Category Archives: 2011 Baja Mexico

The Baja is hard… really hard. Two friends embark on a solo off-road adventure down some of the most rugged terrain in the world. This adventure has is all, solitude, friendship, quiet beaches and crazy military checkpoints. A trip of a lifetime.

dusty road behind fj cruiser

Baja Adventure Part 7 – Coming To Blows

old rusted car baja mexicoLeaving Bahía de los Ángeles was bitter sweet.  Behind the peace and tranquility of the sea.  Ahead, our continued progress through Dante’s divine comedy.

The route headed south, running along the mountains  for dozens of miles before dipping back down to give us one last look at the Sea of Cortez before turning west.  We would spend the rest of the day trekking back across the peninsula which, with each pass, was becoming less hospitable to carbon based life (I wont debate the other forms of life which may flourish down here but lets just say Mulder and Sculley may have been right).

Back in the states; friends, family and everyone we mentioned our adventure to, wished us well and said; “be safe”.  Everyone had read the papers, seen the news reports and watched Locked Up Abroad.  It was hard to miss, You Tube videos showing road blocks on the edge of towns where bandidos ambushed motorists, beheadings in Acapulco, drug cartels killing each other and gangs running towns.  But  no, this is not what kept me up at night worrying.small baja mexico cemetery

The drug cartel trouble has been on the rise since Mr. Clintion took office.  Montezuma has been reeking havoc on tourists since the Spanish conquistadors first marched on the Aztec nation.   Montezuma’s revenge (not the video game) that quaint colloquialism for traveler’s trots, the squirts, colon blows, galloping splatters, hershey squirts, the runs, green apple nasties, ass sneezing or travelers’ diarrhea (TD) is what had me worried.

fj cruiser driving dirt road baja mexicoWe’d been playing Russian roulette for several days, eating in local restaurants where we were the only diners with USA passports.  We tried to keep our mouths closed in the showers as water washed over our faces but it is hard to keep water out of the one orifice that was designed to let water in .  Each morning we even dared to stick a toe in the waters with espresso americanos from little corner cafes.

gas station banos sign baja mexicoBut we’d stuck with bottled water and been on a daily regiment of two Pepto Bismol tablets every day since crossing the border.  No amount of coffee it seemed was able to undo the affects these little pink chalky tablets.  Even to the point of worrying us a little after the first few days.  Having our pipes blocked up though seemed so much better than the alternatives, especially since the roll of toilet paper was buried somewhere in the back of the rig under the spare tire and the only vegetation on the trail had thorns. We took our Pepto…  And all was good.

cactus in baja mexico hilsI have known Brad since my days at University.  Back then, professors wrote on cave walls and the science department was running an experiment trying to invent fire.

As long as I can remember Brad was the responsible one.  When we would get together to cram for finals, he brought books, class notes, past test and study guides.  I brought beer.  When I would try to turn a trip to the store into a drive to the beach, it was Brad who would remind us our term papers were due in the morning.  And when I would celebrate Cinco De Mayo, slamming tequila shots to the point of believing I could speak fluent Spanish and perform that Mexican hat dance on the bar tables, it was Brad who made sure I slept it off on the floor of a bedroom rather than a cell at county.

fj cruiser dusty baja mexico dirt roadWe have seen each other through job changes, ex-wives, new kids coming into our lives and old friends departing this life.  I count Brad among a few people in the world who I would kill or die for, if he asked.

Brad took on this adventure not really knowing what he was stepping into.  He just wanted to get away, relax a little and step out of his comfort zone doing something different.

fj cruiser cross roads baja mexicoThere are two seats in the rig.  The driver’s seat and the bitch seat.  As the name implies, the drivers seat is responsible for keeping the rig moving forward and getting everyone from point “A” to point “B”, and back, safely.  The bitch is responsible for EVERYTHING ELSE.

Brad is navigator, camera man,  crew chief, spotter and head gopher.  He embraced his roll with all the gusto of a wide eyed, eager,  young college intern racing to copy, collate and render in 3D the big presentation due out to the boardroom in 15 minutes.  Brad was taking on his job as if was a job. There was nothing he wouldn’t do in order for us to make our goals.  But it was taking it’s toll and starting to show.burial tomb baja mexico

We stayed on course today but came up well short of our mileage goal, again!  This evening, instead of relaxing, Brad poured over the maps, studied the route, measured progress and considered the realities of our schedule.  At this rate we would never make Cabo San Lucas, and he let me know it.

Looking back, it was unfair of me to placed him in an impossible position, somewhere between the realities of limited vacation days and a commitment to my Peter Pan, Baja adventure, dream.   I piled task after task on Brad, exploiting his best qualities.  I knew he would do what I could not.  I knew he would be the responsible one.

baja mexico desert hills and mountainsBrad had wanted to get away, relax and step out of his comfort zone.  I had taken him 2,200 miles away from work and the big project which has been his life for the last two years.

I had gotten him out of his comfort zone.  He was wheeling for the first time and wheeling hard.  We had walked four miles through town, after dark, along the highway, across from teenagers making out under flickering street lights and past emaciated, mange covered, barking dogs tethered to a rusted out truck in front a windowless shack, to a little bodega so I could get bubble water and crunchy snacks.  He was eating spicy authentic local dishes and sipping coffee curbside as locals walked by staring at us.  He was out of his comfort zone…  way out of his comfort zone.millitary checkpoint baja mexico

But he was not relaxed.  He hadn’t shed the mental calendar in his head.  He was worried we’d get off course.  He was worried that he’d have us miss a Pemex station and we’d run out of fuel.  He was worried about letting me down.  It was my fault he was angry and frustrated.  We can fix that.

We decided drop the leg that ran across the peninsula to Loreto and back.  We’d still run the course along the Pacific and into Cabo as originally planned. We would spend an extra night in Cabo doing absolutely nothing (drinking and site seeing counts as nothing right).  Brad would extend his vacation from by an extra day.baja mexico oasis palm trees

I would drive like hell to have us in Cobo within two days, out of Mexico in five days and home in seven.  I would also take on more responsibilities.  Well I would try.

