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Baja 2000

JDDurfey

Well-Known Member
#1
So I have started putting some of my epic adventures in life down on paper. I grew up in South America and I have written several pieces about my younger years. Earlier this year I wrote a story about my first Baja race, the Baja 2000. I posted an excerpt in the "Worst Pre-run stories" thread in the Desert Racing section. It is a pretty cool story, so I thought I would share it in its entirety here. I will split it up between several postings as it is pretty long.

Keep in mind, I tried to write this so someone unfamiliar with Baja or off-racing could understand. To most of you, I explain way to much and you may get bored with it.
 

JDDurfey

Well-Known Member
#2
Baja 2000 Part 1
I met Eric Brown in the spring of 1999. We met in passing at the 4stroke Nationals motocross race at Speedworld outside of Phoenix AZ. He was racing and I was spectating. I stopped by his pit area to talk to him because we both rode Honda XR 600s. I had made mine street legal and commuted to work on it from Monday to Friday and then I would ride in the desert or at the track on the weekend. Eric was racing his against much lighter bikes and did not fare real well, but I was impressed with his tenacity. Our conversation only lasted a few minutes and I rode off.

About 3 months later Eric showed up at a friend named Brian's house. We became reacquainted and started hanging out more. We went riding in the sand dunes in Southern California and a few other places that year. I kept trying to get Eric to come ride with me around the Crown King area in the Bradshaw mountains north of Phoenix because I knew a lot of trails up there.
Finally in the summer of 2000 we met up for a ride in the Bradshaw mountains. Eric brought along two friends named Dave Gronland and Dayton Raper. We had a great time. These guys were all faster than me but since I knew the route they had to follow me for much of the day. We took a break while riding some great single track trails on the north side of Tower Mountain. It was then that I was invited to join them in Baja California that November as they took on what will always be known as the granddaddy of all off road races ever held in Baja. The race had been dubbed "The Baja 2000". While I wasn't as fast as them, my ability to flog my XR 600 through the tight trails was pretty good. I wasn't invited to ride on the team, but I was fluent in Spanish and I knew how to work on dirt bikes and those skills would prove very helpful in Baja.

The premiere racing organization for races held on the peninsula of Baja is called SCORE International. It was owned then by one of the pioneers in off-road named Sal Fish. Sal wanted to do something extra special for the turn of the century. Normally every November SCORE hosts the Baja 1000. It is a race anywhere from 800 miles to 1100 miles long. When the green flag drops the clock is ticking and race teams have around 32 hours to complete the marked course. There is no stopping of the clock for darkness or break downs. It is men and machine against the grueling and unforgiving Baja desert.
In 2000, Sal and his team laid out a race course that started in Ensenada in the north and weaved back and forth across the peninsula for 1734 miles ending in Cabo San Lucas at the southern most point of Baja Sur. This was an unprecedented event. There had never been a continuous off-road race of this length held in Baja that I am aware of. For the Baja 2000 a time limit of 80 hours was set because of the extra length.

A plan was formed to attack the race. Eric would supply the race bike and outfit it with aftermarket products supplied by his sponsors. A brand new Honda XR650R was sourced from a bike shop in El Paso Texas. The suspension was up graded along with the exhaust by Yoshimura, handlebars by Renthal, a steering stabilizer by Scotts, and other modifications to improve handling and horsepower. A giant headlight assembly with two 8" lights was sourced from Baja Designs that would be installed as close to dark as possible to enable the riders to continue across the desert at speeds nearing 100 miles per hour.

The rules state that the race vehicle, whether motorcycle or 4 wheel vehicle, must start and finish the race with the same engine block. We were entered in the Open Pro class which allowed us to use 6 riders on the bike. Each rider needed to have a "chase vehicle" and driver to get him from point A to point B during the course of the race, which is where I came in. I was Eric's chase truck driver.

The team of riders consisted of Eric Brown, Dayton Raper, Gwin Vaughn, Harry Nevel, John Albro, and Mike Dellar. All the riders except Mike lived in the greater Phoenix area. All but Mike also raced the local desert racing series called Whiplash. They knew each others strong points and weaknesses. While they were competitors on the race course they were also good friends that had come together with a unifying desire to conquer the Baja 2000.

A meeting was held at Eric's house when the race course map was released. They decided who was going to ride which section of the race course. And began planning the logistics for their chase trucks and hotel accommodations. The cost of the entry fee and the pit support fee from Honda was divided between all the riders.
David Gronland was planning on racing but not long before the race he crashed his dirt bike and injured his hand. David and his wife Lori already had rented a house for us in Cabo San Lucas. The plan was for Lori and her sister Jen to fly down and meet us at the finish line. David being the great sport he was didn't cancel his plans and he bought a ticket as well and planned to join us there to celebrate.

