Baja Mexico: The Journey of Almost No Return – Chapter 9: Madmen Across the Desert

(Click here to Return to Day 1)

Excuse me, sir- could you happen to tell me where i might find a...You know what?Nevermind. (photo by www.snipview.com)
Excuse me, sir- could you tell me where i might find a…
You know what, you’re fine. Nevermind.
(photo by www.snipview.com)

Angry Breakfast

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.

This wicked uninteresting photo of the Guerrero Negro Supermercado perfectly captures the spirit of the town. (image by octopup.org)
This wicked uninteresting photo of the Guerrero Negro Supermercado perfectly captures the spirit of the town.
(image by octopup.org)

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.

They may not like it, but the proprietors of the Malarrimo will serve you a huge breakfast for $1.75. (photo by bajadock.wordpress.com)
They may not like it, but the proprietors of the Malarrimo will serve you a huge breakfast for $1.75.
(photo by bajadock.wordpress.com)

We pound a quick breakfast, tap a couple of the Starbucks bottled frappuccinos we picked up in Ensenada, and hit the road.

Huevos Rancheros, the official breakfast of Mexico. (photo by Elchavobeer, licensed by WikimediaCommons)
Huevos Rancheros, the official breakfast of Mexico.
(photo by Elchavobeer, licensed by WikimediaCommons)

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.

Count the cacti on the high-way... (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Count the cacti on the high-way…
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Madmen Across the Desert

One thing about driving the Baja Peninsula I don’t think I’ve mentioned is the dry arroyos. God are these things annoying- and hazardous.

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.

Strange, ancient creatures lurk deep in the lost deserts of Mexico. (image by Blue Öyster Cult)
Strange, ancient creatures lurk deep in the lost deserts of Mexico.
(image by Blue Öyster Cult)

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.

A fifty-yard warning is not enough. (photo by 2cycle2gether.com)
A fifty-yard warning is not enough.
(photo by 2cycle2gether.com)

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.

 

 

Previous: Chapter 8: Don’t Worry About the Government

Next: Chapter 10: Framping Comes Alive!

 

Tender Age in Bloom

Fall is here again.

Exploding foliage along Mt. Greylock's Rockwell Road, New Ashford, MA. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Exploding foliage along Mt. Greylock’s Rockwell Road, New Ashford, MA.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

I don’t  know how long it’s been since I’ve found myself in New England in the Autumn; but I know it’s been many many years.

Lake Mattawa, Orange, MA. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Lake Mattawa, Orange, MA.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

But earlier this month the hand of fate finally saw fit to bend my circumstances in favor of an October visit.

The Connecticut River Valley, viewed from Mt. Sugarloaf, South Deerfield, MA. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Connecticut River Valley, viewed from Mt. Sugarloaf, South Deerfield, MA.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Unwilling to let this rare opportunity pass unseized, I made sure to carve myself out a few days without pressing commitments, and went to visit some long-neglected friends out in Western Massachusetts.

North Adams, acting like it's in Vermont. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
North Adams, acting like it’s in Vermont.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

October in New England is color time. Lush foliage is everywhere. So in between visits with friends, I spent a couple of days roving the hills of the Berkshires, in search of aesthetic sustenance for my ever-hungry camera.

Adams, MA, from Mt. Greylock. Back in the early 90s, my friend Jeff and I used to write songs at this spot in the middle of the night. On drugs. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Adams, MA, viewed from Mt. Greylock. Back in the early 90s, my friend Jeff and I used come to this spot in the middle of the night to write songs and contemplate the world. On drugs.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Cheshire, MA, from Mt. Greylock. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Girls hate it when you linger behind them snapping photographs.
Oh well… it couldn’t be helped.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Deerfield River, Charlemont, MA. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Deerfield River, Charlemont, MA.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The getting was good. And now I’m back home in San Francisco.

Mission accomplished.