El Condor to Mike's, San Felipe and Back

Day 4      Back     Home 

An Uncomfortable and Unexpected Night in the Desert

The evening in the motel was uneventful and restful.  Given the hard drive the day before, this was a pleasant treat. The next morning, we got up at dawn and I caught this photo of the main beach in San Felipe.  This was looking north from the hotel.

Sunrise at San Felipe.

The rising sun across the water made great colors.  Sadly, the camera was not able to capture what the eye saw.

We ate some chow and then saddled up for the trip back to Mike's.  We had already gotten fuel.  The plan was that Bruce Johnson and I would ride the quads back to San Matias and Steve Anderson would follow behind in the pickup.  This would be a substantial ride of about 50 miles, but it would be fun.

The author (Bill Caid) when he had hair.

Once we made it over the low hills of the Sierra San Felipe, we descended back down to the desert and stopped for refreshents.  Below, center, Rod Kunz drinks a beer while Rick's truck is inspected for damage.

Rod Kunz and the crew at a rest stop.

Before we crossed over some small hills, we got a pretty good view of the Pichacho.  Note the depth of the sand ruts that are the trail.

Pichaco del Diablo in the Sierra San Pedro Martir

When we got to the southern edge of the dry lake, we noticed that the rain was back.  We stopped to discuss the situation and we could see the sheets of rain on the east facing slopes of the Sierra San Pedro Martir.  All those slopes drain into the lake bed.  The lake bed is comprised of silt.  Silt plus water equals really stuck, and the main road went directly through the center of the lake bed.  Considering the possibility of the flash floods, we decided that the best thing to do was to haul ass as fast as we could to get out of danger.  So that is exactly what we did.  The lake bed is about 20 miles long, so we put the pedal to the metal and got out of dodge.

Impeding storm over the Sierra San Pedro Martir

The rain was pouring down in the distance as you can see below, greatly increasing our angst.  So we drove faster.  One other thing I forgot to mention is that the main trail, once it exits the lake bed, goes up San Matias wash.  This is a big wash and drains a very large area.  Stated differently, the road could potentially dissapear in a torrent of muddy water washing away the path to Mike's.

Heavy rain west of Laguna Seca del Diablo.

Haste Makes Waste

I have this theory about human behavior that there are only 2 conditions that cause learning to occur in human males: pain and money.  On our previous trip to Mike's with my Scout, I learned, via the money case, that excessive speed will lead to vehicle damage.  In fact, the Scout has basically self-destructed due to the pounding it took from hitting the ruts "at speed".   After we left the lake bed, the storm to the west broke up, essentiall removing the need for speed.  That did not change our behavior however, as we still continued up the wash at high speed.  High speed on a 3 wheeler, while potentially dangerous to the rider, will not typically damage the vehicle.  It is made to take the bumps.  The pickup, however, was not.  As he was heading down the wash, Steve hit a boulder with both right wheels, resulting in two flats at once.  And this was in addition to the other flat we had 2 days previous which was not yet repaired.  Below, you can see the damage to the front rim as we attempted to hammer the rear rim back into service.

Attempting a repair.

Below, Rick attempts to heat the rim to assist in pounding out the dent.  The pipe was used to keep the tire from catching on fire.  Rick did a great job, but in the end, we were fucked.  With no spares, it was impossible to continue.

Pounding out the dented rim.

Here Rick attempts to get the tire to seat on the bent rim.  We could never get it to seat correctly, so it would not hold air.  Having the tire flop on the rim was unacceptable, so the best we could do was to send the tires with the balance of the guys back to Mike's to see if they could be repaired there.  Then the group would bring them back to us.  Since it was late in the day when the event happened and there was still a substantial trip ahead of the group, it was decided that the 3 of us would stay with the truck over night.  We considered leaving it, but we were all sure that it would be vandalized before we could get back.

Ill fated attempt to reseat the bead on the tire.

An Uncomfortable Night with Unexplained Lights.

The balance of the group took the tires and rims and left us for the journey back to Mike's.  Sadly, Rod told me that the menu for dinner that night at Mike's was roast pork and the fixings.  Since we had not planned on spending the night, all we had was beer, water, some chips and salsa.  The thought of the roast pork dinner plagued me all night.  The chips and salsa staved off most of the hunger, but it was cold.  We did have a fire, but the desert after dark can get quite chilly.  We had coats, but not long underwear.  And, since we did not plan on camping, we neglected to bring the most basic of camping equipment, chairs.  So, the choices were standing or sitting in the cold dirt.  We chose to stand, but that got old quickly.

About an hour after sunset, we were standing by the fire taking note of the large number of stars.  Since there were no lights of any kind visible, either directly or on the horizon, it was really dark.  The passage of the storm had left the air crystal clear with virtually unlimited visiblity.  I was looking to the south and noticed what appeared to be a jet liner heading north along the axis of the peninsula.  It was very, very bright.  All three of the stranded are what I consider to be dispassionate men of science, wereasoned that the plane was high enough to reflect the light of the just-set sun.  But, it seemed to be going very, very fast for something so high.  We considered that and dismissed the concept and instead hypothesized that it was a satellite in polar orbit, since it was going south to north.  That explanation seemed reasonable until the light made a zero-radius, 90 degree turn to the east.  It abruptly changed directions right in front of our eyes.  With three degreed engineers watching, this light violated some of the most basic and undisputed laws of motion.   No aircraft can make a zero-radius turn.  Satellites don't turn at all.  Nothing I know of can make a turn like that, particularly at speed.  What we saw was unclear, but what is undisputed is that we all saw the same thing at the same time.

The balance of the night was uneventful and quiet.  I did keep waking up thinking of the darting light, but other than that, it was a peaceful night.

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