USA 2016 – Day 6 – Chino Hills to Ridgecrest, Mojave Desert

After a day off the motorbikes, we were back discovering mountains, deserts, planes and great American fast food.

The day dawned with beautiful clear skies and forecast of high temperatures. We donned all our hot weather gear – fully vented jacket and trousers plus undergarments that I can only describe as anti-thermals, layers that are meant to wick moisture away from the skin and deliberately cool down the body.

We headed north from Chino Hills, along a couple of freeways then into the mountains. We turned off into the LA Mountains towards Wrightwood along a road that had evidence of recent fires, bordered by desolate but beautiful scrubland.

Lone Pine Canyon Road, heading towards Wrightwood

The climbed into the mountains, allowing us to cool a little before we stopped for a coffee break at Wrightwood (Village Grind), to ponder whether we would travel to Rigecrest via Palmdale or slightly quicker inland way. We got chatting to some locals, sitting near us in the coffee shop, when one of them mentioned an aircraft park in Palmdale exhibiting an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane and the 747 which carried the space shuttle. Decision made, it would add time to the day but we decided it was worth it.

Wrightwood, CA

The road out of the mountains was magnificent, sweeping curves and amazing views across an incredibly wide valley, it spread out in front of us as far as the eye could see; just amazing.

As we descended, I could feel the temperature increase, it had been warm at Wrightwood, which sits at around 5,000 feet so it was inevitable that it would only become hotter.

We reached the bottom of the valley and took the road towards Palmdale. On arrival we filled up with fuel and made our way towards the aircraft park located to the north of the city.

The first section of the park was the Blackbird park, containing TWO Blackbirds AND a U2 spy plane and a drone, all black and very exciting for Gary. There was a small shop selling tshirts and other memorabilia displaying photos and other information about the history of the aircraft. It was so hot that we didn’t stay long but we did manage to take lots of pictures.

Elvis and a Blackbird

The main park contained a collection of many more aircraft (41 aircraft according to the website) including the 747, and other NASA and military aircraft (Thunderchief, Voodoo, Super Sabre, Corsair, Falcon, Shooting Star, Skyhawk, Phantom, Tomcat – warplanes have cool names gottasay – thanks to Gary for this input 😃).

One of two Boeing 747s that used to carry the space shuttle
Another plane
And another one
And some more


Me and a NASA aircraft

We left Palmdale and headed north to Lancaster where we, and what seemed like the rest of Lancaster, stopped at In N Out Burger for lunch and air conditioning. For fast food, and for someone who doesn’t really appreciate burgers, I rated this pretty good and the fresh potato chips topped off a very decent meal. And the aircon and endless ice tea allowed us to cool down considerably.

Onwards to Mojave, the town, and through Mojave, the desert, a flat desert scrubland with tall succulent cactus as far as the eye could see.

As we approached Mojave, to our left, we could see a huge wind farm covering a vast area of the desert and mountainside with hundreds of wind turbines doing their things, turns out that this is the Alta Wind Energy Center containing 600 turbines. It was an incredible sight.

And then we arrived in Mojave, clearly a pit stop for road trippers due to the number of petrol stations and fast food outlets. Given it was another 70 miles to Ridgecrest, we topped up our tanks, checked points of interest and discovered we were close to an aircraft recycling facility, known as a ‘boneyard’. We could only see it from afar but it was clear that there were many many 747s, lined up, waiting for their fate in the desert heat.

Look carefully, there’s a boneyard behind this motorbike

We continued on and reached Red Rock Canyon, with walls of red rock as the name suggests but also columns of rock seemingly carved out of the cliff for our delight.

Red Rock Canyon

The route took us through the canyon and up to 3,000 feet, not that that helped the temperature drop but we levelled out and could see mountains in the distance either side of us and a long straight road disappearing into the distance ahead. This was magnificent, I have seen sights like this in Australia but I’ve never experienced it by motorbike before.

We reached Ridgecrest around 4pm, far later than th expected time of 1pm, I really should remember that it always take a third to twice as long as Google maps tells me due to fuel stops, food stops and stops to take photos of amazing things – taking pictures from a moving vehicle is just not an option on a motorbike although our GoPro is picking up a lot of the things we pass by.

Mojave Desert, looking towards Ridgecrest
Elvis in the Mojave Desert

Ridgecrest is a large town of 27,000 people in the Mojave Desert servicing the China Lake US Navy facility. As a result of this the accommodation is very high quality and very reasonably priced. We arrived at our motel to a pool, large room and the news of a comprehensive hot breakfast in the morning, much improved on Danishes, juice and coffee and for a lot less than we have paid elsewhere. Love it!

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