Brad agreed, to let go.   His new mantra: It’s not a race, change is ok, this is about having fun.  Something will still probably go wrong but we will deal with it and be fine.  No matter what happens we’ve already accomplished more than either of us could have toasting with negra modelo beer

Nothing, absolutely nothing on this adventure is more important than our friendship.  A week confined in a rig driving through hell before we got to this point.  That’s pretty good for us.  We drank to it.

gull with urchin flying low over Bahía de los Ángeles

Baja Adventure Part 6 – Camp Bahía de los Ángeles

Bahía de los Ángeles sand dunes and mountainWhen I first started planning this Baja off-road adventure I imagined camping in the desert wilderness, enjoying gourmet meals cooked on a little green two burner Coleman stove, sipping coffee from a tin cup, warming myself by the fire, sleeping under the stars and listening to the undeniable sound of silence.

We’ve been staying in little motels!  I’m not complaining mind you.  A clean room, soft beds and hot showers after a long hard day on the trail is an undeniable luxury.  Motels have made our progress possible.  We drive past dark and hit the road early.  We don’t have to set up camp, tear down, cook or look for fire wood.  We’ve been driving hard on an extremely tough course and I appreciate the comforts.  But dammit, I want to camp.

sunset Bahía de los Ángeles sand dunes and mountainsOn the west, the pacific hurls waves and wind at the shore, stirring up surf and sand as it works to reshape the coastline.  On the eastern side of Baja, the Sea of Cortez’s blue water quietly laps away the coyote tracks in the sand as it strains to follow the rhythmic song of the moon’s pull.  Bahía de los Ángeles is the end of the road, a large, island filled lagoon, a third of the way down the coast of the Sea of Cortez.  Tonight, we camp!

man inspecting truck suspension in sandWe made good time driving today managing to stay on course. We’d reached our destination for the night with the sun still above the mountains to the west.  After refueling at the last Pemex we’d see for another 200 miles, we left the asphalt heading down to the end of the bay.  It didn’t take long to drive the dirt road through this little fishing village.  In less than two city blocks the fruit stand, fishing boats, torn nets, market, tar paper shacks and sleepy dogs were behind us.

man in camp chair studying baja mapAs we drove past the last shack we started looking for a trail or opening through the brush that would lead us down to the water.  At the end of the bay we spotted our opening and turned the rig toward the sea.  Serpentining our way through the low dunes put us onto the dried mud flats that opened to the shore.  We could see we where going to be alone tonight and had our choice of where to set camp.  It’s not like there are assigned spots, THIS is Baja.   And tonight, this is our beach.  Unsure of the tides here, we picked the top of a little dune at the waters edge.

fj cruiser prayer flags evening baja mexicoWe went about quickly setting camp.  Even though we still had light, in the Baja night comes quickly.  Unpacking the rig, pitching our tent (well three sides of a tent), assembling cots, camp chairs,   getting the kitchen prepped, reviewing tomorrows route, and raising the prayer flags.

Buddhist prayer flags are used throughout Tibet, India and Napal to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. Unlike Christian prayers, the flags do not carry prayers to gods; rather, the prayers (mantras) are intended to be whisked by the wind, spreading good will and compassion throughout the world.

There is a belief that once the prayers of the flags are caught by the wind they become a permanent part of the universe combating fear, hatred and pain.  For many, raising prayer flags symbolizes a welcoming of life’s changes and an acceptance that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.morning prayers fj cruisre

While I’m not Buddhist, I do like the idea of adding peace and compassion to the karmic soup we all swim in.  It also reminds me that whatever this adventure, or life, throws at me, I’m a luck man.

I don’t know whether it was the still night air, the prayer flags, the distant coyote howls or that my blood sugar was crashing from not eating all day but a wave of melancholiness began to wash over me.  I’ve been given a life filled with amazing family and friends.  I’ve traveled the world and seen many of its riches as well as its poverty.  I’ve worked with brilliant business execs, watched great artists create beauty and listened to scholars without intellectual equals debate.  And in the Baja, I pondered “why”.  Why me.

man head shot skul capNot why poor me…  But why have I been so lucky.  Why weren’t the struggling fishermen up the beach given the same opportunities?  Why is their famine, plague and sorrow?  If it is all just luck, will it run out some day?  Why can’t I release this need to control my luck…

I wont bother to drag you into the traumatic melodrama that played out in my head as I continued about camp duties.   But I will say, in the end I accepted that I’m lucky, that change is constant and while I’m afforded opportunities I’ll try to share them with others.animal tracks beach sand Bahía de los Ángeles

Three weeks before, when planning the meals for this adventure (remember, I intended to camp every night) Brad mocked me when I asked if he enjoyed Indian cuisine? Apparently Brad, his family, my family and all our other friends thought it was funny that we would be in Baja, Mexico and I was planning to cook Indian.  Tonight I served  a kettle of Indian black tea, chicken tikka masala, aloo palak and brown rich, followed by coffee, biscotti di Prato and our usual fine cigar and glass of bourbon (ok tin cup of bourbon).  Who’s laughing now!

As we turned in for the night, we realized we hadn’t been using our headlamps.  The moon was full, dazzling bright and close enough to touch.  The bright moon didn’t leave much room for stars but bathed everything a soft light, giving the bay a freshly washed look; brightly visible without the reflective glare of the sun.  In this strange light the hills to east and west of us appeared within easy reach, if we could just raise our tired, old bones from our cots and gravity’s grip.close up shell beach sand

On a still night, when you remove the white noise of civilization, the whispers of nature become crisp and clear, filling the voids left behind.  Laying on our cots, we were 30 yards from the sea and a good 20 feet above it.  Yet, it was all I could do not to keep checking if tide had crept up on our camp.  The soft waves of the sea sounded as if they were lapping at our feet, submerging everything we owned.  The solitary seal’s occasional barks would temporarily brake the round robin of coyote howls as they talked to each other from the hills around us.    Even the distant splashes from out at sea seemed to join this jazz session of nature which filled our hearts as we drifted off to sleep, bundled in our bags trying to repel the 40 degree desert fj cruiser prayer flags camping sunrise Bahía de los Ángeles

Brad is a morning person.  Me not so much.

Camp mornings are magical and the cries of gulls, howling coyotes and barking seals ensured the sun’s warm rays would draw me out early this morning.

The air hadn’t warmed up much this morning.  Everything had a cool, crispness about it and the smell of a new day filled my lungs.  The glow of the lagoon this morning was just as spectacular as the long shadows had been the evening before.  All around the camp were the fresh prints of the coyotes who had visited in the night.

Bahía de los Ángeles morning bay viewBut none of this interested me now.  I wanted caffeine; hot coffee and lots of it.

