Where to begin...
We left the rain and cold in our trusty Gas Gas Sport with bikes in tow and headed south, way south to sunny CA early Saturday morning. Met Gene & Jon at a rest area along I-5 and the caravan was on its way. Then we drove, and drove, stopped to fill the tanks and drove some more (repeat this several more times!). I actually slept quite a bit and when I wasn't sleeping the scenery was interesting to watch. They have trees with oranges growing on them just like the commercials. We did have to make a short detour to a local emergency room as it turns out I’m allergic to penicillin but the doc got me all fixed up and the boy’s caught up on some much needed sleep.
OK, let’s skip all that and get to the fun stuff, the riding… The variety of riding was amazing. If you wanted wide open, it was there, single track was all over, rocky high ridges, steep technical high climbs or gentle rolling plains, and you could find it. If you’re a bit loony and can’t get enough whoops or deep sand or god forbid both together, there was plenty of that too. The great news…whatever your destination you can pretty much choose your terrain to get there, if you know the way.
Lucky for us we had Gene to lead the way. I think this was his 10th trip and he made for an excellent tour guide. Each day he planned a completely different experience for us. There were 5 other local’s there camping at Spangler Hills with us and we had fun sharing the campsite and riding with Gene’s long time buddy Allen and several of his fireman friends.
Monday was the first full ride. We all took off and to explore the desert. Hit some open brushy trails and small hill climbs. Ran into a marked trial for an upcoming scramble and followed that for a while. This led us through a small section of giant car sized boulders and in one section you had to stop to turn your bike and weave through. Can’t imagine the pile up that section will have during the race! I think we rode about 50 miles and I called it a day. This was my 1st ride since October of last year and I was still a bit drained from all the meds I was on but it felt great to be riding again. The boy’s headed out for another 20 mile loop and then we all retired to the campfire and listened to fireman stories.
Tuesday Gene was a bit under the weather so Jon, Roscoe & I decided to make a day of following the marked trail. The well marked trail kept us from getting lost without our trusty leader. The whole ride was a blast but one section in particular was great fun. It was a weavy smooth section that rolled up and down the hills, appeared that just us and the course makers were the only ones to ever travel this path as the grass was still prominent. We saw several lizards ranging in size from 2-18 inches along the way and Jon saw a coyote or fox. We went through this technical flash flood ravine section and right around here is where I saw a nice variety of cactus including a cool red one. We returned to camp after 50 or so miles and the boy’s headed out for another short ride with the firemen, then we retired to the campfire and listened to more crazy firemen stories.
Wednesday was the big ride to Randsberg, an old ghost town up the mountains above the desert floor. The whole group (less one novice KDX rider) took off and headed to the big hill climb area past the C trails. Roscoe had a blast on the hills and could have stayed here all day. Some were so tall and loose many a rider failed to apex them. There was one Roscoe went up that came to a tiny peak barely wide enough to stop up on. It gave him the willies. We continued on and split into 2 groups along the way.
Riding into Randsberg was awesome, paved road with houses here and there, nothing I’ve every experienced on a dirt bike before. We pulled up next to the saloon and parked our bikes, then headed into the mercantile for lunch. It was a weekday so we basically had the whole place to ourselves. We picked up a few souvenirs and headed back to camp along a different route. This lead us to the highest point around, where the radio towers are located. Next we came to a section that started climbing up rocky ledges, up we went pausing now and then to check out the scenery. Roscoe came upon a particularly tough section and decide it may be getting too risky for me ahead so we all turned around to find a different route. I was following Gene now and down the hill we went. All of a sudden I noticed it was getting steeper and the trail was covered in loose shale and there was no way I was going to be able to stop. I screamed 1/2 the way down but managed a clean ride and from above I guess I looked like I knew what I was doing. That was my biggest downhill ever.
We kept riding and came upon some big and long whooped out sand sections. If you weren’t tired already you were now. The DRZ and sand just don’t really go well together. Back at camp we said goodbye to Spangler Hills as we packed up and headed off for new destination.
