"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 54

April 21 (El Rosario to Sierra San Pedro Martir)

As we wind down our shooting schedule and travel northward, we have realized that there is not a whole lot of excitement, change, or new material for the film. We have been on this road before and our vision now is to have another opportunity to film the condors in the Sierra San Pedro Martir. With so few animals in the wild and such a vast mountain range, we would be lucky to get footage of the largest flying bird in North America.

We arrived at the "lower lookout" point at about 2:30 in the afternoon. The pullout was empty and we sat perched on the outcropping of rocks for over an hour and all we saw were turkey vultures and ravens. It was hot and the breeze blowing up the canyon was even hotter. We were able to find many footprints of condors in the dirt around the garbage can in the pullout. Apparently they tend to congregate there because of the garbage. With our heads hung low we headed up the mountain to the park and our camp for the night.

At the park entrance we were able to meet and talk in more detail with Manuel (Park Ranger) and Felipe (Biologist and Park Ranger) about the condor program and how best to film them. Our plan was set and we felt we had a good chance to film the condor in the wild the following day.

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 53

April 20th ( to El Rosario)

It was a short drive to El Rosario where we ate a fantastic late breakfast at Mama Espinoza's. We secured a room for the night and went to work with the usual hotel chores (laundry, showers, charging electronics, and jumping onto the Internet, if available, to send data).

Punta Baja is a short 16-mile drive from town so we thought we would head out there and see what we could find. On the way, I stopped abruptly to watch a meter-long gopher snake cross the road. JT didn't see me in time and crashed. Thankfully, there was no damage to the bikes or to JT. He just tumbled over the handlebars and onto the soft dirt of the roadway.

While we were righting his bike, we were also attempting to wave the traffic away from the snake in the road. All said and done, JT did get some footage of the snake, but not until after it was run over once, then twice. In total, four cars ran over the snake and no one really seemed to care.

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 52

April 19th (Guerrero Negro to a desert camp)

I had heard, some time ago, about an attempt to breed and set free the Baja Pronghorn Antelope. These majestic animals once roamed the peninsula in great numbers. By 1905, Nelson and Goldman were only able to find a few hoof prints, but no animals. We arrived at the facility unannounced and asked to film the animals. We were met with opposition, and insistence that protocols and permits were necessary and we were not allowed to film the animals. Disappointed, we took a few still photos and drove back out to the highway.

We were about 40 km from Punta Prieta when we passed a driver in a car heading south that frantically waved his arm and flashed his lights at us. We slowed as we rounded the curve and came face to face with a pickup truck in the ditch next to the road. Several passersby were helping the driver of the truck. His name was Neville and it appeared he had suffered a shoulder injury. I went into fireman mode while JT did his best to film the scene.

The police showed up shortly and went about trying to get all the information they needed for their reports and told me the ambulance was coming from Guerrero Negro and may take an hour. JT and I did our best to help Neville with gathering his stuff, making a list of valuable items, and securing his personal affects. He was very lucky that he was driving a newer Ford truck with airbags and was wearing his seatbelt. He said he swerved to avoid a pothole in the road!

With daylight slipping by, we found the perfect camp and quickly set about to stage our next shoot. Nelson documented how they would set up or take down their camp at night by setting fire to several dead yucca or agave plants. This would give them up to an hour worth of light. We recreated that very same situation with several dead agave plants. JT was pleased with the outcome. I, of course, was pleased to light something on fire!

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 51

April 18th (Guerrero Negro)

We took off with the desire to recreate another photo of Goldman's. This picture is of a man wearing a sombrero picking up salt from a salt flat near Vizcaino and in the background are two horses. We rode out to the salt ponds off Laguna Ojo de Liebre. The motorcycles did the job as stand-ins for the horses and we walked away with a great sequence of shots.

We were going to camp by the bay, but the wind was blowing at about 25 knots, kicking up sand, and the fog was rolling in. A $30 hotel room in Guerrero Negro was just what we needed to charge devices, shower, and get a good night’s sleep.

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 50

April 17th (Agua Verde to Conception Bay)

Getting out of the beach and up the hill to the main road was a challenge for me. It is very steep, full of big ruts and large rocks, and quite narrow. I bottomed out a few times on the rear shock as the bike bucked. I barely had control of the bike, but was determined not to crash. I made it and jumped off to film JT as he tackled the monster. One thing is crystal clear for me at this point in our expedition: JT is a much better rider than me. He took that hill like it was a walk in the park. Life is great when your children outperform you...I have done my job as a parent!

Our destination was Playa Santispac, a beautiful beach with jade-color water. When we arrived it was nearly full of holiday vacationers so we decided to go back a few miles to Playa Cocos, a small beach with palapas—and we needed the shade to beat the heat while we settled in. A nice swim did the trick of bringing our core temperatures down to normal. Another great night on the water of the Sea of Cortez!

 Bay of Conception (Bahia Concepcion)

Bay of Conception (Bahia Concepcion)

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 49

April 16th (Easter Sunday - Ciudad Insurgentes to Agua Verde)

JT and I had thoroughly looked over the map and the roads ahead and came to the conclusion that there were a few places that we had never visited and in between there were no pressing wants or needs to shoot. So, we decided to make a run to Agua Verde. A good friend of mine (and retired firefighter) Jack Baker has been talking about Agua Verde for years.

The road in is mostly gravel and is some of the most impressive engineering I have seen in a long time. The road is narrow, windy, with extreme drop offs, and very picturesque. We commented to each other on the way in about how many vehicles were leaving the area.

