Solo Trip to Carrizo Plain, First Ride Report
I planned to get away over the weekend and do an overnighter. My destination was the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Time to lash on the Alice packs and hit the road. I've done a shakedown cruise before but this is the first real remote, off road trip I've done.
Over the past couple years I have been gathering equipment and outfitting the machine. Crash bars, skid plate, racks for the bags etc. The tires are at about 25% life left. I was thinking about getting some meatier sneaks but I'm tired of waiting around. Let's go!
It was a pleasant 87 degrees when I left LA about 1pm. Traffic was a bear until I cleared Magic Mountain on the 5 North. Smooth sailing after that.
Things got chillier as I approached the Tejon Pass. The crosswinds were pretty brutal at the summit. Stopped in Gorman to put on a layer and close up the vents. I realized my hands and wrists were buzzing real bad from the death grip I had on the handlebars. After a hot coffee and a lousy Danish I was ready to truck on.
To get to Carrizo Plain from the 5 you take the 166 exit for Maricopa. I wasn't sure if the gas station on the exit was the fabled "last gas" until New Cuyama many miles west. Stopped in to top off the tank just in case.
The farmland surrounding was uneventful but the hills begin to grow.
I passed orchards and oil pumps. Nothing much going on out here which makes for a great 70 mile an hour burn due east. The town of Maricopa is many miles from the 5 and very close to the Carrizo Plain. Get gas if you have not yet. A few miles past town you will see signs for the "Elkhorn Road, Elkhorn Grade." This is the steep, fun way into the Plains. Maybe next year when I have a couple more off road trips under my belt and some better rubber on the rims.
The plan was to hit Soda Lake Road and head northwest through the Monument. Route 166 is a freshly paved, nicely banked collection of hills and sweeping curves. Blew right by Soda Lake Rd and the entrance! Turned around and turned in at the old 76 station which is on the corner of Soda Lake Road.
Another place that's 3 hours from my home that i've never been to...
Looking forward to more of your report.
The bike's a beauty!
btw, where's Mayberry?:D
I was here to see the grasslands and also to see the San Andreas fault. This is one of the most obvious places one can see the fault as it deforms the geography on the surface. At Wallace Creek, the evidence of eons of tectonic motion are obvious. You can stand with one foot on the North American plate and one on the Pacific plate.
I stopped to take a photo of this sign and air down. Picked up a nice map at the kiosk. Cut it down to size with my pocket knife so it would fit in the map pocket on the tankbag. Onwards!
The road is a mish mash of lousy old pavement. The cattle grates the cross the road occasionally and vary from new and square to old and worn, slick with use. The first one I hit way too fast. The grates were above the roadway by about an inch or two which made for a jolt. Some are better. Best to slow and cross with more care.
There is still lots of evidence of man. Before it was declared a National Monument the Carrizo Plain was and still is cattle grazing land. There are miles and miles of barbed wire criss crossing the land. The fences are an impediment to the movements of the native antelope. Slowly, the land managers are trying to encourage the native grasses and encourage more of the protected species that live here.
The plains open up before you as you head north. It feels like you could be in Africa on the veldt. After the hustle and bustle of LA, the Carrizo is otherworldly. No planes, no freeways, no cell service
It was late afternoon when I got here so I had enough time to check out the KCL campground, move on to the Selby Campground or just bivouac somewhere in the hills. The KCL had a number of vehicles and was close to the main road so I passed.
It was now getting 5:30 so I turned off Soda Lake Rd to the Selby Campground.
Stopped and turned back as the sun began to set.
Two miles from the main road, the campground sits high atop the hills overlooking the plain. There was one couple just setting up their campsite. I waved and motored on down as far as I could. This looked like a fine place to set up shop. There was plenty of daylight left but I could tell the wind was picking up. I did not want to try and have the stove cooking in the bone dry grass. Did not want to be that guy who burned the place down. Besides, each shade structure has two tables. One to cook dinner on and hang out.
The other, I decided, would be a bed. I thought i would try Interstate style, like I have read of here on ADV. Guys just throw down a pad and a sleeping bag on a table at a rest stop and sack out.
As darkness fell the wind was picking up. I packed up dinner and the stove. By the time that was done the wind was ripping. I lashed down all my gear as everything was bobbing in the gusts. Even my helmet was threatening to roll away so it got the bungee net treatment on the pillion seat. Breaking out the sleeping bag and bivvy sack was a Charlie Chaplin affair. With the stuff sack in one hand, the sleeping bag was flapping like a flag in the other hand. Meanwhile the bivvy sack is being coaxed by the wind, out of its bag, like a snake being charmed out of its basket.
