Viewing entries tagged
moto

On The Devil’s Road: Local Filmmakers Make World Debut in Santa Cruz

Comment

On The Devil’s Road: Local Filmmakers Make World Debut in Santa Cruz

[Santa Cruz, Calif., April 5, 2019]—Four years ago, four Santa Cruz filmmakers set out to bring a historic expedition out of obscurity. The result was a feature-length historical-nature-adventure documentary called The Devil’s Road. The film will make its world debut at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz on April 27th.

The Devil’s Road is a culmination of over four years’ worth of research, exploration, filming, and post-production work to revive the pivotal work of two of America’s most prolific naturalists: Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman. While these are not household names, their research laid the foundation of scientific studies in Baja and were viewed as a link between Darwin and present-day scientists. 

Nelson and Goldman’s landmark expedition in 1905-1906 was unprecedented and completed in a time when the Baja Peninsula was considered one of the most remote and challenging areas in all of North America. They documented, cataloged, and obtained specimens of never-before-studied flora and fauna, all while trekking over two thousand miles on horseback.  The pair made a number of significant scientific contributions to Baja’s natural history, and their expedition was the most thorough and complete studies of Baja’s ecosystems. They would later spend their careers heralded as some of the most adept naturalists of their time, with hundreds of plants, animals, and geographical features named in their honor.

comparison 1906_2017.jpg

It wasn’t just the early achievements of these two famed naturalists—though undeniably obscure outside of academic circles—that motivated the film crew. “It was only recently that, coincidentally enough, we learned our ‘Uncle Ed’ was the famed naturalist Edward Alphonso Goldman that worked with Edward William Nelson to explore the Baja Peninsula. I have been traveling around Baja with my family since 1990. We had no idea we had much deeper roots there,” explains Todd Bruce, the producer of The Devil’s Road, and the great grandnephew of Edward Goldman. “Baja has captivated us over the years. Nelson and Goldman’s accomplishments, coupled with our familial connection to this unique place, were driving forces behind creating the film.”

In early April of 2016, the team made a trip to the nation’s capital to pour through documents and glass plate negative photographs in the archives of the Smithsonian Institution. With latex gloves, they sifted through letters between President Theodore Roosevelt and Nelson, read field notes written over a hundred years ago by Goldman, and inspected century-old photo albums and specimens collected by the pair during their expedition. The film crew was also invited by the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco to film archived specimens of mammals and birds collected by Nelson and Goldman during their time in Baja.

Campaign Video.00_18_46_00.Still003.jpg
Campaign Video.00_18_38_02.Still005.jpg

On March 1st of 2017, the film's director, JT Bruce, and producer set out on an expedition of their own, spending two months and covering over 5,000 miles of Baja desert and coastline to retrace Nelson and Goldman’s original expedition route on motorcycles. 

The film documents their thrilling quest—by motorcycle, airplane, boat, and horseback—across the Baja Peninsula where, along the way, they observe the vibrant culture and unforgettable people, and endure the challenges of the road. The film includes interviews with biologists and conservationists that provide a reminder of how grueling the original expedition was and why Nelson and Goldman’s work was so fundamental, as well as offer insight into the precarious future of the fragile ecosystems of Baja—and beyond.

On Horseback.jpg

“Much like our predecessor that inspired the film, knowing Baja on a more intimate level makes it incumbent upon us to be stewards of such a unique corner of the world. By sharing it with viewers we hope to help make a case for its conservation,” says Bri Bruce, the film’s associate producer and UC Santa Cruz alumni. “Baja is truly a magical place. There’s really no other way to describe it. I think I speak for anyone that has been fortunate enough to really witness it—stand in its deserts, swim in its oceans, get to know both the animals and the people there—they’ll see it’s worth fighting for.”

“Baja is a biodiversity hotspot,” explains The Devil’s Road Scientific Advisor Greg Meyer. Meyer is an educator at California State University, Monterey Bay, and a professional naturalist who led his first trip to Baja in 1985. He has traveled extensively throughout the peninsula, working for the Oceanic Society, Lindblad Expeditions, National Geographic Expeditions, and the BBC. “The Baja Peninsula is still one of the great wildernesses on earth and this film project has allowed us to see the changes over time and to highlight why it needs protection today.”

bow (2).JPG
desert basin.JPG
TDRmain_Nikon_(905).JPG

JT Bruce, the film’s director, expands on the themes of The Devil’s Road:

“Our film is not just a historical documentary or motorcycle road movie. It's not a reprimand on the audience for some perceived failure to protect the environment. It's a chance to gain a wider perspective and view the trajectory that our planet's ecosystems are on, and to help people make their own decisions about how we should approach the future.” 

TDRmain_Nikon_(1485).JPG

The film shows a complex interplay between past and present, and weaves together themes of discovery and change while serving as an environmental call to arms that pays homage to the strange and awe-inspiring Baja California. In an exciting mix of history, nature, and exhilarating adventure, The Devil’s Road is sure to entertain, educate, and inspire. 

