Day 319 – Baja 2012, Day Eight

Seven days in paradise, and then today.  I really enjoy Baja, I like the people, I lie the food, I love the beaches, and then you have a day like today, and you think – man, maybe I should just go home.  Of course, for us, home is relative, so that’s not really an option.  The morning dawned beautiful, an incredible sunrise over ScorpianBay, we had listened to the crashing waves all night  from our spot on the bluff.

Yesterday, when we had gotten to the Cantina at ScorpionBay, there had been No Trespassing signs posted, or at least, that’s how we interpreted them..  They were taped over the doors and windows, the only word I could read was “by legislation” so we figured they had done something wrong and got shut down.  We talked to a local American and she said it was closed a few days before and she pointed us to the camping area.  We checked out the bathrooms, those appeared to be maintained well, so we found our camping spot and slept well.  After a long walk on the beach, we loaded up our camping gear and made one last run by the bathroom before we hit the road.  This guy was sitting outside them and demanded 300 pesos because we had camped there.  I was like, no way, we aren’t paying; Big said, we’ll pay, but not until after the guy threatened to call the policia.  It was all very weird and felt like extortion, but at least we got out of there safely.

We drove the race course back through La Purisma to just south of Mulege on Highway 1.  What should have been a little over 3 hours, was more than five.  The damage from Hurricane Andy was very obvious, the washes were all full of rocks and cobble after having been swept down the mountains in the rain.

Our next stop was Buenaventura.  It’s a little place with a bar and restaurant, good wifi, and you can camp on the beach.  It costs you for showers, but not the beach.  That doesn’t bother me so much, they do have to truck in the water, what does bother me is the lady who runs the place.  She is very forgetful, so forgetful in fact that she never remembers that you’ve already paid.  We saw that happen two years ago when we were there and thought it was an isolated incident.  It wasn’t. In the course of the afternoon and evening, we saw it another three times today and she even jacked us up too.  So, word of caution, if you go there, don’t run a tab, pay for each drink as you get it.  Always use pesos, she screws up the conversion, and ask the cost of a meal before you get it.  There are no menus, so you get to pay market price which is whatever her drink adled mind is thinking at the moment.  Today is definitely one for the books, it just all felt wrong.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.


Day 320 – Baja, 2012, Day Seven

One of the greatest pleasures in my life is good food, one look at me and you would know that was true.  I read a book a number of years ago about why French women don’t get fat, the premise was that they only eat Good food, if it tastes bad, they don’t eat it.  That’s got to be a lie, because I only eat food that tastes good, and look at me!  Mexico has some of the best food anywhere, it is all fresh, it is all homemade, or at least it is where I’m shopping.

We pick our taco stands in Baja the same way we pick restaurants in the States.  If there’s a crowd, it must be good.  Sunday morning we made a trip to the Pemex (gas station)  as we were headed out of La Paz, and on our way we noticed a little building with a ton of cars.  Both of us knew exactly where we were going next.  We got gas and turned around to stop at the little building.  It was painted bright yellow, there were five girls in the kitchen ranging in age from 13 to 35.  The moms were doing the cooking on an old stove with mis-matched pots and pans.  We had to order by pointing, because we didn’t know what any of it was.  I had the Bistek c/papas (steak and potatoes) on a hand made gordita.  Rich had two other kinds of gorditas, he was pretty sure one was pork and the other, who knows?  But they were delicious.  The mama asked us how to say muy bueno in English, then repeated very good back to us, the young girls laughed and laughed.

Our destination leaving La Paz was La Juanico, or Scorpion Bay, best known for its surfing.  The bay is on the south side of a point that juts out in to the Pacific ocean.  The temperature was perfect and the dunes provide ample camping spaces.  The surf crashes over and over again.  The surfers have to be patient, but appear to be getting what they came for.  La Juanico has one restaurant in town and  half a dozen grocery stores, we stopped at the restaurant for dinner.  No English spoken here, I ordered camerones de limon, it was the best shrimp I’ve had in like, forever.  At least twenty shrimp on a plate with spinach leaves and tomatoes,   Limes were cut and placed in the crook of each shrimp.  That and a few tortillas and we were in business.  So fresh, so good, I could eat like this everyday, for $10 US.  Wow!  Viva la Baja!


Day 321 – Baja, 2012, Day Six

Whew, time to relax, finally.  Race week has been a blast, so much fun, so much intensity.  These are good people we’ve been with.  We finally saw some of our team this morning, that we haven’t seen throughout the race.  It’s funny, in a point to point, not everyone starts at the same location, so there’s no time for the whole team to be together.  Others we didn’t see at all because they took off going north again already.  Next year the Baja 1000 will be a loop race again, so it will mostly stage and focus between Ensenada and San Felipe.  We’ll see them all again then.

