All Good Things Must Come to an End.
The rally is over, and we’re back in the wet, winter weather of Oregon. It’s not all sad though as I was happy to have a strong internet connection, and there is the great comfort of wearing clean clothes, doing laundry in a machine, and taking multiple hot showers just because you want to. However the memories made during the Baja XL rally will always travel with us, no matter where we are. As I kiss my wife and pet my dog, it does feel good to be home.
Today was going to be a BIG DAY. This is normally how most of the trip started, by me reinforcing this with the team. The waypoints for the rally would take us off-road from Playa El Burro, north on highway one, and on a rocky trail ending at Mission San Borja. The total trip would travel around 300 miles of paved road and trail.
Leaving very early after the 5am briefing meeting our group put the pedal down on the paved highway one to have breakfast in San Ignacio. Going back to the square where we camped a few nights before, we had a warm welcome and a great breakfast at Loncheria La Mision De Kadakaaman. Recharging our bodies with caffeine and refueling with huevos rancheros was the best idea that morning. We also got to watch some Baja 1000 iPhone footage from the owner at the cafe who told us all about his passion for off-road racing. He was a HUGE fan of our trucks.
Before long we were crossing back into Baja North, and refueling the trucks for a long off-road journey to Mission San Borja. Our trucks flew down the first half of the sandy trail, and there was a good side wind that allowed for good visibility. Quickly we got into some narrow canyons, where our pace slowed as the terrain got very rocky.
Navigating through the numerous forks in the road we soon found ourselves in the most unique cacti forest I have ever seen. I mentioned to Chad that it felt like we were driving through a Dr. Seuss book. The variation of cacti was vast, and each had very unique characteristics. Some looked like small bushes with extremely aggressive needles, and another looked like a cone that shot 30 feet in the air only to curly ques when it got to the thinnest part.
We got to the Mission just before sundown, and had a chance to gather firewood for the nights camp. We found a nice secluded area just behind the Mission, and our new friends the rally medics came to join us that night. Michelle was given fresh marlin the night before from a group of Korean fisherman, and made one of the best ceviche dishes I’ve ever had. As the medics shared stories from the rally, mainly bloody noses and splinters, we all had a good laugh.
Another early start, for another Big Day. However today was exceptionally early, because most of the team forgot to set their alarm clocks and hour back now that we were back on Pacific Time. So after a very groggy 3:45am wake up, we got our gps waypoints at the briefing and packed up camp.
Today was our last full day in Baja, taking us from Mission San Borja to the Guadalupe Canyon. Today would also mark the end for many racers in the rally. I say that because we found countless vehicles broke down on the roads which had been washed out by the 2018 floods. These roads were horrendous, and if your travelling at a good pace you don’t know if there is a road in front of you or not.
Not far up this weathered coastline we found a team with a Razor that was out of commission. The UTV must have smacked the oil pan on a rock, because oil was everywhere. We connected a tow rope to Alpha, and proceeded to tow the team 60 miles into San Felipe. Along the way their rear tire blew, most likely damaged from the inital accident. Quickly changing it to their spare, we got into San Felipe around 3pm for a late lunch.
Being that it was getting late, the group decided to skip out on Guadalupe Canyon, and find a camp a bit closer to San Felipe. This was a good decision, because on our way out of town we noticed a red Land Rover Defender with the hood up. Stopping to see what was going on, it was our new medic friends from the night before that were having engine issues. Getting them to a fuel station we found some coolant and removed the frozen thermostat. Driving now under twilight, we made haste to meet up with the rest of our caravan at camp.
We can’t believe it is the last day of the rally. So many miles driven, beaches camped on, and broken Spanish conversations had will soon only be a memory. This morning a mood of relief, exhaustion, and a bit of sadness hung over camp like a thick fog. Taking a few final group photos from our last camp we began our journey to the border.
There really wasn’t much excitement on this drive, or chatter on the CB for that matter. The scenery on highway 1 wasn’t as scenic now, and we didn’t feel the allure of the towns we drove through on our way to Tecate.
However excitement quickly changed when I almost found myself in a Mexican prison. As we jumped ahead of the caravan to get photos of the finish line I must not have been paying attention and ran stop sign (even though I never saw one). Soon I found myself following an angry police officer to see “the judge.” Unfortunately there is corruptness in Mexico, and it mostly it sits with military and law enforcement. Realizing I was part of a gringo scare tactic, we made some negotiations and I was on my way to the border. …sheeesh
After about an hour and half wait at the border crossing, we found ourselves back on American soil. With improved roads we really made up some time, and got to the finish line right around 3:30pm. Since we were in the touring category there were no gold medals or confetti finishes. All we received was a quick clap, and the sight of watching another competitor chug a beer as we parked the truck.
Dispersed and on the long drive from LA back to Bend, Oregon I found myself reflecting a lot on this experience. Would it be my first choice in traveling somewhere, absolutely not. The rushed mornings, long days, and lack of downtime is not what most people crave. However it was a great way to explore a remote, unfamiliar area with the confidence of traveling in a large group. I found a new appreciation for our neighbors to the south, and absolutely loved traveling with every one of our wonderful EC owners. Plus each day I was tagging spots on my Gaia GPS to save them for when I come back to Baja, but this time I will make more stops to smell the roses.