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ADV NewsGet On! ADV Fest Mojave: Epic Trails, Training & Good Times

Get On! ADV Fest Mojave: Epic Trails, Training & Good Times

More than just another adventure rally, it's an ADV destination in itself.

Published on 05.16.2022

What begins in a field in South Dakota and ends in a cave in Southern California? Other than this story, probably not much. RevZilla’s Get On! ADV Fest concept kicked off at Sturgis in 2021 as a passion project. According to Comoto’s Vice-President of Business Development, Sean Laughlin, they went into that first event apart from concerns of attendance, revenue, or what might normally be considered “results,” instead just focused on doing something they knew would be cool.

The retailer’s crystal ball proved correct as the original event in South Dakota saw several vendors and 250-300 riders show up. At the most recent running of ADV Fest in SoCal, the attendance grew to over 400 and the number of vendors in California City more than doubled from the original running of the event in Sturgis.

Revzilla Get On ADV Fest Mojave

Part of this growth is likely due to the merging of Revzilla’s Get On! ADV Fest with RawHyde’s ADV Days rally. Aside from additional vendors popping up in the Zakar compound, Revzilla’s hosting of their Get On! rally at RawHyde’s facility roped in numerous technical seminars, riding clinics, bike demos and even offered attendees the ability to trade a good cigar for high-quality brake fluid should a front master cylinder get drug over a section of trail. That last one might have been a one-time offer for a buddy of mine. I’m not sure.

Before diving into the event itself, you have to consider the location. California City is a tragically named off-road riding paradise. The name inspires visions of some thriving metropolis in keeping with the abundance of grand landscapes and cities of the state. In spite of being the third largest city in California based on sheer land mass, you’ll literally miss the town unless you know where to exit off the 14 freeway. Based on population, California City ranks number 423.

Revzilla Get On ADV Fest Mojave

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Closer to the lone strip of asphalt dividing the Mojave Desert known as highway 14, if one knows where to look, a small collection of trees, odd structures, and shipping containers is almost hidden in a vast expanse of empty desert. Rolling up to this compound on a typical weekday would likely be off-putting to most. The massive shipping containers are all painted uniformly in a flat-grayish color, stacked on top of one other in some cases, huge security gate with the mysterious word “ZAKAR” above it (Zombie Apocalypse Kompound At RawHyde), zombie murals, and a freekin’ gun tower, complete with a (prop) machine gun. In other words, there’s not a Snoopy mat out front that says “welcome.”

Revzilla Get On ADV Fest Mojave

In the case of this ridiculously windy April day, the collection of vendor booths, sea of various RVs, overland vehicles, and fractured tent cities springing up next to almost every type of adventure motorcycle available provided all the welcome that was necessary. Not being an anti-social move or anything, I pitched camp on the far outskirts away from the fray, knowing I’d likely be seeing early mornings for riding. That empty spot didn’t last long, as tents started springing up like dandelions around me in short order. Bodes well for a good event, although perhaps not for sleep. Chalk that up to the price of fun.

Between its deep history of early exploration of the modern West, expansive mining operations, military presence, and OHV use, the Mojave Desert is like walking through the largest open-air museum one could imagine. The exhibits might be dozens of miles from one another, and over extremely rough terrain, but they’re out there. Having ridden this area many times before, I opted to head off in directions I’d never taken before. 

Revzilla Get On ADV Fest Mojave
Revzilla Get On ADV Fest Mojave

Jawbone Canyon is well-known and likely the most obvious jumping off point for a ride in this area. Its location is made that much easier to find by the motorcycle stuck on a pole next to the 14 freeway and a large sign reading “Jawbone Station.” This canyon is all about trails. From level one paths along the valley floor to white-knuckle expert-only single track, Jawbone Canyon has it all. Popping into the canyon from the mountains to the north, I tried following an unknown line on my Trail Tech Voyager Pro GPS, which quickly turned from a steep fire road to a legit single track, completely inappropriate for the Husqvarna Norden 901 I was riding.

Revzilla Get On ADV Fest Mojave

I wanted to keep the bike pristine, but I didn’t. Busted hand guard and few witness marks on the right side of the bike were the tally at the end of the day. I’ll shirk blame to a degree here, as this was definitely not rider error. I wasn’t anywhere near the bike. Psychotic winds had just started to come up, which would temporarily shut down both the 14 freeway, and portions of the event the following day. Today, like a preamble for things to come, nutty gusts would howl out of the canyons like someone slapping you in the face just to say hi, then it would just as suddenly become calm again. Parked on a ridge line to get a photo of yet another grand vista, one of these gusts slapped a solidly-parked Norden 901 right off its side stand.

Revzilla Get On ADV Fest Mojave
Photo: Chris ‘Maven’ Austin

Skipping the temptation to explore the mystery single tracks diving off the edge of the road here and there, the main path eventually began a steep descent into the canyon, and straight into controversy. One of the standout features anyone will see on a ride through Jawbone is the “Jawbone Siphon.” Built by William Mulholland in 1913, this 233-mile long tube would use gravity and a series of shady deals to suck virtually all the water out of Owens Lake to a rapidly growing Los Angeles. Formerly one of the largest inland lakes in the United States, Owens Lake is now the source of some of the largest dust storms in the country, due to the extraction of the water. While efforts are currently underway to restore the ecosystem in Owens Valley, this massive pipe snakes through Jawbone Canyon in stark contrast to the surrounding landscape – an unintentional memorial to poor decisions of the past.

