Hal himself has a reputation based on past deeds under the influence of Mexico. And when his friends relive the scrapes, booze and felony company, he just smiles and claims "That wasn't me, I was at the library at the time." But photographs document most of the exploits of the Boys without Borders.
There's Hal and Ken stuck in Guadalupe Canyon during a flash flood runoff. They tried to help another truck out of the sudden rain charged creek and found themselves in peril. They had stretched a safety line bumper to bumper between the two trucks and proceeded to dig a new path for the runoff around the other truck. But when Ken ventured across the rampage, holding the line, he was swept off his feet; his motorcycle boots filled with water, stretching him like plastic man horizontally down river. He was rescued by others in the party, but not before nearly drowning and gaining two inches in height.
The trek across Laguna Hanson is legend. Once again it was Hal and Ken bumming around Baja when they decided to see if they could make it across the quicksand area above Ensenada. Hours later they were digging out every twenty feet, because that was the combined length of the scrap 2x6 lumber they happened to have in the back. They completed the equivalent of the famous 1930s Plank Road, before reaching firm ground.
But it was on a visit to Hussong's bar where they left an impression that's still being talked about to this day. I'm not saying too much sarsaparilla impaired the driver--Let's just say it wasn't the first bar he had visited that day. And there could have been a pilot error while gauging the distance between the bumper and the wall as they pulled into the parking lot. After all, the spare tire is mounted above the front bumper adding a forward extension of about two feet. Hal and Ken will tell you in unison, "It's really a safety feature that acts as a cow-catcher during awkward moments."
When Blue bulled the wall, it sent patrons, tables and beer inside flying. The band was in full crescendo, winding up a rousing version of "Guadalajara" when all the casement windows along that wall that were propped open with sticks, fell as one, with a resounding slam coinciding with the last musical note. The windows were immediately reopened with folks yelling, "Well, c'mon in and have a beer!" After management inspected the impact point for damage and Hal bought a round for the house, no charges were filed. In fact the party was decidedly better and louder after the incident then before. Hal was allegedly at the wheel. But he would say, "I'm pretty sure I was on the way to Bible Study that morning. But the important thing to note is, that no beer inside the truck was spilled."
Over the years, Blue has been tested many times and always gotten home, sometimes dragging broken parts and desert souvenirs along, but always under its own power.
The Baja Races offered new challenges for the Blue. Another friend, Jon Sanford is a Pit Captain for Mag 7, a loose-knit group that provides services and gasoline to the racers every 50 miles along the course.
Jon handpicks the volunteers from a motley collection of Mexican adventurers and life-long friends. The tools and supplies are kept in a questionably overbuilt garage in a seedy neighborhood of Logan Heights. Jon takes care of the paperwork and runs the pit.
Pit responsibilities are taken seriously, but after the pit closes things happen. One or two Cervezas and the crew reverts to high school pranks and good-natured jokes. Hal is famous for hidden fireworks that explode in the campfire when you least expect. Or hand-lit rockets that screech into the night like errant scud missiles looking for targets of opportunity.
Last year for the 1,000 Race, the so-called "Crew" volunteered to work a pit at race-mile 625. Turned out our pit was a mere fourteen-hour drive from San Diego. The last four hours were on a worn-out dirt hump that used to be a road across the desert to a now-deserted town. Our crew traveled in a two-truck, one camper convoy. I was riding with Hal in Big Blue. And because it was our largest truck, it carried the bulk of the equipment--1,500 lbs of tents, spares for racers, tools, jacks and fill cans plus five fifty-gallon barrels of race gas (an additional 2,500 lbs.), not to mention the base truck weight of 5,500 lbs of rolling dead weight for a total of 9,500 pounds--enough to sink an aircraft carrier.
There was no doubt it could haul the load but we hadn't planned on the road being as rough as the course. As we were making our way though one of the worst washouts on the raised road, we began listing heavily to the left and suddenly experienced the slosh factor.