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Well, this was my first, but definitely not last time on the Mojave Road. I have been wanting to drive this road for a while now, and when the opportunity for a few days off work came up, I took it and told the girlfriend to start planning for the trip. I explained to her what the trip was going to entail in terms of length and accomodations. This would afterall only be the second primitive camping trip of her life, and I wanted her to be as mentally prepared as possible.

The plan was to have the Xterra fully packed Wednesday night, and leaving for Laughlin Thursday evening after work. It would be a quick jaunt home to change, collect the dog and scoop up the girl and hit the road, and it was. We merged onto the eastbound 91 freeway at 6:30pm and I was beginning to feel the excitement build and grow inside me. I was actually going to drive the road. This would be my longest offroad journey in both time and distance. My previous best was the Holcomb Valley in Big Bear covering 50 or so miles of snow covered trails and dirt roads, but boy was it fun!

The drive to Laughlin was uneventful save for a traffic jam on the 91 caused by an accident just past the 710 interchange. Luckily we were only caught up for a half hour or so and were back up to speed on the 710 Northbound in what seemed like no time.



The rest of the drive though and out of Los Angeles was uneventful and quick. I stopped to re-fuel in Apple Valley and tried to get my pup to go potty and stretch her legs, then it was back on the road headed for the 40 East. We made it to around 5 miles out from the 95 when traffic came to a sudden and complete halt. It was 11:30pm and people were poured out of their cars and onto the asphalt meandering around wondering what was causing the hold up. After 30 minutes of scanning through my HAM radio, and scouring the internet on our phones with what little service we had, a man walked by and explained to us that a motorhome around a half mile up had caught fire and apparently there was debris all across the road. He explained that the CHP officer her spoke with told him that he didn't see the roadway opened back up for at least a couple more hours.



It was late, I had already worked a full shift, and we were so close to our hotel that I could taste it. A minium of 2 more hours? Could I wait that long and still be coherent when we arrived? I had to find another route. More scouring of the iPhone revealed that Geoffs road, old Route 66 could be picked up only 5 miles back. I was lucky enough to stop in traffic next to a connector to the west bound lanes, so after plotting the new route, I was off. West bound on the 40, backtracking 5 or so miles, but doing so at 70mph. That was a totally acceptable alternative to the estimated 2 hour wait we had if we had stayed put. On the way to Geoffs road, I notice a smaller service road, Walter road, that would shave a few miles off the drive, so I decided to take it. I exited the highway and ended up on a well groomed dirt road. Still able to maintain ample speed, I contiuned on. No biggie, I would be on a dirt road for the next three days I thought to myself. Well, the dirt road turned into a washed out dirt road. I had to slow speed down to around 10mph or so, but I did get a thorough test of my new LED light bars I had installed a week prior. With jack-rabbits darting left and right in front of us, we continued on. No major obsticals, no drama, just extra time. Oh well. It was an adventure.

We finally made it to Geoffs Road, and took it to the 95, and then continued into Laughlin for a good nights rest at the River Palms casino.

In the morning, we woke around 830. Only getting a few hours of sleep, but at least they were good hours of sleep, I felt rested. I took the pup outside to do her business, but she refused. By now, she had not pooped or peed in at least 8 hours and I was beginning to get concerned. Shes a good dog though and usually tells me when something is wrong with her. I know now that she was just a bit stressed by the unfamiliar surroundings and was otherwise fine. The girlfriend and I headed downstairs to have a nice buffet and plan out our morning shopping needs before hitting the trail. Unfortunately that meant a trip to Walmart.

Bellies full of food, we headed back to the room to get situated and check out. As we were walking back to our car, we had the full realization that it was indeed the weekend of the Laughlin River Run. There were bikers everywhere. I personally dont mind a bike or two, but being surrounded by two thousand of them was a bit much. It just made me want to hurry up and get out into the desert that much sooner. We made our stops at Walmart to get the last of our food provisions and ice, and a stop at the gas station to top off and fill the auxillary 5 gallon jug, and hit the road, with our planned camping area for the night being the spring at Fort Piute.

To be continued...
 

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Day 1 continued.

We made our way through Bullhead city, towards Avi hotel and casino, the last bit of civilization we were going to hopefully see for the next 150 miles. I continued down the paved road until we came to our turnoff, a dirt road flanked on each side by lush fields of short green crops. I set my iPhone to begin tracking our path, and set my Garmin GPS to lead me to the first of many waypoints I had programmed in days prior. This was it, we were all set. I was truly excited, and my girlfriend was in her “putting up with me” mode.

