10 Reasons We Loved our Road Trip in Joshua Tree National Park with Mazda USA

By Kach Umandap April 6th, 2016 Posted in Roadtrip & Adventure, Travel Blog, Travel Guides 51 Comments

We booked our flights to California without any real plans, so we were really lucky to have the chance to go on a road trip through California with Mazda and Men Who Blog. We picked up brand new Mazda 6 at LAX airport and drove straight to our friends’ house in Santa Barbara, who we had met in the Maldives almost two years earlier. After hanging out with them and doing cool stuff like riding motorbikes and even getting my UK Marriage Visa in LA, we set off on our road trip into the desert!Road Trip in USA - testing the Mazda 6

Having only seen this majestic place in pictures we knew we were in for an amazing ride through the merging of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, each having very different ecosystems. The result of this union is a landscape dotted with unusual geological features sculpted by torrential rain and strong winds, framed by a dramatic, endless sky of stars. Luckily we were entering this harsh wilderness in the luxury of the new Mazda 6!


Joshua Tree National Park Road Trip

The sleek, sporty Mazda 6 sedan was the perfect car for driving the smooth, winding California roads around Joshua Tree National Park – poised, sharp, powerful yet economical and with a huge boot, (sorry, trunk!) for all our road trip luggage! The ride is super smooth, the handling and steering responsive. The Skyactive engine is quiet and smooth, until you hit the accelerator, when it suddenly snaps into life and starts eating up the road. With a flick of the ‘Sport’ button, the revs perked up, the suspension tightened and the steering became extra responsive for the tighter turns on the mountain roads.

Road Trip in USA - beautiful sunset in Joshua Tree National Park

We had an incredible couple of days camping and driving in the Joshua Tree National Park and we’re looking forward to doing a lot more road trips. A big thanks to Mazda, DriveShop and Men Who Blog for helping us achieve this dream.Joshua Tree National Park Roadtrip with Mazda USA

Here’s the top ten reasons why we loved our road trip in Joshua Tree National Park with Mazda USA!

1. Camping under a blanket of stars in Joshua Tree National ParkJoshua Tree National Park Road Trip with Mazda USA Stargazing

We reached our first night’s destination in Joshua Tree National Park after an incredible drive through the desert just in time to pitch our tent as the orange sun set over the rocks in the distance. After a day of driving we had worked up a huge appetite and enjoyed a moonlit barbecue (the cool guys of #MenWhoBlog got us a lot of spam, bacon and camping food sponsored by Hormel Food Company and the grill from Napoleon Grills) , with the added company of an astronomer who came to meet us with his telescope and helped us find so many stars and constellations in the endless night sky. It was so powerful we could even make out all the craters of the moon!

Road Trip in USA - Camping in Joshua Tree National Park

2. The Eerie Silence of Salton SeaJoshua Tree National Park Roadtrip with Mazda USA

Leading through the National Park, this route takes you through mountains until you reach a lake around which sits the abandoned remains of a major tourist resort. During its development the salt levels of the lake rose and rose gradually until all of the fish, birds and plant life were killed resulting in the abandonment of the project. While this may sound spooky and sad, the remains are actually really beautiful in a strange contrast to the powerful scenery around them.

3. One Man’s Awesome Dream to Build Salvation Mountain

Joshua Tree National Park Roadtrip with Mazda USA1956

One of the most iconic Joshua Tree monuments is Salvation Mountain, a huge construction of wood, mud and straw painted in multiple bright colours. This is the decades-long work of a man who found God and dedicated his life to honouring his experience through this mountain. It’s a pretty surreal view, driving off the desert road and exploring the weird and wonderful passageways within this creation, filled with colours and shapes amongst the dry, grey mud. Worried you might miss it? Just look out for the huge white cross above the painted “God is Love” letters painted onto a big rock.

Joshua Tree National Park Roadtrip with Mazda USA1953

4. The Alternative Lifestyle of the Slab City “Slabbers”Joshua Tree National Park Roadtrip with Mazda USA1957

This so-called city is in fact an old air force base that is now home to many people and their motor homes. We drove by here on the way from Salvation Mountain and saw many motor homes decorated with recycled junk turned into funky art.  Known as “Slabbers” they all have an interesting story to tell, many are retirees escaping the cold winter weather elsewhere while also avoiding the costs of regular society. Many are simply wanderers in search of a life with real freedom. With no electricity, running water or sewage system, they must rely on solar panels, their own system of waste management and a communal shower in the form of a concrete cistern whose water source is a hot spring 100 yards away.Joshua Tree National Park Roadtrip with Mazda USA

5. The Bizarreness of East Jesus Artist’s CommuneRoad Trip in USA - East Jesus in Slab City

In the same location you will also find an artist community named East Jesus, a destination for artists to come and create sculptures in the desert. There’s something quite other-worldly about coming across these unusual metal constructions in their variety of shapes in the midst of the dusty, isolated desert. The facility is completely off-grid, un-served by any municipal utility services, while on the surface it is an exhibition space the artists here are representing the results of their investigations into creative reuse, non-linear advancement and low-tech solutions. Keep an eye out for the curator who could possibly be the inspiration behind the name with his long, white beard, hooked tobacco pipe and goblet of wine!

