Umarex Gauntlet


Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

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Friday, October 21, 2011
Home grown abalone…
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Connecting the dots

Mex 1 bites back
"Probably, the most amazing thing about Mex 1 is that so many of us tourists actually survive driving down it. Our survival rate is compelling evidence for the essential benevolence of the universe. Read all the books you want. Join the clubs. Get the maps. Buy the Mexican insurance. Take all possible precautions. On Mex 1, you are still nothing but dead dog meat, just waiting to happen."… Gene Kira


Shortly after the joining of the northerly portion of the narrow ribbon of a road called Mex 1 with the southerly portion at Punta Prieta, I made my first drive down the Baja peninsula. My friends, David Lewis and Jim Sipman eagerly joined me in my 1970 Dodge van and with remarkably little planning, off we went.


The trip was full of adventures at every twist and turn of the road. All these years later I can still hear the three of us mutilating the pronunciation of Baja village names as we roared past the signs. This trip held a litany of firsts, one being lobster tacos at Mama Espinoza's in El Rosario, another, sleeping on the beach at Scammon's Lagoon and hearing the whales exhaling, accompanied by the cracking and popping of the dying campfire beneath the velvet canopy filled with more stars than any of us had ever imagined existed.


The two week trip was like that as three thirty-something's savored the constant stream of new experiences. The Dodge van held up better than we could have hoped or planned for, though bolts vibrated loose and had to be retightened nightly.  We never passed a gas station, filling at every one particularly down the backbone of Baja from El Rosario to San Ignacio. There were bad patches and potholes in the road, yet, there were no mechanical failures of any consequence and the few that did occur were fixed using the stash of must-carry spare parts which included fan belt, distributor cap, spark plugs and both a spare water and fuel pump.


Since then, I have logged more than 300 trips up and down the road with family and friends as well as often driving alone. Mex 1 and I have developed a mutual respect in spite of an occasional breakdown which I have come to think of as another Baja adventure.


Some of these breakdowns have been a failed rear end a few miles south of Catavina, and an early morning encounter with a horse that demolished the front end of our one-ton Ford van. This, by the way, was fixed better than new at La Paz in less than a month with the help of the Mexican auto insurance company. There were others…all minor and none of my  Baja Adventures took away my  zeal to drive up and down the lost highway.


Last year, I headed down for my annual fall trip. South of Maneadero the road was under construction. I am not talking about the 'filling-the-pothole' kind. This was major surgery with a machine that removed all the layers upon layers of pavement laid over the years, leaving bare washboard dirt  and causing a teeth-rattling vibration that couldn't be avoided at any speed.


I believe that the vibration from the rough patches there and at other roadwork sites resulted in several breakdowns that I had not experienced in the past: a transmission failure when a sensor vibrated loose causing the loss of overdrive, a brake line that sprung a leak and a scary incident when a ball joint failed south of Catavina.


There is no question that the efforts of the Mexican government and it's road crews have improved Mex 1 immensely, widening the road, adding new bridges and center and side lines all have added to the safety of the road. 


However, the incidents I have experienced over the past year have been a wake-up call and a reminder that driving Mex 1 requires undivided attention and must be driven cautiously.


As far as I am concerned the road is in the best shape I have ever seen it in the 38 years I have been driving it. However, it is easy to allow complacency to creep in and forget that my reaction times are less than they once were. That it might be wise not to push as hard and maybe stop a little early. You know, stop and smell the cactus a little more.


A friend asked recently if I drive because it is cheaper. My answer was no, but I can't see much at 35,000 feet.


Mex 1 is very much a part of my life and I think it's time I give it the respect it deserves. You might want to do the same.   


there is no

THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT THE EFFORTS of the Mexican government and it's road crews have improved Mex 1 immensely, widening the road, adding new bridges and center and side lines all have added to the safety of the road. 

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