Baja California Sur

COPS Racing at the 50th Baja 1000

It began 50 years ago as the National Off Road Racing Association’s Mexican 1000, beginning in Tijuana and racing from Ensenada to La Paz. 68 vehicles started the race competing in four classes. This year, SCORE-International is the sanctioning body for the race named the Baja 1000, with a 1,134 mile run from Ensenada to La Paz with more than 400 entrants. (course map).

Racers have 48 hours to complete the course which means everyone will be driving through a night. The slower classes and cars with problems will be racing through two nights. No matter how you slice it, racing in the Baja 1000 involves a really long day.

Cops Racing Team entered three cars in the race: Trophy Truck #50 driven by Zak Langley, the Class 1 #150 driven by Morgan Langley, and the Mason Trophy Truck Spec #250 making its inaugural run, driven by Team Owner John Langley. Each of the three cars would have three drivers to move it down the peninsula.

But let’s back up a week and a half. The entire team departs for Baja, all equipment in tow, long before the race to begin …

Prerunning

“Prerunning,” aka “practice,” aka “course reconnaissance” — running the course in advance of the race to see what’s out there. Unlike race day, prerunning is much more relaxed and can include an occasional fish taco. Drivers make notations of the course on the GPS, marking areas which require special attention, such as big rocks, or surprise turns, or silt beds, or goats — the list is endless.

The COPS prerunners between Loreto and La Paz were essentially the same cars as the race cars. Once drivers got the feel of the race course in the prerunners, the transition into a race car was seamless.

Mike, Zak, John and Josh stopping for a bottle of water and a rest north of Ciudad Insurgentes. Friendly locals pass by with a truckload of hay. 30 minutes later, they passed by again in the opposite direction, but with an empty truck.
Mike, Zak, John and Josh stopping for a bottle of water and a rest north of Ciudad Insurgentes. Friendly locals pass by with a truckload of hay. 30 minutes later, they passed by again in the opposite direction, but with an empty truck.
400 miles down Baja, Mexicans have a slightly different vision than the President of the United States.
400 miles down Baja, Mexicans have a slightly different vision than the President of the United States.
John's Trophy Truck Spec prerunner -- very similar to the all-new #250 Mason truck he will be driving in the race.
John’s Trophy Truck Spec prerunner — very similar to the all-new #250 Mason truck he will be driving in the race.
Every time we stopped while prerunning, locals would show up, seemingly out of nowhere, to look at the cars and take photos. Of course, this gave us the opportunity to hand out steekers.
Every time we stopped while prerunning, locals would show up, seemingly out of nowhere, to look at the cars and take photos. Of course, this gave us the opportunity to hand out steekers.
Goat season in Baja. Here, a flock migrates from over there to over there, with little regard to highway traffic.
Goat season in Baja. Here, a flock migrates from over there to over there, with little regard to highway traffic.
Josh and Mark fueling the prerunners at the same place the race trucks will take on fuel during the race: the future location of BFGoodrich Pit #8 at Santa Rita, Race Mile 1013.
Josh and Mark fueling the prerunners at the same place the race trucks will take on fuel during the race: the future location of BFGoodrich Pit #8 at Santa Rita, Race Mile 1013.
Morgan makes a low-key departure after fueling. His destination is La Paz, 120 miles away.
Morgan makes a low-key departure after fueling. His destination is La Paz, 120 miles away.
A local videos John's equally stealthy departure after fueling.
A local videos John’s equally stealthy departure after fueling.
In the parking lot of the La Paz Hyatt, John shows off the tree he nailed while prerunning (among other things which we won't go into right now).
In the parking lot of the La Paz Hyatt, John shows off the tree he nailed while prerunning (among other things which we won’t go into at this time).
We celebrated our first night in La Paz with a team dinner on the beach at Stella's Cucina Al Forno & Beach Club, an exceptional Italian restaurant.
We celebrated our first night in La Paz with a team dinner on the beach at Stella’s Cucina Al Forno & Beach Club, an exceptional Italian restaurant.
Sunrise over Island Carmen offshore from Loreto. Our prerunning day begins.
Sunrise over Island Carmen offshore from Loreto. Our prerunning day begins.
 COPS arrived in Loreto before most other teams, but on the weekend prior to the race, the hotel parking lot was filling up with other teams' prerunners.
COPS arrived in Loreto before most other teams, but on the weekend prior to the race, the hotel parking lot was filling up with other teams’ prerunners.
Chickens, as it turns out, are big fans of COPS Racing.
Chickens, as it turns out, are big fans of COPS Racing.
Early morning in the parking lot of the Mision Hotel. Note the damage to the front right fender of the prerunner, and remember that damage. Time to use your short-term memory.
Early morning in the parking lot of the Mision Hotel. Note the damage to the front right fender of the prerunner, and remember that damage. Time to use your short-term memory.
Excessive tire wear can lead to low pressure.
Excessive tire wear can lead to low pressure.
Epiphytic plant balls on the wires of Ciudad Insurgentes.
Epiphytic plant balls on the wires of Ciudad Insurgentes.

The 50th Baja 1000

Let’s cut to the chase. Our race day started on Friday morning at around 2:30 at the BFGoodrich pits near the oasis/farming community of La Purisima. The three COPS cars left the starting line in 750-mile-distant Ensenada, 15 hours earlier. The #150 Class 1 and #50 Trophy Truck DNF’d and would not see Valle T or Loreto, respectively. On the other hand, the #250 Trophy Truck Spec was doing well, quite well.

