Day 1: San Diego to Camp Chili Verde

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The Trip

Day 1 would be a reasonably easy day of travel and would take us from San Diego to the north end of the Altar Dunes in northern Sonora, MX. We started at 0600 and would travel until about 1600 local time. Plenty of daylight left to set up camp and enjoy life.

Our route took us out Interstate 8 from San Diego to the Mexicali East Border entrance, then east to San Luis del Rio Colorado, then easterly to the northern entrance into the dunes, near Cesar's truck stop. From there, we took the dirt road south to the dunes and then headed generally south.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw. These shots are reduced from the full size of the digital camera to 1000 pixels wide in deference to those readers that do not have "full size" screens.

As in 2007, we passed the El Centro Naval Air Facility which is the winter training base for the Navy's Blue Angels precision flying team. They were practicing their moves as we passed.

On a previous trip through San Luis del Rio Colorado, Roberto found a nice restaurant that was on our route. We decided to stop at the same place, Birrerira La Tatema, for lunch before we hit the dunes. From the left, counter-clockwise: Nancy, Matt, Dan, Russ, Steve, Bill, Sean, Juan Carlos, Robert, Roberto, Kai, Mark, Richard. Kathleen is behind the lens.

Outside of San Luis, it was clear that the border patrol had been busy building fence. Next to the fence is the U.S. boundary marker.

Above, Robert and Dan check out the border fence. It is solid steel plate perhaps 15' tall supported by concrete mounted pilings. Each of the group had differing feelings about the utility/logic of the fence, but that is a topic for a different day.

An interesting sign along the highway east of San Luis. This area was infamous for police-orchestrated shake-downs of travelers on their way to Puerto Penasco. Frankly, I doubt that much has changed, sign notwithstanding.

Cesar's has gone upscale, they have a nice new sign. Same run-down place, but at least they have a lighted sign. However, I wonder about the fellow with the deer head hat.

South of the turn-off at Cesar's, we stop to air down.

Russ prepares to ride his new Yamaha YZF-450 race bike. This is a high-tech bike with 5 valves on a 4-stroke platform.

Because of the heavy pounding that the Altar dishes out on both man and machine, I decided to restrain the movement of my camper with large ratchet straps. The top of the camper "floats" above the base since it can be raised hydraulically. So, to prevent excessive movement, the straps seemed like a good idea. They worked great, as expected and no damage resulted, despite taking some pretty substantial hits.

The patterns made by the razorback dunes are nature's artistry.

Richard's G-wagon approaches the cross on a high dune south of Cesar's.

Russ and his moto acted as our scout and helped us find passable routes through the high dunes.

Kai makes it to the cross, but gets sideways on the hill.

We made it over the dune crest at the cross without getting stuck. The shot above was made as we crested and head down the far side.

From the bottom looking up, you can see how steep this dune is. Above, Mark pauses waiting for the G-wagon to make it over the crest in case he needs a tow.

The G-wagon gets stuck at the apex of the dune. Note the sand "roosting" from the front tires. A small bit of digging got them unstuck and moving down the dune.

Note the sand on the hood.

Mark follows the G-wagon down.

The dunes in this section of the desert are huge and present a daunting obstacle to straight-line travel.

We set up at Camp Chili Verde. Kathleen spent many hours preparing chili verde for the night's meal.

The camper came through in fine style without issues. The off road abilities of the 1300 actually seemed to improve with the camper attached. The team members attributed it to better weight balance. I think that is a reasonable explanation. Whatever the reason, we were able to go everywhere the group went without issues.

Juan Carlos observes the action with a beer. In the background, Matt, Nancy and Kai unload supplies.

Robert and Dan slept in "tent cots" which made setup easy and fast.

The sunset that night was generally unremarkable given the lack of clouds. Nice colors, but no structure.

We had a pretty easy day, all told. While the drive was somewhat long, the weather was good and the wind was minimal. The chili verde was awesome and reasonably easy to clean up (which is important). Tequila provided the evening's entertainment.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2009, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.