As we continued on, I noticed that my girlfriend really began to take notice and appreciate the beauty that the desert has to offer. We stopped from time to time to get out and walk around and let the dog run. The dirt road turned to sand, which turned back to dirt, which turned to rolling hills, which turned to loose rocks and so forth. It really is amazing how quickly and without notice the desert can change its scenery in just a matter of feet.

The weather was perfect. Temps in the mid 70’s, sparse clouds overhead and a light breeze all made for a wonderful experience. We stopped for a couple of photos, and continued down the seemingly never ending Mojave Road, letting it lead us further and further from civilization. We crossed a couple of highways and continued on our journey.

Fort Piute was our destination for the night and the sun was beginning to get a bit low in the sky. It was nearing 5pm when we came to the rocky path that would take us to our campsite. It was slow going up the loose rocks that littered the landscape. We made it without any incidents, and quickly setup camp and prepared to cook dinner.
As my girlfriend was preparing our dinner, and I was lighting the campfire, the wind decided to pick up from a light breeze to a gusty wind. The clouds quickly formed overhead and the air turned cold. How I was able to get a campfire to light and stay burning long enough to cook our steaks is beyond me, but apparently the boy scouts taught me well.

With our bellies full of steak, potatoes and corn, and with the weather continuing to worsen, we decided to move the car so that it would block the wind and give us a place to sit outside without getting tossed around too violently. The wind was now gusting at what I would estimate to be 30-40mph. I let the fire burn out sometime around 7pm and we decided to get ready for bed and try to sleep through whatever nature intended to throw at us that night.

We setup our sleeping arrangements in the back of my Xterra. Air mattress inflated, blankets laid down, it was time for bed. We were both tired anyways and did want to get an early start in the morning. We turned off the lights and drifted off to sleep.

I awoke sometime around 11pm. The girlfriend wasn’t feeling well. Her stomach was upset from something (Laughlin breakfast buffet?) and she had to “use the facilities”. Luckily I had somewhat planned ahead and thought of her comfort in terms of her bodily needs. I had a bucket with a bio bag and a toilet lid setup for her just outside the vehicle. She ended up needing it twice that night. I couldn’t help but feel extremely bad for her. The temp outside now was easily in the high 30’s and the wind was blowing as hard as ever. She made due and finished her business as quickly as possible and climbed back into bed.

We awoke again sometime around 1am to what sounded like gravel being sprayed at the side of my car. Turns out Mother Nature decided to throw some sleet and rain our way, not to mention the fact that the winds also picked up to an even more fierce level. This truly was one time I was glad that I wasn’t primitive camping in a tent.

To Be Continued…
 

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Day 2.

We awoke around 7am to a late sunrise over the clouds that remained in the sky. The winds were still blustering away, but at a much more calmed level. After assessing the current, albeit still miserable weather conditions, we decided to skip breakfast, pack up camp and head out. The plan was to get to the other side of the mountain and stop at the School Bus for some breakfast. We were packed and back on the trail by 8am.

It was an uneventful, and enjoyable drive up the backside of the mountain that we had just camped in front of. The terrain was rocky and rutted. I actually had to engage 4-lo a time or two, but the Xterra just clawed its way up without a single complaint. The Cooper ST-Maxx tires doing their job and gripping and grabbing their way over rocks, boulders and loose gravel alike. When we made it to the top, we were greeted with a county road-work sign. We don’t know if it was put there as a prank or not, but we surely got a laugh out of it.
The trail immediately smoothed out into a nice, smooth desert dirt road. It has some bumps and ruts, but it was drivable at speed. As we passed the route to the old Piute corral, I noticed a tree, all by itself off in the distance. It was almost dreamy the way it just sat there all alone. There are very few times in my life I have stopped to take a photo of a single tree, but this one definitely made the short list. As we continued down the road, we took in the scenery and all that the Mojave had to offer. The weather was gloomy, and the clouds were constantly rolling across the big blue sky, some of them even bringing a drizzle to my windshield as they passed overhead. It was a surreal experience.

