Saturday, January 14, 2012

Last To Cross - 1979

We decided to head to Baja and as we did one of the biggest winter storms to have hit Baja in many years was about to unload on  us.  It was a winter trip back in 1979.  It was myself, my girlfriend at the time and another female friend of ours, headed to one of my favorite spots.  

As we passed through Ensenada and on through the small town of Meneadera the rain started coming down pretty hard.  But not knowing how severe the storm was I thought maybe in a few hours it would lighten up.  Well it didnt and as we got to San Quintin it was still raining steady.  I kept driving and then we came to the small town of El Rosario.  We got gas and I figured by now it has to start letting up so I continued on.  In those days there wasn't any bridge to cross the river bed beyond El Rosario, just a concrete river road raised about 4 feet above the river bed.

Water was running across it but it was nothing more than about an inch or 2 above the cement.  Easy enough to cross so long as I drove slow so as not to splash water on the engine and stall it but not to deep and fast enough to have it in 4 wheel drive to keep from slipping.  The river bed at El Rosario is about 400 yards wide and when you cross a body of running water that wide your eyes and equilibrium can play tricks on you and if you don't keep your eyes fixed on something across the river on the other side, you can easily drive your car off the underlying road and down the river enough to get into trouble.

So we made it to the other side but by now it was starting to get dark and the rain was coming down even harder.  So much that the sides of the road, where they cut through the hills, the mud was starting to slide down across the road so I decided that was enough and we pulled over for the long night ahead of us.  My truck was fully packed and not set up for sleeping, but with all the rain and slow driving we were still a long ways from our destination, so I thought it wise to pull over and make the best of a bad situation.  We were cramped in every possible position to try and get some sleep. 
When morning came it was still  raining and the road was a mud slide mess so I decided to head back to the states.  Didn't look as though it was gonna get any better any time soon.

As we got to the El Rosario river it was now about a foot and a half to 2 feet deeper and that was alot of water moving.  In those days there was a Mexican who would take his tractor and pull people across in their vehicles until the water got too dangerous for even him to cross.  So we pulled up and he was on the south side and getting ready to pull a truck and trailer across which was perfect for us.  I could then follow the trailer across and keep my truck in the right spot while focusing on the trailer.  At that time I was driving a 1963 Dodge Rower Wagon 4x4 so I had good clearance but at times the water was coming in on the floor a little and I cold feel the river tugging at my truck wanting to take it away.  

I had it in 4 wheel drive to hopefully keep it from slipping in the fast moving muddy river water but it was a little nerving crossing that river.  As it was we were the last vehicle to come across that river for the next 2 or 3 days if not  longer.  People were stranded on the south side headed north as the river rose to high to cross.  Water and food had to be helicoptered in for the ones on the south side.

Flash Flood at Guayaquil - 1974

 It was in 1974.  My good friend and Baja traveling buddy Bill Minard, my dog Rocky, my girlfriend at the time and myself were just heading back home after a great and long trip that took us down through Baja and some great adventures.  We were approaching "Guayaquil" when it started to rain on us a little bit here and there.  We had seen the storm in the mountains for a while but didnt think much of it. We were about 20 minutes from our new adventure at the riverbed just past the village.  As we came around the corner the rain had let up and we pulled in behind a short line of cars that were stopped by a rising flash flood from the waters from the mountain valleys behind the village.  As we got out of the car we noticed that in the middle of the rising water was a volkswagon tied to one of the road markers with a thin rope.  We then saw the 2 guys who's car it was and they came up to talk to us.  These 2 guys we had met earlier on the trip and made friends with them.  They said that when they got to the river it was just a small stream across the road so they just drove through the water.  Before they got through the stream the water had flooded the engine because they were going too fast.  While they were stalled in the stream it began rising fast, so they got out of the car and tied a rope to the front bumper and one to one of the road markers.  By then the river was too strong to try and walk across to safety so they got on the hood of the car and someone drove out to them and they got on that car and it backed out of the river with them.  Just as they finished telling us the story the river began rising even more enough to move their car sideways to the current and over the drop off on the side of the road.  If you look closely at the picture you will see the volkswagon tied to the rope just before it broke.  

