Last minute notice of four open spots from JeepExpeditions.org, group for a Jeep Expedition across the Mojave, pronounced Mo-ha-vay. The trek included 120 miles across the open desert of the Mojave Desert Trail in Southern California. The starting point was Laughlin, Nevada with a finish destination somewhere near Barstow, California.
Total Miles: (1948miles) 1720 Pavement; 128 miles Off-Road
Equipment Features : 12 Volt Lunchbox Oven
Recipe Features : Rajun Cajun Rigatoni, Yucatan Style Beef, Chevre, Rice and Black Bean Burritos
Restaurant Features : Javier’s Lindo Michoacan Las Vegas, Nevada; Carneceria: Baker, California; Linda’s Café: Westslope I-70 in Colorado
JEEP LOG DATE: 10:6 – 10:9:2007
Denver to Vegas 1am – 8pm
Left Denver after teaching a 6:00am – 7: 30pm stretch with a one hour nap. Got on the road by 1am on Friday morning and finally, the beginning of the 4-day road trip of a lifetime! I picked up co-pilot Chef Adam Sacks, a fellow colleague and now business associate with a sense of adventure, and we were on our way. One way to either make a friend or have a complete loathed enemy is to spend four whole days in the confines of a small Jeep. Fortunately, it ended up being the first of the two possibilities.
Having both grown up in the same era and area of the country, we had lots in common and a lot to talk about. Caffeine and lots of snacks, nothing fancy as I had been teaching double classes all week and the weekend before was busy with XRRA Rock Race Finals in Colorado Springs. Stopped just outside of Grand Junction to catch another hour nap, then we slowly made our way to
Laughlin. The head winds were insane, in particular from the middle of Utah all the way to Vegas.
Along the way was a lot of historical information regarding the State of Utah, not on the top of my list (explained later) other than of course, Moab. Outlaw Country, the Place Nobody Wanted and Cove Creek Fort were all great and informative stops along the way. This lends well to the educational aspects of our trip.
Finally a quick stop by an intriguing sign off the highway somewhere in Arizona / Nevada indicated the state of my sometimes twisted sense of humor, mind and demeanor which most that know me would certainly agree…Area of Critical Environmental Concern!
A stop in Vegas but got lost. No, not the gambling lost kind either. I mean really getting lost! But we found our way past the new Trump Tower which looks to dwarf the Wynn Casino.
At this point, hunger was really kicking in and the down home goodness of Big Momma’s Soul Food Restaurant, located on the edge of the “hood” looked great; however, we wanted to leave Las Vegas so we ventured through the bright lights and we found Javier’s Lindo Michoacan, a highly overpriced and way overrated food quality of a Mexican restaurant (see The D.I.R.T. at http://jeepgrilleadventures.com/thedirt.aspx for the full scoop and 4-lodown). At least the cold carbonated beverages were good.
After a full belly of overrated and overpriced Mexican slop we were on our way to Laughlin.
Vegas to Laughlin NV 8pm-7am
Got to Laughlin around 11pm and saw all the pretty lights in the middle of nowhere. It was neat. All this glamour in the middle of, well, absolutely nowhere!
We found the Riverside Motel, an older place on the west side of town with clean rooms and hot shower. Now what happens in Laughlin after 11pm stays in Laughlin. I will note that there are some interesting folks, in particular the locals at the Lazy River Lounge. What was most fascinating was the persistence of the locals in expressing what a nice place Laughlin was and how it is such a “nice” and “great” place to settle and raise a family. Sure..O.K. If you say so?!?! It felt eerily like we were immersed in an episode of the Twilight Zone. I would however, visit again and maybe even retire there. Go figure.
One of the highlights was shooting pool with old Al, a regular at the Lazy River and a fellow Massachusetts native who was wicked cool. I think most remarkable and memorable was the “Al Shuffle,” a little jig when the game
went well for him. Oh yeah, word of caution: Don’t mention or say the words “milk jugs” in front of Mistress Kitty. Why you ask? Well, you’ll have to find out for yourself.
