Those who know me know how every winter I plan a long Baja trip. My plans are always the same: be like Jimmy on the beach. Find that perfect spot, drink lots of Margs, ride my KTM, and hit the Baja 1000.
When the snow starts landing, I start planning. Maybe this time I should get the wife involved first. The conversation begins with “Doesn’t Baja sound like fun honey?” and ends with “How about I decide between the Caribbean and Cancun instead?” Suddenly my big winter plans quickly become the typical American tourist vacation. Then the spring hits and we are too busy once again filling orders. In short, my small adventure gets pushed back every year!
Last year I installed my KORE suspension (thanks to Merrick @desertproven.com), got my overpriced 37” Toyo MT’s which ended up being worth every penny, then chip and exhaust. It appeared to be finally coming together. The wife was jumping in and out of a lifted truck with no running boards for a reason! Now all I needed was a camper!
Outfitter was kind enough to finally build me a personal camper. One that even now resides in my driveway and does not have to go to any RV shows!
I ordered a mild build by today’s standards: double electric lift to carry my A/C and spare 200 lb. 37” tire on the roof, extended cab, microwave, prosine 2.0, 4 AGM’s, electric jacks, eu2000, Tundra, solar, fluorescents, propane/no diesel, and no TV this time! How many times can I watch Seinfeld reruns anyway? Outfitter was kind enough to finally build me a personal camper. One that even now resides in my driveway and does not have to go to any RV shows!
A date was set and checklists were made. Plans had actually begun. The wife even went to Borders and bought a Baja camping book. May be she really does want to go? May be she is just entertaining me? She even tracked down the Baja Adventure Travel Book by Walt Peterson suggested to us by Mike Macie (thanks again)! Suddenly I realize that we’re really going to do this!
So, in early December, we set off. We spent the first night in the Valley of fire near Las Vegas. Then on to San Marcos for a night with the wife’s friends. They were kind enough to take us out for dinner and beer. After a couple of pints, the campfire ghost stories began. Chris informed us of the stories from the local news involving American surfers who were getting murdered in Baja resulting from a change in power within the drug cartels. Is this what you tell all non-Californian’s about Americans traveling to Mexico? We’re from Colorado. How are we supposed to know the local news? Last time I was in Baja, you didn’t even need a visa or a passport to enter Mexico. Things were much simpler then and that was only 12 years ago. With so many Outfitter customers traveling to Baja, it must be fine right? Either way, the look on our faces must have been something because the very next sentence was “I’m sure YOU will be fine though”. Is it possible to be somehow immune to violence by being naïve? Now what are we supposed to do? The next day we were supposed to be in Tijuana. May be we should have rented that beach house in Virgin Gorda again? No, there’s no adventure in that. What would Jessie Keller do? We’re going!
One too many beers led to a late start the next morning. What we needed was overpriced coffee and generic aspirin. The nuvi is great for finding the nearest Starbucks. Time to get moving and we push through San Diego and down the I-5. We see the sign for the border crossing that says “Declarations keep right”. I thought that was only when you returned? We blast through the border with no stops. Guess the Mexican border patrol has a slightly different policy when it comes to foreigners entering their country than the Americans do! They know I’ll only be a “guest” though. Turns out that the declarations lane is where we were supposed to get our tourist cards stamped. Whoops. We went the entire trip without them stamped. Oh well, on beyond Ensenada, the wineries, and then a stop overnight south of San Quintin to the sand dunes of El Pabellon.
The Beaches at el Pabellon were cold and rainy. I had stayed here before, but that was in June. Warmer weather is sure to be had south and on the Sea of Cortez. By the second night we were on our own private beach at Playa la Gringa in LA Bay.
Had the most wonderful fish tacos at Larry and Raquel’s. The owner of the hotel was kind enough to help a couple of tourists find the road south to Bahia las Animas.
The road to Bahia las Animas is where we get on the Baja 1000 course and get to finally test out the KORE suspension. This is what I wanted in a Baja trip. This is also where I’m reminded about my wife’s fear of speed on dirt.
After a very quick trip and navigating with my dad’s Nuvi, which worked surprisingly well after I downloaded the Bicimapas.com Mexico map, we found our way to Bahia las Animas.
