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Descansa en Paz, Pancho "El Correcaminos" de San Rafael

It is with a heavy heart that we, the Broken Wagon Films crew, write this upon receiving word of the death of a dear friend--and friend of many--Pancho.

It is hard not to think or talk about Baja without thinking of Pancho. In a way, he is Baja personified. He defined so many of our trips: making the drive on the rutted, sandy road out to Playa San Rafael to the beautiful spit of land he called home; his welcoming nature as he greeted us; and the ensuing days of stories, laughter, and exchanging of gifts. We spent many nights beside a fire on that beach with him and his dogs (so many over the years that we've lost count and begin to forget their names), drawing pictures in the sand, communicating in broken English and Spanish, listened as he told us stories of banditos and dolphins and the disappearing fish in the gulf, and watched as he ate a black scorpion that had crawled over his foot--in one bite, careful to not bite the venomous tip of the tail, pinched between two of his fingers. 

His unmatched kindness and spirit will be missed, as will his jokes and wisdom. 

Descansa en paz, Pancho "Correcaminos," nuestro amigo.

Our friend, Pancho, during an interview for "The Devil's Road" in 2017.

Our friend, Pancho, during an interview for "The Devil's Road" in 2017.

Pancho and our family during a 2015 trip. 

Pancho and our family during a 2015 trip. 

We're Looking for Musicians/Bands!

We are currently seeking musicians or bands for music use in the film. Think 1960s/70s Latin/South American surf/folk/garage rock. Please see our current videos to get an idea of the style we are looking for.

This is a chance for an established or emerging musician or music group to gain exposure, as we plan to present our film to a number of film festivals and screenings across the country and abroad.

Check out these links:


Please email brokenwagonfilms (at) gmail (dot) com
to show us your work!

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A Visit to the California Academy of Sciences

So what does the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, California have in common with Nelson and Goldman and our documentary film, The Devil's Road? Aside from the obvious scientific research and the institution's exploration of our natural world, the connection was formed on a fortuitous day in 1905. Nelson noted in his 1921 book Lower California and It's Natural Resources that he “reached Ensenada on July 5th and found the schooner Academy, from San Francisco, in port on it’s way to the Galapagos Islands with a scientific expedition from the California Academy of Sciences.” Nelson had several weeks’ worth of specimens that he and Goldman had collected from northern Baja, and needed to have them shipped to Washington D.C. The crew of the Academy welcomed Nelson aboard, agreeing to stow his cargo, and Nelson enjoyed a fine supper aboard the vessel.

On July 11, 2017, our film crew had the honor of conducting an interview with several of the California Academy of Sciences research specialists. We were met at the back door of the Academy by Katie Jewett of the Press Office. She would accompany us during our tour of the Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy. In the basement of the museum we entered the climate controlled room full of specimen collections. Maureen “Moe” Flannery, the Collections Manager has been put in charge of the hundreds of thousands of bird and mammal specimens and introduced us to several specimens that Nelson and Goldman collected over one hundred years ago.

The first specimen was a Mexican cormorant that was collected in 1902 by Nelson and Goldman. The bird was incredibly well preserved. Next, we were shown specimens of seaside sparrows. The particular specimen that Nelson and Goldman procured was collected in 1874 in Washington D.C. and was donated to the Academy many years ago. The last specimen was a Bailey's pocket mouse, collected by Nelson and Goldman in December 1905 from a location just south of La Paz, Baja California Sur.

A well-preserved Mexican cormorant. Note the tag states "Nelson & Goldman."

A well-preserved Mexican cormorant. Note the tag states "Nelson & Goldman."

Seaside sparrow specimens, several of which were collected by Nelson & Goldman in 1874.

Seaside sparrow specimens, several of which were collected by Nelson & Goldman in 1874.

Maureen "More" Flannery, collections manager at the California Academy of Sciences, shows us the seaside sparrow specimens.

Maureen "More" Flannery, collections manager at the California Academy of Sciences, shows us the seaside sparrow specimens.

Specimens of the Bailey's pocket mouse.

Specimens of the Bailey's pocket mouse.

Jack Dumbacher, Curator of the Ornithology and Mammalogy Department, rounded off the morning with a well-presented perspective of what naturalists like Nelson and Goldman's fieldwork would have been like. He explained how they would have collected, preserved, and organized their specimens during an expedition. We also learned how valuable these specimens are to science. These thousands of study skins and mounts provide a glimpse into the past, how and where these animals lived, and even what they were feeding on when they were collected. As technology and new research methods change, their value will certainly increase over the next century and beyond.

Interview with Jack Dumbacher, Curator, Ornithology and Mammology Department

Interview with Jack Dumbacher, Curator, Ornithology and Mammology Department

We would like to thank the California Academy of Sciences for their continued support of Nelson and Goldman's work and of our film.


"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 47

I woke up feeling somewhat somber, knowing that in a few hours I would have to drive to San Jose del Cabo, hop on a plane, and go home.

On asking JT and Papa how they felt the week’s filming went, they said they were pleased with accomplishing what they had hoped to throughout the week. The goal was threefold: ride horses into the Sierra la Laguna, following a similar route taken by Nelson and Goldman; surf some of Baja’s beaches (as it is one of only a few things Baja is known for to the outside world and is an important economic and cultural contributor for some places on the peninsula); and capture the opulence of Cabo San Lucas. I’d say the week was a success.

This did little to uplift my spirits completely. As we veered inland, all I could think about was that blue again. It's no wonder that legendary conservationist, scientist, and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez the world's aquarium. And let's not forget his famous quote: "The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."