As the caffeine kicked in, I was overwhelmed as the raw beauty of this lagoon washed over me.  I can’t begin to describe, pictures don’t capture and video is too small for the blues of the water, the browns of the hills, the stillness of the air and the soft textures of the sand beneath my boots.  2,000 miles away from when we first started planning our crazy adventure, this morning was everything I had dreamed of.

vultures on tall baja cactus watching usThe hardest thing for me is to break camp.  It’s not particularly difficult or time consuming but it signifies the end of a lazy morning.  As Brad began to tear down camp I went through my morning rig inspection routine.  After the river bed episode yesterday (as it later became known as), this mornings inspection involved paying a little more attention to the ball joints and front suspension.  The rig still seemed strong and just to make sure everything articulated freely, I gave a few sprays of grease to the suspension’s moving parts as Brad finish packing up our lives.

Before leaving we took one last look around, drawing it all in as we started down the route.  No longer assuming we had any idea of what the Baja would throw at us we embarked down the course welcoming whatever change the day held in store.

men peeing side of dirt road next to fj cruiser

Baja Adventure Part 5 – Continuing To The Bay

man leaning on shovel baja mexicoThe sadistic, serpent worshiping, demonic bastards who layout the Baja race course have a bad sense of humor. Rather go over the mountains, they steered the off-road course down a river bed that meandered its way through the narrow valley, walled in by the rugged hills.

Living and wheeling in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve forded my share of streams and creeks. I’ve driven in flooded trails that washed clean the undercarriage of the rig. In the northwest the ground beneath the water is firm with rocks and tree roots to give stability and traction.  In the Northwest streams are lined with numerous trees which provide an abundance of anchor point to winch against if you do get stuck.

Getting out to scout the water here we were immediately over powered by the smell of oxygen deprived water backed up from satan’s septic tank. This was shallow stagnant water resting atop soft mucky silt that seemed to go down as far you could push a shovel. Withdrawing a shovel from the muck was akin to a tug-of-war at a company picnic where scrawny pencil pushers compete to pull a line of burly dock workers across an imaginary line in the corporate sand. And as far as an anchor point for a winch was concerned, barren hills with only small scrub bushes lined the marshy river bed.baja mexico desert stream

I told myself, if I stay to left and keep one wheel close to solid ground, momentum should carry us through. Brad told himself and me, that he would get out, wait on the other side and see what happened.


I  set the transfer case to four wheel low, engaged the rear locker and proceeded, passing through the muck, not stopping until the wheels reached terra firma 20 yards or so down stream where I waited for Brad to catch up. Looking around I could see a way out, a trail that led back up into the hills on the opposite side. But the hand-held GPS indicated the course remained in the river bed wind through the hills. So we pressed on down fj cruiser water crossing baja mexico

Dry river bed is a bit misleading. Yes there were parts that were dry. Sections of dry gravel, sections of soft dry sand and sections of what can only be described as humpy lumpy vegetation. The river bed oscillated between wide open areas stretching 50 yards across to narrow sections which measured  less than 10 yards, hemmed in by vertical walls the water had carved from the hills. In the wide sections you could see three or four different paths the racers had carved out as they opened up their throttles. Each path was separated by walls of vegetation and boulder piles. It didn’t matter which path you picked but once you started down one, you were committed until they all converged again at the next narrow point. Picking the easiest path was a matter of luck since you couldn’t see where any of the paths went as they spread through the vegetation.baja mexico rock pillar

We decided to choose based on width at the opening. This didn’t mean it would remain the widest path but it was as good a way to choose as any. While the river bed was dry we drove fast. With tires aired down to 27 psi we floated on the sand and gravel keeping high on the soft terrain and giving us a land yacht like ride. Most of the major ruts and woops created by the 400 horse powered racers had been smooth out by the last flash flood that had swept through making this an ideal section for our little rig.

And than there were the sections of wet. The runoff was down to a thin trickle with low areas where two foot wide mucky trenches held a rancid soup of stagnant water and long stringy bright green moss. These sections demanded slow deliberate driving.

baja mexico stream trail forksProgress through the mucky channels meant drop the transfer case into four low, put one set of wheels on the high dry ground with the other dredging through the primordial soup. We drove slow but deliberate, keeping forward momentum to avoid getting stuck. The channels invariably serpentine across the trail creating little moments of terror as rig shifted camber dipping both sides of the rig into muck as I scrambled to find dry ground and place at least two wheels on the vegetation above the water line.

baja mexico off road stream trailBut as with everything in the Baja, things change and after an hour of confinement in the river bed, the course turned towards an old two track running away from the far bank. Once again the course placed us on the familiar desert soil.

If you drive your rig long enough you know everything about it. Sounds, quirky mechanical habits and little handling oddities gives each rig its unique personality. It wasn’t long before I recognized the blue bunny was making a new sound. Sort of like the squealing of a school girl who’s knuckles are smacked with a brittle wooden ruler in the principles office by Sister Mary holding baja cactus in hand

Stopping dead on the trail, we hoped out to take a inventory and investigate. The first thing we spotted were numerous hitchhikers clinging to the sidewalls of our tires. Pulling out the hunks of cactus embedded into the rubber was no easy matter. You risk painful wounds if you try to grab the ball of densely packed three inch spikes. Rather than donate blood I found a long stick to pry the tires free from the cactus’ grip. Although I couldn’t remember where we had run across cactus in the river bed, we pulled several of these spiny bundles from tires.

Listening and checking for leaks we cautiously waited to see if any of the long throngs had punctured through our Toyo’s side walls.  For this off-road adventure we carried a spare on the outside of the rig and another inside lashed down in the back.  Also tucked away in the back of the rig, a tire repair kit.

We were prepared tire trouble, but that didn’t mean we felt a need to test our tire management skills.  So we waited and checked to see if any of the tires were loosing air.baja mexico red cactus in tire sidewall

While waiting we went about trying to determine the cause what had originally grabbed my attention, that metal on metal squealing.  We pushed and pulled on suspension components, tugged on the gas cans up top, we waggled the high lift jack and rocked the rig back and forth trying to recreate the sound.

The high lift seemed like a good candidate.  All the jarring of the day had loosened the mount holding it in place and it made an angry squeal when wiggled.  We tightened down the mounts, added some Velcro strips to further lash it down and sprayed a little dry grease to remove any doubt as to it being the source of the cactus in tire sidewall toyo open country

The tires seemed to be holding air and the high lift was secure so we climbed back in rig and continued toward the east.  A few hundred yards and again the hairs on the back of my neck were standing at attention.  (Yes, I still have hair on the back of my neck…  just not the top of my head.)  The metal cries were back. Had we bent something in the river bed?  Had grit worked it’s way into a the places it shouldn’t?  Was something loose and about to let go or fall apart?

