Monday, November 18, 2013

sea to shining sea

Welcome, folks, to the Baja 140.

Since we were but mere spectators for the Baja 1000, our intrepid group decided to sponsor our own race.  Two teams.  Two cars.  From Punta Cabras on the Pacific to San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez.  A bi-coastal run.

The course would join together segments of past Baja races along with our own improvisations.  And rather than a timed event (because our vehicles would be in two separate classes), the event was more like a rally.

So, off we went on Sunday morning.  Gary and Darrel in the RZR 900XP,and John and Steve in the Meyers Manx.  A bit later than we had originally planned -- because we are in the senior division.  And leniencies are expected.  Like the early bird special at Denny’s.

Speaking of food.  We are not so foolish as to leave home base without a hearty breakfast.  John’s neighbor, Al, had recommended a Mexican breakfast place in San Vicente.  Reinforced with hamburgers, huevos rancheros, and omelets, we were on our way.

But not before marking our departure with a stop at a blowhole on the Pacific coast that was new even to John.  These things fascinate me even more than geysers. Probably because the working mechanism of negative pressure is so transparent.  Geysers are rather sneaky in the way they hide their inner workings.

Our route from the Pacific coast to the Sea of Cortez would take us through an ever-changing kaleidoscope of topography.  We thought the primary obstacle would be the mountains that form the spine of Baja California.

I have had several friends tell me that they thought Baja was flat -- like Florida.  If it were, it would most likely not exist.  Several faults have pushed what would otherwise be sea bed high above sea level.

As a result, the mountains can (and do) reach 10,000 feet above sea level.  That meant taking along a variety of clothing.  Mostly to prevent sunburn, but it also came in handy when the temperature dropped.

The mountain roads are not too bad.  They twist and rise.  And are, theoretically, two lanes wide.  In reality, they are one lane tracks that are wide enough to let the infrequent traffic coming in the opposite direction to squeeze past.  That did not keep us from ripping up the side of the mountains.

John’s car had one handicap.  Just as we were leaving, we discovered that his master brake cylinder was not being cooperative.  In plain terms, he had no brakes.

If I had the ability to hand out prizes for our little event (and I guess I do), John would receive a special award for being able to control his vehicle on up grades, down grades, and silt as thick as Minnesota snow without incident.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  Once we reached the summit of the mountains, we entered a large basin that forms the center of Baja -- a basin that is made up of rich farm land.  And a large silt bed.

We steered clear of the silt bed itself -- to avoid getting stuck for days.  But the surrounding roads are made up of silt that is far closer to talcum powder than sand.  Hitting a small pile of the silt head on is like being hit in the face with 500 pounds of talcum.  With no benefit other than losing the ability to see while hurtling down river beds.

The silt transitioned into the last mountains before we gradually ramped our way down one of the legs of the Baja 100 to the Sea of Cortez.  Just over four hours from leaving the Pacific coast, we were dipping our toes in a new body of water.

And, boys being boys, three of our members decided  to buy discounted t-shirts for the recently-completed Baja 1000.  I was disappointed that there were no Baja 140 shirts.  But, hey, this is Mexico.  If I really wanted one, there is a vendor somewhere who could find one for me.

And tomorrow?  Who knows?  We are thinking about creating another race back to Punta Cabras.  Perhaps a two-day course this time.

The nice thing about our races is that we can make them up as we go along.  And that suits my style just fine.

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