Baja

Baja 1000: COPS Prerun and Race

For the purpose of the Baja 1000 Off Road Race, COPS Racing divided the peninsula into thirds, to best manage crew and logistics. Our section of the course was the lower third, between Loreto and the finish at La Paz. During the race, our job was to hang out close to some nasty silt beds near Race Mile 1190, and wait for the Class 10 car. Should he encounter stuckage problems, we were there to help unstuck.

Sunday morning off-loading the prerunner, Oprah, in Cuidad Insurgentes. Morgan and John practiced different sections on the way south to La Paz. On Race Day, Morgan would drive the Class 1 and John would drive the Class 10.
Sunday morning off-loading the prerunner, Oprah, in Cuidad Insurgentes. Morgan and John practiced their different sections of the race course in the southern third of Baja. On Race Day, Morgan would drive the Class 1 and John would drive the Class 10.
The COPS prerunner was built by Racer Engineering, sporting a race Corvette motor and three feet of suspension travel. It has two front seats and one back seat - perfect for optimum course reconnaissance.
The COPS prerunner was built by Racer Engineering, sporting a race Corvette motor and three feet of suspension travel. It has two front seats and one back seat – perfect for optimum course reconnaissance.
John Langley, Team Owner, discusses the day's logistics with Morgan and Bill.
John Langley, COPS Team Owner, discusses the day’s logistics with Morgan and Bill.
Dennis and Ron gas up Oprah at the soon-to-be BFGoodrich Pits near Santa Rita.
Dennis and Ron gas up Oprah at the soon-to-be BFGoodrich Pits near Santa Rita.

Waiting for Oprah at the soon-to-be BFGoodrich Pits near Santa Rita.

Morgan and Bill practicing their portion of race course near Punta Conejo. On race day, they'll be piloting the Class 1 car.
Morgan and Bill practicing their portion of race course near Punta Conejo. On race day, they’ll be piloting the Class 1 car.

A Photo Sphere from Punta Conejo and the light house – click and drag to look around.

Bill and Morgan describe some minor mechanical issues to Dennis, the team's "Chaseman."
Bill and Morgan describe some minor mechanical issues to Dennis, the team’s “Chaseman.”
Navigating a race course access road.
Navigating a race course access road.
We get distracted by a giant bug on the windshield.
We get distracted by a giant bug on the windshield.

If you’re keeping score, here’s our route as chase guys: SoCal → Loreto → Cuidad Insurgentes → Punta Conejo → La Paz → Cuidad Insurgentes → Santa Rita → Punta Conejo → La Paz → Cuidad Constitución → La Paz → Punta Conejo → RM1190 → Punta Conejo → RM1180 → Loreto → SoCal. All that equals 3354.06 miles with an average speed of 46.43 mph, and almost 72 hours of moving time.

Oprah charges into the silt beds at Santa Rita.
Oprah charges into the silt beds at Santa Rita.

A Photo Sphere of the Hyatt Place La Paz lobby – click and drag to look around. That’s Ron standing by the front desk.

Stewart gasses up Oprah, while Morgan climbs out.
Stewart gasses up Oprah, while Morgan climbs out.
Prerunning is over for the day - running back to the highway on the Punta Conejo road.
Prerunning is over for the day – running back to the highway on the Punta Conejo road.

A Photo Sphere while waiting for Oprah – click and drag to look around.

Symbolic sunset photo, transitioning from prerunning to race day.
Symbolic sunset photo, transitioning from prerunning to race day.
Steve and I had to drive into our camp site near the silt beds, the day before the race which would keep us from driving on a live race course. We had to drive around 15 miles on a dirt road to Punta Conejo, then another 15 miles north along the Pacific, on the beach. We were very remote.
Steve and I had to drive into our camp site near the silt beds, the day before the race which would keep us from driving on a live race course. We had to drive around 15 miles on a dirt road to Punta Conejo, then another 15 miles north along the Pacific, on the beach. We were very remote.

