Thread: Taking my 60 for a long drive - Alaska, Yukon, BC, Western US, Mexico and More?

  1. #21
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    Mar 2012
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    Default Escape from Ensenada

    9/7/12

    Full post: http://www.wideanglewandering.com/20...-ensenada.html


    Forbidden Cargo by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    The past few weeks were a blur of walking around town, eating in cafes and restaurants (a reprieve from my usual camp stove fare) conversations with strangers, oddballs and new friends and finally my escape from Ensenada.

    On Thursday, I was sitting in the last table at a bar, listening to the Santana-ish cover band, drinking a beer and wondering what it would be like to spend the rest of my life in Ensenada waiting for auto parts to come in the mail. While I sat and pondered, the waiter came by and asked if I'd mind having some people sit at my table.

    Mind? Hell no I wouldn't mind. Please, for the love of your favorite deity or natural process, put some people here. What's the worst that could happen? I have to listen to more advice about giving bribes and finding the best whores in Mexico?

    The waiter came back with a group of people, some software developers from a Mexican IT company and a guy from Canada. They were here on business but I kept them distracted from IT talk as well as I could. A few minutes into the conversation and my story, the guy from Canada looked at me and said:

    "Hey, are you the guy that George sent those axles to?"

    This is how I met Ritchie, a 60-series Landcruiser owner from Canada who happens to be living and working in California and uses the same mechanic that I do in back in the states. George told Ritchie to keep an eye out for a guy in Ensenada with a broke down hi-line 60 and I just happened to be occupying the last table at the bar that he and his coworkers chose. Serendipity.

    The following Saturday I joined them for a trip to see the Bufadora (a natural water spout / blow-hole), Ensenada's most famous tourist attraction. I will spare you any photographs. The Bufadora is a carnival of all that is terrible about Mexican culture and tourism, all packed into a small street at the end of Punta Banda. The blowhole does it's job and is a reasonably interesting natural phenomenon but the aisles of cheap Chinese caricatures of Mexican handicrafts, the pushy Viagra salesmen, the awful restaurants and the caged animals subjected to loud club music in those restaurants really turned me off. You can pet a baby tiger, however, and that's kind of cool. I am told the people running the tiger booth are the real deal, genuinely raising money for animal protection, but who knows.

    I had fun, but only because I was hanging out with some good people. After we visited the blowhole, we stopped at several beaches along the way. Most of them wanted a ridiculous amount of money to access their beach, so we didn't actually hit the water until the public beach just outside of Ensenada. It wasn't all that bad for a public beach - minimal trash and no touts - but the water is chilly up here and the waves have some energy.

    On Sunday I joined Ritchie, Gabby and several others from the software company for a little Labor Day party. Being so close to the border, every three-day weekend in the states brings the bars and clubs in Ensenada to life. The night started off easily enough but ended, several bars later, with me going on drunkard auto-pilot back to my hotel, via one or more taco stands. The smartest thing I did that night was discarding the uneaten bag of tacos on the floor when I collapsed into bed.

    On Tuesday, once recovered from Monday's cruda, I walked out on the malecon to photograph the ships again. This time I was ordered off by the security guards for taking photographs that were "too serious." For your enjoyment, I've included the forbidden photo on the cover of this post.

    The following Thursday, as I was packing up and preparing to leave town, seeming to have learned a hard lesson about finding auto parts in Mexico, I decided to make one last stab at finding my axles. This time, with the help of the hotel receptionist, I learned that they had been at a local post office for over a week, waiting for me to come and pay the exorbitant import duties.

    Once that was sorted, I made arrangements with Monchie Fernandez, champion Baja racer and mechanic, to have them installed. I settled back into the hotel for one more night.

