Hovering Over Baja
By David Kier

Hovering Over Baja

Article and Photos by David Kier

Raptors at Punta San Jacinto
The tour arrives at Punta San Jacinto

To introduce his fellow off road racers to the beauty and history of Baja California, which can be missed during a SCORE race, Cameron Steele created the ‘Trail of Missions 2014’ tour for his friends and associates. CBS Sports agreed to create a show about the tour in a future television special. Baja off road truck racer and motorcycle rider Cameron Steele has appeared on many TV sports shows to share his love of racing and riding in Baja California. His Rip to Cabo annual motorcycle event has been a popular show on CBS as it incorporates much more of Baja than just riding motorcycles.

Having recently co-authored a book on the Baja and Alta California missions, I was contacted by Cameron to offer some historical perspective for his guests on the tour. I got the word that I could spend three days with the group and join them by riding in the helicopter that is used to film the action shots for Baja racing, and Cameron’s Rip to Cabo ride.

Flying Over Mission San Vicente
Flying over Mission San Vicente
I got the news about 10 pm the night before the trip, so excitement was the name of the game. Fortunately, I could reschedule my customer appointments and had the blessing of my wife. I had never been in a helicopter before, let alone in one over the beautiful Baja peninsula!

The pilot was the talented Jim McCoy of San Diego Helicopter Tours and at one o’clock Tuesday afternoon we took off and cleared into Mexico at Ensenada’s airport. There I purchased my FMM Tourist Card at the INM office and we were soon off to meet the Desert Assassins (Cameron’s racing team) at the Rancho Santa Marta orphanage near San Vicente. There we had a lunch break and the crew brought gifts and donations (and stickers) for the children. The tour caravan consisted of 15 pickups being mostly Ford Raptors, a couple of Dodge trucks, a new 4 door Jeep Wrangler, and a Toyota Tundra. There were also a couple more support trucks including a food catering unit that had driven into Mexico at Tecate that morning.

Raptors on a Cobble Beach
Raptors driving down a cobblestone beach

Flying south I took many photos and was able to get close ups of the San Vicente mission site before landing at Santa Marta. From there, I would continue riding with Cameron while the film crew got into the copter for action shots as we headed south. The children of Santa Marta had a fun time and the Desert Assassins raised money to help support the good work done at the orphanage.

The caravan next headed down Highway One to Colonet where we left the pavement and headed over to the coast to run along the cobblestone beach to a large shipwreck. The helicopter circled about getting all sorts of angles of the Raptors and the shipwreck before we continued on to the first mission site tour, Santo Domingo. Here was my first opportunity to share some of the history of this mission, founded in 1775.

Our last stop that day would be at the Hotel Misión Santa María just south of San Quintin. After dinner, Cameron had each of the nearly

San Carlos Mesa
The view from the San Carlos mesa
50 members of the tour introduce themselves with a little talk about their Baja connection. The group was a mix of racers, off road equipment manufacturers, sponsors, and some of their family.

Wednesday morning I switched Raptors to the one driven by Ron Stobaugh of the Brand Fab Shop. We started with a drive down the beach from the hotel for a few miles, hopped back on the highway and then off again to play on a huge sand dune as Jim McCoy’s helicopter filming us all the way. A stop at La Lobera (the sea lion crater) came next and included a tour of the marine culinary facility.

Next we went to El Rosario to fill up at the Pemex and meet with Antonio Muñoz, the owner of the Pemex and Baja Cactus Motel. Some of the support crew would stay here this night. The tour continued on to Punta Baja where a deluxe lunch was made ready for us by the Desert Assassins catering crew. The location over-looks the beautiful blue Pacific. Along the way we stopped at

Cameron Steele and David Kier
Cameron Steele, his daughter and David Kier at Punta Baja
the second El Rosario mission site where I again gave a talk about the history surrounding this mission (founded in 1774) and about the Camino Real trail that connected all the California missions.

The tour continued down the coast from Punta Baja all the way to Punta San Carlos where Kevin and his team operate the SoloSports facility. Tent accommodations were provided along with the resort’s famous drink ‘The Baja Fog’. The stars were amazing in the clear night sky. One of the guests earlier had cut his finger badly while surfing. He would fly back with us the next day to get it treated.

Thursday morning, after a pancake and egg breakfast, we headed for a long off road run to the top of the San Carlos Mesa with its spectacular view. Then we would go northeast to Mission San Fernando. Cameron did a commercial for one of his sponsors up there, and as at other stops, he was filmed explaining what we were seeing and doing for the TV special. I was transferred from the

Rosarito Jesus Statue
The Jesus statue near Rosarito
Raptor to a Jeep and we tried to get to the mission for the lecture there. As with any large caravan, things do take longer than planned and sadly there wasn’t enough time for a lecture and tour of Mission San Fernando where Franciscan Junípero Serra founded his first California mission during his 1769 trek north from Loreto to San Diego. I transferred to the helicopter a few miles south of the mission and did a fly over so I could take photographs before heading back north.

The Desert Assassins continued on to Bahia de los Angeles that day and would visit more missions over the next 3 days ending the tour at Cabo San Lucas. The three days I was with this group were great and met a really super bunch. Thank you Desert Assassins!

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