A Photo Sphere of our camp site on the Pacific Coast – click and drag to look around.

The night before the race got to us, we enjoyed a campfire on the beach and some Tecate beers. As it turns out, really big moths like Tecate beer too.
The night before the race got to us, we enjoyed a campfire on the beach and some Tecate beers. As it turns out, really big moths like Tecate beer too.

The race started in Ensenada Thursday morning, but didn’t reach us, 1100+ miles down-course, until early Friday morning. The COPS Trophy Truck passed us Friday afternoon running strong, finishing 8th in Class. We ultimately got word the Class 1 went into a ditch halfway down Baja and ripped out the car’s front end, rendering a DNF. And the brand-new Class 10 Jimco was running strong toward us.

One of the lead Trophy Trucks past our location was Clyde Stacy from Bristol, VA - he would finish 7th in Class.
One of the lead Trophy Trucks past our location was Clyde Stacy from Bristol, VA – he finished 7th in Class.
Justin Davis was  the Class 1 leader in his Rigid Industries Jimco, finishing first in Class in around 24-1/2 hours.
Justin Davis was the Class 1 leader in his Rigid Industries Jimco, finishing first in Class in around 24-1/2 hours.
Late afternoon sun shows off the sandy whoops in the course.
Late afternoon sun shows off the sandy whoops on the course.
Late on Friday evening the new Jimco Class 10 made it to around RM1180 and the clutch failed. Actually, the clutch had been slowly failing for the prior 100 miles, but without a spare, the car was stopped, pressure plates were scuffed up and reassembled. The car made it a final 30 miles before the clutch gasped its final breath of life. We found the car after sunrise Saturday morning and towed it 20 miles to the highway with a bigger truck and trailer. When the dust settled, our race day was 36 hours.
Late on Friday evening the new Jimco Class 10 made it to around RM1180 and the clutch failed. Actually, the clutch had been slowly failing for the prior 100 miles, but without a spare, the car was stopped, pressure plates were scuffed up and reassembled. The car made it a final 30 miles before the clutch gasped its final breath of life. We found the car after sunrise Saturday morning and towed it 20 miles to the highway with a bigger truck and trailer. When the dust settled, our race day was 36 hours.

Mexico Highways 5 and 1 to Loreto

We had two days to get to Loreto, two-thirds of the way down the Baja Peninsula. Steve and I manned COPS Racing Chase 3 to help with prerunning the course (practicing), and as support crew during the Baja 1000 Off Road Race – we worked the lower third of the course between Loreto and La Paz. This year’s race was a peninsula run, starting in Ensenada and finishing in La Paz, with 1275 miles in between.

COPS entered three cars in the 1000: the #50 Trophy Truck driven by Zak Langley; the Class 1 car driven by Morgan Langley; and the brand new Jimco Class 10 driven by John Langley, Team Owner. Along with us, 70 other people helped the COPS Racing effort along the length of Baja.

After spending the night in San Felipe, our first stop was for ice and supplies at Playa Grande in Gonzaga Bay, Baja. Today's drive, from San Felipe to Mulegé, would be 680 km.
After spending the night in San Felipe, our first stop was for ice and supplies at Playa Grande in Gonzaga Bay. Today’s drive, from San Felipe to Mulegé, would be 680 km.
New pavement continues to km 154, about six miles south of Gonzaga, making the trip from San Felipe fast and easy. The black death is slowly creeping south and west, ultimately connecting to Highway 1 at Laguna Chapala. But today, we were fortunate enough to experience 25 miles of dirt (subject to change).
New pavement continues to km 154, about six miles south of Gonzaga, making the trip from San Felipe fast and easy. The black death is slowly creeping south and west, ultimately connecting to Highway 1 at Laguna Chapala. But today, we were fortunate enough to experience 25 miles of dirt (subject to change).
The 300-meter bridge construction over Arroyo Santa Maria. Traffic was detoured to one side of the new road, then the other. And then back again.
The 300-meter bridge construction over Arroyo Santa Maria. Traffic was detoured to one side of the new road, then the other. And then back again.
Steve and I stopped at Coco's Corner to say hello to Jorge and give him some stuff we'd brought. In exactly a week, the Baja 1000 would be invading Coco's, 400 miles from the start in Ensenada.
Steve and I stopped at Coco’s Corner to say hello to Jorge and give him some stuff we’d brought. In exactly a week, the Baja 1000 would be invading Coco’s, 400 miles from the start in Ensenada.