The filmmakers anticipate a year of showings throughout the U.S. and internationally as they begin their film festival tour, starting at the Overland Expo in May of 2019 in Arizona.

Tickets for the premiere can be purchased at thedevilsroad.brownpapertickets.com.

Tune in to KSCO’s Off the Lip Radio Show (AM 1080, FM 104.1) on April 17th at 7pm where the filmmakers will be featured as guests.




 

Comment

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 56

April 23 (To Ensenada)

Wind! It seems that nearly the entire trip north we have been met with a headwind, wind from the side, and then gusty winds that tend to push our bikes around. We rode 136 miles today and landed at a hotel in Ensenada. JT's bike has been experiencing some issues with the chain and rear sprocket. The chain keeps loosening and would skip as he accelerated. We have had to tighten the chain several times, but can't figure out why it loosens after a day's drive. We will try to get it to a repair shop in San Diego tomorrow.

Bike problems outside Catavina

Bike problems outside Catavina

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 13

El Rosario to Cataviña

We were off quickly with a full day's filming schedule ahead of us. Our first stop was to take the 22-kilometer road out to El Marmol. This is an old abandoned onyx mine. It was being worked when Nelson and Goldman came through, but did not see it's hey day until the early to mid 1900s. The rock was said to be the finest in North America and was shipped to many parts all over the world. It is also the site of the only schoolhouse built of onyx. Now in ruins, it is clear to see the onyx walls and construction still standing tall. 

We attempted to take a side trip to Agua Dulce along the old El Camino Real. Now it is a private ranch, but in 1905 it was the only fresh water around for many miles. The "road" quickly turned into a sand pit and we made the decision to abort that attempt.

On the return to the main road, I dumped my bike at a slow speed on a small hill and it took both of us to right the heavy bike.  

While in the Sierra San Pedro Martir, we met Nathan, a young biologist and guide. He offered for us to stay at his cabin when we came to town. Arriving at his family's restaurant was a whirl of frenzied activity, as there were seven other people also invited to stay at his cabin. All of these folks were photography enthusiasts and two were Nathan’s friends we had met in the mountains.  

In a flurry, we left to his cabin "just twenty minutes away." Not knowing where we were going and just following the truck in front of us was not a good feeling for me. But, I trusted Nathan and the group was enthusiastic. It turned out to be twenty miles on the worst road I have ever been on. The sand was the worst. As the sun was setting, it was getting harder and harder to see the tracks in front of us. We finally made it, and I only dumped the bike 5 times compared to JT's one.  

Nathan's cabin sits on an 8,000-acre ranch and we were promised a tour that would be like no other in the morning. We all sat around a big fire, made burritos, and drank beer, tequila, and mescal. We crashed in the bunk beds in one of the many rooms of the cabin. 

Nathan, local Catavina resident.

Nathan, local Catavina resident.

Guest Blog: "The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 8 - Part 2

Guest Blog by Eric Bruce

The eighth day of the expedition consisted of relocating the entire Bruce clan from San Felipe, at the coast of the Sea of Cortez, to Mike’s Sky Ranch in the mountains of the Sierra San Pedro Martir at about 4,000 feet elevation.  After waiting (patiently) for JT to run back to the airport to get his riding jacket from the plane and then waiting (impatiently) for Scott to learn how to file a flight plan to exit Mexico in a couple of days, we left our lodging and headed west at about 10 am.  I am Eric Bruce, slightly older brother of Todd Bruce, and my job today was to provide transportation for the support crew.  There were just four of us, but we loaded the Honda Pilot until almost full.  For those of you who’ve ever seen how Scott and Lauri pack, especially when they fly their own plane and space isn’t an issue, you can well imagine.

We traveled on nice highways for almost two hours, passing through one military checkpoint at the intersection of Highways 3 and 5, and stopped at a long stretch of remote road to film Todd and JT on their bikes.  My Honda Pilot has a sunroof and it turns out that Lauri’s slim figure was perfect for standing up in the back seat, poking her upper body out the roof, and filming in any direction.  So, we stopped at a turnout to get the camera from JT and drove several miles down the road while Lauri got some close-up footage of the bikers – we’d follow, then pass, then get in front, then they’d pass us, and we did this a few times so JT could have some footage to choose from.  He seemed happy, so we gave him back the camera and he put it all back into its protective case mounted to the back of his Kawasaki.  It was then he said something like, “Oh, sh*t, I think I dropped the two locks for the camera case!” He figured he put them on the bike’s storage box and probably just drove off.  So, we returned to the prior turnout and found the locks no worse for wear – one was at the end of the turnout and the other didn’t fall off for several hundred yards and was sitting in the middle of the highway.  Didn’t I read something like that earlier?  I hope this isn’t a recurring theme for their trip to the cape– equipment on the highway!

