If you missed part one, check it out here.

Day 3 – Ponderosa Campground to Arroyo Seco Campground The plan was to get up early at 6:00am, pack up, eat breakfast, and get on the road at 7:00am. Surprisingly Johnny and I managed to stay on target and only leave 15 minutes late. Unlike the ride out on Friday I opted to put all my camping gear in Zack’s SUV and just carry my cameras and tripod. While this was still a pretty consequential amount of stuff, with 4×5 and 6×18 film cameras, a tripod, film and a Fuji X100S digital camera at hand it was still a good 13lbs lighter than I’d ridden out with. This proved to be a wise decision. All told it was a generally pleasant ride from the campsite to the left turn on Del Venturi Road. From there as we rode out of Ft. Hunter Liggett and into public park lands, things started to get…climby. By the time we hit the Santa Lucia Memorial Campground for a break it was hot and dry. I’d started the morning with 4 full water bottles and was down to slightly over two with arguably the worst yet to come. Santa Lucia is a dry camp so there was little to do but stretch, eat some food, drink a little and press on. As fortune would have it a few miles up the road we ran into a nice couple leaving the Escondido Campground who had some water to spare. They gave us each 2 more small bottles of water, which was enough to fill me back up to 3 full cycling bottles. This proved crucial as I personally drank every single drop I had on me over the next 15 miles.
Johnny surveying the landscape from one of the high points of Indians Road.
Johnny surveying the landscape from one of the high points of Indians Road.
If you haven’t ridden Indians Road before, it’s not easy. Heading south on it is hard but now that I’ve done both ways I can honestly say that going north is even harder! Add in the dry summer heat and wind, no shade or shelter, an increasing amount of rockslide carnage and you’ve got some fairly challenging circumstances to overcome. I personally could have done with another bottle of water, myself. I was also really glad I’d left my camping gear in the car. The Marrakesh is a bulletproof, but also heavy, steel touring bike. Not having the 13lbs of camping gear on it while climbing up Indians Road was a blessing! By the time we were rolling the last couple of miles towards the Arroyo Seco Campground I was a dehydrated, salt-encrusted mess. There are some really big, popular swimming holes you can get to from Indians Road. I got some very weird stares from the college kids who were hiking out to them as I was riding in. Johnny and I were both more than a little envious as we stared down at the gatherings with dogs, beers, small grills and clear blue water. When we finally finished, Zack was on hand with cold Cokes, Doritos and bags of ice. I must have spent a good 30 minutes just rubbing a huge chunk of ice on my head to cool down.
The swimming hole at the Arroyo Seco Campground is very popular with local families on summer weekends, for good reason!
The swimming hole at the Arroyo Seco Campground is very popular with local families on summer weekends, for good reason!
After a quick dip in the Arroyo Seco swimming hole to cool off (and also to not stink up Zack’s SUV), we called an end to the ride. Physically it had been a tough few days. The heat, in particular, took it out of us! That was good, though, I needed the fitness building for Brian’s Ride down Route 66 and to remember what it’s like to suffer while not giving up. The time spent with Zack and Johnny around the Mission was also just fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for better company to spend a long weekend re-visiting one of my favorite ever places in California. 

Salsa Marrakesh and Gear The last time I rode to Mission San Antonio de Padua it was on a 29×2.1 shod, singlespeed 2010 Salsa Fargo. Aka The “Original Fargo”, “Fun Guy Green Fargo”, “V1 Fargo”, or “What the Hell is that goofy looking thing?” Fargo. 5 years have passed and this time I found myself on a Salsa Marrakesh, whose real intended use is heavy duty long distance globetrotting. Built with serious steel tubing and meant to be ridden with no larger than 29×1.8 tires the Marrakesh, aka “the ‘kesh”, is not on paper the best bike to be tackling Indians Road with. It’s heavy (more on that in a moment) and the stock 700×40 Schwalbe Marathons aren’t really meant for rougher dirt. While trying to find some 29×1.8 tires in stock ANYWHERE, my buddy Bobby Wintle told me, “Try some 2.1’s! We put some on a Marrakesh and there is plenty of room! It’s awesome!” So, I went out into my garage and lo and behold, found an old pair of used WTB Nanoraptor 29×2.1’s. Ignoring for a moment that they were probably 5 years old and pretty beat up, I put them on. The transformation was instant. The ‘kesh went from a pretty good looking touring rig to the bike equivalent of an Army truck in desert camp. Big. Solid. Tan. And, honestly, just…imposing. It suddenly took on the aspect of a bike that, as a friend of mine who works at a local dealer said after riding it post 2.1’s, …”says fuck civilization! You ride this bike down the street and you just don’t want to stop until you’re out in the middle of nowhere with nobody near you. And then you want to keep going farther!” The big question, of course, is how did it handle being on a mission to the Mission?

