BY JOSE ALVARADO
The Mojave Road is a world-famous trail that has been around since 1858. This iconic landmark has been traveled by thousands amongst thousands of people since its inception. Cody, Matt, and I had planned this trip months in advance and we couldn’t believe the time had come. We decided to open up the trip to the listeners and set up a list for anybody that wanted to join us. I am glad we opened it up to the listeners because I met some amazing people that past weekend and made some new friends along the way.
Friday before the Memorial Day Holiday, everybody was in a rush to get out of town and get to the meeting point in Laughlin, NV. Unfortunately, we all had to leave at different times due to work schedules and other conflicting engagements. I headed out and took the alternate way to Laughlin. I drove on the 10 fwy to the 62 through Yucca Valley and then got onto Amboy Rd. This was an amazing drive though a part of California that I have never traveled through. It was remarkable to see the small towns scattered throughout the desert and were created when Route 66 was the only highway to cross the country. During this drive, there were sections where I would not see another car for minutes on end. It was a very surreal feeling because during this drive is when I realized that I was driving through the middle of nowhere in a 25-year-old vehicle that has 168,000 miles on it. My Land Cruiser is my daily vehicle and I maintain it as best as possible and knock on wood, it has been trooper and never let me down.
Since Cody and Matt headed out of town before me, Obviously they got to Laughlin first. We were to meet up for dinner that night and I kept giving Cody status updates of where I was. He kept texting to see where I was at because they were getting seated soon. I literally got to the hotel, parked and ran straight for the restaurant. I didn’t even check in, I didn’t unload my luggage, I just went directly to the restaurant. We had a great dinner; I am not sure if it was the food that was great or if it was the fact that I didn’t eat anything that day. After dinner, Matt and I had a few drinks at the lobby bar while Cody and his wife headed to their room and called it an early night.
The next morning, we all met up at the Chevron that Cody had meticulously mapped out on the itinerary that nobody read. We give Cody a lot of shit for always turning every situation into a PowerPoint and or excel spread sheet. In all reality, that takes a lot of work and time and Matt and I really thank him for it. Even though he can’t follow his own directions on the gps with a map, we love him for it.
The next bullet point of the itinerary was to go to the local Safeway and load up on supplies. The itinerary had the address of the Safeway we needed to go to but again, nobody read it and we ended up going to the other one in town. This will be a reoccurring theme throughout the trip. Getting lost and not knowing the itinerary. After we loaded up on supplies, we made our way to the trailhead. Cody was in the lead and of course we made wrong turns and or missed the turnouts to get to the trailhead. It hilarious to me watching 10 rigs having to turn around and see their faces while driving past me. I had the pleasure of being at the end of the of the pack. I was the tail gunner and was in charge of making sure everybody got through all obstacles ok.
At the trail head, we aired down, and this was the place we really got to meet each other. One of the group members, Aldo, brought his newer Toyota Tundra and mentioned he was new to the off-road scene. More on Aldo to come. Matt and I showed him how to use the tool to air down quickly and explained how it worked.
Once we officially started putting miles behind us, it was interesting see all the different capabilities of all the different vehicles that were in our group. We had full size trucks, jeeps, Tacoma’s, Matt’s Frontier, my Land Cruiser, and Casey’s Grand Cherokee. Since I had the honor of being tail gunner for the trip, I got a good look at all the vehicles and their capabilities. Each had their own strengths and weaknesses, but all made it with no issues. We had different stops planned along the trip with the first one being the balancing rock.
We all parked and took in the vastness that the Mojave Desert had to offer. We could clearly see the road ahead disappear into the horizon and we all wondered what lied ahead.
At each stop, Casey, Cody’s brother, would get under his jeep to try and figure out the new noise that it would make the further down the trail we got. To his credit, he had swapped out the axles for front and rear dana 44’s and all the fabrication work that was needed earlier in the week. The ongoing joke was that every time he heard a new noise, he would just turn the radio up a little bit louder. Apparently by the end of the trip, his volume knob on his radio was just about maxed out. Casey is a great fabricator and great with a wrench so we all knew that any issue would be resolved on the trail and his jeep would keep on trucking.
We continued to hit different points of interest along the Mojave Road like abandoned buildings that are scattered throughout the desert. It is a little eerie to see these once inhabited buildings now be an afterthought in society. These were built for a time in which people depended on each other for survival getting across this desert. It is kind of comical to see people try to get away from the connectedness technology has granted us, but we will not leave home without multiple forms of technology-based communication when we are exploring the unknown.
At one point the trail got to be a little more technical than a typical fire road and we also started gaining elevation. My favorite view of the trip was when we got to the top of the ridge and got to see how far the Mojave Road really goes. We had driven for hours at this point and to see the trail go on for what seemed like forever was little overwhelming yet satisfying. Satisfying in the fact that we knew we had so much more of the trip to go.
