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Going to Baja California and Cabo San Lucas in 1962

Updated on July 10, 2011
The road shown below in 1962 ran from what is depicted on the map.
The road shown below in 1962 ran from what is depicted on the map.
These pics are from a 1962 magazine showing the road in typical fashion.
These pics are from a 1962 magazine showing the road in typical fashion.

Many Americans travel to Baja California in Mexico by road. The two lane highway is paved now and gas stations dot the road enough so you do not have to worry. Of course, traveling by car in Mexico is always risky for the usual suspect reasons in a third world country. Many find it easy to travel by ship or fly, that is by far still the safest manner.

Cabo San Lucas is almost like going to a town in Southern California. Plenty of Americanism all over the place and nearly everyone speaks broken English. Of course, the money is different but they still take your dollars! What sets it apart is the vast expanses of beaches and rugged hills and the few people there.

But, back in 1962, it truly was an adventure that few Americans took. In the sixties and seventies, there were annual Baja Runs or races to prove that its hostile environment was no match for a Chevy or Ford. Then, the Baja Peninsula road was paved but not much farther than Ensenada, after which, it turned into a dirt, jagged, potholed, one lane road. You had better carry your own gas also. It was not uncommon for a trip from the California border to Cabo San Lucas to take 17 days. If you made the trip, you carried everything and if something happened, there were no cell phones then. A phone might be 15 miles away with a poor connection. In the summer, temps can reach 122F. In the winter, dry gullies turn into rivers with no bridges.

Back then, a person making the drive might travel 200 miles in 19 hours, if they were lucky. At worse, with Murphy's law in activation, one might cover 32 miles in 9 hours. Baja California remains a barren peninsula with jagged peaks that top off at 5000 ft. If you made it to the port of Cabo San Lucas, the tiny town did not have many gringos then, so speaking Spanish was vital.

Many American car makers used the Baja Run to advertise their cars and trucks for their ruggedness. Logic was, if they can make it from the border, they must be built strong. There is some truth to it.

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