Laguna Chapala

Driving North in Baja After the Mil

The race is over, fun is through, and now’s the time to drive north to where it’s dark and cold.

But we first have to take a detour to Bahia Agua Verde – a popular and safe anchorage only a day’s sail north of La Paz. The road starts out paved, but then turns to dirt – OK for any high-clearance, two wheel drive vehicle. The road is steep and rocky in places, so the trip takes some time. For a reason, Agua Verde is popular among sailors, but not so much by drivers.

Near the top of the road to Bahia Agua Verde where it crosses a shallow dam over Arroyo Santa Cruz.
Near the top of the road to Bahia Agua Verde where it crosses a shallow dam over Arroyo Santa Cruz.
Looking southeast from the Agua Verde Road to Punta San Cosme.
Looking southeast from the Agua Verde Road to Punta San Cosme.
The water on the left is standing water, left by recent hurricane Odile.
The water on the left is standing water, left by recent hurricane Odile.
Looking north of Estero San Cosme along the Sea of Cortez. Taken from right about here.
Looking north of Estero San Cosme along the Sea of Cortez. Taken from right about here.
Not much happening at Bahia Agua Verde. Click to embiggen the panorama.

And yet another way to look at Agua Verde – with this photo sphere. Grab it and have a look around.

A quite friendly Agua Verde local. To show that we are sophisticated Americans, we moo'd at him.
A quite friendly Agua Verde local. To show that we are sophisticated Americans, we moo’d at him.
An early-morning vulture spreads its wings to serve as drying the wings, warming the body, or baking off bacteria.
An early-morning vulture spreads its wings to serve as drying the wings, warming the body, or baking off bacteria.
Driving along the Sea of Cortez - lush mangroves in the background.
Driving along the Sea of Cortez – lush mangroves in the background.

A photo sphere from Playa Requesón – grab this bad boy and have a look around.

And a photo sphere from the top of the mountain where the El Tiburón microwave lives. To the south, you can see down into Bahía Concepción, and to the norte, Mulegé. Look carefully to see Highway 1.

Mission San Ignacio at sunset.  I Photoshopped power lines out of the photo. Apparently Mexican law dictates placing telephone poles and wires in front of every historic mission.
Mission San Ignacio at sunset. I Photoshopped power lines out of the photo. Apparently Mexican law dictates placing telephone poles and wires in front of every historic mission.

Take a look around inside Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamán with this photo sphere.

The north/side door of the mission.
The north/side door of the mission.

The San Ignacio Mission, seen from this photo sphere across the zócalo.

I had some killer chicken tacos Sunday night at the San Ignacio zócalo.
I had some killer chicken tacos Sunday night at the San Ignacio zócalo.
Cardón cactus silhouetted in the Baja sunset, south of San Ignacio.
Cardón cactus silhouetted in the Baja sunset, south of San Ignacio.
Cardón cactus and Boojum Trees near Punta Prieta.
Cardón cactus and Boojum Trees near Punta Prieta.

Take a look at the cool desert near Punta Prieta, Cardón cactus and Boojum Trees.

The desert blanketed with yellow flowers.
The desert blanketed with yellow flowers.

The turn-off to Highway 5 from Highway 1 at Laguna Chapala.

Looking north toward Gonzaga Bay on the newly graded right-of-way. Soon, this will be covered in an oily black substance.
Looking north toward Gonzaga Bay on the newly graded Highway 5 right-of-way. Soon, this clean dirt will be covered in an oily black substance.
A stop at Alfonsina's for tacos pescado. And maybe just one beer.
A stop at Alfonsina’s for tacos pescado. And maybe just one beer.

A photo sphere from the roof of Alfonsina’s – we wish we were there now.

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.

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.