Rules to live by: if your filters (fuel, oil, air, and otherwise) are cheap, or even if they are not, carry many spares. And, if you see a tanker delivering fuel to a gas station, don't buy gas from that station for at least a few hours, and be wary of all the other gas stations in town, because it is likely the truck stopped at the other spots as well.
We fueled up in Santa Rosalia, passing by one Pemex station that had a tanker delivering fuel parked by the pumps. New fuel being dropped into the underground reservoirs stirs up all the particulate and lacquered fuel that lies on the bottom of the tank. Eventually all this dirt and grime settles again, but if you're at the pump while the fuel is agitated, your fuel filter is going to get a workout. We pulled into a station that was probably just visited by the tanker we had passed, and filled our tanks, preparing for another long day of driving.
A few hours on, Little Foot developed a worrisome hiccup, a very gentle misfire. We performed some on-road tests, like increasing and decreasing rpm, switching gears, and revving the engine in neutral, but we couldn't recreate the hiccup with any amount of reliability. There just happened to be a beautiful dirt track paralleling the highway, so we pulled over, and drove in low gear for a while, just listening to the engine. We started to rule out engine problems and carburetor problems, and eventually we figured that the problem must lie somewhere in the world of fuel delivery. We slowed and parked amidst the wildflowers, took the engine cover off, and had a look at everything.
The fuel filter had a streak of dirt along its bottom, and while it didn't look like enough to cause our misfire, we spun it 180 degrees. The improvement was immediate, and with that figured out, we continued. Just south of Guerrero Negro we pulled off the road and found a hill to shelter us from the view and sound of the highway for the night, and in the morning we drove into town and swapped out the fuel filter for our spare.
Guerrero Negro is the gateway to Baja Sur, and we were sad to leave the great state behind, but time wasn't on our side and we wanted to put some miles behind us, so we continued north. The Baja desert had received a significant amount of moisture over the winter and the hills were covered in blooming desert flora. Deserts, in the US, Mexico, or wherever, are diverse and beautiful ecosystems, and if you have never visited one, I highly recommend it, especially after an unusually wet season. Everything that is normally brown was green, and everything that was normally green had erupted in color. God's hand had recently been holding a paintbrush, and his work was evident.
We needed a leg stretch at one point, and stopped at what looked like an abandoned rest stop only to find a small nature trail and interpretive center. We followed the signs and eventually ended up in a cave viewing some cave paintings. What a suprise! We had stopped for a stretch and instead were given a beautiful display of desert culture.
We continued driving and eventually caught sight of the Pacific ocean. We had zigzagged our way across Baja and now we could finally see the ocean instead of the sea. From here, we would follow the coastline back to the border, so finding the ocean here was a lot like opening the last chapter of our book.
We drove through many small communities that we hadn't seen on the drive south, because we had driven on Mexico 3 to San Filipe and down along the Sea of Cortez. We eventually grew tired of the tarmac and found a coastal dirt road that looked relatively abandoned. We camped on a bluff overlooking the ocean and let the crashing waves lull us to sleep. The next day we found that a lot of our dirt road had been washed out during the winter, making for some fun detours and arroyo crossings. We arrived that night to our friend Mauricio's property in Ensenada just in time to catch a spectacular sunset over the Pacific. The next few weeks would be filled with projects, catching up with our friends and even a surprise back surgery (more on that soon)!