The race course is marked about a month in advance. This allows teams to "pre-run" the course and learn where all the dangerous locations are and map out their pit locations. We had paid for pit support through Honda. Every 50 miles of the whole course Honda had a pit stop set up. The pits were stocked with gas, parts, water, and even some food for the competitors. Honda Pit service was available to anyone riding a Honda motorcycle for a fee of about a dollar a mile.
Since we all worked full time jobs it was not feasible to spend a whole month pre-running the course. So we all converged on Baja about a week before the race.


Baja 2000 Part 2
I met up with Eric in November at his house about a week before the race early in the afternoon. He was frantically trying to finish up prepping both the race bike and his pre-run bike. He needed to take two bikes to Baja so he didn't have to pre-run on the race bike and rack up a bunch of miles on it. The race bike was brand spanking new and we needed to keep it fresh for the race. Eric had not even started the engine yet. He had a list of things he had written down that he needed to do to "bullet proof" the bike sitting on a white up-side-down bucket and only about half of the items were checked off. He asked me to go over the list and see if there was anything else I could think of that we needed to do. I really didn't know exactly what to expect in Baja and couldn't think of anything to add to his list. I had my Honda XR 600 with me so I could do some pre-running as well, but I had not completed half of the things on the list to my bike. While I was pretty good at maintaining dirt bikes, I had never prepped a bike for Baja before. Little did I realize the adventure I was about to embark on.

We loaded all three bikes, two XR 650's and one XR 600, onto a small trailer and piled our gear and gas cans into the back of his pickup. It was going to be a tight fit, but we didn't care, it just added to the adventure. The race bike was not completely prepped, but we had tools and everything we needed so we would finish it once we arrived in Baja.
Eric's pick up was a mid 90's green Nissan. It was powered by a 4 cylinder engine and a 5 speed transmission. It was nothing fancy, but it did have a 6 disk CD changer behind the seat. Eric had an assortment of music loaded into it. I don't remember all the cd's but I do remember ZZ Top, AC-DC, Beasty Boys, and LL Cool J being some of them. It was quite a selection and by the time the trip was over we knew every song by heart! Eric is 6'5" tall and I am just shy of 6'1". There was not much room inside the cab of that mini truck for much else.

The plan was for all of us to meet up in the town of Gila Bend AZ and then convoy to Baja together where Mike was already pre- running his section of the race course. Eric and I were running late and everyone went on ahead of us except Dayton and his dad Glen. They were driving a late 70's gas guzzling brown Ford F-250 extended cab pick up.
We blazed across the desert on I-8 as fast as that little Nissan would go. We had to make the border crossing in Tecate California by midnight before it closed. We were extremely over loaded for the little four cylinder engine and often had to downshift to 4th gear, so we drafted Glen like we were racing NASCAR at Talladega Speedway. We tailgated the F-250, following about 10 feet behind which is extremely dangerous, but we liked to live life on the edge and it didn't bother us.
Just west of El Centro California, after a fuel stop to quench the thirst of the big V8 Ford, we had to climb a long steep grade into the Sierra Nevada mountains of Southern California. We had to turn off the air conditioning to conserve horsepower as we needed to squeeze every bit of it from the little engine like one likes to squeeze every last drop of juice from an orange. Eric held the gas pedal to the floor for what seemed like an eternity as we climbed over 4000 feet into the mountains. Finally we reached the summit and I could almost hear the little Nissan let out a sigh of relief.

We turned off the freeway a little later and wound our way through the mountains on a twisty 2 lane road to the border crossing at Tecate. We arrived with about an hour to spare before it closed. Glen and Dayton were right behind us.
We must have looked suspicious because we were ordered to pull over for inspection by the Mexican customs officials. They claim that who they pull over is decided randomly, but I don't believe it for a second. A big red stop light starts flashing along with a loud buzzer to indicate to the driver that he must pull over to the right. Eric did the talking and I observed. The officials wanted paper work on the vehicles and dirt bikes. Thankfully, we had everything they wanted to see and we did not need to "grease the wheels" with any green backs. After about a 10 minute inspection we were allowed to continue.
The road from Tecate to Ensenada winds through the mountains with steep grades, both up and down. It is narrow with verticals drop offs in many places. Guard rails are few. And when one is found, I wouldn't trust it if you needed it. They looked like a bicycle could crash through them. We dropped down through the beautiful Guadalupe valley known for its vineyards and wine making. The race course was going to come through here so Eric stopped to show us where the turn off of the highway was. This was the section that Dayton would be riding and this was also his first Baja trip.

