Saturday, April 25th: Gerry Elam of Phoenix, Arizona is a
motorcycle adventurer himself and a wonderful host to fellow travelers passing through. He
and his wife Sandy invited us to stay with them. Gerry also hosted another Kiwi and Chain
Gang friend of ours last year, Jeremy Andrews, who was treated to a dinner at
Hooters restaurant---- a real highlight of Jeremys trip Im sure! Besides
being into motorcycles and owning a BMW F650 Dakar, Gerry restores and owns three
While in Phoenix we had hoped to meet up with Al and Julie Jesse of Jesse Luggage. They have been very
supportive of us on this trip and we have had their aluminum panniers on our bikes the
whole trip. However they were off in Georgia for a motorcycle rally that week so we
decided to leave for a week and return again. So, after several restful days, and many
hours on the telephone trying to find an economical health insurance provider we bid
farewell to Gerry and Sandy and headed to Los Angeles.
Wed., April 30th: LA is about 400 miles from Phoenix. Just far enough for us
these days to look for a place to stop and break up the trip. Joshua Tree National Park in
California fit that bill perfectly. The ride west on I-10, into the wind, competing
with the massive 18-wheelers, and stopping every 40 miles to check my oil level made the
short ride more harrowing than expected. We knew my bike was in bad shape, losing
oil out of the airbox at an alarming rate. Eventually, as if things weren't bad
enough, one of my exhaust gaskets disintigrated, so my bike sounded like a loud 2-stroke
and even started to give ME a headache!
In the middle of nowhere off Interstate 10 on the way to Joshua Tree we stopped at a
rest stop which happens to be the home of the General Patton Museum. With army tanks
aplenty in the background we stopped to check my oil and find some provisions for the
night. The shop didn't have much to offer, so we picked up some basic provisions for
dinner along with 5 liters of water.
We arrived at the park at 4:30pm and found the visitor center closed for the day.
However, there is no gate and you are allowed to enter the park overnight for free. They
just collect the entrance fee from you when you leave in the morning. The sun was about 2
hours from setting as we drove the 30 plus miles into the heart of the park, and were awed
by the beautiful desert landscape and the pink and purple hues as the day was coming to an
end. Inside the park there are many free campgrounds which are clean, well situated,
and complete with nature trails.
After setting up our tent at the Skull Rock camping area, we still had just enough
daylight left to change Chris chain and sprockets. As the stars began to show
themselves in the crystal clear night, we threw on our heavy fleece sweaters and hats, and
hunkered down to a dinner of ham, salami, cheese sticks and pickles. Oh, did I mention
that we had started the Atkins diet while at Gerry and Sandys house? When we
had about all the protein we could take in one sitting, we both lay down on the picnic
bench and tried to spot constellations. That lasted about 15 minutes until it just got too
cold and we decided to jump into our sleeping bags to get warm. Although the campsite had
numerous RVs and other campers about, there was not a peep to be heard until
As happens when we camp, we were up with the sun at 6 am. Feeling energetic we took a
stroll along the nature walk established by the park rangers, with nature, plants and
geological formations sign posted and described in detail. As we were nearing the exit of
the park, we purchased our National Parks Pass ---- for just $50, Chris and I can get free
passage into all US national parks for a year. The pass is good for 2 persons,
either on 1 bike or 2. More info is available at www.nationalparks.org.