Thanks to Mike Macie for pointing us here. It rained the first night and we heard coyotes all night. In the morning there were dog tracks under the truck!
This spread out beach camp area has bits and pieces of a very large whale skeleton. Towards the north someone has assembled the vertebrae with a few ribs and further down the beach someone else has a jaw bone. The jaw must have been 18’ long.
That is one big mammal!
After a few nights, we decided to head further south through San Rafael continuing down Baja’s wonderful dirt roads. Once again I am reminded of my wife’s fear of speed and non pavement. Nothing that 7+ hours of the Baja 1000 at speed with a truck camper won’t cure. Yes, I am determined. Seven hours pass without ever seeing a car, person, plane, or house. And then out of nowhere we approach a very unfortunate Mexican with his wife on his way from El Barril to buy a few hundred gallons of gas. Their truck was broken down in the middle of the road with a spun wheel bearing and was full of empty fuel barrels. Obviously this truck has been beaten down this road more than once. We stop to help them get the rear axle shaft out of his Ford and point at the mangled bearing and shards of metal. Using my wife’s broken Spanish we all decide to give him a ride to a ranch up the road to find a mechanic. I think he really needed a parts store!! Lucky for him though, because that ranch was the first sign of human existence there was within 7 hours. We felt like we did our good deed for the day and hoped it would pay in dividends should our truck ever fall ill.
But wait, I drive a Dodge. Never mind.
Finally we make it to El Arco. El Arco is a crisscross of roads. With our heads buried in maps and the GPS trying to find our way back to the 1, we managed to get greeted with a finger gesture from a passing Ford Ranger. After an 86 mph jaunt to the 1, we catch up to our friendly greeters who seemed to be having a bit of car trouble. Seems their truck was pushed a little too hard. With steam pouring out of their hood, they wave for us to stop and help. Somehow after their hospitality I cannot bring myself to. We only wave, with our whole hand, smile and finally turn south on to the 1 to Santa Rosalia.
The truck performed beautifully and the KORE suspension is everything they say it is. The camper was also put through the paces and survived with no damage. Even after getting violently bounced around and hit by tall cactus and trees repeatedly at speed!! The truck became unintentionally ☺ airborne a few times with a fully loaded camper! This is what we were greeted with that night when we went to set up camp:
I so should have known better. The drawers under the stove came out and turned up side down, bottles of XX busted open in the fridge, and all our eggs broke. What a ride. Write that one off as product/Baja testing.
Our final stop heading south was to a beach near El Coyote. We stayed many days here and met the most wonderful people on this beach. I hope to someday come back and meet up with all of our new friends.
We ate dinner on Playa Santispac beach a few nights at Ana’s Restaurant. The food was great, the Margaritas were wicked, and Saturday nights bring all the American transplants from the area for a sort of reunion. Was actually some of the best entertainment we had on the entire trip. I think I got a funny email once about old white guys dancing that made this place look very familiar. We all had a good time though, and by the next morning we would be on our way north heading home for the Outfitter Christmas party.
We tried to get the ferry take us from Santa Rosalia back to main land Mexico and then head north from there. This would have saved us up to three days travel time returning to Colorado as it is only a 6 hour drive back to the border from there. Next time we will definitely reserve a spot on the boat a few weeks ahead of time as they were booked for two weeks. While it is a little pricy, the time and fuel it would have saved would have made this a wash.
So if you have read my little travel journal this far, you might have asked yourself why do I feel that my trip is special enough for me to post it on the internet? After all, we have so many customers who have been here many times and some have traveled further south to South America. My answer is two-fold.
First, I feel that by one of the owners of the company actually going and sharing his experiences allows us to use our product in some of the most harshest ways (believe me, I tried to destroy the entire rig) and care about how the camper is built, what options were useful, and what our results were. I could not honestly help customers with choosing a unit and choosing options without continuing to update my knowledge as a manufacture and user. And I don’t believe that trips to the lake or a campground are enough for product testing, as that is all every other manufacturer ever really does - with the exception of Earthroamer. That’s just not who all of our customers are.
Second, I believe that a properly equipped truck and lightweight popup can outperform even the most expensive expedition vehicle. The possibility of separating the truck from the camper (we left the camper on the beach more than once) makes the combination even more logical.
Now, is it possible with a Datastorm and laptop to run Outfitter from my hammock?