We rolled down the trail slowly with the windows down listening carefully.  We paid attention to what the rig was doing when the cries came and were they seemed to be loudest.  We stopped again and this time armed with a spray can of dry grease I hit the most likely places.  A mental process of elimination pointed to the ball joints. The upper and lower control arms of the front suspension are connected to the knuckle with ball joints.  They were the most vulnerable to the grit and grim of the river beds muck.  A peek behind the tires showed a film of slimy green algae clinging to them.  After checking the suspension for any binding and giving the ball joints a spray of grease we crossed our fingers and once more climbed back into the rig.

baja 1000 race ribbonOf course we were going to continue.  We had too.  No tow truck was going to come out here.  Besides, what is an adventure without a little drama.  100 yard, 200 yard, a quarter mile and no squealing.  We had found the source.  This also meant we would need to pay close attention to these ball joints during our daily rig inspection to make sure they didn’t get worse or start to show any wear.

We had been driving today for nearly eight hours under a spectacular sunny blue sky and we were still on schedule even with all the brakes we took to hydrate, pee and hydrate some more.  We were also on course.

The hand held GPS showed us on the route, but with all the tracks running parallel and crisscrossing in front of us it was the old fashion race ribbons that ensured we didn’t mistakenly follow a track off course and into a rat hole.  It became a game of find the race ribbon that kept our competitive juices flowing throughout the day.

By late afternoon the course once again dumped us onto a section of highway.  This section of smooth fresh asphalt leads to Bahía de los Ángeles (Bay of Los Angeles).

highway into Bahía de los ÁngelesBahía de los Ángeles sits at the end of the road forcing many travelers to turn around and head back the way they came.  Overlooked by most tourists this small fishing village only recently received electricity.  Cell phone coverage was still in the planning stages.   Originally the little village was established by Jesuit priests to provide a faster sea route to supply their San Francisco de Borja Mission, which had been located on the top of a mountain 35 kilometers from the bay.

This is one of the most beautiful, little secluded bays on the Sea of Cortez.  The only visitors in this oasis are sports fishermen, divers, explorers and Baja racers. For us Bahía de los Ángeles held fuel, a meal, a place to stay and well deserved rest making it the most beautiful spot anywhere on earth.

gas can on fj cruiser baja mexico mountains

Baja Adventure Part 4 – Run To The East

vultures on fence baja mexicoThe night before we had come from the east, out of the northern mountains and down to the Pacific.  This morning we were setting out, back across the Baja into the rising sun and the hills a few hundred kilometers to the south of where we were two days ago.

The landscape is changing, moving away from rugged brush covered mountains into the high plains desert.  Cactus is becoming as common as the scraggly scrub brush replacing the green shrubs and trees of the north.  The terrain is taking on the brown tones of a tanned land bathed in a sun which rises and sets in a cloudless blue ski.

dead horse baja mexicoThis is not a land for the old and weak. The vultures circle above searching for death. Crows announce it’s presence when they encounter a loser in the battle for life.  The land is harsh and death is everywhere.  A mistake out here can cost more than a tow truck ride back into town.

Not more than five minutes out and we came across a carcass that testified to the dangers of driving at night when livestock grazes or rests along the roadside.  “When do cattle learn not to rest on the road?” “Right before they are hit by the truck!”

cactus growing in baja mexicoWhen we first saw the decaying horse it was covered by vultures, its severed leg and crushed spine attested to its loosing battle with a truck.  The vultures were hunkered down on the body, defending their place on its bones.  Their featherless, brilliant red heads darting up and down as they pick at the edges of the torn leather searching for scraps of flesh.

Everything has thorns and actively defends itself.  A walk on either side of the trail is a exercise in caution to avoid the stickers which seem to reach out and grab anything that walks by.

And yet in the harsh, arid landscape there is tremendous beauty.  Though the land is dry the cactus appears succulent and full, opening a pallet of green painted against the browns and grays of the land.  Thorns that can pierce flesh and cut through a tin can faster than a ginsu knife glow an amazingly vibrant red in the morning sun.baja cactus fj cruiser

Silhouetted against the brilliant blues of the clear desert sky, even a small splash of color jumps out filling the imagination of tropical plants and vines.

The juxtaposition of death and beauty reminded me of how fragile life is, how every moment holds a wealth of emotion.  Whether we see joy or sorrow depends on our perspective and what we choose to see.

red cactus flower baja mexicoThe road would change texture many times today.  Going from tarmac, to gravel to sand and back again.  What didn’t seem to change is that course was always going straight, forever.  The race course uses stretches of Mex #1, the main highway through the Baja, to connect the off-road sections.  This morning took us on a long stretch of empty highway allowing us to make good time.  Brad checked the hand-held GPS which showed us running directly on the course.  This highway section would take us some 80 kilometers to a gravel turn off  and back into the mountains.

Cruising with our windows down, cool morning breezes blowing in and the iPod blasting, we were dos Estadounidenses running free.  This is a feeling that can only come from from a mix of equal parts friendship, solitude, challenge and accomplishment.  At this moment we were Kings of Baja.

man standing on fj cruiser baja mexicoThe GPS signaled our departure from the tarmac as we approach one of the many Pacifico shakes that dot the highways and act rest areas.  Turning off onto a long straight away of gravel we stopped to stretch and take in the course before us.

Sitting on the cusp between dirt, gravel and asphalt the rig was ready for the course ahead.  We took this time to hydrate and snack on Dora-Yaki, a carbohydrate sugar buzz made from sweet red bean paste slathered between two pancakes.  As we stood outside the rig drinking, eating and enjoying the warmth of the morning sun, two motorcycles came slowly down from the trail before us.  Nodding as they slowly passed, their worn bags strapped to the back and dust covered leathers hinted to what lay in store for us.

dirt road into baja mexico hillsThis was more inline with what we expected.  The washboard road stretched out before us.  At ten miles an hour the ruts put the rig into a kidney punishing ride that had everything inside chattering as the bumps loosened the tie-downs.  At 35 miles per hour the rig achieved a harmonic balance in which everything sat in a zen like trance, slightly shaking but without rattles or bangs.  Sure the racers shoot down this stretch at 110, but for us 35 mph was a new course record.

baja mexico mountains dirt roadIf there is one true statement about the Baja, it is that nothing stays the same.  If you don’t like the terrain, just keep driving.  The conditions will change, whether you want it too or not.