When we finally made it to the old school bus, we were famished. It was 9:30am and we had to stop and eat. As I pulled alongside the old bus and Cadillac, I was elated to know that I was going to get some much needed food in my belly. I fed the dog while the girlfriend put together sandwiches we were going to have for our lunch later in the day. Breakfast was last on the list, and consisted of Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, and a nice assortment of fruit. I also took some time to play with the pup. She badly needed to stretch her legs and run and play, she is after all only a 9 month old pup. She had a blast chasing the ball in the clearing and running after birds that would gather to peck the ground. She was in her element as was I. The girlfriend stood by and watched in amusement, though I fully well knew that she would have been much happier at home. I was just glad that she was willing to partake in this adventure with me.

Breakfast in our bellies and the puppy worn out from playing, it was time to hit the road again. We still had some serious miles ahead of us and the important stops that we wanted to make were the Penny Can Tree, the Mailbox and Frog Shrine as well as the Travelers Monument. We were hoping for Afton campground by the end of our day’s journey, an attainable goal indeed.

On our way, we took some quick photos. The wind was still gusting with a gusto and the temps were still cold. The sky never did clear up either. It was just a never ending display of rolling clouds overhead. We knocked down mile after mile. Then as we approached the New York Mountains, we noticed something strange. They were covered in a heavy dusting of snow from top to bottom. I would not have expected to see this in the middle of California, in the middle of spring, in the middle of the desert. The desert landscape will always surprise you, if you let it.

We drove through Government Holes, and snapped a couple shots of the windmill that was spinning about as fast as it could in the blustery winds with snow at its base, pumping water into its tank at a furious pace. The corral was empty and I imagined what it must have been like in the late 1800’s. It would be a sight to see, that’s for sure. As we continued on, we encountered more and more snow as well as a herd of cattle grazing alongside the road. My dog had never seen a cow before and began barking at the one nearest the car. I don’t think the cow appreciated being barked at so rudely, and walked off to join the some others on the other side of the road.

At Kelso road, we encountered a group that was heading west into the hills. We gave them a friendly wave and proceeded across into the desert landscape. The road was a smooth one for around a hundred yards or so. Then we came across what I like to refer to as the “sea of the desert”. It was nothing but “whoops” for what seemed at the time like a never ending distance. It was so bad that I actually did feel sea sick at one point in time. Pushing on though brought us to some beautiful scenery and our next stop was nearing quickly.

We saw the American Flag waiving beautifully in the wind first and the colorful stickers that adorned the mailbox second. We were here. We signed the log, looked through the goodies inside (I won’t tell you what’s in there, you will just have to visit it and find out for yourself) and added a trinket or two. Behind the mailbox about 20 yards back is the frog shrine. We actually bought a frog dog toy a week prior to the trip, just to bring it out and leave it here. It was home now with all its froggy friends. After a few snaps of the shutter, it was time to head off again. Next stop, Travelers Monument.

The road leading up and eventually down the rolling hills to the lava flows was smooth. Primitive campsite fire rings littered the ground, but didn’t seem to detract horribly from the beautiful stone wall that was once a lava flow. I had to pull off and get a photo. Geology like this is rare and one does not see it every day. After a few glamour shots of the Xterra in front of the lava flows, it was time to head off again in search of the Travelers Monument on the far side of dry (hopefully) Soda Lake. The road leading to it began to get rutty and was littered with rocks, as such, our speed was limited.

Once we hit the thankfully dry lake bed of Soda Lake, I was able to pick up the pace a bit. You still have to keep an eye out for road conditions however as there are a few ruts that can sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention. Luckily however, there is not much to see on the dry lake bed, so your attention is easily focusable on the road ahead. Off in the distance was the giant rock cairn known as Travelers Monument. We had picked up rocks while we were still in Arizona, just to add to this cairn. My dog even picked out her own rock when she jumped out of the Xterra and picked up a small rock in her mouth as the girlfriend was picking up hers. We signed our names with the only pen I had in the car, a stolen ball point from work, but we made do, and placed them atop the cairn. I took a few extra minutes to air up the tires a bit and we were off again, heading out for Afton Campground.

The winds were gusting at a very energetic pace by the time we hit the sand dunes. It was to the point where we could only barely make out the trail, and sometimes not even at all. Luckily I had my GPS loaded with a preset track of our route. Without it, navigating the sand dunes would have been a very stressful experience. Nothing was difficult in terms of obstacles, but just staying on the right path was challenging to say the least. We navigated through though and found ourselves just that much closer to our objective for the day.

