1998-2012 EarthRoamer
Spectacular sunsets and sunrises
are common in Baja.

Headed for California

As I drove westbound on the smooth paved freeways toward California, my mind was bustling with thoughts of the countless things that could go wrong. I mentally reviewed my weaknesses: I was traveling alone in an expensive, high profile vehicle that was sure to attract lots of attention. I don't speak Spanish, so communication would be difficult. With no satellite phone or VHF radio, I had no effective means of communication with the outside world if I needed help or spare parts. I had not had the time to obtain spare critical parts.

On the plus side, I was driving a Cummins powered Ram. I had a comprehensive set of tools and extra oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid and gear lube. My self-contained camper carried 36 gallons of water, plenty of food and provided a relatively secure shelter. With 52 gallons of fuel I had a range of over 500 miles. My truck is 4-wheel drive, equipped with winches, auxiliary lights, heavy-duty bumpers, an air compressor, and recovery gear. I felt I was well equipped for the Baja terrain. I had driven my truck thousands of miles through Canada, Alaska and throughout the mountains of Colorado. Besides, I would never be more than a thousand miles from San Diego or more than about a hundred miles from a paved road. How difficult could that be? I was about to find out.

Most of the Baja guidebooks lecture that crime rates in Baja are lower than in the US and go on and on about how Americans are filled with paranoid delusions of Mexican banditos. But I had also read several news reports of campers being robbed and even murdered in Baja. One of my camp books states that it is safe to camp in Baja, but finds it necessary to describe in great detail the level of security provided by each of the established campgrounds. If Baja is so safe, why are all of the campgrounds seemingly preoccupied with security precautions? All things considered, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had heard many of the same dire warnings before traveling to Alaska, and most of those warnings were greatly exaggerated. Or had I just gotten lucky on my Alaska trip?

Final Preparations

After arriving at a friends' house in California, I began my final preparations in earnest. I installed a large aluminum storage box on the rear of my camper where I would carry my mountain bike and barbeque grill. I drove to Long Beach where Glen Thomas Dodge replaced my worn steering shaft with a Borgeson shaft to reduce the free play in the steering. I washed and waxed my truck and soon had it looking as good as new.

When I found out Mag-Hytec was located in Van Nuys California, I decided to drop by for a visit. I have used a Mag-Hytec heavy-duty rear differential cover and transmission pan with good results since late 1998. Mag-Hytec had just come out with a new "double deep" automatic transmission pan. Their new "double deep" pan holds an addition four quarts of automatic transmission fluid, so I wanted to replace my old Mag-Hytec tranny pan with their new deep transmission pan to further increase the reliability of my automatic transmission.

After spending a couple of weeks enjoying Southern California, I knew I had procrastinated long enough and it was time to head south. After a final stop at the AAA office to obtain Mexican insurance (US insurance is not valid in Mexico), guidebooks and maps, I was off to a beautiful campsite at Carlsbad state park just north of San Diego. The next day was spent stocking up on food and provisions, changing my oil, and buying travelers checks. That night I camped a couple of miles north of the Mexico border with plans to cross the border early the next morning when my Mexican insurance coverage period began.

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