    Today I drove back out to Punta Banda, gave the axles to Monchie, and lounged around Campo La Jolla until the job was done. Monchie made quick work of it and by early afternoon, I was free to head up the hill to buy a drink for Baja Doc, who put me in contact with Monchie and was generally very helpful in negotiating the local scene. At Baja Doc's place, I enjoyed the hospitality and conversation with Doc and his Japanese neighbor. I didn't even have to buy him a drink as his box of Pacifico was nearly full.

    I really enjoy meeting people who've abandoned or avoided the rat race and this part of Baja is full of folks like that.

    After a couple of hours of cold beer, tasty almonds and enjoying the view from Snob Hill, I headed back down to La Jolla to find a camp site for the night, determined not to go back to Ensenada.

  2. #22
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    Default San Pedro Martír National Park, At Last

    Full post with photos: http://www.wideanglewandering.com/se...ational%20Park

    2012-09-11


    Clouds Under San Pedro Martir by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    With my new hardened chromoly axles from Marlin installed, I set off to make my third attempt to reach the San Pedro Martír National Park. At over 10,000 feet, the park promised beautiful skies, a respite from the heat and a landscape with flora and fauna not found in most of Baja.

    My first attempt was foiled by a very ugly series of thunderstorms. My second by the great axle disaster near Rancho Coyote. This time, I was determined to reach the park and shoot some starscapes.

    I started south from Punta Banda, this time following the highway to the park. With only two roads to navigate, there was no chance of getting lost, and being paved, no risk to my axles. On the way up, however, a heavy rain set in. Did I want to camp in the mountains in a heavy rain with no stars in sight? Was there any reason to continue? Would my third attempt be foiled as well?

    I stopped at Rancho Meling to grab a bite to eat. In the dining room, I met Ana, who offered to make me a burrito, which I gratefully accepted. Of course I was the only one at the ranch, other than a few workers. Ana didn't have anything else to do but sit and talk, and I was grateful for the company, so I told her about my plans to see the stars from high in the mountains and how this was my third attempt to do so. Ana didn't think the rain would let up and I briefly considered spending the night on the ranch ($50US for a room, $10US to camp on the lawn).

    While we waited out the rain, she told me about her life in the Unite States. She had worked for years as a housekeeper in California and Nevada hotels. Her family had been separated between Mexico and the United States due to immigration issues. Once the housing market crashed and the economy in the states faltered, it made more sense to return home and find work in Mexico. There were more people than jobs in the capital and so she ended up in the Baja sierras, working at this ranch.

    Late in the afternoon, the rain started to slow down and I decided to make my move, arriving in the park around 6PM after a steep climb. There would be no RVs here. I paid 54 pesos to enter, took a short drive through the park and then set up camp. I saw one other vehicle arrive behind me but I never saw them or anyone else in the park after that.

    I built a small fire from wet wood and pine needles, ate a simple meal of tortillas, beans and tomatoes, and put out the fire so I could see the stars more clearly. Within a few minutes, a blanked of clouds spread over the sky and I retreated to the truck to read and sleep in the damp chill.


    San Pedro Martir Cloudscape by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    I woke up early and stared out of the tailgate at the rain. Around 8AM I crawled stiffly out of the truck, donned my rain gear and ate fruit and yogurt for breakfast. As the rain faded, a bright, grey, diffuse fog drifted through the trees and over my camp, covering me, the truck, the trees and everything around me in cloud-stuff. It lifted after just a few minutes but it is a sight I will never forget.

    I spent the rest of the morning hiking the trails, amongst the clouds and the cows and woodpeckers and pine trees and some sort of bird whose wings make a turbulence that sounds almost like a small helicopter when it takes off. I crossed sandy trails flanked by granite boulders, dry arroyos dampened by the fog and gazed out over wide expanses of valleys and the lower peaks.

    In the afternoon sun, I drove the short road through the park to a museum and visitor's center. It was closed. Inside, through the windows, the displays looked new and modern, as if it had been built and promptly closed, never exposed to the wear and tear of visitors. I continued up to the observatory but the gate was locked and a sign said they only take visitors from 10-1PM. Along the way I saw a man, the only person I'd seen in the park, walking down the road and kicking fallen rocks onto the shoulder.

