San Felipe

COPS Racing at the 50th Mexican 1000

This is the daddy of all off-road races: the Mexican 1000. It started exactly 50 years ago by the National Off-Road Racing Association, the first sanctioning body dedicated to off road racing. The first event began in Tijuana and finished in La Paz, while this 50th Anniversary running would start in Ensenada and finish in San Jose del Cabo 1,264.10 miles down the peninisula. After leaving Ensenada, racers passed through San Felipe, Bay of Los Angeles, Loreto,  and then La Paz before the dash to the finish. Start to finish took five days, if you were lucky enough to make it.

If you’d like to follow along, here’s a map of course, from top to bottom.

Extra-credit reading and videos below the photos.

Contingency Row and Tech Inspection

For the 2017 Mexican 1000, COPS Racing campaigned two trucks: Zak Langley and Josh Valko will pilot the #55 Trophy Truck, while somewhere back in the dust, John Langley and Mike Howell will be in the Trophy Spec #250. That's COPS Crew Chief Mike Meehan with Josh escorting the trucks through Contingency and Tech.
For the 2017 Mexican 1000, COPS Racing campaigned two trucks: Zak Langley and Josh Valko will pilot the #55 Trophy Truck, while somewhere back in the dust, John Langley and Mike Howell will be in the Trophy Spec #250. That’s COPS Crew Chief Mike Meehan with Josh escorting the trucks through Contingency and Tech.
As with many races, Contingency Row and Tech Inspection were held in front of the Riviera Cultural Center in Ensenada.
As with many races, Contingency Row and Tech Inspection were held in front of the Riviera Cultural Center in Ensenada.
Rene Aguirre was piloting Triple Nickel Racing's El "Galaxia de la Baja," a 1964 Ford Galaxie competing in the Vintage Production Cars Class. He saw the finish in San Juan.
Rene Aguirre was piloting Triple Nickel Racing‘s El “Galaxia de la Baja,” a 1964 Ford Galaxie competing in the Vintage Production Cars Class. He saw the finish in San Juan.
Spencer Low's 1988 Nissan King Cab.
Spencer Low’s 1988 Nissan King Cab.
Dennis signs John's autograph on an over-served, and over-friendly local.
Dennis signs John’s autograph on an over-served, and over-friendly local.
Jon Steinhilber and Joe Lowery drove their 1965 Meyers Manx in the Pioneer Era Class (1967 - 1975).
Jon Steinhilber and Joe Lowery drove their 1965 Meyers Manx in the Pioneer Era Class (1967 – 1975).
This 1959 Triumph TR3 was in the first NORRA Mexican 1000 50 years ago, but DNF'd after breaking a crankshaft near Santa Ynez. This year, the car saw the checkers in San Jose del Cabo.
This 1959 Triumph TR3 was in the first NORRA Mexican 1000 50 years ago, but DNF’d after breaking a crankshaft near Santa Ynez. This year, the car saw the checkers in San Jose del Cabo.
A '57 Chevy Bel Air in a 1300 mile Baja race? Sure, why not. The #609, aka the Rippin' Rooster, was a fan favorite originally built and raced by Larry Schwacofer more than 30 years ago.
A ’57 Chevy Bel Air in a 1300 mile Baja race? Sure, why not. The #609, aka the Rippin’ Rooster, was a fan favorite originally built and raced by Larry Schwacofer more than 30 years ago.

Day 1: Ensenada to San Felipe (200.20 miles)

NORRA President Mike Pearlman signals John that he has 10 seconds until his start. It was Mike's dad, Ed, who started this race 50 years ago at the same spot.
NORRA President Mike Pearlman signals John that he has 10 seconds until his start. It was Mike’s dad, Ed, who started this race 50 years ago at the same spot.
Number 55 ends a 117-mile race section near Mike's Sky Ranch to begin a Transit on Highway 3 to the northern end of El Diablo dry lake.
Number 55 ends a 117-mile race section near Mike’s Sky Ranch to begin a Transit on Highway 3 to the northern end of El Diablo dry lake.
George flags in #250 for a brief pit stop near San Matias.
George flags in #250 for a brief pit stop near San Matias.
Co-driver Mike exits the truck while the #250 is fueled.
Co-driver Mike exits the truck while the #250 is fueled.
The first day of racing was uneventful -- the way we like it. Night time consumes San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez.
The first day of racing was uneventful — the way we like it. Night time consumes San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez.