We arrived in Ensenada around 12:30 AM and checked into the Hotel Colon. The building of the hotel formed a square surrounding a parking area with a narrow entrance by the office. The parking lot was crammed full of other racers. Off-road race buggies, race trucks, and all the support vehicles and trailers were stacked two and three deep. There was very little room for our vehicles, but we managed to find a place to park. We didn't have a reservation, but somehow Eric talked the overnight clerk into renting us a room for the week. The 4 of us had to share two queen size beds, but we didn't care. It was all part of the adventure!
We met up with Harry, John, and their chase truck drivers and made a bee-line for a taco stand down the street. Mexican tacos are amazingly mouth watering! And in Baja, fish tacos are the taco of choice.

The owner of this particular taco stand was a huge fan of off-road racing and knew Eric by name. The small wood structure sat just off the edge of the sidewalk. The front side was hinged at the top so it would lift up revealing a bar with stools for the customers to sit at. A man was cooking meat, vegetables, and tortillas at a large flat grill along the back wall. Several fridges contained beer and sodas stood along the side walls. The food was served on paper plates with plastic utensils if needed. The smell was invigorating and my mouth started watering instantly. You could get anything your heart desired to eat as long as it was a taco.
As soon as we approached in the darkness an excited voice yelled out "My frrren Erric Brrown! Erric Brrown, my frren, welcome to Mexico. I so glad see you". The owner was so glad to see Eric and immediately started telling us how big of a racing fan he was. His English was not perfect, but he tried hard. We gobbled up about a dozen little tacos each and I don't think we had to pay for half of them.

After filling our bellies with deliciousness we made our way back to the hotel. We had several long days ahead of us to pre-run and get ready for the race.
 

JDDurfey

Well-Known Member
#3
Baja 2000 Part 3

I awoke around 7:30 am to the sound of someone in the shower. Soon the four of us went down the street to a restaurant in the San Nicholas Hotel to grab breakfast. The San Nicholas is the "host" hotel for all the SCORE races that start in Ensenada. Many of the racers stay there along with the factory Honda riders. Harry, John, and their chase drivers had left early headed south to pre-run their sections. Gwen would be coming down in a day or two and Mike was already down south pre-running the finish. We would not see them until the race.

Eric decided it would be a good idea for me pre-run with Dayton. It was his first race in Baja and since I was fluent in Spanish Eric thought it best if we stick together.

The plan was for Dayton to ride the start of the race and hand the bike off to Eric at the 150 mile mark. Dayton would ride the bike again later in the race as well. Eric hitched a ride with some friends south to pre-run the first part of his section. To ensure that the race bike was not stolen we wrestled it into our tiny hotel room for safe keeping. This was a common practice by many race teams I learned. It would be heartbreaking to have your $10,000 plus race machine come up missing right before a race.
Dayton was riding a bone stock Honda XR650R he had borrowed from someone and I was on my Honda XR600R. My bike had numerous performance modifications to improve the already reliable machine. I had the suspension improved by Race Tech. The engine had been bored out to 628 CCs. The head was ported and the cam had been changed to complement the larger displacement. The exhaust was upgraded to FMF. The handle bars and controls had been improved along with the headlight for night riding. Of course, the graphics and seat cover had been changed to give it a unique look. All in all, it was a really great reliable ride.

Dayton and I geared up at the hotel. Glen was going to meet us at race mile 65 with gas to fuel our bikes. The race course started right in town about 2 blocks from the hotel. The laws about riding dirt bikes on the street are pretty lax in Baja as racers are welcomed by almost everyone.

We turned down into a wide drainage wash that doubled as the race course and began following the course markers out of town. The course wound through a few streets and finally we made our way up and over a mountain where the race course joined the highway on the north east side of Ensenada. In many places the race course was on the highways. We rode the 12 mile highway section to the Valle de Guadalupe where we turned off into another large dry wash and headed south toward Ojos Negros on the narrow dirt road winding through the mountains.

Dayton was a great rider and I was having difficulty keeping up at times. I had never raced in the desert like he had. My racing experience was strictly motocross. I didn't read the terrain as well and had to learn to see through the dust. About 15 miles from Ojos I plowed into a large rock that was half buried. This is where my lack of Baja experience reared its ugly head. I didn't crash from the collision, but I pinched my front inner tube causing my tire to quickly go flat. It turns out I should have been using "heavy duty inner tubes". I was using tubes typically used on motocross bikes.

