Sunday, October 28, 2007


Dumont Dunes - Oct. '07 - part two

I left off at our lunch break. In addition to yummy sandwiches, chips and drinks, we decided to watch a movie and relax a bit. I was particularly tired due to little sleep the night before, and all the extra effort I had to put forth to tow Nina back from the North Pole.

Since we had to turn the generator on to watch the movie, Laura decided to plug in the crock pot and start to slow cook our dinner. This was a first. (Not Laura cooking dinner; that was a second – Ha!) This was the first time we brought out a crock pot to the desert. I’m normally not in favor of running the generator for hours on end, but I made an exception this time. While Laura and Nina watched the movie, I opted to take a nap. Brady had since returned from Competition Hill with the rest of the group, and immediately went to his friend’s motor home to play video games.

When I awoke, the movie was not quite over. I took a peek outside and noticed people were getting ready for a ride. This time the group was going to Sperry Wash. Laura was willing to go, but Nina wasn’t. Her thumb was still hurting from the earlier ride. Brady came in the trailer to get a towel, and proceeded to put his riding equipment on. By the way, Sperry Wash does have water running through it. It’s a small stream that comes from high up in the desert mountains, and the water is very refreshing to play in on warm days. This was still a warm day considering it was late October.

Laura told me to go with the group, but I stayed back with her and Nina. I’ve learned over time when to go play and when to stay. This was not a big boy’s ride of hard dirt trails and a rest stop for some beer drinking. That would have been okay to for me to go. This ride had wives and kids, and if I went without her, there would be attitude to deal with. So we watched another movie.

The group returned an hour and a half later and all was well. Brady said they found an area in the wash to play in where the water pooled. Next to our trailer was where the club King & Queen (Dan & Leslie) were parked. We noticed they were setting up tables for the Happy Hour festivities. People bring finger foods (hot wings, etc.) and the club provides drinks. It’s a fun and delicious way to socialize. We didn’t prepare anything to take, and it was later than usual for a Happy Hour event (nearly 5:00 p.m.). With our slow-cooked dinner nearly done, which we were looking forward to; we didn’t want to spoil our appetite with Happy Hour.

What happened next was unbelievable. Out of nowhere, a blast of wind came and nearly knocked everyone off their feet. We were in our trailer and it began to shake in the wind. The people outside enjoying Happy Hour were forced to flee inside the King’s trailer to make the best of things. The wind driven sand affected our visibility. We had trouble seeing the trailers across camp on the other side of the fire pit. The dunes and mountains in the distance could no longer be seen. It dropped about 20 degrees in temperature in about 30 minutes. We’ve experienced wind many times in the desert, but not like this.

We proceeded to eat dinner, and hoped that the wind would die down. All of the kids (not just ours) were looking forward to going Trick-Or-Treating. Yes, this was the club’s annual Halloween Ride (usually held a week or two before Halloween). This is a long-standing tradition where the kids get dress up in their costumes and go from trailer to trailer getting candy. Things didn’t look good this year.

The wind never let up. Darkness fell quickly, and things got worse. The wind somehow caused the awning on a trailer of one of our member’s to open up like a sail. There was no way there could be a campfire that night. I don’t think anyone could start a fire to begin with, but if there was one any trailer downwind would be in trouble. Visibility was so bad we couldn’t see any other camps of people around us. I had to put on my helmet and goggles just to go outside and secure our quads. I had to bring everything else inside (folding chairs, equipment boxes, etc.).

All night long that wind blew and our trailer shook. Laura, Nina and I continued watching movies. Brady was in the motor home next to us with his friends Joey and Amanda playing video games. Nina and Laura worried that our trailer might tip over. I told them it wouldn’t, but knew deep down it was possible. The thing that made us safe was that I never detached the trailer from our truck. The truck held us like an anchor. We went to bed, but did not get a good night’s sleep. The wind and blowing sand disturbed us. It was loud, and continued to shake the trailer until about 4:00 a.m.

Sunday morning came about and we awoke to calm clear weather. Here's a picture of the dunes from a distance:

Due to the wind, small sand dunes (only inches high) had formed around our trailers and vehicles. This was caused by the sand blowing against them all night and then dropping to the ground. Some people went riding, but I opted not to. We took our time packing up and eventually left by 12:00 noon. This locale takes about 4 ½ hours to return home from, so I wanted to get going before I got caught up in the traffic returning from Las Vegas and State Line.

