Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride [BMW and KTM ADV in the Desert]

No matter how many years you explore the Southern California deserts, there are still mysteries and surprises that await you. In our case, it was the Mojave Megaphone which we heard about via a social media post. With a BMW F 850 GS Adventure and KTM 890 Adventure R at our disposal, we set off to make our own discovery of this baffling object.

Finding the location of the Mojave Megaphone is as simple as plugging it into Google Maps. However, getting there is a bit trickier. It sits on top of a hill of rocks, 20 miles almost due north, in virtually a straight line, from Ludlow on Interstate 40.Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride KTM

You’re unlikely to have heard of Ludlow, unless you travel I-40 east of Barstow frequently, or you’re a fan of 1990s alt-rockers Cockeyed Ghost, who immortalized the desert settlement in the title of the band’s final LP—Ludlow 6:18.

Hardscrabble Ludlow has reinvented itself multiple times since its founding in 1882, when it was a water stop for steam locomotives; freight trains still run through Ludlow, but they no longer stop. Mining helped keep Ludlow alive into the 1930s.

When the mines were tapped out, Route 66 saved the day, bringing travelers to Ludlow. Lodging, food, and fuel drove the economy. Although the advent of Interstate 40 reduced travel on what is now National Trails Highway to a trickle, there are still enough people stopping to prevent the town’s collapse.

The Whiting Bros. service station is now in ruins, replaced by self-service Chevron and 76 gas stations. The Ludlow Cafe and Ludlow Motel persist, with a Dairy Queen operating on the northern side of I-40. Although the Mojave Desert is pockmarked with deceased towns, Ludlow has refused to succumb.

Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride BMW

Our original plan was to ride from Los Angeles on the BMW and KTM. However, scheduling pushed the ride into the short days of December. It’s a 300-mile round-trip to Ludlow from LA, and we didn’t want to burn four of our 10 hours of daylight on freeways—riding after dark through the frigid California deserts is not on our to-do list.

We decided that setting the alarm early and trucking the ADV bikes to Ludlow was our best plan of action, with a 150-mile loop on our agenda. Our plan was to eat at the Ludlow Cafe after the ride, so we thought we’d ask if we could park Jess’s Toyota Tundra in the restaurant’s parking lot. Make no mistake—the desert can be a brutal place for an unattended vehicle. We went in to explain our day’s plans, including dinner at the conclusion, and asked the waitress how much it would cost us to park the truck in their lot. She looked at us as if we were speaking a foreign language. Paying to park in Ludlow is about as alien as it gets. I explained that we were from LA, and parking was often an expensive proposition.

She told us we were welcome to park anywhere we’d like for as long as we needed, for free. The truck was parked right at the front door, so we thought we’d move it from the prime location. Again, she looked at us askance—clearly, it wasn’t necessary. Still, we felt better, and rationalized that a truck parked in the lot could help attract customers—the restaurant was far below capacity.Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: Ludlow Cafe

A convenient berm behind the Ludlow Cafe made it easy to unload the two mastodons. We definitely would have had problems tying them down securely without PSR Bike Tie-Down Clamps. Our Fly Racing tie-downs did the rest.

The weather was unseasonably warm, with highs in the 60s for our ride. Keep in mind that December can mean snow in the Mojave, just as summer mercury readings top 110°F. Regardless, we had plenty of layers in the BMW’s aluminum panniers and the KTM’s plastic cases—you always want to be prepared when venturing far from the Interstates in the desert. Jess was decked out in Alpinestars gear, while I was in the latest ADV apparel from Cortech. When we say “be prepared,” we are definitely being a bit hypocritical. Although we had GPS, our route wasn’t in it, and the Mojave Megaphone was not marked as a waypoint. We relied on my memory of the route and location of the Megaphone. Also, we didn’t top-off the KTM’s 5.3-gallon fuel tank. The gauge was showing over a half-tank, and that should be enough to get us to our fuel stop 35 off-pavement miles from Ludlow. Right?

Both the BMW F 850 GS Adventure and KTM 890 Adventure R were shod with Continental’s ubiquitous Twinduro TKC 80 tires. Both ADV bikes were ready for the dirt with a 21-inch front hoop, with the KTM running an 18-inch rear compared to the 17-inch on the BMW. Neither was giving anything to the other in the rubber department.

Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: BMW ADV

As we were starting on the dirt, we lowered the air pressure to about 24 psi. A Fanttik X8 Apex tire inflator was stowed in the BMW’s pannier for bumping up the pressure once we got back on the pavement. We put the BMW in Enduro Pro mode and the KTM in Rally mode.

Both bikes came with the electronics upgrade packages, something you want if you plan on exploiting both the on- and off-pavement capabilities of these adventure bikes. However, we couldn’t make the most of the BMW’s electronics, as the low psi in the tires triggered a huge warning panel that blocked most of the TFT display. That turned out to be user error, as I kept pressing on the “X” on the beautiful TFT screen, expecting the dialog box to disappear. As the BMW Motorcycle Fleet Manager explained to me later, “That’s not a touchscreen.” A sideways click on the left-handlebar Multi-Controller dial is the secret to dismissing the warning. Happily, the KTM didn’t have that issue. The directions to the Mojave Megaphone from Ludlow are simple. Go north about 20 miles on unpaved Crucero Road and look left.Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: KTM ADV

Crucero Road is in good condition, though it changes from dirt to sand at a moment’s notice. When rain does fall in the many mountains in the desert, it flows to the lowest point without restriction. As a result, there are many dry sandwash crossings along the way, and at 40 to 60 mph, they can appear without much warning. Additionally, the dirt/sand transitions range from smooth to squared-off. You must be vigilant.

These road conditions allowed us to compare the suspension action of the two motorcycles. The BMW handles the squared-off transitions impressively. I expected jarring bottoming out when I hit them at speed. Yet, the F 850 Adventure sucked up the obstacles with surprising ease. The chassis remains stable, though floating over the rough stuff means the rider is somewhat disconnected from the terrain. That’s not entirely bad, though it makes the handling in the sand washes vague. Overall, unless you’re a hardcore off-roader, you’re going to like the BMW suspension. With its builder’s off-road heritage, the KTM 890 Adventure R is magic in the dirt. As you’d expect from KTM, it feels like a large dirt bike. The WP suspension is firm, yet compliant. The KTM suspension isn’t as plush as the BMW. Instead, you get suspension with more room for error, and it provides a superior feel for the dirt. You don’t get a detached feel with the WP suspension. That translates to enhanced confidence, which a top-notch off-road rider such as Jess can exploit. Along the way, Crucero Road crosses Broadwell Dry Lake lengthwise. Jess was aboard the KTM and hitting triple-digit speeds as he veered off the main double-track for some Bonneville Salt Flats action. I stuck to the road until barely missing a frightening hole on the left track of the road—I was in the right track doing about 60 mph. Had I hit it, a ride in an air ambulance would have been finishing my day. So, I headed for the open lakebed, finding around 80 mph before settling in. Both motorcycles were absolutely stable at speed on the ancient surface.Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: BMW GS

Somehow, I got the idea that the Mojave Megaphone was about 13 miles from Ludlow. However, that spot is nowhere near rocky hills, so we continued on Crucero Road and its sequences of hardpack and sand washes. As mile 20 approached, I knew we were getting close due to the topography. The boulder-covered hills close to the road are the inarguable tipoff. I told Jess there should be a noticeable Y in the road, and to take it left to a cleared area that serves as an unofficial parking lot. Approaching the Y, I looked to my left and up—there it was, the Mojave Megaphone. Seeing it silhouetted above the rocky hill sent a quick shiver down my spine. It’s real, and we found it. However, when I look over to the parking area, there’s no Jess. I ride up the rocky dirt road and figure I’ll wait there for him. It’s raised from the desert floor, so I should be able to spot Jess and the KTM.Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: KTM R

Jess has missed the Y, obviously, and was a bit farther up the road and stopped. I spotted him, and saw him looking around. Eventually, my arm-waving caught his eye—next time, we’re going to be wired up for communication. Jess blasted up an alternate route, and parked the KTM. From the bottom of the rocky hill, the hike to get to the Mojave Megaphone looks a bit intimidating. There’s no discernible trail, and the hill is steep—and we’re in riding apparel, not mountaineering gear. Fortunately, once you get to the base of the hill, you can see a couple of routes up to the Megaphone. It’s an unexpectedly short climb, as it turns out. I can say that our observed trials experience of scampering over rocks to walk a section came in handy. If you’re not used to climbing rocks like these, they can be intimidating. Plus, in a few spots, it’s steep enough that you don’t want to fall.

