Word and Photos: Dustin A. Beatty
The Baja peninsula is storied in romanticism and leaves an indelible mark on anyone who crosses the border. For off-road racers, it symbolizes a conquest and is a battle ground for everyone brave enough to enter one of its famed races that pits man against machine and both against the elements. The landscape evolves with the fickle weather patterns often to the point of being unrecognizable after being wind swept and pelted with rain. On the Pacific side, Baja is an extension of California and offers an escape for surfers intent on scoring the right swell often far less crowded than the Golden State’s right hand point breaks. As easy as it is to marvel at the landscape, it’s also true that to really know a place you have to meet the people and Baja is notorious for its locals.
Meet Coco, a man who is as ubiquitous at the Cholla cacti but also as lone as the wild coyote; in fact, many would consider him the world’s most popular hermit. His namesake way station sits approximately two hundred fifty miles south of the border at a crossroads where the pavement ends and adventure begins. As his legend goes, he showed up with the shirt on his back decades ago and built a clapboard compound decorated over the years with team stickers and posters, photos of friends and travelers, totems and dozens of pairs of lady's underwear left behind by his adoring fans. The allure is its remoteness and depending on his mood, the weather, the crowds and even the way the wind blows you’re sure to be greeted with his canned question “Where you from? Why you here?” but everyone gets this treatment. If you find yourself down there, buy a beer or two from him, sign his guest book and immerse yourself in hospitality that’s as gritty as the Baja landscape and equally as memorable.