Day 2: San Felipe to Bahia de Los Angeles (221.00 miles)

Early morning, John and Mike are going over their truck. John was noticeably antsy -- he was anxious to get to the starting line.
Early morning, John and Mike are going over their truck. John was noticeably antsy — he was anxious to get to the starting line.
Inside the #250's cockpit, Co-driver Mike makes last-minute adjustments to John's GPS.
Inside the #250’s cockpit, Co-driver Mike makes last-minute adjustments to John’s GPS.
One of the competitors in the 1000 was a 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon in the RV Class, which just returned with a win at the 24 Hours of Lemons.
One of the competitors in the 1000 was a 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon in the RV Class, which just returned with a win at the 24 Hours of Lemons.
Starting in the fifth position, Zak gets final instructions from Mike Pearlman.
Starting in the fifth position, Zak gets final instructions from Mike Pearlman.
A mile south of Coco's Corner we were able to help Randy Wilson who had rolled at a particularly sneaky curve. Both occupants were out of the truck and OK. The 1993 Ford Ranger was racing in the Prerunner Truck class, and finished first in class at the checkers.
A mile south of Coco’s Corner we were able to help Randy Wilson who had rolled at a particularly sneaky curve. Both occupants were out of the truck and OK. The 1993 Ford Ranger was racing in the Prerunner Truck class, and finished first in class at the checkers. As we were leaving, I said to the driver “Be safe out there.” He replied with “It’s a little late for that advise.”
South of San Felipe, the race course followed a dirt section of Mexican Highway 5. We met people out there, who I'd wager, did not know a race was underway.
South of San Felipe, the race course followed a dirt section of Mexican Highway 5. We met people out there, who I’d wager, did not know a race was underway.
The entire team was housed at "The Castle" overlooking the Bay of LA.
The entire team was housed at “The Castle” overlooking the Bay of LA.
End of day in Bahía de los Ángeles.
End of day in Bahía de los Ángeles.
Any sleep anywhere, is good sleep. But with overnight, near-hurricane-force winds, sleeping was a noisy challenge at best.
Any sleep anywhere, is good sleep. But with overnight, near-hurricane-force winds, sleeping was a noisy challenge at best.

Day 3: Bahia de Los Angeles to Loreto (396.70 miles)

Zak leaves the line in the Bay of LA; destination Loreto in Baja California Sur.
Zak leaves the line in the Bay of LA; destination Loreto in Baja California Sur. Due to logistics, this was the last time we saw the trucks or team until we arrived in Loreto.
Once in Loreto, there was in impromptu pow wow in the hotel parking lot.
Once in Loreto, there was in impromptu pow wow in the hotel parking lot.
High temperatures created brake rotor issues -- they were identified and fixed.
High temperatures created brake rotor issues — they were identified and fixed.
Dennis and Josh make repairs to the #55's rear fender hanger which was severely damaged during a tire blow-out.
Dennis and Josh make repairs to the #55’s rear fender hanger which was severely damaged during a tire blow-out.

Day 4: Loreto to La Paz  (293.30 miles)

Then the Shinola hit the Westinghouse. The #250 drove into a Grand Canyon-sized rain rut which hurdled them off the road, breaking tie rods and the rack-and-pinon steering. One of the #250’s rescue trucks hit a cavernous pothole on Highway 1, which fatally damaged its steering. At 10:30 pm, we received a text from Zak asking us to help in the rescue effort — we were looking at a four-hour commute to the Pacific side of the peninsula. Meanwhile, only minutes before the start in Loreto, the #55’s starter failed causing a one-hour delay in starting the race, knocking Zak from around fifth place to near 25th.

