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I reluctantly leave my "perfect beach" and head for La Paz to re-supply before my remote travels north. I load up with fresh fruits and vegetables at a market, and since I haven't had access to a phone since I left San Jose del Cabo several days ago, I call in to check my messages and let friends and family know that I am OK. After La Paz, I top off with fuel, and head north along a coastal side road. The guidebooks have various nasty things to say about this road. "…a dangerously exciting road riddled with gullies …4WD only with great caution." By now I've grown used to their dire warnings being greatly exaggerated!
The first section of this road is paved, and the scenery looks like Arizona's Grand Canyon meeting the ocean. The Sierra de la Giganta's volcanic plateau is unlike anything I've seen in Baja so far and is truly spectacular. After reaching the small mining town of San Juan de la Costa, the pavement ends and the road turns to dirt. The first few miles aren't too bad, and then all hell breaks loose. The washboard road is so bad, I feel like I'm driving on square wheels. I keep slowing down until I'm creeping along at about five miles per hour. This is the absolute worst washboard I've ever been on and I begin to second-guess my route choice.
About this time, I come upon a road grader grading the road. As near as I can recall, this is the first piece of road maintenance equipment I've seen in Mexico, and to my complete astonishment, the road ahead has been graded. Just when I begin to get excited about my good fortune of finding a graded road and I've begun to get used to the smoothness, the washboards begin again in earnest. It's so bad that there are many dirt tracks paralleling the "main" road created by people who just couldn't take the bouncing anymore. I consider the dirt road that parallels the main road, but the sand looks soft and I've only seen one car on this road in the last hour of driving. It's also over 90 degrees outside and there are no trees - not a good place to get stuck. If I get my truck buried in this sand there would be nowhere to hook my winch.
I finally get fed up with the violent vibrations and decide to try something different. I try driving at various speeds in 2-wheel drive, 4-wheel drive high range, and 4-wheel drive low range. I finally discover that driving at about 40 miles per hour in 4-wheel drive low, the massive vibrations become less severe and the driving gets tolerable. The difficulty is getting the speed up to 40 miles per hour, and slowing back down. As I speed up, I begin to understand what it must feel like when the astronauts leave the Earth's gravitational pull. My truck is vibrating so badly I'm sure that it is going to explode, and then, at about 40 mph the massive vibrations begin to diminish. It definitely isn't smooth riding, but it is much better at higher speeds than trying to crawl.
I'm only driving about 40 mph, but I've never been more tense driving at any speed. Everything's fine when the road is straight and level, but when I come to an arroyo crossing or curve it gets downright scary. Slowing down for curves brings the demonic vibrations back to life, and there are no "Curva Peligrosa" signs warning of the frequent dangerous curves like there was on the Transpeninsular Highway. Arroyos crossings are even worse because the dips don't look that big until it's too late to slow down. They are also very narrow. So now I'm threading a 5 1/2 ton truck through a narrow path across the arroyo and almost becoming airborne when I hit the rise on the other side. Now I know what Baja 1000 drivers feel like. This would be a lot more fun if I knew that there was a crew waiting to rescue me and fix my truck if I crash or break down, but I'm alone in a place as remote and inhospitable as any I have ever traveled.
After what seems like days of this vibrating hell, I follow a dirt road to a secluded camping spot on the Sea of Cortez and set up camp. After taking a few sunset pictures and eating dinner, I settle nervously into camp. I remember something I read earlier in a camping guidebook, it said: "Don't boondock alone except in a place you are very sure of. Individual free campers are uniquely vulnerable."
I type away on my laptop computer as little black bugs begin attacking me. Now I know why a guy asked me the other day if my window screens were fine enough to stop no-see-ums. Yes, there is a flaw in my camper - the screens aren't fine enough, and I spend the next hour trying to kill all of the little critters attracted to my camper lights and the light of my computer screen.