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Baja, 1972

A Grandmother's Dairy

June 24 - 26, 1972



June 24: Saturday - Rosarito to Miller's Landing and Beyond

Camp 7. Left about 10:20 AM. Much better night. Warmer. Using Chesleys' blankets. No cars to fix, but Myra's has to be shorted to start the last three mornings. Fabulous scenery. Cactus, etc. Wind cool. Huge Tree Yucca just opposite Camp 7. Through Rosarito. Sign says, "see whales from December to March". Onyx quarry at El Marmolito. Take Samples. To Miller's Landing and Pacific Ocean. Larry has two flats24. Very windy and cold. Lunch here. No swimming, but lovely sand. Gray sandy beach. Some shell hunting. Waves getting high. Osprey dives and catches fish. Here until 5:00 PM. Children loved the sand. We watched tide come in. Really neat. Eric and Todd dared the waves to get them. They finally had to scoot for higher ground. Larry also lost brake fluid so didn't leave until 6:45 PM. Darla with us. 9:05 PM - We are lost! After much waiting and radioing Larry finds the way. Drove until 11:00 PM before stopping for Camp 8. Cold, windy. Heaven only knows where we are. We're on the last tank of gas25.

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June 25: Sunday - Guerrero Negro and El Arco

At least we slept warm with Chesleys' blankets. They slept in the bus. Leave about 11:15 AM. Horned Larks at Mezquital sign where adobe buildings are. Lovely dew flowers. I'm riding with Larry, Doug, Curtis, and Todd while Spouse, Veroncia, and Darla go with Carl, and Spouse drives truck. Larry more flats. Off at 1:15 with Spouse driving the Beast. Drove over one mile through a junk yard26. West road into Guerrero Negro. Good roads. Yea! Some old blacktop27. Gasoline and gas pumps. Regular $1.45 pesos per liter, Ethyl $1.60 pesos per liter28. 2:00 PM here. Myra's engine sounding bad. Oh, no! Lunch just past Las Bombas. We saw some Caracaras near Guerrero on flat desert land: low weeds and sand. The road was very sandy to El Solito. Stopped about 8:30 PM to camp just south of El Arco. Very cold and heavy dew again, but we soon dried out. Camp 9.

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June 26: Monday - San Ignacio: Of Baths and Dinosaurs

It was a fair night. Took pictures of Larry's three [children] in clean clothes and boots29. Baths in the middle of the desert!! Cactus Wren and humming birds here. Carl fixed Gene's radio. Gene [also] has a bad generator. We're ready ahead of everyone else again. Departure time 11:30 AM. At 4:00 PM we're on new construction of a road, supposedly shorter and better. Very dusty and windy. We're in the first traffic jam on the new road30 25 miles west of San Ignacio31. Visited the church there. It was finished in 178632. Very interesting. Many date palms and lush vegetation33. Beautiful! Too dark to get many pictures. We head out toward Santa Rosalia. Myra backs too far off road and Carl has to pull her out with winch. About 9:00 PM to Camp 10. About 16 miles out of San Ignacio on blacktop road. We supposedly had been on improved roads34.





24These were the 4th and 5th flats of the journey, the straw that broke the camel’s back with all available spares already flat. A time-out was declared; the tires were broken down by hand using a home-make device aptly dubbed "Larry’s white elephant tire tool", repaired and reassembled. Several hours were required to fix all flats.

25Vehicle gasoline tanks and spare gas cans were refilled at every available stop along the way, and still there was no absolute guarantee of reaching the next source before running out.

26Like many small US towns of the forties, Guerrero Negro had not yet developed a municipal landfill.

27The improved roads, in fact, barely last through town, less than a mile.

28Ethyl was not available most places on the peninsula where gasoline was siphoned by hand from 55 gallon drums which had been brought in on the backs of trucks. Due to such transportation difficulties, gasoline prices reached $1.75 per gallon in 1972 in the Baja mid-section, while the price of regular in the southwestern United States was approximately 35 cents per gallon.

29Not counting the brief stop at Miller’s Landing, it had been nearly a week since leaving the ocean. Water cans were regularly filled from wells along the way, and until now water had been in insufficient supply to allow more than a face wiping. On this occasion, a two-gallon bucket was filled, from which five family members received a full scrub-down. The gallon or so of leftover "mud" was used for rinsing out clothes, topping off radiators, cleaning windshields, and other utilitarian tasks. Impatience was not unheard of in waiting for children to be properly cared for before starting a days’ journey, and in this case one rattled member of the group accidentally backed over one of his own water cans, flattening the end of the can and spilling another two or three gallons of potable water on the ground. The combined loss of nearly five gallons at a single location put the group back in substantially short supply.

30New highway construction had been working its way westward from the seaport of Santa Rosalia on the gulf coast. Our travelers picked up the new, as-yet unpaved roadbed of Federal Highway #1 some miles west of San Ignacio. They utilized it, despite road building equipment and miles of single-file driving, to reach the pavement that now extended part way from Santa Rosalia to within a few miles ease of San Ignacio, past Cuesta de las Virgenes with its many hairpin curves and Cuesta del Infiernillo (hill of the little hell), which rises more than a thousand feet off the desert floor. As the best means of travel in the region despite the ongoing construction, large trucks hauling payloads frequented the stretch and sometimes came face to face in a narrow lane of many miles length, with no means of getting past each other. In such cases, smaller trucks were usually driven to take to the ditch under pressure from the more aggressive semi drivers. Unlike more established roadways where ditch driving is not uncommon in Mexico, these ditches were wrought with hazards of steep shoulders and large boulders; and there was no guarantee of a way to avoid bottoming out on a boulder and regain the road after clearing oncoming traffic. This is the situation in which our travelers found themselves.

31Today, the bleached fossil skeleton of a giant Ichthyosaur graces the middle of the intersection at the turnoff from Federal Highway #1 into San Ignacio. Several car-lengths long, it has been painstakingly excavated from a nearby grave and smartly displayed behind a chain-link fence, complete with stone pillars and a plaque.

32Jesuit mission San Ignacio was founded in 1728, abandoned in 1840, and then restored some time later. Constructed of four-foot thick stone (lava) walls and 3 to 4" thick wooden doors supported by hand-made hinges, it is alive and well today, and is used by locals for regular worship.

33Quoting from Gerhard & Gulick, Mi. 485.7, p. 138: "The first glimpse of San Ignacio after plodding through hundreds of miles of barren desert is one of the really spectacular sights in Baja California. Bleak sun-baked cactus-covered hills suddenly give way to the welcome shade of a huge grove of date palms. Several springs in the arroyo irrigate a fertile valley for a number of miles before the water sinks into the ground."

34The meaning of this statement has been lost.



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