Winter in Baja Day 74: Houston, we have a problem

Rancho Escondido -> Las Animas //

It’s another exquisite day in the desert.  No wind.  Dry, temperate air.  After both trucks are all packed up, we continue our trek through this mostly uninhabited expanse that makes up southern Baja Norte.  We have 85 miles to cover with an estimated 5 hours of travel time.  

Less than an hour in to our drive, after cresting a mountain pass and beginning our descent, we come upon a man broken down in need of brake fluid.  While Mark carries many automotive items, brake fluid is not one of them.  Thanks to Starlink and our ability to do a little Googling, Josh learns that soap and water is an effective substitute.  They communicate this to the gentleman in need using a translation app and then add the fluids.  The man gets in his truck, tests the brakes and lights up with a smile, it worked.  We were relieved to see him reach the bottom of the mountain pass safely.  He pulled over and waved us on extending a thumbs up out his window.  We’ll never know how much further he had to go and can only hope he made it without issue.

We logged a few more hours of bumpy driving, made entirely worth it by the views and solitude, before arriving at our nondescript turn off.  We had 10 miles left before arriving at our beach of choice.  For an hour we weaved our way in and out of an arroyo with obvious signs of massive amounts of water flow from previous storms leaving us to wonder how often this “road” is entirely washed away.  With every tunnel of desert shrubbery we drove through, every muscle in my face would tense as branches drug down the side of the truck and camper.  As though wincing would reduce the nails on a chalkboard sound it induced.

Five and a half hours after departing Rancho Escondido we arrived at Las Animas, a striking half-moon shaped bay lined with a white sand beach that we would have all to ourselves.  After choosing a place to park, I was beginning to settle in and relax just as Mark’s day was on its way downhill.  When the lid of the toolbox on the trailer wouldn’t open all the way he found that it had partially broken free from the frame.  While giving it all a closer look he happened to discover a large crack in the frame of the trailer.  For quite some time he laid beneath the trailer further inspecting it and then retreated into quiet contemplation.  His lack of engagement with the group or environment was how I knew this wasn’t good.  When he was done digesting what he’d found he filled me in on the long list of questions that now consumed him…

Did this crack happen recently or years ago?

How much more could we put the trailer through before it was a fatal break?

Could we make it out of here, through terrain that stressed the trailer in every way, and get all the way to the next town in one piece?

If we couldn’t, how many of our possessions could we fit in the truck?  How many things would we have to leave behind?  

If we make it to the small town of Bahia de Los Angeles, could we find a welder to make the repair?

If we don’t find a welder, is it safe to drive on the highway?

And then Mark asked…”How long have we had this thing?”  10 years I replied.  Simultaneously we both begin to replay in our minds the hundreds of miles of off-road terrain this trailer has covered, the weight it’s carried hauling water to our property and moving our possessions across the country multiple times.  We laugh when we remember how we put it to the test on an off-road adventure the very day we bought it.  We’ve taken it places most people would never dream of taking a trailer and because of it we’ve made jokes about one day exceeding its limits and having to abandon it somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

Now, here we are, in the middle of nowhere, and the idea of abandoning it is no longer a joke.  Saying this all out loud in front of Josh was when Mark’s mood began to lift.  Josh is an optimist while Mark likes to prepare for the worst-case scenario.  But both are problem-solvers.  One way or another, we would figure something out.  While a field repair isn’t possible, Mark would explore all options for a band-aid fix over the next few days before we need to get back on the road.  Luckily there’s no rush.

We’re hard on our stuff.  It’s why we don’t buy new things.  And we know the risk we take on when traveling the way we do.  There may be some stressful days ahead, who knows.  For now, we have a stunning new beach begging to be explored.  

Thank you to Darci for providing a few of the photos above. : )

Drone photos taken with the DJI Mini.
Land- based photos taken with the Canon R6.

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  • Bummer about the trailer but I believe it’s better to have something and use it with the possibility of breaking it, then having it and not using it at all. Maybe for travel days you can shift the contents of the trailer to the truck and keep the air pressure low in the trailer tires to reduce stress on the cracked frame. Also, it’s hard to say if that crack just happened or if it’s been that way for quite a while. Maybe if you can see in the crack itself to determine if there’s any rust or alternatively, fresh metal of a clean break, that would help determine the age of the crack. Good luck!

    • Thanks Greg! That’s our thinking exactly about whether this is a new or old break. The crack is rusty but it’s so hard to know in these salty environments how fast that could happen. All that to say, I couldn’t agree with you more about it being better to have something and use it than the other way around.

  • I’m glad the trailer situation can be contemplated for a day or two before moving on. I hope it can be repaired and your journey continues safely. You and Mark are resourceful. I’m sure a good solution will come about. Safe travels and best of luck!

    • Thanks Rick. You’re right, Mark is quite resourceful and you can count on me being close by to document it all 🙂

  • I’ll bet you travel with a drill and bits, and if you could find a scrap of bar stock and a pair of long enough bolts and nuts (lock washers would be nice), you might be able to relieve some of the stress on the frame by bolting the bar through the frame.


We’re Mark & Michele, modern-day nomads perfecting the art of slow, full-time travel.  Our tiny home on wheels and slow-paced travel style allows us to minimize our expenses while maximizing our freedom.  May our unconventional way of life inspire you to design a life that you love.


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