Once we reached Afton Canyon, after the obligatory photo op under the bridge, the girlfriend and I discussed whether or not we wanted to spend another night out in the miserable, cold gusty winds. I conceded that I didn’t want her to be miserable and we agreed that the best course of action would be to in fact head for home once we reached Afton campground. We were mere miles away from our checkpoint, and our eventual route home. We now knew that the trip was quickly drawing to an end, and we made the most of the scenery surrounding us. When we got to the first Mojave River crossing, I was almost sad that the trip was over. The Mojave Desert has so much scenery and majesty to offer, and I know that we only just scratched the surface in terms of exploring it all. By the second Mojave River crossing, I truly was sad, but filled with resolve that I would be back, and I would soak in all the sights that we passed up on this trip.

We made a quick stop in Afton campground to unload our garbage into one of their bins, air the tires up the rest of the way, drain the cooler of excess ice melt and prepare for our short jaunt down the 15 freeway and back to our lives in civilization. The purpose of this trip was to experience the Mojave, introduce my girlfriend to camping and to document through photography both the landmarks and the night sky that the desert has to offer. Unfortunately due to the weather, I was only able to take limited photos of the landmarks and none of the night sky. What photos I did take however will be posted below this one.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventure on the Mojave Road, and I hope I didn’t bore you too much.

Happy Exploring.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Ready for adventure...
IMG_5326 by LongRangePro, on Flickr

xterra on a hill by LongRangePro, on Flickr

Looking back over the road from Fort Piute
the road by LongRangePro, on Flickr

The lonely tree next to Piute Corral
lonely tree by LongRangePro, on Flickr

The Old School Bus (Black and White just felt right)
school bus 1 by LongRangePro, on Flickr

school bus 2 by LongRangePro, on Flickr

The Penny Can Tree..
penny can tree by LongRangePro, on Flickr

Put a penny in for good luck!
mel penny can tree by LongRangePro, on Flickr

mike penny can tree by LongRangePro, on Flickr

One of the obsticals that stood in our way. This thing was steep and DEEPLY rutted. I was on two wheels a couple of times. Thank goodness I have a rear locker at least.
steep obstical by LongRangePro, on Flickr

Government Holes Windmill
windmill 1 by LongRangePro, on Flickr

windmill 2 by LongRangePro, on Flickr

SNOW!
snowy mountain by LongRangePro, on Flickr

Sleety, Sideways Snow?
snowy sign by LongRangePro, on Flickr

A windy road
windy road by LongRangePro, on Flickr

The Mailbox
Mailbox by LongRangePro, on Flickr

Frog Shrine
frog shrine by LongRangePro, on Flickr

Lava Flows
lava flows 2 by LongRangePro, on Flickr

A desert forrest
joshua tree forrest by LongRangePro, on Flickr

The Travelers Monument
travelers monument by LongRangePro, on Flickr

Railroad Bridge
under bridge by LongRangePro, on Flickr

xterra bridge by LongRangePro, on Flickr

The Caves?
caves 2 by LongRangePro, on Flickr

caves 3 by LongRangePro, on Flickr

caves by LongRangePro, on Flickr

**All photos taken with a 50mm prime lens**
 

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Very cool report and awesome pics to boot. That pic of the bus looks creepy because it looks like it was shot up by the mob... crazy!
Thanks for sharing!
 

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Excellent report and photos!

Ran this about seven years ago. Headed back this November.
 

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AWESOME!! Your pup not poopin reminded me of when the wife and I drove from Phoenix to Novato Ca, for a 4 day Subaru Run. Roo, our pup, didn't poop the first 2 days, then, 0500 the third day, he was finally ready! Great report, looks like a lot of fun!! I had to get a travel trailer to keep the wife happy for our adventures, so props to your girl! How does she now feel about "Off Road Adventures"??
 

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AWESOME!! Your pup not poopin reminded me of when the wife and I drove from Phoenix to Novato Ca, for a 4 day Subaru Run. Roo, our pup, didn't poop the first 2 days, then, 0500 the third day, he was finally ready! Great report, looks like a lot of fun!! I had to get a travel trailer to keep the wife happy for our adventures, so props to your girl! How does she now feel about "Off Road Adventures"??
She's ok with it and even stated that she would be ok with going back if the weather is better. I agree with her on that one. While I don't mind bad weather, I much prefer calm nights sitting around a campfire and the ability to take kickass night sky shots.
 
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