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Wild Motorcycle Tales

Rawhyde Adventure - Part 2


Next morning we pack our sleeping bags, blankets and towels and any additional gear or personal items to be loaded on to the trucks heading for Base Camp Alpha. I take every liner and shirt I have since the forecast is for 30 degree overnight temperatures.

We head out on the interstate, losing one rider to electrical gremlins (she fixed it and joined us later) then onto local roads, refueling in Mojave Ca., witnessed a parking lot flat tire repair then headed off to California City for the lunch stop. It was right at the edge of the desert and the wind did blow! The chuck wagon truck was there and again a fine lunch, then an outdoor pit stop (watch out for which way the wind blows!) and our first ride on to the sand! Or maybe it was the second ride. My memory is a little hazy because we may have already been in the western edge of the Mojave desert following the Aqueduct trail but I do remember the wind by the windmill farms (why do you suppose they have the windmills located where the wind never seems to stop blowing?)

There are mountains visible in the distance and you can see the clouds pouring over them like shaving cream overflowing. Yes, it was cold when the wind blew, but you got warm since you work so much harder standing and riding off road than you do on road.

At some point we go back on pavement, then off again for a little while and back to asphalt along some wonderful curving roads with great views of the green and purple mountain majesties. I needed to remind myself to pay attention to the road as I was easily distracted by the scenery. We took a break in a ghost town complete with a mill used to separate the gold ore.

Meanwhile, I had a zipper failure on the leg of my riding pants so the material was billowing in the wind open from hip to ankle. A kindly local offered up a roll of duct tape so I could seal it at the knee. One of the other riders helped apply the tape, but I think he misunderstood its purpose since he was wrapping it tight enough to be a tourniquet! I loosened it a little and it served its purpose. I could wiggle my leg out of the pants and boot, then back into them when the time came and no more flapping!

We refueled once more in the town of Trona and finally arrived at Base Camp Alpha. It seems that the Chinese laborers, who you remember built the railroads, cooked and supplied all the gold rush prospectors had built "sleeping circles" - areas where the ground was leveled and small stones piled up about 8-12 inches high to block the wind. We pitched the supplied tents and foam pads in these circles. We were racing to get the tents together before we lost the daylight, especially since I had never seen that particular tent before (remember camping rule #1 - always try to put up your tent at home so you learn its quirks in a light comfortable environment, not in the rain or in the dark!). I did great except for getting the tent fly on backwards. Straightened it out just as dusk arrived, had a campfire and a real "Blazing Saddles" dinner.


The full moon peeked slowly over the mountains and rose in the sky as night fell. The stars were so numerous and intense like diamonds scattered on black velvet! Words absolutely fail to capture the beauty of it. Three of us took turns playing guitar and it was really interesting because our music overlapped in time, mine being Beatles and early Dylan and folk music, the other two from the next two decades but same or similar artists and all of the same sort of folk ,folk/rock ,acoustic rock genre! We won't quit our day jobs just yet but we enjoyed our "gig" around the campfire. Note the repair on the pants.


Early breakfast and those of us returning to Rawhyde HQ pack up our tents, while those on extended expeditions will spend one more night at Alpha. My group is heading for the desert to see the Pinnacles of Trona. Similar to a coral reef, it was made by a freshwater aquatic animal and left behind when the lake dried up. The scene is truly otherworldly and this fact is not lost on movie makers (remember LA is not far away). Some Star Trek episodes and Planet of the Apes scenes were filmed here. I turn around to leave and do one more obligatory drop of the bike in the deep sand. On we go across the plain to a very steep rocky hill. I am told just pick a good line without too many rocks, probably start out on the left and finish the hill on the right. Very very spooky looking, but I grit my teeth, try to relax, feather the clutch and throttle and stay off the brakes. Momentum is your savior. The bike slows as it rolls over a large rock in my path, but I learned to let the big girl (GSA1200) dance beneath my feet and keep playing with the throttle and keep the clutch in the friction zone. There is a burning smell, rubber or clutch, I don't know, but I am determined and focused and make it up the hill somehow. Success! My sunglasses inside my special goggles (made to fit over glasses) have completely steamed up so I can't see well. The desert around me is fragrant with a mix of smoking bike parts and my personal "flop sweat." I remove the offending sunglasses and strip a layer off since I am now feeling really warm. I took my camelback equipped small backpack with me and figure it is time to rehydrate.

