Joshua Tree Take 2 (Part 2 of 2) 3

Checking out signage
If you haven’t read the first part of our ride from Chino Hills to Joshua Tree, click here to catch up or watch our video here.  Our story begins on Day 3 of our ride where we stayed the extra day riding around the Joshua Tree town.

Day 3: Joshua Tree National Park, CA to Joshua Tree, CA

We decided that we would stay an extra day at Joshua Tree to explore some spots for photo opportunities, as well as ride into town to get food and water for another night at camp.  We foolishly thought we could sleep in for the morning, but Mother Nature had another plan.  The sun promptly rose at 7AM and its beam spotlighted our tent with a fierce ray of sunlight that warmed and illuminated our shelter with such intensity that we had no choice but to get up and cool off outside.

Breakfast Hike

Starting the hike
We had our breakfast of Pop Tarts and oatmeal and packed our panniers with necessities for the day trip around the park and into town.  Our first destination was to do a quick hike around Barker Dam.  This was an easy 1 mile loop around to see the dam, as well as some ancient hieroglyphics.  We strolled down to the parking lot which was less than a mile away and secured our bikes at the entrance near the smelly bathroom.  We casually finished our hike in about an hour.  The sun was intense, and we were worried about the clear blue sky which meant another hot day without some natural shading from the clouds like the day before.
Checking Hieroglyphics
After we finished our hike, we saddled up our bikes and started our way out of the park.  The 14 miles out of the park into town is so much easier when we are not hauling 70+ lbs of necessities.  We arrived in town about an hour and half later, looking for another place to eat as we were both starving even though we had our breakfast at camp.  We ended up at Crossroads Cafe and Tavern, a local spot which serves really good breakfast options and great fruit smoothies.  We both ordered a fruit smoothie and a hefty breakfast which included various protein options, such as bacon, sausages, and eggs along with some carbohydrate choices, like hot cakes.

Work, work, work

Gravel riding
Since it was Thursday, I had to get my weekly newsletter out before 5PM for my subscribers (by-the-way, if you would like to subscribe, click here and fill out the form for weekly updates in your email inbox) so our next mission was to find a restaurant or coffee-house that had free wi-fi.  Looking at our Yelp app on our phones. we found the only McDonald’s and Starbucks in the city were about 8 miles away – uphill.  It was either that or find a place in the shade to wait for dusk to grab water and food to begin our ride back into camp. We chose to the former.

Needless to say, the uphill and heat made things slightly difficult as we tried to stay as close to the right side of the road as possible as cars and semi-trucks sped by us going over 50 mph.  Our lanes were usually covered in sand at most places, so we were pretty much outside of them for the most part.  We were honked at, yelled at, and given the bird a few times – you know, nothing out of the ordinary from motorists.  At least we were seen by them, and to be directed in such a way, was alright with me.  When we got to Starbucks, we treated ourselves to a nice Java chip frappucino.  We spent over 2 hours there fighting with the spotty wi-fi connection and chatty participants telling us about his old laptop running Windows XP.  I successfully created the newsletter and scheduled the publish an hour before 4PM.

Coasting back up

Next, we made our way across the street to Rite Aid for a quick errand and went south towards Yucca Trail.  Our brief uphill was rewarded with a gradual downhill towards Park Blvd, where we turned right and climbed up to the park once again.  This time we were fueled by caffeine and hauling less weight, so we were able to make the climb up much faster and efficient than the previous day.  We got into camp at 5PM.

The campground filled up real quick as both empty spots around us had people setting up their shelter and getting ready to cook their supper.  We even had rock climbers visit on the rocks above us while we were preparing for dinner.

Sunset in the desert

We decided to go to bed early, knowing that we needed to get out of camp by 6AM the next morning.  While brushing my teeth, I noticed something white and round moving through the ground and turned my light on it.  What we found was a little desert frog!  Sang Hyun was able to get videos and photos of the little guy.

Day 3 Mileage = 42.4 miles, Day 3 Elevation = 2,479 feet

Day 4: Joshua Tree National Park, CA to Banning, CA

Sunrise in Hidden Valley campsite
I got up at 5:15AM, about the same time as dawn broke out before the sunrise.  I spent the next hour packing up and finishing the last of our breakfast in camp.  We got out of camp before 7AM and jumped back on Park Blvd towards Alta Loma Drive, which turns into Yucca Trail from the day before.  The ride out of the park was all downhill and exhilarating, in contrast to the ride uphill on Yucca Trail towards our first stop, Denny’s.

Farewell Yucca and Morongo Valley

Riding back to camp

We were both tired and exhausted from waking up early and riding through 19 miles thus far.  We refueled with a heavy breakfast and plenty of iced coffee and water before setting out where we came in from on Highway 62.  This time, we were faced with headwind.  The hills going out-of-town wasn’t as bad as coming in.  We got out of Yucca Valley with ease and was rewarded with a pretty long descent into Morongo Valley.

