Bullet Proof Diesel’s First-Ever Diesels in the Desert Baja California Event

    Roaming the Last Bastion of the Old West with Cameron Steele’s Desert Assassins Chase Team

    There's an enigmatic allure to Baja California, Mexico. It's another world—one that is stunning and largely untouched by development, but also one where you're no longer in the safe, squishy confines of the U.S. and instead in an area where emergency services are not merely minutes away. Baja has somehow survived the onslaught of urbanization and industrialization and remains a paradise for those who make the journey.

    When most Americans hear "Baja," their minds jump to thoughts of race trucks. But as every racer knows, Baja has so much more to offer. The thin peninsula stretches down into the Pacific Ocean, offering some of the most incredible and beautiful undeveloped coastlines in the entire world. Baja supports just over three million people—most of whom can be found in the northern border towns of Tijuana and Mexicali, and in Ensenada. Between there and the southernmost resort destination of Cabo San Lucas lie some rural villages, a few towns, and a whole lot of open desert and beaches. It's understandable why a few crazy Americans who knew Baja's secret decided to record how fast they could boogie down the Baja Peninsula more than five decades ago. Can you imagine what a test of mettle that was back then?

    You don't need to travel the trails of Baja very long before getting a lesson in keeping your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times. Even a rolled down window can allow a rogue piece of cactus to skewer you. They can sneak up and grab giant diesel truck mirrors, too.

    Baja 1000

    More than half a century later, the Baja 1000 is likely the most famous off-road race in the world. To win this race, you need drive, determination, skill, and possibly most important: An incredible team of Baja-loving people backing you up. And these folks aren't just there for the free tacos. Pit crews and chase teams—the people behind the driver—are the unsung heroes of off-road racing who put in countless hours and lots of their own cash to help support a race effort and achieve a goal. There is little payout in off-road racing, but the Baja experience, knowledge, and camaraderie gained there is no price on that. And many of the teams don't just race together; many of them, like Cameron Steele's Desert Assassins crew, head back to Baja again and again to enjoy the places they race through and to give back to the communities that support their off-road racing.

    One of our first stops after crossing the border was at Ox's memorial. Jeff "Ox" Kargola passed away in 2011 after a freak accident while riding on Cameron Steele's Rip to the Tip trip.

    Cameron Steele and Bullet Proof Diesel

    Bullet Proof Diesel (BPD)—famed for bulletproofing 6.0L Power Strokes—is a company that has been adding some major support to not only Cameron's race effort and trips, but also to the Baja communities. The BPD crew has been heavily involved in the Rip to the Tip, Trail of Missions, and other programs that bring gifts, supplies, and funding to Baja locals that can use it. The trips have turned into an excellent way to give a great experience to all who attend and at the same time help make a positive impact in Baja. And while the BPD crew loves heading out with the dirt bikes and Raptors, they wanted to set up an adventure a bit more tailored to their forte—a Diesels in the Desert trip. This not only included awesome accommodations, a number of beach stops, whale watching, mangrove exploring, and meals at different venues all around Baja, but also a lot of diesel truck-friendly trail time!

    Our first night concluded in San Felipe, and we took the time to catch some nighttime views of the city.

    Inaugural Diesels in the Desert Trip

    The trip that they designed was, essentially, epic. We spent six days zooming through the Baja desert, maxing out suspensions (more than once), visiting missions, viewing whales, dodging cacti, accidentally getting caught in a parade, and generally exhausting ourselves every day. Some very experienced Baja pros put their heads together to design a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for whoever joined, and we were honored to be part of the inaugural trip. If this sounds like fun to you, contact Bullet Proof Diesel or the Desert Assassins and see if you can get in on the next trip!

