Every now and then I run across some entries in my trip logs that recall a really great time for me, and this is one of them. Lets go back to February 19, 20, and 21` of 1983. I haven’t told you about our different camp sites in the Ogilby California region for a while.
As usual, I got up at the terrible hour of 1:00 AM, and threw a bunch of supplies in the back of the camper, along with my motorcycle, and it’s special box of goodies. That done, I pulled out of my Whittier California driveway at 3:30 AM and headed south to San Diego to meet up with Larry, my fellow desert aficionado at his house. I love driving the freeways in southern California at that hour. The drunks are all in bed and if the fog hasn’t come in, you can see forever.
I arrived in San Diego at 6:00 AM, and topped off the dual gas tanks on my truck, thence to Larry’s house. He was waiting with all his gear in his own camper truck. So, we caravanned to an all-night restaurant for breakfast. After breakfast, we headed onto Interstate 8 east. One of my favorite routes, I-8 took us up into the mountains of eastern San Diego County, and then down rapidly to the Colorado Desert where we would be all the way to the Colorado River. We stopped for lunch in El Centro at one of the many fast food ‘burger places. It was a good place to top off the vehicles fuel tanks again.
Much of the farm land throughout this area benefits from easy access to Colorado River water guided to the various farms using a system of irrigation ditches and “gates” to meter the water for growing a number of crops from sugar beets to alfalfa.
Back on I-8, we continued east through more farms and out onto the open desert. Shortly we passed through the sand dunes, and crossed the All American Canal to exit north on county hiway S-34 to Ogilby and the gold mines in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains.
We rolled along, the road rising and falling as it crossed flash-flood runoff drainage. S-34 makes a dogleg to the northwest. We would be on our favorite camp site in minutes. Pulling off the hiway, we drove onto the “desert pavement” of small dark-colored rocks and gravel created by winds and rainstorms.
Our markers were still in place despite the passage of five years time since we were last there. Also, there was another camper on an adjacent pavement area, quite close, so we drove in and looped back out to S-34 and scouted out a more remote
camping site. Driving up the road a little ways, we found a great new site which we labeled Ogilby Camp # 3. We had arrived. 12 noon. 76 degrees. After positioning our trucks to take advantage of the morning sun, we unloaded the motorcycles, and prepared them for our adventures.
We donned our day packs, canteens, and helmets, and headed over to the power line road east of us. Riding the utility corridors is a lot of fun as they follow the land, dips, rises, and all. Often desert pavement roads lead off from the dirt corridors.
A little added spice half way thru our north and south run, the throttle stuck open and I had to control the dual-purpose motorcycle with the engine “kill switch”. After a mile or so the throttle cable freed itself and we returned enthused about our new Ogilby camp. The temperature had dropped to 72 degrees. We had covered 16 miles.
Larry built a fire ring while I lubed the clutch, front brake, and throttle cables on my motorcycle. I didn’t want any more surprises tomorrow. Supper, the first day out is generally snacks and wine as we had a hearty lunch in El Centro. The sun set in all it’s blazing glory; really stunning! I took a couple of pictures. Once the sun goes down on the desert the temperature can drop 40 degrees in as many minutes, so we lit our fake fire log and sat around it until 10:30 PM. 52 degrees, and no wind. Bed time.
Sunday, the 20th. It was still 52 degrees, but the sun was rising and warming my camper. Larry had the water boiling, and I dug out one of the freeze-dried noodle soups in it’s insulated cup and made a cup of decafinated coffee, and unpacked a couple of mini-donuts.
Breakfast over, we checked our motorcycle’s oil, topped off the gas tanks, reset the odometers, and after securing the camp, donned our day packs, and we were off to continue our explorations. I should mention that I carry the topographic maps for the day, rolled up in an aluminum fishing pole case strapped to the “luggage rack” on my bike. This was before the days of the GPS locators. We did it the old fashioned way with compass bearings from several prominent geological features.
Our plans called for detailed checking north of our new camp, as well as west and east of the Blythe-Ogilby road. We were never far from the really impressive Chocolate Mountains or the equally impressive Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range to our west. Around noon we headed back to our camp for lunch and to fill our gas tanks again. It was 72 degrees, very pleasant. After lunch and a short rest, we went south down to the Indian Pass dirt road, which turns into Gauilan Wash and east to the Colorado River. We paused to take a few pictures, then continued north over a terrible, but very scenic road along the Colorado River to Julian Wash.
Julian Wash was then a 4-wheel-drive, motorcycles, or dune buggy road going west through some of the most scenic and spectacular country I had ever seen. Choking with smoke trees and climbing, falling, twisting, and turning, in a very narrow drainage.
It truly was a very physically demanding ride. Often I’d get set in the wash to go forward only to find in the next ten feet the “road” made a hard left turn simultaneously making a 45 degree leap up and out of the wash!! I would never forget that ride.
My arms and shoulders ached! I yearned for the torture to end, while trying to look at the trees, bushes, cactus, and rocks! The wait-a-minute bushes grabbed and ripped at our clothes as well. I am not that proficient an off-road motorcyclist and I was really wrung out to dry. Larry is a natural on this terrain! I’ve yet to see him fall off his machine!
We next paralleled the long high ridge of Black Mountain with all its television and communications stations on it’s peak. Julian Wash connected at last to the paved road up Black Mountain. We had been up that road to the top in 1975. Just a few more miles brought us to the hiway. Going south was like riding on a comfortable chair.
It was 3:30 PM, when we rolled into Ogilby camp #3!! I staggered to my camper, unlocked the door and grabbed an ice-cold-beer from the cooler. It was all I could do to keep from gulping it down. Despite our ordeal, we hoped to get back to that area in a comfy dune buggy with lots of cameras and film. Truly a unique area, yet to this day, we haven’t gone back to it.
Supper was Chow Mein with tuna over crispy dry noodles and wine. To top off the day, we had a campfire and a half-moon shining down on us. We had ridden 97 miles that day!
The next day we moved camp to the Ogilby Hills.
Monday, the 21st. The last day dawned with a slight wind and 65 degrees outside the camper. After our usual breakfast, we completely packed up our camp and at 9:45 AM headed west over the desert pavement to the hiway and south to Sidewinder road, located at the bottom of the Cargo Muchacho Mountains and north of the small clump of Ogilby Hills. Again we set up a smaller camp just south of the road on the desert pavement, and off-loaded our motorcycles.
After the previous day’s 97 mile ’romp’, both of our motorcycles needed oil as well as gasoline and drive-chain adjusting. That taken care of, we followed Sidewinder road east until we met a utility corridor. We followed the corridor road southeast for a mile where the dirt road from Jackson Gulch led us north into a heavy group of mines in the gulch alongside Pasadena Mountain.
Unfortunately, the bike threw me in a difficult location, and I hit my left leg on the same place as years before. It swelled up like a walnut, so we returned to camp where I dressed it, drank some beer, and leisurely loaded the motorcycle trailer and the truck. No more riding that day.
We left the camp site at 4:30 PM, and headed back to San Diego, stopping for a shrimp dinner in an El Centro ‘burger place. We arrived at Larry’s house around 8:30 PM. I helped unload Larry’s trailer and then I headed up the freeway to Whittier. It had been a good trip; some belly plants were out, Ocotillo were green with some blooms, as well as beaver-tail cactus.
A note about the lack of photographs that normally accompany these narratives-
I have misplaced a whole batch of pictures, a problem with us “elderly” folks. I hope I can find them soon. I hope you still enjoyed our adventure. See you next month.