By Jon Crowley
I was invited by my friend Reid Nordin over at Walker Evans Racing to tag along on an adventure ride out of Barstow, CA. The theory for the ride was to start and end the ride at Stoddard Valley OHV Area in Barstow near Lenwood Road and cover 150 to 200 miles in a day.
In our group, we had seven vehicles that included six Polaris RZRs (two and four seat) and me with our Yamaha Wolverine X2. The terrain near Barstow has quite a few whooped out trails, but as you venture farther away from the popular areas you will find pole line roads, steep rocky mountains, rolling hills, open valleys, winding sandy washes and sand dunes. While it is much more typical to see sportier UTVs in the Southwest Desert, I have been pushing the limits in our Wolverine X2 to see what it could take (see Yamaha Wolverine X2 Phase 1 Build and Test and Wolverine X2 Rock Crawling Review). I figured why not see how it would do on a long desert ride.
There are a few key things that make group rides in the desert more successful and enjoyable.
First and most important is for everyone in the group to have radio communication with all the other vehicles. This is key to keeping the group appraised of the route (spreading out helps keep the dust down), but is also nice so you can communicate about any hazards or just talk about interesting things you are seeing. To do this, you need a radio and an intercom and I depend on Rugged Radios for all my communication needs.
Know Where You Are Going – GPS
A GPS is certainly a key component to this type of ride, but that is just the first step. You need to know how to use it, and also have a route programmed into the GPS ahead of time so you can know which way to go at every intersection. Thankfully Reid knows this area pretty well and also did the homework ahead of time to plan out the route. Since I was in a slower vehicle and had radio communication, I offered to bring up the rear. I have a Yamaha Adventure Pro GPS in my Wolverine X2 and I was able to see most all of the trails we were on, but I did not have the route uploaded so I depended on Reid. That being said, if I got lost out there, I could have either found my way out based on trails I could see in the GPS, or radioed my position so others could find me.
Dust in the desert is just a thing you have to deal with unless you are extremely lucky to have a nice soaking rain the day before your trip. Dusty conditions affect three different parts of your experience.
First, you need to spread out so you can see and breath and that makes communication and GPS even more important.
Secondly, dust affects you. Breathing dust isn’t fun on an all-day ride and even with a good breeze, there are going to be sections where it is dusty no matter have far your are spread out. A full-face helmet with a good dust skirt are important, but having a fresh air helmet blower makes it even better. I ran a new Bell Qualifier Pumper Helmet that was wired by Rugged Radios on this trip. The helmet is plumbed for fresh air, but I did not have a blower like the MAC3.2 Air Pumper System.
Lastly, if you are breathing dust, you’re UTV is as well. A clogged air filter happens quicker than you think and this affects how your UTV performs. Service your air filter after every ride in the dust for sure, but if you ride in the dust frequently, I would look at a Particle Separator from S&B Filters that greatly reduces the amount of dirt that gets to your air filter.
Our Yamaha Wolverine X2 is stock other than the following bolt-on accessories:
- Yamaha Adventure Pro GPS
- Yamaha Spare Tire Carrier
- Warn 3500 ProVantage winch
- SSV Works 5-speaker BlueTooth Stereo
- Rugged Radios Intercom and Radio
- Factory UTV UHMW Skid Plates and A-Arm Guards
- Assault Industries Rear View Mirror
- KC HiLiTES Flex LED lights
- 27-inch ITP Coyote Tires mounted on ITP Wheels
Being a Rec-Utility UTV, the Wolverine X2 is much more suited towards trail riding, hunting and exploring that blasting through the desert. But other that that helmet air, I have it set up very well for adventure rides so I figured that I would see if it could hang on a ride like this.
We left Barstow about 9AM and headed south towards Slash X. I brought up the rear since I figured that I would be a little slower, plus I had radio and GPS and have ridden with Reid quite a bit and it is nice to have someone up front and in the rear with experience. This section of Stoddard Valley OHV Area is very popular, and therefore has a ton of whoops. There was no way the Wolverine X2 with about 9-inches of wheel travel can maintain high speed through these huge whoops, so I just rolled through them. Even the RZRs with 16-18 inches of travel were going slower too, mostly because most of the vehicles had a second person in the car and in my experience, blasting fast through big whoops is something that I do solo in a car with aftermarket (or at least worked-over) shocks. So even though the RZRs could go faster, the reality was that I wasn’t that much slower in the big whoops for this group.
We crossed Highway 247 near Slash X and headed generally North East. We may have been in the Johnson Valley OHV Area for just a bit, but then had to stay out of the 29 Palms Marine Base. We got caught up in some gas pipeline construction traffic, but eventually crossed under Interstate 40 and headed north and into the Rasor OHV Area.
We ended up getting fuel at Rasor Road and Interstate 15 after about 100 miles. The Wolverine X2 took 6.7 gallons of fuel. Most took more than mine but Reid’s RZR only needed 5.5 gallons! Smooth is fast….
After fueling up, we went south and along the edge of the Mojave national Preserve (no motor vehicles allowed) and ended up at cool landmark called the “Desert Megaphone”. Not quite sure what it is, but someone had some welding talent and the knowhow to get the heavy thing up the hill. Not an easy feat. Either way it is a cool destination if you are in the area.
About this time, the sun was heading down quick. We drove west into the setting sun and into the darkness. We hit some seriously dusty conditions as any wind we had during the day, died down with the setting sun.
I was glad I had some auxiliary lights on my Wolverine X2 from KC to help light up the trail.
We ended up the day back in Barstow after 8PM after 200 miles on the trail. Our group wasn’t setting a blinding pace, and the good news is we had no mechanical issues or flats amongst the seven of us. That can make a long day into a VERY long day.
Overall, I was really glad that I brought the Yamaha Wolverine X2 on this ride. While it wouldn’t be my first choice of vehicles if I had something more sporty available, I certainly wouldn’t let it hold me back from going on a ride like this if it was my only vehicle.
The Wolverine X2 tops out at about 51 MPH and in this terrain, there were just a few spots where I would have gone faster if I could have. Most of the time, gotchas on the trail come up on you very fast and with smaller tires and less wheel travel, going that fast will get you in trouble quick.
You can camp or park for the day off of Outlet Center Drive and Interstate 15. Or there are two hotels near the Outlet stores off of Lenwood Road (Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn). Both hotels are right across the street from the riding area. There are also areas to camp off of Highway 247 near Slash X Cafe.
Stoddard Valley OHV Area
The triangular-shaped riding area is formed by Interstate 15 and California Highway 247 (Barstow Road), immediately south of Barstow. Most visitors access the area to the east, off Interstate 15 at the Outlet Center Drive Exit (Sidewinder Road) or at the Hodge Road Exit, to the south on I-15. From Barstow, take California Highway 247 (Barstow Road Exit from I-15) and go south 10 miles, turn either on Stoddard Wells Road or on to the access road behind the Slash-X Cafe. GPS: 34.75910278 / -117.0651806
Rasor OHV Area
The riding area is between Interstate 15 and the Mojave National Preserve, about 25 miles southwest of Baker (CA). Access roads are Basin Road and Rasor Road east of the I-15. GPS: 35.07 / -116.278
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