A Photo Sphere from Coco’s – click and drag to look around.

A Photo Sphere from San Ignacio – click and drag to look around.

A Photo Sphere from a side street in San Ignacio – click and drag to look around.

The Mulegé light house.
The Mulegé light house.
The Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé was founded in 1705 by the Jesuit missionary Juan Manuel de Basaldúa. Construction of a stone church was begun in 1766. In 1768,  the Franciscans took over responsibility for colonial Baja California from the Jesuits, however, by 1770, the mission was virtually deserted. The Dominicans, who succeeded the Franciscans in Baja in 1773, began rebuilding, but the population remained less than 100.
The Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé was founded in 1705 by the Jesuit missionary Juan Manuel de Basaldúa. Construction of a stone church was begun in 1766. In 1768, the Franciscans took over responsibility for colonial Baja California from the Jesuits, however, by 1770, the mission was virtually deserted. The Dominicans, who succeeded the Franciscans in Baja in 1773, began rebuilding, but the population remained less than 100.
The mission ceased to function in 1828. The present church buildings have been extensively restored.
The mission ceased to function in 1828. The present church buildings have been extensively restored.

A Photo Sphere from inside the church (complete with cowering church-goer) – click and drag to look around.

The Río Mulegé is one of only two "real" rivers in Baja California Sur. The river saw lots of recent action from hurricane Odile.
The Río Mulegé is one of only two “real” rivers in Baja California Sur. The river saw lots of recent action from hurricane Odile.

A Photo Sphere of the Río Mulegé – click and drag to look around.

Driving down Highway 1, the first view of Bahía Concepción is of campers occupying Playa Santispac on the bay's north end.
Driving down Highway 1, the first view of Bahía Concepción is of campers occupying Playa Santispac on the bay’s north end.

A Photo Sphere of Playa Buenaventura – click and drag to look around.

Standing rain water in front of Bertha's Restaurant and Bar at Playa Burro.
Standing rain water in front of Bertha’s Restaurant and Bar at Playa Burro.
Even though it's tempting, please do not feed Cheetos to the swamp monster. It's a lot like bears in our National Forests.
Even though it’s tempting, please do not feed Cheetos to the swamp monster. It’s a lot like bears in our National Forests.
Colorful Bahia Coyote - offshore is Coyote Island.
Colorful Bahia Coyote – offshore is Coyote Island.
Due to recent hurricanes, Baja was green and blooming. And as a result, the place was buggy - we mowed down butterflies on the highway by the millions. By the time we returned to SoCal, the front of the truck was covered in a  1" thick crust of butterfly carcasses.
Due to recent hurricanes, Baja was green and blooming. And as a result, the place was buggy – we mowed down butterflies on the highway by the millions. By the time we returned to SoCal, the front of the truck was covered in a 1″ thick crust of butterfly carcasses.
During our drive down Baja, Steve and I took a break on the beach at Ligui. Isla Danzante mostly hides the much larger Isla del Carmen behind.
During our drive down Baja, Steve and I took a break on the beach at Ligui. Isla Danzante mostly hides the much larger Isla del Carmen behind.

1950 Chrysler Crown Imperial Limo

This is the largest vehicle I’ve ever seen in my life.

I met this American resident of San Felipe one Sunday afternoon on top of the dunes behind town. He was driving a 1950 Chrysler Crown Imperial limo which he’d dropped onto a Chevy Silverado 4×4 frame (the frame had to be lengthened by three feet).