Getting to Mike’s Sky Ranch was 22 miles of dirt road – most of it was pretty nice and we barely bottomed out once, but a few steep parts tested the transmission of the Honda.  Of course, the dirt bikes were the perfect vehicle for this road.  We really had only one minor issue along the way. Despite my really amazing packing job, we heard a pretty loud cracking or popping noise and within seconds we all noticed the distinctive smell of tequila. I stopped and opened the back hatch and I feared that 3 L bottle of 100% agave juice might have broken, or spilled.  I didn’t pack it on its side, did I?  Of course not – turns out the cork had popped from the elevation change and we didn’t lose a drop. 

We managed to make it just fine to Mike’s and were happy to see the place had a swimming pool!  Problem was, we couldn’t see the bottom of the pool, so nobody was willing to go in.  We made a nice lunch for ourselves poolside and immediately rigged our fly rods and started walking up the San Rafael River in search of the Nelson trout.  Our major goal in Sierra San Pedro Martir was to catch and photograph a local trout with its unique markings.  

Despite Scott proposing that Todd be given the honor of catching the first Nelson trout (and he practically railroaded the vote by insisting on Robert’s Rules of Order), we really only gave Todd one pool to fish by himself before we all wet our lines and started drifting files down the river.  Within an hour, Todd whistled for JT to come film the fish he had on his line and JT ran with his camera to film.  There is some footage that proves it was a fish and probably proves it was a Nelson trout, but the fish slipped from Todd’s hand before a close-up could be obtained.  Wahoo, there are fish in this river, Captain!  About the same time, Scott strolls up to say he caught a fish, too, but he has no photographic evidence.  Unlike Todd’s fish, it did not have the characteristic blue spots with the crimson red stripe running behind the spots along the entire lateral line of the fish.  About a half-hour later, I caught a fish and was able to get a photo that clearly shows the same marking as Todd’s fish, plus the characteristic white tip on both the dorsal and ventral fins.  It, too, was unmistakably a Nelson trout.  And I’m sure you’ll be impressed that the total length of the three fish was AT LEAST 13 inches!  Two fours and a five.  Our goal has been met, technically.

Now, we’re not sure whether there is any established world record for size of a Nelson trout, but due to its very narrow range of habitat, we figure there likely isn’t one.  So, our new goals for tomorrow are to catch and release more fish (we plan to go further upstream as there are stories of larger pools of water that might hold larger fish), get one for Wayne and Lauri, get better video documentation, and establish a world record size.  For the Devil’s Road record, it was Todd who got the 5-incher!  Just what Dad had predicted.  In the meantime, Lauri made a really nice painting of the nearby mountains and enjoyed her day on strike (some woman’s acknowledgment thing that some of the guys couldn’t really get behind).  She ended her day of leisure with a meal cooked by Mike’s staff that included a piece of grilled beef the size of South America (OK, I meant shape).

Thank you for following this Baja adventure, and thanks to the entire film crew for letting me join in the effort. 

"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 4

Ensanada to Laguna Hanson

There was every conceivable noise and sound last night. The hostel is in the middle of town and I swear there was a police station just down the road. I could hear sirens all night long. We woke and got all of our gear back onto the bikes, which took quite some time. We had to shove the bikes into a very narrow alley (so narrow the panniers had to come off in order to fit) that could be locked.

La Bufadora is a natural blowhole in the rocks at the point on the southern end of Todos Santos Bay. It is quite the tourist attraction, with bus loads of tourists coming and going throughout the day. Everyone has to walk down this path that was like running the peddler's gauntlet. One could buy just about anything imaginable from these barking, persistent enterprising folks. With that attraction checked off of our list, we needed to get out of town! Saturday midday in Ensenada is not the time one should be trying to cross town to get to Highway 3! We were slowed by a funeral procession, blocked by emergency vehicles, and nearly sideswiped by a VW bug. 

Producer Todd Bruce

Producer Todd Bruce

Things really calmed down once we were off the pavement and onto the dirt roads heading to Laguna Hanson for the night. Or so we thought... We had a crash course in driving these heavy bikes in just a thin layer of sand; our GPS coordinates were definitely off by .3 to .5 miles, and we had our first dumping of a bike. I was in front and trying to negotiate too many ruts and washouts when I had to slam on my brakes to keep from launching into a chasm. JT, in an attempt not to hit me, did a 5 mph pitch and into the sand he and the bike went. Luckily, the only damage sustained was the sheering off of one of the fuel bottles. JT's pride was bent, but he was glad to get it over with, as it was the first spill. We arrived to find a perfect camp out of the wind right next to a group of large boulders.

Laguna Hanson was full and there were several rafts of duck out on the water. The lake is named after a Norwegian that was the first white man to see this lake. He built a nice ranch just down the hill from the lake in the late 1800s. That ranch is now, and was in 1905, called Rancho El Rayo. When Nelson and Goldman came through here, the ranch was the only place during their trek where they were confronted with unfriendliness and a disagreeable attitude.  

Welcome aboard, Sena Technologies!

The Broken Wagon Films production crew is pleased to announce our newest sponsor, Sena Technologies! Sena will be supplying the motorcycle riders of our main expedition with cameras and intercoms for effective, reliable, and quality communication during the journey. 

Thank you for your support, Sena!

@Senabluetooth #RideConnected