Dead End Dirt Roads Aren't So Deadly or Endly: Why I Love Surfer's Journal

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"Bad roads, good people. Good roads, bad people."
-- Mama Espinosa, El Rosario, Baja California Norte

A long time ago, I spotted Surfer's Journal on the magazine rack at the bookstore. I am not a surfer, have never touched a surfboard, but the magazine stood out to me with the cover photograph.  A tack-sharp perspective peering into the barrel of a massive, jade-to-indigo colored breaking wave with some happy soul squatting atop a surfboard doing his best to keep calm and come out alive. The intensity was there. I picked it up and found out that this 120-plus-page magazine weighed nearly 10 pounds.  The thick paper beamed with vivid blue waves and cut, laughing dudes on nearly every page. It seemed to suggest, "Hi, thanks for picking me up.  You won't be sorry."

The stories inside nearly always illustrate a poignant answer to the question,  "Why would I drive down some bumpy-ass dirt road in the middle of nowhere or in a Third World country?"

Because, if you will, look at where these roads end. The merits of a lonesome beach and reveling in the slow pace of a Mexican fishing village simply can't be related in words here. One time in Baja I was driving after dark, hunting-and-pecking down along the Pacific Coast looking for an unnamed camp a friend of mine told me about.  Somewhere north of Guerrero Negro, that's all I'm allowed to say about the location.

I finally eliminated three roads by trial and found the camp at the end of the fourth by 10:00 pm. In the morning, I explored the cove:

Pretty sweet, huh?  Those are our wind-break palapas. We'd parked the truck right there, flipped open the Eezi-Awn and enjoyed a few days right here. Several fresh fish taco meals later, we drove out and found that the sign that pointed the way to this camp had been flipped around backwards and scribbled over with, "Keep the fuck out." That's definitely not a Mexican sentiment - more like a norteamericano surfer's.

I get it: we'd both ache to see little dead ends like this overcome with condos and golf courses. We both reel in the thrill of rolling into a seaside pueblo and witnessing the sunshine glimmer the crisp ocean with ceaseless miles of perfect coastline just as it looked 500 years ago.

This is the deal.  The stories in Surfer's Journal come from all over the globe, but they all echo the same joy of the adventure in offbeat locales that get judged not by the hotels and restaurants but by the swell. That's what I like about it: homage to dirt roads and the places they can take us.

Dirt roads, bad roads: they even make the cut for the poets and songwriters of today.  Check out this nugget from The Wreckers (Jessica Harp):

Someday maybe sombody will love me like I need
Someday I won't have to prove cuz somebody will see all my worth
But until then I'll do just fine on my own
With my cigarettes and this old dirt road

It's funny, you see, to spot the cover photo of the latest Surfer's Journal issue, Volume Eighteen Number Five, by Geoff Ragatz.  A Jeep slows while coasting into a village in Oaxaca as the tide brings good things.  While the subject of the photo is the ocean, the dirt road wins the award for best supporting role.

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