Old water tank and corral at the former OX Cattle Company site at New York Mountains Road and Ivanpah Road

Bicycle camping in and around Mojave National Preserve 2006

Day 5: Caruthers Canyon to Nipton

38.35 miles, 3:13 hrs, 25.7 mph max, 11.8 mph avg

Elevation: 5900 feet to 4400 to 4900 to 2700 to 3000

I stop at the junction of New York Mountains Road and Ivanpah Road to take photos and look at a few remnants of the former OX Ranch, which operated here for decades. The former owners were just recently bought out by the National Parks Service and moved to a new ranch in Arizona.

Ivanpah Road crawls northward away from Lanfair Valley; the shoulder looks like it's partly made of crumbled red bricks

Park staff now lives in one of the former OX Ranch houses just off Ivanpah Road here. A ranger that I spoke to two days ago suggested that I could visit that house to get extra water should I run into an emergency situation.

While I'm taking photos, a camper trailer comes down New York Mountains Road following the route that I just took. It stops at the intersection and the driver get out to check his tires.

The sudden presence of another human being comes as a surprise since I hadn't seen a moving motor vehicle, nor another person, since chatting with the guys interested in the New York Mountains property for sale early yesterday afternoon.

Ivanpah Road rolls along over the hills once out of Lanfair Valley

The driver of the camper and I start talking and it turns out that this is the vehicle that I had seen parked a quarter mile or so from where I camped last night. He told me that he's 70, though I would have guessed 60, and that he has been spending several months a year in this area since retiring years ago.

He had followed my bicycle tracks in the sand along New York Mountains Road and was intrigued. For many years, he rode a bicycle 5000 miles each year as his primary mode of transportation, until health issues forced him to stop during his mid-50s. So he was elated to come across another bicyclist out here in the desert where one might least expect such an encounter.

We chat for about an hour about so many little things, like how he has witnessed the redwood forests sadly shrink during his lifetime, and our conversations could have gone on so much longer. We joked about the tendency that we both share to choose out of the way camping places where human contact is minimized, and yet once we start talking in social situations, we can't stop.

Part of the two-house settlement of Barnwell near the summit of Ivanpah Road, where Hart Mine Road leads off to the east

Even out here in the desert, where time sometimes feels like an arbitrary imposition of an irrelevant system, we both have a semblance of a schedule to keep and have to put an end to our conversation. He is leaving the area for the season and heading north to Oregon today, and I need to make my way onward to Nipton before the general store there closes.

I start the northward trek up Ivanpah Road, which should be a slight gentle uphill for the first nine or ten miles on washboard gravel road. This should be easy, but slow. I rode this stretch in the downhill direction a few years ago, but haven't tried it uphill.

The scenery is gorgeous with the New York Mountains providing a distant backdrop on my left and joshua trees and mojave yuccas abundant for miles in both directions.

After a couple of slow miles, I'm starting to think about time again. I still have another three or four miles ahead of me, and about 500 feet elevaton gain, before I reach the summit of this road. After that, I will receive my downhill reward.

Old cars at Barnwell

The day has warmed to probably the mid 70s, and I've been working up a gentle sweat. I'm happy when I finally pass the road to Keystone Canyon, which was a potential destination on yesterday's ride.

Soon after, I reach the two-house settlement of Barnwell near the summit. I still haven't seen anyone today except for the camper guy with whom I had the conversation back at New York Mountains Road.

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