South of the Border – A Baja Adventure

South of the Border – A Baja Adventure

Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the Google Play Store!Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the App StoreAdventure seekers are always looking for new places to explore in hopes of finding unfamiliar and untapped locations. There’s something to be said about surrounding yourself in unknown environments and the adrenaline rush that takes over in certain challenges. After off-roading and camping all over California and its surrounding states -including trails in Moab, the Grand Canyon, the Rubicon, and Death Valley -in my Toyota Tacoma for the better part of a decade, it was time to expand my horizon and head south of the border to Baja, Mexico. Baja always had this mysterious appeal to me that brought feelings of both excitement and anxiety. It was uncharted territory. Navigating around a different country with a different set of laws posed a great challenge.

I threw out the idea to several of my friends in the off-road community, most of whom are also owners of Toyota vehicles with a variation of several modifications and improvements. Along with upgraded suspension, tires, and surrounding body armor, all vehicles are equipped with advanced camping set ups and other items of convenience like on-board water and compressed air, recovery gear, and state of the art communication and navigation systems. After researching several points of interests and the routes in between them, we set the dates to embark on our journey:June 2018. 

In the months leading up to our trip, a new company, Vagabond Outdoors, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, launched a new wedge camper geared toward off-road and camping enthusiasts. Vagabond Outdoors introduced “The Drifter” and I knew immediately that this was something that would elevate my camping experience. Not only doesThe Drifter offer easy set up and take down, it also provides a space for gear to be protected from the elements and living space for times during rough weather -all huge upgrades to my former roof top tent set up. A small group of us decided to pull the trigger on these new campers and took them on a test run in the Mojave Desert. After being acclimated to our new setups, and with the Baja trip looming over us, we worked on modifying them to our liking, 

South of the Border – A Baja Adventure

After a series of unfortunate events, a group of ten trucks slowly dwindled down to just two, and between my buddy, Blake and I, we started to question if this trip was even feasible. Both of us had never been to Baja before and we would have to rely on the conversational Spanish I remembered from school over a decade ago. We thought long and hard about the feasibility of the trip, and despite not having the number of trucks we felt entirely comfortable with, we knew this would be the trip of a lifetime.

After a bit of research, we decided to cross at the least-populated Tecate border. As we worked our way south, we couldn’t help but notice several dust clouds in the distance and we immediately knew what we stumbled upon: The Baja 500 race. Just off the highway was a dirt road that led to several spectators and pit crews for some of the race participants. We parked our trucks along the track, deployed an awning, and cracked open a cold brew as we drooled over several race trucks that passed us by. This was the quintessential moment where we realized we have arrived. All of the nerves and angst that built up to this had finally gone away. We were no longer preoccupied with all the planning logistics and we were able to enjoy the journey we had embarked on.

South of the Border – A Baja Adventure

Although we had several waypoints marked off on our maps, Blake and I made a rule that all  our nights needed to be along the beach. We stayed true to that with three nights along the gulf in San Felipe, Gonzaga Bay, and Bahia Los Angeles; followed by 5 nights along the Pacific side from Bahia Maria all the way up to Ensenada. Nothing compared to the warm beach waves and sunsets of pink, orange, and yellow skies without seeing a soul in sight. We travelled through several destinations, both remote and popular and at many times it seemed that we were on a tropical vacation get-away and not camping.

One memorable stop that occurred early in the trip was the infamous Coco’s Corner. His house is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a makeshift barbwire fence and a collection of old items that display Coco’s creativity. Beer cans form abstract sculptures, old toilets decorated with random stickers create a centerpiece in the parking lot, and colorful pieces of oddly shaped fabric pose as an illusion of flags. Inside, mementos from decades of visitors drape the walls and ceilings, and of course, Blake and I left our mark by hammering a few patches to the wall and signing one of his many guestbooks. 

South of the Border – A Baja Adventure

Alas, everything wasn’t smooth sailing for the duration of the trip. From catching a potential thief at our trucks outside of a grocery store, to an eerie broke down truck in the middle of tight and windy trail, to thorough vehicle checks with dogs and multiple military men surrounding our vehicles, we definitely had to stay on our toes. 

The adrenaline rushed like a huge wave when we found ourselves in a near head-on collision in the middle of the desert, away from any civilization. Unfortunately, an unmarked white van was speeding toward us and didn’t see Blake’s truck. Blake tried to avoid the head-on collision by driving off trail, but the van still scraped along Blake’s rock slider and into the driver-side wing of his wraparound rear bumper, causing the bumper to bend out and away from the truck, and crushing his bedside and taillight along the way. The man didn’t have any identification and didn’t want to get police or insurance involved, which was ironic considering his radiator was smashed against his dash, and his vehicle had died on the spot. Things started to get interesting when another truck showed up, and the two of them started talking. This was strange because we hadn't seen any other people or vehicles for almost two days before, and in that moment we decided that things didn’t seem safe so we took a few pictures before finally leaving. 

South of the Border – A Baja Adventure

Despite the hiccup we were safe, our vehicles were still functional, and we made sure the adventure continued. Though we ran into our fair share of anxiety-provoking barriers and challenges, this was by far the best trip I have ever taken in my truck. I can close my eyes and feel the warm evening breeze, and I can visualize those picturesque sunsets.  I remembered feeling completely validated for all the blood, sweat, and tears in modifying my truck because I experienced a trip that posed one of its greatest tests. And it passed with flying colors. 

Already planning for the next trip -who’s in?

South of the Border – A Baja Adventure


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