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Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > The Bros do the Mojave Road

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jefe 4x4

West Slope, Northern Sierra Nevada

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Posted: 03/20/13 12:18am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The Mojave Road was a government-sponsored track for stage coaches, mail delivery, and heavily laden freight wagons. It followed an ancient Indian trade route from Fort Mohave on the Colorado River to the Pacific Ocean. By the 1870’s the U.S. government decided to place small forts, wells, water holes and tanks at appropriate intervals for commercial wagon traffic as the caravans were constantly at the mercy of Indian attack. So the Government Road, as it is called on old maps followed the water, so to speak. It is said that the road, as a commercial route, lasted only 6 months: until the railroad came through and turned the Road into a short-lived historical relic. The part that is left is the 146 mile track from Fort Mohave in the east to near Barstow in the west. Newer highways and byways through the area did not follow the old route leaving it pretty much intact as it was 140 years ago. A decade ago I was part of a jeep expedition over the fabled Mojave Road. It was a quick and dirty, two-day affair with myself in my pickup truck. My beloved Jeep CJ8 was broken at the time, so the truck was just expeditious. This trip in the pickup planted a seed that grew into a plan about doing the entire road in a Truck Camper. Hmm? Why not? Lots of reasons: too heavy, too tall, too wide, too easily stuck in the sand, are a few. Oh, but the adventure.
A couple months ago my brother John (4bro) called me about the prospect of doing the Mojave Road in truck campers. Did I think it was possible with truck campers? I jumped at the opportunity, my long held desire to do the Road gurgling to the fore. Then we started to make plans. Why not make it a ‘bros’ trip? I (1bro) have three brothers who have an interest in history/jeeping/deserts and might be interested: Jerry (2bro), Jim (3bro) and John (4bro). My son Matt is closer in age to 4bro than he is to me so we consider him 5bro. Alex and his brother Howard were also interested in joining the caravan so they are 6bro and 7bro. When our cousin Rey found out we were going and wanted to go on the trip, he became 8bro. Everyone was on-board. A further twist was that three of the bros wanted to mountain bike the Road also. After a lot of planning it came to pass. Unfortunately, 7bro had to cancel, leaving Seven Brothers in four trucks and three mountain bikes. In the beginning we only had three trucks so I decided to drag the 1955 Bradley jeep trailer behind the Dodge/Lance to haul all the director’s chairs, sleeping bags, fire barrel, 200 pounds of firewood, CO2 tank, compressor, tools, 2nd spare tire, roll-up table, BBQ grill as there would not be the usual space in the passenger compartment of the trucks. Then, 8bro decided to drive his 4Runner. So at times, everyone was either driving or riding a bike along the trail. 5bro rode about 70 miles of the Road on his fat tire.
We met in Barstow. It was 92 degrees (F). We soldiered on to the AVI casino for a late supper; drove across the Colorado River for the last fuel-up and made it in a few miles on the Road, in the dark and made a hasty first camp. There were three GPS’s going for the entire trip, each with different waypoint settings, which actually made it more confusing. The most confusing was the part from Soda Lake to Afton Canyon, through the dunes and up the washes. There was no there, there. Very few tire tracks. Many routes were totally washed out and undo-able. So we were like Moses wandering in the desert (but not for forty years!). This was really like Rat Patrol except no twin Viccars or 50 cal’s mounted on the back.
What struck me was how the mountains in the distance never seemed to get any closer and the mountains we just came through seemed to recede quickly. Simply the longest 146 miles of my driving career. At an average of 10 mph we were slightly faster than those heavy freight wagons of yore. A lot of 1st and 2nd gear, high range, with about 10% in low range. On the surface, the Road seems like it has a sameness but actually varied to sand, sandstone, silt, rocks, bigger rocks, dry lake salt flats, washboard, endless whoop-de-dos, drop-offs into washes, and a short section of graded road, and a section of actual pavement (right over the old Road). After a while, you get into the Zen of what you are doing. With Woops there is a period that develops and you either go faster or slower than the side-to-side period wants to set up. It’s all by feel, some of it counter intuitive. In planning, I thought we could make 50 miles a day. Not so, Yucca breath. The first whole day was the roughest with lots of shaking, rocking and rolling, and we could only make 30 miles. The next day was faster and we make about 53 miles. The last day we went about 63 miles very quickly as the Road surface was much smoother, mostly due to soft blow sand and wash bottoms. By noon we were passing the Afton Canyon campground and decided to finish the entire route, deep, soft sand aside. No, it was not aside. It was everywhere. For me it was 1300 miles round trip with the 3 days/146 miles of the Road eating only 1/8th of a tank of diesel fuel. No one got hurt. No one broke down. No one got stuck. The TC’s were not so fortunate. Joshua Trees scraped off my camper clearance light, a side porch light lens, the fridge roof vent cover, and a water heater exhaust grate. Running as tail gunner, 6bro followed me and picked up a lot of the pieces. Everyone received a generous amount of “Desert Pin Stripping”. Creosote bushes slapped my mirrors hundreds and hundreds of times, prompting me to fold them in until needed. I don't think any hard side campers have been over this route, maybe ever. Alex and I had 86" wide campers, which, I think was the absolute max for the Road. I removed my Lance Camper struts and loosened the rear tie-downs. All the trucks lowered the tire pressure: 4bro @ 25 lbs; 1bro @ 30 lbs. frnt/28 lbs. rear, 12 lbs. trailer; 6bro @ 35 lbs. frnt/rear. I could not get my one side rear anti-sway bar to break loose and drove the first part of the trail with it connected. What agony! 6bro finally came up with a BF box wrench and we jerked the rusted 18mm nut loose. Ahhh, much better. Finally, as in all endeavors, it was the preparation that made the trip a success. Stories, lies, laughs, and a wee dram droned into the night with the campfire roaring. Pictures simply do not convey how big and varied the place was. When things are moving by that slowly, like ships adrift, one has a lot of time to smell the flowers.
(additional pix removed for editing)
When I learn how to format my bros pix, I'll post them here. Unfortunately, my pix were the least good of all the pix taken.
Regards, as always, jefe
[image]
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Ft. Piute ruins:
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The long rocky road down from Ft. Piute: The Road, center in distance:
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ground water downstream from Ft. Piute:
[image]
On top of the 2nd pass:
[image]
[image]
8bro at the bus stop:
[image]
5bro at 2nd night's camp. 6 pounds of Carne Asada, tortillas, salsa, grilled onions and peppers:
[image]
Things are tightening up. Many parts scrubbed off during this trip through the forest of Joshua Trees:
[image]
[image]
4bro approaching the Drop of Death:
[image]
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6bro coming down the Drop of Death to the V notch:
[image]
famous water hole along the way:
[image]
another government well pumped with a long broken windmill:
[image]
See the two lead rigs in the distance on Soda Lake? It was fortunately dry this time:
[image]
Half way across the Lake. 10 miles across, 25 miles N/S.:
[image]
Sand, sand and more sand:
[image]
The GPS trail ended at this wash which we had to drive for miles around:
[image]
A rail spur leading to a mine washed out in the flood of 1938.
[image]
Endless sandy Mojave River sink upgrade from Afton Canyon:
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This is where the GPS said we should be:
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The Last roundup: lunch on the trail near Barstow:
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Airing up at the Western Terminus:
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* This post was last edited 03/21/13 05:52pm by jefe 4x4 *   View edit history


