It’s been nearly 4 months since returning home. How can it have possibly been that long? I’m not known as a particularly deep thinker, not as someone who sits around and ponders the meaning of things. I just try to enjoy the moment, plan for the next one, and shut my mind off as best I can to relax and enjoy some occasional peace and quiet. But Baja deserves better than that. I’ve sat down to put my thoughts on paper at least a half dozen times since our trip, and just like my previous trips to the long and isolated peninsula south of the California border, there are so many subtle but profound moments along the way that it’s nearly impossible to document or catalog them in a way that does any justice whatsoever; to the crew that made the journey, the rhythm and routine that developed as we made our way further south, the quiet thoughts that disappear with the ever-present campfire smoke and float upwards to the neon Milky Way glowing overhead, or the feeling of freedom that comes with pointing to a spot on a map and driving through hundreds of miles of dust, cactus, boulders, and desolate hillsides to get there.
On my prior two trips to Baja, I’ve always tried to take notes along the way to document where we stayed, what spots worked well on which swell directions, and any thoughts I could take the time to put on paper. But just like this trip, every time I’d try to sit down and put everything together into a travel journal, it was too insurmountable a task to make any readers feel even a fraction of what the trip meant to myself or any of the friends that had made the journey with me. However, this time we had our friend Rhys Logan along documenting as much as possible with both a still and video camera. My hope is that with a few words and lots of photos and video footage, I’ll finally be able to make the trip come to life…or at least give it a faint pulse.
We will be sharing some of the best photos of the trip as well as a 7 episode video series documenting some of the highlights from our adventure. The video was made mostly for those of us that went on the trip so we can relive the memories years from now and laugh at the inside jokes, the mishaps, and the close calls we experienced. If the video gets a little long for your liking, feel free to fast-forward or go to Baja yourself and make your own damn video.
Part 1: Prep, Planning, and Packing
This journey really started a little more than a year ago, on New Years Eve 2012. After surfing and camping in snow, wind, and sleet on the Olympic Peninsula, it was decided that the following January we’d be bringing in the New Year over a campfire somewhere in the heart of the Baja peninsula.
The original crew started at 3, dropped down to 2, doubled to 4, and a few days before departure settled on 5 guys. Chris Hudspeth and Chad Douglas were in on the trip from the early stages. Since none of us wanted to sacrifice our own truck for the trip, we decided we’d go in on a van together. Two years ago I’d made this same trip with another group of my friends in an old van I’d picked up for $900. While that van did somehow miraculously make it home, we thought we’d set the bar a little higher, so we settled on a 2000 Ford e350 15 passenger van. Not only was it a turbo-diesel, it had a 4-inch lift, 33-inch tires, and a highly coveted 4x4 conversion on it. It was any road trip aficionado’s dream come true; big enough to haul our 5-man crew, TONS of surf and camping gear, and enough food, water, and firewood to last us a month without needing to stop anywhere to resupply.
For weeks leading up to the trip, we’d get together at Chad’s place after work or on the weekends to start building out the van to get it road ready. We started by adding a ladder and a hitch-mounted rack for firewood. Then we got a little carried away and built a deck on the roof rack, which got us a little more carried away to the point we made the hideous, yet functional, luggage box w/ pop-up navigator’s chair on top. Add to that a 50-gallon water barrel to use for gravity fed showers and washing dishes, and we were pretty much set to go. Or at least we thought we were, until we realized at 1:00 AM on Christmas night, several hours before our scheduled departure, that all of the weight on the roof had caused the gutter-mounted rack mounts to sag and keep the front doors from opening and closing. Once we decided not to fill the water barrel with 800lbs of additional weight, we were on our way after a few dozen ear-splitting whacks of a sledgehammer to the roof later.
The rest of the crew was rounded out by our friend and photographer Rhys Logan, and Chad’s older brother Rory, the indisputable champion of mean-mugging. I am 99% sure that a finer crew of gentlemen has never graced this planet.
Once we became accustomed to minute-long speed wobbles every time we changed lanes or pushed the needle past 60mph, another unfortunate result of our weight-laden roof, we drove 24 long hours straight to the border and were all pretty amped for what laid ahead.
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