Right before the last climb up to the longest downhill, I spotted a man in his wheelchair trying to get over to our side from the south side of the road.  I quickly hopped off my bike to push him over as quick as possible which helped the flow of traffic.  I was given a thumbs up and approval toot from passing cars.  That was my good deed of the day before we stopped at the local convenient store for a bathroom break.
Joshua Tree
The descent down out of Morongo Valley wasn’t as fun as I remembered it to be from the last time.  Maybe because I packed my bike with the the intention of a more balanced ride so my bike wasn’t squirrely like my Xtracycle last year.  I also think that the headwind slowed the momentum down so it didn’t feel as fast.  Nevertheless, it was still a great treat.  When I climb these hills, it’s like sitting on a rollercoaster where I am anticipating the moment when my cart reaches the climax and plummets down a drop.  That’s exactly how I feel riding these things.

Unlike last year, where we were immediately swept away by cross winds coming from the West, we had mild headwind pushing us back.  We made it off Highway 62 much faster than last year and found ourselves back to Painted Hills Road, which led us back to the giant fan farm.

Sandy detour

Sandy detour

At the entrance to this private area, a worker in a truck stopped us to tell us that we were on private property and can be fined for trespassing.  Instead of risking it, we decided to find another route back down to Whitewater.  We found a road north of the forbidden land, on 16th Avenue, which essential connected us back to the same Rock Mine Road that would eventually take us down to Whitewater.  The only catch was that it was 3/4 miles of sandy road.  Road that was impossible to ride on with our bikes, so we had to get off and push the bikes through beach-like sand piles.  Our journey through this section consisted of walking about 500 ft, rest, drink water, wipe away our sweat, and repeat.  We finally made it to Rock Mine Road and was ecstatic to be able to get back on our saddles to fly down to Whitewater, where we refilled our water bottles with ice-cold water from the Whitewater Rock & Supply shop.

Gravel & head winds

We continued heading west on gravel roads.  This time, headwinds made it much more difficult to ride across the fire road.  When we were ready to cross the reservoir channel, I asked to film Sang Hyun’s approach to the other side.  As he rolled down the ramp and readied himself for the right turn, his wheel gave way and his Fargo slipped from under him which sent him to the ground.  His hands, knees, shoulder and right chin were scraped up from the fall.  The Fargo’s handlebar was twisted and the brake needed adjusting.  Sang Hyun cleaned himself off and checked for any broken parts both on his body and the bike.  Fortunately, nothing serious came out of the incident and we readjusted the bike with some bike tools I had packed.

Sang injury

As we bid adieu to the last of the gravel roads on Tamarack Road, we were surprised by a big group of road riders and their sag RV vehicle.  They were Japanese tourists trying to ride across Tamarack road, which was full gravel, on their skinny road bikes and skinnier tires.  Sang Hyun told them that probably wouldn’t be a good idea if they didn’t have bigger tires.  As we pulled over to re-inflate our tires, we were waiting for them to pass by, but never really saw them so they either stayed there to strategize an alternate route or they just went ahead.  Either way, good luck to them!

For the rest of the ride after that, we faced 20 mph headwinds.  This area, which was the best place on earth about 2 days ago, was the worst place for us to be in.  Sang Hyun and I took turns blocking the wind until we reached Cabazon.  We pulled over at the first convenience store for drinks and food.  We continued into the shopping outlet once again, but headed towards the Blaze pizza restaurant where we each ordered our own personal pizza.  I quickly devoured my portion.  Sang Hyun only finished half of his pie.

Back again

Stagecoach KOA

Sang Hyun at the Stagecoach KOA

It was 4PM at the time, and we were looking at the map back to the KOA.  We either had to ride a bit north and come back down or go the same way we came in on, on unmaintained gravel roads.  Instead of wasting our time riding north, we opted for the gravel road and headwind.  At the end of it, I was just so done with gravel roads, I angrily raced and cursed the ground beneath me until we reached Hargrave in Banning.  From there, I pointed my wheels south and let the descent take me to Wesley Road before turning right into the headwind which led us straight to our home for the night.  I was speechless.  I was tired.  I was miserable.  Sang Hyun knew it as he caught up and checked us in and offered to buy me ice cream or whatever I wanted.  We picked up a can of soup and some Arizona ice tea.  I washed my feet and felt much better.
Well, hello!
We settled in and spotted a really long gopher snake slithering through the campsite.  We watched it move from site to site before heading to the front office to inform the clerk.  She said she’d call the management to take care of it, but we didn’t see anyone stopping by to check.  The snake disappeared from our sights and minds, as we began to set up camp on the soft green grass.  We did our laundry and took our much-needed showers before enjoying our canned dinners.  Unfortunately for Sang Hyun, he mistakenly bought a can of spaghetti sauce instead of a can of spaghetti pasta.  When he started to cook his meal, he noticed it was just sauce.  Sadly, he polished off the can of potato chips with his pasta sauce for dinner and ate the last of his Pop Tarts.