Driving out over the first set of hills placed us on a high, flat, desert plateau where before us, across miles of flat land, stood the taller mountains we would traverse once again to the Sea Of Cortez.  The course too was changing before us.  The washboard gravel, that in retrospect, looked like a wonderfully maintained cobble stone path gave way to sandy washes and mixes of hard rocky stretches.dirt road through dry river bed baja mexico

Driving now became a exercise in find a harmonic balance on the hard pan, punctuated by slamming on the brakes to reduce our speed to a crawl at the first sign of sandy washes.  This method of driving was discovered by accident of course.  Our first attempt to maintain speed through a sandy washout section transformed the rig into a bucking bronco which appeared to go on well beyond the eight second ride time.

baja mexico road through dry river bedBuddhist doctrine discusses change and how we must learn to adapt.   Stand in the way of change and you will be run over by it.  Flow with it like droplets of water and you will be move swiftly to the sea of tranquility.  We adapted, after all by now surely we’d seen all the different terrains the Baja had in store for us.

At the end of the plateau, approaching the mountains, we assumed we would be climbing back over on the same rock encrusted gnarly paths that we had encountered the day before.  We all know what assume means.

fj cruiser off camber view

Baja Adventure Part 3 – So This Is Baja?

toyota fj cruiser baja mexico river bedWatch the You Tube videos of the Baja 1,000 race and you see rigs blowing out of Ensenada, screaming down dirt roads or corning on three wheels as they come into a check point.  This is not what we were seeing on this off-road adventure.

Baja is really two states, Baja California in the north and Baja California Sur in the south.  The north is filled with mountains.  Ok, compared to the Pacific Northwest these are large rugged hill reaching up a little over 4,000 feet toward the sun.  The weather in the north is clear and dry with wide temperature swings over the course of the short days.  We woke to morning temperatures in the low 4os and by noon we were basking in the warmth of the high 70s.  This is still more or less a desert with few permanent water sources.  toyota fj cruiser off road stylizedWhat rain does fall in the mountains, races to the coast (Pacific in the west or Sea of Cortez on the east) in flash floods leaving behind dry stream beds and washed out roads, continually changing the course’s terrain and making travel interesting at best.

While I’ve been to the Rubicon, the Arctic and all parts in between, Brad had never been off-road.  There is a chance that in order to convince Brad to come on this adventure, I may have miss led him a bit when I suggested the race course would keep us on old dirt roads with a few tough stretches thrown in for good measure.  But I had never imagined the complexity of the north. Not even close.stylized off road toyota fj cruiser

Water follows the path of least resistance and up here that is the road…  or what is left of the road.  Carved into the sides of the hills the roads have edges defined by rocks, loose dirt and cambers that provide passengers with first hand views of sheer drop offs into the valleys below.  Than there are the sections that are just gone.  There was a trail here once and now a long stretch of it has gone.  Just gone.  Normally off-road means off-pavement following a defined marked trail.  The Baja gives a whole new meaning to the term off-road.  No markers, no tire tracks, no anything except a path pushed aside by fast flowing water on its way fj cruiser on cliff edge

Traveling the section outside of Mike’s Sky Ranch that treks through the hills was a series 100 yard dashes.  We got out of the rig, walked along the trail, scouted the obstacles and gullies than climbed back into the rig and drove the stretch we scouted.   I would explain to Brad where I wanted him to guide my wheels and he would spot me through.  After awhile, to speed up progress, Brad simply started walking ahead while I followed in the rig. He would spot me through a tough stretch and than continue walking ahead.  Brad’s baptism into wheeling started with a plunge in the deep end.

We had the route loaded into a hand-held GPS but when the washouts pushed us down into dry stream beds that veered away, we discovered we were on our own.  In order to move forward we needed to pick our way through bushes, rocks, washouts, and hills with no markings, tire prints or GPS way-points.  Brad kept an eye on the hand-held trying to triangulate us back in the general direction of the fj cruiser baja off road

Two hours into this Brad guesstimated we had covered ten miles.  Each morning we reset the trip odometer to zero.  I glanced down at the odometer and relayed back to Brad that we had only covered 1.6 miles.

By mile four  and several hours later we found our way onto a goat trail.  Obtaining your exact location in the hills is difficult.  We decided that rather than break out the second GPS, detailed maps and compass to identify our exact position, we would follow the goat trail that appeared to have us toyota fj cruiser hill slantmoving in the same general direction of the course.  We knew we had to maintain a south east heading and could see by the hand-held the course was running parallel just over the hills to the north.

Navigation is an odd concept.  Frank Bama says the best navigators aren’t really sure where they are going until they get there.  We, had several navigation tools at our disposal.

  1. Hand-held GPS with the way-points and route loaded
  2. Baja Gazette map book
  3. Laptop with TangoGPS
  4. Laptop with Google Earth (route cached)toyota fj cruiser baja hill climb
  5. Compass
  6. iPhone with Google Maps app
  7. Moon Baja, travel guide for the Baja – Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas

Each had there use and Brad made the most of them doing an amazing job at keeping headed in the right direction.

The hand-held GPS tracked our progress against the known route and would relate our current position to the route.  If we were off course it would triangulate a path trying to get us back on course.  Of course it did not take into account mountains, valleys or impassable washouts that maybe in the fj cruiser baja trees

The Baja Gazette gave a big picture and allowed us (read Brad) to locate ourselves in relation to cities, highways and dirt roads.  More importantly it marked the location of all Pemex stations but when it came to city street details or navigate able landmarks is left something to be desired.

Google Maps on the iPhone provided great navigation in the cities and towns showing turn by turn directions to hotels, cafes and boarder crossings.   Google Maps is what got us in and out of Tijuana.  It worked great… at least in cities and towns that had cell coverage.

Moon Baja is an invaluable resource when it comes to finding accommodations in the dark.  When we would pop out onto the highway at night a quick glance through the travel guide gave us the information we needed to decide which town we would eventually stop in for the night and what motel to keep an eye out for. This travel guide never steered us wrong.two men toyota fj cruiser baja mexico

We didn’t have to dig into box of other navigational tools, but they did provided a sense of security knowing they were there if we did need them.

