I want to run. I want to hide. I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside. -U2 Where the Streets Have No Name
©2014 Words by Jim Foreman Photos by Jim Foreman and Gina Cardenas.
DETAILS OF THE TRIP
Destination: Joshua Tree National Park
Round-trip Mileage: 365 Miles
Motorcycles Ridden: 2002 BMW K 1200 RS
Best time to go: Fall, Spring,Fun Factor: 10
Passenger Fun Factor: 8 (per Gina only because she got cold toward the end)
Natural Beauty Factor 1-10: (10 is best) 10
Cost to enter Joshua Tree National Park: $15
Cost of a National Park Annual Pass: $80.00
Number of times U2's songs will be in your head: ConstantlyMap Link: Google Maps
U2 was filming a video in Downtown Los Angeles. Several hundred students instantly disappeared for the day.
That video was none other than “Where The Streets Have No Name.” It was the leading track for “The Joshua Tree", U2’s fifth studio album. “The Joshua Tree” is considered, by many, to be among the greatest rock albums ever made. It was also the first time hearing of “Joshua Tree National Monument.” Curiously, The name of the album wasn't chosen until it was completely recorded and the album artwork was being photographed. Anton Corbijn, the photographer, mentioned to Bono to look over at a joshua tree and he said, "That's It!"
Another common misconception is that the Album cover was photographed in Joshua Tree National Park. It wasn’t. It was shot about 200 miles away near Darwin, CA. The tree itself, on the album, fell in 2000. A plaque sits there with the inscription, “Have you found what you were looking for?” in reference to the iconic song, “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, also on "The Joshua Tree." The fascinating story of the photo shoot and a great GS ride is found here.
The trek to Joshua Tree National Park originates at Irv Seaver BMW in Orange, CA. It doesn’t matter where one starts as there are only a couple of options heading east. Expediency reigned supreme, so Interstate 10 was the road chosen. One can bypass most of the interstates by heading south to Ortega Highway (CA 74) and following it out past Hemet and eventually dropping into the back end of Palm Springs. An overnight in Palm Springs is highly advisable, in that case.
As a motorcycle ride, Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP) is particularly interesting. Butler Motorcycle Maps rates most of the roads in and around JTNP as G-2 and G-3. While these are not the pulse-quickening G-1 roads, they remain very interesting and not a boring drone of straightness. Joshua Tree is also quite fun in a four-wheeler, too. Especially keen is a 4x4 as one can traverse some of the off-road paths listed in the NPS park guide. This particular trip was made more interesting because a passenger accompanied me. Gina Cardenas had asked me to take her on a ride, so I made her swear a ‘No-Complaining Oath.’ Gina was also outfitted in appropriate gear. To her credit, Gina was an excellent passenger. She leaned perfectly with me and was good company during the trip.
|Box Canyon Road|
The beginning of the fun starts in a little agriculture town of Mecca, CA. Mecca itself is of little importance. The 1966 film "The Wild Angels" starring Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra and Bruce Dern used the town as a primary filming location. "The Wild Angels" is creditied with starting the outlaw biker film movement. Now, Mecca is known for growing date palms, grapes and other seasonal fruits and vegetables. It is also the start of a fun little run known as Box Canyon.
Box Canyon is a pleasant indulgence that is well surfaced. It winds its way around some formations that makes for a pleasant curvy start. It’s nothing to go bonkers about, but it does keep one off the I-10. In this case, an overturned big rig caused miles of backup that we were completely oblivious to.
To get to Box Canyon, Veer south of I-10 at Hwy 86 in Indio. Yes, it can be a bit gusty, but nothing too bad. Follow 86 south until you reach 66th Ave. (Hwy 195 - It’s a big light). At that corner is a Starbucks Coffee if you require some fresh brewed caffeinated goodness. Follow 66th Avenue until it dead ends. Make a left and then an immediate right. At the roundabout take the first exit (south) and then make a left back on to 66th Ave. Whew! All that effort to cross some Railroad tracks. 66th Avenue becomes Box Canyon Road and eventually crosses I-10 and becomes Cottonwood Springs Road. Cottonwood Springs Road happens to be the only southern entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.
The main roads within Joshua Tree National Park make a ‘Y’ shape with one southern entrance and two northern entrances. One in 29 Palms and the other in the town of Joshua Tree, CA. There are several branches within the park including some 4x4 trails. The off-road trails go a long way to satisfying some dual-sport GS urges. Joshua Tree NP also features many excellent hiking trails and rock climbing opportunities.
Joshua Tree National Park became a National Park in 1994. From 1936, it was a National Monument. There is a fee to enter the park that currently stands at $15 per vehicle. In most cases, two motorcycles are covered in one fee. As you enter from the south, please stop into the Visitors Center and pay the admission fee. If you think you’re too smart and blow past this, they do ask to see your receipt as you exit the northern points, to verify you paid.
There are many, clearly marked exhibits for one to stop at, along the way. Ask a park ranger, at the Visitors Center, which ones are notable and worth exploring. In this case, Ranger Keith Flood pointed out some ‘don’t miss’ spots that weren’t even on the radar before talking to him. Keith is also a rider (V-Star 1300) and was extra helpful to us.
|Ranger Keith Flood|
There are scattered restrooms in JTNP, and a couple of them are flushing toilets at campsites, but that’s it. Nothing else. Even if it’s cool weather, bring water. It’s very dry. Many people die each year from dehydration.
