1988 Baja 1000

Mojave Traveler

Well-Known Member
May 22, 2017
RDC Crypto
High Desert
No matter how many times you do it afterwards, your first time is always the most memorable. Getting lost in the dark, not knowing what the heck you're doing, but enjoying it anyways. If you're lucky you're doing it with good company, too.

I'm speaking, of course, about Baja. Participating in the Baja 1000 specifically.

It was November, 1988, and i got that chance as a team member for Al Baker's XR's Only..This wasn't my first time in Baja, as my parents were frequent travelers of the northern half of the peninsula when i was a kid. My dad's co-worker from AAMCO transmissions had a place in San Felipe, too...This time i would experience Baja in a whole new light.

We traveled down the scenic coastal Highway 1 as we made our way to Ensenada. The views were breathtaking, as was the smell of the fish factories as you get into town. Luckily, our motel was far away, across the street from the infamous little taco stand. I marveled at all the "steekers" and signed pictures on the wall..And for 50 cents each, the tacos were awesome.

My friends and i enjoyed getting to know the town for the next day or two. I bought a nice "genuine" silver necklace for 2 bucks off a street vendor..It still looks nice after all these years, so who cares what it's made of. Bought a few unofficial race t-shirts, checked out the local clubs,bought some fireworks and bottle rockets, and had to fight the urge to purchase a stick of dynamite available right off the shelf..The 1/2 inch fuse was a big factor in passing that deal up.

On the morning of contingency we headed out in two trucks across highway 3 into the heart of Baja. Once again, we were treated to a nice scenic drive. We stopped at every gas station we passed, as instructed.It was interesting to see the old gas pumps being used that you would normally see at an antique store back in the states. Those sticks and leaves floating around provide an octane boost, right? Just like Techron in Chevron.

Eventually, we made it to the outskirts of Laguna Salada, and promptly found us a nice silt bed to get trapped in. Spent about 3 hours getting unstuck and out, even with 4wd on one of our trucks. The race was a day away and we already looked like we put in 3 shifts at the Pillsbury factory.

Race day went as well as we could expect. The weather was nice, and i managed to find a discarded BFG mud terrain with a blown out sidewall on the way out of Laguna Salada..I was hoping it belonged to Robby Gordon, but the next day we saw Robby at the taco stand, and he said that he heard "Scoop" Vessels had a flat in that area. No matter who it belonged to, it was stolen from my garage about 3 years later.

As we made our way back up highway 3 it was surreal to see all the lights piercing the dark in all directions you looked.This was desert racing at it's core..Very awesome. Some time around midnight we made it back to Ojos Negros and met up with the team's box truck. The area was busy until early in the morning hours. It was cold. Extremely cold. We didn't expect that. At one point there were six of us huddled in an extra cab Toyota truck trying to stay warm.

At around 4 am our last bike came through with a worn out rear sprocket. We tightened the chain as tight as we could get it, and the bike managed to make it back to town, as did we, just before sunrise. The burning tires in the streets and the people waving and cheering any vehicle that came through was reminiscent of a Mad Max movie.That night we were cleaned up and attended a nice awards ceremony poolside.

Funny thing about getting down and dirty in Baja; You can't wait to do it all over again, as we did at the '89 Baja 1000 for the run down the peninsula.That was a whole different experience.

A collage of family photos from Baja around 1975. That's me playing in the dirt of Baja as a kid in the upper left picture. I would return to play in the dirt again about 13 years later. I think our pick up truck had thrown a drive shaft u-joint at the time these pics were taken. Pops had to find a local junk yard..lol..It's funny because my father was an American Indian, who spoke fluent German after being stationed in Germany right after WWII, who liked to travel in Mexico..I don't think he spoke a word of Spanish, although the locals probably thought he was Mexican..lol

My sister and father at an old abandoned building in the middle of no where, Baja.

The team prepares to take on Baja. Al Baker is seen to the left going over last minute stuff.

Contingency attendance was light in the early morning hours

Al Baker provided some cool team apparel. My hat still contains silt from Laguna Salada

Only in desert racing could you see a group of transporters parked in the desert.

And of course, the race itself can be seen here:

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Non Sugar Coated
Jan 7, 2008
RDC Crypto
Under the Tetons
Like Ron white says "you can't make this shzzit up" any of us could write a book about the stories in Baja and most people would think we're crazy for even thinking of a 3rd of what we have experienced. I can't wait till November 5th when our prerunning starts!