Occasionally Dayton would wait for me to regroup and he was waiting right around the next turn. I pulled up and explained what happened. While I was new to Baja, growing up in South America did prepare me for trail side repairs. I dismounted and pulled tools out of my backpack to change my tube. Dayton was shocked and suggested we continue on to rendezvous with his dad where we could repair it. I agreed and remounted, riding cautiously for the next 15 miles with my flat front tire.

We met up with Glen at the road crossing at Ojos Negros. He had gas cans at the ready and a snack for us. Glen jumped into action, attacking my front wheel with fervor. He was a pro at changing motorcycle tires and made short work of it. He came prepared with spare parts in his truck and installed a much better tube than I had started with.

After a half hour break Dayton and I rode off to the south following the race course. I was getting much more confident and our speed was much faster after the break. Glen packed up the truck and followed the highways to the town of Uruapan, south of Ensenada. We were to meet up at race course mile 150.

Dayton and I were both having a blast. We rode pretty close together, blasting across the desert. The race course was fairly twisty through the mesquite trees. Occasionally there would be a dry wash crossing or a small mountain to climb over. We didn't see anyone else most of the afternoon until we spotted a silver Toyota Land Cruiser up ahead across a small valley.

We caught up to the Land Cruiser and the driver graciously pulled to the side of the narrow road to let us by. The window rolled down and a hand shot out as if the driver wanted to talk to us. Dayton and I stopped to see what the issue was. I may have been new to Baja, but I recognized the driver immediately. It was none other than the legendary "Ironman" Ivan Stewart. He asked us how our day was going as Dayton and I stood there star struck. Ivan was very down to earth and when he learned it was our first Baja trip he whipped out his racecourse map and showed us a few key notes to remember. He then autographed a couple of posters and I crammed them into my back pack. I sure wish I still had those posters, but they have been long since lost. He wished us well and off we went ahead of him.

We had about 10 miles to go till we arrived in Uruapan when I caught up to Dayton. He was having bike problems. His clutch appeared to be fried. He was stopped in a deep sandy section and his bike would not move. We sat there for a few minutes trying to decide what to do when the Ironman caught up to us. He stopped to make sure everything was okay and told us we only had about 10 miles to go to arrive at our destination. After informing him we would be fine he sped off leaving us in a cloud of flying sand.

Once again my South American upbringing came into use as I produced a tow strap from my back pack. Dayton was shocked again because he had never known anyone to carry so many tools or supplies with them. We proceeded to tie the two bikes together and my trusty Honda towed Dayton for the remainder 10 miles to Glen's location.

The sun was setting as we arrived in Uruapan. In Baja, in November it is full dark at 5 pm. This info was noted and stashed away in the back of my brain to be used many times in the following years. After looking Dayton's bike over we came to the conclusion that he had been riding with the clutch adjusted improperly and after correcting this the clutch worked fine. We did a quick oil change on the engine while we were at it. Dayton then made a few quick passes up and down the highway and everything seemed to work great.

We loaded our bikes into Glen's Ford and made our way back to Ensenada to meet up with Eric. Our first day of riding in Baja had been a good one and Dayton and I were full of "bench racing" stories to tell Glen about the race course. The highlight of the day was getting to meet Ivan Stewart.
 

JDDurfey

Well-Known Member
#4
Baja 2000 Part 4

I woke for my second day in Baja excited but tired. The day before had been the longest ride in the desert I had been on in quite some time. Not only did we ride 150 miles, we rode quite fast while we were moving.

I needed to do some maintenance on my bike and got to work. I cleaned my air filter, adjusted my chain, and checked everything over.

The hotel was a buzz with teams working on trucks, buggies and bikes. Everyone was friendly and helpful to each other. One of the gentlemen staying at our hotel was named Richard Jackson. He had raced every Baja 1000 since 1967. He was doing a few things to his race bike and since Eric had introduced me to him the night before I took the opportunity to look over his immaculately prepped race machine. His team was riding the new and popular Honda XR650R. He had modified many areas of the bike to improve handling and comfort. He also had designed a custom headlight assembly featuring the fairly new HID type of bulb. A number of teams were using them for the first time on dirt bikes. They are extremely bright and light weight, but their reliability was still to be seen. Richard was helpful giving me advice on bike prep and the race course.

