Riding the Mojave Trail Off-Road


By Karel Kramer, Photography by Karel Kramer

I also took the opportunity to ride one of the GDRT Honda CRF450X rentals. It was fully prepped with new tires, and it felt very tight and well maintained. I wouldn’t hesitate to choose one of these either.

Rested, fed and fueled, we headed for the Mojave Mail Box. This section is a fast and fun desert two-track that crosses ranges of desert mountains. The vistas extend as far as you can see, and we often saw LR and some of the faster riders’ dust trails miles ahead. We took a short break to let a desert tortoise walk across the trail, then continued to the famous mailbox. In the literal middle of nowhere there is an American flag on a pole, a box filled with mementos left by travelers and a book to sign your name in. We found it interesting that desert racing legend Dan Smith had been there the day before us—and we had with desert racing legend Larry Roeseler in tow. We continued to cover ground to Marl Springs, a remnant of a system of government watering holes that’s now a small oasis thanks to the well and windmill that pump water to the surface.

From there we headed into the Lanfair Valley. Lanfair has been cattle ranching country since the 1880s, and this striking area is forested with Joshua trees and wickedly spined cactus. The road is relatively easy to follow here: try to leave it and you get poked by sharp plants. The years of use have dropped the road bed below the surrounding desert in some sections, and the major turns are marked with rock cairns. Sections of this faster area have miles of whoops, but we easily maintained a good pace.

Soon, we left the Mojave Road for a sample of the sublime single-track razorback ridge trails in the mountains above Laughlin. Eventually those hooked up with a power line road descending steeply out of the mountains to town. We lingered for a minute near the top to take in the mighty Colorado before sprinting to the hotel casino for a shower and a hot meal. The mileage estimate for the day had been right on the money, but 170 miles still was plenty.

While it was still cool the next morning, we undertook a 70-mile loop around the Laughlin area. Highlights included Christmas Tree Pass, which is an especially fun way to eat up miles. The road is dirt, but wide enough for motor homes or semis to draft-pass. We didn’t mind since the scenery is spectacular; almost like the formations you’d expect in Utah’s Monument Valley, but on a smaller scale. After the Pass we had a grand time in the decomposed granite trails and rock outcrops common to the Laughlin area and home to the Dust in the Desert Laughlin Hare Scrambles team race each spring.

Our final run took us back up the power line road, through Christmas Tree Pass and off towards the Lake Mead Recreation Area. After dropping out of the mountains from the Pass, much of the ride was within sight of Lake Mojave, and we included one run down to park on the shore. Anderson was the only one game to jump in with his riding gear on. Finally, we met up with the truck, headed for the hotel and cleaned up for the Supercross.

Go Desert Riding Tours is a great way to completely experience a new, epic off-road ride with no stress at all. You don’t have any worries about finding your way, being supplied or being stranded. You do make your own sandwiches at lunch stops, but if you waited and sulked, somebody would make it for you. You or someone in your group not up to an off-road bike ride? GDRT also has small off-road buggies to handle non-riders who want to be part of the fun.

The Mojave is a radically varied place with much beauty that you’ll never see from a paved road. Despite hundreds of years of habitation, it remains a harsh and forbidding place for the unprepared, but going head-to-head with it and walking away unscathed is a great feeling. In the words of the Terminator: I’ll be back. me

Within minutes of turning away from the freeway the terrain changed to open sand corralled between eroded bluffs

Weapon of Choice: 2012 Beta 450 RR

Much of the route to Laughlin requires licensed machinery, so I arranged for a Beta 450 with a license plate. I requested the street legal RS model, but found that every one imported was already sold. Frankly, that didn’t surprise me; the Beta is a comfortable, strong-running bike that still uses a carburetor, and the reliability of its design is very attractive for a long ride through remote areas. The race-spec Beta 450 RR is identical in performance to the RS, and Beta supplied a Distributor plate that was fine for the tiny amount of pavement riding we did. Basically, we were on the street for about three blocks in Laughlin and about a mile on Highway 163 between the power line road and the start of Christmas Tree Pass. Beta blessed the 450 with a low seat height, a roomy and comfortable standing position, excellent suspension and fantastic power. The six-speed handled the ride just fine, but if I owned the bike I would have geared it a little higher to minimize engine rpm on the fast roads. Beta supplied an optional large fuel tank that wasn’t even noticeable while riding, but easily made the distances between fuel stops a breeze. As I expected, the bike never missed a beat. To find a Beta dealer see: www.americanbeta.com.

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