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Man, Guerrero Negro blows.
We roll into town a pair of already-catastrophically-bored men. Before we’ve even done anything, we’ve run out of things to do. And the people we encounter all seem to fall somewhere between openly apathetic and just this side of outright hostile on the amicability spectrum. A pair of men at a gas station stare back at me, but do not respond, when I ask them (in both languages) if they can tell us where there is a restaurant in town. When I give up and walk away, the snicker to each other in Spanish.
But that’s fine, I guess. It’s not exactly as if we’d been expecting this place to prove out as some kind of dark horse wondertown of our trip or anything. Besides, all we care about at the moment is breakfast; and when the going gets boring, the bored go out for breakfast. And whatever social, recreational, and governmental deficiencies this town might have, it does have the two things we need most: 1) restaurants where you can get a ridiculously awesome plate of huevos rancheros for two dollars, and 2) roads leading the fuck out of here.
We pound a quick breakfast, tap a couple of the Starbucks bottled frappuccinos we picked up in Ensenada, and hit the road.
Get Out of Gro-Gro
On the south side of Guerrero Negro, the highway swings inland, turning sharply southeast and away from the Pacific Ocean, crossing the Baja Peninsula at its widest point. From Gro Negro it’s about 175 miles to the next town of consequence; and the entire intervening stretch is a featureless run of wide-open desert: a two-lane ribbon of asphalt lined with tumbleweeds, cacti, dry washes, and sweltering nothingness: my kind of terrain.
Back in Ensenada we bought a case of bottled water and Starbucks iced lattes, as part of the grocery run we did to acquire all the essential items we would need to get us to La Paz, another 850 miles further south. We dip into these as we hit the road eastbound, through what will be the hottest stretch of our trip.
Madmen Across the Desert
It’s like this: Mexican Federal Highway 1 is the only continuous north-south through-road of the 1,000-mile-long peninsula; and it is paved for its entire length, with a few fleeting exceptions. But these exceptions are serious harshes to one’s driving mellow. At spots where the highway crosses dry arroyos (sandy, rocky river washes which only carry water in times of rain and flood), it is extremely common for the pavement to simply end abruptly for the span of the arroyo. And the arroyos scattered throughout the Baja Peninsula cannot be counted.
Fear the Reaper
So there you are, screaming down the highway, cranking Blue Öyster Cult and enjoying the hair-dryer-like wind melting your face off, and all of the sudden you pass this sign giving you a 50-meter (for all you non-mathematicians out there, that’s just over 50 yards) warning of an imminent arroyo crossing. Now let me tell you something: at 80 miles an hour, it takes less than 1.5 seconds to go fifty yards. You see where I’m going with this?
So yeah, you see the sign, and you jam on the brakes, and the car starts desperately grasping for road friction in a frantic attempt to slow down. While you’re still going a robust 35 or 40 miles per hour, though, the pavement ends, and the car comes crashing down into the dry riverbed, bouncing and tossing its occupants around mercilessly as it plows its way across the dirt and rocks. Then, just as suddenly, you go smashing into the dirt curb on the far side of the arroyo, and rumble gracelessly back up onto the pavement.
And the next time you come upon another one of these arroyos, the same thing happens again, because the idea of going slow enough to neutralize the arroyos as obstacles is simply unacceptable to you; so you just resign yourself to the occasional bout of catastrophic road mayhem, and carry on at the same reckless pace.
And that’s how it goes down ’round Baja Mexico way.