    Back at my campsite, I took some of my supply of Ray's Own beef jerky and walked out to the park entrance to share it with the rangers. I talked to one man who'd been working at the park for 16 years. He told me about a British author who had spent 3 months in the park researching his book. He too had brought them beef jerky.

    That night I built another wet fire, ate another simple meal and retired early when the rain and clouds obscured the sky.

  3. #23
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    Default Mike Sky Ranch, Now With Less Axle Damage

    Full post with links and larger pics (see it in all it's glory): http://www.wideanglewandering.com/20...le-damage.html

    2012-09-11


    From Rancho Coyote Heading North by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    This morning I packed up the truck under a clear blue sky with the clouds racing overhead, emphasizing the effect of altitude on one's perspective. This might have been a good night for stargazing in the park but after three days I was ready to move on.

    I set off at 9AM, a pretty early start for me, after first tracking down a ranger to open the gate and let me out. The view was not too different from what you might see on Tioga Pass in California, but steeper and with more rocks washed out over the pavement, including one new boulder that would surely take heavy equipment to clear.

    My goal for the day was to finally cross the trail from the observatory road to MX-3 via Rancho El Coyote and Mike's Sky Ranch, ending in San Felipe. The only other way was a long loop west to MX-1, north to MX-3, east to MX-5 and south to San Felipe.

    As I drove down the observatory road, I couldn't see the turn-off to Rancho El Coyote so I stopped at Rancho Meling for advice. The owner looked up and asked, "Are you alone?"

    Yes, I said, and pointed at Betsy, but I can make it.

    "I wouldn't recommend it. That road is pretty bad."

    I almost made it once before, I told him.

    "Did you get over the hill?"

    Yep.

    He shook his head and knelt in the dirt, drawing me a map. "Good luck then."

    The turn-off was just west of of the ranch. The El Coyote sign was covered in Rancho Meling advertisements but now that I knew where to look I did spot it. El Coyote was closed but I got more route advice from one of the workers. I asked what the road condition was like. He looked up, then down, and said "I don't know. There's been a lot of rain."

    Hah, I scoffed, and set off again.


    Oasis by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    The trail was a bit confusing near El Coyote but once I was on the right path, it was easy going. There were very few spur trails and while I didn't see any other vehicles, I did see some motorcycle tracks that I followed through lush areas just past El Coyote.

    Once the trail reconnected with the main path to Mike's Sky Ranch, the terrain became much more rugged, with many recently washed out arroyos and a few rocks that had to be moved from my path.


    Climbing to Mike Sky Ranch by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    Most of the trail didn't require 4WD but I did need low range for some of the hill climbs. Fully loaded, Betsy is kind of a pig. With 18 gallons in the tank, another 15 on the rear bumper, 6 33" mud terrains, a plywood/2x4 bed to sleep on and my set of tools, I suspect she's a bit overweight for this sort of terrain.


    Descending to Mike Sky Ranch by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    The descent down the hill yielded many more stunning views, but I left the Contour on auto as I was paying far too much attention to the road to stop and take photos.

    Eventually I reached Mike's, crossed the stream, traversed some more rough terrain and reached the sandy trail out to the highway. Along the way I stopped at Juan's ranch, where I'd spent the night after the great axle disaster, and gave him a recipe for apple marmelade. Nomads - keep an eye out - there may be a new jelly man on the peninsula.


    Exiting the Trail to MX-3 by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    From the pavement to San Felipe took another couple of hours, plus 15 minutes at the army checkpoint at the junction of MX-3 and MX-5. From this point on I'm going to start being difficult with these checkpoints (forgetting all my Spanish and making them work a bit harder) as this guy asked me a million random questions, rifled through all my stuff and generally made a mess of my packing.

