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2013 Trip Report - 9 Day Trip to Baja

9 Day Trip to Baja

By: Neal Johns

Well it was supposed to be Memorial Day, but was delayed a few days. No worries, we were on Baja Time. There were supposed to be six or eight vehicles but somehow all but three dropped out or never signed up. Weaklings! Chris (with friend Luis) and I had real pickups with pop-top campers while Art had Frankenstein’s Monster (FM from now on). Art is handicapped by having an Electronics Engineer degree but really writes software. (Software Puke from now on). SP is not a derogatory term, just a Naval descriptor used to separate these inferior types from Hardware Pukes, a much higher organism on the evolutionary scale. Ask any HP, me for example.

     To balance out his life a bit and emulate certain higher organisms, Art took a perfectly good full sized motorhome, ripped out the axles and gasoline engine and put large Dana 80’s with ARB lockers underneath and a Cummings diesel in front. Eureka! A Frankenstein Monster! An amazing job, especially for an SP. He is also quite a likeable fellow so grudgingly I treated him as an equal. Chris, I treated like a God because he came back to rescue me with replacement parts on the Mision Santa Maria trail a couple of years ago after Art stopped towing me and left me to die. Oh, the shame, the shame, We camped halfway down Baja in Erendira the first night, all the way past town with a view of breaking waves on a large guano covered rock just offshore. Quite a nice campsite, kudos to Art for this. The next morning, onward to Bahia de Los Angeles; we paused on the top of the mesa just before dropping down into BOLA to take pictures of the amazing bay with its many islands and then proceeded to Daggett’s Campground. It was quiet with a nice palapa on the beachfront. If you need a sand beach near the water rather than rocks, you can go to La Gringa, but it is about seven miles north of town. We checked it out the next day; there was only one isolated camper on a long sandy beach.

     Chris wanted to kick back in BOLA, the weather was nice and why not? We paid Herman Hill, the Baja author, a visit and enjoyed his Baja stories.

     FM didn’t like Art’s tugging at its door to get inside so it ate poor Art. See picture of Art’s feet sticking out of FM’s mouth. Luis tried to save him but failed. Art survived but was never quite the same.

     We decided to visit Misión San Borja rather than the original plan to visit Tinaja Santa Maria since Chris had to get Luis back to work Monday morning. Everyone but me (been there, done that) took the tour of the Church, adobe Misión ruins, surroundings, and then visited Jose, who lives in the house adjacent to the Church. He was adding a metal enclosure to his pickup bed to haul a horse using a broken drill bit. Art gave him a new bit. Good dog! Art! We got the tour of the hot springs that irrigate the garden and orchard, and the mini-museum by Jose’s wife and daughter. All of Jose’s son’s have left the ranch for town life, the story of most Californios.

     Jose can supply guide service with or without mules to the several interesting spots nearby. Two friends and I rode mules with Jose and son Jose Jr. a few years ago to visit El Aguaje, an abandoned visita on the El Camino Real.

     The most interesting part of the trip occurred after Chris and Luis left. As I remember it, Art insisted upon visiting Tinaja Yubay on the El Camino Real. It is accessed by a typical Baja two track. Can you see the fun coming? Things started off rather poorly, I took a wrong turn and almost got to a rancho in Arroyo Yubay before realizing my mistake and telling Art to turn around. The sounds of FM turning around on a narrow two track haunt me to this day. It was out of sight but it must have been Ugly. After taking a turn that I assured Art went toward the road we should be on, we came to a locked gate a few feet from the road we wanted. Sigh. By this time I had lost all credibility with Art. We backtracked and took the right road but every mile or so I heard a plaintiff little cry on the CB “How much further?” The road is what I classify as “Interesting”; I wonder how Art describes it. In an hour I arrived at the wide spot on the bank of Arroyo Yubay sometimes referred to as The Parking Spot. I looked behind me and there was no Art or FM in sight. He was 0.2 miles back with a tree or part thereof sticking out of his tire. The air inside the tire was not sticking in, but pouring out. He said something I dare not quote. After jacking the tire up and filling the hole with countless plugs, we proceeded to The Parking Spot and checked for other damage. There were a few things wrong, such as:

·One of the shock mounts broke and the shock flopped around until it died.

·One of the sway bar mounting brackets broke.

·The Beauty Trim Covers on the wheels were no longer beautiful.

·And then there was collateral damage: Halfway through welding the broken shock mount Art’s Expensive, High Tech, Chinese welder bought from Ebay died. His first Chinese welder had died too. Art, why can’t you get high quality stuff like Harbor Freight makes?

     The next morning we hiked a mile or so up Arroyo Yubay to the tinaja (a bedrock depression in the arroyo that catches and stores rainwater). Tinaja Yubay was one of the most important waterholes on the El Camino Real because it held so much water which was prevented from evaporating by being partially filled with sand. Due to the several years of drought in Baja, the water level was about four feet lower than normal. We stayed there all day and camped there one more night. The next morning the trail seemed much shorter because we were familiar with it. Meeting an oncoming vehicle, we pulled over in a nearby bare spot and the passing men whipped out their camera to take pictures of the unlikely motorhome on this two track trail. When Art started to pull out, he was temporally stuck in the silty sand and they asked him if he needed help. Art said “No thanks”, engaged his lockers and drove away. :-)

     Somewhere during the trip, FM decided that the engine would not shut off. A piece of cord was tied to a manual fuel valve by Art and routed into the cab. Ta Da! You pull, it quits. But later….the engine would not run over idle speed with or without load. Cough, sputter, smoke resulted when you gave it a little gas. This was a harder one. But…. Art has everything! In this case, a repair manual on a CD! And a printer! Working down the checklist, Fuel Contamination was under suspicion as some diesel was bought out of cans in Punta Prieta. Testing with good fuel sucked out of a can showed no change. Darn! Other things were checked but it looked like a fuel injection pump. But….Art had an injection pump repair kit and had rebuilt one before. I may have to quit picking on Software Pukes! Double Darn! Bottom line, after two hours of disassembling things, he found the problem was an open solenoid – which Art had and replaced. It ran! I left out a few fun things like idling along the highway at 30 mph in overdrive for many miles to get back to camp, etc.

     It was a fun trip with great company.

     Honest Neal Johns, a man you can trust.