Next up is the sand whoops, a series of undulating hills with deeper sand at the bottom of each hill. I have seen motocross guys double and triple jump these, but our technique is just to ride them out one at a time, staying loose and keeping balanced. It is the most fun I have had so far and my confidence is soaring. We reach a paved road and head for lunch near Jawbone Canyon. At first the breeze at speed is a delight, but as the miles wear on, I wish I had my layer back and my warmer gloves. Again at our lunch stop the kitchen staff from Rawhyde provides another tasty treat. We have a choice of routes home for the afternoon: go across Jawbone Canyon on its roads up and down the hills then spend an hour or so on the freeway with the trucks or go on some roads down to Ruby Canyon with its switchbacks and water crossings and then on some nice local roads back to Rawhyde. The group votes to avoid the freeway.

We mount up and refuel back in Mojave, then get lost trying to get to Ruby Canyon. The road is long and straight and flat. The wind is blowing continually. I am having some issues with muscle cramps in my leg. I try stretching and changing positions to no avail so I slow down and pull over at a stop sign. My fellow riders and instructors immediately inquire about my condition, but I am hoping maybe it is because I got a little dehydrated or I need more carbohydrates for energy. I am working harder than I usually do and in a much dryer climate than I am used to. I swig probably half the contents of my camelback and scarf down a bag of cheese crackers from my jacket. It seems to do the trick. I will need to remember to drink more and to get a mid afternoon snack in the future. I bet the previous day's tiredness in the late afternoon had a similar origin. We ride some beautiful and curvy paved roads and pull over at the entrance to Ruby Canyon. We head down a steep dirt road with a cliff on one side, filled with ruts and rocks. At the bottom is a steep downhill to uphill switchback, and I am really not feeling good about it. I go wide into the deeper dirt on the right side. One of the instructors comes by and says, "You don't look like you are having any fun. Loosen up and counterbalance the bike like you were taught." He offers to have me follow him in a little monkey-see monkey-do drill and I do much better. I am extremely grateful for his help.

Next we head down and the trail is muddier and rutted. I get stuck in a rut and flipped to the ground once again, muddied but unbowed. Ahead another rider is pannier deep in a mud puddle on his side. Others have come to his aid and he is not hurt, but the bike now has battle-scarred auxiliary lights. I decide to avoid that track and begin to get adept at switching tracks. We come to our first water crossing, but it is not deep enough to satisfy our instructors, who go on ahead to scout out the next crossing down the route. That is much more to their satisfaction. We all negotiate the first crossing and pretty soon line up for the next one where there will be a camera to document our semi-aquatic foray. Get up enough momentum to get across, no turning, no brakes, eyes on the prize across the way - no problem. A short ride up the road and we are back to the pavement on another curvy road.


On cue, the sun begins to set between the mountain peaks, a perfect counterpoint to the desert moonrise the night before. Now the sky turns a deep cerulean blue and the clouds turn contrasting pink. Another curve in the road and I snap my consciousness away from scenic beauty and back to riding. How strange it seems now to weight the inside of the turns and countersteer! Not to worry, as darkness falls I come upon the Rawhyde driveway, now occupied by an ambling horse and around a switchback, a cow is grazing, blocking half the width of the road. I manage to get back to the paddock and pat my bike farewell. It may be happy to see me go. Or maybe not. (I finally figured that if I sit back a little more weight comes to the rear brake and makes stopping more effective. Or maybe muscle memory finally found the friggin' pedal! ) Wonder how the next camper/adventurer will do on her.


Some of my riding colleagues who live locally pack up and head for home. The rest of us enjoy one last wonderful dinner, celebrate with Rawhyde wine and a most fabulous desert of broiled banana s'more swans. Where is my camera?

The camaraderie that developed almost instantly was truly wonderful and the staff was above and beyond in their helpfulness and efficiency.

The atmosphere was supportive in that the instructors knew you were trying your best even if you were not 100 per cent successful at everything. This was truly a very special group of people who got together to try something beyond their previous experience. Outside the box? There is no Box!

Outside the familiar? Oh yeah! Challenging? Fun? Rewarding? Yes Yes Yes! I cannot say enough about Jim Hyde and his vision. Kudos to the group of instructors and I will not mention names for fear of leaving someone out.

Does this sound like a rave review? It should! It is! I am still there in my mind whenever my mind has a few moments to wander. Need to find some locals to do this with nearby!

Uh-oh, I think I got bit by the off-road bug. -- Joel Storm

Back to Part 1 of the story <=

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