“The Devil’s Road” Expedition (DAY 7) Guest Blog: Chief Pilot Scott A. Bruce

Scott

For months I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. Lauri and I were planning to fly my single-engine plane over 2,000 miles across the country in late winter; attempt to cross the border into Mexico without getting my plane confiscated and the two of us thrown into Mexican prison; rendezvous with my brother and father who were driving down from the Bay Area; hope that Todd and JT survive their first three steep-learning-curve days of motorcycling through Baja; and have all of us meet at the San Felipe International Airport around noon on March 6th. All in the hopes of good weather on March 7th as the only day that is set aside for aerial filming.

What could possibly go wrong?

This is lunacy. The number of mishaps could be astronomical. The probability that we could pull this off was extremely low. Literally, there was about ten times in the months of preparation where I was ready to pull the plug on our part of the Devil’s Road Expedition — because I couldn’t get the annual inspection complete, I couldn’t get the aircraft ready, I couldn’t find back-up Visual Flight Rules charts for Baja, the aircraft Altitude Indicator failed keeping me from being able to fly on Instruments, I had to do fiberglass repairs on the wheel pants and the luggage doors. . . the list goes on. But we kept at it, getting as prepared as we possibly could, all the while hedging my bet with JT and Todd on how many things could go wrong that would prevent us from making the planned rendezvous.

Armed with a bag of tools, a roll of duct tape, a couple of heavily leveraged credit cards, and $500 in fives and twenties, we took off out of Maryland on March 2nd. A cold front had come through the Mid-Atlantic the day before we left Southern Maryland, giving us a one-day window on the day we were scheduled to depart. It is important to note that, while I am an all-weather pilot, the Cherokee Six is NOT an all-weather airplane – it doesn’t fly in icing, which can be prevalent throughout the US this time of year. (Important note: pilots are obsessed with weather – for a reason). Fortunately, the weather all across the southern part of the United States was dominated by a high-pressure system that gave us great flying weather all the way to El Centro, California, where Lauri and I were planning to meet up with my brother, Eric, and my father, Wayne.

The Cherokee Six purred like a kitten. The weather held out. We met Eric and Wayne in El Centro on the 5th. Unbelievable. Now for the big obstacle: the border crossing.

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After some issues with customs and the Border Patrol’s electronic system for filing flight plans and crossing the border, we launched solely on the word of Officer Castro in the Calexico Airport. Although it is obvious from the air where the border between Calexico and Mexicali is, there is a striped line on my GPS at the border, but at the exact moment I crossed into Mexican Airspace absolutely nothing happened. I did NOT get intercepted by Mexican military fighter jets. I contacted Mexicali Approach and we continued our way to San Felipe International Airport without incident.

After Lauri and I cleared customs, we were getting the plane tied down and our bags organized for the few days’ stay. The sound of two motorcycles approaching down the long road to the airport was unmistakable — JT and Todd had made it! Not 30 minutes later, Eric and Wayne rolled up in Eric’s SUV, having crossed the border in Mexicali and driven 2 hours down to San Felipe.

Simply put, “Astounding!” We pulled it off. We all made it. In the immortal words of the World Famous Sicilian kidnapper, Fezzini, “Inconceivable!”

Now, all we needed was a good weather day for filming on the 7th and the miracle would be complete.

Meanwhile, Todd has an “owie” on his hand where Nathan spit slag onto Todd’s hand while Todd was holding the motorcycle headlight protective screen with his bare hands that Nathan was tack-welding. I tried to explain to Todd about clamps, lock pliers, and leather gloves, but I think it fell on deaf ears. Despite his whining, he seems to be surviving the healing process so far.

The morning of the 7th brought clear weather and calm air. A minor miracle. We got two-and-a-half hours of perfectly clear weather and unbelievably stable air for aerial filming. This was JT’s first time filming from the air, but he got the most perfect day imaginable. We took the back door off of the plane, strapped JT in, put Eric in the front right seat with his own set of cameras, and launched first thing in the morning.

We shot video of Todd riding his motorcycle out onto a dusty dirt road, climbed to over 11,000 feet to film the Sierra San Pedro Martir Mountain Range, filmed the salt flats of the northern Sea of Cortez, flew down the beach along the Pacific Ocean at 50 feet of elevation, and returned to San Felipe just as the wind and thermals were picking up for the day–all without either JT or his camera getting sucked out of the plane. I did NOT want to have to explain that one to his mother.

A marvel of planning and luck came together to deliver almost two hours of spectacular digital video and countless still photos. The weather gods had shined their light and good fortune upon us! We will have to let the final documentary speak for itself on that fact.

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Tomorrow, we attempt to complete our other major goal for the trip: head up into the mountains to seek out the little known and ever-elusive Nelson’s trout. Let the fishing gods be with us for the next two days. Fingers crossed.

Scott A. Bruce
Commander and Chief Pilot
“The Devil’s Road” Aviation Detachment

 

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‘The Starling’s Song’ from Award-Winning Poet B. L. Bruce

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In a similar vein as her award-winning debut collection The Weight of Snow, Bruce’s newest compilation of poetry explores the themes of love, loss, and nature–both human and not.

Written in its entirety during a twenty-eight day stay in a remote cabin in the forests of Northern California, B. L. Bruce’s chapbook, The Starling’s Song, affirms and renews the author’s proclaimed lyricism in thirty-five new poems.

