Mojave Road - California

December 2, 2008

Well it was a good plan - Read Dennis Casebier's book and California Desert Byways by Tony Heugel, download the waypoints from the internet and escape from from the office.

I had a 5 day window from work to relax and see something different. I thoroughly recommend staying at the AVI Casino. Only $25.00 per night for a resort hotel, decent food, good rooms, virtually a free breakfast, and final top of the gas tank for the Jeep. 

The plan was to do the 128 plus miles in one day and work that evening and early the next morning and then spend the next two days cruising back and forth across the Preserve checking out the highlights. It was a long day because I took the advice of others that the motels in Baker were horrible so I drove the extra 60 miles to Barstow. My stay in Barstow was horrible. The hotel ceiling sprung a major leak and I was flooded out of my room. The hotel reluctantly moved me to another part of the hotel where there was a power outage. I left hoping they would not charge me for the few hours spent in the damp and the dark. They made no promises. I moved to another hotel and got down to work.

The next day I worked some more and then headed back to Baker to resume the trail again this time heading for the Cinder Cone Lave Beds and the Lava Tubes. But..... fate would not allow it. I had a hydraulic leak from the power assist. Just a pin hole but enough to puke all of the power steering fluid out and cover the undersides of the Jeep. I had Baja'd for over 9 hours the day before and probably overstressed the suspension. The air conditioning compressor must have been just brushing against a hydraulic line on the bigger bumps. I limped back to Baker. I was told at the first gas station there were 3 service shops in town. The first had a sign that said the owner had gone to the dentist a couple of days before and had not returned. The second shop had several bays, plenty of tools but was deserted. A chap was sitting there waiting for someone to show up because he also had broken down. Nobody came so I headed for the third shop. This was one was scary, something out of a bad Hollywood B movie. The owner was scary down to the lack of teeth. But ..... he was willing to work on the hydraulics for a price. All I needed was to get the engine jacked up a little to make room for a wrench and get the hydraulic hoses rerouted so they would bypass the assist system allowing me to just use the regular power steering. We argued a bit but he relented, trouble was the regular power steering pump had also packed up so I was down to Armstrong Steering and I did not want to explore the Mojave Preserve like that so it was off back home. I had six hours to kill in Baker and discovered the motels were not that bad after all and would recommend travelers stay there instead of going all the way to Barstow for the night. There are several places to eat also. Why I didn't take photos I have no idea. Just too pissed off to be wasting 2 days of wheeling I guess.

I did get to drive just about all of the Mojave Road with the exception of missing Rock Springs and not being able to cross Soda Lake because of the flooding. The road was uneventful, a little boring at times but very easy to follow (It must have been hell with a covered wagon and mules). Even the tracks through the Rasor Off Road area were well marked with cairns. I left around 7:00 AM and reached Afton canyon around 4:00 PM. There are a few downsides to traveling alone but one of the upsides is not having to stop for everyone else, and that can chew up time like nobody's business.

I am a little surprised at all the warnings about travelling alone on this road. There are no serious obstacles, four wheel drive is not necessary although decent ground clearance is a must. I had cell service for most of the journey and email when I did not have cell service. I also carry a SPOT in case of emergencies, carry plenty of maps and GPS units, and of course drive a very reliable vehicle with a 300 mile range. Sure I lost my hydraulic assist but I would have made it out with relative ease. If I had not been within 30 miles of a service station I would have stayed and plugged the hole enough to get me out with so many cross roads heading to "civilization.

It will be awhile before I get back to the Mojave Preserve again but someday I will give it another shot.

I have added some YouTube videos showing what the road is like and hope future travelers will find them of use. The speeds look a little excessive but it is more a case of the positioning of the VIO camera on the front bumper. I was not hanging around but not driving as fast as the videos would indicate

Start of the journey off Hwy 162 west of the Colorado River

Information sign at Fort Piute

You had to have been a really bad boy to be assigned to this spot

View from Fort Piute

Another view from Fort Piute

Lanfair Valley

California Yucca


The bus was cool but the crap in and around it spoiled the effect

Joshua Tree near the bus

The famous Penny Can - didn't have a penny so I left a quarter - I wonder if that was bad luck

If you build it someone will take a picture of it

Government Holes

No idea

The cairns were extremely useful navigation aids. Just keep them on the passenger side

The Jeep getting dirty from all of the wet sand and puddles

The Mail Box still there after 25 years

Heck of a place for a cairn

Soft sand just before the Kelso-Cima Road

Long road to Soda Lake which was traveled twice

Soda Lake closed until further notice

The maps showed a trail running along side the lake back to the highway but it too was under water in places and I was not prepared to risk it.

Skirting the edge of the lake. Not wet hear but spongy

Looking back at Soda lake from the West - Veritably pissed off I did not get to lob a rock on the Traveler's Monument

Middle railway bridge in Afton canyon

Trail now a road running along side the railroad

Considering the amount of rainfall just prior to the trip these puddles were not deep at all

The ceiling outside my room with water poring through.

Sad when your only claim to fame is the world's largest thermometer.

Jeep JK

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