2019 Ruckus Trip: Mojave to LA

Tempestuous winter winds kicked up overnight at Sawtooth Canyon driving the few sprinkles sideways against the tent. After the necessary morning coffee ritual over the creosote bush powered twig stove, I packed and set out for Barstow. The tailwind was so strong I barely had to twist the throttle to maintain 30. A tumbleweed raced past me in a tornadic cloud dissapearing over a low hill. Suddenly a rainbow materialized on the horizon reminding me “You’ve gotta deal with rain to enjoy the rainbows”.

In Barstow I was surprised by the number of homeless and seemingly addicted individuals surrounding Town. Even the library had steel shutters and doors like a business establishment in a downtown. Parking near the police surveillance trailer, I ran into WalMart for water, beans and fruit then quickly shot back to camp. As the afternoon began to clear, I explored the boulders and canyons quite popular with climbers during the weekend.

Matt and I finally met up and camped at site 2 beneath the large central mountain in the above shot. The protection from wind was fleeting as the gusts seemed to blow from all directions. The following morning I was surprised to find Owen and Make from Boundfornowhere just over the rock! We enjoyed catching up in the rising morning sun and sharing travel stories and vehicle upgrades. It’s always good to meet up with fellow travelers after a few years.

They had been camping on the other side of Barstow and recommended a geologically unique area known as Rainbow Basin. Climbing up Fossil Bed Rd, I was immediately taken by the varied rock strata jumbled and thrust up millions of years ago. The errosion from both wind and water was quite evident in these striking cliffs. The ground here was nearly barren within the canyons on account of poor soils and low precipitation.

The serpentine ridge below was quite stunning with the same hardened layer twisting upward and over to form a sandy bowl.

Matt and I seared a poblano and 1.5 lb ribeye on the fire at sunset then added onions and garlic to a pan and ate like kings. The light breezes overnight and temps above freezing were a pleasant treat to the previous few days. Come morning, after a greasy and delicious steak and egg wraps, we bid farewell. I’m excited to hear how his Black Mountain loop goes while I sped westward toward LA on National Trails Hwy. Having thoroughly photographed this region years ago, I bypassed the Bottle Tree Ranch and quaint village of Oro Grande. White capped peaks loomed before the anemic scooter as I pointed up SR-2 Angeles Crest Hwy and began climbing. The ski resorts were beginning to open with pedestrian traffic and vehicles lining the road. Glancing down at the speedo, I was climbing at 16mph and hopeful no big trucks would fly up on me. Snow-banks along the shoulder formed patches of ice and meltwater dribbling precariously into the lane. Fortunately the road remained open to Los Angeles and the steady stream of oncoming cars was a good sign I wouldn’t have to turn around at a summit. Mt. Baldy was a winter wonderland in the distance and a notable warming occured on the south-facing slopes.

Cruising over 7000ft for a few hours, I was beginning to get a chill and quite readily passed the exotic supercars and sportbikes at Newcomes Ranch in favor of lower altitude warmth. Shedding layers and elevation, I cruised into Flintridge and down the familiar Arroyo Seco to Pasadena. The tropical warmth of LA hit me with the realization that again Tortuga has traversed this nation with a view of the Pacific and Channel Islands out to sea.

Total fuel consumed: 24.2 gallons or $61 . Take that budget airlines or Greyhound!

2019 Ruckus Trip: Southern Deserts

The Sacramento Mountains are the first major range to be crossed when heading westward from the high plains of Texas. The view overlooking the White Sands National Monument is commanding but sometimes I enjoy looking back as much as forward.

Following Hwy 380 west to the Rio Grande River, I passed through the Valley of Fires, an ancient lava flow which  usually beckons for a rest break and cup of coffee at familiar roadside picnic areas.  Occatilo and mesquite dot the challenging terrain.

Setting west through New Mexico, I stopped briefly at the Very Large Array nestled in the Plains of St. Augustine around 6000ft.  Since my last visit, many of the dishes have been removed, including one along the highway by the railroad tracks used to move them to and fro.  The movie Contact was filmed here.

Glancing up at the sun, I noticed some sundogs, halo and other unusual refractions of light off ice crystals in the atmosphere.


After not looking too closely at the sun, I continued on 60 toward the continental divide and Pie Town Park.  The air was dry at night and although I was higher up, the morning was not as cool as anticipated.   A brief morning survey of the now booming pie businesses in Pie Town revealed the original Pie Lady wasn’t open until 11AM.  Unwilling to wait around that long, I decided to move on and made pancakes at a roadside rest with hot-burning cedar and pinyon pine.