We are staying at the Araiza Palmira Hotel in La Paz, a quiet little unassuming hotel at the end of the Malecon.  It is really very nice, the beds are comfy, the staff is friendly and it’s just enough out of the way that you feel like your stuff is safe.  We walked down the Malecon for dinner, along the beach, just a sliver of the moon out reflecting on the water.  Very peaceful.  The little place we found was much bigger than we thought from the outside, but it was early so it wasn’t very busy.  As we perused the menu and talked about our choices, the chef came out and spoke with Big.  It’s a Mexican thing, he wouldn’t really address me.  Big asked about scallops, of course, he said, would you like with shrimp too.  Of course, was the response.  I could see the guy opening the shells, the scallops were huge and fresh, about an inch and a half in diameter and grilled to perfection.  Throw in some grilled shrimp (with the heads on) and we had an incredible meal.  First dinner we’ve had sitting down since we got to Baja.  Taco stands are where we usually eat.

We are taking off after another good night’s sleep and headed to the beaches, our first trip to Scorpion Bay is on the agenda on the Pacific side and then back to the Sea of Cortez side to Buenaventura.  But who knows, there might be a beach along the way that demands our attention.  The area south of Loreto was so green and beautiful when we sped through the other day, I’m looking forward to seeing it without tired eyes.

Day 322 – Baja, 2012, Rest of Day Five

9:22 p.m. Friday, La Paz, Baja California Sur – 849 miles from Ensenada on Highway 1 plus all the miles driven to and from the pits.  We began our day 8:00 a.m. on Thursday.  Our team has finished, we took second in our class.   So proud of the effort made by all to make the trek and follow through to finish.  For us, it was an uneventful race, some minor mishaps that kept us out of first place, but nothing serious, blown fuse, etc.  For some other teams, it wasn’t as nice.

Baja is like the wild west, crazy shit happens and when things go bad, they can go very, very bad.  Early on race day, a chase team was in an accident near San Felipe, one man died, another woman was seriously injured and transferred to Scripps in San Diego.  By the description it reminded me of the accident on the Rubicon last summer that took the life of Rachel Anne Gray.

Yesterday a class one car was fueling at RM 835 when the car and the chase truck both caught fire and burned to the ground.  The driver and the fuel man ended up in the emergency room at Loreto.  Those were the only major incidents we heard, but there were plenty of minor ones.  Our prayers and thoughts to all affected by these accidents, the victims and families, the responders and emergency personnel.  Hug your family and friends close and remember that “I love you” can never be expressed too many times.

There were also some funny things that happened to some of the teams that would only happen in Mexico, a trophy lite truck was impounded by the federales yesterday when the tow vehicle wrecked off the side of a cliff outside of Mulege.  One of the BC Challenge cars rolled in the race course, reports are that the police detained the driver (rumor has it our friend Jessi Combs was in that car- they probably just wanted her autograph), two of our friends were scammed at ATM’s in Ensenada by guys that told them – after they had put in their PIN, that the machines were out of money – then walked them to another one around the corner while their buddies withdrew the cash.  Another guy was fined $50 per shell for shotgun shells he had in his truck after his last hunting trip – they finally settled on a $100 bribe and let him go.  All of these things really happened, this is the lawless west, anything goes.  The right way to look at it, is Caveat Traveler, Traveler Beware – This isn’t the US where you have more than your share of rights, you’re on your own down here.

Day 323 – Baja, 2012, Day Four and Five (so far)

It’s 4:14 a.m., on 11/16, an extension of the day before that began at 8:00 a.m.  We are still awake, and will be for another 15 hours or so.  Right now we are parked at the second Pemex at Visciano, our race car began the race at 12:19 p.m. yesterday.  The IRC tracker hasn’t worked since they left the start line.  At Coco’s corner we were able to get a Spot Tracker mounted on the car.  For two hours the SPOT has been in the same location, RM 470.  That’s not a good sign.  We have chase teams stationed at RM 501 and RM 531 waiting for word.  It’s been a long night already and we are not half way done yet.