It was getting late in the day and we still had a few more stops planned before we got to the camp site. We made a quick stop at the penny can. There are two main reasons why I love going out on these trips. The first one is the radio banter that goes on especially with a large group like the one we had. I cannot repeat some of the funniest lines that were said on the trip because they are pretty explicit. Love it or hate it, we are just a group of friends that love each other’s company and will not hesitate to throw any verbal jabs and uppercuts when the opportunity exposes itself. The whole trip was filled with laughter originating on the radio. The other reason I love coming on these trips is to really get to know the people you are with. Sitting around the campsite, sharing stories and sharing our diverse backgrounds is the best. Once the adult beverages kicked in, there were discussions that some would think were a little unusual. But in our group of misfits, they are considered gold.
During the group conversations, I started talking to Matt about conspiracies. We are by no means truthers, we are just fans of the genre and enjoy seeing the “evidence” that both sides bring to the table. It came out that one of the group members that was on the trip, their dad used to deliver freight to Area 51. Yes, THE Area 51. I can’t believe this information has not come out sooner considering all the other times I met this individual. Another bomb was dropped when another member of our group was a highly ranked member Free Masons. I asked Matt, “if I were to tell you this morning that we would be having drinks with a high-ranking Free Mason, and someone whose father delivered freight to Area 51, would you have believed me?” I’ll leave what the rest of the night looked like right there and you’ll have to come out to one of our trips and find out about some of the crazy shit we talk about.
The next morning, everybody cleaned up and cooked their breakfast’s, and once again we headed out on the trail. Since it was Sunday, we had a lot of ground to cover considering we still had a lot to see. Of course, we made our way to the famous Mojave Road mailbox. I am not sure how many U-turns we had made at this point because Cody kept getting lost. We all signed our names to cement our place in the record books of the trail. Cody of course left The TrailChasers calling card on the street sign. Can you spot any past guests of the show?
Pressed for time, we took a group consensus and decided to forego some of the stops we had planned. The next stop was to traveler’s monument. The direction we were going meant that we would hit the lake bed before reaching the travelers monument. A couple of the group members took this opportunity to put the pedal to the metal and see what their trucks can do.
There is a plaque that is located on the top of the pile of rocks that is the traveler’s monument and it has a famous or infamous inscription on it. I did everything I could to stay away from any spoilers that might reveal that inscription. I will not say what is inscribed on that plaque, but let’s just say I was not disappointed. Everybody brought rocks from their home and placed them on the pile. Cody’s daughter had painted a rock for the trip and Cody and his wife added the final touches to make the already perfect art piece stand out.
From the traveler’s monument, Cody yelled out it was time to go to see Matt’s secret spot. We all knew that Cody was no stranger to Matt’s secret spot, but he meant a spot on the trail that we could all enjoy. This is spot was what Matt calls the punch bowl. It is like a giant sand halfpipe where we all took our rigs and started shredding the dunes. By this point of the trip, the once timid Aldo was not only keeping up with group, he was one of the first ones out on the sand dunes. It is so awesome seeing Aldo go from not knowing how to air down, to gaining the confidence in his truck and learning what its limits are. I know we all remember our first time out on the trail and remember the feelings of being overwhelmed with fear, excitement, and happiness all happening at once.
This is where I attained a new level of respect for Matt’s Frontier because he had been beating the shit out of that little truck all weekend. The worse of it was still to come when he took his truck out on the dunes and really put it through its paces.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. We ended with the iconic photo at the railroad bridge. This picture was a symbol of a successful mini expedition through the desert. Here at the TrailChasers, we measure our success on a very intricate scale. Are all members of the starting group alive? Then it was a success. Nobody got hurt and nobody’s vehicle broke down. This was a testament to everybody’s skillset prepping their vehicles and to their driving ability. I think the U-turn count was at 7 or 8 from Cody getting lost. Overall I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. Most of us started this trip as strangers but ended up leaving as friends.
We also couldn’t forget the reason why it was an extended weekend. We were celebrating Memorial Day. This holiday was a perfect capstone to the trip because we knew about the ultimate sacrifice that so many have given and has allowed us the opportunity to be out there in the first place. I am sure that it is safe to say that Cody and Matt feel the same way I do when I say we have the upmost respect for all the people in uniform who decided to take the oath to protect their fellow citizens. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice and that cannot be forgotten. Thank you to all our service members, first responders, and all of their families for the sacrifices you made and continue to make.
This trip reinforced that I am part of something special. Being able to give you my thoughts and my point of view is something I do not take lightly. Cody and Matt have, and will continue to grow The TrailChasers to what it is and what it will become. I just want to say thank you to them for allowing me to be part of the adventure. I also want to give thanks to the readers and give an inside look on what goes on during these amazing trips of ours. Until next time – We are The TrailChasers.