Chrysler Crown Imperial
Sitting high on top of the transplanted frame, the Imperial rolled on Bridgestone Dueler M/Ts, and a step was added to help passengers climb aboard.
Crown Imperial
Aftermarket brake lights were added, and unique to this Imperial, a dropped tow hitch.
Crown Imperial
The floors were carpeted with bright green AstroTurf; an old CHP helmet rode in the back seat.
Crown Imperial
For convenience and safety, extra gas was carried in the front seat.
HOLY CRAP! An AM radio!!
The Imperial was appointed with a deluxe factory AM radio.
Chrysler Imperial
To “check under the hood,” didn’t require lifting the hood – merely look inside the driver’s wheel well.
For nighttime safety, the hood of the car was equipped with one of those nautical green/red navigation lights.
For nighttime safety, the hood of the car was equipped with one of those nautical green/red navigation lights.
As always, photos don't do justice - this thing was massive.
As always, photos don’t do justice – this thing was massive.
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Wikipedia: The 1950 Imperial was essentially a New Yorker with a custom interior. It had a Cadillac-style grille treatment that included circular signal lights enclosed in a wraparound ribbed chrome piece. Side trim was similar to last year’s model, but the front fender strip ended at the front doors and the rear fender molding was at the tire top level and integrated into the stone guard. Unlike the standard Imperial, the Crown Imperial had a side treatment in which the rear fender moldings and stone guard were separate. Body sill moldings were used on all Imperials, but were of a less massive type on the more massive Crown models. A special version of the limousine was available. It featured a unique leather interior and a leather-covered top that blacked out the rear quarter windows. Power windows were standard on the Crown Imperial.

The Baja 1000 at Punta Blanca

Disclaimer: There’s only three actual race-related photos, and one could be debated.

The Baja 1000 started and finished in Ensenada, with 900 miles inbetween. Steve and my task with COPS Racing was to work as a support/extraction vehicle for our race cars while they pass over a particularly long, nasty silt bed at the southern end of the course. We went armed with all the typical recovery gear, including a sat phone. Our sole purpose in life was to keep the COPS cars moving.

Thursday: We drove from Ensenada to Cataviña and spent the night with the COPS crew.

While driving down Highway 1 to our COPS Racing support position, we took a break at a beach near El Rosario.
While driving down Highway 1 to our COPS support position, we took a break at a beach just north of El Rosario. During the race, we were on the Pacific coast, 300 miles south of Ensenada.
Due to recent rains, the desert was green and blooming and happy.
Due to recent rains, the desert was green and blooming and happy.
Sunset at Cataviña.
Sunset at Cataviña.
The COPS dorms at Cataviña, near RM498. Craig fed us some killer lasagna and fresh-baked cherry/apple pie. We failed to set the desert on fire.
The COPS dorms at Cataviña, near RM498. Craig fed us some killer lasagna and fresh-baked cherry/apple pie. We failed to set the desert on fire.

Friday: Commute from Cataviña to our position on the race course, near RM430, at Punta Blanca. The last 30 miles of the drive was on unmapped, primative desert roads.

