The Beginning of the Mojave Road
Our eyes were wide, and our mouths gaped open as Mambo swayed side to side uncontrollably. We had been driven to a dead stop and no more than 30 minutes into our attempt at traversing one of the top North American overland routes. What had we done? We were crawling along at 2 miles per hour, yet the off-camber undulations in the trail caused by endless amounts of dirt bike traffic continued as far as the eye could see. Forced to stop in the middle of the trail, we both stood in front of Mambo, shaking our heads wondering if we had made the wrong decision. Instantly I remembered that the new Firestone airbags we had installed could be adjusted with more pressure to compensate for load control. I pulled out the air compressor, filled them up to 55 lbs., and we were on our way. The sway although not completely controlled, because let’s be honest, Mambo has a few pounds up top that make him a bit top heavy, was immensely better.
Two hours had passed, and it seemed like we had made very little progress. Our original itinerary had us camping around mile 52 but it seemed like that was going to be an impossible feat, which turned out to be true. I had read many blog posts, and forums about the Mojave Road, all speaking of its incredible beauty, but nothing spoken of the condition of the trail itself. The terrain itself had changed multiple times over the course of two hours, from corrugated dirt roads that rattle your teeth out, to large undulations caused by ATV and dirt bike traffic, to picking our way through lava rock strewn trails slowing us 2 to 3 miles per hour.
About hour 4 we had realized that we were not going to make schedule. We had passed through the sand trap river beds, and rolling hills with dark blue level off camber climbs in a top-heavy van, and were making good time. The road had smoothed out, the views were endless, and we were having a blast! Then the unspeakable appeared. Malissa’s kryptonite…. shelf roads. But not just any shelf road, these were incredibly washed out, ruts that could swallow small children, off camber, lean your van to one side testing the laws of gravity shelf roads. Oh, and throw in a sharp turn with an eroded bank just wide enough to fit Mambo and you have a recipe for disaster. Well, maybe not disaster but enough to drive Malissa out of the van and break in her hiking shoes.
I pushed on, white knuckling thru what could be considered light red, highly challenging trail, especially in a top-heavy van. Mambo pressed on, working his way through the trail, catching glances of Malissa wincing in the side mirror as Mambo teetered on three wheels crossing over child swallowing ruts.
Once we cleared the final obstacle of the evening, it was smooth sailing, the rocks were gone, the ruts have all but disappeared minus the occasional river bed that needed to be crossed. Sun was setting across the desert shining a golden hue across the endless Joshua trees and cholla cactus as we pulled into our stop for the night, sharing the space with an old abandoned school bus, riddled with holes from drunken shootouts, and plastered with stickers and affections of love from yesteryear. We had made it. And maybe our blood pressure was a tad higher than this morning, and there may have been a moment or two of questioning our decision-making skills, but that is the thrill that continually drives us to adventure. The unknown, the what ifs…until tomorrow where another round of what ifs awaits us.
Update: Since running the Mojave Road trail, we have designed and produced a limited edition PVC patch to commemorate this amazing adventure. Feel free to purchase one to remind you of your adventure via this link.