Memorials in the desert are not uncommon, but they are often unusual. Over 40 miles east of where Mullholland’s controversial pipe is seen diving into Jawbone Canyon, a still-growing memorial to a fallen desert racer is expanding on an empty mesa overlooking Cuddeback Dry Lake. Following the passing of desert racer Jim Erickson, members of the Desert Zebras Motorcycle Club brought his Husky 390 out there, and planted it. That Swedish seed grew into a mechanical memorial garden over the years, as other fallen riders had additional remembrances built for them around the impromptu site. Like rings on a tree, memorials towards the center of the “Husky Monument” tend to be older, while more recent installations continue to pop up around the perimeter.

Revzilla Get On ADV Fest Mojave

On either side of the Husky Monument, two other memorials can be found separated only by about 10 miles based on distance, but chronologically separated by many thousands of years. Circled by a ring of rocks, a small concrete pad with a triangular monument marks the spot where on March 25th, 2009 David P. “Cools” Cooley and his F22 fighter came to an abrupt and exceedingly violent end in the desert. A reminder of both the risks and rewards this landscape holds.

The F22 remembrance is associated with highly modern machinery. Beyond the Opal Mountains to the east is a site so old no one is entirely certain when it was created, by whom, or for what reason. Mystery remains about the meaning behind the symbols at Inscription Canyon. Theories run the gamut from structured messages about hunting conditions, to the images which result from a mind strung out on peyote. Whatever the meaning, by some estimates these rocks have been telling this story for anywhere from 8,000 – 12,000 years. 

Revzilla Get On ADV Fest Mojave

Petroglyphs in the desert are a relatively known and accepted phenomenon, but not everything out here is so easily explained. Even if the meaning behind these messages has perhaps been lost to time, writing on rocks is an understandable form of expression. Spending over three decades digging a hole to nowhere through a mountain is super interesting, but really difficult to grasp why. William “Burro” Schmidt moved from Rhode Island to California, took a pick, shovel, four-pound hammer, occasionally some dynamite, and started to dig a half-mile long tunnel through solid rock, by hand. In 1938, he popped out the far side of the mountain, later deeded the tunnel to a fellow miner, and left. Exactly why remains an open question. Differing accounts indicate this project took either 32, or 38 years to complete. Regardless, the man spent over three decades inside a mountain carrying roughly 5,800 tons of rock in burlap sacks on his back, in a wheelbarrow, and eventually using a mining car on rails.

Revzilla Get On ADV Fest Mojave

More understandable holes in the ground can be found within a five-mile radius of Burro Schmidt’s almost inexplicable tunnel. Less than two miles from one another as the crow flies, the Dutch Cleanser Mine and Holly Ash Mine both produced tons of stark white pumice in competition with each other, which was used in cleaning products, cement, paint, and for other industrial purposes.

Revzilla Get On ADV Fest Mojave

While similar in appearance based on their massive, brilliant-white caverns, the structure of these two mines is very different. Long, deep tunnels plunge into the earth from some comparatively small entrances and branch off from one another at the Dutch Cleanser mine, while multiple shorter excavations resemble a series of garage bays at Holly Ash Mine. Some theorize that the operation at Holly Ash Mine developed a method of separating the pumice product from foreign material on-site, which allowed them to process most of the hillside, versus boring exclusively for the desirable material.

Revzilla Get On ADV Fest Mojave

Our path to explore these two visually stunning desert features was a rough, rocky, and sandy narrow trail. Perfect for a capable adventure bike, but much more direct access can be found on the wide, sandy road that leads directly from the area of these two mines to the 14 freeway. Some sections, like a few on the approach to Holly Ash Mine, go from sandy to really sandy. We’d had our fill of riding and exploring for the day, so opted to check out the higher-speed path back towards the 14 freeway and retreat to the Zakar facility.

Revzilla Get On ADV Fest Mojave

Melding Revzilla’s Get On! ADV festival with RawHyde’s Adventure Days rally proved to be a good fit. The riding could be as mellow or as gnarly as one wanted. Attendees could spend all day on marathon rides or relax at the Zakar compound, bench racing and being tempted by all the product offerings drawing one’s attention. The overall vibe was one of community. As adventure riders, we understand this. However, like us in the present day looking at a mysterious desert petroglyph, I do wonder what someone from 12,000 years in the future would think if they were transported back and placed in front of a zombie mural, tasked with figuring out what we were all about.

Photos by Rob Dabney and Jon Beck.

Author: Jon Beck

Jon Beck is fulfilling a dream of never figuring out what to be when he grows up. Racing mountain bikes, competitive surfing, and touring as a musician are somehow part of what led Jon to travel through over 40 countries so far as an adventure motorcycle photographer, journalist, and guide. From precision riding for cameras in Hollywood, to refilling a fountain pen for travel stories, Jon brings a rare blend of experience to the table. While he seems happiest when lost in a desert someplace, deadlines are met most of the time.

Author: Jon Beck
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