Dec 2014 to Jan 2015, Mojave Desert Bicycle Tour

Planning

Current guide to maps for a trip like this is here. This guide will be updated as time passes, and so may not reflect what I actually used on this trip, which was a combination of: (a) selected pages from the California and Nevada Benchmark Road Atlases; (b) Garmin Etrex 20 mapping GPS, loaded with 1:100K Garmin maps for the entire United States; (c) offline Navteq road maps on my Nokia N8 smartphone.

Route Summary

Mon, 8 Dec 2014 (11849 starting odometer)

CREST bus from Reno to Big Pine $57. Starlight Motel ($62 including tax, $55 without, regular rate $65 without tax), 760-938-2011. Feels wonderful to be back on the road.

Tue, 9 Dec 2014 (34 miles in 5:03 hours)

Saddle less comfortable than the Brooks, but tolerable. Probably I just need to get used to it.


eureka valley

Wed, 10 Dec 2014 (22 miles in 3:37 hours)

Temps slightly above freezing last night. Cut the day short because I'm already tiring of long days. Not tired of travel, by any means, I'm delighted to be out in nature again. But no reason to push myself.


death valley

Thu, 11 Dec 2014 (37 miles in 4:08 hours)


death valley

Fri, 12 Dec 2014 (19 miles in 2:37 hours)

Started raining lightly about 6am. I didn't have the tarp deployed, but was listening to my Pimsleur Russian lessons and didn't want to interrupt, so I just put the smartphone under the quilt and figured the light rain would soon stop. Instead, it picked up. By the time I finished the Russian lesson and packed up all my gear, everything was soaked. Then came a ferocious wind from the south, a headwind for me. Stopped for lunch at the outdoor toilet near the intersection with highway 190, the only place I could get refuge from wind and rain. (Didn't have to sit inside the stinking toilet itself for refuge, just in the lee, because the rain was falling diagonally due to the strong wind.) Ate breakfast there, then sat around until rain stopped. Decided to make camp because I was tired of fighting the wind. Pushed the bike a half-mile or so across the sand to some eroded canyons running east-west, and thus providing some refuge from the relentless wind. Now and then the wind would become turbulent, and hence rapidly shifting in direction from the prevailing south to some other direction, and so I got sand blown all over me and my gear, even though I had the tarp pinned closely to the ground. Books and other items inside the dry sack all wet, because the dry sack is no longer reliably waterproof. I need to make my own waterproof liner for the neck purse. Feeling miserable and sorry to have left Reno. Sometimes I wonder about this travel lifestyle I've chosen...


taking refuge from wind in canyon

Sat, 13 Dec 2014 (26 miles in 2:17 hours)

Rained off and on during the night, but both rain and wind stopped by morning and sun out again. Bought some snack at the Furnace Creek store. According to newspaper headlines, "major storm with hurricane force winds hit west coast these past few days, with remnants of the storm making their way all the way to Death Valley". Showered up at the swimming pool ($5) and dried off my gear in the sun afterwards. Felt wonderful to be clean and dry and free of that furious wind. Life is worth living again! Had some trouble getting the smartphone to charge. Either the USB port is defective or it is clogged with sand or water.

Sun, 14 Dec 2014 (60 miles in 5:46 hours)

Able to pedal the whole way on Harry Wade road. Compare with last year when I had to push for many miles. Supposedly, the military is now grading the road, at least to where it forks with Owl Creek road, because they use it for accessing electronics installations in the Owl Creek mountains.


telescope peak

Mon, 15 Dec 2014 (38 miles in 3:51 hours)

Finished the bread and cheese I was carrying from Reno in the evening, so I'll definitely have to resupply in Baker. Still have 2 pounds of dry-roasted peanuts.


north of baker, ca

Tue, 16 Dec 2014 (19 miles in 2:17 hours)

No difficulty charging smartphone in Baker, so evidently the problem was water or sand in the USB port which has since been removed. Resupplied at the store there: six pounds of bread, two pounds cheese, sardines, fruit, ice cream.


