Eventually we popped out onto real roads, rolled through a ghost town, and climbed our way up to Route 66. Many sections of Route 66 in this part of the Mojave are closed to traffic due to past floods. Our sprits soared as the road was empty and our map promised us we would have mostly pavement all the way to the Hole-In-The-Wall campground where Biju and Travis waited. After a few miles heading north, we reached Essex, once a traveler’s oasis but now a ghost town with a population under 100.
By this point in the day, Travis had gotten all set-up at camp and rode a bike down the hill to meet up with Tyler and Jeremiah. It was just the burst of energy to help motivate Tyler. Five miles later, however, we were out of water and again relied on luck to help us. This time, a group of research scientists studying Bighorn Sheep happened to cross our path with extra bottles of water. Yep. Bighorn sheep researchers for the win. With prodding from Travis and the promise of Biju’s meals waiting at the camp, they both turned the pedals until they got “darked on”.
We performed our second ballet around the site: emptying vehicles, editing photos, eating food, showering, cleaning bikes, charging batteries, preparing for an early start, and holding a team meeting for the next day’s ride to Primm, Nevada, on the Cal-Nev border.
Stage 3 - Hole In the Wall Campground to Primm, Nevada
70 miles and 5600 feet of climbing.
We thought this would be more of a chill day through the heart of the Mojave National Preserve, with less sand (please please please!), so our start was just a little later than days 1 & 2. After some breakfast, Jeremiah added a spare tire to his bike and some words of encouragement to Tyler’s, and off we went.
After a long steady climb up Wild Horse Canyon, we were treated to bone-rattling washboard roads and a new foe in the form of a fresh wind. I spent about 30 minutes on the e- bike attempting to get some from the bike shots before giving up and retreating to the truck.
Eventually we dropped into another valley that was protected from the wind. The boys were having a blast as they sped down the road with Joshua Trees to their right and a long straight dirt road stretching out in front. Just when we thought we were making great time, we realized we had missed the turn. It wasn’t horrible. 20 minutes later, they were back on course. This time, in among the Joshua Trees. This section was much narrower with dips, twists, and turns. It was perfect for the Canyon Grails they were riding but not for us in the truck. It didn’t take long before they dropped us completely.
We caught them later and continued north on an empty desert road lined with burned Joshua Trees. This was the site of the Dome fire in August of 2020 that burned 43,000 acres in the largest Joshua Tree forest in existence.
We skirted the Death Valley Mine. It’s difficult to imagine these mines ever being operational. The inefficient technology of the time. The scarcity of water and fuel. The Twenty Mule Teams transporting the ore many miles. Just mind-boggling. But fun to ride past.
After the mine, Jeremiah and Tyler were treated to more sand, more climbing, and more wind, while we pushed the limits of the rental agreement for our truck with repeated contact with ground, desert plants, and ground again.
After a short stint, we exited that zone and found both Jeremiah and Tyler with ear-to-ear smiles. That zone was gravel heaven. For them. With Primm in sight, we thought it would be a short final dash to a shower and dinner. It didn’t really turn out that way. Instead, we inadvertently chose the worst of the five possible routes into town and suffered a thousand deaths in deep sand. Why wouldn’t we?
When they emerged back on the pavement, Tyler held no punches and did everything in his power to beat out Jeremiah in a sprint to the finish. Stage 3 was behind them. It was a scenic day and one we will remember, especially when we turn in our rented truck. What will Stages 4 and 5 bring? Stay tuned. Probably more sand.