The Salton Sea first appeared to me back in 2016, a couple of days into the Stagecoach 400 bike packing trip with the Borrachos. It appeared to me then as it appeared on this passage, an out of place body of water in the desert landscape, planar and mirage inducing. It could have been the heat exhaustion the first time I saw it, but the sea seemed to bend the horizon. We only saw it in the distance at that time, as our Stagecoach route took us up and away into Anza Borrego. This time around though, we’d pedal straight for it.
The cold. Oh, the cold. Never before had I experienced 10º temperatures at night and 70º during the day. There I lay, in chrysalis, asleep in my bivy thinking to myself, “this is miserable.” That was two years ago, at the foot of the second tallest sand dunes in North America, nestled between the Last Chance and Amargosa Mountains in Death Valley National Park. Needless to say, it took a while for me to want to tour this unforgiving place again. There’s something transformative about touring in the Mojave Desert. The dryness, the elevation, the sand, the silt, the wind, the washboard roads; insurmountable obstacles really bring out the truest human condition, that Lovecraftian urge to get out and test one’s limits. Push it a little bit further and come out the other side. Had I known that this love for the deserted, the dusted, and that grandiose dolomite was merely biding its time as I shivered uncontrollably in my bivy sack two years ago, I might not have been so absolute in my cynicism. It was time for emergence.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of accepting an invitation put out by the Mojave Desert Land Trust to partake in a 45-minute long flight from Palm Springs, across the Sand to Snow National Monument, across the Morongo Canyon Preserve, through Joshua Tree National Park, and back across the Little San Bernardino Mountains into Palm Springs on a Ecoflight single-engine Cessna 210…
With our gallery live from California Golde this morning, I wanted to give this video – which is also embedded in the story – a place to stand on its own ground. Please, enjoy this project. A lot of work went into it and we’re all super proud of being able to share it exclusively here at the Radavist!
There are still a few photo books for sale at Ronsbikes.com.
Dispatch From the Badlands
Photos and words by Carmen Aiken
On the dotted line to Sheep Mountain Table, I suddenly brake. Something tilts in my nervous system, tugs. The summer’s off-pavement riding has me forgetting the sweetness of an emptiness’s quiet when your contraption and all the nonsense it carries is, for a moment, still. What do you matter? The rocks rest as they wont to do, I suppose, the world ticks to its own endless motion, even as it’s stupidly being timed and quantified on devices it doesn’t give a shit about.
One of my favorite zines and podcasts, the Desert Oracle, recently dropped this gem of a quote and I couldn’t help but share, especially in light of the current political climate. It really makes you think…
“The human argument for setting aside vast stretches of the American desert as parks and preserves and wilderness and plain open space always includes the importance of unspoiled vistas. As the only real difference between Las Vegas and Death Valley is that we made a strategic decision to fill one with casino hotels and insurance company headquarters and neighborhoods while leaving the other more or less intact for the mutual benefit of humanity and the plants and creatures and ecosystems in such a mostly wild place.” Ken Layne, Desert Oracle, #016.
Follow @desertoracle 🙌🏻
Oh, what a difference a few thousand feet can make. In sharp contrast to the incredible lushness of the story we shared yesterday from our ride to Hāna, the surroundings at elevation in Haleakalā National Park are cold, stark, and windy – simply other-worldly.
As is usually the case with high elevation destinations, you really are at the mercy of the weather on Haleakalā. What was a picture-perfect Hawaiian day down at sea level and for most of the drive up the volcano took an about-face as soon as we dropped off the ridge into the Haleakalā crater. We reached for our insulated jackets and descended into the fog.
This is good! Real good!
Early spring is an ideal time to ride bikes in the Eastern Sierra corridor and Death Valley. The daytime temperatures aren’t scorching hot and even in the exposed, dry heat, there are nice cool breezes blowing off the surrounding mountains. Needless to say, in the spring, I like to leave the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles for some desert solitude. Now, “solitude” isn’t something easy to find in Death Valley, on a weekend, in one of the peak tourist times, but it’s remarkable how the park crowds thin out once you’re away from the stores and outposts sprinkled along highway 190.
Cari helped me on a photoshoot in the Eastern Sierra mountains on Saturday, so on Sunday we decided to drive over the Panamint Range in the Inyo National Forest and into Death Valley National Park to ride an easy, but breathtaking loop called Artist Drive. If you spent time in museums growing up as a kid, perhaps you remember “Astronaut Icecream?” Well, Artist Drive takes you through chunks of that stuff, only at the scale of mountains. The colors are other-worldly and since the road is freshly paved, it makes you feel as if you’re riding in a video game.
We parked on the side of the highway, put up window shades and began the morale-breaking 1000′ climb up to the first saddle. From there, it’s a rainbow rollercoaster through geologic formations and colors akin to broken easter eggs, with the occasional motorist driving past, looking at you with such disbelief that you can’t help but laugh.
Once you complete Artist Drive, it’s a 3.5 mile ride back uphill on the park road to your car and for Cari and I, a 3 hour drive back to our house in Independence, California. If you time it right, Mother Nature will put on a different display of colors… If you’re in Death Valley with a bike, I highly suggest this short, but scenic ride.
Words and photos by Morgan Taylor.
They told us not to ride bikes in Yellowstone National Park. Why? Mostly the roads: little to no shoulder and overrun by tourists in RVs. That’s enough to spur some questions for a potential traveler, and with a quick bit of research, you’ll find the camping situation looks dire – especially from a cyclist’s perspective. Where can you even buy food that isn’t in an overpriced restaurant? And what’s there to see beyond geysers and animals, anyway? Maybe they were right.
Today our National Park Service celebrates its 100th. Through the years, some of our Nation’s most beautiful lands have been preserved and maintained by the NPS’ volunteers and employees. If you find yourself in a National Park this weekend, give it a high five and you might find it smiling right back at ya!