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!