We paralleled the course for the better part of the day until eventually intersecting the route after passing through one of many ranches along the way.  We had driven by several “prohibido el paso” signs along the way but we always received a cheerful wave from those working the ranch and we took that to mean:  If you respect the ranch, don’t bother the livestock and close the gate behind you, you can pass.

baja 1000 trail aheadOur goal for the day was 200 miles.  At 4:00 p.m. ish, we caught back up with the trail and popped out in the town of Vicente Guerrero after logging a little more than 75 miles.  A few miles less than planned but there was a Pemex station and hotel  82 kilometers south, down in El Rosario.

For many years El Rosario was where the Baja blacktop ended and the adventures began.   Although the pavement now keeps going, the grip of adventure and the race still has a tight hold of El Rosario.  Located in this baja road through hillslittle town the Baja Cactus Motel is by far the best hotel in all of Baja. Big clean rooms, king size beds, huge showers with endless hot water, satellite TV and wireless Internet.  All at a price that can not be beat.  And if that is not enough, it is located next to a Pemex and Mama Espinosa’s Restaurant.  Step into Mama Espinosa and you are hit by the wall of signed Baja 1000 race photos, dating back several decades.  If the race stickers on the windows or history on the wall’s of Mama Espinosa doesn’t draw you in, the lobster enchiladas, chile rellenos and sopa tortilla will.  Tonight we ate like kings.

goats in the road baja mexicoFree WiFi in the room and a laptop had us Skyping our families after dinner to let them know we were alive and still on track…  More or less.  You can never have too much technology and we took advantage of all we could carry.  This evening Brad grabbed the Baja Gazette and laptop with Google Earth to add notes and highlight our path on the gazette for future reference to ensure we could jump back into the race.

baja mexico townThis may not have been our plan for the day.  Our ego had been bruised a bit by the slow progress.  My driving and Brad’s navigational skills had been tested.  But we came through it all and were back on track.  Besides after a long hot shower, phenomenal local food, Skyping the family, a little free HBO and our nightly cigar and bourbon in the courtyard; the day seemed better than most.  After all we were in the Baja and well on our way with this adventure.

stickers covered window at mikes sky rancho

Baja Adventure Part 2 – Mike’s Sky Ranch

mikes sky rancho signFor years off-road motorcycle guys have been going into the Baja and riding the desert winds. Mike’s Sky Ranch has been a main stop, providing beds, beer and camaraderie for desert explorers and racers since 1967. 14 miles from the nearest paved road the ranch’s location delivers a sense of seclusion and adventure for those willing to embark down the dirt road.

We planned to use Mike’s Sky Ranch as our jumping off point. In the dark, the dusty unimproved drive up into the mountains where the ranch is nestled, took a little over an hour. After driving past cattle, cactus, sage brush and boulders under a jet black sky with countless twinkling stars, something magical happened as we crested the last hill. Like Disney Land, the lights from ranch drew us in with the same hypnotic power the magical kingdom holds over a nine year old.

dirt road into mikes sky ranchoWe didn’t have reservations. We hadn’t called ahead. We weren’t even sure where to go as we approached the subtle blue glow hovering 50 feet above the compound. This was Mike’s Sky Ranch the ultimate laid back desert oasis. Walking up to the compound entrance we passed a trophy truck, a couple of unlimited open-wheel two-seaters, and a group of riders working on a quad by the light that was spilling out from the ranches entrance.

The grass really is greener on the other side. Crossing the threshold of the compound we stepped in from dusty, dry, sun-baked dirt on to lush green lawn, well lit covered parking for dozens of motorcycles, shimmering pool and red clay tiles leading us to the bar.

Walking into the bar immediately took me back to my youth hanging out at the fraternity and it’s basement bar.  Low dull lights illuminated signed race t-shirts stapled to the ceiling, baja race posters, beer signs and pinup girl calendars taped to the wall.  Video of past races played on the TV above the bar.  Scattered about the otherwise empty linoleum tile floor, several groups of riders had arranged old short black vinyl swivel chairs in small circles. The riders toasted the day, talked of their adventures and laughed hard between tequila and black baja race buggies

Behind the bar stood a young brown skinned man reaching back and forth along the mirrored wall of liquor and flipping Tecate, Pacifico and Dos Equis beer taps open and closed. After the bar tender dispensed another round for the riders, he turned his attention to us. Over the Mexican  music streaming from the boom box we asked if there were any rooms available. The bartender gazed over to the end of the bar and pointed to a very large, old man sitting on a stool at the end of the bar and said talk to Mike. An ash tray full of smashed out cigarettes, a pack of smokes and matchbook rested on the bar to his right. A half full glass of bourbon on his left. The haze of cigarette smoke circled above his head where a ball cap sat hiding his leathery face and half closed eyes.  A spiral notebook rested on the shelf an arm’s length from his stool.motorcycle line at mikes sky rancho

The big man reached for the notebook.  Flipping through the pages he looked up at us asked how many we were and how long we’d be staying. We let him know it was just the two of us for the night. In a gruff, horse voice the big man said he had a room. It would be $60 USD a night EACH but it included dinner, breakfast and hot showers. We handed over the cash and were told a room number.  The room was on the back side of the compound up a set of concrete stairs who’s rise and run made it awkward to climb with gear under each arm and bags slung over our shoulders.pool at mikes sky rancho morning

There were no keys to the room and the windows were covered in race stickers proclaiming those who had come before us and the rich racing history of the ranch. Inside the room were three neatly made twin beds, a wall mounted propane heater, a set of clean towels in the bathroom and a single 60 watt light bulb hanging from rafters. The walls were adorned with coat hooks for hanging motorcycle leathers, coats, gear and helmets.

Wandering back down to the bar we grabbed a drink and arranged a couple of the old chairs in the corner where we could unwind and relax before dinner.  If we were going to find the truth about the conditions in Mexico and what to expect on the trail, this was it.  One of the guys who had been coming down here for 20 years was full of advice and cheep Mexican beer.  He confirmed the military were here to help and that the local police could be a hassle but if we kept our nose clean we’d be fine.  He also expressed what we found out first hand.  The locals in Baja are warm and friendly.  While he hadn’t been as far south as we were heading he was confident we would have a good time and not run into any standing Mikes sky rancho arch way

We eavesdropped on the stories of the other groups. We talked about the day, how we were feeling so far and what we were going to be taking on. We celebrated how we had managed to get through Tijuana, the immigration office, navigated the highways and that we were really at Mike’s starting our adventure. We questioned our good fortune to be here and reveled in our euphoric but so misguided belief that we understood what was in store for us. We foolishly believed going forward would simply be a long series of navigational challenges on some dusty dirt roads with one or two stretches that could slow us down for a bit. We were convinced 200 miles a day would be a comfortable pace and would easily take us into Cabo five days from now. We ordered another round as they called us all in for dinner.

