Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mexican 1000 Day 3 Stage 1 - Video Update!

It a bit long so I put some decent music behind it.


more of the story here

2012 Mexican 1000 - Day 3 Stage 1

May 1, 2012


Sarah Palin? and other delights


Rhonda and I woke up at the crack of dawn got in the Land Cruiser and headed towards the start of stage 1.  We left Arwen, Mary and the kids to sleep and instructed them to take their time, enjoy the pool at the Oasis, and try to meet us at the end of the stage.  If we beat them, we could just meet in La Paz.

After missing the entire second day, we were a bit out of the loop.  One thing lacking with NORRA, us and everyone in Baja, is communication.  So, we went to look for the start and didn’t find it.  I did find and finally met Bill Brindle and his International Harvester.  I’d “friended” Bill on facebook because he had raced a Bronco in previous years and was a fan of Ween.  You don’t find that combination too often and to me that said he was okay.  He informed us that the start was outside of town at the Del Boracho Saloon and that there would be a very special guest, Sarah Palin.

It turns out that Trig? or Todd? or Trap? or Trip? or “something” Palin is friends with Walker Evens.  Sarah would be racing stage 1 as his navigator. (side note - to make me feel better Walker Evens DNFed the Mexican 1000 also).  So, we headed out of town to Del Boracho for our complimentary breakfast and the start of the stage.

I have to admit, I was more interested in this old Suzuki Gaucho than Sarah Palin

When we got there nobody knew we were still racing but they were excited that the zebra was back.  We were sent to the back of the line with all the other cars that were still racing even though they wouldn’t technically finish. We went in the Saloon had a couple breakfast burritos, coffee and orange juice.  

The field seemed really small at this point, a fraction of the cars that started the race.

Mary caught up with us and took a few photos of Palin.


Sarah Palin and Walker Evens went first.

Then the bikes, buggys, trucks and finally all the Broncos and then us.


Stage one was a trip.  We started on paved road went three miles and turned off the road into a wash.  Then after another 2 ½ miles we were back on the pavement.  The treacherous mountain road people had warned us about no longer existed.  The car shouldn’t have been in four wheel drive and it wasn’t happy with the luxurious paved road. Finally, after about 13 miles the pavement started to end with a series of detours off the road and eventually it became a dirt road all together.

We hadn’t really researched this leg of the race.  We were a bit surprised by San Javier.  Not only was it a beautiful oasis with a cute tiny town and cobblestone streets.  There was the giant mission.  This was going to be a day of “did you see that?” asked in a way to check if you were hallucinating or time travelling or something else.

The first stage was a blast.  After San Javier the road was fast but could throw you for a loop with the frequent washes.  Towards the end the road there was an odd combination of hard pack with about six inches of sand on top.  It was a bit like running around on linoleum in socks.  The corners were “interesting” and I eventually made us pull over to see if we had a flat.  We didn’t. 

We finished the 64.4 miles with a time of 1:36:57, which wasn’t fast but was acceptable.

video recap and next chapter here!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Side Note – picking up the car.

I thought I should do an update, while I get together the video from day 3 of the Mexican 1000.


After the race we left the land cruiser down at my parents in Jamul.  We headed there this weekend for memorial day and to pick it up.  Arwen will be driving it up today – she had a couple meetings in San Diego.  Hopefully driving a vintage race car will help.

While we were there Mary and I drove the car out to the drop off.  It’s an old, kind of secret, trail I used to ride my yz80 on as a kid.  My dad enjoyed scaring people by coming to an abrupt stop on a cliff ledge towards the end.  Considering fires and development the trail really hasn’t changed at all in the past 30 years.  Lot’s of brush and rocks.  Here’s a video.

Back to editing

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

2012 Mexican 1000 - Day 2

I woke up rested and sore at the Cactus II motel.  My head was aching.  Not from the previous day of racing but from the Cactus II’s bathroom door.  They felt that 5 foot 10 inches would be a good height for the door, which meant every time I went into the bathroom I wacked my head.  Other than that the stay was great.

The porch, like the bathroom door, was a head bashing challenge.
even Rosarito is on google street view.
There was a motel diner, next to it an auto parts store and there were dogs to pet.  Mary recalled her childhood of petting dogs in Mexico.  Something you’re not supposed to do but Duffys are genetically unable to resist.

We had a leisurely breakfast and I checked with the auto shop about a power steering line.  Like #10 Ford team, they recommend a mechanic in Vizcaino.  So, we packed up the cars and headed down the road.

 We were further north than we’d thought and it took us two or three hours to get to Vizcaino.   Once we found the shop everything went great.  Vizcaino’s in the middle of a big farming area and it’s obvious they work on a bit of everything.  When I asked them about the part they said they didn’t have one but they could make one (my kind of shop).  I think because we were a “race car” we got priority and they made the hose and installed in a bit over 30 minutes.