Jess was wearing Alpinestars Corozal boots, and I had on a pair of Sidi Adventure 2 boots. Both have lugged soles and a flexible chassis, making them about as good as it gets in motorcycle footwear for the mountain goating we were up to. They are also an outstanding balance between protection and comfort for the type of ADV ride we were on.

Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: BMW and KTM

The closer you get to the Mojave Megaphone, the more otherworldly it seems. When you finally arrive, you are not rewarded with a viewing area.

It’s still in the middle of a pile of rocks, and you have to maneuver around them adroitly. This is not a place for the faint of heart.

One of the great things about the Mojave Megaphone is that it is still shrouded in mystery—no easy task in the Internet Age. No one knows what it is, why it is there, when it got put there, or how it was installed. There are plenty of theories, and everyone can speculate. Many postulations don’t make much sense. However, the people who know, if they’re still alive, aren’t talking. With that in mind, part of the fun of visiting the Mojave Megaphone is trying to figure out the answers to all those questions. The first thing we noticed, and you probably noticed, is that the Mojave Megaphone isn’t a megaphone. Or, at least, it’s more two differently sized megaphones joined at the mouthpieces. Others describe it as a venturi, though we’re pretty sure no liquid has even flowed through the unit.Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride

The Mojave Megaphone is made of heavy gauge steel strips welded together. Inside, each megaphone has a cross-brace. The two megaphones are bolted together, with each megaphone being mounted on a pedestal embedded in rock. We can understand someone drilling into the rock for the pedestals—that’s easy. However, it’s difficult to imagine how the actual unit made it up there. Was it brought up in pieces and welded on-site? If so, how did they get the power needed for welding all the way up the hill out in the middle of nowhere? Carrying it up intact would not be easy. It’s estimated to weigh 600 pounds—that metal is not thin. If it was carried up the hill before there was a path, multiple people were involved, yet no one has spilled the beans. I wondered if it was helicoptered in, though that would also require an even larger number of still-silent co-conspirators.

Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: Jess McKinley

Our conclusion is that it is simply an unforgettable work of folk art that reflects the eccentricities of many desert inhabitants. There’s no purpose to the Mojave Megaphone, except to amaze anyone who happens upon it. Regardless, it is a thought-provoking desert landmark and well worth visiting.Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: Jess

After taking photos of Jess with the Mojave Megaphone, which involved some contortions in precarious situations, it was time to return to the motorcycles. As it turns out, the hike down the hill is far trickier than climbing up. Be careful!Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: Don and Jess

Next on our agenda was getting to the Shell gas station at Rasor Road on Interstate 15. We swapped bikes, with Jess taking the BMW F 850 Adventure and I’m aboard the KTM 890 Adventure R. Swapping between the two motorcycles is something of a culture shock. Gone is the BMW’s wide comfortable seat, replaced by a much firmer and narrower seat on the KTM. As I hit the road, the KTM was nowhere near as plush as the BMW, though I had a much better feel for the terrain. The KTM’s curb weight is 74 pounds less than the BMW, and the KTM had less gas, and it was all being carried in the low-slung fuel tank. Yeah, they’re different ADV animals. Our plan was to continue north on Crucero Road, skirt the Mojave National Preserve, and then make a left on Rasor Road at Rasor Ranch—an oasis in the Mojave Desert. I told Jess to stop at the railroad crossing, and off he went. According to Google Maps, Crucero Road crosses the tracks. Well, it doesn’t—surveillance capitalism failed us.

Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: Alpinestars

Jess rapidly disappears in the distance, as he’s thoughtfully making sure he doesn’t dust me out. There’s not much wind, and the dust is hanging in the air a bit. Still, he’s so far ahead of me so quickly that visibility is not an issue.

