Joshua Tree National Park – Sunday Motorcycle Ride

I woke up this morning excited about riding my motorcycle through the desert. I soon catch myself humming words to a song from my youth, “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name” Lala lalalala.

It’s still winter outside so in my garage I struggle getting into the appropriate winter underwear, before moving on to donning the rest of the rider protection gear. In my mind it was still cold outside but, surprise, surprise this is Southern California where we ride all year round. By 7:00 a.m. the temperature has already risen to 62 degrees.  A quick fill up at the Chevron gas station and it’s already time to start swapping out the cold weather riding gloves. 

Our motorcycle meetup group ride this Sunday met up in Yucaipa, CA for a ride out to Joshua Tree National park. Joshua tree at first glance may not seem to offer much for a visit.

The park sits between the Mojave and the Sonoran deserts in Southern California. Winter time is when the park comes alive with people. Our small group of riders came out to ride the parks roads, explore the park and to feel, smell and inhale lots of 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%, and 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 walks over to us and escorts our group around the stopped cars.  Us two Honda guys holding up the rear commented that the ranger probably didn’t want the four Harley’s overheating on his watch and spilling oil all over his asphalt road.

Everything planned by the group was accomplished except for the date milk shakes.

Did you know that there are about 250 abandoned mines in the park; many of which contain open shafts that are explored. There are also nine campgrounds in the park. 

Since the 10 freeway was backed up as far as the eye could see our little ride 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.  The vibration damage from the motorcycle has recently damaged my iPhone.

And then there came the lane splitting.  For me a record 9 miles of it. Once we dropped down highway 62 and onto the 10 freeway, it was nearly a parking lot from the Vegas crowd. Since it was now every man for himself heading home, the group quickly broke apart and I start my lane splitting until I finally came upon Raul. 

A short while later he gets tired and yields over for to me to take lead and then he started following.  His headlight grew farther and farther away as I kept making good time honking at inattentive drivers and lane splitting. 

About five miles up the road I come upon two other motorcycle riders who allow me to relax just a little by following their tracks. Two miles later they also yield the lead to me and I soldier on. 

Traffic then starts moving a little near the start of the 60 freeway.  Then it was all literally 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 desert 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’t 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)