6. Driving the Iconic Route 66Road Trip in USA with Mazda USA to Route 66

On our second day we switched into the Mazda CX-5, a mid-size SUV all-wheel-drive, out onto a stretch of route 66. This 2300 mile road is an American icon and driving along it is a bucket list activity for many travellers the world over. Due to the construction of new routes connecting states together, many towns whose livelihoods relied on the passing traffic have become ghosts of their former selves, now serving only as a sign of times gone by and a photo opportunity. Jonathan loved the chance to put his foot down and race with the spectacular landscape whizzing past and the breeze to take the edge off the hot desert sun.

7. Getting some real off-roading action!Joshua Tree National Park Road Trip with Mazda CX5

We put the Mazda CX-5 4 wheel drive to the test, taking it off-road through the desert for several miles to the aptly named “Giant Rock” which is literally a huge rock sitting alone in the desert and a great spot for some funny photos. The car served us well with some careful manoeuvring from Jonathan and thankfully we made it back to the safety of the road without a scratch. Driving off-road in the desert shouldn’t be underestimated, so if planning it yourself be sure to check with someone first which routes are safest for your vehicle. Also, make sure someone knows where you’re going.Joshua Tree National Park Roadtrip with Mazda USA

8. The Guinness World Record Holding Banana MuseumJoshua Tree National Park Roadtrip with Mazda USA

I bet you never knew you could find so many banana themed items in one place or that they actually grow in California. Well neither did we! Despite its confusing location and theme, take the time out of your drive to stop off at this slightly odd but novelty addition along the way where you can buy anything from a banana milkshake to a banana-shaped record player, who wouldn’t want that!

9. The Reflections of Elmer’s Bottle Tree RanchJoshua Tree National Park Roadtrip with Mazda USA

Driving along Route 66 you may be mistaken in thinking you’ve seen a lonely patch of trees alone in the desert. It’s not an oasis, but a man made “woodland” crafted from recycled bottles in ranging shades of bright bottle green, brown and clear glass, effectively emulating the changing colours of autumn leaves. Built by a man named Elmer Long who you may be lucky enough to meet, he loves to spend time in the garden and tell visitors about his creation and often offers small glass pieces in exchange for donations that help him expand. This unusual site is famous worldwide, attracting guests from as far afield as France and Japan and now the Philippines! Photographers like Jonathan won’t want to leave, with every angle offering a new interesting effect through the lens.

Joshua Tree National Park Roadtrip with Mazda USA1960

10. Visiting a real life desert oasis

Joshua Tree National Park Roadtrip with Mazda USA

We ended our 4-day road trip in 29 Palms, a 70-acre oasis in the middle of the desert offering accommodation within the 1930’s Adobe style bungalow and several wooden cabins, with a swimming pool, organic garden and restaurant. They also have a creative centre offering artistic workshops for those inspired by the artworks seen in the desert. After an exhilarating off-road drive and the unforgettable experience of zooming down Route 66 this peaceful and quiet spot was the perfect place to rest and reflect on everything we had seen.

Extra Tip: Check out Plumguide for the best holiday homes and vacation rentals in Joshua Tree.

SM Monkey - Section Dividers 1600 pxRoad Trip in USA - our first time to visit the Joshua Tree National Park

Thank you to Mazda USA for sponsoring our #DrivingMatters Trip.  If you’d like to read more about our Joshua Tree trip, check out the Men Who Blog website to read the other stories of our new blogging friends who joined us! 

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51 thoughts on “10 Reasons We Loved our Road Trip in Joshua Tree National Park with Mazda USA

  1. No plans of visiting the US yet but this is interesting. Glad you guys are having a blast! Xx

  2. I loved visiting Joshua Tree and the surrounding area! Especially the Salton Sea area. It’s incredible to think of what it once was.

  3. Wow that’s roadtrip goal. I love the color of the car. Red for luxury. Would love to do camping there too. Keep safe on the road!