B. L. BRUCE is a graphic designer and publisher from Santa Cruz, California. She holds a bachelor’s degree in post-modern literature and creative writing from UC Santa Cruz. Her work has appeared in dozens of anthologies, magazines, and literary publications, including The Sun Magazine, Common Ground Review, and the Monterey Poetry Review. Recently the recipient of the 2014 PushPen Press Pendant Prize for Poetry, Bruce is the author of the 2014 International Book Awards Finalist and the 2014 USA Best Book Awards Finalist in the poetry category for The Weight of Snow. The Starling’s Song is her third book.

Bruce’s new chapbook, The Starling’s Song, is now available on Amazon and all major eBook retailers.

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Excerpt:

REPENT

Sunlight soon replaces the gray of dawn.
The cold has now found itself beside me
in the bed, the warmth of your body
long dissipated. I rise halfheartedly,
busy the sleep from my limbs, remnants
of dreams being shaken from me.

I roll up the rugs, sweep the kitchen,
remember to water the begonia.
From the doorway I watch the deer
stray into the garden to nibble the
yellow roses, dark eyes searching—
perhaps a fear I cannot understand—
pronged crowns, sinewed muscles,
every bit of them at attention. I
envy them, free from carrying the
weight of thoughts, driven, unthinking,
by the nature of things. The deer knows
no guilt, no sadness, only wishes to
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Mist rises from the still waters
of the river. I repent again and again.
We are not born into wickedness.
Left tasting the salt of my tears
in the threshold, I notice for the first
time the green buds on the fuyu
are beginning to color.

 

c. B. L. Bruce, 2016

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Talking Baja and Blue Mind with Dr. Wallace J Nichols

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Today, the Broken Wagon Films crew had the incredible honor of meeting, speaking with, and interviewing inspiring environmentalist, scientist, and author Dr. Wallace ‘J’ Nichols. We had the opportunity to talk in length about Baja, his work and experiences there and how it pertains to The Devil’s Road, his Blue Mind movement, and the ways in which he’s working to inspire in others a deeper connection with nature.

His work has been broadcast on NPR, BBC, PBS, National Geographic, and Animal Planet and featured in Time, Newsweek, GQ, Scientific American, and New Scientist, among many others. His national best selling book, Blue Mind, gives readers a deeper insight into the science behind why being in, on, under, or near water (be it the ocean, a river, a pool, or beyond) helps us lead healthier and happier lives. His recent work has inspired the Blue Mind movement and the concept of neuroconservation, merging the fields of cognitive science, human emotion, and ocean exploration and conservation.

Learn more about Dr. Nichols and his innovative, visionary work here.

Please stay tuned for our full interview.

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Sneak Peek Screening: “The Devil’s Road: A Baja Documentary” by Hidden Gems Film Club

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SPECIAL “SNEAK PEEK” RECEPTION with the filmmakers of “The Devil’s Road: A Baja Documentary” (In Production)

Saturday, February 25th | Aptos Branch Library


SCHEDULE:

4:30PM – Doors Open
5:00 PM – Screening
6-6:30PM – Q&A Session with the Filmmakers!
6:30-7PM – Reception with Light Refreshments


Please join the Santa Cruz Public Libraries’ Hidden Gems Film Club for a special sneak peek screening of “The Devil’s Road: A Baja Documentary” presented by Broken Wagon Films. Audience members will also have an opportunity to meet the team of documentary filmmakers in the midst of their filmmaking process.

In “The Devil’s Road,” local Santa Cruz filmmakers tell the story of over 100 years of ecological change on the Baja California while retracing the steps of renowned American naturalist Edward Alphonso Goldman — a relative of three out of the four production team members. The diverse geographic features of Baja California — from inhospitable desert, to high mountains, and picturesque coastlines — comprise a distinct ecoregion that is home to a number of endemic species, found only in Baja. Who is Edward Goldman and why is he important? What is the importance of Baja’s biodiversity? Is human activity tarnishing this unique place?

Come and learn about Baja’s natural history and its global significance, and the documentary filmmaking process.

Bring your questions for a special Q&A session with the filmmakers after the screening! Seating is limited. Light refreshments will be served.

Learn more about the project at www.brokenwagonfilms.com or follow the crew on Instagram and “like” us on Facebook.


“The Devil’s Road” Episode 1: Isla Raza

“The Devil’s Road” Episode 1: Isla Raza

Isla Raza is a tiny island in the Gulf of California that serves as the sole breeding ground for several important bird species. Despite being protected by the Mexican government as a wildlife sanctuary in 1964, this unique island is currently threatened by climate change and human activity. As a result, the Elegant Tern has abandoned Isla Raza as a breeding colony.

Join the Broken Wagon Films crew as we explore this island and its uncertain future.

Learn more about this project at www.brokenwagonfilms.com

Broken Wagon Films presents “The Devil’s Road”

The Devil’s Road: A Baja Documentary

In 1905, two American naturalists set out on horseback across the remote deserts of Baja California, Mexico.

Their expedition was the first of its kind to span the entire peninsula and complete a comprehensive survey of Baja’s flora and fauna.

Zig-zagging from coast to coast across the desolate interior, Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman described plants and animals unknown to science.

One hundred years later, Goldman’s descendants return to Baja to retrace the steps of this landmark expedition on motorcycles, and document the changing nature of this strange and beautiful landscape.

Help bring this documentary to the big screen!