The COPS #250, making its inaugural run, takes on fuel at the BFG Pits at Race Mile 750. Steve Hengeveld is a full 20 minutes in front of the #2 guy in class. Kash Vessels drove the first third of the race before handing the truck over to Steve. Once he arrives in Loreto, Steve will hand over the driving duties to John who takes it to the finish. Time to pull that damaged front right fender out of short-term memory.
The COPS #250, making its inaugural run, takes on fuel at the BFG Pits at Race Mile 750. Steve Hengeveld was a full 20 minutes in front of the #2 guy in class — my timing had to be off. Kash Vessels drove the first third of the race before handing the truck over to Steve. Once he arrives in Loreto, Steve will hand over the driving duties to John who takes it to the finish. Time to pull that damaged front right fender out of short-term memory.
The second of only two actual race photos. The #250 takes 27 gallons of fuel at the BFG Pits -- just enough to get the truck over the mountain and to the driver change in Loreto.
The second of only two actual race photos. The #250 takes 27 gallons of fuel at the BFG Pits — just enough to get the truck over the mountain and to the driver change in Loreto.

The view from the BFG Pits after sunup.
The view from the BFG Pits after sunup.
We dashed to the finish in La Paz, but that was after John Langley drove the #250 to a first place finish in class, and 13th overall. Of the 405 entrants, around 240 finished. We all met at Stella Restaurant for a celebratory dinner on the beach while John chats with the owner of the restaurant.
We dashed to the finish in La Paz, but that was after John Langley drove the #250 to a first place finish in class, and 13th overall. Of the 405 entrants, around 240 finished. We all met at Stella Restaurant for a celebratory dinner on the beach while John chats with the owner of the restaurant.
El Señor Vaca Muerta es amigo de Chupacabra. ¡Mierda!
El Señor Vaca Muerta es amigo de Chupacabra. ¡Mierda!
Driving up the peninsula, I came in contact with a cow (no, not Señor Vaca). The cow started walking onto the highway from the left side, but at the last second, thankfully, the cow turned away from me and I only sideswiped him, causing us to take a short, unplanned ride into the desert.
Driving up the peninsula, I came in contact with a cow (no, not Señor Vaca). The cow started walking onto the highway from the left side, but at the last second, thankfully, the cow turned away from me and I only sideswiped him, causing us to take a short, unplanned ride into the desert.
We spent Thanksgiving night in San Ignacio during the northbound trek. Who needs turkey and stuffing when you have fish tacos and a margarita especial?
We spent Thanksgiving night in San Ignacio during the northbound trek. Who needs turkey and stuffing when you have fish tacos and a margarita especial?
Early morning light on the Rio San Ignacio palms, Volcán las Tres Virgenes in the background.
Early morning light on the Rio San Ignacio palms, Volcán las Tres Virgenes in the background.
Northbound, at 28º north latitude, passing into the state of Baja California. The race is over. Go home.
Northbound, at 28º north latitude, passing into the state of Baja California. The race is over. Go home.

 

Video: Total Solar Eclipse July 11, 1991

The decision was made. Drive 1,000 miles south, to the tip of Baja to watch one of the longest solar eclipses ever: totality for six minutes, 53 seconds. The sun’s shadow traveled over Hawaii and then Baja California — most eclipse fans opted for traveling to Hawaii (which was overcast during the eclipse).

Eric and I camped near Punta Colorado on Baja’s East Cape to wait for the noon event. We’d done our homework on what to see, what to expect, but nothing prepared us for the sensations during the eclipse: much cooler, a noon-time sky with stars, and dusk 360º along the horizon. To say “surrealistic” would be an understatement.

Ahhhh … 1991 VHS quality!

Nineteen Photos of Roads

Lubken Canyon Road, Owens Valley.
Lubken Canyon Road, Owens Valley.
Huntington, Indiana
Huntington, Indiana
Beartooth Pass, Montana in July, a little over 11,000' elevation.
Beartooth Pass, Montana in July, a little over 11,000′ elevation.
Highway 5 near El Huerfanito, Baja California.
Highway 5 near El Huerfanito, Baja California.
Road sign, Rye, Colorado.
Road sign, Rye, Colorado.
California Poppies near Highway 138 in Neenach, California.
California Poppies near Highway 138 in Neenach, California.
Mexico Highway 1, Baja California Sur.
Mexico Highway 1, Baja California Sur.
A pole line in Antelope Valley, California.
A pole line in Antelope Valley, California.
Commonwealth Avenue, Boston.
Commonwealth Avenue, Boston.
Monument Valley, Arizona.
Monument Valley, Arizona.
Goat Ranch Cutoff, near Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierras.
Goat Ranch Cutoff, near Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierras.
Eastbound lanes of Mexico Highway 2 near La Rumorosa.
Eastbound lanes of Mexico Highway 2 near La Rumorosa.
A real, non-Photoshopped sign in the Colorado National Monument, near Grand Junction.
A real, non-Photoshopped sign in the Colorado National Monument, near Grand Junction.
Cows, in no particular hurry, crossing Mexico Highway 1 near Ciudad Constitución, Baja California Sur.
Cows, in no particular hurry, crossing Mexico Highway 1 near Ciudad Constitución, Baja California Sur.
Wind turbines towering over Oak Creek Road, near Mojave, California.
Wind turbines towering over Oak Creek Road, near Mojave, California.
Highway 12 passing through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.
Highway 12 passing through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.
Mexico Highway 1, near San Agustin, Baja California.
Mexico Highway 1, near San Agustin, Baja California.
Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts
Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts.
Starting down the eastbound lanes of Mexico Highway 2 near La Rumorosa.
Starting down the eastbound lanes of Mexico Highway 2 near La Rumorosa.

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.