Finally retiring after being up for 48 hours with only two hours sleep, I looked forward to four more hours of restful bliss. We got up at 6:30am on Saturday for a cup of coffee on the little patio of the bar, and reflected on how nice life in Laughlin must be. From there, we reflected on the drive behind and the drive yet ahead.
MOJAVE TRAI L First Leg: 8am – 6pm
The meeting point for the whole group was south of Laughlin at the Avi Resort / Casino. All in all there were a total of 21 vehicles with folks mostly from Arizona and some from southern and even Northern California. I think though, “the boys from Colorado” as we infamously became known, trekked the farthest to attend. I don’t know if it was the loud laughter, the most dented nerf-bars, the insane amount of time driving or the combination of it all that contributed to us becoming known as such.
Our trail leader was freelance editor Jim Brightly, who was actually doing an article for 4WD and Sport Utility Magazine. The first leg of the trip was 68 miles to our camp destination. The trail itself was a combination of semi-soft sand and hard packed sand, pretty much a road that could be traversed by most cars compared to what I am usually accustomed to wheeling. I sort of admired that milder aspect as it was a nice change from the hardcore trails I usually traverse. Not having to worry too much about major parts breakage and enjoying the diverse scenery was great fun and the chances of actually driving back to Colorado in one piece were greatly improved. The odds were in my favor!
With that said, there was some minor breakage. First, a flat tire due to a sidewall tear on a TJ in the group and then, a Grand Cherokee steering pump that got bent and snapped a belt. Someone pulled out their tool box while I went to go get the shop-box out of my Jeep. This is one of those testosterone things, my toolbox is “bigger than yours,” and by far when I whipped it out, folks were impressed. “Look at the size of those channel locks, my I feel insignificant” and “Damn that guy could build a whole Jeep with what’s in there!!” It was a “Tim the tool man” moment with oohs and ahhs. Needless to say, it was another feather in the cap of preparedness and boost to the Jeep ego.
I have collected those tools, bolts, nuts, lubes, thread locker and the like over a period of 17 years, the epitome of “just in case.” I did not, however, have the needed fan belt or 16mm wrench.
*Mental note-to-self: Go buy these items just in case!!
The magnitude of the diverse ecology of the first 68 miles was amazing, as was the history behind the trail from the days of it being a route used by the government for communications. At one point the government attempted army desert training, inclusive of using camels instead of horses.
Finally arriving at the camp spot in the mid-Mojave desert, we quickly unloaded and set up the kitchen. COFFEE first and foremost, followed by a cold carbonated beverage was in order. Tonight we dined on a not-so stable camp table that ended up being more like a wind chime.
On the menu?
Recipe: Ragin Cajun Rigatoni Pasta with Chicken, Andoullie and Tasso Ham in a Mushroom Creole Cream Sauce
I made this ahead and assembled the separate ingredients on the trail. I do recommend complete assembly at home and simply reheating on the trail for even quicker cooking and clean up.
After this evening’s dinner we went to the group area to sit by the fire, mingle with the members of Jeep Expeditions and chat. It was an early night as most dispersed at 9pm, quite an early night. Must have been something I said. Of course the “boys from Colorado” stayed up late by the camp site, chatting more, laughing a lot and enjoying cold carbonated refreshments in the cold and windy desert night.
Mid Point Mojave Mile 68 – 128 and into Utah Sunday 10/7
Setting up the back of my trailer as a sleeping unit proved to be great and while I don’t have any pictures, it was great to be out of the cold nights wind. Dreams were intense and vivid at one point, feeling like coyotes were nipping at my toes and desert rodents running up inside my trailer. Nonetheless, deep sleep from the lack of previous days was refreshing.
Woke up at 6:30am and started breakfast coffee. I enjoyed the desert morning air and silence. There is just something about the solitude, smells and visual ecstasy in the desert that is just darn cool! From there, we broke down and packed up, which took most of the morning. We were on our way by 9am for the final 65 miles of the desert portion of the expedition.
First stop was the Mojave Mailbox to sign the traveler’s guestbook. Of course, leaving a www.JeepGrilleAdventures.com sticker strategically located on the bottom of the box was in my plan. Inside the mailbox, people take and leave multiple goodies. The most unique was the bag of Shrimp Chips, tasty little puffed rice chips with shrimp flavoring.