Everyone watched as the rope got so tight and the river rose even more and snapped the rope and there went their volkswagon down river with all their camping gear in it and all their personal belongings.  As we watched it all float downstream it was headed for a huge tree in the middle of the river and that is where it jammed up against the tree and stayed.  We watched the volkswagon for about 15 minutes and figured it was pretty well stuck so we started to formulate a plan to rescue their things from the car.  

I carry about 75 feet of good solid rope with me all the time for pulling people out of jams so we tied the rope around a tree on dry land and decided to use it as a lifeline to hang onto and wade out to the car and see about getting their things back.  We got to the car and got their surfboards off the top and back to shore.  One of the windows was down enough so they could reach in and roll it down all the way and climb in.  While on top of the roof they handed me some of their camping gear.  The roof had hard surfboard racks on it plus the roof was also slippery from the mud on my feet.  As the guy handed me their Coleman stove and lantern I was reaching for it and as I grabbed the stove I slipped and fell into the river with the stove against my chest and immediately the river took me part way under the car and just enough under the river that I couldn't reach for air so I was pinned there!  My one arm holding the stove was pinned against it so I raised my one free arm up and out of the water and the guy reached down and pulled me up out of the river. I was still holding onto their stove and managed to get back up on the car and back to shore but by now the river had risen too high to go back to the car to get anymore things and the sun was slowly reaching down to sunset.  So we had no choice but to wait until the river dropped enough so we could cross.  

About 2 hours later the river dropped enough and we were on our way across the river and towards home.  Our friends stayed behind to see about getting their car out at some point.

Sizing Things Up On the Mud Flats - 1974

Glen Horn and Bill Minard -1974

Glen Horn and Bill Minard - 1974

In 1974 Bill Minard, myself, my black Lab Rocky and mu girlfriend at the time decided to take an extended trip to Baja in my 1972 CJ5 Jeep.

I constructed a platform with plywood and milk crates for carrying our food supply bolted to the platform.  So imagine the four of us stuffed into this small Jeep.  Bill was sitting in the back on a folding beach chair with my dog laying underneath the chair.  Then all of our camping gear, water, 2 guitars, 4 surfboards and food for 2 months of camping.  For my dog to be able to get out of the Jeep Bill had to climb out and lift the chair up and out so Rocky could climb out, it was a tight fit.  Take into consideration that this was long before NAFTA and there was hardly any supplies in the stores like there are now.  These were the days when you had to take everything you might  need for it was near impossible to find anything.

We were packed in every possible inch of the Jeep.  Bill and Rocky were wedged in the back.  And my girlfriend and I had supplies all around us.  Both bumpers, front and back, had supplies tied onto them.  So we were loaded to the max.  These particular pictures we had taken, we had just gotten out of a really sticky muddy situation on the salt flats east of Abreojos.  The mud is salty and sticks like clay to the treads of tires so basically it is like driving on ice.  The mud fills the treads and builds up so much on the tires that it will make the tires and wheel wells to where there is no room for the suspension to work.  The tires are almost 3-4 inches taller than normal.  We were only traveling maybe 10-15 miles per hour and sliding all over the place from side to side and when I would step on the brakes the Jeep would just keep sliding along and eventually would slowly come to a stop.  It felt like it was all in slow motion.

This all took place because we decided to take one of those infamous short cuts across the salt flats, our destination was 70 miles away and when we were beginning to realize the mistake we had made, the mirages were making things look pretty miserable.  We couldn't tell whether there was water all around us or not.  So in these pictures we are in the process of trying to figure out if we should keep going or turn around or possibly take a different course out of our predicament.  

