If you’ve been following along, you already know that I took three days with my husband Jordan the week of Thanksgiving to head to Death Valley and back. You can view the previous posts here, and here.
You can see the 910 mile route we took over those three days below.
We hit the road around 8 a.m. – stopping at a greasy spoon in Pahrump on our way out. We waved goodbye to Nevada, and turned our bikes toward home.
Once we hit Baker we had a choice – take the 15 back home and declare the adventure over, or head south through the Mojave National Preserve and then Joshua Tree. Obviously, we chose the long way.
Mojave National Preserve
I’ve never been through the Mojave – but I was aware of the Mojave Desert Land Trust (https://www.mdlt.org/) thanks to their partnership with Babes Ride Out. This patch of desert is pristine Southern California wilderness. We didn’t see a single car on the first half of our trip through here, though we did see a watch for tortoise sign! We could see the Kelso Dunes off toward the west of the park after we crossed the tracks near the Kelso Depot (a former train depot that’s now a visitor center), but we were unsure about committing to 3 miles of dirt road to get closer. Jordan’s bike had rattled loose an exhaust heat shield from our last bit of dirt biking, so it seemed prudent to stay on the pavement.
We pulled off to take some photos at a viewpoint on the southern end of the preserve – but they really only capture one specific type of desert found here. From dunes to Joshua Trees to rocky outcroppings, this stretch of road takes you through so much landscape in such a short period. I can’t recommend it enough as a little diversion if you find yourself in the area. I’m told that the preserve is filled with wildflowers in the spring – with carpets of them sprouting up through the desert.
After you exit the south end of the preserve, you’re just a short stretch of road from the Amboy section of Route 66! Amboy is a bit of a ghost town – but the Roy’s Cafe and Motel is certainly worth a stop. The motel isn’t open for business, but it is open for exploring! The little houses up front are sometimes full of art exhibits, and the hotel lobby has been lovingly decorated to nostalgic accuracy. The bathrooms are also authentic – so be gentle with that plumbing if you stop to use them!
South of the tracks (and about a mile to the west) is the Amboy Crater. We rode up to the parking lot for a closer look, but you can’t really see the exciting part of the extinct volcano without doing the 3 mile hike out to (and into!) the crater.
As you head south along Amboy Road toward 29 Palms, you’ll pass the still-active evaporation fields of the National Chloride Company. Chloride is used in other parts of the country to melt snow off the roads (“salting”), but it turns out that Amboy has a natural reserve of it in the Bristol Dry Lake! There’s one good evaporation trench that you’ll pass where the water is a freaky turquoise – it looks like a sparkling palm springs pool just chillin in the dirt.
Since we went through all the trouble to buy the annual national parks pass, we were determined to make it to Joshua Tree to hit two national parks in two days. The road between Amboy and 29 Palms was hands down the most boring stretch of road on the whole trip, but it got us right to the east entrance of the park. Jordan hadn’t been to Joshua Tree since he was a kid, but I was there last month [babes link] so we only stopped for a couple of photos to prove we did it. We scooted out the west entrance and down to Yucca Valley for lunch. Then we sadly declared the exciting part of our trip over and headed home through Hemet and some really uninspiring holiday traffic.
WHEN I return to Death Valley – I’m going to do it a little differently. While I appreciated the thrift of Pahrump, having to go back there on day 2 instead of being able to cut west through the park was a bit of a bummer. I’ll also plan on going in the spring when the days are a little longer. We ran out of daylight too quickly, and it was COLD when the sun rose, so I don’t think it’s realistic to think I’d be hitting the park at sunup on a motorcycle in November. I also saw about 200 little things I’d like to explore throughout the park; abandoned towns, mines, natural wonders…a ton of stuff that all requires 4-wheel drive. I’m going to work on learning how to ride dirt so I can just pick up a cheapo dual sport, load it on the van, and ride to the trailheads. Who’s in?