I figured out how to have the wind help insert the sleeping bag into the bivvy sack. I knelt on the bivvy sack and the wind opened it like a wind sock at an airport. I threw the stuff sack and my wallet down at the feet and then let the wind feed the bag into the bivvy sack. Snake now charmed back into the basket. Bloody hell. I got out of my boots, tossed them under the lee side of the picnic table base. But what to do with the jacket and pants? Surely they will be long gone by morning. I am sitting on the bag keeping it all weighed down. I figured I'll just zip the jacket around the post of the sun shelter and stuff my pants inside the jacket. It worked!
The half moon rose and shone down like a high beam. The wind moaned and slapped my face with the bag. The wind howled and the temperature dropped. The wind lashed on thru the night. The trees above would telegraph a big gust was sweeping down the hill. It would be quiet where you were, but, you could hear a new gust rolling down the mountainside toward you. Whoosh! It would sweep over you, stripping you of warmth and peace. I figured it how to roll into a ball and let it wash over like a wave.
The moon set behind the hill and the wind abated. Silence. Absolute silence. The stars came out in all their glory. Blissful sleep, moments away...
The piercing cry of a pack of coyotes! Holy hell! They were calling more of their buddies in. The buddies are howling back, asking for directions.
"Over here!" would come the blood curdling reply in excited whelping.
All night I can hear the pitter patter of little coyote, Viet Cong feet sneaking up in the darkness. Damnit! So much for the peace and quiet of the countryside.
After a few turns with the flashlight I guessed they were keeping their distance. I fell asleep just as the sun broke the horizon. In the silhouette of the dawn, I could see a pack of small dog like coyotes heading back over the ridge. Since it was still chilly and I was facing away from the rising sun, I was able to sleep until about 9am. That meant a late start, but I had to get some more shut eye.
When I did awake I sat and made some coffee. As the stove hissed away, I realized the sneaky feet noise was this odd little tree nearby. It's leaves were just the right size and shape that they slapped together and created the tippy toe noises I had been hearing all night. Whatever.
Sunday morning, we ride!
Well, I ride. No gang of Mescaleros to lead...yet. Mi venga! Aqui!
Packed up and hit the road. Cool rock formations on the way back to the floor of the Valley. The couple at the campground would be the last people I would see until I exited the park.
I hit Simmler Road so I could see what the lake looked like and cross over to Wallace Creek. The lake dries up quick once the winter rains end. The road was well packed even though we have not had much rain this year.
The fences collect tumble weeds. The weeds create an effect that reminds you of being at the beach. After a wave breaks it tumbles up the sand toward you in it's last gasp before receding. When the tide is just right, this foaming mass sometimes is stuck in place, seething forward, while the base is torn back into the sea. The tumble weeds here have that frozen motion effect, as they are caught in mid flight by the barbed wire and their brambled cousins.
The parking area at Wallace Creek. More miles of fence. A short hike up to the creek from here.
Wallace Creek is a unique geographical feature which gives evidence of the geological feature below, namely the San Andreas fault.
The fault is the meeting place of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates. The fault runs from the Salton Sea in the south to a large trench off the coast of San Francisco. The fault has had two major ruptures in the modern era. The 1857 Tejon quake and the infamous 1906 San Francisco event.
The ground on the Pacific side slid approximately 30 feet to the northwest when the Tejon quake struck.
Over the eons the creek has moved 430 feet. Last link for you nerdy folks!
Fault scarp and shadow of the fault, looking south. The San Andreas fault lies beneath the foot track at the bottom of the hill and continues past the notch on the horizon.
And now just riding left! South on Elkhorn Road...
Riding south, 30 miles of open road
Ok back to riding! The only thing left to do is head south on Elkhorn Road and make it back to the 166. It was about 11 am on Sunday. The road is pretty flat and straight until you get further down. You pass old water tanks and stock pens. Tis is the perfect Noob track to learn on. 30 miles of open road.
The tires I have on are Perelli Scorpions. Great road tires. Revzilla describes them as 95% road, 5% off road. I was getting all 5% out of them on this day. You didn't carve turns as much as float. This was great training to stand and "steer with your feet," instead of trying to wrestle the bars. If you kept your head up The idea I guess is to rest your knees on the tank, keep your weight forward over the steering head or wheel. It felt best to be leaning on the bars and letting the bike wiggle a bit. Every so often there would be a death grip as you hit a rut and had to wrestle it back on track.