The first half of the day was pretty eventful, lots of wrecks by both the cars and the chase teams.  Some of them very serious.  We hate to see that.  La Carrerra Mil or the Baja 1000 is an incredible race, so much time, money and heart goes in to the race.  Our team has at least 25 people in various capacities, Big and I are handling communications, we are talking to chase teams, Weatherman and the race team.  We send messages by Spot tracker/GPS, Facebook and Pirate, not to mention the radio(s) and cell phones, it’s been busy.  When we have a TelCel signal, we are checking all the data so we can share.  It’s a fun job and I am glad we get to do it.

I’m tired and a little rummy, we keep trying to get some rest, but we’re in the XJ so a comfy spot is a little hard to find.  Oops, I think I’m rambling now.  Gonna sit and wait some more and see what happens, our goal is La Paz at RM 1121 – wish us luck, we hope to get there.

Update:  It’s 4:41 a.m., we just heard from the car, they are passing RM 501 and headed to the BFG pit at RM 531.  They rolled at RM 470, all is well, but they lost the SPOT tracker.  So hear we go again, no tracker on the car to figure out where they are.  Damn.

Day 324 – Baja, 2012, Day Three

It’s race day, I didn’t sleep last night, probably in anticipation, since I know I won’t get to sleep tonight.  My last all nighter was Grand Nationals in Tennessee, one of these days I’ll figure out I’m too old for this.  My driver went to bed early and seemed to sleep well, so that’s a good thing.  There are lots of places to follow the race, but these are the places that we will be with the #401, class 4 car:

Race the World – Baja California – first half of the race

Race the World – Baja California Sur – second half of the race

Our spot tracker will post updates here at TajMahauler – this includes tweets

More info on Facebook at Shaffer-Motorsports

And the following are Spot Trackers for various members of the Chase teams so you can see where they are, this is our Spot, Berne’s, John’s, Shawn’s, and Mike’s.

Wish us luck – it’s going to be a fun 30+ hours against the elements that Mexico can throw at you.

From yesterday:

Contingency is one of my favorite parts about races in Mexico, or desert races in general.  A route is set up through a vendor area in which all cars must pass.  This is an opportunity for the public to see the race cars and trucks, to get posters and stickers.  In Mexico is the place to party.  It lasts all day, here in Ensenada, it’s a four block long affair, thousands of locals poured in to a small area, add to that the race teams and the people from the Carnival cruise line currently in port and there a just a ton of people milling about.  The food and beer are plentiful, the atmosphere is fun.  We cruise through looking for people we know, and there are plenty of those.  Monster and Speed Energy have hosted parties this week for their sponsored drivers, the shops have been busy, Ensenada is bustling, just as the small towns along the way will be too.

Day 325 – Baja, 2012, Day Two

Pre-running in Baja is a tradition, all the race teams are down here for the SCORE 1000 race, it is a point to point race from Ensenada to LaPaz.  Total mileage is 1121.55 by Race Miles, 845.9 Highway miles.  We’re doing the highway section, Highway 1 for the entire race if all goes well for our race car.  Rich and I are responsible for communications for the Class 4 #401 car owned by Shaffer Motorsports and driven by friends, Mike Shaffer, Berne Strom, Daniel Aeberli and Shawn Twitchell.  All the boys have been pre-running for at least a week already, Rich and I began our pre-run today.

First stop Ojos Negro, just 40 kilometers from the start, next stop Valle de Trinidad, 117 km, then the road across from Hwy 3 to Hwy 1 through the actual Valley.  It was a steep, ridge laden road, narrow and gravelly.  We won’t do too much offroading here in Baja, so this was a nice drive for us.  We then took Hwy 1 back to Ensenada, but not until after a stop in Santo Tomas for some birria tacos.  Our goal today was to figure out how best to shadow the race car when it takes off from the start line on Thursday a little after noon.  Turns out that all of our options are about the same distance and time, so we get to pick our route.

Now, in case you are worried that we only got birria tacos today, don’t stress, we added pescada, camaron and carne asada to finish out our night down in the barrios of Ensenada and then topped it all off with a crème filled churro.  I am sooo lucky.

Tomorrow morning I will post info on how best to follow the race.  Stay tuned, it’s going to be an adventure.

Day 326 – Baja, 2012, Day One

Part One

I like to trick myself in to believing I’m adventurous, I’m not.  I like to trick myself in to believing I’m daring, I’m not.  I even like to believe that I’m smart on occasion, I’m not that either.  What I am, is determined and curious, and often hungry.

