There was a moment, late one night on a remote beach on the eastern coast of Mexico’s Baja peninsula, when Brent Baker found another reason to believe that the company he works for has an outsized impact on the lives of its customers.
Baker, a crew member at Bend-based EarthCruiser, had just settled in at a beachside fire with the rest of EarthCruiser’s 2019 Baja XL rally team. Their secluded campsite, five miles north of the Bahía de los Sueños resort near La Paz, was like many others they’d made in recent days: dark, isolated and inaccessible by all but the most capable four-wheel drive vehicles.
As the group began to unwind from the day’s driving, a 188-mile, off-road journey from the coastal town of Todos Santos, six new faces emerged from the darkness. The strangers, who weren’t participating in the rally, had one essential thing in common with the campers on the beach: they, too, owned EarthCruisers.
They had located the secluded beach, guided by nothing but GPS coordinates, just to reunite with the people who made their freewheeling lifestyles possible. After hugs and hellos were exchanged, wine and margaritas began to flow as laughter and tales of adventure circulated. One member of EarthCruiser’s rally team, John, played guitar and lead the group in song.
"There’s a real family feel among the owners," said Glenn Capachin, a retiree from Lafayette, CO, who has put 28,000 miles on his EarthCruiser EXP since he and his wife, Jeanne, purchased it in November of 2017.
Capachin’s EXP was being serviced by Mitsubishi Fuso when EarthCruiser began to reach out to owners to gauge interest in the Baja XL, a 10-day, 3,000-mile rally that began in Los Angeles Jan. 25. So, to make sure Glenn and Jeanne could tag along, EarthCruiser let them borrow a Toyota Tundra equipped with a MOD camper.
With his wife and his dog, Mustard, Capachin estimates he’s spent about half his time in his EarthCruiser since he picked it up in Bend, but readily admits that he’d be unlikely to tackle something like the Baja XL without the logistical support that EarthCruiser offers its owners before and during events.
Making the trip with other experienced overlanding enthusiasts allowed him "to learn more about the vehicles and more about how other people use them," he said, adding that he "never would have done it" alone.
EarthCruiser enters rallies like the Baja XL to prove that there are beautiful places in the world to discover, and that its vehicles can cross vast expanses of inhospitable terrain to get there, according to founder Lance Gilles.
"This gave us an opportunity to demonstrate the capability of the vehicles," Gilles said. "If you do want to go and drive down that bumpy road for eight or nine hours to find that secret lake, you can."
Among EarthCruiser owners, trading information on out-of-the-way wilderness locales is a popular pastime.
"Every EarthCruiser owner has secret spots they’ve been, and being a member of the EarthCruiser family gets you access to those unique places all over the world," Baker said. "They’re going to share it with people who are like-minded and people who will respect those places."
After the Baja XL, Capachin’s database of such spots gained a new entry: Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó, a Spanish mission founded by the Roman Catholic church in 1699.
The EarthCruiser team was greeted warmly at the mission and given a guided tour by its caretakers. It was an eye-opening experience for Capachin, and he gained a deeper appreciation for America’s neighbors to the south.
"Anybody that speaks ill of Mexico — I have one question for them, which is, ‘When was the last time you were there?’ And their answer is usually, ‘Well, I’ve never been there.’"