I was leaving it behind again--and already I was planning the next time I’d see it. It is always with some degree of hesitancy or reserve, however. I always fear the state I will find it in when I return. It will never be as it was the time before, and its future is uncertain. 

As the plane rumbled forward, then lifted, I looked out the window and bid the wondrous place a silent farewell. 

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 46

Guest blog by Associate Producer Bri Bruce

Woke to a thick haze in the air, a mixture of fog and smoke—likely burning trash.

JT, Papa and I headed to Cerritos early, where I rented a board from a guy named Juan at one of the stands we had seen the day before. The surf was decent, though somewhat disorganized, more or less an extended beach break that sweeps around a rocky point below a large hotel on the cliff. There were only a few others out, and I enjoyed a handful of fast waves with short rides. 

I did a short interview with JT afterwards, then interviewed Juan who told us all about the changes he’d seen at this beach in the last ten years. The beach used to be relatively unknown, and was unbuilt, “undiscovered.” But now, more than a few large hotels dot the stretch of beach, and people come from all over the world to surf and swim. Juan explained how sad it was, but ultimately it was good for business. He and his brother owned the stand, provided rentals and lessons to beachgoers, and slept right there in the sand most nights.

We spent a few hours in the evening in the central part of Cabo San Lucas, walking the stretch of beach in front of the resorts that gave us a good view of Land’s End, the boats leaving and entering the harbor, and all the people.

We found an out-of-the-way place for some tacos and beer, then roamed around the main streets to film some of the nightlife. Loud music poured from the open entryways of bars and nightclubs. Men stood on the sidewalk handing out flyers, attempting to usher us into their establishments. There were families, and sunburnt couples, gaggles of women in high heels, groups of men yelling and jostling one another. Every so often we’d pass a bachelorette party, colorful tiaras or boas setting them apart.

Once we had our fill of Cabo, we made our way back to Todos Santos. We were silent on the drive home, most of us likely reflecting on the day, and the week, knowing some of us would be leaving in the morning.


Journey Down 'The Devil's Road'


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

Their 2,000 mile 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 descendents return to Baja to retrace the steps of this landmark expedition on motorcycles, and document the changing nature of this strange and beautiful landscape.

Meet the Crew  |  Support the Project

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THE MAKING OF AN EXPEDITION: The Inspiring Story Behind "The Devil's Road"

On a hot summer day in 1891, a black-bearded man driving a buckboard lumbered down a dusty dirt road in the San Joaquin Valley of California. He had just completed a scientific expedition into Death Valley and crossed over the Sierra Nevada near Yosemite. A broken singletree on his wagon forced him to stop at a nearby ranch in search of needed repairs. His name was Edward William Nelson and he was a field naturalist working for the United States Bureau of Biological Survey. Mr. Jacob Goldman, the owner of the ranch, took a keen interest in the work Mr. Nelson was assigned. The two gentleman instantly realized their shared mutual interest in the natural world.

After Nelson mentioned his need for an assistant, Jacob Goldman offered, “Maybe my son, Edward, would do?” By chance, Mr. Goldman’s eldest son, Edward Alphonso Goldman, was just the person Nelson had been looking for. The elder Goldman quickly fetched his eldest son, who was at the time employed as a foreman in a vineyard near Fresno, California. The rest, as they say, is history.

On October 10, 1891, young Edward Alphonso Goldman, then 18 years old, rode off under the employ of Edward William Nelson as his field assistant. Their first assignment was to last three months and would entail a survey of the southern San Joaquin Valley and southern coast of California. Upon completion of that detail, the two men were then dispatched to another assignment. On January 24, 1892 the two naturalists landed in Manzanillo, Mexico, in the state of Colima. Their assignment was again to last three months. Instead, this assignment lasted fourteen years, ultimately resulting in a survey of every state and territory from coast to coast. Their last assignment through Lower California, now known as Baja California, was in 1905 and 1906.

Goldman and Nelson compiled impressive resumes during their field work in Mexico. They traveled by rail, stage, steamer, schooner, wagon, mule, horseback, and by foot, all while camping much of the time. Together they collected 17,400 mammals, 12,400 birds, countless plant specimens, and amassed an enormous fund of information on the natural history of the country. These specimens were sent to the Smithsonian Institution and ultimately included several hundred specimens of plants and animal that were previously unknown to science.

Edward William Nelson (left) and Edward Alphonso Goldman (right)

President Theodore Roosevelt praised Edward William Nelson that he was, “one of the keenest naturalists [he has] ever met and a man of singularly balanced development.” And the work that the two naturalist did in Mexico has been described as “among the most important ever achieved by two workers for any single country.” 

The names and works of pioneers like Nelson and Goldman have been long forgotten by the few and unknown to the many. To most, Baja is an unforgiving wasteland of desert, cactus, and banditos. While some of that may be true, it is also a wildflower-strewn, sandy-beached, high mountain-ranged oasis with remarkable plants and incredible wildlife, some found only in this region. Such is the case with the Sierra San Pedro Martir, where several feet of snow falls each winter, the California Condor soars its skies, and its waters host the only native trout on the Baja peninsula, the Nelson’s trout (Salmo nelsoni, renamed in 1989 to Oncorhynchus mykiss nelsoni) named in honor of Edward W. Nelson. And near the old ruins of the mission Santa Gertrudis, is a 5,000-foot mountain that rises above others, Goldman Peak, Edward A. Goldman’s namesake.

These fascinating facts and incredible historical accounts have enticed a filmmaking team to dig into the Smithsonian Archives, dust off the history books, and set off on an expedition to follow Nelson and Goldman’s historic 1905 and 1906 expedition route. 

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