The drive to Dove Springs was beautiful. Red rock canyons lined the road and seeing the ominous flash flood ditches was impressive. We arrived at the open riding area and the wind was really picking up. We drove in passing what looked to be a sandy natural terrain moto section. There were Joshua trees, shrubs and a whole lot of sand everywhere. The group was parked in an open area just below a section of sandy hill climbs that went on as far as the eye could see. We quickly setup camp and Roscoe busted out his kite as the sun went down. It was a restless night as the wind and sand pummeled the Gas Gas Sport. Roscoe bailed on the early morning ride as he was now a bit under the weather and the sand was really blowing. I never planned to ride that morning as I was saving my strength for a long afternoon gaunt up to a cabin in the hills. But Gene, Jon & Allen headed out and told tales of spectacular sights and great hills upon their return. By then Theo called home to get a report on the weather and a bad sand storm was well on it way. The worst in 10 years with winds gusting up to 70 mph. It was decision time, stay and hope the storm wasn’t as bad as they were predicting or relocate to a hopefully calmer area. We decided to head 400 miles north to a hilltop riding area called Stonyford. Allen was familiar with the area and Gene had been their once before. It would cut the long return trip by 8 hours and give us the opportunity to check out some high mountain Cali riding with trees.
The rest of the gang was already packing up, the locals calling it the end of a fun week of riding. I couldn’t bear to leave without at least trying out the DRZ. I geared up and headed off for a quick test run while Roscoe packed up. The sand wasn’t as difficult to ride in as I thought. The sand at Spangler Hills was fine sugar that sucked you down into it and you lost all control when trying to turn. This sand was thick, just like fish tank gravel Roscoe said earlier. The traction was great and as I picked up speed the bike felt stable. The problem was the wind, it was so strong and swirling it picked up the large sand grains and made any semi exposed area sting. As I went up the hills the closer I got to the top the stronger the wind blew. I feared it would blow me over when I reached the top so I always turned around a few feet from the peak. About 10 minutes and I decide to call it quits. We will have to make it back to these parts one day, what a fun place it would have been in different conditions.
The long drive to Modesto national forest ended with a 1 hour curvy tight drive up the mountain side late Thursday night. Pine cones the size of footballs lined the road and we were anxious for daylight to see what we had in store as far as terrain. Allen suspected the upper trails would be snowed in but there was still plenty of good riding in the lower areas. It had rained overnight and lightly started up again once we left the campground. There were patches of red clay that reminded us all of Capitol Forrest, but not as slippery. The trees were mostly white pines and Manzanita bushes lined the trails. This is no wimpy bush, its branches are tough and sharp. Since the area recently became ride-able the brush stuck out into the trail at times, we quickly learned avoid hitting it if at all possible. Manzanita bushes are what turned Paul Neff’s brand new Gas Gas 450 into a battered heap a few years back at the Colinga National Enduro.
We continued our way up the large mountain but quickly hit a snowed in area. Allen decided to turn around and head another direction. This involved a long, slippery, and rutted down hill section littered with stuck quads. My record breaking biggest downhill ever set just a few days earlier was now replaced with this one. More snow and some long uphill sections followed by a nice scenic rest stop. The twisty trails were smooth and flowed nicely. One section in particular was awesome. It reminded me of a trail at Little Naches, the Yellow Jacket, only without a couple of yikes spots and way too much fun! I could have ridden this section all day. We rode along and found some more fun sections partially snowed over, this was the most snow riding I’ve ever done. Now we were back on my favorite trail going the other way! This is where my day should have ended, but it didn’t. We still had to get back to camp, and this would involve going down the longest uphill section we did earlier. I was ½ way down and all was well, oh no, too much front break and over the bars I go tumbling down the hill as Roscoe is stopped ahead and sees the whole thing. I won’t go into all the details but I was whipped and still need to get down the 2nd half.
After a hard 45 miles we were finally back at camp. We started up our final campfire and collect a few pine cones for souvenirs. What a spectacular and memorable trip this has been. We wish it could have lasted longer of course and hope to come back again someday. Many thanks to Gene, Jon & Allen for inviting us to tag along and putting up with me sliding down that last hill.
I had the best time!
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