We got into bed close to 10PM that night.  We had neighbors who were visiting from Germany with a RV van from a company called Jucy, which had sleeping quarters on top of the van and a kitchen in the trunk.  Sang Hyun did most of the socializing with them, as I was recovering from the tough ride.

Day 4 Mileage = 57.47 miles, Day 4 Elevation = 2,679 feet

Day 5: Banning, CA to Chino Hills, CA

I actually had a really good night’s sleep until I suddenly felt something wet on the left side of my arm.  In my groggy state, I thought the moisture was from me sleeping too close to the wall of my tent, sleeping on my side and breathing against the wall, thus creating the moisture.  As I shifted my sleeping pad, I started to feel more wetness.  Realizing that I could not have caused that much moisture I sat up and realized my sports bottle filled with water from the night before was lying on its side, empty.  My t-shirt that I washed and dried was soaked once again from the water and the left side of my sleeping pad was flooded.  I quickly took my clean camp towel to soak up the rest of the water.  This of course, cut into my sleep time as I got up at 5AM to empty my tent out in order to dry my things.
Campsite at Stagecoach KOA
The good part of this, I was able to pack up sooner and was able to get in time to meditate and read for a good hour and half.  Sang Hyun woke up around 6:30AM and packed up his stuff.  We conversed with the German couple for a few more minutes and wished them a safe journey to Joshua Tree, Las Vegas, Utah, and Grand Canyon.

Since we both ran out of food, the only option was to ride into Banning for the first breakfast place we came across.  That place was the local IHOP.  We were both sick of hearty breakfast meals by now and talked about what to eat when we got back to Chino Hills.  It was either Korean BBQ or a nice refreshing salad.

Brake adjustments

Our first mission for this day was to find the local bike shop in Beaumont to see if they could adjust Sang Hyun’s brakes which was affecting his coasting.  When we got there, the mechanic wasn’t in until a few hours later, so we decided to just make our way back home.  We reached a gas station right before we headed into San Timoteo Canyon Road, where I picked up some snacks and drinks while Sang Hyun spent the time adjusting his brakes.  He actually did a good job getting it readjusted where the wheel was spinning without any rub using his titanium spork of all things.

Satisfied with his accomplishment, we both rode into the rural roads, which were predominantly downhill.  I took the lead while chewing on sunflower seed and spitting out the shells, as I churned out miles after miles.  When we reached Redlands, we were both energized and motivated to go home.  We bypassed our lunch break and snacked on beef jerky as we rolled through Riverside and made it back to Norco’s section of the Santa Ana River trail.

By the time we made it to Chino Hills, I was thoroughly exhausted.  We stopped at the local convenient store near home to enjoy some chocolate milk, our traditional recovery / rewarding drink.  Our last hill towards home was tough, but we were given boba tea from my sister, who was waiting for our arrival.

Day 5 Mileage = 63.58 miles, Day 5 Elevation = 897 feet

Final Thoughts

Between 2 Salsas

I always knew that going back to Joshua Tree the second time around was going to be different.  It was very different for the most part.  Sang Hyun and I were stronger riders.  We were much more prepared with the things we brought.  We were well-seasoned as we both spent time out on the road and figured out what we liked and what we didn’t like.  Looking back on this trip, I was glad that other riders did not make it out with us.  Not because we didn’t want the company, but because this was definitely not the kind of trip that you take on with only 2 weeks notice if you haven’t done this in the past.  You had to have the right equipment, the right amount of fitness, and most importantly, the right mindset.

Total Mileage = 288.11 miles, Total Elevation = 13,560 feet

If you have any questions about riding to Joshua Tree from anywhere in the Los Angeles area, feel free to contact us.  We would be happy to show you how to do it and help you get you prepared for it.

Coyotes in the morning

About Johnny Lam

Johnny is an avid cyclist who enjoys bicycle touring as well as anything bicycle related. Johnny has traveled the entire Pacific Coast by bike from Vancouver to the border of California and Mexico. He's also toured through-out locations in Southern California. Johnny is also a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor (LCI) and also completed the Adventure Cycling Association's Leadership Training Course (LTC). He is an active member in Los Angeles bicycling community being involved in organizations like the Los Angeles County Bicycling Coalition (LACBC), C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange), and Bike San Gabriel Valley (Bike SGV) by taking part in ride marshaling, pedestrian & bike counts, and other volunteering opportunities.

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