From The Backcountry by Granville King – Baja California 1988
Strike of The Turtle Expedition!
By Granville King
As noted in many magazine articles, The Turtle Expedition seems to travel much of the known earth – Baja, Brazil, Oregon, and all in between. Still, it was a shock to see’em amble proudly down our mile-long drive-way in their magnificent new Ford F-350 towing a purty trailer with four-wheeled ATVs on it. Gad, about $50,000 worth of rolling stock right here, sparklin’ and shinin’!
We had a big greeting scene with Monika, Superdawg, Gary and self as I eased ’em back under the ramada due to water coming down from the air which visitors tell us is “rain”. What were these crazy cats doin’ way down here at the end of a turrible Trail – just come to pet Superdawg (they brought ‘im his biscuit goodies as ususal) and stoke up on shrimp?
It seemed, they were off on their regular eight-month trip through South America and’d stopped by for a pair of noble purposes – one, to check out our famed Gold Road, and two, to ride the Honda four-wheelers they’d been loaned. Such a cruel life that Gary and Monika lead! I wasn’t all that wild for ATV rides today due to the water-which-came-down-in-the-air. But these guys’d never ridden such machines before and they needed an expert, intrepid, fearless guide of which I just happen to be one. So, bundling up, we were off like a herd of valiant turtles, our heads just barely poked out of heavy jackets.
Maybe not our smartest move. To hit the Gold Road, we’d be running smack at the blackest of storm clouds up a fairly narrow canyon. What about flash floods, landslides, belching volcanoes, and pouncing pumas? No problem, they said! Both had that joyous, somewhat glazed-eyeball look of folks on their first ATVs with 100 million acres of open land laid out before ’em. I remembered my first day on an ATV; I’d of rid that sucker smack through the Red Sea, whether Moses’d parted the waters or not!
In Muerte (Death) Canyon, I was pleased to see the glazed eyeballs change when we saw water in places. They did that coyote eyeball swivel that said, “When that 4-foot wall of water comes down, ah’m a-dialin’ for that rise over there – or that one.” But what-the-hell, they’re pros in such terrain.
It got blacker as we went, but in long canyon runs I couldn’t see a lotta water streaks comin’ outta the clouds. So we crawled heavyrock, bottomless sand, and I lost the trail – if any – a dozen times. Then we came to a real picturesque place with red rock and such and Gary stopped. I watched in considerable consternation; that sucker was takin’ pictures! He posed Monika here and he posed her there and carried on unhurriedly like a man in a photo studio as the clouds grew blacker behind ‘im. Disaster looms and the world is about to end! But he is the True Photog: “Jus’ hold the baby’s head up a little more so’s we can get good light on the blood.” Yoicks!
Well, I tried to sneak my Magni-Hi-Yaller Yammy three-wheeler into some scenes but he said no, these shots’re for Honda. A low blow! All the lenses he hadda use and all the cameras. I kept rig in gear, front wheel headed for a tall rise, and rattled the beads.
At The Narrows, I thot I had e’m dead at last because my three-wheeler would go through and Gary’s rig wouldn’t by about two inches. Dynamite time – pure rock! A great time to turn around, head back to the dry, warm trailer, and get a sippin’, no? No! For Ol’ Muscles swung ‘s rig around, got me to help, and we sorta aced that thing up and over the side, spittin’ blood as we went. And who is casually sitting up there munching on a carrot stick but our li’l 98-pound weakling, Monika, watching us bust butt with an interested eye.
We yawlped, howinell did she get up there?! She pointed back; while we kilt ourselves, she’d found a little side path I’d never seen before. This is not supposed to happen! This is My Backcountry and we’re, bygawd, supposed to do it my way! She gave me the last of her carrot stick, which helped a bunch.
Well, Gary was instantly into getting better light on the blood so we blew another of our nine lives while he did about one full roll of pix. And then we slung Monika out on Point; may ‘s well have a leader who can lead! She set off valiantly, but within a few minutes suddenly shot left and perched up on a rise. There was much water, not too deep but flowing with a certain enthusiasm. She yawlped from her place as she uncorked another carrot stick, “Hey, you guys, wade that there, hugh, and see if it’s a deep pool.”
Gary whimpered; he’d had the waif out in water to the gazoo – ice water – in Oregon last week, wading for the truck. It was his turn. But, being the managerial type, he girded up loins and low-geared in with ‘s four-wheeler. Not deep at all – hardly over the wheels. Monika and I followed easily while she protested that he still owed a wade, a domestic problem in which I did not interfere.