We were blessed with nearly empty beaches as we pulled up to the town's main beach. As JT was getting the camera ready, I noticed four young girls playing in the water with what I assumed was their grandmother. One of the young girls had a small sea bird in her hands. The bird had a sharp beak and orange eyes and looked like a small loon. JT was able to get some great shots.

We spent over an hour sharing beers and stories with a wonderful couple from Washington State. Jeff and Kathy had been sailing since leaving Seattle last August. Most of their time has been on mainland Mexico and they were now working their way north along the east coast of Baja. We had a great visit and look forward to hearing about the rest of their journey.

Looking north from the main beach we could see a beach that seemed to sit on a peninsula that formed a small bay. A road was cut into the hillside for access so JT and I decided to investigate as a possible sleeping location. We found it with no trouble and it appeared to be perfect. It had been recently occupied (as evidence of all the trash left behind), with good cliff side locations for JT to set up a time-lapse shoot and plenty of firewood. The only drawbacks were the flies and the smoke from local residents burning trash.

The night was nearly perfect and we slept well until the sun hit us and the flies welcomed the new day.

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 48

April 15th (Todos Santos to Ciudad Insurgentes)

It was great to have "the ladies" with us for a week. Heidi, Bri and Jade had a plane to catch and left us to gather and organize all of our stuff.

We were on the road by noon with a bit of sadness, as we had to turn the front tires of our bikes northward. We have completed about 95% of our filming goals while on the southern course. There are a few places and shots that we missed, skipped, or still want to get while on our way north so JT and I tentatively mapped out our return trip.

Our thought was to get through La Paz and camp at a spot we know of that is about 40 miles north of the city. We arrived there at three o'clock, the temperatures in the high 80s. With plenty of daylight, and nothing to film in that area, we pushed on. At one point we rounded a turn in the highway and found ourselves at the beginning of a very long straight and flat section of tarmac in front of us. JT immediately pulled to the side and I knew why. We were staring at an incredible shot of a mirage on the road. With the camera placed in the middle of the road, we captured a vehicle way off in the distance with its headlights on as it approached us. It made for an amazing shot!

Two hundred miles with my butt in the saddle of my bike was about all I could take. We pulled over and secured a room for the night in Ciudad Insurgentes. At $35 it was well worth it. Besides, there is nothing impressive about the terrain between La Paz and Ciudad Insurgentes. Nothing worth filming, that is.

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 38

April 7th (La Paz again)

This morning we met two marine biology PhD students for an interview. We were an hour late! Both JT and I were not aware that BCS plays the "spring forward, fall behind" game, changing their clocks for daylight savings, and I felt like a fool. Michelle and her husband Marco were very understanding and gave us a great interview anyway. Michelle is studying gray whales and attempting to prove that while they are in southern Baja to calf and mate, they are also feeding. This, if proven, could change how Mexico protects their breeding habitat. Marco, on the other hand, is studying the bottlenose dolphins that frequent the La Paz bay.

They both gave us a great insight into how Mexico is working to restore our marine habitats and what may be in store for the future. Thank you both for taking time out of your day to talk with us.

During the afternoon, we negotiated with a local panga captain to take us to El Mogote so that we could walk around to film. We walked around the complex and was surprised by how finished and bustling one part of the project was. We had heard rumors that the project was gaining momentum to be completed, and we certainly saw evidence that workers were on site and attempting to finish parts of the buildings.

We were then able to find the same location of a few of Goldman's photos of the La Paz waterfront so that we could do a "then and now" series of comparison shots.

La Paz on this Friday was alive with action. It seemed that all the vendors were out, the Malecon was bustling, and there was a flurry of activity everywhere. Spring break is here, not only for Mexico, but for the States as well. A major beach volleyball tournament was also being held on the Malecon and the stands were full of spectators. JT and I walked downtown during sunset to get some tacos for dinner.

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 37

April 6th (La Paz)

Today we intended to drive out to a resort community on a spit of land in the La Paz Bay called El Mogote. This place is shrouded in controversy. On the peninsula is a 1,700-acre resort called Paraiso del Mar. It was planned to have 2 golf courses, over 3,000 homes and condominiums, a marina, a town plaza, and other amenities. The developer did not receive the proper clearances and approvals from the government prior to beginning construction, and abandoned the project in order to flee criminal prosecution. So, this "resort" sits with partial occupation and no means of access, except via water taxi. The "road" is notoriously sandy with a depth and texture that will swallow most 4x4 vehicles.

Our attempt to get there was denied about a mile into the section along the dunes. The sand kept getting deeper and the sand patches got longer. I dumped my bike once, which gave JT the chance to film how to right these heavy beasts. Then it was JT's turn. He attempted to turn around and found his bike chain deep in sand with no way to get out. We took this opportunity to film the procedure of getting unstuck. It all went well and we were both pleased to turn a bad situation into a good one. The swim in the bay helped, too, since we were sweating in the heat of the Baja sun after that ordeal.

The El Mogote has another story that needs to be mentioned. There are a number of shark fishing operations and is also a sea turtle nesting site. The turtles come to this peninsula to lay their eggs and the locals have instituted a "Protect and Release" policy. Forty-five days after the eggs have been laid, the babies hatch and the locals help get them to the water.

We met a wonderfully interesting man tonight named David from Alaska. He is riding a bicycle along the Baja Divide trail (the length of the peninsula). We had a beer and several tacos together as we swapped stories. We had seen him several times in multiple places along our route and were glad to get his story and comments on film.

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 36

April 5th (La Paz)

We made our way back to La Paz and without much trouble found our hotel. We had reservations for three nights in a small hotel just three blocks from the water. It was clean, had a shower, and was a safe place to park the motorcycles—in the courtyard of the hotel. We had to take off the panniers to fit the bikes through the doorway, but our host insisted.