After the corner at Elkhown and Panorama the road gets some more ups and downs and curves. It was perfect after mastering the flats. This was an absolute blast! By looking ahead you could see what you wanted to power through and try more speed. Or if there was a fence and a cattle grate hemming you in you would slow down and blast off coming over the grate.and your speed up the bike would go pretty much where you wanted it to. I had a moment the day before where I got going too fast and hit a squirrelly sandy stretch. I kinda freaked out and sat back. Bad idea.
There is a cut across, from Elkhorn Rd back to Soda Lake. Otherwise you must climb and then descend the Elkhorn Grade. I'm pretty sure the tires I had on were not gonna cut it. Looking west I could see a solitary tree in the distance.
Nice place to stop and have a snack. One tree in 300 square miles and idiots have to build a fire ring at the base and shoot it full of 12 GA slugs. Idiots!
Next up...the exciting conclusion
Last leg of the trip...
The hills build up and the road winds through them heading west. You start to get some views again. Crossing the hills to get back to Soda Lake Road.
This nice sweeper ends in a steep ramp that climbs toward the top of this hill.
From below as you approach you can see that the steep, ramp part is paved. Bang a gear and pin it!
Oh snap! The pavement has a lip on it about 8" to 12" deep where the loose dirt has eroded. I said to myself " TWO PINCH FLATS, NOOO,!" So I skidded almost to a stop and caromed over the lip and dumped the clutch. The bike grunted its disapproval as the last revs died and then it tipped over.
Luckily I had scrubbed enough speed and just stepped off it as it stalled. Tried to pick it up as it lay. Bike was welded to the earth. Tried to spin it about. Still nailed down and would not lift. Spun it around some more. Had to spin all the way around the clock as it would only spin in one direction.
This went on until I was soaked with sweat and dizzy. Stripped off all my riding gear. Time to unload the bike. Dropped the kickstand. Got the front wheel pointed the the left going up the hill. I used one of the straps that I tie the bags on with to create a little more length to grab. I just couldn't get any leverage because I was squatting so low. The strap allowed me to work at an angle that was the best for me and my back.
Popped right up. Got on and rolled down the hill. Donkeyed back and forth a few times with all the gear. Lashed it on, suited up and away for another run at the hill.
Up, up and away! Crested the hill, made Soda Lake Rd. I stopped to take one more photo before I left. The cool striations in the grass - is that some weird geological feature as well?
Ah damnit, I have left my Camelback behind somewhere. Did I leave it on the coat hook I have on the Pelican top case? Maybe I did and then dropped it in the road. If I left it all the way back and the bottom of the hill ...I have to go all the way down and then run at it again.
Of course it is all the way back at the bottom of the hill. Now I am ticked off. But then again, I get to take a run at this hill again. Video link of taking on the dreaded asphalt ramp!
Home Jeeves, and a damage report
Back out of the park and back to civilization. I was too lazy to break out the compressor so I just took it easy till I got back to Maricopa and aired up there.
Cool run back east on the 166 toward Bakersfield and the 5 south. Waved at some guys on touring bikes blasting west. From there, headed back over the pass. Windy but not too crazy.
Home again, home again.
Damage. Bark busters and crash bars did their job. Little nick on the paint. Some scraping on the pegs. Brake lever is just fine. Mirrors collapsed the way they are supposed to. Double Take Mirrors makes a fine product that you can actually see out of. I have marked them with some Sharpie so when they get jarred I just realign them.
Overall an awesome trip!
Lessons learned. I could get away with just an alcohol stove instead of the heavy, liquid fuel Coleman I carry. But in the wind we had, I'm glad I had the monster BTU output that stays lit in the wind. Also obviously need more meat on the tires. Maybe a good tarp set up to hide in, in worse weather .
Other than that can't wait to hit the road again! See you on the highways. Ride safe and have a blast!
Big fun out there! :thumb
I was wondering about those horizontal stripes in the hills up there as well. You can see them all along to this coast as well. My guess is they are grazing animal trails. Lots of farmland with cattle out there. They just walk along and eat methodically in rows, making little packed level trails. That's just how I see it, not saying I'm right. Great write up.
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Nice ride report.
I need to get out there!
Looks like a great ride from LA, once I get a larger tank ill make my way up there :deal:freaky
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Great RR. One of my favorite places to ride in SoCal!
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