There's no Pemex station in Cataviña, but there's gas for sale.
There’s no Pemex station in Cataviña, but there is gas for sale.
Crossing El Islote five miles west of Highway 1.
Crossing playa El Islote five miles west of Highway 1. Pay no attention to that dark spot on the lake.
The road meanders west toward the Pacific. A few miles farther, we passed a Mag 7 support trailer which was at the side of the road,  bent in half. As it turned out, the worse was yet to come.
The course-access road meanders west toward the Pacific. A few miles farther, we passed a Mag 7 support trailer which was at the side of the road, bent in half. As it turned out, the worse was yet to come.
Silt, and lots of it.
Silt, and lots of it.
On the beach north of Punta Blanca (center background), near our support location. We had five hours to wait before the four-wheel racers would arrive at our part of the course.
On the beach north of Punta Blanca (center background), near our support location. We had five hours to kill before the four-wheel racers would arrive at our part of the course.
Two-wheeled racers passing us near RM435.
Two-wheeled racers passing us near RM435.
This unfortunate rider's bike blew a motor at our location, turning him into a pedestrian. We helped him out with a five-mile ride, down-course, to Baja Pits.
This unfortunate rider’s bike blew a motor at our location, turning him into a pedestrian. He cached his bike, then we helped him out with a five-mile ride, down-course, to Baja Pits. He’s from Peoria, Arizona, not Illinois. Update: the Locos Mocos guys at Baja Pits found the rider’s 403X bike (with his help), and got it going again – it turned out the headlight was shorted out, preventing the engine from running. He made a dash for the finish, but timed-out with a DNF.
This bike has been on-the-move for 16 hours since leaving Ensenada.
This bike has been on-the-move for 16 hours since leaving Ensenada.

Both of the COPS entries did not make it to us, both DNF’d. The Trophy Truck, while running strong, hit a boulder near RM350 and took out the front left suspension. The Class 10 car lost its clutch around RM385.

Saturday: Start the drive home. Here’s a video of our drive from our support location on the coast, back to Highway 1, aka Punta Blanca to Laguna Chapala.

Green happy desert.
Green happy desert.
A quick stop to say hello to Coco.
A quick stop to say hello to Coco.
We have a beer with Coco. Or, we have Pacificos, and Coco enjoys some Sauza Conmemorativo.
We have a beer with Coco. Or, we have Pacificos, and Coco enjoys some Sauza Conmemorativo.
Coco believes in recycling beer cans.
Coco believes in recycling beer cans.
From our "What Was He Thinking?" Department: Half-way between Coco's and Gonzaga, headed south. The load appeared to have shifted.
From our “What Was He Thinking?” Department: Half-way between Coco’s and Gonzaga, headed south. The load appeared to have shifted.
Gonzaga Bay from inside Alfonsina's Restaurant.
Gonzaga Bay from inside Alfonsina’s Restaurant.
1. Fly to Gonzaga Bay
1. Fly to Gonzaga Bay
2. Land at Playa Rancho Grande
3. Set up tent under palapa
4. Enjoy weekend
5. Fly home
The south side of Gonzaga Bay. Williard is on the right.
The south side of Gonzaga Bay. Willard is on the right.
Sunset at Punta Final.
Sunset at Punta Final.

Discovery Channel Crashes a Plane in Baja

“A Boeing 727 passenger jet has been deliberately crash-landed in a remote and uninhabited Mexican desert as part of a scientific experiment for an unprecedented international television documentary for Discovery Channel, Channel 4 in the UK, plus Pro Sieben in Germany.” Read more

Now, a year later, the crashed 727 is being stored in a dirt lot south of Mexicali.

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Baja 250: Race Day

With the exception of one flat tire, the COPS Trophy Truck ran a flawless day, starting physically in the 24th position, and finishing 14th. The Class 10 car DNF’d 200 miles into the race with a blown tranny.

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Spectators and pits near RM65.5, south of Laguna Salada. The dust shows a Trophy Truck going past, right to left.
The COPS Trophy Truck rips along a pipeline near RM96.2.
The COPS Trophy Truck rips along a pipeline near RM96.2.

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The COPS Class 10 near RM65. Morgan Langley drove the first half of the race sharing duties with John Langley. Mike Howell co-drove the entire race.
The COPS Class 10 near RM65. Morgan Langley drove the first half of the race sharing duties with John Langley. Mike Howell co-drove the entire race.

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The COPS Class 10 running strong at RM96.
The COPS Class 10 running strong at RM96.
The BFG Baja TAs gathered some debris (and was still holding air). The larger stick is around 3x the thickness of a pencil.
The BFG Baja TAs gathered some debris and was still holding air.  The larger stick is around 3x the thickness of a pencil.
After the race, Red Lobster personnel pose for photos next to the COPS Trophy Truck.
After the race, Red Lobster personnel pose for photos next to the COPS Trophy Truck.

