At the ADV event I had made plans with Oliver (a young Welshman on a Round the World motorcycle ride) to meet up in Joshua Tree National Park and then ride together to another motorcycle event in Amado, Arizona. Since Oliver had to return to Los Angeles to collect some parts for his bike, he left Death Valley on Sunday and we were to meet up on Monday evening at Joshua Tree.
I headed south from the Panamint Springs campground mid-morning on Monday, March 28. It was a lovely day, still cool at that point but with clear skies that promised desert heat would soon have me taking off layers. The winds that had been omnipresent throughout my stay in Death Valley were calm at last and I felt more than ready to get back on the bike and continue the journey.
It was only a little over 200 miles to the campground at Joshua Tree where I was to meet Oliver, so I was in no particular rush. The road south was largely straight, there were no other cars, and I kept to a speed that allowed me to watch the landscape as much as the road. My route took me quickly out of Death Valley National Park, but the artificial boundaries of a park are immaterial to the landscape. It was still stark and barren, filled mostly with dry scrub and desert grass, distant hills marking the valley through which I rode. As my journey wended south the scenery changed in small ways, still with the quiet expanse of high desert, but now there were haunting rock formations and splashes of colour — dusky greens and vibrant yellows.
I stopped frequently to take photos and as I slowed one particular time, I saw a coyote just ahead. He had just inched out of the concealing grasses or I would never have seen him, his rough fur blended well with the scrub and grasses along the road. I pulled in the clutch and let myself coast to a stop, hoping I might somehow be able to get out my camera in time. But before I was even at a full stop, he darted in front of me across the pavement, disappearing quickly into the grasses. I watched across the distance, hoping to see him again, and wondered what coyote-businesses had brought him across my path in the late morning. But he was long gone, not even a rustle of grass to mark where he might have run. I continued on my journey with a pleased smile beneath my helmet, buoyed by that brief encounter with a denizen of the high desert.
Not long after the coyote crossed my path, I started to see signs of humanity marring the endless landscape. And then far too quickly I was on the outskirts of a town. Ramshackle houses, factory buildings, empty storefronts, powerlines. I stopped for petrol and coffee at a convenience store.
After refueling both myself and my bike, I was back on the road. I soon merged onto US-395 and was back amidst impatient SUVs and semis. The landscape closed in, no longer endless vistas, homes and buildings dotted the roadway and traffic increased steadily.
I stopped for lunch at the crossroads town of Kramer Junction, which seemed to exist only as a place for truckers and travellers to fill up their tanks and grab unhealthy fast-food meals. The desert heat promised by the morning’s clear skies was in full force and I stripped off layers of gear before continuing the last leg of my day’s travel.
I arrived at the Blackrock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park just on five o’clock. I rode through the campground looking for Oliver but he had apparently not yet arrived. So I found a likely spot and set up my own camp. Then through the miracle of cell phones (and the fact the campground was on the edge of the town of Yucca Valley rather than deep within the park boundaries) I was able to check for messages and learned that Oliver had been delayed in LA and would not arrive until midday on Tuesday.
So I settled in on my own, cooked up some soup and tea, then explored the campground before it became too dark. Sitting at the picnic table as dusk deepened I saw a pair of roadrunners dash across my campsite into a bush. And discovered that they are quite fast and my camera no where near good enough to capture them in photos.
That evening ensconced in my tent with my handy headlamp providing illumination I poured over my map of Joshua Tree National Park and planned the next afternoon’s adventure. I was looking forward to meeting up again with Oliver as it would be lovely to have someone to share the adventure with. I nestled into my sleeping bag early and tried to sleep despite the shrieks of the children camped nearby. But the weariness of a traveller overcame their shrill cries and I finally fell asleep.