It was about 10 am when we finally started heading south. We loaded our three bikes and gear bags in Glen's truck. We tentatively planned on an over night stay in the village of Catavina about a 4 hour drive south. Eric told us he would find a place for us to stay and leave some sort of sign for us to find him.

We dropped Eric off at the beginning of his section of the course. He was going to start riding at the northern end of his section which followed the Pacific coast from Santo Tomas to the south of San Quintin. From there the course turned inland to the east before turning back south where it paralleled the highway before joining the highway for a stint just north of Catavina.

Dayton was scheduled to remount the bike on the south side of Catavina where the course crossed the road. We arrived at the road crossing about 3 pm and quickly unloaded our bikes and donned our riding gear. We only had about 2 hours of daylight and at least 90 miles to ride to get to where we would meet up with Glen. We knew we were going to be riding in the dark, but we didn't mind.

Glen bid us farewell as we rode off to the south. Not far into our ride the course dropped into a deep sandy and rocky dry riverbed. After about a two miles in the twisty wash the sand revealed that the clutch on Dayton's bike was indeed catastrophically damaged the previous day.

Dayton's clutch was slipping and he came to a stand still in the horsepower robbing sand. We had only ridden 9 miles! We quickly discussed our options when another rider over took us. He gave a little wave as he passed. Dayton realized we could have sent word with him to Glen and told me to catch up to him. My engine roared to life as I sped off as fast as I could ride. But as hard as I tried the couple of minute lead the mystery rider had was too much to overcome. After about 10 miles the course topped a hill and I could see the rider's dust trail about a mile ahead across a small valley and I knew attempting to overtake him was pointless.
I turned around and headed back to Dayton and gave him the disappointing news. Right about then a Ford Ranger came by blasting down the wash. The pickup did not stop, covering us with sand and rocks. We became furious because we had missed two opportunities to send word to Glen that he needed to come pick us up.

After a few more minutes passed I knew we needed to do something about our situation quickly. The sun was getting low in the west and I didn't want to deal with darkness along with a broken bike. I made the call for us to tow Dayton's bike back to the road and see if it could be ridden on the pavement.

We tied my tow strap between the two bikes. My engine did not like the strain in the deep sand. I grabbed a handful of throttle and showered Dayton with rocks and sand from my spinning rear tire as we began to make our way back up the wash.
The sun had just set when we reached the pavement. Glen was long gone and we were all alone in the middle of Baja! Dayton tried to ride his bike down the highway, but his clutch started slipping again at each hill. After a quick conversation we decided we needed to stash his bike and continue on doubled up on my bike. Dayton started to ride off into the desert away from the road to ditch his bike when I realized we would never find it in the dark upon our return. With my urging, we continued south a little farther where we found a large culvert under the road we could leave the bike in. After returning to the roadway I saw a KM 93 sign a few yards up the road, so I made a mental note of the location to recover the bike later.

Dayton had an extra gallon of gas in his backpack so we poured it into my bike because we had a long way to ride and did not know what we were going to encounter along the way. I was beginning to worry because we didn't even have a racecourse map with us. We really hadn't needed one while staying on the course since it is marked by arrows and the tracks of other racers showed us where to go. But now we needed to find a race course access road in the dark. I vaguely remembered where it was located from the few minutes I had looked at the map. The only thing I remembered was that it would be a right turn somewhere after the village of Nuevo Rosarito. I did not share my concerns with Dayton as he had already made me aware several times that he was pretty distraught about our current situation. I decided I was going to take the "cool and calm" approach to the situation because freaking out would do neither of us any good.

I turned my backpack around so it hung on my chest and Dayton climbed on the back of my Honda. I did not have any passenger foot pegs and this created another issue. So Dayton placed his feet on my foot pegs and I rested mine on top of his. The strain of pulling Dayton and his bike up the wash had taken a toll on my engine as it was now serenading us with a loud ticking noise. This also made me nervous, but I couldn't think of that now as we rode through the darkness.

There was no moon and the Baja darkness was ominous. The narrow paved road did not have any stripes on it and road signs were few and far between. We made pretty good time as we headed south toward our unknown destination. Soon we learned something else we were not very well prepared for. Cold, downright cold! Neither one of us imagined the desert in Baja would get that cold. We must have looked very much like the two characters in the movie Dumb & Dumber while riding on the mini-bike through the Rocky Mountains except there was no relieving of any bladders while on my bike.

After about an hour of riding Dayton begged me to stop so he could warm up. I gladly agreed because I was shivering as well and pulled over to the edge of the pavement. The ticking noise emitting from my engine was downright scary and for fear of not getting it restarted we did not turn it off. I was also beginning to wonder where we were going to find gas.

