We’ve been in Ensenada for a week, we are full on tacos, spectated and filmed the Baja 1000, and ready to spend the next month driving this peninsula.
We had a very interesting day getting into Mexico though. We crossed the border around 3 pm, and nobody was in line, so we were able to drive right through. We had to go to a secondary line though where they X-ray the vehicle. We figured this would be the case with having the camper. No issues though, just took another 20 minutes, and they told us to park in another small parking area after the X-ray so they could check the vin on our dirt bikes. But then when we went to start the truck back up when we were clear to leave…. we had our first major truck breakdown. When Blake went to turn the key, the ignition pin broke off in the ignition cylinder, meaning that the key just kept spinning and the truck wouldn’t start. So we broke down literally on the Mexican border. We stayed calm, Blake started YouTubing the issue right away, and the border agents were pretty understandijg about it. We were able to get the cylinder out, and a couple of the agents even came over and hopped in the vehicle to try to start the car with a screwdriver. Unfortunately since the broken piece was stuck in the cylinder, their trick didn’t work. But it was funny how every agent immediately kept telling us to use a screw driver. We didn’t figure it’s that easy! So we were there for probably about 45 minutes, but since we were taking up precious space for other vehicles being Xrayed, they eventually gave us a 20 minute warning before they were going to call a tow truck. I don’t even know how that would work because would a tow truck be willing to cross the border?? There actually happened to be a tow truck sitting right nearby that the agents took Blake to go talk to, but he happened to be picking up another car so he couldn’t tow us right away. With a few more minutes to spare, Blake got creative, and decided to try to screw into the broken piece in the cylinder to try to remove it. He also tried to bargain with the agents that the Auto Zone on the US side of the border (.5 miles away!!) had the part we needed. Blake thought he’d take the bike across the border to go get it, but I told him no way are you leaving me here alone, and the agents weren’t going to let him do that anyway because it would take too long. So with no options left, Blake screws the screw into the broken piece, and instead of trying to remove it, he realized it had attached pretty well to the broken piece, and was actually able to turn the broken piece to start the engine with the screw driver!! Once it fired up, there was no way we were turning the vehicle off, so we drove right to an Auto Zone in Tijuana, and leaving the truck idling, checked for the part we needed, with no luck. So our options were to try every auto part store in Tijuana, or go back across the border to the location we knew had what we needed. But we didn’t even know if we’d be able to turn off the engine, or if we turned it off, would we even be able to get that broken piece out. So we decided it would be best to be state side and in a safe location if we got stuck for the night (it was about 6 pm and dark by now). Google maps said it would be 40 minutes to cross the border. Google maps lied. We sat in the line to cross the US border for 4 hours surrounded by Mexican guys selling churros and ice creams and other junk items, and remember the truck is a manual transmission, so we couldn’t stall the truck once because we didn’t know if it would start again. This was brutal. Somehow we picked the slowest line, but nobody would let us into the other lane. Blake even tried to pay one of the vendors to stall traffic in the faster lane so we could get over, but the other car wouldn’t have it and almost ran the guy over one slow mile and hour at a time. When it was finally our turn, we immediately told the lady that we couldn’t turn the vehicle off, and she felt bad for us, so we passed through pretty easily. Two minutes later we are at the Auto Zone. They had our part, and Blake luckily got the broken piece out within just a couple minutes without even turning off the truck, swapped the ignition cylinder with the truck still running, and we were good to go. Four hour wait for a 5 minute $25 fix. But if that was the worst of it, I’d say we got pretty lucky. We ended up just staying the night in a random grocery store parking lot right near the border
We crossed the Mexican border again the next morning. We got up really early, had to go through the X-raying again, and this time no issues so we kept on driving right to Ensenada to meet the Rugged Radios team. They are one of the vendors at the Baja 1000 and help a lot of the race teams with their radio products in the days leading up to the race to make sure their communication system is dialed in and programmed correctly when they begin their 1000 mile race. They were out in Ensenada already for a week before the race for their “Rugged Taco Tour,” which they invited us to attend but unfortunately was when we ended up flying to Charleston for a couple days. We got to join for the last couple days of endless Taco eating, and they showed us all the great taco spots in Ensenada. There’s a really great family owned taco stand near the Playa Corona called the Baja Burro, and a lot of the race teams go there as well. It’s not touristy, its not fancy, but it has some of the best tacos in the area. So we ate there about 4 or 5 times, breakfast and dinner.