The posted speed limit within JTNP is on the slower side. Fortunately, during the off season and on light days, there are few, if any, cars on the roads and one can go a little bit faster. Beware though, the scenery is quite beautiful. If you miss a corner, you may wind up in ocotillo, yucca or cholla as a reward. Cholla is the worst!
At the Visitors Center, the road name changes to Pinto Basin. It will lead northwest until it hits Park Blvd. In addition to heading northwest, you will be climbing in elevation. Wind gusts are also present. Typically no big deal, but be mindful of high wind warnings.
Traveling northwest on Pinto Basin Road is mostly the desert one expects to find in this region. Along the way will be the 'Cholla Garden' and several other turnouts for pictures and information about the vegetation. Fortunately the road twists and turns in wide sweepers to make riding fun and enjoyable.
Eventually, Pinto Basin Road will end at Park Blvd. If you’re wise, you’re probably looking at your fuel level or mileage by now. To get fuel, you’ll need to head to 29 Palms. It's not a bad idea as there is also an excellent Thai Vietnamese café called “Red Lotus.” Just head right (North) on Park Blvd and enjoy the awesome scenery until you leave JTNP. Don’t worry, your receipt grants you in and out privileges. Head north to Hwy 62 and make a left. Look to the left side for a “Circle K” and Chevron gas stations. Just a little further on the left will be Red Lotus.
Once fed and relieved, head back down the way you came and back into JTNP. You’ll experience an interesting phenomenon. The scenery looks quite different going the opposite direction.
Also as you rise in elevation, you see the flora change. It goes from ocotillo and Cholla to Joshua Trees and Yucca. There is something very impressive about the Joshua Trees. The Joshua Tree was named that by early Mormon settlers who felt the tree seemed to be raising it's arms in prayer to Heaven as the biblical prophet, Joshua. They do stake out a beauty all their own! As one returns down Park Blvd to the point of the ‘T’ Intersection from before, continue on through Park Blvd.
Though there were some interesting rock formations before, it will start to get denser from here. There will be many stops such as Skull Rock. Initially, it appeared as a large whale jumping skyward with its tongue sticking out, but once parked, the features of the skull from a different perspective becomes evident. There are great picture opportunities on both sides of the road. It's also a great place to drink some water.
Continuing, one will see some formations called “Hall of Horrors.” There’s also happens to be a restroom here. After witnessing a parade of rock climbers going to and from the rocks, it became evident how these formations were named. There’s a massive boulder that was split nearly perfectly in half that makes for fun pictures, too.
Press on until you reach Keys View Road. Make a left. The sign was a bit faded, but look for it a few minutes past the Hall of Horrors.
One branch off this road leads to the ruins of the Lost Horse Mine. This is a moderate 4 mile hike, roundtrip. The site has several foundations and a well-preserved stamp mill. The stamp mill itself is now gated due to recent vandalism. It’s still well-worth the journey.
|Keys View Overlook|
If you wish to see Big Horn Sheep, the best bet is Barker Dam. A sign indicating Barker Dam and Wall Street Mill is clearly visible, and both hiking trails originate from the same place. The trails range between 1 and 1.3 miles. Campsites are also available here and throughout Joshua Tree NP. Check the website for reservations and fees.
If hiking some of the trails appeals to you, consider camping or finding a hotel on Hwy 62 in 29 Palms or the town of Joshua Tree, so you can spend more time there.
Continuing northwest on Park Blvd will lead to the Western North Entrance of the park. As you show your receipt or annual pass, to leave, the road will lead you onto 29 Palms Highway (CA 62). Head west or left.
If it’s time for a recharge, there is a Starbucks Coffee and several fast food options. A supermarket is also here in this area. Once the caffeine is properly coursing through your veins again, there is one more fun little road one should experience.
Pioneertown originated as a movie set in the 1940’s. The old western structures were once real sets that doubled as homes for the actors and crew during filming.
To get to Pioneer town and a fun little loop, continue west on Hwy 62. There will be a major light indicating Hwy 247 (Old Woman Springs Road). Make a right and follow it north for a couple of miles.
Look for a weathered sign indicating Pioneertown and Pipes Canyon Road. Make a left onto Pipes Canyon Road. A few minutes into the loop, you may imagine a banjo playing an ominous tune and begin to wonder if you’ll ever make it out alive. Push aside those thoughts and continue until the road dead-ends. Make a left and follow the sign to Pioneer Town. If you have the time, do stop and explore this well-preserved movie set. It’s fun and a little ominous, but worth the experience. When finished, continue back to Hwy 62 and make a right.
|Chenoa and Jim Foreman at Willie Boy's Saloon|
This journey could be made in one day, but it would be a very long day. It’s better if you plan to stay the night in the area to fully enjoy the many interesting offerings along this ride.
Many thanks to Irv Seaver BMW Motorcycles in Orange, CA for sponsoring these ride destinations. Do stop in to see their huge new and pre-owned selection of BMW motorcycles, apparel, and parts.
|South Entrance Visitors Center|
|Willie Boy's Saloon on Hwy 62|
|Gina Cardenas playing legos with the rocks.|
|Gina near the Hall of Horrors.|
|Always Making Friends|
|Near Skull Rock|
|Amazing sunset on the way home.|