While I thought of the worst that could happen I did my best to act like everything was in control and would be alright. I knew freaking out would solve nothing and Dayton was clearly concerned about our situation and continuously voiced it. We were just about to remount my bike when a white box van passed us. I waved my hand to see if they would stop so I could ask for some directions. As the van passed I saw the license plate was from California and shortly after the brake lights illuminated. I yelled at Dayton to jump on and slammed my bike into gear as we raced off in pursuit.

About a quarter mile down the road we caught up to the van. I pulled up to the driver side door when a shaggy haired head shot out the window and yelled "Are you guys freaking nuts?!!!" We were extremely relieved to find someone else that was clearly there for the race.

I turned off my engine and we dismounted from my bike as two guys climbed down from the van. Upon introduction, we learned that the driver was none other than legendary Honda factory mechanic Eric Crippa. He and his traveling partner were headed way down south to set up a pit for everyone using the Honda pit support program and the factory Honda race teams. I had seen Eric Crippa's name in magazine articles but never thought I would meet him, and here I was in the middle of Baja in the dark and he was coming to my aid with a smile on his face!

We quickly explained what was going on and how we came to be in this predicament. Eric and his friend shook their heads in disbelief because they couldn't believe what we were doing. They asked how they could help so I asked for some gas and a look at his race course map.

After filling my bike with gas and quickly memorizing the pertinent part of the map we prepared to get underway. Eric then offered to let Dayton ride with them and follow me to the turn off the highway.

It took about another hour of riding through the pitch black night to find our turn off. It was marked by a sign for the fishing village Santa Rosaliita. Eric topped off my gas tank once again and Dayton jumped on the back again. He was nice and warm from the ride in the truck and in much better spirits than an hour earlier.

We rode west toward the coast for about 10 miles where we encountered the race course. Our original plan was for Glen to come to this point and then make his way backwards up the race course a ways to meet up with us. So I turned north and proceeded to ride about a mile when we encountered a motorcycle coming toward us. I pulled over and stopped as did the other bike. While strange noises were still being emitted from my engine I no longer feared shutting it off so we could talk to the unknown rider.
Normally the factory Honda team used two or three riders in the Baja 1000 per team and usually fielded two teams, A and B. But since the Baja 2000 was a much longer race than normal a decision was made to combine the two teams of riders for the "A" team and bring back a few veteran riders to fill out the "B" team. The B team would consist of former Baja champions. The rider that stopped to talk to us was the legendary Paul Ostbo. He had raced with Kawasaki in their heyday of winning in Baja as well as worked in R&D for Honda. He may have been riding on the "vet" team, but he could still rip across the desert with ease. Paul was scheduled to race this section and he knew it would be dark when he took over the bike so he was out pre-running in the dark.

Just as we started to explain why we were riding double another set of lights came into view and a yellow Ford Ranger pulled up. I immediately realized this was the same Ranger that did not stop for us earlier. I explained our situation and with a bit of an attitude asked the Ranger driver why he didn't stop for us. My anger quickly subsided when he explained that if he had stopped to check on us he would have gotten stuck and since there were two of us there they figured we would be okay. Dayton then asked them if they had seen a guy in a brown Ford named Glen. Paul looked down at the odometer on his handlebars and informed us that he had spoken to Glen 20 miles up the race course. Dayton and I were elated. This was the best news we had heard all night. Dayton took one look at me and said "You've been driving all night. It's my turn to be in the front"

With a swift kick of his right leg, Dayton fired my bike up and slammed it into gear. I switched my backpack to my back again and jumped on the back. No sooner was I seated than we were off. The course was fairly smooth with long straight sections that ended in sharp turns. Dayton was clearly riding much faster than he could see with my headlight. Many times we were sliding sideways through turns. I hung onto him and prayed we didn't crash. I had never ridden on the back of a motorcycle with a possessed driver like that until this night. Every chance he got Dayton twisted the throttle as hard as he could. If there had been any hope for my engine earlier in the day, there would be none after he was done with it.

We traversed the 20 miles with incredible speed and found Glen and the big brown Ford truck. He had just packed up the grill and the smell of the dinner he cooked still hung in the air. Dayton and I were starving and scarfed down food as Glen loaded my bike into his truck. Between bites of food we explained what happened and all the things we had gone through to get there. I looked down at the odometer on my bike and saw that we had just ridden 140 miles, most of which we rode double. Glen then informed us that the rider I tried to send word with was a Japanese man that did not speak English. Glen flagged him down and attempted to extract some info about our whereabouts to no avail. The man just kept nodding and pointing down the race course.
We climbed into the pickup with Dayton taking the middle position. The last thing I remember was confirming with Glen to stop at KM 93 so we could collect Dayton's bike. I was out like a light. I leaned up against the door and Dayton leaned up against me and we slept hard.