Onward we went for a side trip to see some ancient volcanic tubes in the earth. Note to self: This would make an awesome family trip in the cooler months of the year. My wife and daughter would really enjoy researching and being immersed into the abundance of historical and ecological surroundings this whole area has to offer. The cylinder tubes we and others explored were really cool. Ancient lava flow bubbles – the champagne bubbles of the earth if you will.
Along the way we crossed a salt lake bed to add to the Rock Pile at mid point. At the top is a plaque and I won’t divulge what it says as it would perpetuate years of horrible events. You must travel to the sacred spot to find out for yourself. I, of course, had to be different and balance one rock atop another (a little reddish rock balanced atop a triangular rock). Adam climbed to the top to read the plaque, also leaving his rock from the trip. The crystallized flats were semi-soft and salty mud flew everywhere as we trekked across it. After the salt bed came an area of soft sand dunes until we finally reached the mines area. It was a great little playground where the JGA Jeep got to stretch and flex a little.
Lunch today consisted of Yucatan Style Beef, Chevre, Rice and Black Bean Burritos
The final stretch to pavement in California
We Left the playground for a scenic photo opportunity of the whole group at a neat railroad bridge. We then left the bridge and stopped around 4:00pm, then it was onward to Afton Spring campground. We came across the only water crossing for miles and concluded the Mojave Desert trip, the desert part anyway. For some it was another couple days onward to an expedition to Octillo Wells. We were graciously offered to join, tempting as it was we both did had a few personal days saved up but the consensus was ultimately that we should get back to Colorado. We aired up and said our thank yous and goodbyes until the next expedition (MOAB IN MAY)!!!
We rested at a quick stop off I-15 in Baker, California where we ate some great tacos and drank wonderfully flavored horchata. Something about a restroom essence restaurant would deter most, but this didn’t scare us off. It’s gotta be good because no gringos would even consider entering a place like this. I, of course, had to order the burrito la lengua with chicharon. Yes, cow tongue burrito with crispy fried tidbits of pork fat. YUMMMMM is all I can say although next time in Baker I think the Alien Jerky place is deserving of a visit.
This was the first of many stops this evening as we realized we had a long trip ahead. For some reason it seemed as though an additional 1000 miles was added to the trip back to Colorado. We stop 15 miles west of Vegas for a quick nap and then awoke to the voices of Nevada’s finest, not directed at us but rather at someone they had pulled over and stopped right behind us. Fascinatingly enough they didn’t even come to check on us in the Jeep, just leaving after they finished with the folks they pulled over. Pretty awkward we thought.
Utah proved to be the longest stretch as the first 250 miles into the state seemed to last forever, especially since there wasn’t a single place to get a cup of coffee.
Everything was closed to get coffee. I am proclaiming action be taken against the state of Utah for lack of adequate coffee supplies to weary road travelers. We finally did find one place that was open for coffee. What is wrong with Southwestern Utah?
Driving for 30 minutes, sleeping for 30 minutes, driving for an hour and sleeping for an hour proved to prolong the trip that much more.
Monday morning to Monday Night
Finally daybreak and still another 500 or so miles to go to Denver. At least this time there was not a head wind we were traveling into and the snow storms originally forecasted for this day were not in sight. It was clear sailing all the way. We ate at a roadside stop on I-70 around 3pm, just outside of Grand Junction, called Linda’s Rainbow Truck Stop.
Linda herself was our server but explained she no longer owned the place. The BLT was decent and substantial although I do prefer crisp bacon rather than undercooked, rubbery bacon. The fresh-made beef soup that Adam ate was less than desirable. Damn those chefs are picky!
We finally arrived back in Denver around 8 pm. Back at home and back to reality.
I have to say it was one of the most truly epic trips that I have experienced.
Adam is a former Jeep owner himself, and now after the trip I am holding him accountable for getting back to his roots by trading in his little Subaru thing and getting his Jeep once again!
Of course his wife may or may not approve; however, we Jeep folks know one of two things will happen regarding trading in a vehicle for a Jeep. Either way it will be a win-win situation.
* Published by JPFreek Jeep Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.