Eventually 11 hours later, we got to our destination but the poor Jeep was never quite the same.  The salt mud was on every square inch of the Jeep.  By the time we got back to the states, which was weeks later, the mud and salt was already eating the Jeep away.  A year later I sold that Jeep!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Runaway Big Red With Boojum

My dog Boojum and I were on our way home from a long trip to Baja.  On this particular journey back to the states I had been extra thristy and drank a little more water than I usually do when heading back towards the border.  The thing about drinking any liquid before crossing the border is the possibility of getting stuck in a long line with no way to take a leak.  So I always make sure my bladder tank is emptied before I get to close to the border.

This particular time, nature was calling me at a long stretch of road that had a slight downhill grade to it.  Nothing steep, just a nice gentle slope.  So I pulled over to the side of the road, stopped the engine and slid the gearshift into gear so it would keep the truck from moving because I have no emergency brake.  I left Boojum in the truck with the door open and told him to stay which he always did unless I said he could follow me.  So as I was venturing out to find a bush I got a really funny feeling that something wasn't right.  Whatever the feeling was, it made me turn around and look back at Big Red.  I was about 75 feet from Big Red and as I turned I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  It was as if everything was in slow motion for just a few seconds as I saw what was happening.

The only thing I could think of was to start running as fast as I could and hope that I could catch up to Big Red and Boojum before they went over the edge and into the ditch on the side of the road.  Apparently Boojum must have bumped the floor shift out of gear!  So it was Big Red rolling and Boojum, who was standing at the door looking at me with this bewildered look on his face while I was sprinting for the truck.  It was the fastest I had reacted on anything in a long time.  I ran as fast as I could and dove past Boojum and into the truck as it was quickly gaining speed and jumped in the drivers seat, slammed on the brakes and stuck it in gear, just in time too, for Big Red was headed for the ditch.

So I still needed the pit stop but this time I put Boojum on a leash and we both went out to the bush!

A “Tail” From The Boojum Chronicles - 1999

Boojum had been seen on may occasions, frequenting the campgrounds below.  Sheepishly standing on the perimeter looking in at those poor unsuspecting campers with their fresh warm plates of food.  Boojum had the ability to melt a person at eye contact, even the strongest of the unwilling campers, and have them invite him in for a tasty handout.  Boojum was by far one of the best con artists in his line of mooching a good handout.  Once he has thoroughly drained his new victims of every possible scrap of food, he hangs around for a few pets then quietly slips away and onto the next campsite.

I usually found out the next day that he had been generously fed chicken breasts, fine steaks, beans, spaghetti, pork chops, and deserts of various sorts.  Then I heard that the campers began to expect him at a certain time which Boojum was very familiar with (Dinner Time) and they had prepared something especially for him.  Now that’s a profession if there ever was one!

 As I look back now on various occasions when Boojums dinner, that I made for him was a little late, I thought I noticed a little impatience in him, especially when he would bang on the doorstep with his paw!  Here all the time I thought it was just because of hunger and he was reminding me to feed him.  No, that was not it at all!  Boojum was really trying to tell me;  Hurry up Pop’s, if you don’t hurry and feed me, I’ll have to stick around here and act like the loyal puppy and I’ll miss my dinner handouts down below.  So will you feed me so I can get going!

After finding out what had been going on all this time, I came to realize that Boojum was eating better than I was.  He was having all the fun hanging around all the different camps and campfires and listening to all the different jokes and stories till late at night.

One night, the one where he had been stuffed with all the goodies, he didn’t come home till very late, and I can just imagine him so plugged that he couldn’t make it all the way home without stopping on some soft patch along side of the road and having a short late night siesta before finishing his journey back home under the twinkling pf the starlit night.

So I think next year I will come to Baja prepared for those unsuspecting campers, and with my white Boojum fur coat I will make my way down to those generous and giving campers and be the happy recipient of Boojums masterful artwork.  Ah!  Just think how wonderful to waddle home with a full belly underneath a Baja starlit night.  Sorry Boojum, tuna fish and dog food for you tonight, I’ll untie you in the morning.