I woke suddenly with Glen slamming on the brakes and exclaiming that we had just gone by KM 93. I quickly explained that the bike was in the culvert under the highway as Glen pulled off the road to park. Dayton woke groggily and joined me in the trek down to the bike. We both let out a sigh of relief that it was still there. I really didn't think it would be stolen because who would think to stop in the middle of Baja in the dark and check this particular culvert to see if there was a treasure stashed there. But nonetheless the thought was in the back of my mind the whole time we were gone. The bike fired right up and we jumped on. We rode double one last time up the hill to the pickup. I hoped that was the last time I rode on the back of a dirt bike for a very long time. A few minutes later we were on our way again. We still needed to find Eric and get some sleep.

We rolled into the village of Catavina around 1:30 AM. There is a nice hotel which makes a great stopping point for racers and Baja travelers. I inquired of the night desk clerk if there was anyone there by the name of Eric Brown. He checked the book and said no. I then asked if there was anywhere else to stay in town, to which he answered negatively. Discouraged I walked outside to discuss what to do next when the night guard posted outside the front door stopped me. With a whisper he told me there was another little hole-in-the-wall hotel up the street. He suggested we check there.

During races in Baja it is customary for all bikes and vehicles associated with a race vehicle to place the corresponding race number on their chase and pre-run vehicles. This makes you more visible to other teams and helps your own team when looking for you. Our number for this race was 6X which Dayton and I both had on our motorcycles and It was prominently displayed on the windshield and back window of Glen's truck as well.

As Glen turned his truck into the courtyard of the primitive hotel the headlights shone on a large "6X" written crudely in electrical tape on the door of a room. We knew immediately we had found Eric and a place to crash for the rest of the night. I jumped out of the truck and started pounding on the door. After several minutes a sleepy Eric hesitantly cracked the door open with a blanket wrapped around his 6'5" frame. When he realized who it was he welcomed us into the small room. The sparse accommodations included one double bed and one single bed and a tiny bathroom with no hot water. Glen and Dayton took the double bed and since Eric had already claimed the single I crashed on the cold concrete floor. I wrapped up in a blanket I found in the closet and used my back pack for a pillow. I didn't even bother taking my riding gear or boots off. Even though it was far from comfortable I was asleep in a few minutes. I think the stress of the evening finally being completely resolved allowed me to sleep hard even in the less than desirable conditions.
 

JDDurfey

Well-Known Member
#5
Baja 2000 Part 5

I woke to cold sore muscles. I was laying on cold concrete still wearing my riding gear from the day before wrapped in a thin blanket. I don't think I moved an inch while I slept and my muscles and bones ached because of the cold hard floor and the lack of movement.

I lay there reflecting on the previous two days of adventures. I hadn't ridden my dirt bike that far in a very long time, much less two days in a row. And riding double the night before in an uncomfortable position didn't help with my sore muscles.

Finally I could not take it any longer and I forced myself to get up. I was hungry and had to get off the hard floor. I went out to the truck and retrieved my bag. I had to change out of my smelly riding gear. I must have woken the others when I opened the door because both Glen and Eric were awake when I returned. Dayton was being stubborn and refusing to rise, but he was awake.
We packed up and finally Dayton crawled out of bed. We were all starving and walked a hundred yards or so to a primitive restaurant. It was not much more than a typical taco stand. There were only two walls under the roof. About six red plastic tables and chairs advertising Coca-Cola were set out for customers. We chose a table in the morning sun to attempt to warm ourselves. The walls surrounding the cooking area were covered with off-road racing posters. Almost everywhere you go in Baja you will find a Johnny Campbell poster adorning a wall. He is the hero to many Baja kids who dream of racing one day. And this restaurant was no different than the rest. The sun had faded the older posters over the years. It was fun to look at some of the older posters from the 80's and see the passion the owner had for racing.

The breakfast was very tasty. This is where I learned that you can almost never go wrong in Baja ordering "machaca con huevos" for breakfast. It is a dish of shredded beef and scrambled eggs with diced peppers thrown in. It is served with tortillas, but I usually eat the machaca separately from the tortillas.

