Hello, this is Andrew’s grandmother posting from his account. I want all you wingding hooligans to cool it with the fast-going. Kidding! It’s me, for real, with a thesis about slow-driving that actually only vaguely advocates for safety. Hear me out.
I took advantage of the recent elongated weekend–thanks again, Dr. King–to run down to Baja for some casual wheeling and taco tasting. The only difference between this expedition and the dozens of others I’ve done on the Mexican peninsula was that this time I was unconvoyed. Solo. Just me, my wife, and our lightly overland-kitted 1998 Mitsubishi Montero.
To preempt a 127 Hours-scenario we stuck to trails I know, filed a route plan with some folks back home, and kept the battery on our satellite tracker and distress beacon charged. (On a related note, I’ll be reviewing my new refurbished Garmin InReach SE+ after one more trip with it next month.)
We also kept our velocity to a stroll, running just over idle RPMs in high range four-wheel drive when we weren’t on the main road doing the double-nickel on Baja’s main Carretera Transpeninsular.
The main road isn’t the most fun, though. You’ve got to get off the tourist map to see the good shit.
To that end: the rocky, twisty trail south of Santo Tomás is often part of the Baja 1000 racecourse. I’ve driven it in a few different high-performance off-road vehicles at highway speeds. On certain sections of what’s officially known as Rancho Embarcadero, a stock Ford Raptor could comfortably hang north of 70 mph with a mildly competent person behind the wheel.
My Montero, which has 180,000 miles and 22 years of abuse to look back on, communicated through its groans and rattles that it really would appreciate, like, 20 mph.
But you know what? I had a better time galumphing along at a casual pace with my windows down, music up, and a cool beverage in my hand than I ever did white-knuckling a steering wheel or sitting right-seat and calling out turns like my life depended on it. (When you’re navigating in a desert race, mistaking “left” from “right” can have severe consequences.)
With no high-RPM exhaust scream, we could actually hear birds. We said hello to cows. And the endless greenery of the lush, beautiful valley I don’t even know the name of was deeply calming.
We also didn’t break anything or pop a tire, which meant we actually made it to the beach on time for sunset, instead of standing around while somebody rendered trail repairs.
So I drive slow, in part, as a matter of necessity. I can only afford modest equipment and I don’t want to break it. Anybody will tell you that going gently over obstacles is the best way to prolong the life of hardware.
I drive slow for safety, too. Lower speeds mean quicker stopping, and on this last trip alone, no less than four people sprinted across the highway (the highway) in front of my truck on separate occasions.
And of course, I also drive slow because I know damn well how much it sucks to crash.
But now that I’ve been forced by all those factors to relax and take it easy, the need for speed that used to be such a loud devil on my shoulder isn’t really all that active anymore.
So breathe deep, soak up the sights, take your time and smell the tortillas. Low-speed off-road adventuring is safer and cheaper than your best Robby Gordon impression. And honestly, it’s still a really good time. More fun, in fact, if you ask me. You’ve heard the one about the Tortoise and the Hare, haven’t you?