For a bit over $100 we left with a fixed car, jumper cables, wd40 and some starter fluid.  It was really nice to have power steering again.

We’d missed stage 1 of day 2 which was a 125 mile road from Bahia de Los Angeles to just north of Vizcaino and headed down the road to San Ignacio and the start of stage 2.

At 175 miles, stage 2 would be the longest stage of the race and probably the most isolated and beautiful.  I was looking forward to it but by the time we got to San Ignacio it was late enough in the day that we decided we should skip it.  Realistically, the stage would take us 5 hours and that would mean doing half of the stage in the dark and that was if everything worked.  So we hung out in San Igniacio.


San Ignacio is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert.  We stopped and visited the mission, I fixed the throttle (which had been acting funny) and we headed down the road to Loretto.  On the way Mary reminded me of Las Casitas, my mom and dad’s favorite restaurant in Mulege.  


We decided to stop for dinner and some of the best margaritas of the trip.  We ate in the courtyard and surreptitiously left some of dad’s ashes in a planter.  His spirit was definitely with us.  Before any of us were drunk enough to pass out and hit our head on the concrete we hit the road.

The drive to Loretto was uneventful.  We got into Hotel Oasis after dark and settled in for an early wake up call.

next up - Sarah Palin and other weirdness right here

Monday, May 21, 2012

2012 Mexican 1000 Day 1 Stage 3

The end of the day

We finished up stage 2 with a time of 3:08:28.  At the end, In San Felipe, we got a note from Arwen and Mary saying to meet us at the OXXO.  They were worried, a drunken member of a chase team had told them we were lost.  So we went to the OXXO filled the tank and waited.  Then they drove by.  Turns out there were two OXXOs.  We tracked them down and headed down the road 85 miles to the third stage.

The third stage is 56.7 miles of dirt road that both the race cars and chase crew have to take.  It's pretty awful washboard and gets rocky towards the end.  A race car can go fast on it, but Mary was worried about the Lexus.  So, we agreed to wait for her at the end of the stage.  It would put us into Bahia de Los Angeles late but we weren’t worried.  At this pointed we’d realized that we should focus on finishing more than winning.

I drove and we bombed through this stage.  Even though Rhonda and I were a bit fried it was nice to be on a road that it would be hard to get lost on.  Most of the course was a washboard and the fj40 could cruise on that as fast as it could on a paved freeway (about 62mph).  We stopped at a Pemex about halfway through and team Brutus passed us.  The last third of the course was windy and rocky.  Not horrible but it would slow Arwen and Mary down.  We did pass a couple broken racers and a chase team with a trailer with two flat tires.

The stage took us an hour and twenty minutes.  At the end we stopped and waited.  It turned out it would take Mary and Arwen a little over three hours.

Finishing felt great.  It was the first stage that went perfectly.  We ran into One Legged Lance and the Stroppe Bronco chase team and chatted.  They were waiting for their chase trailer which eventually came through and then they were on their way.

We turned around and went closer to the finish line.  At that point one of the NORRA crew came over and asked “what’s that fluid.”  There was a puddle of power steering fluid under the car.  The hoses had come loose and rubbed against the front shocks.  Three or four guys came over and we quickly repaired the power steering return hose (I forgot how incredibly helpful people are in Baja). Then started the car and the high pressure braided hose blew out.  It couldn’t be repaired.

It was getting late and started to get cold.  Rhonda (unlike me) is skinny and was freezing.  We hadn’t packed jackets.  There was a big canvas tarp wedged in the back but we kept thinking Mary and Arwen would be their any minute.  Finally, at about 9:30pm, our chase crew showed up and then we had to figure out what to do.

At the same time our team came in, Ted Sumner and his crew came through.  Their 1970 Ford F-100 had given out.  They were planning on skipping Bahia de  Los Angeles and driving through to Guerrero Negro.  In the morning they would head to Vizcaino where there’s an excellent mechanic and get their truck fixed and hopefully race the second stage of the day.  It sounded good to us.

We couldn’t get that far.  Not only was the Fj40s power steering out (which made it funky to drive) we had two kids, it was dark, cold and the two lane highway was full of giant trucks and cows.  11:30pm, in Rosarito, Mary pulled over and said she thought she saw a hotel.  She went over a found a trucker hotel that had just opened.  We would be their first guests and for $35 a room we settled in, exhausted, and got a good nights sleep.

our adventure continues here

Friday, May 18, 2012

2012 Mexican 1000 - Day 1 Stage 2

Laguna Diablo to San Felipe

44.3 miles

-(a quick side note to myself in 2013)
Hey Sean, remember to deflate your tires.  Don’t just think about it or just let it cross your mind but do it.  15psi.