man mikes sky rancho signDinner at the ranch is family style. Everyone sitting at long tables with colorful tablecloths beneath clear vinyl. Our little section of table had a large pitch of water and two salads waiting for us. There is a point at which everyone must question their bravery and decide if they will take a leap of faith or tuck their tail between their legs in retreat. For some this moment of truth is asking the head cheer leader to prom. For others it is jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. For us it was eating the salad and drink from the open pitch of  tap water. Calculating in my mind the number of Pepto Bismol tablets back in the room and the various places in the rig toilet paper was stashed I observed the other guests’ enjoying the fresh greens and cool water.  The other guests were Americans but had they been coming done here so often that they were accustomed to water?  Did they have some local drug that prevented them from getting sick?  Did they know something we didn’t about the facilities here?   In the end, I decided, in the scheme of things this was a minor risk worth taking.  Turns out the water at the ranch is drawn from the local spring creek and run through a reverse osmosis filter making it safe for even delicate digestive systems.

bikers in front of mikes sky ranchoStraight off the barbecue, the steak that followed required no thought before biting into the juicy grass (sage) feed beef with its wild but delicate flavor. Beans, rice, fresh made tortillas and salsa followed. During the salad course Brad and I made nervous conversation as we tested our manhood with the washed greens. Now not a word was spoken as we inhaled the 20oz steaks covering our plates. This meal would set the standard by which the rest would be judged throughout the Baja.

On an adventure everyone deserves one decadent, self indulgence. For me that was a nice cigar enjoyed under the stars. Brad had decided his indulgence would be a shot of Makers Mark. Sitting poolside after dinner we started what would become our evening ritual throughout the adventure. Good friends, smooth bourbon and a fine cigar at Mike’s in the Baja. This is living.

man packy baja buggyThe ranch shuts down at 10 pm. and so does everything else as the generator is spun down abruptly.  Stumbling through the dark courtyard, up the awkward stairs and to our room we grabbed a headlamp and searched for matches to light the bedside candle.  By candle light we rummaged through bags in search of a tooth brush, Pepto and a clean pair of shorts.  A few minutes later we turned in for night.

The leftover steak from the night before became the morning’s huevos rancheros.  More beans, salsa and fresh made tortillas with coffee made it difficult to think of leaving this place.  For a brief moment both of us silently considered staying here and just telling everyone we drove to Cabo.  But the sun was warming away the morning chill, other guests we packing up their bikes and our GPS beacon would eventually betray our position.

fj cruiser mikes sky rancho parking lotThe morning rig inspection took on serious tone for me now.  If something broke out on the course there was no one to help with the field repair.  It was just going to be me and that burden was weighing heavy on my shoulders this morning.  I knew I’d prepared the rig the best I could for this adventure but the Baja is not forgiving of mistakes and we had 900 some more miles remaining in our adventure.

But listening to the rumble of the buggy’s big V8’s as I aired down the tires and sipped the last of the morning’s coffee brought a smile to my face.  Sure this was serious business;  we were taking on the Baja, mano a mano, which is exactly what we came down he for.

tijuana mexico

Baja Adventure Part 1 – Tijuana to Ensenada

usa mexico border stationThe busiest border crossing between Mexico and the USA is only 20 miles from San Diego and within moments of crossing into Tijuana we knew we were worlds away from home.

Driving in Tijuana is a full contact sport.  Traffic lanes are arbitrary.  Trucks, cars, bikes, carts, people and dogs all occupy space on the road.  Lane changes occur without notice.  Alto signs signify slow to a rolling stop and judge the intent of the cars coming the other directions.  Drivers honk to announce their  presence with authority and like a black hole, round-abouts refuse to release you from their grip once you are drawn in.  Through it all we managed to find the immigration office.tijauna woman walking by brick wall

If you will be traveling south of Ensenada, you first visit the immigration office.  Around the corner, hidden down a back alley and obscured by taco carts we managed to find the entrance into the walled off parking lot of the border inspection station where apparently, stupid tourist was tattooed across our forehead, at least according to the oficial de inmigración.  How else could we not know that the third office door on the back side courtyard of the compound was our destination.  After all it did say inmigración in the general vicinity of the door.

toll road to ensenadaObtaining a visa is an interesting activity.  You go into a small spartan office where a large official looking man rests behind a desk with small old chairs in front, reminiscent of a visit to the junior high principle’s office.  You hand over your passport, explain where you are going and how long you will be in the country. The large man fills our some paper work then tells you to sign the form and directs you to the other end of the compound, authoritatively telling you to return when you are done.

At the other office, after waiting in line, you work your way up to a polite skinny young man sitting behind bullet proof glass with a small sliding box in the counter which allows you to pass your paper work  to him.  Without a word, he officially punches information into a computer, opens and closes binders, walks to and from a back room.  At this point he announces some large number (we later learned was $21) through small slits in the two inch thick acrylic.  You place your money into the box which he draws back and disappears again into a back room.  Returning moments latter the skinny young man stamps a couple of pieces of paper which are placed back into the box and slid your way with the change that it now in Pesos.ensenada coast view from car

At this point you trek back to the original office, take a seat in one of two wobbly, vinyl covered 60’s diner chairs and politely slide your paper work and passport across the desk back to the large official looking man who withdraws from his desk draw an ink pad and stamp that is then pressed into your passport and visa.  He slides your now completed tourist visa and passport back halfway across the desk, forcing you to reach forward for you paperwork as you thank him and exit the small office avoiding the fan which continues to hum as it oscillates back and forth by the door.  You are now officially allowed to wonder Mexico for next 180 days.ensenada jesus statue

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and thriving in Tijuana.  The road from Tijuana to Ensenada begins by condensing six lanes of traffic from every direction, down to just two.  The congestion is further slowed by the men who are wondering from car to car splashing your windshield with water and dragging a squeegee across, followed by asking you for a few pesos to feed their small children.  You can hold fast and return no’s to the volleys  of “please something for my children” or cave, hand over your change and immediately draw the attention of everyone else in the pueblo.  This gauntlet of small businesses includes women and children selling trinkets, snacks and bottled water as well as beggars with a hand out or and old plastic cup.commercial streets of ensenada

We began the long climb as the traffic’s pace picked up following Mex 1 out of town to Ensenada.  We opted for the toll road more out of that was the lane we were in rather than design.  However, the 27 pesos allowed us to zip along at 90 km/hr on a nearly empty four lane highway.  That was until we reached the first military check point.

pemex station ensenada mexicoThe check points are run by the military, by small teams who are only 18 year old kids sporting automatic weapons and don’t speak much English, but they are polite and doing their best to reduce the drug traffic.  The military is your friend in Mexico.  There are real problems with drugs, killings and smuggling in Mexico.  We did not see a single issue in Baja and we were traveling all over it.  Going south the check points were simply rolling up to the stop and having the young man in fatigues and dark sunglasses flag us on as the two other solders peered at us from behind sandbags on either side of the rig.  We were courteous and respectful of the difficult job they were doing and they showed us the same.

