Plan C developed somewhere around race-mile 60. We regained the use of our radio after it had dried out in the Mexican heat--more than we could say for our driving suits or route book. From here on out, we'd rely solely on GPS routing which WOB had preprogrammed into each BC car. Accurate to about the width of a car, all we needed to do was to stay on the squiggly black line, while avoiding the skull-and-crossbones icons. Aptly indicating what I discovered were only the most life-threatening of hazards, these nasty icons peppered our screens at various intervals, from several times in a mile to once every 10 miles. Dave would announce, "Hazard! Quarter mile ahead after ninety-degree left. Eight-hundred-feet, four-hundred feet...," and so on until I slowed to a crawl only to discover a 10-foot boulder, a five-foot-deep river wash, or "vado," a sheer cliff, or all three in succession. Like I said: GPS = lifesaving device.
More surprises presented themselves after we'd been racing for a couple hours. First was the appearance of the tops of our two front tires. It turned out I hadn't even been working the suspension hard enough to use all two feet of travel. And whaddaya know? The buggy actually got easier to drive and more pleasant the faster and harder I threw it at ditches, rocks, and jumps.
As I was demonstrating my newfound confidence to Newhardt--who replied with a "No [kidding], Sherlock"--our buggy was thumped really, really hard from behind. A faster guy had been behind us for some time, and we hadn't heard his distant horn beeping. Bam, bam, BAM! After the third such encounter with race traffic, I decided we wouldn't be passed again.
Plan D: Pedal down and dust plume flying, we picked up the pace. We began passing other racers. In all, we probably made five passes and enjoyed the hell out of each one. Love Plan D. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I was having the time of my life at this point in the race. I was using all the suspension, all the engine, and all my skill simultaneously, without thinking. Call it what you like: driving nirvana, Baja zen. Driving the Baja felt like an endless string of unconsummated car wrecks--only hours of seat time, muscle memory, ample suspension, and a proficient co-driver kept me from wadding up the buggy at every turn.
We soon discovered that our supposed route through the city of San Felipe (race-mile 181) was actually through the city dump of San Felipe. Apparently, the race organizers had driven an earthmover through the dump in two directions, pushing all manner of discarded home appliances to the sides of a 30-foot-wide swath of semi-clean dirt. Either side of the path was hedged by a 10-foot-high pile of debris and a curious number of spectators. Newhardt yelled, "Look out for that cardboard box!" I pitched the car into a slide to avoid the object. That was no box--it was a television set! Then we saw a Frigidaire, a Toro, a Sunbeam, and other assorted name-brand junk. It was as if we were driving through the San Felipe Home Depot at 60 mph.