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The many unmarked intersections I encounter don't look anything like the route marked on the AAA map. Many of the intersections are peppered with signs marking the course of previous Baja 1000 races, but the only information I glean from the signs is that I'm probably traveling on roads where I shouldn't be traveling. Using my GPS and a lot of guesswork to choose my route at the intersections, I generally work my way northwest and hopefully back to the Transpeninsular highway.
Once again, the road begins to get rough, and at one point when I stop to take pictures, I notice my camper looks strange. There is no gap between the top of my truck cab and my camper. Something has broken and allowed my camper to drop down and rest on the top of my truck. It is now just a little past noon and the temperature has risen to over 100 degrees. I reluctantly crawl under the truck to investigate.
I'm shocked to find that the steel mounts on the truck frame that my camper is bolted to have collapsed, and the passenger side mount has broken from the frame. One of the three mounts that attach my camper to the truck has collapsed and one is broken. There is very little preventing my camper from rolling off of my truck. This is not a trivial problem and I begin to panic. I force myself to calm down and take time to think through the problem. I decide to get out of the heat, eat lunch, and evaluate my options. Other than the Mexican family with the burro, and the guy asking for Tequila, I have not seen another vehicle or person all day. I heven't seen anyone in the past four hours of driving. I've never felt more alone.
As I slowly eat lunch, I contemplate my predicament and my options. The last time I checked my thermometer, it was 104 degrees outside. I know my exact latitude and longitude from my GPS, but the roads I've been traveling don't seem to correspond to the roads on my AAA map, so I'm not really sure where I am. I know I have at least 60 miles of bad road between me and the nearest paved road, and I know I'm at least 67 miles from the nearest town where I might be able to get the mounts repaired. I have no way of contacting anyone or sending for help. Any truck large enough to rescue me would be too big to travel on these roads. I conclude that I have 4 options: 1) try to fix the mounts myself before proceeding, 2) drive on with broken mounts 3) leave my truck to get help, or 4) wait for help to arrive.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a Mexican man and his son shows up in an old beat up pickup; maybe they can help? The conversation begins with a "No hablo español" from me and a "No hablo ingles" from him. I somehow manage to communicate my problem with sign language, and after crawling under my truck and looking at the broken mounts, the best he can offer is a concerned look and a bunch of Spanish that I can't understand. He keeps pointing to the red dot in the EarthRoamer.com logo on the side of my truck and saying something in Spanish. I think he thinks that the red dot looks like the sun and he is trying to tell me that it is very hot outside. Perhaps this is why I'm sweating so profusely. With the help of a guidebook, I managed to ask him how far it is to Ciudad Constitucion, where I imagine I may be able to get my truck fixed. He scratches out the number 111 in the dirt with a stick. I assume he is trying to tell me that it is 111 km to Ciudad Constitucion and that I shouldn't try to walk because it is very hot outside.
I show him my map of Baja in the hope that he can pinpoint my location, but it may as well have been a map of the moon. Either he can't read or he has never seen a map of Baja before, because all I get from him is a blank stare.
Then things begin to get really bizarre. The searing 104-degree heat is blistering my brain and I'm probably in a state of shock over the condition of my truck, which all but ensures that any attempt at communication with this man will fail miserably. Just when I am about to give up hope of understanding anything he is trying to tell me, he reaches into his back pocket, pulls out a well-worn leather wallet and retrieves a single bullet - all the while repeatedly asking me something in Spanish. My heart begins to race, and panic sets in as he holds the bullet up in front of my face. What is he trying to tell me? More importantly, why is he holding up a bullet? What the hell am I doing traveling alone more than 100 km from the nearest paved road in the remote deserts of Baja? In a matter of seconds, this trip had been transformed from a scenic adventure to an exercise in terror.
I finally determine that he is asking if I have a gun. This doesn't sound good; why would he ask me if I have a gun? Pelegrosa (danger) I ask him? No, he and his son reply in unison. If there is no danger, why does he want to know if I have a gun? About that time, he sees my flare gun lying on the back seat of my quad cab and nods approvingly. After that, his interest in my predicament and me diminishes rapidly. He asks for oil, and after dumping a quart of my Premium Blue 2000 in his truck, he is on his way.
Once again, I am left alone to ponder my predicament. Leaving the truck for help is obviously a bad idea and waiting for help seems futile. My debate is centered on whether to try and fix the mounts or continue on. The last thing I want to do is make the problem worse. If my camper falls off my truck, the problem would definitely be worse.
I cut up a rubber floor mat and wedge the pieces between the roof of the cab and the camper to try and reduce the side-to-side movement of the camper. I also try to wedge a couple of pieces of plastic cutting board between the truck frame and camper to prevent the side-to-side rocking of the camper.
I begin to move very slowly and cautiously. The plastic wedges fall out immediately, but the rubber mat seems to help. I am moving, but the fastest I can go is about four miles per hour, and frequently I have to slow to less than two miles per hour to keep the camper from rocking and moaning mercilessly. Any faster than about four miles per hour, and the truck cab and camper begin to screech in agony. I am creeping in low-range 4-wheel drive with the engine idling, and still I have to ride the brake pedal and turn on the engine brake through many of the rougher sections.