Thursday, October 10, 2013

Delayed Dash to the Memorials


     2011.  I had just moved back to California and was interested in getting into some dual sporting around here.  I stumbled across the District 37 AMA website and saw the Los Coyotes Dash to the Memorials ride to happen the following weekend.  Unfortunately funds were tight and logistics was a problem so I was unable to go.  However some awesome rider posted a GPS track of the ride so today my dad and I made the trip.  68 degrees, mildly damp soil with ZERO dust, 121 miles, 4 memorials, and nobody on the trail but the two of us.

     Scattered showers yesterday left the desert in an ideal condition for desert exploration.  As anyone that rides SoCal will tell you, once you manage to find a riding area that hasn't been closed by the green movement, you're going to have a lot of sand and even more dust.  I can't say we avoided the ever-present sand, but the mild rain meant almost no dust all day.

     Morning was a bit cool at 37 degrees as we setup for our ride at the Cuddleback staging area.  We'd left home at 5:30am hoping to get an early start but this was a bit cooler weather than we'd hoped to ride in.  Thankfully we managed enough layers to stay fairly comfortable until the temperature climbed over the next hour.

     This was my dad's 1st taste of sand in 45 years and he had two crashes within about 100 yards of one another.  I was a bit concerned that our day would end before it began but he kept on and those crashes were the only ones he had all day.

     After about an hour we arrived at the Husky Monument - a small patch of desert that has become a place to remember riders that have passed on over the years.  As I saw the words left by loved ones, the trinkets, the solar garden lights, the custom painted gas tank, the numerous handlebars and sprockets, the helmet cemented into a vault, the plastic stripper hanging off of a flag pole, and the empty Jack Daniels bottle, I couldn't help but think of all the people that think off-roaders are just dirty rednecks out trying to pollute and smash every living thing in the desert.  To those people I say go to this monument.  See past the brashness of the airbrushed middle finger and see that riding the desert isn't about the exploitation of the environment.  Its about families.  People brought these items to this location to honor and remember a loved one that loved riding the desert.  One death does not end a legacy of desert riding.  Their friends and family, whom with they shared countless lies over a dying fire continue to ride, and visit this place to remember those that are no longer with them on the trail.  We're not Nitro Circus out here, we're just normal folks that enjoy spending time camping and riding wide open spaces with the people we love.  I felt lucky to be able to visit this place for the first time with my dad.

     My dad was thoughtful enough to bring a small token to leave as respect for those that are no longer with us.

     Back on the trail, it was a long trek to our second destination - the XB-70 memorial, followed immediately by the crash site of the F-104.  These planes suffered a mid-air collision in 1966 while flying in formation for a publicity photograph for G.E.  We had a bit of trouble finding the XB-70 memorial using the GPS coordinates I'd found online, but managed once we extended our search beyond where it was "supposed" to be.

Twenty minutes of deep sandy whoops and we made it to the crash site of the F-104.

     Leaving here, we had a quick and uneventful trip down into Hinkley where we stopped for gas and a couple sandwiches.

     After that, it was another quick shot out some powerline roads, followed by jeep track until we came upon the crash site for the B-1a.  This crash occurred in 1984, and unlike the 2009 F-22 Raptor crash site, the USAF didn't spoil the historical significance of an impact zone by trying (quite poorly I might add) to erase it from the desert.  An area the size of a couple large houses is dotted with melted and burnt debris.  Pieces of fiberglass and carbon fiber flap in the wind, next to bent chunks of riveted aluminum.  The whole impact area is black and grey with ash, and at the center a lonely cairn stands for the pilot that lost his life when his ejection capsule malfunctioned during a low altitude maneuver.

     From here it was a tired and spirited jaunt back to the truck cruising across the desert at 45mph.  As I rode I thought about the things I've seen from the back of a motorcycle.  Sure you could probably take a 2WD car to these sites, but most people wouldn't.  You could hike there, or mountain bike, but you'd spend all day getting to just one location and back, and be exhausted for your effort.  We managed to see all four, and explore some truly beautiful back country, all for about $20 worth of gas.

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