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ADV NewsThe Devil’s Road: A 5000-mile Historic Expedition thru Baja on KLRs

The Devil’s Road: A 5000-mile Historic Expedition thru Baja on KLRs

 A moto adventure retracing one hundred years of change in beautiful Baja.

Published on 04.04.2019

Four years ago, four California filmmakers set out to bring a historic expedition out of obscurity. The result was a two-month, 5,000-plus-mile ride through the Baja California deserts and a feature-length nature-adventure documentary called The Devil’s Road.

A culmination of years worth of research, exploration, filming, and post-production work, The Devil’s Road: A Baja Adventure revives the pivotal work of two of America’s most prolific naturalists: Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman. The first naturalists to document, catalog, and obtain specimens of the entire peninsula’s never-before-studied flora and fauna, all while trekking over two thousand miles on horseback through some of the continents most rugged, inhospitable terrain. Their landmark expedition in 1905-1906 was unprecedented and completed in a time when the Baja Peninsula was considered one of the most remote and challenging areas in all of North America.


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However, it wasn’t just the early achievements of these two famed naturalists that motivated the film crew. “Coincidentally enough, we learned our ‘Uncle Ed’ was the famed naturalist Edward Alphonso Goldman that worked with Edward William Nelson to explore the Baja Peninsula. I have been traveling around Baja with my family since 1990. We had no idea we had much deeper roots there,” explains Todd Bruce, the producer of The Devil’s Road, and the great grandnephew of Edward Goldman.

Devil's Road Baja Expedition on KLR650 Adventure Motorcycles

At the end of 2015, the crew behind The Devil’s Road made it official: they were going to recreate, as closely as possible, Nelson and Goldman’s original expedition on the modern-day equivalent of horses: adventure motorcycles.

The film crew began the arduous task of examining the original Nelson-Goldman expedition route. Meticulously deciphering Nelson-Goldman’s antiquated terminology and common-place names, the crew soon realized that much of these names were not in use today. The original expedition loosely followed the El Camino Real, the road system connecting the Spanish missions. Though parts of this route still exist today, many trails have been lost to time, and Nelson and Goldman would routinely travel cross country through dangerous and impassable terrain. The crew’s past years of experience traveling through Baja allowed them to pinpoint some key points of interest along today’s roads; however, many roads through Baja are unmarked. Signs are usually non-existent, maps are frequently inaccurate, and what verbal directions could be obtained from locals was tricky to decipher.

A Ride Through Time

Devil's Road Baja Expedition on KLR650 Adventure Motorcycles

With a route drawn onto a current map, waypoints inputted into a GPS, and turn-by-turn instructions where no map or GPS would be useful (e.g., turn right at this “Y” by the abandoned car), the crew turned their attention to outfitting their motorcycles for the journey. They were going to attempt to complete the expedition in two months, and be completely self-sufficient, all while carrying seven cameras and all camping and personal gear on two first generation Kawasaki KLR 650s, purchased used. And all of this had to be done on a micro-budget.

After securing help from key mechanics and consultants, the crew began necessary repairs on the two bikes—electrical issues, coolant leaks, new brake pads and cables—and made additions and modifications that would make overland travel and filming through the harsh Baja desert easier: panniers, skid plates, headlight screens, windscreens, extra fuel canisters, auxiliary charging ports, and padded top boxes for camera gear and lenses.

Devil's Road Baja Expedition on KLR650 Adventure Motorcycles

The pair had never ridden bikes larger than 250ccs, let alone fully loaded with gear for a two-month expedition, until crossing over the US-Mexico border at the start of their expedition on March 1st of 2017. The crew spent most nights sleeping on the ground—at points surrounded by snow, beach, cactus, and all the imaginable creepy crawlies. Every third or fourth day they sought the comfort of a hostel or hotel to charge electronic devices and connect to wi-fi to send data back home.

The father-son duo traversed the Baja Peninsula, joined by reinforcements for specific segments. In San Felipe, they met with members of the Bruce family to secure aerial footage of northern Baja and search for the endemic Nelson trout (named in honor of Edward Nelson). They rendezvoused with Greg Meyer, the film’s scientific advisor, to film the central desert of Baja and find Goldman Peak (named in honor of Edward Goldman). Bri Bruce, the film’s associate producer, and her team met the crew in the cape region to film the Baja surf scene and horseback ride into the Sierra la Laguna along the original expedition route.

Devil's Road Baja Expedition on KLR650 Adventure Motorcycles

Devil's Road Baja Expedition on KLR650 Adventure Motorcycles

The Devil’s Road shows a complex interplay between past and present. A film that weaves together themes of discovery and change that pay homage to the strange and awe-inspiring Baja California.

The filmmakers anticipate a year of showings throughout the U.S. and internationally as they begin their film festival tour on April, 27. To learn more about the project, visit devilsroadfilm.com

Author: ADV Pulse Staff
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