Return to Baja - Expedition
Our Baja adventure began in the parking lot of a strip mall in El Segundo, CA. El Segundo is about 20 minutes away from Tecate, where we would cross over into Baja. As the group gathered the excitement seemed to build.
Local PD decided to stop by and check out the trucks
Many of our group had traveled from far away. We had Dom and Robin from Colorado. Donnie, David, Mary, and Denali from Washington. Jerry came all the way from Oklahoma. And Doug, our resident crazy Canadian from well...Canada.
We gathered the group for a drivers meeting. Matt & Gordon walked everyone through what to expect at the border crossing and outlined the best practices for ensuring a safe and fun Baja experience.
Lol...this is a first. Strained my back trying to get a photo. Donnie's mom was kind enough to stretch me out. I need to do some yoga.
We then quickly jumped in our trucks and headed for the border.
As you approach the border you can’t help but get a bit nervous and excited. You just can’t help it. In a way it’s like the initial climb on a roller coaster. It’s slow and steady but you know many thrills await on the other side of the peak much like the boarder crossing into Baja. The months of preparation and anticipation have all lead to this moment…let the adventure begin!
We’d coordinated our crossing time with the board of tourism, which arranged for a police escort through town. While not really needed for security reasons it sure made for a quick crossing. We cruised through the boarder and made it through town in about 10-15 minutes. This would normally have taken at least 45 minutes with all the stop signs and stoplights.
Once we reached the trailhead, Allan greeted us. Allan lives part time in San Felipe and is our chase driver. We are very fortunate to have him on our team with his wealth of Baja experience and local connections.
We quickly unloaded EXO1 from the chase trailer and waited for a few stragglers who made a wrong turn on the way to the trail. Once our group was whole again we got moving down the trail.
The first section of trail was a blast as we navigated well graded roads with sweeping turns. Eventually we began to climb in elevation and the road became less maintained but no big deal for the trucks suspensions. We were still able to maintain a great pace.
Was even able to catch some air which always fun.
Roughly 30 minutes in we had our first mechanical issue in the group. Donnie was experiencing an unusual noise coming from what seemed like his transmission. We all stopped so the problem could be diagnosed.
Turned out to be his transfer case. It was bone dry and one of the chains had come off. While 4wd was not engaged, the spinning of the front wheels was causing the noise since the chain had fallen off. It was decided to pull the front driveshaft, and replenish the fluids. The truck seemed to be doing fine from there but Donnie decided to forgo the last section of trail once we reached the highway. He headed into Ensenada to see what he could do to repair the transfer case while the rest of the group would finish out the rest of the trail.
Eventually we reached a fun rock crawling section, which everyone seemed to have no trouble with surprisingly. And when we say rock crawling we don’t mean Jeep level rock crawling!
From this point on the trail was mainly slow going as we wound our way through the mountains.
Eventually we reached pavement and headed north back into Ensenada, our destination for the day.
Our support crew greeted us as we pulled into the parking lot of the San Nicolas Hotel. They had ice cold Monster Energy and Cervesa’s ready for us which was very refreshing after the last section of trail.
We passed out room keys to everyone and after a few minutes of chatting about the day we headed to our rooms for a shower prior to meeting up for dinner.
The group gathered in the courtyard for some appetizers and cervesa’s. The food was excellent and I actually ended up not eating dinner after stuffing myself full of sopas. The group gathered to head out for dinner and a night of good times but I couldn’t rally. I’d had 8 hours sleep in the last 2 days so I decided to end the night early.
We were up around 6:30 the next morning. The San Nicolas Hotel had breakfast waiting for us. The chilequiles was really good!
8am we all gathered for a quick drivers meeting before taking off.
The first section of trail was fast and “drifty”. We even ran across a few puddles which we had to bomb through.
The coast section is always a blast. There’s nothing like offroading an amazing trail along the ocean. Something you can’t do stateside. If this were California, it would be covered with multimillion-dollar homes.
Donnie and Gordon doing some drifting during our lunch stop.
and more drifting haha
Next up, we came upon an old ship wreck. Very cool sight to check out.
Eventually we reached a beach which is typically no problem at all. Problem was the trail was flooded out. We were forced to go over the rock section. It’s kind of like driving on sand except the rocks are bowling ball size. The 4wd truck had little issue. However, Donnie and the 2wd Rally Fighter did.
Donnie was successful on the first section but god it looked brutal. Still surprised his rear fenders are still in one piece. He ended did end up needing a slight tug at the end.
Jerry was not so lucky in his Rally Fighter. He became stuck about 50 yards into the rocks. I attempted to back up to give him a tug but kept on sliding off the ridge. I actually ended up getting stuck after sliding down for the 3rd time. Was just to difficult to go in reverse and stay on the crest.
Eventually we got everybody out and across.
Cruisin down the coast
The trail ran into a newly constructed fence so we were forced back on to the beach. We were a bit reluctant given the trouble we had with the 2wd trucks but we were determined so we pressed on.
Well we had to stop. An angry landowner came running out screaming and yelling all while frantically waving a machete! Apparently, unlike California, his property extends onto the beach. After a few minutes of discussion we were able to calm him down and he suggested another way around. It was late at this point so we decided to jump on the highway and bypass the last 15 miles of trail for the day.
The night’s stop would be the Old Mill.
