National Geographic : 1972 Oct
fun of it. So are many others: doctors, pilots, teachers, firemen, a judge, a housewife, a lock smith. Fewer than 40 of the 222 starting vehicles are driven by professionals. On this bright November morning Ense nada echoes to the rumble of exhausts from motorcycles, dune buggies, trucks, and se dans-and from our vehicle, a Volkswagen reinforced for the road with heavy-duty clutch and shock absorbers, and a roll bar to protect us if we turn over. I have named the car "Boojum," after Baja's extraordinary tree. Since 8:01 a.m., the drivers have departed at one-minute intervals. At 11:40, the flag dips for us. With a throaty, ascending growl, Boojum winds up to 80 miles an hour. Dick guides the car around sinuous curves and down hairpin switchbacks. On our map-a tip sheet pre pared by a veteran racer-I note an alarm ing comment: "Mile 24.59. Cliff. Slow!!! There have been many bad accidents here." No crowd cheers his passing. Alone among cactuses and boojum trees, John Howard spurs his dune buggy toward Rancho Santa Driving the Mexican 1000: Rocks, Ruts, and Sand 1:10 p.m. Dick brakes into the first check point, the town of Camalu. I take the wheel. Four miles downroad the pavement ends and our ordeal begins. First, cobblestone rocks. Then sand, pounded to powder by generations of Mexican trucks. It spurts against Boojum like splashing water and makes a gritty, whining song in the tread of the tires. A pickup truck roars past and spits up a rock that caroms off our windshield. Fortun ately, the glass doesn't break. Dick, a National Geographic advertising representative and not a patient man, spurs me: "Put it in second! Second! Now third! Watch the soft stuff!" "For heaven's sake, Dick, let me drive!" 2:20 p.m. I've got the rhythm now. To my surprise, I've even passed a couple of other racers. Ahead, at the top of a rise, the road disappears. I see spectators there, some with cameras. I ask Dick what's happening. "Map indicates a bad dip," he replies. GERRYSTILES. IMAGEINTERNATIONAL (ABOVE) Ynez, one of nine mandatory checkpoints. Eight categories of vehicles took part from motorcycles to beefed-up Volkswagens.