south of baker, ca

Wed, 17 Dec 2014 (23 miles in 4:04 hours)

Not sure what my plans are. Whatever I too, this trip won't be a very long one, due to the long delay in getting started. But I'm very glad to be out here. These trips are truly life-giving to me at this point, such that I think I would go crazy without them.


clouds and drizzle

Thu, 18 Dec 2014 (35 miles in 4:30 hours)

Tarp covered with frost (I was camped at 3800 feet elevation near Beale mountains), but little ice in bottles and none in bladders, so temps evidently right about freezing. Haven't had to do much pushing on the Mojave road. It is sandy in places, but always just firm enough to allow pedaling, at least going downhill. Probably if I were traveling in the opposite direction there would be a few miles of pushing on uphill stretches.


new york mountains

Fri, 19 Dec 2014 (18 miles in 2:10 hours)

I'm recording a GPX track of the stretch from the powerline road to highway 95, since the unnamed dirt road I'm using is not shown on the Benchmark maps. That GPX track will be available on the Mojave bicycle touring page.


camp near piute mountains

Sat, 20 Dec 2014 (27 miles in 2:22 hours)

Checked into Desert Rancho Motel in Bullhead City. $45 including tax for tonight, $40 for tomorrow. Shabby room, but clean enough for me. Tried the Gretchen Inn initially, but it was full.

Sun, 21 Dec 2014 (zero day)

Big feast at the Safeway: yogurt, canned salmon, ice cream, cookies, jalapeƱos, whole wheat bagels, chocolate-covered raisins, olives, broccoli.

Mon, 22 Dec 2014 (26 miles in 3:42 hours)

About 2.5 hours grinding uphill from Bullhead City, then 40 minutes or so of level pedaling on the highway, then 30 minutes pushing through sand to get back to where I camped on Friday. Appears a coyote investigated my campsite between then and now. Cathole, in particular, had been uncovered, though animal didn't eat what it uncovered. Decided to head back to Baker, since there is another storm heading this way that might make for ferocious headwinds getting out of Blythe, so that I might be stuck down there for a week.

Tue, 23 Dec 2014 (19 miles in 2:58 hours)

Very windy in night, with sand blown all over me.


view west towards new york mountains

Wed, 24 Dec 2014 (33 miles in 3:58 hours)

Windy day, mostly from northwest and thus mostly a side wind. Wind mercifully stopped at nightfall so I could get some peace and quiet. Bent a sand stake while setting up the tarp. Need to remember never to force these into the ground. If they have to be forced, the ground is hard enough for nail stakes. Or else just push the sand stake partway into the ground and it should hold well enough, provided the guyline is at ground level.


cima dome

Thu, 25 Dec 2014 (23 miles in 2:59 hours)

Wind picked up during night, then strong wind all day. North wind, and thus headwind for me. As I predicted last week, I had to push for several miles going east to west on the old Mojave road after Marl Spring, because what was rideable downhill was not rideable uphill. Blue skies and cool—lovely day other than for wind. Sheltered behind rocks for long lunch break, then continued to my usual spot about 10 miles from Baker for camping, where there are also rocks to provide shelter from wind. Careful to point tarp at rocks, which were to my north, in case wind shifted in the night.


camping in shelter of rocks for protection from wind

Fri, 26 Dec 2014 (37 miles in 3:59 hours)

Wind stopped sometime in night, and everything calm in the morning.


camp near powerline road

Sat, 27 Dec 2014 (45 miles in 3:49 hours)

Checked into Motel 6 in Barstow ($41 after AARP discount and including 10% tax). Resupplied at store.

Sun, 28 Dec 2014 (43 miles in 5:07 hours)

Forecast for Arctic cold front to come through in a few days, bringing bitterly cold temperatures and strong north winds, which would be headwinds for me. Plan is to hole up in Ridgecrest motel for a few days waiting this storm out.


red mountain at dusk

Mon, 29 Dec 2014 (39 miles in 3:58 hours)

Frost all over tarp, but bladder was safely stored under rackbag and so unfrozen. Forecast was for temps in mid-20's, which appears about right. Slept warm in any case. $40 with AARP discount and including tax at Ridgecrest Motel 6. Made a reservation for the CREST bus from Lone Pine to Reno next Monday (will be $59).