The Old Mill is and has continued to be our favorite stop on our Baja adventures. The accommodations are modest but clean and authentic. Most importantly the staff is amazing. Starting with Javier, who always greets you with a warm smile and a handshake. The food is amazing - fresh ceviche which is prepared from fish caught earlier in the day. The margaritas are made from fresh squeezed lemons & limes using only 100% Blue Agave tequila.
We all grabbed some cocktails and began devouring the amazing food. For some reason the conversations became louder as the night went on. Maybe it was the tequila?
A lot of us stayed up late into the night sharing stories of the adventures so far. Many new friendships were made that night.
The next morning most of us were up by 7am. I wondered around and took in the views as local vendors began setting up. I had to pick up a Mexican blanket. It’s kind of a tradition. Ryan picked up sarapas haha.
Around 8:30am we gathered for a quick drivers meeting and were on our way. The first section of the trail would see us backtracking about 30 miles on the same coast section as the day prior.
Dom followed the wrong line and almost went of this!
With a little teamwork Jerry was able to make it across the rocks again haha.
We eventually reached ____ where we stopped at the local school to pass out stickers to the kidos. They were thrilled to say the least. Robert took it to the next level – he brought a couple boxes of Hot Wheels and passed them out. The looks on the kids’ faces were priceless.
As we made our way east towards San Felipe the trial the trail began climbing into the mountains. As we got higher it became very overcast and cold, around 55 degrees. Not something we were expecting in Baja in the middle of May!
After we descended from the mountains we came across a fun jump. Many of us all took turns getting a little under the tires…some more than others!
We then headed into Valley T for some lunch and gas. We stopped off at a little taco stand which had the best tacos of the whole trip. Some of us weren’t sure we wanted to leave. Scarfing down tacos and cervesas for the rest of the day was an enticing thought. But the trail was calling and we pressed on.
The next section of trail is probably my favorite driving section of the whole run. Lots of sandy washes, tight, all while weaving back and forth.
We made a quick pit stop at a ranch for some frosty refreshments. The rancher keeps the beer cold by placing it in a 30 foot whole. He pulls it up out of the ground and surprisingly its cold!
We quickly wrapped up and jumped back in our trucks. We soon reached the infamous San Felipe whoops. As we turned off Zoo road I described to my dad (co-driver) how trophy trucks come flying off the graded road at 80 MPH into the wash with giant crowds. The drivers often wonder if the crowds will move in time…they USUALLY do.
For the most part the whoops are a bit much for your average Raptor. Gordon was able to handle them no problem. There were a few sections where we were able to open our trucks up and stay on top of the whoops which was a blast.
The chase crew greeted us with icy cold cervesa’s as we rolled into the hotel in San Felipe. We cracked a celebratory beer and congratulated each other for reaching our final destination.
We headed up to our rooms to clean up before dinner. We all met for dinner on the Malecon where we shared stories and devoured some amazing food.
The next day would be a 100-mile loop out of San Felipe. Since it would be a short day we pushed our start time back to 10am, which was welcomed by those who stayed up into the wee ours of the night haha.
I along with Donnie, & David shot out early so we could do some filming. Right off the bat we hit an amazing whoop section. I was really impressed with the Icon RXT kit on this section – the truck ran smooth and there was no noticeable shock fade after 30 minutes of running this section
Eventually we reached a wash, which ran through a canyon. We figured this would be a cool spot to set up for getting some great footage.
Unfortunately Donnie didn’t realize we were stopping and passed us. He ended up getting stuck when he tried to turn around since his 4wd was no longer working. Mary and I gave him a good push and he was out!
While we waited for the group we decided to pull out the golf ball launcher which is always fun. Thing will punch a whole in half inch plywood haha.
David and I then pretended we were racing and blasted through the wash together.
After a goofing off for a bit we began to get a little concerned since the group hadn’t caught up yet. It had been at least an hour and we had only left about 15-20 minutes early.
I shot back along the trail to see if I could find the group. After about 5 minutes, Donnie called me on the radio. He asked is it was possible we went the wrong way on the loop. I thought “no way” but after I took a closer look at the map I realized we had done just that.
Once we realized what had happened we all headed to the highway. We figured Gordon and the group were likely pretty worried about us since they had not caught us yet so we want to reach them ASAP. Eventually we began hearing their radio chatter as they came out from the mountains. We were able to relay the info to them and we were all good.
We’d wait for them to catch up with us at the “sweet” whoop section and all head into town.
While we were waiting, Doug (the crazy Canadian), pulled out some fireworks and lit a couple of them. Eventually we decided it would be cool to set one off with a bunch of golf balls piled on top. We envisioned golf balls flying in all directions like shrapnel.
We all stood far back as Doug and David lit the fire works and ran for their lives!
The reality of the explosion didn’t turn out as impressive as we had hoped but it sure was funny watching Doug and David run like mischievous little kids!
Eventually the group caught up and we headed into town.
We all met up at a bar on the Malecon with a great patio overlooking the Sea of Cortez. It was a perfect late afternoon - warm, setting sun, and a beautiful view. We all talked about how we wished we could stay a few more days. Baja always seems to seduce you to the point you never want to leave when you’re there.
That’s a wrap for the Return to Baja. I hope you enjoyed this Adventure Report.
- Jeremiah (EXO3)