Photos by Stacie B. London
The LA / Barstow / Las Vegas route chart described the next quarter-mile of Red Rock Canyon as a "Rock Garden." What was actually off the front wheel of my 600lb motorcycle didn't resemble any garden I had ever seen. Gray exhaust smoke hung low in the canyon, glowing in the late afternoon's winter sun and the air was thick with the smell of cooking clutch plates and overheated engines. The trail ahead merged into a dry creek bed through a long, narrow gorge that was filled with car-sized boulders and steep rock faces. In it was a traffic jam of bodies and two-wheeled machines. The scene was a mass of human-mechanical struggle. Some motorcycles lay on their sides, others were bottomed-out over high jagged rocks as their riders fought to stay upright, exhaust pipes belching, tires spinning and men cursing. One bike even appeared to have been abandoned, it's front wheel inexplicably buried in silt up to the axle.
An unending stream of riders flowed up the canyon, some pausing to consider what they were about to face, others throwing themselves into the trail's maw without a moments hesitation. Men on torque-addled enduro machines with tall, supple suspensions and claw-like knobby tires throttled their impossibly light machines onto the rocks one atop of another.
My 1200cc BMW felt heavier than it ever had . Climbing off, I hiked down the trail to let Stacie know that we had to turn back. We had come so far over that past couple days, overcoming miles of deep sand, boulder strewn fields and single track hill climbs, but now it was over. This final metal mashing section seemed impassable. The notion that we would have to turn back and go around the mountain to Las Vegas by the "easy route," left me defeated. I didn't even have the energy to be angry at myself for not being good enough. Redrock Canyon had humbled me. After covering hundreds of off-road miles the final turn onto the paved highway for Las Vegas was a mere ten miles further up this trail and over the mountain. But it might as well have been another hundred miles. Riders on bikes 300lbs lighter than mine were melting down in the sausage grinder ahead and the prospect of getting my beastly BMW through the carnage seemed impossible.