Slowly rolling hills along the Mojave Road as it descends from the powerline road toward Aiken Mine Road

Bicycle camping in and around Mojave National Preserve 2006

Day 12: Marl Springs to Baker

29.9 miles, 2:45 hrs, 21.2 mph max, 10.8 mph avg

Elevation: 4100 feet to 4550 to 923

I enter mountain-biking mode as the Mojave Road pulls me along its slow westward downhill toward Baker. I'm excited that the road is somewhat firm under the rocks and sand on the surface.

A long, straight segment of the Mojave Road

This part of the Mojave Road runs more or less parallel to Kelbaker Road, which I can't see from here, even though it's only about five or six miles away off to my left. The two roads slowly get closer and closer to each other until they cross each other some 12 miles ahead.

While riding on Kelbaker Road in the past, I've looked out toward this area, wondering where exactly the Mojave Road might be. Now I know. I'm really enjoying this new perspective amidst occasional joshua trees—one of the highlights of my trip.

The road is getting sandier, which is adding to the fun, for now at least. As I ski onward, the hiss of my tires plowing through a thin layer of sand surrounds my ears. I skid here and there and come to a stop once in a while to regain control.

A rough spot on the Mojave Road

The two-tire-track road is not all that wide, and it is really important that I not brush up against any of the cholla cacti that grow along the edge of the road in places!

Sometimes, one tire track is much sandier than the other, so I switch sides to ride on the less sandy one. Occasional rutting and rocks keep the road interesting. The constant presence of sand makes this road a somewhat different experience compared to the usual mountain-biking trails and fire roads in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Even though I'm still riding downhill, the sand drags the bike down, and significant pedalling is required to keep going. Even then, I'm only reaching speeds of 7-14 miles per hour along here, depending on conditions.

Sometimes along here I'm more focused on the demands of riding and I'm not noticing the views around me as much as I might like. This is so much fun that I'm surprised to see that I'm arriving at my next break stop already—the "Mojave Road mailbox."

I sign the guest book at the Mojave Road mailbox

It's odd to find this dedicated sign of civilization out here in the middle of nowhere, where only the privileged and initiated would ever find it. It was installed here in the early 1980s by volunteers who are promotng the Mojave Road.

The mailbox and the post to which it's mounted are heavily decorated with bumper stickers, many from recreational vehicle clubs and political organizations.

As you might expect during wartime, an American flag is also mounted here, just in case you forgot which country you are in.

The mailbox contains a guest book, pens, business cards as well as a few other items left behind by travelers. Someone even left a cigarette in here!

The Mojave Road mailbox

I sign the guest book and wonder how many bicyclists pass by here. I doubt that there are many, but I presume that there are others because I see one bicycle-oriented bumper sticker stuck to the post. Judging by the guest book, maybe a dozen or two people come by here each week.

I leave my two propane bottles here for whomever might need them. One is low on fuel and the other is full. I'm not allowed to take these on my Amtrak trip tomorrow, so I have to get rid of them. I'm happy that I don't have to waste this fuel, since it should prove useful to someone.

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