We are very fortunate to live in the area that we do. Rideable weather the majority of the year, hundreds of miles of singletrack within driving distance, a small but close knit community of MTBers. But what about when you’re tired of the same trails, ready for something new?
We can also be fortunate that we have even hundreds more, possibly thousands more miles of two track in our neighborhood. I mean seriously, open up Google maps and it looks like a spider’s web of unmaintained dirt roads connecting every area of the Mojave.
Normal mountain bikes aren’t necessarily well built for these roads, however. Many routes will have loose sand pits that will eat a tire alive. Your options for roads are greatly diminished, and even more so, it’s hard to tell from a satellite image what kind of condition the road will be in before you attempt it.
Enter the fat bike. Built for the snow, but perfect for desert adventure cycling. Ability to carry a good amount of weight, and wide tires that will roll over any surface you can imagine. Washes, sand pits, rocky 4×4 roads are all fair game.
My friend Victor and I had done a few day trips on the fatbikes in the area south of Boulder City. An out and back to Nelson, one to the Colorado River, but what we really wanted to do was an overnight somewhere.
He suggested retracing the old Mint 400 racecourse from Barstow to Vegas. I was instantly on-board. Tough climbs over a few mountain passes, barren wasteland surroundings, and familiarity with the area since having to drive that route back and forth so many times.
Turns out there isn’t a whole lot of info on the old route, however. That’s fine. Tons of power line roads and other access roads connect the two areas. Mapping out a rough plan took a couple hours on mapmyride, but I think we had something we could go on.
The route would take us north out of Barstow, using 4×4 roads, Union Pacific access roads, powerline roads and washes to bring us home. There were several refueling options along the way, the town of Baker, and never would we be that far from I-15 should we need to bail.
With a ride down to Barstow on Saturday morning from my girlfriend Ashlie, we would have two full days to attempt the return.
Ready to set out from Barstow
One of many powerline roads we would encounter on this trip
Entrance to Calico Ghost Town, just north of Barstow
Even desolation has a beauty to it
The bikes were so loaded that keeping them upright whenever parked was always a good idea
Beer and tuna. It’s what’s for lunch.
Getting passed by a million pounds of corn, Volvo’s, and sex toys
The 15 was almost always within earshot
Shadows are starting to get loooong. Almost time to switch to night mode.
You find what you can to eat on trips like these. In this case, a shady gas station with even shadier microwave burritos.
Inside the Zzyzx research compound. Pretty weird feeling there, it was like an oasis in the middle of a dry lake bed with houses in it.
Setup camp at the top of the Zzyzx dry lake bed, a couple miles south of Baker.
Woke up to a fog bank, as we ride into Baker for a hot meal.
And what a hot meal it was.
Onward and upward! The climb out of Baker is going to be a test.
Carcass that had been there awhile.
Looked like some animal had turned the inside into an apartment.
Some stuff you just can’t ride.
Tried to see if the burro would help carry some of our stuff. He wasn’t going for it.
We were treated to an awesome sunset just as we crested the pass south of Primm.
Ignored a couple of signs and rode out onto the Primm dry lake bed. Turned our lights off and rode by moonlight. I don’t think I’ll forget this moment for awhile.
After Primm, Victor had to bow out of the ride. His dropper seat post kept losing air the whole day and after the last 50-something miles of riding like he was on a BMX bike, he had had enough. A very commendable effort though, I don’t know if I would have made it that far on a sagging seat post.
I finished the ride by going up the shoulder of the 15 to Jean and then taking Las Vegas Blvd the rest of the way. A couple other friends blocked traffic and handed me whisky shots the whole way back to the M casino, and for that I’m grateful.
Final tally was 169 miles with 7,100 ft of climbing. Most of that up washy, rocky jeep road.
This was an incredible adventure for us, and I hope by reading this it might spark a sense of adventure in you, as well!