The town of Nipton is that patch of buildings off to the left on the other side of the valley, about six miles away

Bicycle camping in and around Mojave National Preserve 2006

Day 5: Caruthers Canyon to Nipton

38.35 miles, 3:13 hrs, 25.7 mph max, 11.8 mph avg

Elevation: 5900 feet to 4400 to 4900 to 2700 to 3000

The miles of open space on the valley floor blurs by. I reach the very bottom and pedal around the bend, reaching Nipton Road after a few more miles. The sign says "Nipton: 7 miles," and I can see the town off in the distance.

Stop here at Nipton!

Much of Nipton Road is paved with a reddish pavement that one sees on a number of desert roads in the area. The various patches and repairs that have been done over the years add splashes of greyish-blue through nearly black, creating interesting patchwork patterns that could inspire a painter of abstract compositions.

After a slow two-mile rise out of the flat lands to just higher up, arrival at Nipton ends the day's bicycling.

I check in for a tent space and buy juice and beer, and roll my bike around the back of the property to choose a tent spot.

Two camper trailers are parked out there in the area where I set up camp last time I was here, but I don't feel like becoming sandwich filling between them.

One of them has two dogs outside, not on leashes, which decide to chase me because I'm on a bicycle as I ride past looking for a suitable tent site.

The commercial services at Nipton include, from left to right, a general store with laundry facilities at the rear, a café, and a nicely restored bed-and-breakfast lodge

A man and a woman waddle out of the trailer there to control their dogs, apparently annoyed that they've been pulled away from their favourite TV show. The woman tries hard to be polite and apologizes insincerely and I move on. The man speaks to the dogs, but not to me.

These people exemplify the ugly, non-wilderness side of camping and why I often stay away from campgrounds.

Wanting to stay away from these people and have some semblance of solitude, I move beyond the usual camping area and choose a site rather close to the train tracks behind a creosote bush for a tiny bit of early morning shade.

I position my tent so that I'm not visible to the trailer-trash folks. Fortunately, a tree in their area partly blocks their view as well.

My Nipton campsite by the creosote bushes is near the bathroom/shower quonset hut

The cafe at Nipton is still open, so order a homemade hamburger and fries, a meal that I almost never eat. The hamburger is thick and juicy and has a BBQ sauce on it and is nestled into a pita pocket with a thick slice of onion.

It's a lot warmer down here at the lower elevations than it was up in the mountains and I worked up a sticky sweat during the last 15 minutes of the ride. The beer I ordered with my hamburger goes down like water; could anything else be so refreshing?

I stay in my short pants tonight for the first time in a couple of nights. I do my laundry at Nipton's laundry room and write notes in my journal while I wait. I take a quick soak in the hot tub under the stars before I retire for the night.

A train blasts through "town" every now and then, making a big noise that would probably be annoying in an everyday situation, but it creates an interesting ambiance out here in the desert, since Nipton's reason to exist in the first place is largely due to the train line.

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