Christmas Motorcycles

Scary-Windy Switchbacks, a Real Old-West Town, a Giant Rock Skull, Dangerous Jumping Cacti, and Dragons in the Desert.

Over the Christmas break we rented Harleys for a 4-day ride around Southern California.

December 23 to 29, 2022

Christmas Eve – After picking up the bikes

We picked up our bikes early on Christmas Eve so were able to get in a short ride before dinner.  From our hotel, over the Coronado bridge, past the North Island Naval Air Station (the Top Gun school) and along the Coronado Island Bolo to Silver Strand Beach.  Warm enough for some people – not quite for us.

A quick afternoon ride in San Diego
Silver Strand Beach on the Coronado Island Bolo
Some folks found it warm enough – we certainly did not!

Christmas Day (Day 1 of Riding)

The next day – Christmas Day – we rode from San Diego inland to Warner Springs, into the mountains through the high-desert switchbacks of La Quinta, and to our hotel in Palm Springs.

Christmas Day – San Diego to Palm Springs

After a dozen miles along big freeways, we were finally climbing into the mountains on beautiful 2-lane roads.  Shortly after Warner Springs, we stopped at the Oak Grove campground for a picnic lunch in the warm sunshine.  Then onward to the “Pines to Palms” highway (along route 74) – which took us up to 5000 feet before taking us back down through spectacular – and slightly terrifying – switch-backs to near-sea-level at Palm Desert.  We had welcome sunshine for the whole route.

A picnic lunch at Oak Grove campground in the warm sunshine
A quick stop at the summit before descending into Palm Springs

Boxing Day – The Joshua Tree National Park (Day 2 of Riding)

The plan on Boxing day was to do a big loop through Joshua Tree National Park – with a couple of small diversions along the way – and return to Palm Springs for a second night.

Boxing Day (Day 2 of Riding) – The Joshua Tree Loop

It was another 4000-foot climb up to Pioneertown, mostly along the scenic Highway 62.  Pioneertown is an actual town – preserved from the old west.  It has a motel, a few residences, and many shops.  The film museum has a lot of props and posters from the many movies that have been made here – some of it mighty weird.

Janine at Pinoeertown
David at Pioneertown
The Pioneertown Film Museum
There are some weird (and creepy) old props to be found at the Pioneertown Film Museum
At the General Store, one can buy a Tin-Can Female Cowgirl – replete with boobs and earrings.
These Cacti looked so friendly that David just had to hug them.
The Pioneertown Picnic Area

After 20 minutes straight-like-an-arrow East along Highway 62, we came to the North Entrance of the Joshua Tree National Park – and sat in a long lineup to pay the high entrance fee ($25 US per bike).  Before long we reached Skull Rock – where we ate our picnic Lunch, took a look at “The Skull”, and went for a walk in the otherworldly rock formations of the area.

Picnic Lunch at Skull Rock – Joshua Tree National Park
Skull Rock – Joshua Tree National Park
The amazing rock formations around Skull Rock
The happy couple at Skull Rock (what on earth is that pretty-lady doing with that guy?)

Another 20 minutes winding through the desert along Pinto Basin road took us to the Cholla Cactus Gardens.  These cacti are actually dangerous – known as the Jumping Cactus .. they so aggressively break off at the lightest touch that they seem to “jump” onto anyone that gets too close.

Jumping Cacti of the Cholla Cactus Garden
David as close as he was willing to get to a Jumping Cactus

Joshua Tree National Park is HUGE.  It took another hour along the winding road to get through it – and another hour after that along the highway before we finally got back to our hotel in Palm Springs.

Day 3 – Palm Springs to El Centro (the long way)

On the 3rd day of riding, our goal was El Centro – near the Mexican border – with a lengthy diversion through Borrego Springs to make it more interesting.

Day 3 – Palm Springs to El Centro

We loaded up the bikes and left the hotel early – taking Highway 111 towards the Salton Sea and then West into the desert along Highway 78.  We stopped on the side of the road North of Borrego springs for our picnic lunch – then wandered around in the desert … looking for art.  You see .. there are metal sculptures randomly scattered around in the desert North of Borrego Springs.  Strange-Looking Turtles,  Camels, Wart Hogs and even Dinosaurs and Dragons. There are dozens of sculptures to find – we discovered only a handful of them.

Camels. For sure!
It looks like an elephant. But is it? Something weird about those tusks and the mouth!
David with a weird looking turtle
This Wart Hog is actually pretty good.
We believe this is a Sloth (riding a bigger Sloth)
The Dragon was very popular – and easy to spot from the road
This Jeep was one of my favorites

After Borrego Springs we climbed and climbed along very windy (back-and-forth), and windy (blowing wind), and rather terrifying sheer cliffs towards San Filipe before heading back down towards the valley along the spectacular highway 78 and to our hotel in El Centro.

Day 4 – El Centro back to San Diego

The next morning was the start of our trip back to San Diego to return the bikes.

Day 4 – El Centro to San Diego

The ride took us along the El Centro farm lands then into the desert towards the mountains we would have to cross to get back to the coast. 

Stopped at a place called “Oasis” (which is just that one building-on-a-hill)

It got bloody cold and damp in those hills – but we were hungry and stopped for lunch at 4000 feet.  Finally, we passed within spitting distance of the Mexican border through hilly pastures where cows and donkeys grazed between cottage farms and quaint bungalows.  The road meandered through twists and turns alongside pretty ravines and gulches shaded by maple trees with crisp orange and brown leaves – and we didn’t photograph any of it because our hands were too cold to take off the gloves  …  you’ll have to use your imagination.

Cold and Damp Summit @ 4000-feet … where we stopped for lunch
The Awesome Stacked-Lenticular Cloud right over the very windy mountain pass we rode through.

Five days of Riding in Southern California.  What a life!

A Video-Log of the 5-Day Christmas Motorcycle Trip

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