Baja 250: COPS Trophy Truck and Contingency

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While in San Felipe, COPS Racing pretty much dominated the Red Lobster Hotel.

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The COPS Trophy Truck runs with Rigid Industries LED lights.
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A peek inside the Trophy Truck’s front left wheel well.

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Zak Langley, COPS Racing’s Trophy Truck driver at Contingency.
There was a record turn-out at Contingency along the Malecón in San Felipe, including an over-served local, singing the Bad Boys Theme in Spanish.
There was a record turn-out at Contingency along the Malecón in San Felipe, including an over-served local, singing the Bad Boys Theme in Spanish.

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Random Baja Photos, Pre- and Post-1000

This is a collection of random Baja photos taken the days before and after the 1000. Photos were taken in Loreto, Bahía Concepción, the beaches around Ligui, and along Highway 1.

Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó was founded on October 25, 1697 in the present city of Loreto. Established by the Jesuit missionary Juan María de Salvatierra, this earliest successful mission in Baja California is sometimes considered "head and mother of all the Spanish missions in Upper and Lower California."
Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó was founded on October 25, 1697 in the present city of Loreto. Established by the Jesuit missionary Juan María de Salvatierra, this earliest successful mission in Baja California is sometimes considered “head and mother of all the Spanish missions in Upper and Lower California.”
The Mission is still a working Catholic church.
The Mission is still a working Catholic church.
Bahía Concepción right about here.
Bahía Concepción right about here.
Fresh dorado tacos at Rancho Buenaventura on the Sea of Cortez. Olivia always makes the best food.
Fresh dorado tacos at Rancho Buenaventura on the Sea of Cortez. Olivia always makes the best food.
A dog obsessed with a pool ball at Buenaventura.
A dog obsessed with a pool ball at Buenaventura.
A race team was camped at Buenaventura. We were told that this crew member got after it a little too fast, a little too early in the morning. The photo was taken at 2 p.m.
A race team was camped at Buenaventura. We were told that this crew member got after it a little too fast, a little too early in the morning. The photo was taken at 2 p.m.
We visited Bertha's Restaurant for a couple ballenas at Playa El Burro, located right about here.
We visited Bertha’s Restaurant at Playa El Burro for a couple ballenas, located right about here.
A palapa at Playa Santispac.
A palapa at Playa Santispac.
South of Loreto, scenery along the highway was spectacular. A recent visit by hurricane Paul dumped lots of rain on the area, so the desert was green and blooming.
South of Loreto, scenery along the highway was spectacular. A recent visit by hurricane Paul dumped lots of rain on the area, so the desert was green and blooming.
Steve and I take a break along Highway 1 - Monserrate and Santa Catalina islands are in the background.
Steve and I take a break along Highway 1 – Monserrate and Santa Catalina islands are in the background.
Taking another break from Highway 1, we drove down a wash to a remote beach at Ligui, right about here.
Taking another break from Highway 1, we drove down a wash to a remote beach at Ligui, right about here.
And who shows up? COPS Team people Manny and George. Great minds ...
And who shows up? COPS Team people Manny and George. Great minds …
The verdant, leafy desert around Loreto made it look Kauai-like.
The verdant, leafy desert around Loreto made it look Kauai-like.

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One of the half-dozen Federal checkpoints along Highway 1 in Baja. This one is located just north of San Ignacio.
One of the half-dozen Federal checkpoints along Highway 1 in Baja. This one is located just north of San Ignacio.
Boojum Trees in the central Baja desert.
Boojum Trees in the central Baja desert.
Drifting onto the non-existent shoulder on Highway 1 can be problematic.
Drifting onto the non-existent shoulder on Highway 1 can be problematic.
The Baja desert near Catavina.
The Baja desert near Cataviña.
Baja's Highway 1.
Baja’s Highway 1 – not for the squeamish.