We arrived at the #250 at first light Wednesday morning. The plan was to swap broken parts with parts that almost fit -- it could then be limped five miles back to the trailer.
We arrived at the #250 at first light Wednesday morning. The plan was to swap broken parts with parts that almost fit — it could then be limped five miles back to the trailer.
Mike, Mike, and Steve work on repairing the #250. It's always handy when you can lift the fiberglass hood off the truck and put it somewhere out of your way.
Mike, Mike, and Steve work on repairing the #250. It’s always handy when you can lift the fiberglass hood off the truck and put it somewhere out of your way.
Highway 1 heading south from San Juanico (Scorpion Bay) to Ciudad Insurgentes where we could catch up with the day's race in progress, broken truck in tow.
Highway 1 heading south from San Juanico (Scorpion Bay) to Ciudad Insurgentes where we could catch up with the day’s race in progress, broken truck in tow.
Waiting for his time to start, Roger (aka Royer) Lovell is running his 1968 Ford Bronco in the Vintage Short Wheelbase 4x4 Class.
Waiting for his time to start, Roger (aka Royer) Lovell is running his 1968 Ford Bronco in the Vintage Short Wheelbase 4×4 Class.
The COPS Trophy Truck begins a Special Section just south of Ciudad Constitucion. Next stop in 200 miles, La Paz.
The COPS Trophy Truck begins a Special Section just south of Ciudad Constitucion. Next stop in 200 miles, La Paz.

Day 5: La Paz to San Jose del Cabo  (152.90 miles)

Zak and Josh depart La Paz for a final day of racing.
Zak and Josh depart La Paz for a final day of racing.

A mile from the finish, the driver’s-side rear brake caught on fire, and neither Zak or Josh were aware of it until they arrived on the podium and a hundred guys came running at them with fire extinguishers. The COPS Racing #55 finished sixth in class and 15th overall.

Cameron Steele cinched the overall win in his Geiser Trophy Truck — congratulations to all!

After the checkers -- time for a beer and taco. Or two.
After the checkers — time for a beer and taco. Or two.
Josh Valco handled co-driver duties in the #55 for the entire 1,264.10 miles of the Mexican 1000.
Josh Valco handled co-driver duties in the #55 for the entire 1,264.10 miles of the Mexican 1000.
The NORRA closing party was held on the beach at the Club de Playa Campsesre. There was music and food and drink along with a spectacular view of the Pacific.
The NORRA closing party was held on the beach at the Club de Playa Campsesre. There was music and food and drink along with a spectacular view of the Pacific.
Steve attempts to get a photo by the really big NORRA sign.
Steve attempts to get a photo by the really big NORRA sign.
COPS Racing Team Owner, John Langley happy with the results of the #55.
COPS Racing Team Owner, John Langley happy with the results of the #55.
The COPS Racing table was conveniently located next to one of the bars, and very close to the awards stage.
The COPS Racing table was conveniently located next to one of the bars, and very close to the awards stage.

The 1200 Mile Drive Home

The race is over, so Friday morning we all pack up and start the trek back north — it will take three full days of driving to get home.

This is Baja, so this must be a vaca crossing.
This is Baja, so this must be a vaca crossing.
We're heading north quickly, but stop for a tailgate lunch on the beach at Ligüí.
We’re heading north quickly, but stop for a tailgate lunch on the beach at Ligüí.
Looking north across Estero Ligüí -- the dark blue Sea of Cortez is distant.
Looking north across Estero Ligüí — the dark blue Sea of Cortez is distant.
When in Loreto, we like staying at the always awesome Oasis Hotel, home of the world's best margaritas.
When in Loreto, we like staying at the always awesome Oasis Hotel, home of the world’s best margaritas.
A quick stop for fish tacos at Buenaventura on Bahia Concepcion. A tradition.
A quick stop for fish tacos at Buenaventura on Bahia Concepcion. A tradition.
Beginning the one-hour wait to cross the border into the US at Tecate. When we got home, we had driven a little over 2,900 miles with more than 52 hours of driving time. What we call "fun."
Beginning the one-hour wait to cross the border into the US at Tecate. When we got home, we had driven a little over 2,900 miles with more than 52 hours of driving time. That, with sleep deprivation and hunger, is what we call “fun.”

Extra-credit reading and videos:

San Felipe Circa 1982

Our excuse to be in San Felipe was to attend Hobie Cat’s Midwinters West Regatta. With the exception of a 30-minute chubasco, the weather was perfect. This photo was taken from Highway 5, Camino del Sur, south of town, before there were houses in the area. Here’s what a near-by location looks like in 2009 in Google Street View.

San Felipe Circa 1982

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.
1950-chrysler-crown-imperial
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.

