December 18, 2003
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5 of 5
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5.00 of 5,
Reviewed by: Jim Williams
Cross Country Rider
First, thanks to Ralph who lives in his solar desert house near the start of the route in Catavina. He knows the area like no one else and we could not have completed the Mission Impossible ride without his advice and expertise.
Secondly - you must run slime/airlock tubes on this route. Thanks to Sunshine Bikes in Gilroy for supplying the airlocks which never failed. We had many thorn punctures which self-sealed. If we had to stop and repair every puncture we would have barely made any progress. We also carried one spare tire and used it to replace a tire that sustained a sidewall rip. The route is 15 miles each way and total elevation gain estimated at 2K+ feet. It is mostly jeepable sand desert roads. It is called Mission Impossible because you would need a real good jeep or HumVee on parts of it. About 1/3 of the route is smooth and pretty fast. About 1/2 is intermediate sand with a fair amount of rock-riding and dodging. The rest consists of sections which are often impractical to ride, sometimes with 12" baby-boulders completely filling the road. Cactus thorns abound. Soft arroyo crossings are frequent and we could power through most of them, but this is very tiring so it may be a good idea to walk more.
It turned out to be a fun mix of desert riding. The scenery was truly astounding, the desert was gorgeous with healthy Cardon, Barrel Cactus, weird Boojum Cactus, Elephant Trees and some small desert flowers. This area is a botanists dream come true. There are dramatic boulder fields throughout the ride. The ride is out and back and gets especially tough near the Mission Santa Maria destination. About half way out there is a dramatic view of the Sea of Cortez and Punta Final about 15 miles away. This is the highest elevation of the route and then you descend to the Mission. We finally made it to the extensive lush palm oasis and had to ditch our bikes, ford a densely foliated stream and hoof it 1 mile to the Mission. The Mission itself (250 years old) consists of two end walls of eroding adobe and a little eroding side structure - but it is the context of the beautiful oasis site which makes it so outstanding.
Average speeds were less then we had hoped and we had to hussle to make it back before dark. The weather was cool (maybe a high of 70) but the December day was short. I packed about 110 oz of water and used it all up. We thought of bringing a filter to refill at the oasis and that would almost be mandatory if temps were above 70 which is typical. We are told the water is nasty even at the source, it must be filtered and probably iodine or chlorine treated in addition.
There are numerous possibilities for mechanical failure and injuries and you are really in remote outback so a group of 3-4 would seem mandatory. Each of the 4 in our group crashed at least once, but no serious injuries were sustained. One rider had full suspension, two rider had hard tails/front shock and I ran a light hard/tail/hard/nose because I just like that bike. I would use the same bike again but with way fat tires - but that is just me. Full suspension is recommended. My biggest recommendations though are 2.2+ tires and slime/airlocks without which it really would be an Impossible Mission. Also, carry oil for you chain and pedals - lots of sand gets into everything.
I give this ride the highest rating because the scenery is breathtaking, and it is a great challenge/destination and event.
Note that this is a seasonal ride. Temps and weather could be fine November through Feb/March. But you can get “Chubasco” storms then. The rest of the year temps can be way up over 100 and the water requirements would seem impossible indeed.
One other word of advice, respect the challenge of this ride. The stats seem easy but there are so many ways this ride can stop you. We have heard of rattlesnakes and quicksand but didn’t encounter either. Maybe we were lucky.
Respectfully submitted: Jim, Chuck, Mykle and Ken.