Rich left me alone at the hotel, we are at the Hotel Mission Santa Isabel in downtown Ensenada, Baja California.  For those of you not in the know, that’s really Mexico, not California as we know it.  I sat in the courtyard for awhile and decided I was hungry, so I grabbed my bag and headed out to find grub.  There were a number of different taco stands on the corners, I wasn’t brave enough to stop.  There are too many things I don’t know well enough, I don’t know the language, I don’t know the currency.  About the only thing I can do well is smile.  So I took myself down to a little stand that I have been to before and ordered “dos tacos camerones”.  I thought I did pretty well, but the cook asked me fish or shrimp, in English.  Shrimp
I headed back to my hotel, holed up in my room with my computer, I should be out exploring, but the practical part of me says, someone should know where I’m headed if I’m going out on the streets by myself.  Hmmm, maybe I am smart. , I repeated, sigh, I was sure I had ordered correctly.  The two tacos were delicious and I paid with my smallest American bill, the total was 42 pesos, I had a $5 bill.  I paid with that, and she gave pesos back, it looked good to me, but really, how would I know?

Part Two

Have you ever noticed how much better everything tastes in Baja?  Tonight we were treated to some carne asada by some local guys that are helping our race team.  The boys had spent the day at their shop working on various cars and trucks, by the time Rich came to get me, the wood had been lit on the barbecue.  Hector had picked up twelve pounds of carne asada sliced paper thin and was starting to grill that, the salsa, guacamole, onions and cilantro were ready.  The meat was grilled to perfection and then flour tortillas heated on the coals. Seventeen people were fed for at least an hour, one burrito after another fixed just the way we liked them, uno mas, was the only thing everyone thought, just one more please, they were delicious.


Day 327 – The Eleventh Hour

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the day an armistice between the Allies and the Germans went in to effect in 1918.

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in November 1919

In 1954, Veteran’s Day replaced Armistice Day to honor not only the World War I veterans previously recognized, but also the World War II veterans.  We have continued this path since, recognizing those that have served in our military services.  An effort that is well worth the while of all of us who enjoy the fruits of their labors.

My dad is a retired,  career Air Force officer.  I spent my formative years as an Air Force brat.  It was a great childhood.  I got to go to fascinating places, learn different cultures and language, but most of all, be introduced to my love of traveling.  I am never more at home than when I’m on the road.  I thank my dad for that.

While I’m thanking him, let me remind him of all of the things that I appreciate about him and thank him for.

Dad, I thank you for teaching me to be open minded, for allowing me to fail, for teaching me to be witty, for allowing me to succeed, for believing in me, for instilling a love of reading, for supporting my projects, for never telling me no when it was important to me, for loving me.

Dad, I thank you for taking time away from our family to support our country, for bringing the servicemen to our home to share their perspectives, for writing about your experiences, for sharing yourself with others, for teaching us patriotism, for your service and sacrifice.

To all the Dads and Moms, to the Grandfathers and Grandmothers, the Brothers and Sisters, the Husbands and Wives who have served in our military, in any branch.  You have sacrificed much for the freedoms that we have, we thank you and your families.  There is nothing we can do to thank you enough, but each year, we celebrate only you on a special day, this, our country’s Veteran’s Day.

Originally posted at Trippin’ the Americas 11/11/11

Day 328 – The South rises Again

Two sides, one country, the largest number of casualties sustained in a war involving Americans. The Blue and the Gray.  The Civil War.  Gettysburg.  51,000 casualties over three days.  July 1, 2, and 3, 1863.

Today we watched the Confederates win a battle over the Yankees, it was the battle on the cornfield of Gettysburg, at the end of four and a half hours of battle, 13,000 were dead.  The cornfield was covered in bodies from both sides.  We didn’t actually get to see the battle, that happened 150 years ago, what we watched today was a re-enactment.

The Civil War re-enactment is hosted by the Moorpark Rotary Club, over 2800 re-enactors were in attendance, hundreds of spectators, food and drink vendors, mercantiles set up to sell Civil War era garb to all.   The event was very cool, very well organized, enjoyable for not just the entertainment, but for the overall effect.

My favorite was the encampments, both the Yankee camps and the Rebels.  There were canvas tents for as far as you could see.  As we walked through, each was set up with as much authenticity as they could muster in this day.  From weapons to costumes to tents and tables.  The wool felt blankets and cotton quilts, the shoes and spats, the hats and black powder rifles.  I was fascinated by the passion and effort put in by all.  In all the re-enactors we saw, not a single cell phone was visible.

This was my first Civil War re-enactment, I fully intend to find out more about them, but it also reminded me of many other things I want to see….a Mountain man exhibition, a Scottish Games competition, do you have any other suggestions? Anything that displays  a level of passion that is not found in everyday life is welcome.