Thanks to his numerous jaunts around the country in our 18-wheeler for long distance moves, Cliff Wallace has racked up the miles and seen the sites. A seasoned traveller and fount of knowledge, Cliff always has something to share from his experiences. Today, it’s about his visit to Joshua Tree National Park and a cautionary tale about riding a bike on the Geology Tour Road.
Kyle and I were heading back to Iowa from Los Angeles and had to click another national park off the list. Two hours east of LA and you’re there without altering your route to Phoenix too much if you’re heading that way, which we were. Joshua Tree National Park might not come up in my top 5 list of national parks to recommend, but if you’re passing through SoCal and don’t go, I think it’d be a mistake. Nowhere else in the world do Joshua Trees exist. Partly because Mormons haven’t been able to fully spread their etymology worldwide, but mostly because the Mojave Desert has an extremely unique and precious habitat. The trees are plentiful and beautiful, though disappearing with changing climates. The park is also well known for some pretty decent bouldering (rock climbing). If you have the time I’d recommend camping as there is almost no light pollution and you’ll likely get a good view of the milky way if the moon isn’t too bright that night.
There’s a surprising amount of good hippie food outside the park. The Natural Sisters Cafe treated us to a deliciously fresh lunch before going in.
This also happened to be my first chance to ride my fatbike recently purchased from a physical therapist in Michigan, picked up and delivered by fellow Spiner, Josh Wilkin, on a trip back from New York. Josh delivered my bike the day before a long trip, I threw it in the semi and didn’t have a chance to let ‘er rip until a week later when we got to Joshua Tree. I found a road called Geology Tour Road that’s accessible only by 4WD and was 9 miles straight down.
We entered from the west entrance in the town of Joshua Tree. If you’d like to take my super fun/super awful bike ride route just turn right onto Geology Tour Road about 15 miles from the main road. If you’re not a glutton for punishment, have a 4WD car pick you up at the bottom and bring you back up.
I started my bike down the road not realizing at the time that literally all 9 miles was directly downhill, but proceeded to have an intense peak experience going well above 30mph with 4” tires passing many Jeeps and Subaru Outbacks for the next 20 minutes. The following two hours were those Jeeps and Outbacks getting the last laugh as I crawled up 9 miles of steady incline back up to the top.
Kyle and I had very little cell service in the park, so I wasn’t able to inform him of my blunder. I arrived at our rendezvous (White Tank) about 90 minutes after we had planned to meet and there was no one there. Just me, my bike, the sun setting in the distance and no water or warm clothes. Miraculously I had full bars of LTE for the first time that day, standing in my specific lonely spot. Not 30 seconds later I received a call from a random phone number and it was Kyle on a friendly hiker’s phone ($20 says he was from the midwest). This was good because I really didn’t feel like riding 20 miles back to the entrance.