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a few small misadventures in the mojave desert

By morning the constant stream of cars has been replaced by a constant stream of trucks. It is time to flee. Without having any idea what to expect I head towards the Mojave National Preserve – I haven’t had enough of the desert yet.

The desert, as always contains surprises.

My first thought was that this sign had to be a joke but apparently it is not. An endangered species of desert tortoise is a resident of the Mojave Desert.

My first thought was that this sign had to be a joke but, apparently, it is not. An endangered species of desert tortoise is a resident of the Mojave Desert.

I ride to Kelso where, disappointingly, there is absolutely no food of any kind to be had – I’d fled Baker so quickly I neglected to restock my food pannier, which is on the bare side. One of the rangers at the information office gives me a couple of granola bars along with maps of the area and another man also takes pity on me and gives me a slice of cold pizza and an apple. Slightly fortified I go to strike out into the desert again only to discover that I have lost one of my four litre water bags somewhere en route.

Eventually, a little flustered, I set off to a campsite 35 miles away climbing high enough to enter Joshua tree forest again.

I love these trees!

I love these trees!

Amazing!

Amazing!

This roadside plant caught my attention, too. Gold stars on a silver bush - beautiful.

This roadside plant caught my attention, too. Gold stars on a silver bush - beautiful.

I get caught out after dark before I reach my destination. This time there is no moon to help me and I discover that I’ve have also lost my brand new head-lamp. I ride five miles in utter darkness along a corrugated sandy track. As I skid and slide into unseen pits of deep gravel, I curse and swear. Five miles can seem a very long way. At one point I have the urge to cry and I even stop, not far from the unseen campground, to call for help but there is nobody there. I finally stumble my way into the pitch black campground and put up my tent automatically in the dark and then cook up a meal by the light of a cigarette lighter.

More desert sunsets. A mile or so down the road, I discover that my new head lamp is missing.

Another desert sunset. A mile or so down the road, I discover that my new head lamp is missing, possibly it fell unnoticed out of my handle-bar bag during this sunset photo stop.

In the morning, I return to the turn-off to the campsite where I stopped at sunset to take photos and I hope to find the missing head-lamp. As I am riding, my frayed gear cable gives way. I push on to the junction where I am disappointed by the absence of my light and address myself to the gear cable dilemma. I unpack my tools and spares by the side of the road.

Two cars pass without a glance as I work on my bike but a group of motor-cyclists stop. They offer me beer and cold pizza and hold my bike while I make adjustments. One of the men offers to ride all the way back to the main road to look for my head-lamp. He returns after an unsuccessful search but gives me small Mag light he has in his bag as a substitute.

These guys stopped to offer help when they saw me working on my bike. Two cars had already passed without a glance; I think that's very bad manners out in the desert.

These guys were gallant enough to stop to offer help when they saw me working on my bike. Two cars had already passed without a glance; I think that's very bad manners out in the desert.

With my bike back in order I continue through the desert. The Mojave Desert has much more diverse vegetation than Death Valley. As the elevation drops somewhat I discover more species of cactii exist than I ever could have imagined. I can camp where-ever I please here but pushing my bike off the road requires some care as I discovered to my cost after an incident which required me to get out my tool kit to find my needle-nosed pliers to extract two thorns deeply embedded in my foot following a moment of careless contact.

Don't mess with these plants - those spikes are savage.

Don't mess with these plants - those spines are savage.

More spikiness.

More spikiness...

And more.

... and yet more.

These are my favourites.

But these are my favourites.

Monumental!

Monumental!

I am fascinated by the internal structure of these plants.

I am fascinated by the internal structure of these plants.

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