Adventures in Pioneertown and Beyond

Adventures in Pioneertown and Beyond

Adventures in Pioneertown and Beyond

It started with an invite to lunch. A good friend from Mexico wanted to put two of his LA buddies together, so he introduced me to Davide Berruto, a self-described facilitator of good times and bad decisions. At the cafe next to the Aether Store on La Brea, we became fast friends. Berruto is immediately charming. He wore a wide-brimmed hat in white, white pants, and a light blue mohair sweater. A bright smile shined through his salt-and-pepper beard.

The Aether Rally is an annual event put on by Aether Apparel, though thanks to Covid it’s been a few years since the last one. It’s a celebration of all things adventure, both two-wheeled and four. There are multiple ticket levels, but we chose camping, the cheapest of the bunch; $125 gets you a spot to camp for two nights, two dinners, breakfast, and drinks throughout the event. Considering most campsites in the area are around $30 a night, and the cost of drinks and meals, it’s actually a deal.

The morning of the event, I decided to skip the official ride and cut ahead to meet the group in Big Bear, where the off-road section of the journey began. Call me jaded, but experience has left me hesitant to ride in large groups with people I don’t know. My old pal Fox Mausner would accompany me, riding his former police-issue Harley-Davidson Road King which was appropriately fitted with classic knobby tires. I would be riding on the opposite side of the functionality spectrum, atop a 2021 BMW R 1250 GS.

pioneertown motel sign
The entire grounds of the Pioneertown Motel were rented out for the Aether Rally.Monti Smith

Pulling into Big Bear, we parked next to the only other motorcycles on the street, two older BMW GS models. This quiet mountain town is known for its ski slopes and affordable cabin rentals, but surrounding mountain roads and dirt trails make it a destination for motorcyclists of all kinds. We sat near our bikes and ate sandwiches as we waited for the other riders, but as often happens, the group was delayed. We decided once again to forego the group ride and take off on our own.

davide berruto standing in sunlight
Davide Berruto soaks up the evening sun as riders arrive at the fifth annual Aether Rally.Chris Thoms

The 19-mile 2N02 trail would bring us nearly the entire way into Pioneertown. I was comfortable and confident on my overqualified GS. Fox was brazen as ever on his Road King, more barreling through obstacles than choosing a path around or over them. We were in no rush and stopped often to drink water or sit in the shade. We rode through late afternoon, when golden beams of light cut through the trees to illuminate our dust, moving swiftly up rocky climbs and flowing up the banked dirt switchbacks. Exploring California’s backcountry with an old friend. and a couple of new ones met along the way, was as close to a perfect moment as I can remember.

We ascended the rocky dirt path through tall pines before reaching the peak and stopping for a cigarette. We rode switchbacks down into the desert as the damp earth beneath us gave way to dry sand, eventually returning to the pavement that would lead us into Pioneertown, cold drinks, and a warm welcome.

Pioneertown was built in the mid-40s by a group of Hollywood celebrities as a fully functional western movie set and a hub for their shenanigans. Mane Street (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) cuts through the center of town, a wide, dusty thoroughfare open only to foot and hoof traffic, home to an old timey blacksmith, leathershop, post office and more; quite a scene. On weekends, flea markets and gunfight reenactments draw tourists, but our visit coincided with a large country music festival. There were entirely too many brand new cowboy hats on the premises.

setting up big agnes bikepacking 3 tent at pioneertown
This Big Agnes Bikepacking 3 tent has been with me for many journeys. It sets up easily, packs up small, and best of all, straps right to the bike with no added equipment.Monti Smith

We grabbed some libations from the cooler as we checked in at the Pioneertown Motel, then went back and set up our tents. Four-wheeled buddies had shown up in the meantime: vanlife Drew, Photo Mounce, and Big Dave in the chase truck. Attendees could rent a room at the motel, rent a camper van or a tent setup, or pitch a tent like we were. We sat around and chatted about the next day’s plans for a bit, but anticipation of coming activities took us each to our tents before long even if that same anticipation kept us from sleeping.

Bunları da beğenebilirsin