A brief dash down to Baja California last weekend, made even briefer through mechanical difficulties.

Ian B and I were going to drive down to San Quintin, spend the night, and drive back the next day. Since we were ahead of schedule, we decided to drive up to Sierra San Pedro Martir national park, which contains Picacho del Diablo, the highest mountain in Mexico. The mountain is 10157 feet, and the road goes up to 9280 of that, to an observatory.

Alas, halfway up the mountain, the transmission started leaking! So we had to go back down the hill, 80km to the nearest village, and get it repaired. We got it sufficiently patched (it was just the pan gasket, nothing major) to make it back to the US.

at some point, we clearly must make it all the way to the observatory.

and to San Quintin.

About one-third of the way up to the observatory.

And about two-thirds of the way.

And this is about the highest we get before we turn around. Almost at the tree line.

The CA-125 toll road is a connector to the Otay Mesa border crossing. Hardly anyone uses it.

The connection from the 125 freeway to the 905 freeway is strangely underbuilt, requiring the use of surface streets to connect.

Immediately after the border, the road splits off to go to the airport, or to head south. In the opposite direction, the line of cars wishing to enter the US is very long, for various political reasons.

Creativity in billboard design.

A u-turn opportunity. That should say CA-905, not I-5, though.

Unsanctioned art on the side of this building. Ian photo. He’s always on the lookout for good graffiti.

This is about the best we saw. (Another Ian photo.)

Older signs refer to “autopista” (freeway) as opposed to “cuota” (toll road). It’s always been tolled, however.

This sign was, at one point, green. It has faded to rust.

Dirty windshield is dirty. We didn’t stop to take photos of the shore here, since we were racing to get past Ensenada towards points unknown.

The first purpose of our trip. I needed to get an FMM (a multiple-entry visa) so that I can make several trips to Mexico between now and November, when I will fly out of Tijuana. I got a 180-day FMM for $25, and even got my passport stamped! Ian got a 7-day FMM (free) to be allowed to travel to San Quintin. I’m not actually sure where the dividing line is in Baja, south of which you need an FMM, but it doesn’t hurt to get one.

the Migracion office, by the way, is found in Ensenada by taking the “tourist route” branch of MX-1 (yes, both are labeled MX-1, confusingly enough) and then southbound one sees several signs like this one. This is up from one sign as of July, 2011, and I count this as an improvement.

Not a real license plate. The car to which it was affixed was left-hand drive… and also Japan has not used their imperial flag since 1945.

Rarely seen: control cities listed with increasing distance from top to bottom. Usually, it is the other way around.

Also, here the coast route turns inland and goes through the mountains for a while.

A parking ticket is issued.

Hill scenery south of Santo Tomas. Lots of vineyards in this area.

Sometimes Mexico does not bother with the route number. It is sufficient to identify that one is on the federal route system.

We have turned off onto the road to the observatory. We are definitely not on the federal highway system anymore.

And we’re certainly not on route 1!

Plenty of old white signs on the road to the observatory.

The road is paved and is in excellent shape.

We come to a bridge and take a break.

The bridge itself.

Ian and Space Monkey.

Some signs are brown on white.

Concrete and depth gauges. This part of the road often floods.

The road reaches about 15% grade at some points.

A plant growing at a perfect 45 degree angle.

We did not spot any.

And the last photo I took. 80 kilometers after we turned around, this little shop fixed our car, and we tore home in ever-decreasing light.

Did we survive? Tune in next week for another installment of Mexico Adventure Fun Time!