  4. I love some of those very unique monuments! I’ve not been to this national park but might have to ad dit to the list.

  5. Omg how amazing! I’m a few hours from Joshua Tree. Hopefully I get to go before I move from the west coastZ

  6. Give me a Mazda, and I think I’d love just about any road trip. Having said that, I have to agree, this seems like one heck of a route. The Salvation Mountain, the abandoned resort, the Bottle Ranch – some real interesting sites, all of these!

  7. Hey I am going to several national parks this year and t article just made me love Joshua tree Park. We are also going on a road trip— that mazda — seems like the perfect companion.

  8. What! How have I never heard of this epic road trip before?? Route 66 looks incredible, and all those wacky/quirky attractions are right up my alley. Salvation Mountain especially looks like such a cool place to visit. Can’t wait to see it for myself one day!

    1. HI Christina. The desert is a very strange place that’s for sure, with loads of crazy and cool stuff to see along the way! Route 66 is the ultimate road trip, although we only drove a short part of it.

  9. The deep red Mazda looked beautiful against the landscape. I’d love to see the Joshua Tree and the recycled forest in person, the attractions you covered were so unique. Lovely trip!

    1. Yes it was a great car for those roads and loads of amazing places to see as well as all the nature!

  10. Love the quirky sites (although religion is most definitely not my thing).

    I’m pretty sure Joe A has been to a lot of these spots…

    1. The only religious part is really Salvation Mountain, but you can appreciate its coolness and character without being religious.

  11. Thx for this fantastic post about Joshua Tree National Park. Do you know what year Salvation Park was completed? We were there in the 1980’s and I don’t recall seeing it.

    1. I’m really not sure when he started and completed it, but it would be really cool to have seen it before and then go back!

  12. Awesome post! I love the American Southwest and all the quirky people and sites in it! Joshua Tree looks spectacular and camping is the perfect way to experience it!

  13. Wow so much of adventure in a single trip. We had love to sleep under the sky watching stars and visit an real Oasis. Sounds like you all had a great time.

  14. I love all sunny places and I love visit new cultures and meet new people. Thanks for sharing this awesome pictures! Have a nice day!

  15. The pictures are just too unique to ignore. Please allow me to tweet this cause I love travelling.
    Thanks for the post. I’ll also pin it to my travel bucket list.

    1. Thank you, we had a great time taking the pictures too! You’re Kenyan? I grew up in Kenya! Planning to go back this year or next! 🙂

  16. So beautiful, last time I went to California i visited all the famous landmarks without learning about the hidden beauty of the state, maybe next time i’ll just set up camp under the stars.

    1. Thanks Chris! Big landmarks are cool too, but sometimes it’s great to just get out into nothing and chill! 🙂

    1. We all said t his throughout the trip – the desert is full of weirdness, but that;s what makes it so cool!

  17. Amazing trip and amazing place!
    Your pictures are awesome 🙂 I’ve never heard about Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch

  18. I wanna pack my bags and go this instant! What a stunning place! Somewhere I have always wanted to go. My husband loved his little mazda he once had in Germany – it too saw many a road trip!

  19. A road trip. Awesome guys for sharing an amazing experience. I bet the fuel budget wouldn’t have been quite nominal with you own Mazda running miles, but you got sponsored for it. Thats brilliant.

    1. Thank you Varun. Actually the fuel mileage was really good. They have this Skyactive system that gives you sporty power when you want it and economy at the same time. Of course it’s no Diesel, but 30MPG combined is very realistic.

  20. this is exactly the kind of trip I dream of with my partner. Did you clean the car every day? ;-D they always look so clean! Great post and I love these pics very very much

    1. Haha, actually they were filthy with desert dust, we just got lucky with how the pics turned out in the end! Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

  21. Love love love this! It was so great getting to meet you guys and hang out in the desert, and then LA and Santa Barbara! Hope to meet again on the road soon!

    1. Mr Hicks! It was our pleasure! Next time I hope you can bring that classic American tank of yours as well!

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Written by Kach Umandap

Founder of Two Monkeys Travel Group. Since 2013, Kach has visited all the 7 continents (including Antarctica) and 151 countries using her Philippines Passport. In 2016, she bought a sailboat and went on sailing adventures with her two cats - Captain Ahab & Little Zissou in the Caribbean for 2 years. She now lives in Herceg Novi, Montenegro where she's enjoying her expat life and living on a gorgeous Stonehouse. She writes about her experiences traveling as a Filipina traveler with a PHL Passport. Also tips on backpacking trips, luxury hotel experiences, product reviews, sailing & adventure travel.