Our good friend and avid ADV rider Will Drummond is back with another one of his wild ride blogs! This time he takes us along for the 2018 LA Barstow to Vegas dual-sport ride. Let’s pack up and set out with Will on one of the best rides you can do on the West coast!
- Location Palmdale, CA
- Weather, Crisp 58 Degrees light breeze
In the twilight of the morning after Thanksgiving. I ride into Palmdale Supercycles for the 2018 LA Barstow to Vegas Dual Sport ride. I ride thru tech inspection the official checks for spark arrestor and street legal items of my bike. Getting a hand stamp to shows the bike passed tech inspection. I meet up with Rescue 3. Rescue 3 is the organization that offers first responders to off road events. Rescue 3 coordinates the sweep crews for the LA Barstow to Vegas ride.
This year I volunteered to riding with the sweep team again. We get our roll charts loaded and gear sorted. The ride this year I’m riding with Dennis and Garrett who I rode sweep with last year. Andy who is the sweep leader has us set to ride Mid sweep. Andy broke up the riders into 5 teams; front sweep, mid front sweep, mid sweep, rear sweep and tail sweep. This can and most likely does change during the ride, when you ride sweep you have to stay in a fluid state with the ride. Our team is originally set out to leave at 7:30am but the line to get registration packet took a little long which put the riders behind to get out of the gate.
As the parking lot clears we head out the gate just after 8:00am. Riding north out of Palmdale and through Lancaster. Crossing some railroad tracks we catch a dirt road heading North. The dirt road is wide has surprising potholes and ruts while trying to dodging trash piles in the dust. Going across a paved road the route sends us down a fun 2 track trail with a couple jumps and drops. Getting warmed up finding the flow to make our way through the slower riders railing the banked corners. We approach a winding loose uphill going up and over with ease.
Regrouping with my team on the other side we press on. T the course turns sandy with spread out whoop sections, the sections consist of about 10 whoops each flattening out for about a quarter mile then you hit the next whoop section. This ends at a paved road after a few miles. Following the GPS we head down the pavement for about a mile, hanging a right down a dirt road neighborhood. We slow down trying to keep the dust down in respect for the residents. The route has us take a dirt road into the desert. Winding through the desert we come up to another little hill, this time there is a rider down. Getting off the course we get to the rider, he has injured his leg. Stabilizing the rider and clearing his bike off the course we call it into Andy the sweep leader. Andy organized getting a sweep truck to us to extract the rider and the bike. Just a short wait the sweep truck comes we load the bike and rider into the truck.
We jump back on course coming to some train tracks we ride parallel to them. We find a rider by himself changing a tube. The rider had the tube in but his electric pump failed and he didn’t have a backup. Helping the rider I let him use my mountain bike pump I carry in my vest. Aiding the rider mounting the wheel back on. The rider rides with us into the first fuel stop / checkpoint in California City. The route going into California City was fast sandy trails. Getting into California City we top off with fuel check in hit the trail. Heading over the 14 we catch a wide single track trail heading North.
Gaining speed to catch up to the rest of the ride the XR650L makes the miles fly by through the sandy whoops and washouts. We reach the Jaw bone store then head on to the highway for a short run to mesquite canyon. Getting back into the dirt we head up the single lane dirt road with sweeping banked corners. After a few miles the course has us turn onto a two track trail that gains elevation. Towards the top we find another sweep crew helping an injured rider. The sweep crew with the rider has the situation handled we ride on.
Coming up to a steep rough down hill. Picking our way down the hill taking a breather on a flat spot in the middle then taking on the rest of the descent. At the bottom of the hill we find a group of riders. One of the riders is claiming his clutch is broken. The bikes they are on are rentals. I look the bike over fiddle with the clutch lever adjuster and it works. Sending the riders on there way. Just a short distance later we find a rider on a Yamaha 250 having trouble riding. He lost his confidence after a couple spills and not feeling comfortable in the terrain.
His riding partner is on a vintage Triumph. Dennis rides the Yamaha for the rider down and up a rocky wash. We are running out of time and we don’t leave anyone behind. Aiding the riders to keep moving we get them to the highway and have them take the highway into Johanasburg where the lunch and second checkpoint are. We take the course heading down a wide fairly graded dirt road coming across a few UTV’s and quads out on a holiday ride. After some quick dirt miles we are on the highway into Johanasburg.
Coming into Johanasburg we meet up with my amazing wife who bought us Carl’s Jr from the Carl’s Jr truck organized by District 37 to be there for lunch to support the riders. Eating lunch quick we run to grab fuel and continue on course. The trail is a single lane dirt road starting out as rocky hard pack turning to Sandy whoops. We come to a Crossroads with a gentleman in a truck out spectating the ride, he is a AMA desert racer listening to the race radios. As we stop to say hi 2 riders are heading backward from the course.
The riders pull up and one of the bikes is leaking coolant from the radiator. It’s a father and son they add some water to the radiator provided by the spectating desert racer. The father and son team take the Cross road to the highway and into Barstow. The XR hesitates a little starting up, we press on as the sun is getting lower in the sky. Getting through about 20 miles of sandy whoop, the trail comes to a T. At the T the course gives us the option to go to the Husky monument. Deciding to check out the Husky Monument. The ride is less than 2 miles to the monument. Taking in the hallowed ground that is the Husky Monument. If you haven’t been added it to your list of places to see.
A group of riders comes riding up, they say they have been to the monument twice and are lost. I show them to way back on course and tell them we will be coming up behind them. I go to start the XR and she hesitates again this time being even harder to start then the last time. Getting the bike fired up we ride on as the darkness is coming. The course winds through the desert into a sandy wash. Our route has us head out of the wash and up a few Rocky Hill climbs, it is dark now. Dropping down into some flats and back up another set of rocky climbs. We come up to 2 riders on BMW GS’s the riders have given up stating they can’t make it any farther.
As we stop to get there info Dennis let’s me know he talked to a car down in the flats that said there was a rider down off course, but there were people with him. I climb up the hill to get cell service. Contacting Andy to let him know the riders status. He asks us to locate the injured off course rider and there was another truck sweep heading the other direction to look for the rider. Trying to start the XR it doesn’t want to start. I start to get frustrated, give it another try she fires we head backwards on course. Another sweep crew approaches. Dennis tells them the situation of the injured ride off course. Since my bike is giving me problems. Deciding I need to get to Bartow as quick as I can without shutting off the bike we continue on course I make quick work of the trail.
I spot a truck heading up course it is the sweep truck we thought was coming for the injured rider from the other side. I stop to talk with the sweep truck to help coordinate how to find a route to the injured rider, shutting my bike off. Trying to relay with Andy our location and what we know of a route into the location injured rider. We realize we can’t help from our location. I try to start the XR and she won’t fire.
Getting moving again we head into Barstow to the Ramada Inn. Unload my bike and check in getting our day 2 roll charts and GPS routes. Now time to figure out what’s wrong with the XR. First thing we do is check for spark, spark is good then I check the valves. Turns out one of my exhaust valves was staying open / no gap. Not having a feeler Gage with me my buddy goes to try and find an open auto parts store. No luck all the stores are closed. We decide a razor blade was close for the gap I would need. My friend finds some razor blades, we try to bend it to make it fit under the tappet. I’m about to set it and the razor blade snaps. A piece falls into the valve train. I get depressed about giving up on trying to ride tomorrow.
My friend runs to Walmart to find a pencil magnet. He returns I give it a shot fishing for the broken piece of the razor and by dumb
Stay tuned for Will’s day 2 blog of the 2018 LA Barstow to Vegas ride!