We filmed the two days leading up to the race with the Rugged team, showing how the team goes all out to help any of the teams with their communication devices. They were at race teams’ hotels and houses late into each night, or even just stopped on the side of a road when teams were driving past to help get all their products (antennas, radios, etc) all ready for the race. On race day Blake and I positioned ourselves near the beginning at a big jump that all the racers go through, and got some awesome shots to add to our video of some of the teams that the Rugged team helped.
Since the Baja 1000 always starts in Ensenada, one of the fun things about the culture here is that everyone loves moto or race related stickers, also because all of the race trucks and UTVs are covered in stickers from their sponsors. All of the racers or vendors have stickers with their names on them and give them out before the race. Kids collect these like baseball cards. Blake told me about this before coming here. He said so many kids will ask for stickers, so we’ve been saving any stickers we had for this moment. Rugged Radios had thousands of stickers ready for this week, so we actually just helped hand out those. Apparently these stickers are like money when we go through the military checkpoints along the peninsula. The military guys stop to check your vehicle, but they just want stickers and energy drinks. Blake has witnessed this when he’s been here before, so if we just roll up the to military checkpoints with a Monster drink and stickers in hand, they wont even want to search the vehicle. Some of the guys here said they’ve had to spend hours having the vehicle searched when they didn’t have anything to offer them. So we plan on stocking up on energy drinks when we start heading south.
We stuck around Ensenada a few days after the race before we made our next move, because we were waiting to hear on whether we needed to head back state side for a couple projects. Otherwise we were going to start our drive down the Baja Peninsula, which once we start, we hope to spend a month doing. We had a backlog of editing work to do, so we just posted up at the Starbucks in Ensenada, worked all day, and then when we were done, we just slept right in the parking lot and worked the next day as well. It was in the same parking lot as a Home Depot and Walmart. It actually looked just like America, except there were security guards ripping around the parking lot on ATVs in the middle of the night. Luckily they didn’t care we were there.
We had one of our biggest accomplishments in Ensenada this week too, in terms of camper/truck repairs. Ever since we bought the camper and hooked it up to the truck, the right rear turn signal and brake light has never worked. We spent days….last summer….literally days when we first bought it trying to figure out this issue. Blake is quite handy when it comes to most truck repairs we’ve done ourselves, but he’s not sure where to look next on this electrical issue after trying several things. We’ve always been able to see that the signal works with out multimeter tool at the fuse box, on the truck, and on the camper, but once we plugged the light in, it would stop working. We’ve stopped at several RV places in the US before and without having them spend hours tearing apart the walls of the camper, nobody could tell us an easy fix. So we’ve been driving around with no right blinker and no right brake light for over a year now. Luckily nobody has rear ended us yet, but we always felt like this one had to get fixed at some point, we just didn’t want to spend a fortune to have someone work on the issue for hours. So we found a cheap Mexican electrician to see if he could identify the issue, and the guy we found solved our problem in a couple hours and for ten bucks.Turns our there was a damaged wire right below the fuse box under the hood buried in a giant wiring harness of 30+ wires. The guy was extremely crafty in finding the issue so we gladly paid the $10 he said he would do it for and we tipped him another $10 just for the craftiness in him. We now have a working turn signal and we can’t even believe it. No more excuses for cutting anybody off.
Another lesson I’ve learned while here: While we were getting the tail light fixed, a guy who knew the mechanic stopped by and wanted to talk (because we are such a spectacle in our set up), and ended up recommending a place for us to camp just south of where we were where we could park near the beach. It sounded better than the Starbucks parking lot, so we decided to check it out. Before we even parked, a police truck sought us out and parked right in front of us to block us from going anywhere. They wanted to see what we were up to and see if we were doing some sort of drug deal out on the beach. We clearly said we were just there to see the beach as someone recommended to us. They told us that the area was really unsafe, they find bodies out there, and people go there to do drugs. They said that the guy probably recommended it so that he could come rob us later. Blake said that in Mexico he’s heard this kind of stuff from police all the time and that they like scare tactics, but we both agreed it was better to leave and in the future if somebody recommends something to us, it makes a lot of sense not to go directly there. So this time we were lucky nothing happened, but it reminded us that we’re still in Mexico despite all the time we just spent at an Americanized Starbucks.
So we got the call for us to be back in Colorado the week of Thanksgiving to film a luxury property up in Beaver Creek, so we packed up from Ensenada and made the couple hour drive back to the border. We’d been hearing of the issues at the Tijuana border with the Honduran caravan and the US had increased the security to get into the US, so we allowed ourselves an entire day to get into the US, but it only took a couple hours at the border this time.