A steady downhill ride from New Mexico brought me to Springerville, AZ for fuel. I recalled chasing a stray puppy around main street a few years ago and waiting for the animal control officer to intervene.  A quick check of weather was all I cared for today and soon was leaving town on 60 through the tan high plains toward Show Low.  Prescribed burns on Hwy 60 sent clouds of purple-green smoke to the west. Waves of trucks and RV’s meant little stopping but I was content to cruise at 35 and enjoy the benefits of 120 mpg.  The highlight of this trip is the descent and climb into the Salt River Canyon.

The bottom of the canyon has a number of campsites but the required tribal permit meant I couldn’t just set up for the night.  Passing my chance and climbing up the southern side at 20mph, I noticed a dirt road leading to a vista.  Two crumbling concrete picnic tables and an abused wall marked this as a discontinued rest area and viewing location.  A small trail led to a vista marked with a cross and memorial to “Mom and Dad”.  What a view!

Returning to the picnic tables, I set up the tent and enjoyed a podcast while watching the lights of vehicles wind down the serpentine highway.  Overnight the wind whipped up and the gusts made me pack up the tent before sunrise for fear of being blown off the precipice.   Bright LED lighting led me safely travel before sunrise into the stiff winds.  Fortunately the trip was mostly downhill to the mining town of Globe where I took a break for coffee and to rub my fingers together.  Following 60 west of Globe, the temperatures soared as my elevation fell.  Arriving in downtown Tempe, it was in the mid-80’s and I took a break to remove layers and refill water.  Not lingering in cities, I soon found myself cruising out the NW side of Phoenix toward Parker on old Hwy 60.  BLM land beside the Viksburg Pit lent a warm location to overnight, no tent needed!




A smile crept across my face as I reached the Mojave.  West on 62 was a familiar route with a handful of oddities, such as this abandoned gas station which has morphed into a shoe collection.  Some looked to be nearly brand new.  Shortly after this I found a nice Outdoor Research boonie hat which I stashed in the saddlebag.




Tortuga and the Desert Tortoise meet again!

The warm weather was a relief from the chillier temps in Arizona and New Mexico.  The bike looked overloaded compared to when I began in Alabama until I realized it was packed with removed fluffy layers.  The rate for riding through Joshua Tree NP doubled to $25/motorcycle so I changed routes and camped near the Giant Rock outside Landers, the largest freestanding boulder in the world.

All the rain and cold I had been avoiding will pass to the north and east this week so the Mojave is the place to be 🙂  Hopefully I’ll get to catch up with Matt out in this sandy scrub.

2019 Ruckus Trip: SE New Mexico

The wind is howling through the damp cottonwoods and pecans bordering Stephen’s Lake in Eunice as the latest Arctic cold-front sweeps the nation. Like a ship riding out a storm, La Tortuga is pointed head in to the cold NNE blow to prevent being blown over by a gust. Although just a machine, I wish I could keep it warm and garaged for the night after all it has done for me. It should start in the morning like it did the day before.

Although I didn’t ride far to reach New Mexico, the lack of sleep in busy downtown Andrews and the windswept wintery conditions on the oil patch highway sure took it out of me. I kept humming the Marty Robbins lyric “…wild as the West Texas wind”. The municipal park in Eunice functions as a fishing pond, picnic area, campground and shooting range. The ducks who reside on this lake were quite friendly, no doubt accustomed to handouts but decidedly on the other side of the fence from the shooting range. The only shelter from the relentless cold bursts from the North was between a barbed wire fence and a maintenance power building. The occasional truck pulled in over the course of daylight hours and the highway noise remained downwind. I observed 6 different species of bird including a quail, foraging ducks from the pond and at the graying of dusk, a small herd of cattle spooked by a tent zipper.

I’m thankful to have had shelter from the rain last night and the wind today. Sometimes in the desert, it’s the lee of a brick wall that can change one’s disposition

The following day was cool but not nearly as windy which made a big difference. It was a pleasant ride through the Oil Patch over to the Hackberry Lake OHV area. Well as pleasant as an industrial highway smattered with Poisonous Gas signs. Deep breaths of the sweet Hydrogen Sulfide…

Gas flares and equipment littered the horizon as commercial activity of the Permian Basian stretches well into New Mexico. Greg, a fellow camper at the BLM site, suggested I check out the dunes up the road.

It was warming into the 60s and sunny as I explored the wet sandy terrain. The Ruckus really doesn’t handle this well with so little power and CVT.

Back at camp as the sun went down I cooked up some potatoes on the mesquite fired twig stove and added a can of chunky stew.

The colorful sunset meant a clear day tomorrow. Sipping a black cup of coffee, I enjoyed a chocolate bar given to me by the Eunice librarian and listened to the coyotes yip.