We stopped in Victorville for an early dinner at Red Lobster where Laura’s sister, Sara works. She joined us during her break, and we had a nice visit. We continued our drive home. My mom had called worried about us because there was so much wind being reported on the news. Also worrying her were wildfires that had been breaking out everywhere.

The wind we experienced at the bottom of the Cajon pass was strong, but nothing like what we experienced at Dumont. As we got closer to home, we noticed the smoke from the fire that had broken out in Southeast Orange County – the one in Santiago Canyon. In the days that followed, the winds in Southern California fueled the fires from Ventura to San Diego. The smoke in the L.A. basin lingered in the air for days.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who lost their homes as a result of the fires. Our club ride that started off as great family fun and turned into a bit of a bummer pales in comparison to all those people who lost everything.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Dumont Dunes - Oct.'07 - part one

Well it only took 5 months, but we finally made it back out to the desert – as a family. If I haven’t made that clear in the past, let me clarify that doing things as a family is really important to me. It reminds me of my childhood, and when my parents took my sisters and me on family vacations.

So this past weekend, the four of us went to the desert and met up with our off road club to do some riding. As it turned out, we only went on one group ride, but it was a long ride. We went all the way to the North Pole!

No, really; the North Pole. You see, at Dumont Dunes, there’s a destination at the north-most point called the North Pole. At this spot there is a pole, and fashioned to it is a mailbox labeled Santa. I’m not making this up, there really is a pole with a mailbox on it, and all the kids put their letters to Santa in it. We took group pictures to prove it. Here's one of Nina writing her letter to Santa:

I hope she's asking Santa to give her daddy a brand new quad, but I'm guessing she didn't. Here's one of Nina putting her letter in the mailbox:

After a few refreshments, we got ready to ride back to camp. We took one last picture of the North Pole by itself (you can see part of a dune behind it). This dune was tiny compared to where we were going next:As you may or may not know, Nina is a novice rider. She’s only been riding her quad less than one year, but more specifically this is only her fourth club ride. She’s never gone on a long group ride before, only short family putt-putts. To make things more challenging, there’s a lot of sand at Dumont (thus the name Dunes). So poor little Nina in her little 50cc quad struggled, and slowed the pace down.

On the way there, Brady zipped along at a faster pace. He and other riders would sometimes take side trails or climb up small sand dunes. Brady had a good time, because he got to hang out with his friend Joey. Joey, his sister Amanda, and their parents Butch and Patty, are very nice people. We only get to see them a few times each year, mostly at club rides. Laura and I hung out at the back of the pack with Nina, but bringing up the rear of our group was Butch and Patty in their buggy, and Pablo and Carol in their sand rail.

The trip back was even more challenging because we took a different route. We headed straight back to Competition Hill, where the expert riders take their quads and sand rails high up the steep face of the dune. Nina couldn’t make it this route without assistance. I brought a tow rope with me just in case (I’ve had to tow her back before). She complained that her thumb hurt her too much to continue riding. She has yet to build up some resistance for holding her thumb against the throttle.

Everyone else arrived at Competition Hill before us. I knew I still had a ways to go to reach our camp, so the three of us continued back while the rest of the group hung out there. Some of the more experienced riders went up the face of Competition Hill. Everyone else just watched.

Once back at camp it was time for lunch. The weather was great at this time. It was sunny and warm (probably around 82), and there was no wind. So we changed out of our riding clothes and in to shorts and T-shirts. We ate, drank, and were otherwise merry. I knew there would be a later ride to Sperry Wash, which is a great place to go riding. I will continue with that part of the story in my next post. Please check back for more of the story. Thanks.


Friday, October 05, 2007


Lucerne Valley - Sept. '07 - Part Two

So where did I leave off? Oh yes, I got to go to the D.O.M. ride alone. Now let me list the advantages about that: I get to listen to whatever music I want to, as loud as I want to, all the way there and all the way home. I get to hang out with whomever I want to once I get there. I get to drink as much beer as I want to without hearing any flack from a certain someone. I get to ride as much as I want to on whatever trails I want to. (That means no easy trails at a deathly slow speed). I don’t have to cook for anyone other than myself. (Did I mention that Laura, Brady and Nina are finicky eaters, and rarely eat at normal meal times, and that I usually have to stop what I’m doing to feed Nina?). I don’t have to clean up after anyone other than myself. I don’t have to waste propane because someone is cold and wants the heater on. (There are things called extra layers of clothing and/or blankets that address that challenge). I don’t have to waste gasoline and the extra wear-and-tear on the generator by playing movies or video games for hours at a time. (There’s a thing called a campfire where socializing is done to pass the time in the evening to address that challenge).

