Mexico lies mere minutes to the south of San
Diego. Crossing the border and driving southbound
along the coast, one notes little geographic
difference in the topography. The same bluffs and
beaches continue on from Imperial Beach to Playas
de Tijuana in an unbroken line, heedless of any
international boundary. Yet one can feel the
difference right after rolling over the speed bumps
at the border checkpoint. Political borders are
imaginary lines that only exist in our heads and on
paper, yet one can see, hear, smell, touch and
taste the effects of such invisible boundaries.
Especially in Tijuana.
For me, crossing the border felt like receiving
a jolt of electricity. Nothing can match the thrill
of international travel, even if it's just a couple
of hundred miles away from home. Countless years
had passed since I last traveled anywhere south of
Ensenada, so I could barely contain my excitement.
And once again, I found myself in a vehicle with
two beautiful women. I felt alive.
Taking the quickest route through Tijuana to the
coastwhich was anything but a straight
lineour Total Escape crew raced down the toll
road. First stop: brunch at La Fonda Hotel
(officially, "El Royal de La Fonda Restaurant and
Hotel"), halfway between Rosarito Beach and
Ensenada. Sitting under a palapa on a bluff
overlooking the beach, washing down chorizo and
eggs with a cold Dos Equis, I couldn't imagine a
more perfect moment (though many more were to
come). It was easy to see why this road stop was a
favorite of Dana, our fearless trip leader.
through Ensenada, we turned east and headed up into
the hills on Highway 3. At the wheel of Lory's
4Runner, I drove through parts of Baja I'd never
seen before. Stringy ribbon clouds flecked the sky
above verdant mountains and pastures. Recent rains
had worked wonders here. Lush fields lined the
sides of the road as we passed through the valley
of Ojos Negros. Even Lory, the Baja veteran,
commented that she'd never seen the hills and
valleys so green. It certainly didn't mesh with my
expectation of normally arid Baja California.
Reaching the little town of Héroes de
Independencia (IN-DAY-PEN-DEN-SEE-AH), I
realized too late that I'd been following Drew's
Land Rover too close in our position of "sweep"
patrol. I watched as he nearly caught air on a
stealth speed bump, then tried unsuccessfully to
slow down myself. My passengers and cargo shook,
rattled and rolled as if we'd already gone offroad.
But Sirpa would soon get her revenge....
We gassed up in rural Valle la Trinidad, a dusty
little town that reminded me of that sequence in
"Terminator 2" out in the Mexican desert. Sirpa
climbed behind the wheel, and we finally hit dirt.
For the next 20 miles or so, we cruised over bumps,
through ruts and across dirt tracks on Baja back
roads. For me, sitting in the back seat, it was an
E-ticket ride. After almost two hours of bouncing,
we arrived at our destination at last: Mike's Sky
Rancho, a little hideaway far from the slightest
trace of civilization.
Well-known in the offroad racing community, the
rancho fills up with offroad enthusiasts nearly
every weekendand this was no exception. Even
before we arrived, dirt bikes started passing us
along the road. When we crossed the creek and drove
up the last hill to the rancho, a long line of
bikes already sat parked in front. By dinnertime,
the place was packed. The dining room boomed with
the raucous celebration of riders who'd spent the
day covering 200 miles on dirt roads. And as we
Total Escapees gathered around the campfire after
proprietor Mike shut off the generator, the riders
joined us to share their insane road stories, each
one more unbelievable than the last. By the time
the bottle of Tres Generaciones had made several
rounds, some of us began to wish they'd take a long
sip from a cup of shut-the-f***-up (a "you had to
be there" reference).
Eventually, they all stumbled off to bed, and we
could finally stargaze in some semblance of peace
and quiet. So many stars winked from above that in
my eyes they seemed to blur together in a white
haze (or perhaps it was the tequila). If a
telescope could survive the offroad travels to get
here, it'd be a great place to do some amateur
astronomy. Unfortunately, Christian learned the
hard way on a previous trip that such accoutrements
are not good accessories for back road
As we too made our way to our beds (or to our
tents, for some of us), we looked forward to the
adventures that awaited us.
Photo credit: Lory
Strickland ALL RIGHTS
What is "The Daily Strick"?
I have long called
myself a writer, but too often I don't do
what a writer must do daily: write. So
you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of
my resolution to make a positive change in
at least one area of my life. Every single
day of this new year, I will write
something, anything, and post it here. It
is my intention to use this daily exercise
to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative
energies, and perhaps generate some
worthwhile material this year. Hopefully
you will find at least an occasional
amusement or insight in my daily
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