 The Learning Curve

At the start of stage 2 we broke two rules.  The first is “never pass gas in Baja.”  Pemex stations are far and few between and sometimes they don’t have gas at all.   Obviously, second, deflate your tires.  We would learn these rules from Dan the sweeper about 37 miles into this 44.3 mile stage.

Rhonda started at the wheel and before the battery died our hero camera recorded about 5 seconds of it….enjoy

Laguna Diablo is a smaller lake that Laguna Salada but it has the same amount of silt.  It was two deep troughs that the truck sort of sat it.  The Fj40s wheel base was much narrower than the modern race cars so it was a bit challenging to keep it in the groove.

Twenty miles into the stage we left the lake bed and went through an elaborately decorated cattle guard and the GPS went out.  This wasn’t good.  I wasn’t great at navigating with the GPS and without it we would be lost.  I grabbed my multi meter and tested it – no power.  I rewired it to one of the flood lights and we were on our way.  That’s when I noticed all our gauges were out.

Luckily there was a Mag 7 pit within a quarter mile.  We pulled in and told the guy what was up.  He popped the hood and said “there’s your problem.”  A wire had come loose from the battery.  He fixed it, gave us some water and we were on our way.

Thanks Mag 7!

After that the course got sandy and we started getting stuck.  The first time we powered ourselves out.  The fj40 doesn’t have lockers, so when it get’s stuck one front wheel spins and one back wheel spins (next year lockers).

We went a bit further.  Avoiding whoop dee doos Rhonda got off course and wound up in a wash.  We really got stuck and we hadn’t seen another car for miles.

Out of nowhere there was a handsome guy, his hot girlfriend and their nice truck.  They seemed to be locals but were way too clean for the silty mess of Laguna Diablo.  They agreed to help us but as we were getting the tow line hooked up a military hummer arrived.  They waved the cute couple off and pretty easily pulled us out.  We gave everyone t-shirts and were on our way.

I had wound up behind the wheel and that’s when the fuel issues kicked in.  The truck started lurching.  The last time I’d filled up was in Calexico but I had a 35 gallon tank (Two days later we’d learn it was the fuel filter that didn’t like having about 10 gallons in the tank).  We lurched on and about six miles from San Felipe started hitting whoop dee doos.  That’s when we met team Brutus.

We’d both gone of course to find a smoother route and both got stuck. 

After trying to get our own cars out I decided we should team up and help each other.  Jason and Matt are good guys and we first tackled their front hubs which weren’t locking.  Everyone was tired and a bit addled.

Then Dan the Sweeper showed up.  Dan drives a stock 2 wheel drive Tacoma and sweeps the course for NORRA picking up all the straggles.  Thank you Dan! 


One of his first questions was “how much air do you have in your tires?”  My stomach dropped and I immediately remember the error of my ways.  My dad had always harped on us about low tire pressure.  Dan recommended 15psi (which is lower than I would’ve gone) and we went with it.  It took what seemed like forever to let that much air out of the tires but once we were done the car easily crawled out of it’s hole.

Then is was time to help Brutus.

We were ready to pull them out but Brutus wouldn’t start.  They’d lost a transmission line (?) and coated their engine with fluid.    Eventually their distributor got cleaned out, we got 5 gallons of gas from Dan and we were all on our way to San Felipe.

the day continues here

Thursday, May 17, 2012

2012 Mexican 1000 - Day 1 Stage 1.2

Laguna Salada is a giant dry lake bed full of basically talcum powder.  Roads paths, and trails go in every direction. 

I was a bit nervous.  There had been a little rain the week before which meant parts of the lake bed could be a sticky gunky mess.  I was having flashbacks to my childhood.  Spending a day at Laguna Salada watching one of my dad’s friends unstick his Blazer from the clay mass.

So, we went into the lake bed and followed the gps.  At one point a slew of green arrows pointed to a path that ran parallel to the gps course.  We went with it.  I was hoping/assuming that it was a course set up to keep us out of any muck.  It turns out it was arrows for another race, NORRA’s arrows would be orange.  Luckily we had an intercom and Rhonda and I could debate the merits of our course.  For about 10 miles it ran parallel about 50 yards east of the main road and then it started to turn away from it.

I didn’t want to turn into the potential muck and go cross country to get to the main course.  I also really didn’t want to turn around.  Not only would it be ten miles of back tracking, it would be really dangerous going the wrong way on a race course.  Finally I saw some tracks going cross country and went for it. 

It was smooth and solid and we made our way to the official course.

The rest of the course was reasonable (except for the random pit in the road) and we wound up finishing the 73.5 miles of stage 1 in 1:48:08.  Not bad for out first race.

Arwen, Mary and the kid’s met us at the finish and we headed down the highway to the start of the next stage.

the race continues here