West to Cali (& how to choose a tank bag)
Updated: Mar 12, 2019
Waking up my last day in Phoenix I couldn’t hold down the excitement knowing that I would be entering the western-most state of the first phase of The Pegasus Project, sunny California. With the map in front of me planning my route for the day a huge smile crept across my cheeks seeing how much progress I had already made and how many miles I've left behind.
I left Phoenix in mid afternoon and from there it was pretty much a straight shot west on I10 towards Joshua Tree National Park which was my planned destination for the night. Due to the few days lost spent waiting for the camera part, I had to postpone my original plan to visit the Grand Canyon and other magnificent natural wonders around northern Arizona, promising to myself that I would return again on my way back down through Utah. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is higher, more beautiful, and much less crowded in comparison to the South Rim which can resemble a mall parking lot on good Friday due to the few million tourists that visit each year in the tour buses and rented RVs. My recommendation is to experience the Grand Canyon for the first time via the north route. Read more details about visiting the Grand Canyon in that particular entry.
The highway between Phoenix and Joshua Tree is more endlessly straight hours through rather unexciting desert. Crossing the state line near Blithe CA I stopped to eat and fill up on gas. So much to my ignorance, there is a certain prerequisite that is necessary at the pumps in California due to their strict emission standards. As I was to eventually learn, the pump nozzle must make contact with the gas tank to the point where a round rubber seal gets pushed in. This, as I understand it, tells the pump that the nozzle is in the tank deep enough that it will prevent fumes from leaking out in any significant amount. The process works great on automobiles I am sure. But for me where my tank is hidden below the tank bag and looking straight up, dispensing gasoline in California is tricky. And another characteristic of the California pumps is that they do not have the trigger lock; instead you must hold the nozzle actively the entire time. Now you know what to expect when you fill up in Cali.
Now, mind you, I did not know any of this at the time. So there I am, fighting with the pump, re-swiping my card, changing to the adjacent pump only to fail miserably at my attempt for a full tank. After minutes of frustration I changed pumps where I finally started to put two and two together after reading the fume warning on the rubbery nozzle tip that is supposed to make a seal with the gas tank.
Here is a tip: Considering the tank bag must be removed on such a regular basis in order to access the gas cap, be sure to invest in a good magnetic one, instead of the once that is attached via straps and thus more laborious to remove. Also, be careful not to place your tank bag somewhere where it's easy to forget about it (such as on top of your pack, or anywhere around the bike). This is something I learned the hard way having to back track once or twice cause my tank bag with all the important stuff) was waiting for me by the gas station where I left it or where it fell off the bike due to my negligence. Hence it's advisable to keep your passport on your person at all times.
My suggestion is to practice the strict adherence of leaving your tank bag on the actual saddle when fueling, so as to make it impossible to forget it behind. It also helps to invest in a tank bag that has a water bladder, as well as removable shoulder straps such that enables the bag to be worn like a backpack when off the bike. Invest in a good one that you has all the features that will facilitate your touring.
Night fell sooner than I was ready for but I decided to push on to Joshua Tree where I was hoping to locate a camping spot. I made it safe although I am not a fan of night riding mostly due to animals that love to jump out on the highway and then just hang out in the middle of the road as you slam on the brakes and lock up the rear, rubber screeching and sliding all over the place, while they simply stand dumbfounded looking at you as if you are the crazy one that doesn’t belong on the road. Flagstaff or Phoenix to Joshua Tree is a full days of fast, hard, hot desert riding - the environment is expansive so don't overdo it in your planning. I have done this stretch numerous times on numerous motorcycles (and cars) and have never made it to San Diego before nightfall - granted you could stay on the I8 the entire time, but why be on a road trip at all if you plan to spend it on the highway. Route 89A-71-60 offers you a fast, diagonal alternative to the I10 or I8, just be careful through the curves in Jerome near Sedona - Cops love to dish out tickets to gentleman such as myself - mine was close to $700 so keep an eye out - the small town seems to live off of ticketing passerby's and there's little room to dispute them later.
The night at Joshua Tree was beautiful. The full moon was so bright that I had to stay up an hour more just to take advantage of some long-exposure photography. I regret not having more time there to explore because the park seems incredible. In the morning I made breakfast, took a shower under a faucet, and headed west through Julian towards sunny San Diego. You can also find showers at the Salton Sea Visitor Center. One road I will recommend highly is Box Canyon Road leading directly out of Joshua Tree - it's fast and short and actually provides a shortcut to the Salton Sea so it is not to be missed.
If you have time for some hikes, check out the Slot Ladder Canyon hike off of Box Canyon Road.