Joshua Tree National Park – Sunday Motorcycle Ride

Woke up this morning humming; “I’ve been through the desert on a Honda with no name” Lala lalalala, as I struggled with my heavy winter underwear before donning the rest of my riding gear.  Surprise.  At 7:00 a.m. our morning temperature – 62 degrees.  A quick fill up and I felt myself swapping cold weather gloves.  Our motorcycle meetup group this Sunday met in Yucaipa, CA for a ride out to Joshua Tree.

Joshua Tree is a National park that at first glance may not seem to offer much for a visit.  Wrong.  This park sits between the Mojave and Sonoran deserts in Southern California.  Winter is when the park comes alive with people.  Our small group came to ride the roads, explore a little and feel the crisp clear mountain air.  Only two roads run through the park – Park Boulevard and Pinto Basin road.

Park Boulevard is at about 3,000 feet of elevation and runs through the Mojave desert.  Strange rock formations and thousands of Joshua trees are the norm.  When I say rock formations, think big – rocks as tall as six-story buildings.  Rocks that you easily see people suspended by ropes.  What we learned at one of our stops (Skull Rock) for a photo-op is that these rocks are regularly climbed from rock climbers from around the world – and now (winter) is the season.

Pinto Basin road passes through the Sonoran desert part of the park.  Here you have lower elevations, hotter temperatures and plenty of wide open spaces.  Once again, we did not  come for the rock climbing or the hiking or the backpacking but, for the roads and scenery.  The air was a cool 60’s degrees, the visibility possibly 100%, picture  perfect.

Joshua tree is about 120 miles east of Los Angeles, 160 miles SW of Vegas and 12 miles NE or Palm Springs.  Highway 10 that takes you from coast to coast is the parks southern border.  Highway 62, aka 29 Palms Highway is the parks northern border.  Three towns are nearby, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and twenty-nine Palms.

There are three main entrances to the park, West Entrance reached from Joshua Tree off Park Boulevard.  North entrance reached from twenty-nine Palms off Utah Trail; and South Entrance reached from Cottonwoods Springs road off Highway 10.  Three other destinations in the park are reached by separate roads; Black rock, Covington Flats and Indian Cove.

Our first stop after our initial meet and greet at the Yucaipa Chevron.  The next stop at JB Country Kitchen (61768 twenty-nine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree CA.  The food and service were great.  Six riders – four Harleys and two Hondas.  Thank you Raul for planning ahead and making reservations plus using your park passes to get us all into the park.  As we approached the park entrance, a string of cars is all we saw.  A few minutes later a park ranger made his way to us and escorted us around the cars.  Us two Honda guys holding up the rear joked that the ranger probably didn’t want the harleys overheating on his watch or dripping oil all over his road.

Everything planned was accomplished except for the date milk shakes and getting some illegal drone footage of the group.

Did you know that there are about 250 abandoned mines in the park many of which contain open shafts.  There are also nine campgrounds in the park.  Possible future moto-camping opportunity.

Since the 10 freeway was backed up as far as the eye could see the group opted for a back roads detour that led us towards Desert Hot Springs.  Here the group stopped for a lunch of hamburgers.  All Star Burgers – 70065 Dillon Road, Desert Hot Springs, CA

The infamous Joshua Tree – to the Mormons passing through the area in 1851 the tree resembled the prophet Joshua pointing them to their promised land.  This strange looking tree is known to grow up to 30 feet tall and one around 10 feet tall is said to be  around 200 years old.

And if I would’ve just remembered my camera you would see some amazing desert scenery and boulder like rocks.  Next time.  And then there was the lane splitting.  For me a record 9 miles.  Once we dropped down highway 62 and onto the 10 freeway, it was nearly a parking lot.  Since it was every man for himself once the group broke apart I started lane splitting until I came upon Raul.  In a short period of time he yielded over to me to take over and then he started following.  His headlight grew farther and farther away as I kept making good time honking and lane splitting.  About five to seven miles up I come upon two other motorcycle riders who allow me to relax a little.  Two miles later they yield the lead to me and I soldier on.  Traffic then started moving near the start of the 60 freeway.  Then it was all down hill.  I exited the 15 freeway and as I got off, a few minutes before 5:00 p.m., the gps suddenly went to night mode, and then it was nightfall.  What a ride: 275 miles since 7:00 a.m. around $20 in premium fuel; $20 for a burger and coffee for breakfast and around $10 for a lunch hamburger.

Great riding.  Great conversation.  Great meeting new friends. La la lalalalala.  Lala.  “It felt good to be out of the rain”  “In the desert you can remember your name, for there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.  La la.  (A Horse with No Name Lyrics from my youth)