The Setup: From a setup standpoint, my ‘kesh is mostly stock except for a dyno front wheel (on loan from a friend, thanks Jason!), a KLite high output setup with USB charger, and a Salsa Regulator ti setback seatpost to get me in the right position and take the edge off. Oh, and it also looks dead sexy! Cargo wise, there was plenty of room for everything I wanted to carry on the bike. Up front in my Revelate Sling and Bag was my typical setup of:
  • Fuji X100S (bag)
  • Stakes & rope for tarp (bag)
  • BBQ firestarter (think a lighter with a long nose – bag)
  • Extra long camp spoon (bag)
  • LuminAID (bag)
  • Sleeping pad (dry bag – sling)
  • Non-riding clothes (long tights, capeline turtleneck, compression socks, Swobo wool beanie, mid-weight gloves in dry bag – sling)
  • Camera tripod (sling)
In the Revelate Tangle bag:
  • Spare tube, tire irons, Park Tools Rescue Tool, patch kit
  • Trail mix, 3 Clifbars, 3 Gels
  • First aid kit
  • Fuel tab stove kit (with stove, mug, eating utensil, 6 fuel tabs, cleaning rag)
  • Baby wipes (in sandhich baggie)
  • Power converter from dyno hub to USB for charging phone/GPS
  • Arm warmers and knee warmers (after I took them off mid-morning)
In the Revelate Seat bag:
  • MSR E-Bivy
  • MSR E-Tarp
  • Emergency blanket (used as ground cloth)
  • Enlightened Equipment 20 degree down quilt
  • Patagonia Nanopuff Jacket
I typically have a pair of Salsa panniers on the forks to carry my camera equipment, but with the rattling I was sure everything would be subjected to on the rough ride, I felt it safer to remove those and use a backpack instead. I have an old 2010 Ergon BC-1 that is, hands down, the BEST cycling backpack I’ve ever had. Full stop. Some day soon I will wax poetic in a review here about this pack. I’m sad that the market didn’t see or appreciate the genius behind it’s industrial design. The BC-1 is the smallest in the line yet it happily swallows up my 6×18 panoramic camera, Travelwide 4×5 camera, a large baggie containing various photography bits/bobs/aids and 8 4×5 sheet film holders. All while placing the weight on my body in such a way as to be completely forgettable.

The Ride: Here is the thing about riding a Salsa Marrakesh: Never expect a light, nimble ride. Flat out, this bike is never going to be light. It’s made with big harcore steel tubing that will take out a tree if you crash into it. The whole premise behind it is to ride anywhere, over any surface, be tough as heck and easy to repair. On those fronts, the Marrakesh excels. If you want to go fast, light bike look to other models, this one ain’t it. What you get in trade, though, is an all day comfortable bicycle that is completely unflappable. By design it actually feels better the more you load it up with! It’s components are solid and dependable. A basic Shimano Deore 3×9 group with Microshift thumbies, Avid BB7 mechanical brakes, a Salsa Bend flat bar and a Brooks saddle generally just work. I went for the flatbar version because I found myself almost exclusively in the hoods or flats with my Woodchipper equipped Vaya. For me flat bars just work right now. What didn’t work for me on the trip was the Brooks saddle. I’ve put a few thousand miles on mine and we’re just not getting along. After the Mission weekend I swapped it out for a tried and true WTB Pure V saddle. My a** is much happier…the WTB V series aren’t sexy but for whatever reason they fit my behind to perfection. Who am I to fight it? But, back to the mission to the Mission. Overall I’ve got to admit that I absolutely love not just the look but also the *feel* of the ‘kesh with the bigger tires on it! With WTB 29×2.1 Nanoraptors installed there is no doubt I worked a little harder than normal on the paved portions. I was incredibly happy to have them on the Indians Road, however! The larger sized tires along with the big steel tubes absorbed more of the rough stuff than I expected it to. On the climbs it never felt unbalanced. On the descents it was steady, tracked well and stopped when I needed it to. The ‘kesh was, in a word, steady. It was just there, working, doing it’s job, going where I pointed it, shifting when I told it to, stopping when I wanted it to. I used every single one of it’s 27 gears and was happy to have them. While I occasionally (semi) jokingly swore at Johnny for his ultralight size S Cannondale Slate with no camping gear I honestly never really wished I was on a different bike. Once you put enough miles on a Salsa Marrakesh it becomes like that solid, steady old friend you know you can count on every time. In truth I’ve generally treated my ‘kesh really poorly. It’s been kept barely in tune, barely cleaned, barely chain lubed or anything for close to 9 months now since I picked it up from Huckleberry Bicycles. For all that mistreatment it has never complained, let me down, or sucked in any way. In a month and a half I’ll be taking it down Route 66 on Brian’s Ride and I couldn’t be happier with my choice!!

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: On A Mission - Day 1 - Bikepacker

  2. Pingback: On A Mission - Day 1 - Bikepacker

  3. George Solomon

    Great writeup.. Do you have the route on gpx that you can share?

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