Desert Adventures

It’s summer in February here in Quartzsite. Temperatures have topped 80º the past few days. While it still cools off at night, I haven’t needed to run the heat. This is my kind of winter.

I have a dual-sport motorcycle. Jenn, who just got the vardo, has a Jeep. We both like exploring beyond the paved roads. So I took Jenn on an adventure to Kofa Queen Canyon. I’ve been there before, but Jenn hadn’t, so I led her down the “road” into the desert, and through the canyon.

Once the going got rough, I maintained a faster pace than Jenn. Being on two wheels, I need to maintain a certain forward velocity so that I don’t fall over. I can also pick my way through rocks and other obstacles, while Jenn had to drive over them. It was fine. I’d stop from time to time, wait for her to catch up, and take some pictures while I waited.

We went on a Thursday afternoon because I figured there would be more traffic on the weekends when I’ve gone before. Ironically, we ran into more oncoming traffic than I have on weekends, including two friendly rangers (I’d never seen a ranger out here before) and a squad of 15 side-by-sides. Since I’m on a bike, I tend to pull as far to the side as I can and let the larger four-wheeled vehicles by. It all worked out.

Our destination, once again, was Skull Rock. I figured we’d stop, check it out, turn around, and head back since the trail got much more difficult past there. Somehow I went right past Skull Rock and didn’t notice the trail getting more difficult. This is a good thing — it means I’m becoming a much better rider in loose gravel or rocky conditions. There are a few loose gravel sections on the trail between my camp and the center of Quartzsite, so I’ve gotten a lot of practice going into town and back. Since it’s known territory, I’m willing to pick up the speed and take more risks than I would on an unknown trail, because it’s really not that risky.

I didn’t realize I’d gone too far until I recognized the place where I dropped my bike on my last trip! Rather than tackle that obstacle again, I turned around. There was enough room for Jenn to turn around, too. We went back to Skull Rock, which I looked for more carefully this time, and explored a bit. We did not explore the nearby petroglyphs. I’ve seen them before, but I wasn’t scrambling up the side of the canyon in motocross boots, nor was Jenn in sandals. We did take the opportunity for a selfie, though.

It was a fun and uneventful journey. Both vehicles did great. I put my manual radiator fan override switch to good use, as I would’ve overheated easily without it, but with half an eye on my temperature gauge, I cycled the fan on and off myself to keep the engine happy. I do look forward to replacing the automatic switch once I’m able to (I’m not keen on dumping my coolant on federally protected land), but for now, this works.

Another adventure I had involved my awning, which lifted off and broke in a 40 mph wind the other day. The forecast only called for 5-10 mph winds. It was calm in the morning. I could’ve easily taken it down before the wind picked up if I’d known. With difficulty, I managed to put the damaged awning away despite the strong wind.

The next evening, when there was no wind at all, I managed to pop the connecting pins that had come out back where they belong. One of them snapped right back in. The other needed a bit of gaffer’s tape to stay in place. This morning I put it up in a light breeze, and it still works just fine, so I’ve managed to save it. While the sun is still too low in the sky for the awning to cast a shadow on the ground, it does cast a big shadow on the van itself. This helps keep it cool inside, now that it’s warm enough for that to matter.

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