    We covered a lot of ground in six days, and we made sure we filled up every chance we got. Tip: If you're doing this trek in a newer diesel, be advised that diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) usage is increased when used in conjunction with diesel fuel procured in Baja.
    When driving in Baja, pay attention. Roads are not always in perfect condition. Sometimes the only warning you'll get is a single orange cone.
    What is a Baja trip without a stop at Coco's Corner to say hello and sign his book?
    This adventurer has been living and traveling all around the Americas in her Land Cruiser wagon for the last three years. We met her at Coco's Corner, and she advised us this was her first stop at the establishment.
    The Devil Mountain Diesel '17 Ram was the only 1/2-ton brought to the party, and it was definitely cool. It includes a Dirt King Fabrication long-travel suspension and 37-inch Toyos on Fuel wheels. There were even some custom wheelwells built inside the fiberglass fenders. Did we say "were?" The wheelwells were destroyed to the point of requiring removal after a couple of days in Baja.
    If you can find this beach, then you've found a Baja treasure. They call this their "secret beach," and it is definitely off the beaten path. And no, we're not giving out directions to this one.
    Exploring dirt roads that trace coastline cliffs overlooking the Pacific is just as good as it sounds.
    Checkpoints are the norm in Baja. These are military checkpoints (which operate under different authority than the police), and you want to make sure that you don't have any weapons or illegal substances with you.
    Mark Fuenzalida and Jason Loeliger had not had their new EcoDiesel-powered Ram out for much prerunning yet and were still figuring out spring rates on this trip. The combo they went to Baja with proved to be a bit soft, and they promptly changed the springs after the trip.
    Catholic missions dotted Baja, and some remain. Reading about their history and walking through them are two different experiences entirely. We recommend the latter.
    The family who takes care of the lands at the mission we visited have been here for multiple generations, and continue to repair, preserve, and care for the property. Gas stations and convenience stores weren't just around the corner, so when Ken Neal heard that the family could use a bit of fuel he didn't hesitate to hook up the hose on his transfer tank and give what he could.
    Now that's a lineup! From left to right, Cameron Steele's '18 F-350 crew cab long bed, Bullet Proof Diesel's F-350 chassis cab with a box, Devil Mountain Diesel's '17 Ram 1500, Jeff Dahlin's '06 King Ranch F-350, and Robert "Doc" Bacon's '17 F-350 with a box.
    It was Day 3 by the time we arrived in San Ignacio and spent a few hours visiting the main part of town and the mission that remains in excellent condition. There is often a fiesta or a carnival happening in the town square that draws many of the locals.
    Just before leaving San Ignacio, we visited this ice cream shop—and when BPD's Neal brothers walked through the door, it was like the mayor had just come in. We later learned that a bad storm had killed electricity to the town and the family who runs the shop lost all their inventory. When they heard about this, the Neals cut a check to cover the cost of the inventory and saved this family business. They are always welcome in the town of San Ignacio.
    From San Ignacio we crossed tidal floodplains to get to La Laguna San Ignacio for an incredible few hours of whale watching with Baja Eco Tours. Whale watching sounds touristy, but it was absolutely amazing. The shallow lagoon makes a perfect nursery where the whales know they are safe and are familiar with the people and boats.
    We headed for Scorpion Bay after our whale watching tour and arrived in time for a little daylight fun on the beach before hitting the hay at the Scorpion Bay Hotel. One of our party members, Cory Fowler, actually had recently moved here and was integral in setting up this trip.
    Did you know there are mangrove forests in Baja? Definitely a good photo opportunity and reason to stop for lunch.
    Robert Bacon and his copilot, Jacob Lopez, were a delight to have on the trip. Jacob works at BPD, but we're still not exactly sure what Doc does. We did manage to pick up that he flies helicopters and tinkers on military hardware.
    One of the missions we visited had a number of impressive hydraulic channels and wells to keep the vegetation growing. The original olive trees and some other vegetation are incredibly old but still very much alive.
    Not all fuel tanks are the same size. Luckily for Jeff Dahlin (and us since this was our ride), his boss had a transfer tank with some reserve.
    Whoever started this game devious. But the crew remained good spirited about accepting pushups when they used certain words they weren't supposed to. It sounded extremely annoying to us at first, but after a few days it became pretty comical watching grown men try and bust out 50 pushups.
    BPD's Jeff Dahlin brought his '06 Super Duty King Ranch truck—probably the most mildly built of the trip with only 35-inch Toyos and a 2-inch Pure Performance four-link conversion kit. The truck looked almost stock but ran well all week with its more built brethren.
    Beach stop number umpteen. But we've never heard anyone complain about too many beach stops on a trip.
    Our next stop would be Loreto, where we'd stay in a golf resort outside of town. Loreto is a great town for some nighttime fun in Baja, but with a group. This would be as far south as we got before turning north and heading for Santa Rosalia.
    Mike Meyer did most of the piloting of Cameron Steele's F-350 during the trip, but Cameron hopped behind the steering wheel for a few miles. Mike is an integral part of Cameron's chase team and was our trip's medic.
    Bullet Proof Diesel's F-350 started as a chassis cab truck. The company added a BDS link suspension to fit some 37-inch BFGs and a box that they knew would handle the rigors of Baja. Ken Neal drives this more than he does his new Raptor!
    Incredible beach scenes are not uncommon in Baja.
    Abandoned mine sites, historic buildings, more missions, and a metal church built by Eiffel (yeah, the tower guy) were all in store for our last couple days of the trip.
    Maybe next time, you'll join the fiesta in Baja.
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