Ensenada gave us the first glimpse of the Pacific, Mexico’s religious ties and NAFTA’s long reach (large Costco warehouses and Home Depot centers). It was also our introduction to Pemex, the government owned and only official gas stations.  Most of the Pemex stations sell both regular (magna) and premium gas but they don’t take US dollars or Visa.  The rig’s thirst for gas and Pemex’s minimal payment options would govern our peso country side of ensenada mexicomanagement throughout the trip.  Wherever we stayed, wherever we ate, whatever we bought outside of fuel, we tried to get them to accept Visa or USD.  Even if it meant paying a little more.  We knew in a pinch gas could be found through the not so official channels (you can always find gas if you know where to look) and that USD would be welcomed, but it would be our last resort.  And while cars and gas stations may be the domain of men in the USA, Pemex’s were most likely to have young girls working the pumps who spoke a little english and found Hula Betty intriguing.

reflection of man taking picture fj cruiser mirrorEnsenada marked the end of city life, at least for a while, and the beginning of our GPS route that would take us out into the country side which soon became very familiar with its free roaming cattle, watchful buzzards and minimal traffic.  While we may have been 105 km south of the Mexican border, Ensenada was where our adventure officially began.

man resting against fj cruiser door mexico

Small World… Big Adventure (note on the road)

Man walking baja dirt road I am always amazed how small the world is and the further you travel on an off-road adventure the smaller it seems to get.  Hula Betty’s family is from a little town called Drewsey in Easter Oregon.  When I say little town, I mean the town consists of an all in one post office gas station mini-mart store which is across from the bar.  That is it.  The population is 609 men, 571 women and more live stock than you can shake a stick at.  This town is so small

  • both city limit signs are on the same post
  • the phone book is only one page
  • second street is in the next town over
  • a night on the town only takes 10 minutes
  • the other side of the tracks is a county away.

You get it…  The town is small.

Well today in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico nearly 2,500 miles south of Eastern Oregon I met the nicest couple who were from there and knew Hula Betty’s family.  They were a great couple traveling with a friends and exploring South Baja a little.  We had a great chat, talking about our travels and telling them of our adventures.

These folks reminded me that we are all connected to each other and that what separates a good adventure from a great one is the people you and the friends you make along the way.  This is definitely shaping up to be a great adventure.

rusted old truck cab

Hola Desde El Sur De La Frontera (note on the road)

fj cruiser prayer flags mexico beachLike an old truck rusting away in the sun… we are in no hurry.  So you probably have noticed there has not been a lot of movement on the map for a bit.  After coming off the course in La Paz (that’s another story to come) and winding up at our destination, Cabo San Lucas, we’ve been recuperating and wondering the streets of Cabo.

Evidently we are the only ones here who just drove down for the weekend.  I guess most folks spend more time in Cabo than getting to Cabo.

The Internet connection is woefully lacking at the hotel, which is by far the most expensive (although not the nicest) we’ve stayed at, forcing us to post mostly on Face Book with the cell phone.

But to hold you over until we can catch up, here are a few pictures.

Tomorrow we hit the road again and head north.  This time avoiding the dirt, rocks, whoops from hell, marshes, silt (brown talcum powder which fell from Satan’s arm pit), cactus and hopefully cows.

We’ll be on the move and post more soon.

dirt road through dry river bed baja mexico

The Route is Hard! (note on the road)

vulture onto baja catusThe off-road adventure route is hard…  Really hard.

We drive southwest, reach the Pacific, turn and head southeast, reach the Sea of Cortez and than go back to the southwest. Ok there is a little more to it than that, just ask Brad who has been keeping us on schedule but the course is taking us back and forth across the baja peninsula as we work our way south.  In reaching the water’s edge we cross mountains, valleys and desert.  To get to this point we have driven over pavement, gravel, dirt, river beds, swamps and cactus.

We have gone through five military check points and lost count of the cattle that have crossed our path on the road.  Occasionally we drive 35 mph.  Most of the time the needle doesn’t move past 15 and we are always searching for trail markers in a maze of crossing dirt roads and goat trails. This is hard driving.cactus stuck in toyo open country tire

The days start out amazing.  They are cool, blue sky, sunshine working up to 81 degrees and dry.  We couldn’t ask for better weather but the days are short. Sun down is around 5:00 pm and we have to drive non-stop just to bang out the 170 – 200 miles a day we’d planned.   We get up early, pack up and hit the road .  We don’t stop for lunch, grabbing a snack bar during a quick 10 minute rest and we still barely make 200 miles.  So we’ve taken a few liberties with the course to make the schedule and it’s still a hard route.

As I write this post I find it difficult to describe what we are experiencing on this adventure.  There is a sense of accomplishment for how far we have come.  There is also the exhaustion that is setting in and the thought that tomorrow we will get up and do it all cruiser dirt road baja mexico mountains

We accomplished my goal the day we crossed the boarder.  We got out of our comfort zone.  Way out of our comfort zone.  We started an adventure lots of folks think about but few attempt.  Friends and family told us we where nuts.  They asked why go down to Mexico?  Why go alone without other rigs or a guide?  Why take the hard way to Cabo?  Why would you want to do this?men peeing side of dirt road next to fj cruiser

Maybe everyone is right, not a lot of people attempt this adventure. We seldom see any other travelers once we leave what ever little town we stop for fuel in and never on the back dirt roads.

I’m still not sure I can fully answer their questions but I know each day I’m getting a little closer to knowing what it is about the Baja that called to me and keeps me driving.baja mexico road through dry river bed

The route is hard! Really Hard!!

Before I forget, Not only is Brad in charge of navigation, many of the great photos we post here, on Facebook and over on Flicker are the thanks to his keen eye.

Lots of Baja pictures on flicker