  4. #24
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    Mar 2012
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    Default 2 Became 7 in San Felipe

    Full post, with links and captions and full-size pics and all that jazz: http://www.wideanglewandering.com/20...an-felipe.html

    2012-09-18


    How I Felt By the End of the Night by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    Those who know me will not be surprised that I stayed in San Felipe longer than I'd planned. One might blame my propensity to linger, dawdle, drift and amble but in this case I am not to blame. I just met some cool cats on my way out of town.

    I arrived late on Tuesday, feeling quite grungy after 5 days of mostly damp camping in the sierras and on the Pacific coast. I just wanted to do some laundry, sleep in, sort out the truck and hit the road. Thursday morning I was ready to do just that. I pulled the truck up to the hotel office, went inside to pay the bill, and came out to start pulling away when I heard someone say, "hey, I like your truck." Betsy really is a looker. I get this all the time.

    I looked over and saw a shirtless Oregonian sitting in a camp chair outside his hotel room with his girlfriend nearby. They offered me a cold beer, my kryptonite when I'm hounded by the relentless Baja daystar, and soon my plans to hit the road had faded like billboard in the Mexican desert.


    Found Some Mud by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    They stayed until Sunday. The next four days were a blur of Tecate Light, steamed clams, lounging on the beaches ($20 per car to use the beaches south of town - outrageous!), terrible music, chasing iguanas, driving around in the sand and mud and all around good times with them and their geriatric shepherd/collie mix.

    Saturday would have been particularly memorable as this was Mexican Independence Day, a time for national pride, drunkenness and fireworks. I enjoyed just enough, or perhaps precisely too much, delicous Mexican beer to recount any details but I was able to operate my camera, so this story will be told in pictures. It must suffice to say there were big sombreros, tasty food, fireworks and a strange conversation with an arsonist-turned-bartender.


    Can't Focus by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr


    Military Displays by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr


    Independence Day Fireworks by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr


    Power Saving Bulb by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    I did eventually get on the road, after a day of recovery and another cleaning the mud and grime out of Betsy's starter solenoid. Today I head back out into the desert.

  5. #25
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    Mar 2007
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    Great stories and images. Thank you so much!

    Keep you eyes open, there are many Maya Rally participants heading in your direction...

    Christian

    CTO Expedition Portal
    www.expeditionportal.com
    www.overlandjournal.com

  6. #26
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    Thanks! I think the Maya Rally ends in the Yucatan doesn't it? In my case, I'm already in Guatemala (trying to get my engine knock diagnosed in Antigua) - I'm just way behind on blog posts

  7. #27
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    Mar 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by WideAngleWandering View Post
    Thanks! I think the Maya Rally ends in the Yucatan doesn't it? In my case, I'm already in Guatemala (trying to get my engine knock diagnosed in Antigua) - I'm just way behind on blog posts
    yep it does but a few of us will head in Belize/Guatemala after - maybe we'll see you if you are still around...
    Christian

    CTO Expedition Portal
    www.expeditionportal.com
    www.overlandjournal.com

  8. #28
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    Excellent. I haven't met many overlanders - keep in touch.

  9. #29
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    Default Mechanic's Report - Taller Barney in San Felipe

    Full post (click it!): http://www.wideanglewandering.com/20...ey-in-san.html

    Read the same content below if you don't appreciate the effort I've put into making my non-commercial ad-free site attractive and pleasant to use (or if you use Internet Explorer, hah!).

    2012-09-17


    Betsy's Gets Her Starter Flushed by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    After a couple of weeks spent driving around in the mud, sometimes for fun, sometimes just to get across a washed out road during one of the rain storms, Betsy's starter solenoid started hanging up. Getting it to start involved a hammer and sometimes jumping the starter solenoid to the battery.

    After a couple days of this, I stopped by Taller Barney to see Alfeín, a highly recommended mechanic in San Felipe. I don't mind doing my own work when I'm at home, but on the road, it's nice to let someone else get greasy.

