Monday, February 19, 2007


Clouds may have silver linings, but deserts have ... something else.

Having a (very) short software meeting in Henderson, NV afforded me to scout a trail I've been meaning to check for sometime. Ironic traveling well over 600 miles for a 3-hour meeting, but if it serves a purpose why not? However ... if (at least) the first half of that ride is in blinding rain, that may provide a reason to ... not. The weather report said it was going to be raining on Monday, but living in southern California causes one to be generally skeptical about such predictions. "Dangerous driving conditions" read: overcast - that sort of thing. Sure enough, loading the bike up in the dark of the pre-dawn seemed to validate that theory - not a star out (cloudy) and very windy, but no rain. To be safe, I wrapped everything up in plastic bags before packing (laptop, clothes, notebooks...), but wasn't expecting much weather.

Bike warming up & ready to go:

The first 20 minutes of the ride were pretty nice ... until I reached the freeway. Then the rain started. "Every cloud has a silver lining" ... well maybe. But silver or not, the lining on these clouds was made of water. The Red Bull enduro-type jacket is NOT a rain jacket. I wasn't 30 minutes from home when the rain was coming down is sheets. Thick sheets. More like blocks. Visibility got to near zero, traffic was relatively light at that hour but slowed to a crawl. When I could feel the drops penetrating through my jacket, sweatshirt, riding jersey, t-shirt, and tanktop, I figured it was time to pull over & do something. Not a moment too soon, traffic was moving extremely slow at that point & another 50 yards up I could see why ... there was a small (but dedicated based on the amount of debris) group playing bumpercars on the 91 just up ahead.

After pulling off, I pulled out the rain gear from the backpack. Most effective raingear I've ever purchased - 55-gallon trash bags. Completely water/windproof, highly customizable fit, extremely easy to pack, and very inexpensive. I carved one up into a jersey & placed it under all the wet gear & over the dryest...ish layer I had on. Back on the road. Scratch that, back into the river. The whole time I had been pulled off the rain just came down harder & harder ... cloudburst. Pulling onto the freeway (diving into the freeway?) forced you to make quick assessments of weather or not the water in the slow lane would go over the hubs or not...

Raingear prep station:

Back on the road the visibility was really gnarly for a while, then improved noticeably. Still raining, but just rain. By the time Barstow came around however, I was a rolling sponge. Good time to find a truck stop, grab some breakfast & return a few calls while clothes & gloves spent some time in a dryer. Heck, I was tempted to crawl in the thing.

The JBM Barstow Field office:

The title mentioned cloud/desert linings ... despite the rain, after getting everything dried out, once back on the road it was really nice for a while. Still raining, but not very cold - downright nice with dry clothes again - and the desert really lets you know you're in the desert when it gets like this - 300 miles of intensely dramatic cloud cover over a vast open landscape perfumed with desert sage - think of riding to Mordor minus the Nazgul & with potpourri instead of burning sulfur...

The intended route took a detour here ... the original plan was to hit the dirt in the high desert & follow trails over to the destination in Nevada. The rain being what it was, I opted to avoid tackling the flash-floods on my own. Water could be seen flowing just off the freeway in spots! Just in case I pulled off the freeway to check the intended route & there was two clear paths set before me ... to the left was a black, streaked, foreboding sky with a strip of mud leading to a solo flight through an unknown path over the rain-soaked mountains ... and to the right, a rainy freeway.

Call it what you will ... I went right.

But hey ... I learned something new because of it. Crows know how to write in Nevada. They even tag gas station-rest stops.

The last 50-70 miles was great - black sky, but little rain. It eased up to the point that the outer jacket layer dried out a bit, & offered some wind protection for the inner layers once dry ... funny that you can actually feel things warming up in spite of the fact you're just riding longer. Finding the place was a snap - and they even had covered motorcycle parking! Pulled the bike in, and just after I snapped this pic, the sky opened up again...

The weather out here isn't showing any signs of letting up just yet, but the report shows sunny for tomorrow & partly cloudy for Wednesday. Given the schedule of the meetings, I'll probably give the trail a shot, in reverse, on Wednesday & hopefully have some brighter photos...