Wed, 31 Dec 2014 (zero day)

Put some powder into boots, which were stinking. Definitely need to switch back to 60ml bottle rather than 30ml in my packing list. Cleaned the chain. Wind was ferocious during walk to store. Glad not to be pedalling into this. Ice in motel swimming pool.

Fri, 2 Jan 2014 (45 miles in 4:22 hours)

Took the Trona road to Panamint valley. Sunny day, cold in morning, no wind.

Sat, 3 Jan 2014 (34 miles in 4:06 hours)

Nadeau road is paved for maybe 10 miles, then forks onto a dirt road about 2 miles south of a mine. This dirt road is so rugged that I had to push most of the way until reaching a side road about 5 miles further on, also rugged, which eventually took me back to the highway. Recommendation for the future would be follow Nadeau road only about 5 miles, then use Slate Range road to get back to the highway. This cuts off maybe 10 miles of highway travel. Actually, my real recommendation for the future is to skip this Ridgecrest to Lone Pine stretch in favor of picking up the CREST bus in Inyokern, since the whole stretch is paved and boring, plus there is the long ascent tomorrow which is a nuisance. Camped about a mile east of Panamint Springs campground.


panamint valley

Sun, 4 Jan 2015 (52 miles in 5:38 hours, 12603 ending odometer)

During previous trips, I had to dismount and push to get the bike up from Panamint Valley, but not this time. Partly this is because my legs are stronger, partly because I have decent pedals now and so don't lose energy from slipping, partly from lower gear ratio, partly from being careful to empty the water bladders as much as possible, partly because I started the day close to where the ascent begins, rather than 15 or so miles away. 3000 feet of ascent on a paved road with average of 5% grade simply isn't that difficult for me nowadays, even on a loaded touring bike, as long as the load isn't too heavy.

$50 including tax for nice room at Whitney Portal Hostel, though brochure advertises $65 plus tax for walk-in rates during winter. Only flaw was stink from pillows. The pillow cases were clean, but there was rancid hair oil inside the pillows themselves. Used my down jacket inside a stuff sack instead, same combination I use as my pillow when camping.

Statistics

27 nights away from Reno total, of which 18 nights camping, 9 nights in motels. 4 rest days, thus 23 days traveling.

754 miles total, 87.3 hours pedaling/pushing, thus average of 8.6 miles/hour. For 23 days of traveling, average of 3.8 hours/day pedaling/pushing, 33 miles/day.

Total motel expenses of $399 including tax, for average of $44/night for the 9 nights in motels.

Last trip for year 2014, and thus time to collect yearly statistics. Total of 188 nights away from Reno, 119 nights camping.

Comments

See the Nomad page for bicycle comments.

Garmin Etrex 20 failed after returning from tour, confirming my decision to always carry two of these things, since the failure might have occurred while on tour. According to my records, I bought this GPS back in July 2012, so it's lasted two 3 month hiking trips in Spain plus seven long bicycle tours (a total of about 150 days hiking and 400 days bicycle touring). Since it's beyond the 1-year warranty, repair cost is $90 plus shipping to Garmin, versus buying a new one for $180. Decided to buy a new one.

Down jacket stinking from rancid oils from back of my neck by end of tour. Took four hours to dry the thing after laundering it in a big front-loading washer, whereas the quilt only took ten minutes to dry. Behold the problem of down. Anyway who thinks down is suitable for outdoor use in wet environments really needs to experiment drying a soaking wet down garment or sleeping bag to understand what a problem down can be. Okay for the desert and very dry summers in the Sierras, but that's it. Too bad no one makes a lightweight and high-quality Polarguard jacket. And I'm too lazy to design and sew up my own version.