    Alfeín's crew had the starter off in no time. He opened it up and a couple ounces of water, mud and grime poured out. I don't really understand how all that muck could have infiltrated the starter.

    One of the kids in the shop ran down the road and came back with half a gallon of gasoline, a two-liter bottle of coke and some plastic cups. By this point the neighbors had started filtering in and we shared cold drinks during the afternoon heat as Alfein vigorously cleaned out the starter with the gasoline.

    I met a guy with a prosthetic leg who runs every day along MEX-5, learned how to spot the water caches that the locals leave in the desert, got some tips on good places to hide money and valuables in my truck and heard many tales of roads and trips throughout México.

    While I was there, I spotted some pretty cool vehicles. Alfeín likes to brag that he does his fabrication by intuition and with his senses. He has a mental image in his head of what he's building or fixing and doesn't need computers, manuals or plans.

    I can't speak to that, but his V8 converted FJ40 job was coming along nicely, the engine sounded great and he got my starter in like-new condition for cheap. Hanging out in his shop was not a bad way to pass an afternoon.


    The Motor Whisperer by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr


    Desert Cruiser by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr


    Desert Cart by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr


    Desert Buggy by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

  10. #30
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    Default Stars over Punta Willard

    See the post on WideAngleWandering.com, slathered in awesome-sauce: http://www.wideanglewandering.com/20...a-willard.html

    2012-09-18


    View from Punta Willard at Sunset by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    This morning, before leaving San Felipe, I had to stop for one last breakfast at Champ's. I shared my huevos rancheros with the cat and thought about finally getting back into Baja's wild desert landscapes for some camping.

    After breakfast, I lingered over conversation with the waiters, Benny and Alfonso. Benny has lived in San Felipe for 24 years and greets me every morning with a smile. Alfonso is the new guy. He speaks English primarily, having lived in the US since he was three years old. He left the United States in the late 90s after a DUI arrest. He unknowingly signed an agreement permanently banning him from the United States in exchange for a speedy deportation (avoiding time in an immigration holding center) and dropping the DUI charges. His kids still live in the states.

    After breakfast, I stopped at the market and bought water, tortillas, cheese and a bag of cooked beans. Even I can assemble this into an easy meal.

    Finally on the road, I stopped just south of San Felipe and picked up a hitch-hiker, Alberto, who was headed for Puertocitos to work on the road-building crew. He was born in Mazatlan but now lives in Puerto Peñasco. For several months he has been in Baja, working. He stays with friends in San Felipe on the weekends and hitchhikes to the job site during the week. He was enthusiastic about Maztlán and encouraged me to spend time there.

    I dropped him off in Puertocitos, and soon after, encountered the road construction. I spent the last few miles to Gonzaga picking my way through the trails crossing the torn-up dirt road, weaving between the occasional bull-dozer or dump truck and keeping an eye out for the sudden drop-offs where the bridges were not yet in place. This is one of the few construction zones I've seen where I would have appreciated a pilot car.

    Three hours after leaving San Felipe, I saw the turn-off for Papa Fernández restaurant and palapas. Cruz met me at the gate, charging 60 pesos for a palapa and a place to camp. He was an incredibly friendly and welcoming guy and I was glad to throw some money his way.


    Clouds over Punta Willard by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr

    I set up my hammock and explored the beach a bit before making myself some tortillas 'n beans 'n cheese for dinner. As the sun began to go down, I took some photographs.

    After darkness fell, I found myself in a spectacular location to photograph the stars. For the first time on the trip, there were no city lights, no lighthouses, no boats on the horizon, no cars and no flashlights. Just nature. It was perfect.


    Milky Way Over Punta Willard by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr


    Ursa Major from Punta Willard by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr


    Ursa Major from Punta Willard by WideAngleWandering, on Flickr
    Traveling the Americas via my '84 HJ60 | Flickr | Blog | Trip Thread |

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