The Moment of Truth had finally come: The water was getting a little deeper and the canyon was gettin’ skinnier. Your first instinct is to dial it on, beat yore head on rocks, fall down, and tear crazily outta there. But, being pros, we sat calmly on a rise while Gary did a Perry Mason on me. How far did I think it was to the summit? Did the summit break in both directions as a watershed? How much chance did we have of racing this sucker back out the way we came in?
Excellent questions, most excellent! Taking the last first, I said if a flash flood did hit, we’d be a little late getting out the way we came in – about 2.5 hours late. And the summit did watershed, I remembered, and it was not worse than a couple miles more – maybe a half hour. Gary looked at Monika and she nodded. They looked at me and I nodded. Ride to the sound of the guns! We’d ride smack dab into this mere flash flood so’s to escape it! Something like tearing along at 80 mph because your brakes’re out and ya gotta get home before ya have an accident.
We went off a little more pertly, and our peripheral vision for side rises and safe caves became very acute. Of course, we simply hadda stop once while Gary got the baby’s head in the right position again. And Monika broke out a new pack of carrot sticks which made my whole day. But before you could say Gawdiamagrievousinner 250 times, we were at the summit; water now ran both ways and not much of it.
Gary snooped around: “Hugh, pretty wide up here; couldn’t be a flash flood in this canyon, whatdiditellya?” I said nothing and Monika said nothing. But casually, she tapped some rock, broken branches, and heavy timber lodged up in a tree where water’d carried it down previously – some three feet above our heads! Gary winced and said. “Uh-yeah-they got real big squirrels up there, no doubt.”
Well, we held up the baby’s head a few more times as we blundered across the old Gold Road that comes inland from Santa Maria, and then we stopped at the old camp. A wonderful, ancient, two-hump trail that’s gotta be Mexican because they’d only drive their 2WD rigs with tall, skinny tires on the hardpan – never down in the sand washes if they could help it. They’d congregate in such a camp (I knew of three others further down, about half a day) and send on the best trucks with good tires, engines that ran, and so forth into the soft stuff with 10 guys to help with the road making. Then they’d load up the yellow stuff, come back, and fill up the other trucks. Dawg and I just know it! One of these days….
We swung down to the interior valley, found what passed of the right wash, and started circling home, madly munchin’ carrot sticks as we went. And I realized I was bush stoppin’ like a fool. Every 20 minutes I hadda hit a bush; the others did not feel this primeval urge. So I switched bikes with Gary and took’s four-wheeler. I rode for a moment in places where the three-wheeler’d be barely under control. This four-wheeler was a Cadillac! No wonder these ATV beginners looked so good; it was a totally different riding world, ease parallel with deep ruts, no tippy feeling, no rear-wheel steering-wunderbar! And I made no more bush stops. My beloved three-wheeler’d been literally beatin’ it outta me. A terrible thing to learn about your Beloved.
Treasure? Well-uh-we didn’t find a wholehullofalot. We learned that Gary had lotsa film,. that Monika had lotsa carrot sticks, and that to run such a canyon in the face of a flash flood is not the wisest thing you can do. Best to hang around camp on bad days and sip it up a little, though you can get sick and tired of bein’ droonk all the time.
As they left, I tried to slip my three-wheeler in place of a four-wheeler on the trailer. But Gary said that a Mr. LaPlane at the Honda place was very sharp at tellin’ the difference between yellow Yamahas and red Hondas, being an engineer and all. So off they trailered into the sunset as Dagw ‘n’ self sat disconsolately on our three-wheeler, spotting it with salty tears. Our Great Love was dead. Or profoundly diminished. For we had lost a treasure, lost it! On this trip. Because when your bike begins to literally beat it out of you, it’s time to think about getting one with an added wheel on it…..
Granville King, a former engineer, was a 20th century Tom Sawyer who lived in the backcountry some 50 miles from pavement, electricity, mail, or anything else. His mission in life was to be our alter ego-t do it with his four=-wheel-drive rigs 100 percent of the time what we are lucky to do on infrequent weekends.
Published in Four Wheeler Magazine, May 1988
NOTE: We need your help!
We know that Granville wrote a second part of “Strike of The Turtle Expedition” but so far, we have not been able to locate the magazine. It appeared sometime in the Summer of 1988, maybe in June. If, by any chance, you find a copy somewhere tucked away in a box in your garage or basement, please contact us. We think it would be fabulous to post it as a sequel on our website. Thanks, Monika