to the sounds of Foreigner’s “Dirty White Boy” playing in the background. The song was a bit true, although not in the way they meant lyrically, and also a bit offensive in the parlance of our times. The 62 previous miles left me dirty, more of a sunburn-red than anything, and somehow prepared to ingest a couple McDoubles, hoping for the best gastrointestinal outcome, while figuring out where to post up for the night. The food was incredibly good, on the sliding scale of anything with salt and fat would probably taste incredibly right now, and the continuing Steadman-like fantasy world continued to play out before my eyes. I’m going to spare you the details, but know that you probably couldn’t imagine it with your own minds. It was both laughable and disturbing. Mostly Disturbing.
iOverlander, one of my favorite boondocking apps, showed that I was indeed right on top of a place to camp. This gas station/casino/sorry excuse for a food joint also had a large parking lot to the rear to host weary travelers AND there was a little strip of land at the very back which would accommodate a single cyclist and his tyvek home for the night. There were also some dirt trails, according to the radar view map, that led away from the parking lot a ways to a few clearings that looked like they would be good camping spots, but I was tired and opted to stick close. I wandered around a bit and after fighting a Mequite tree for a few minutes, the damn thing was getting pretty handsy with me, I found a little spot hidden from view by a huge camper, some trees, and a cool little boulder to lean the Fargo against. I broke out the handlebar compression sack which contains my entire sleep system, got things set up and laid down to sleep.
End of Day 1.
The Mallets are definitely getting replaced as soon as I get back home. In fact as I lay in my sleeping bag I ordered a set of Stamp flat pedals before drifting off to a windy slumber.
My makeshift handlebar bag situation using two ball end bungees to affix a compression sack to the bars is still working well, although I did experience a few shifting issues because of the bag moving around on the rough stuff through Dutchman’s Pass. I’m devising a small, lightweight “cradle” solution for this which will incorporate the stem/spacer mount light bracket still left on the Fargo from a past light mounting experiment. I never got around to swapping that piece back out, and it may work to an advantage here. The shifting issues were also easily remedied by moving the bag around a bit. I also added the front pouch from my Revelate Sweetroll system for a little added storage, and it was a stellar performer.
The WTB Riddler 45’s are still somehow alive through all of this. They were less-than-stellar on the downhill portion from Dutchman’s, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t designed for such nonsense.
Prepare yourselves for Day 2 of this ride where I visit California for a bit and run into a group of “Confederate Rebels” on motorcycles. lol.
Good morning fellow Dirtbaggers! Now that the site has gotten a real name. It’s time for some tangible goods to be worn while on your Dirty Adventures. We will he offering some designs such as the “Dirtbagger” trucker hat shown above starting as soon as next week. Other merch items such as coffee cups, koozies, shirts, and water bottles will follow shortly.
You will be seeing some changes around the site as I have finally decided on a real name and direction for things. This will be known as DirtCyclist as of today, the content will be similar and writing will be just as bad as usual. No worries there. Format and appearance changes will be coming soon, as well as the ride reports I have stored up in my brain.
With that said, welcome to the new site. I hope that you continue to enjoy.
Thank you to Demi Lovato for the incredible rendition of the National Anthem, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez (and their crews) for the sensational half time entertainment, and of course the 49ers and the Chiefs for making this Super Bowl a game worth watching. This household was screaming, clapping, singing along, and glued to the television the entire time. It was a great time had by all.
My Favorite SB54 Moments:
- Demi Lovato just belting the Star Spangled Banner. She has a super power. Super Demi. We did miss this originally, but the replay was just a rad.
- Trying to figure out what guitar Shakira was playing. It looks like something from Sully Guitars, but I haven’t found any concrete info on that yet.
- The great Jlo costume change debate. I was astounded at how fast she went from leather to sparkle, LT pointed out that she was wearing one over the other the whole time. She’s the smart one.
- I’m pretty sure Andy Reid was holding a Waffle House menu instead of his play card at one point. In fact, I couldn’t let that go. Poor LT, she had to hear the joke about a million times. “Wait, what’s it called when there’s chili on the hash browns?”
- Andy Reid finally getting a superbowl win, and he was just like “yep, it’s cool, man”
- Pretty much the whole 4th quarter, KC stomping back through the 49ers like they were a different team than in the first half. In fact, at half time Good Ole Terry I think was the one who said, “whoever opens up and starts playing is going to win this”
- Charley Day. He will always be funny to me.
- Cuddling on the couch with LT
- Not ONE DAMN TIME did I have to hear the name “Tom Brady,”
Keep in mind, I’m not a football person, but it was a great excuse to eat some flautas and hang out with the fam. Next year we have the newly-crowned Las Vegas Raiders to look forward to here. Maybe they will make an appearance at SB55? (I kid, I kid)
Oh yeah, and I rode Las Vegas-Searchlight-Nipton-Primm this weekend and should probably do a write up on that as well. Maybe later.
I don’t know what to say here, other than this is another drab day for cycling journalism. Growing up in the midwest during the 80’s, I loved riding my bike but didn’t really know about what was really out there until copies of the stalwart cycling publications of the day started showing up on the publication racks of our local supermarket. My knowledge, and love, of cycling expanded with every flip of the page, and this has remained the case to the moment of this writing. There is no substitution for the feel of a print magazine, the back page ink migrating to grimy fingers as every picture, word, advertisement etched in the mind after countless thumbings-through. There will also be no substitution (or replacement) for Dirt Rag magazine.
Dirt Rag magazine was cut from a different cloth as it were, a publication well ahead of trends such as 29’ers, gravel racing, and they put on their own festival, Dirt Fest, which celebrated all things dirty. Their covers were spectacular and often true art, featuring incredible illustrations by artist Ryan Inzana. Their editorial section was pretty legendary, and they even gave my good friend Guitar Ted his start in Bike Writing back in another century. (shout out to GT!) I’m disappointed to see that they will not be switching to at least a digital-only format, but absolutely respect their decision to be done when they want to be done and not try gently gliding into a digital finish line somewhere down the road.
Its sister publication, Bicycle Times, was one of my modern day favorites and covered all the fringe “disciplines” others skimmed over: Commuting, Cargo Bikes, Gravel, Touring, and more. Bicycle Times sadly went by the print wayside a few years back, beginning a short stint as digital-only, which I imagine bolstered the decision to skip this step with Dirt Rag and exit the world gracefully. Thank you, Dirt Rag, for 30 years of dirty journalism, and for all that you have done for the cycling community, journalism, and the sport. Love y’all.