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2010 Trip Report - Baja

Baja, Oops!
By Neal Johns

It all started out so well, then everything turned to mush. Several fellow Baja  lovers on the internet planned a trip to the most inaccessible Mission ruins in  Baja, Mission Santa Maria. The road is about 14 miles long and starts off of  Highway One 300 miles below the border. We gathered at the village of El Rosario  at the BajaCactus Motel. The owner, Antonio Munoz, had supported our expeditions  for years and was a good and faithful friend. It did not hurt that his Motel was  built to American standards and was also inexpensive.
Marian had just returned from Tibet (yes, she saw Mount Everest from Base Camp,  but did not climb it. :-) and had chipped a bone in her foot the second day of  her trip, Being somewhat cheap, I mean frugal, she limped around until she got  back to Kaiser. She declined to go on another trip with a limp.
What could I do but ask one of my WiW's (Wife-in-Waiting) to accompany me? Teddi  was already in Baja where she had been indulging in her hobby of riding mules  over the El Camino Real mule/foot trail that connected the Missions. She met me  in El Rosario with her dog, an aging Shepard named Dixie she claimed would  protect her from my advances. Dixie ambled over and licked my hand. So much for  protection. Threatening to tell Marian (whom she knew) did work.

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The next day we drove an hour to Rancho Santa Inez and started on the dirt and  rock four wheel drive road to the Mission ruins. The first twelve miles were  interesting but no one had any trouble. The last two miles were more than interesting. The steep, rocky hill known as The Widow Maker was downhill  this direction but made you pause and think about the ability to get up it. Then  came the first Oops, the dreaded Swamp. A lovely palm grove in the canyon was  usually dry, but as palm trees require their feet to be in damp soil, sometime  it was a Swamp. Due to recent rains, this was one of those times. The narrow  road that took you to the other side of the Swamp was lined with palm trees and  covered with black water up to three feet deep. Oops!
We made it through the Swamp, but at one point an unseen dip in one side of the  road tilted the top of my Pop-Top camper into the adjacent palm tree. Even at  the slow speed of 5-10 MPH, this resulted in a double Oops! The camper top will  require major repair or replacement.
Arriving at the Mission, we admired the choice location and the concomitant view  and then on the way out, things got really interesting. The road did it to me  again! Different dip, different palm tree, same result. Pish and dottle! No, it  ain't cussing, look it up. The Swamp Gods were not through with me, for no known  reason, my rear differential ring and pinion broke and I had to be towed up The  Widow Maker hill. But wait! There were other lesser hills that I had to be towed  or winched up. In the process of being towed, I could not control the speed or  always the direction in the curves so I hit a rock and bent a tie rod. This made  my tires look in different directions and my steering even worse. At 1:30 in the  morning we gave up, camped, and the next morning the crew left me to die alone  in the wilderness eight miles from civilization. Well not quite, one of the guys  drove to El Rosario, bought parts for the steering back a day and a half later,  and I drove out in front wheel drive with an occasional tow up a hill.
We drove to El Rosario where Antonio gave us free rooms and spent two days  finding a ring and pinion for my differential, He arranged for a local mechanic  to install it and finally I was able to drive home.
Just another great vacation in Baja.

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