As I get closer to the railroad tracks, there is a fork in the road. When I say fork, I mean a fork with many tines. I wasn’t sure which one Jess had selected. There were plenty of tracks to choose from, so I guessed the middle one. The tracks were in visual view at this point, and there were some UTVs on the other side, so I wasn’t too worried about losing Jess. Jess had taken the one on the right, which isn’t Crucero Road. However, it didn’t matter, as the two roads reconverge at the railroad tracks. Jess was already talking with the friendly UTV drivers and discussing how we would get across the tracks. They are on a raised rock bed above the sand, so attempting to ride over the frequently used rails would be a risky choice. No thanks.Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: BMW 850

Our UTV guides informed us that there are crossings three miles to the west and two miles to the east. It wasn’t difficult for me to pick, as we were now encountering more sand and less dirt. We got lucky here.

About two-thirds of a mile to the east, a paved underpass below the tracks appears. It’s not there for vehicles—it’s for drainage. Although a UTV won’t fit under it, the BMW and KTM each had a few inches of clearance above the mirrors. Perfect! However, getting off the concrete platform on the north side of the tracks wasn’t so easy. Water had eroded the sand away, and it was too high for jumping, especially with the short approach to the drop-off. The east side had a trail constructed with some rock—motorcyclists have been there before. It’s an easy route on a dirt bike, but not on these two pannier-equipped adventure twins. Jess was up for it, fortunately, and he adroitly guided both bikes off the platform, with inches to spare for the panniers next to the underpass’s wall.

We’re back in the sand for the return trip to Crucero Road. The UTVs are still there, and we ask for directions to Rasor Road—local knowledge is always helpful. They pointed northeast and told us it was three or four miles along a fence keeping us from accidentally straying into the Mojave National Preserve. We thanked them and went on our way, but not before Jess tipped over the BMW while making a tight U-turn. I had figured that I would be the first one to bite the dust. Our new friends quickly helped Jess right the F 850 GS Adventure.Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: KTM 890

At this point, Crucero Road is running through a dune system. The “road” is deep sand for 3.7 miles to Rasor Road. The road is fairly whooped out, and the sand is bottomless. As Jess said, “Sand is the kryptonite of big adventure bikes.” Jess had drawn the short straw here, being on the BMW. However, that was far outweighed by his superior skill and bravery. Jess shifted up into second and twisted the throttle hard, propelling him at 30 mph or so through the sand. I stuck with first on the KTM, which limited my speed to 12 mph or so. No, I wasn’t going to pin it, and that made it tougher for me. I rationalized it by assuring myself that I’d prefer to crash at 5 mph than 30 mph, which is true.

On the launch for the KTM 790 Adventure R in Morocco, Jess had gotten some expert sand instruction from rally racers there to show him the ropes. Jess nicely internalized the advice, and he did impressively well on the BMW, again quickly dashing away from me. I would get some speed and confidence up in the sand, only to have it crushed when the front end would abruptly go its own way. I’m pretty good in the sand on a dirt bike—I grew up riding in the desert—but with over 500 pounds of “dirt bike” underneath me with ADV tires rather than knobbies, it was a different story. I’ve ridden ADV bikes quite a bit, but never this far in sand this soft, deep, and relentless.

I struggled along, stopping a few times on slight rises. If you don’t stop on a rise, it’s almost a sure thing you’ll dig a hole trying to get started again. I wasn’t keeping track of mileage, so I kept thinking that I’d see hardpack over the next ridge—no luck. A couple of times, I was so tired of wrestling the KTM that I was about to give up. However, that absolutely was not an option. I had to keep going, and no one was going to bail me out. Yes, we were on an adventure!

Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: BMW and KTM ADV Motorcycles

When I get to Jess at Rasor Ranch, he’s lounging in the shade under the trees, looking quite relaxed and refreshed. I parked the KTM and gathered myself. We were starting to get behind on time, as those 3.7 miles took quite a while to ride, at least for me. There are swings at the oasis, and Jess hopped on for fun. Later, he asked, “You’re not going to run one of those photos of me on the swing, are you?”

Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: Rasor Ranch Swing

This was supposed to be where Rasor Road would take us to the northwest and I-15. Yet, there were no signs and no clear road. Even worse, Rasor Road went into bigger and deeper dunes. Jess hopped back on the BMW and continued northwest on the unmarked Yvonne Boulevard—yes, Boulevard. Eventually, that would get us to Baker for refueling.