Now for the disadvantages: For me, this ride is only from Saturday at 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at Noon.

When I finally got to Cougar Buttes in Lucerne Valley, I was greeted by friend and former D.O.M. club King, Kenny. I immediately asked about the potluck, which is usually held about 6:00 p.m. It turns out there was no potluck. Those who attended Happy Hour (at 3:00 p.m.) brought enough finger foods to adequately feed the small turn out that was there. So the potluck was scrapped. No problem. The lasagna that I labored over (over a cold grocery store freezer) went immediately into my microwave oven, and shortly thereafter into my stomach. Dinner done.

I then mingled with fellow club members, non-club members, and guests at the camp fire while drinking beer. I hadn’t seen any of these people since the D.O.M. Annual in May. There was actually one former member there whom I hadn’t seen in several years. It was great to visit with everyone, even if it was only for a short time. While we were talking and enjoying our campfire, we were treated to a beautiful fireworks display from a neighboring camp. Bad people! Fireworks are illegal and dangerous.

After some of our own pyros started messing with our campfire, I broke away to hang out with my friend Joe at his campfire. Joe got me into the D.O.M. club, and the quad I now ride was one that he owned years ago. Joe had his son David with him, and David’s friend Daniel. We hung out at their small campfire by his trailer for a couple more beers before calling it a night.

The next morning, as previously agreed upon the night before, some of us met up for an early morning ride. 7:30 a.m. was the departing time. Cole led the small group of quad riders, which included me, Kenny, King Dan, John, and a lone motorcycle rider whose name escapes me. (I think he’s a friend of John’s). Anyway, we hit the trails. Cole took us towards the large rock formations to the south, heading eastward from there to circle them in a counter-clockwise manner. It wasn’t long before I questioned whether we were even on a quad trail. I think I would have done better if I was a goat trekking across a rocky mountain pass. We later discovered that due to this killer trail, damage occurred to the motorcycle’s tires.

One of the neat things about Cougar Buttes are the rock formations. There are a lot of trails going in many directions, but there are also trails that hug the base of these formations that reek havoc. (Later in the day Joe and I saw a 4X4 truck being righted – it had over-turned. The truck fell victim to these rocky trails).

So more than halfway through this morning ride Kenny had a mishap. We were on a trail that made kind-of a hairpin turn. Kenny had already gone through it, and I was about to. So if you can picture it – we were going in opposite directions. A little after I went through the turn, the trail took a hard right going up a steep hill. I though Kenny missed the turn and saw that he went straight. I got up to the top of the hill where there was another hairpin turn bringing you back down the hill. That’s when I saw that Kenny had T-boned a rock. Not just any rock; a rock that was about 5 feet high, 2 feet around, and probably weighed 1,000 lbs. Kenny hit this rock so hard it actually moved. He’s lucky he didn’t launch over the top of his quad and T-boned it with his head. Damage to Kenny’s quad was a dented bumper on the front end, and a lost cooler rack on the back end. We think the cooler rack actually broke first and caused a distraction for Kenny, which caused him to miss that hard right turn to begin with.

We limped home from there and ate breakfast. I took Laura’s quad on that first ride, which turned out to be the longest one for me of the day. Next up was Brady’s quad. I took that for a little spin after breakfast. Then it was my quad’s turn. I took that for a shorter spin – just to keep it running. Nina’s quad wouldn’t even start, and I wasn’t going to waste time messing with it.

I started packing up my stuff, as I wanted to leave by Noon. After I got everything done, and saw that some of the members were starting to leave. Joe invited me to go with him in his sand rail for a ride with his son and friend. We took long ride that was very fun. We had a great time. On the way back is when we saw the 4X4 truck mishap. Joe also spotted a boy on a motorcycle in distress. I don’t know why this kid thought he could traverse the trail he was on, but he could have hurt himself and wrecked his bike. I got out of the sand rail and helped him push his bike back up a rocky hill to where we could turn it around and head him towards an easier trail.

Shortly thereafter I left our camp for home, where I was treated to a drive without traffic, and with my favorite music, NO distractions from fighting kids or a nagging wife, and no tire blowouts. Two and a half hours later I was reunited with my loving family. Nina had several pictures that she had drawn for me, and a sign that still hangs in our hallway that says “Welcome back from the ride and your alone time”. I got hugs and kisses from Laura, and the usual indifferent greeting from Brady.

All in all I had a great time, even if I only rode quads for about two hours. My next trip will be better. I hope you visit back to read about it.


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