'01.5 Dodge 2500 4x4, CTD, Qcab, SB, NV5600, 241HD, 4.10's, Dana 70/TruTrac; Dana 80/ TruTrac, Spintec hub conversion, H.D. susp, 315/75R16's on 7.5" and 10" wide steel wheels, Vulcan big line, Warn M15K winch '98 Lance Lite 165s, 8' 6" X-cab, 200w Solar

The Mad Norsky

Yankton, South Dakota

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Posted: 03/20/13 12:26am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Nice job and appears it was a grand adventure.

Good for all of you.


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sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 03/20/13 01:39am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for sharing with us Jefe.

I was half expecting to see a jeep from the Long Range Desert Group appear in the distance in one of the picture.

All the best,

Steve.


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Camper_Jeff_&_Kelli

Seattle

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Posted: 03/20/13 01:53am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great trip and pictures + bonus pictures. How was the fuel situation? Did you bring extra or were you able to all make the trip on a single tank. Glad your long time desire to do the trail in a TC came true.


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pa traveler

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Posted: 03/20/13 06:12am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I would like to do a trip like that,but cant with 350 dually with 1191 Lance.

billtex

RI

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Posted: 03/20/13 06:24am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Epic...

Thanx for sharing Jefe.

Bill


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Nemo667

Louisiana

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Posted: 03/20/13 06:36am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Fantastic report and pictures jefe. The Rat Patrol would have loved the carne asada, salsa and tortillas. A memorable trip for all of the brothers I would say. Thank you for posting


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mooring product

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Posted: 03/20/13 06:37am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

That one pass would have put me on my side...Great trip, thanks for sharing.


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Bubtoofat

SE Michigan

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Posted: 03/20/13 07:00am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Nice. I could use a little sun and sand right now. Did your rear jacks scrape on any of those inclines? I noticed the white Ford with the pop up still had them on.
Mike


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colbert wa.

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Posted: 03/20/13 07:01am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

wow! very cool trip.


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