Looking at the GPS, it appeared that Yvonne Boulevard gets us to Zzyzx Road. An early plan was to get the clichéd, yet still fun, photo in front of the Zzyzx Road off-ramp sign. So, instead of taking I-15 to Zzyzx Road, we’d be coming to the ramp from Zzyzx Road—no problem. Unfortunately, despite the instructions from the GPS, Yvonne Boulevard is not open to Zzyzx Road—a Wilderness Area is stopping our progress. The detour led us to the Mojave Road as we entered the Mojave National Preserve.

The sand finally dissipates into hardpack as we get to Soda Dry Lake, a great relief. I see a few vehicles stopped ahead on the lake bed, and Jess is there. Alongside the crowd is a pile of rocks. Yes, a pile of rocks on a dry lake bed. We had stumbled upon Travelers Monument.

Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: BMW and KTM - Travelers Monument

Like the Mojave Megaphone, there’s no definitive history of Travelers Monument. No one knows who started the pile of rocks, or why.

We did find out that you’re supposed to bring a rock with you to add to the pile.

Because this wasn’t on our planned route, we were rockless. There’s a message on a rock at the top of the pile, and it’s a tradition that you read it. However, custom also forbids photos of the message or relaying it. So, you’ll have to visit Travelers Monument yourself—and bring a rock.

We spent some time talking with the drivers of some well-equipped 4x4s. These were the kind of elaborate vehicles you’d feel comfortable driving around the world—truly adventure vehicles. They had provisions for just about any possibility—about the opposite of us. We had some water, tire repair kits, cameras, and warm base layers we didn’t need. They were excited to meet motorcycle journalists on bikes with manufacturers’ plates out on a test, which is always a bit embarrassing. As the discussion progressed, they offered us shots of hard liquor, or beer, if that was our beverage of choice. We politely declined, though they imbibed without hesitation. As much fun as we were having, the clock was ticking and the sun aiming for the horizon, so it was time to get going again.Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: Jess on the rocks

I mounted the KTM, turned it on, and was greeted by a low-fuel light. How long that had been on, I didn’t know. Baker was 20 miles of dirt away. Could we make it? Maybe. Did it seem like a good idea to try? Not really. Obviously, we should have topped both bikes off when we started in Ludlow. I knew the 4×4 group would have gas, so I explained our predicament—of course they had fuel. I rolled the KTM over to their pump, expecting to get a gallon for insurance. Needless to say, the leader of the group insisted on filling the KTM to the brim. I said to him, “I’d offer to pay, but I know what you’ll say.” He laughed and confirmed that no money would be changing hands. With the KTM’s tank topped off, we felt assured that the ride to Baker would be drama-free. As we were leaving, a small, beleaguered tour bus with a hanging front fender pulled up. It was filled with Asian tourists. They were in for a treat.

We sprinted across Soda Dry Lake at highway speeds. Along the way, we encountered two high-performance side-by-sides coming our way. They split apart, roaring past us on each side at an impressively high velocity on the sometimes-rough lake bed. We were swallowed up in dust, but I didn’t mind. The whole experience was very Mad Maxish, though Jess was a bit on the annoyed side about getting dusted out.

After exiting the lake bed, we stopped to take photos of Jess roosting on the BMW. As you’ll note, we ended up with far fewer photos than we expected due to our misadventures. For some reason, the sun did not want to help us out and slow its downward progress. With some photos in hand, it’s time to switch bikes for the rest of the day. Jess regains possession of the KTM 890 Adventure R, and I’ll be on the BMW F 850 Adventure. Again, I’m getting lucky, as we’ll be on pavement once we fill up in Baker, which is less than 10 miles away. As I’m getting ready to mount the BMW, Jess takes off on the KTM. I watch him disappear quickly in the distance and press the BMW’s power button. Nothing.

I look at the button, and it quickly dawns on me that Jess has the key fob for the BMW with him. I also realize that Jess isn’t going to notice anytime soon. I find a nice place in the scrub to lay down with a bit of protection from the weak winter sun, close my eyes, and wait. I was tempted to start the timer on my phone to see how long it was going to take, but I didn’t really want to know.

