Lakes, mountains and desert

Spencer is an adventurer and explorer by nature, drawn to the wild and the unknown. This past summer he rode dual-sport motorcycles 1500 miles over road and dirt with his Dad and three brothers. It was an extreme adventure, where they faced break-downs, fires, road closures and much more over the course of 21 days. In 2017 he walked 1200 miles down the coast of California over 98 days in search of a simpler way of living. Now he's going to explain his new adventure powered by Fuel.


The Alabama Hills

The Alabama Hills are a scattering of yellowish-red boulders that range in size from small cars to three-story buildings strewn over many acres around the base of Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States and the starting point for our moto adventure through the southern California high desert.

We got in after dark, with just enough time to set up our tent and have a quick dinner before heading to bed. Sometime after midnight, I awoke with the tent pole hitting me over the head. Seemingly out of nowhere, the wind had picked up in a major way and was flattening the tent. I burrowed more deeply into my sleeping bag and tried to shut it out.
The rest of the night was spent in a quasi-sleep, not fully awake nor truly sleeping.

The wind was still howling when morning came, and when no one could pretend to be sleeping anymore we all got up and slowly put on most of the layers we had. January under the Sierra Nevada is cold to begin with, but the wind pushed the cold into your bones.

First order of business was to find a new place to get prepped for the day’s riding,somewhere out of the wind. That done, we got breakfast taken care of and startedprepping our bikes. The plan was to ride through the Alabama Hills and along the base ofthe Sierra’s under the shadow of Mt. Whitney before heading east toward Death Valley thenext day. Joining me for the excursion was my seventeen-year-old brother, Abram and our Dad. Over the summer, we had ridden fifteen-hundred miles with my other two brothers, and this four-day trip seemed like it would be a simple adventure by comparison. But we ought to know better by now, there’s no such thing as a simple adventure. Our three vintage bikes combined for a total age of one hundred and twenty-two years old, but in our retro-styled Fuel gear it all felt right. Even better that even though the gear looked perfectly retro, it felt and performed like modern technical wear.Dad was riding a 1995 Honda XR 600R, Abram was on a 1983 Yamaha TT350 and I as the photographer, I was riding on a little 1983 Honda XR 200R. There’s no such thing as leaving on time for any adventure that I’ve been on, and this held true for us again, but we finally got going and the scale of the Eastern Sierra immediately astounded us. Few places that I have been feel so imposing. For the next several hours we traced dirt tracks through the massive rock outcroppings that compose the Alabama Hills.

Eventually the dirt roads led us out of the towering boulder piles and we found empty trails that ran to the base of Whitney. As the sun dropped toward the peaks outlined on the western horizon we approached the steep grade of the mountain, sand felt small in the best possible way. Despite our interrupted first night, we had enjoyed a great initial day of riding and were looking forward to the changing landscapes of the next few days as we headed into Death Valley and beyond. Then, on our final couple corners of the day, Abram laid his bike down on a relatively easy turn, sliding out on a soft patch of dirt. It seemed innocuous at the time, the kind of fall we’ve all taken a hundred times with few ill effects. After we made it to our camp, Abram noticed his wrist was starting to freeze up, but we still expected that by morning he would be fine. We’d ridden fifteen-hundred miles over the summer and all crashed harder than that, and figured he’d just shrug it off. I woke up that night to Abram just sitting up in the tent, holding his arm, the painmaking it impossible to sleep.; by morning he couldn’t even move his fingers. Faced withthat, we sadly had no choice but to end our trip early. Leaving Death Valley and the rest of our adventure behind was a tough pill to swallow, but the truth is that it’s the unknowns that make any adventure meaningful. It’s the fact that you’re never completely certain that you’ll make it to the end, that keeps us going out. When you leave the main roads, you embrace the unknown, and come what may, we wouldn’t have it any other way.


After a three-month hiatus for Abram’s arm to heal and all of our schedules to align again, we were back out to finish our moto trip through the Eastern Sierra. This time we were going south to north and our first stop was the Trona Pinnacles. An arid, moisture-less collection of spires and pillars eroded out of the sandstone by the harsh winds which shoot through the valley. It was the driest place I’d ever been, the hot wind sucked every bit of moisture from your pores and left you in a perennial state of thirst. We found a semi-sheltered spot to set up our camp, as we’d heard the wind out there can get strong enough to rip tents apart, and then we took an initial ride around the pinnacles to scout out the area. Trails and paths wind their way through and around the rock formations and as the sun started to descend from its zenith the light ripened to gold. After a brief rest back at camp we headed out again to catch the sunset light. Sunset in the desert hits differently, the light seems heavy in the air and rich with warmth even as the overall temperature drops. Everyone should experience a sunset in the desert at least
once in their life.

The following morning we packed up and headed toward Death Valley. Our plan was to ride along the western rim of the valley and just get as high as we could. We found a forgotten valley that didn’t look like it had felt a human footprint in years and followed an old mining road back into the heart of it. From there we rode up to 6433 feet above sea level to Agueberry Point, right at the edge of the mountains overlooking Death Valley. It was a desolate place, but had a strange peace about it. Since it was still relatively early in the day we decided to stop for a snack and then see if we could ride from our camp in the valley to the top of the ridge it descended from. We made it up just in time to watch the sun sink into the valley, turning it gold, and Death Valley on the other side a hazy purple. We bombed back down to camp, making it just in time for the sun to disappear behind the mountains to our west.

The next morning we started the long journey north to our third stop of the trip: the June Lakes Loop. The landscape changed drastically as we went north and the Sierra’s rose majestically to our left. We traded the treeless, arid plains of Death Valley for the sparse forests of the high desert that skirt the base of the Sierra Mountains throughout Inyo county.For the next two days we rode dusty dirt roads between the rising mountains to our west and the lakes which create the June Lakes Loop, a series of several lakes nestled in the base of the mountains. The variety of landscape on the east side of the Sierra is truly staggering, and experiencing it all on motorcycles will be an experience I’ll always hold dear.