Spring Break at Gonzaga Bay

It’s spring and the weather is warming – the only sane thing to do is head south to Gonzaga Bay in Baja for a long weekend. Carol and I went with KT and Steve and Cece and Maddy and Ali and we all had a great time playing in the water and exploring  the desert. Our base camp was a couple palapas at Playa Grande.

On our way into San Felipe, we noticed a new Pemex station being built at Highway 5 and Zoo Road - more gas options in town are always good.
On our way into San Felipe, we noticed a new Pemex station being built at Highway 5 and Zoo Road – more gas options in town are always good.
We weren't the only ones enjoying Spring Break in San Felipe - the town was packed. We spent the night in San Felipe, then drove most of the next day to Gonzaga.
We weren’t the only ones enjoying Spring Break in San Felipe – the town was packed. We spent the night in San Felipe, then drove most of the next day to Gonzaga.
Looking back at Puertecitos as we venture south. There's 60 miles of dirt road between here and Gonzaga.
Looking back at the town of Puertecitos as we venture south – there’s 60 miles of dirt road between here and Gonzaga Bay.
Carol and I stop to regroup with the others right about here.
Carol and I stop to regroup with the others right about here.
As an Easter gift, Carol gave me this cool rubber ducky which accompanied us to Gonzaga Bay desperately clinging to the GPS antenna.
As an Easter gift, Carol gave me this cool rubber ducky which accompanied us to Gonzaga Bay desperately clinging to the GPS antenna.
The scenery along the Sea of Cortez was spectacular as usual. On the left is guano-covered Isla El Huerfanito with even more islands in the background.
The scenery along the Sea of Cortez was spectacular as usual. On the left is guano-covered Isla El Huerfanito with even more islands in the background.
Carol relaxes on our first afternoon in Gonzaga while Willard watches from a distance.
Carol relaxes on our first afternoon in Gonzaga while Willard watches from a distance.
Maddy and Ali are real water babies - they were at home in Gonzaga's waters.
Maddy and Ali are real water babies – they were at home in Gonzaga’s waters.
Outhouses of Gonzaga.
Outhouses of Gonzaga.
Uh oh, a recurring theme.
Uh oh, a recurring theme.
Carol gets a photo of Steve as he sets his daughters adrift into the bahia.
Carol gets a photo of Steve as he sets his daughters adrift into the bahia.
Who doesn't like a nice parrotfish?
Who doesn’t like a nice triggerfish, huh Keith?
Always looking for an excuse to drive somewhere, we take an afternoon drive to Punta Final, along the beach.
Always looking for an excuse to drive somewhere, we take an afternoon drive along the beach to Punta Final.
KT snaps a photo of Steve and Cece.
KT snaps a photo of Steve and Cece.
An old desert intersection south of Gonzaga Bay.
An old desert intersection south of Gonzaga Bay.
Who said the 110 volt outlet in our Tacoma isn't useful? It can power Christmas lights and run a blender.
Who said the 110 volt outlet in our Tacoma isn’t useful? It can power Christmas lights and run a blender.
Carol collected shells on her daily beach walks - this was her stash after just a few days.
Carol collected shells on her daily beach walks – this was her stash after just a few days.
Looking north across the desert from the top of Molino de Lacy.
Looking north across the desert from the top of Molino de Lacy.
Taken inside the Tacoma at 3 a.m. - our only recorded memory after a chubasco abruptly woke us up. We were trapped in the truck for several hours until winds subsided - the entire left side of the truck, glass and paint, was sandblasted. Our tent was flattened-over and the floor was covered with several inches of sand. Everything which wasn't tied down was blown into the Sea of Cortez - no mas. We learned the next morning that winds at the airport had been clocked at 82 mph, Hurricane Category 1. A memorable experience.
Taken inside the Tacoma at 3 a.m. – our only recorded memory after a chubasco abruptly woke us up. We were trapped in the truck for several hours until winds subsided – the entire left side of the truck, glass and paint, was sandblasted. Our tent was flattened-over and the floor was covered with several inches of sand. Everything which wasn’t tied down was blown into the Sea of Cortez – no mas. We learned the next morning that winds at the airport had been clocked at 82 mph, Hurricane Category 1. A memorable experience.