It turned out to be quite a while. Jess made it close to Baker and waited for me—and waited. He didn’t see me coming, so he thought he’d try and call or text me—we were close enough to I-15 that it might work. When he reached into his pocket, guess what was there with his phone. Jess makes short work of the five miles or so back to me and sheepishly hands over the fob.

Now, it’s definitely getting late. We fill the tanks in Baker, across the street from The Mad Greek, where I had optimistically planned for a lunch stop. Instead, the next stop is Kelso Depot along the railroad tracks in Kelso via the descriptively named Kelbaker Road. The Fanttik air pump gets pulled out, and I air up the tires while Jess dutifully fills both tanks with Arco’s high test. It’s a 35-mile ride from Baker to Kelso, and I estimate that we made it in about 20 minutes or so. We were hauling, and there was no adult supervision that late in the afternoon. We passed only one truck and met only one car coming the other way. Both the BMW and the KTM ate up the miles voraciously and enthusiastically. The route is mostly straight, with a few gradual turns and elevation changes. I actually got to lead Jess through this section for a change, but only because he let me. About seven miles outside of Kelso, Kelbaker Road goes over a rise and turns due south. At that point, late in the day, it was truly a postcard view as we crested the brow of the hill—absolutely jaw-droppingly stunning in an area filled with mind-boggling vistas. I thought about taking a photo, but knew that it wouldn’t even begin to approximate the panoramic scene and how it presents itself. If you’re in that area close to sunset, it’s a treat.Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: Kelso Depot

As we pulled into Kelso Depot, now Kelso Depot Visitor Center, I figured it would be closed, and it was. What I didn’t know was that it’s closed until Spring 2023—”major mechanical failure of the climate control systems,” according to the National Park Service. That can be a problem in the winter, and it is an absolute dealbreaker in the summer.

Regardless, Kelso Depot is magnificent to see, even if you can’t go inside—and you do want to go inside. Built in 1923, it’s a combination of Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture designed by Parkinson & Parkinson, the same architectural firm that designed three still-active Los Angeles landmarks—City Hall, the Memorial Coliseum, and Union Station. Like the Mojave Megaphone, though in a completely different way, Kelso Depot is one of those things you just can’t believe is out in the middle of absolute nowhere.

With no one around to enforce the “No Entry” signs on a service driveway, we were able to position the BMW and KTM in front of the western face of the Depot for a few Magic Hour photos, and the warm light from the dropping sun was stunning. There are also other interesting historic structures in Kelso. The southern face of Kelso Depot is the most elaborate view—the sight passengers enjoyed when disembarking from Union Pacific trains until 1964.

By now, the sun was getting seriously low, so it was back on the bikes for a 22-mile sprint to I-40 on Kelbaker Road. Almost straight, there are a few kinks in the road to keep things interesting, especially when giving sixth gear a workout.

The Conti TKC 80s never issued a complaint, even at triple speeds on straights, and pushing hard through fast sweepers.

The final 28-mile dash to Ludlow didn’t take long. Other than trucks that were (mostly) sticking to the right lane, I-40 was empty as the sun started dipping behind the hills. The peaks on my Arai XD-4 and Jess’s Shoei Hornet X2 came in handy to prevent us from being blinded as we were heading straight at the sun. The wind had picked up, so we were being aggressively buffeted around. We tucked in behind the windscreens and kept the throttle almost wide open—all in the name of safety, of course. The faster we went, the sooner we’d be back to the Tundra in Ludlow. Just as the KTM has the advantage in the dirt, the BMW gets the nod on the high-speed pavement. With a longer wheelbase and more rake, the GS is simply more stable than the R. Add in the BMW’s more-comfortable and superior wind protection, and the F 850 GS Adventure wins the paved portion of the ride, just as the KTM 890 Adventure R is clearly superior off-road. The last stretch to Ludlow is a long downhill. I looked longingly to the left. I had scouted out an off-highway route to the south that would bring us into Ludlow the back way through some mountains. However, our various delays quashed any bonus off-pavement riding.

Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: Ludlow History

We pulled into the parking lot of the Ludlow Cafe, and Jess’s truck was still there. We were pretty dusty, so we ducked in to find out if they’d still be able to serve us in a half-hour or so. They happily confirmed that it would not be a problem. We changed out of our riding gear, and loaded the BMW and KTM into the truck.

Inside the Ludlow Cafe, it was quiet. We were seated and perused the ancient menu, which is heavy on diner classics. You won’t find the word “fusion” on this menu, and we’re all the better for it. Instead, there’s a Ludlow History page on the menu that’s worth reading.

Ludlow Cafe Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes and Corn

I settled on the roast beef dinner, and Jess went for a bacon cheeseburger. At the table, there are books for you to read while waiting for your food to arrive—a throwback to the days before connectivity. If the Ludlow Cafe has WiFi, they didn’t mention it, but cell service is satisfactory due to the proximity of I-40. One of the titles, “Understanding Women—A Guidebook For Guys Who Are Often Confused,” caught my eye. However, my iPhone won the battle for my attention. There are some things that you’re better off not knowing.

Understanding Women: A Guidebook

As far as the food goes, Jess sang the praises of his burger and fries. It certainly looked handmade. My roast beef dinner looked better than it tasted. The gravy and mashed potatoes were excellent. Sadly, the roast beef was mostly overdone, and some pieces were rock hard. That’s okay—I’ll be back. I’ll just order something else next time.

Mojave Megaphone Adventure Ride: Ludlow Cafe Bacon Cheeseburger

Our misadventures on the BMW F 850 GS Adventure and KTM 890 Adventure R are exactly why we love and ride ADV motorcycles. You never know what’s going to happen. You hope to find what you’re looking for, and we did—the legendary Mojave Megaphone. You’ll stumble upon something you didn’t expect, and we did—the Travelers Monument. You’ll miss something you wanted to see—Zzyzx Road—but get to bathe in the sundown light at the Kelso Depot.

It’s time for us to start planning our next (mis)adventure.

Jess McKinley contributed to this story.

Photography by Don Williams


• Helmet: Shoei Hornet X2 Sovereign

• Jacket + pants: Alpinestars Andes V3 Drystar

• Gloves: Alpinestars SMX-E

• Boots: Alpinestars Corozal ADV DS Oiled

Specs2021 BMW F 850 GS Adventure2021 KTM 890 Adventure R
Type:Parallel twinParallel twin
Bore x stroke:84 x 77mm90.7 x 68.8mm
Maximum power:90 horsepower @ 8000 rpm100 horsepower @ 8000 rpm
Maximum torque:63 ft-lbs @ 6250 rpm74 ft-lbs @ 6500 rpm
Valvetrain:DOHC; 4vpcDOHC; 4 vpc
Transmission:6-speed w/ optional quickshifter6-speed w/ optional quickshifter
Clutch:Wet multiplateWeb multiplate w/ assist and slipper functions
Final drive:ChainChain
Frame:Tubular steel; load-bearing engineSteel trellis; load-bearing engine
Front suspension:Non-adjustable 43mm inverted forkFully adjustable WP Xplor 48mm inverted fork
Front suspension travel:9.1 inches9.4 inches
Rear suspensionRebound-damping and spring-preload adjustable ZF shockFully adjustable WP Xplor piggyback shock
Rear suspension travel:8.5 inches9.4 inches
Wheels:Wire spokeWire-spoke
Front wheel:21 x 2.1521 x 2.5
Rear wheel:17 x 4.2518 x 4.5
Tires:Continental Twinduro TKC 80Continental Twinduro TKC 80
Front tire:90/90 x 2190/90 x 21
Rear tire:150/780 x 17150/70 x 18
Front brakes:305mm discs w/ 2-piston calipers320mm discs w/ Brembo 4-piston calipers
Rear brake:265mm disc w/ single-piston caliper260mm disc w/ Brembo caliper
Wheelbase:62.7 inches60.2 inches
Rake:28 degrees26.3 inches
Seat height:34.4 inches34.6 inches
Fuel capacity:6.1 gallons5.3 gallons
Curb weight:538 pounds464 pounds
PRICESFrom $13,545From $14,199

Mojave Megaphone Adventure: BMW F 850 GS Adventure and KTM 890 Adventure R