While we ate we all shared the stories from the day before. Eric had a good pre-run, except that he had to ride the last 60 miles in the dark on the highway and didn't get to see that part of the racecourse. Dayton, Glen, and I shared what had happened with us and we all had some good laughs about our adventures.

After breakfast Eric rode back up the highway on his bike and pre-ran the last few miles of his section. While he was gone Glen and I took his truck down the road about a quarter mile to buy some gas. There was no gas station in town, but there was a gentleman selling gas out of 55 gallon barrels. The gas was more expensive than normal, but we had no choice because the big Ford v8 was thirsty. The owner had a plastic hose he used to syphon the gas out of a barrel into a plastic jug which he then poured into the pickup using a funnel. He was a pro at syphoning the gas and never spilled a drop or drank any. One time as a kid I tried to syphon some gas and ended up with a mouthful, and I never tried again after!

When Eric returned we loaded his bike into the truck with the other two and piled our gear bags in around them. We got on the road shortly after because we had to get back to Ensenada to finish the prepping race bike.

We arrived in Ensenada after a 5 hour drive. None of us felt like doing anything but relaxing for the rest of the day, but we didn't have that luxury. Eric and Dayton wrestled the race bike out of our hotel as I set up a makeshift mechanic shop behind Eric's little trailer. I brought a small tool box full of the essential tools needed to work on my bike which was pretty much exactly what we needed for the race bike. Eric produced his check list and we attacked the bike. We still had not even started the brand new engine.
It was dark when we finally came to a stopping point in our work on the race machine. Eric gave the starter a few kicks and the engine sprang to life. After a quick spin around the block he handed the bike over to me to go put a few miles on it. I put my helmet, riding boots, gloves, and jacket on. I did not know the city so Eric pointed me toward the coast highway to Tijuana. We wanted to put 50 or so miles on the engine to "break it in".

I headed north out of town. After paying at a toll booth I followed the Pacific coast. In places the divided highway hangs on a cliff over the ocean. While I couldn't see the water because of the darkness I could smell the ocean air and feel the cool breeze. The farther north I rode the colder the air became. Suddenly I felt raindrops stinging my face inside my helmet. Before I could even think about finding a place to turn around I was enveloped in a full down pour. The rain was extremely painful on my nose and cheeks. My goggles did not cover my whole face, leaving my nose, cheeks, and mouth exposed to the elements.
Finally, I found a place to turn around and headed back to Ensenada. The bike was running great and I was pleased with the performance. The odometer read 64 miles when I arrived at the hotel.

After giving my analysis on the bike I changed out of my wet clothes. Dayton and Eric wrestled the bike back into the hotel room. The three of us then headed out to check out the night life of Ensenada. Everywhere we turned there were other racers and team members. We ran into a people Eric knew and received course reports. At some point we talked to someone that had been pre-running way down south and met our teammate John Albro. He said that John had crashed pretty hard but was till able to ride. This news left us with more questions than answers, but there was nothing we could do about it at that point. Dayton and I told the story of our adventure from the day before to the amazement of all.

We didn't stay out too late because the next day was going to be a busy one. But as we walked back to the hotel we stopped at the taco stand to grab a late night snack. The owner was excited to see "Erric Brrown" again and wanted to know how our trip was going. So I told him of our adventures in Spanish so he could understand. The tacos were excellent as always.

We all slept in a little the next day. This was the last day before the race. We still had a few more things to do to the race bike.
After breakfast we wrestled the race bike back out of the room to our makeshift shop. I changed the oil and filter because we didn't want to race on the "break in" oil. Dayton found a couple more things we needed to address so those were handled as well.
While I addressed the last of the items on the bike Eric and Dayton headed over to registration to pick up their wrist bands and complete any paperwork needed.

Meanwhile about a block away a huge party was getting under way. The day before most off-road races an event called "Contingency" takes place. A vacant lot about the size of a city block was transformed into a vendor area. All the competitors slowly drive or push their race vehicles down between the rows of vendors and fans. If you find a vendor whose product you use you can sign up with them and possibly win free product or even cash from them if you do well in the race. Most of the vendors are geared toward the trucks and buggies so we skipped much of it with the motorcycle. However, there were so many fans crammed into the small area that it was a slow and tedious process. We were often stopped by kids and adults wanting autographs and stickers. They didn't care that I was not racing, they still wanted an autograph.

Contingency row ended at the entrance to the tech inspection area. We had a list of items we had to address on the motorcycle for safety reasons and the bike had to be inspected and approved by the race officials before it could race. A man they called Red greeted Eric by name. He had a giant red beard, I never asked, but assumed that was why he was called "Red". I noticed Eric bummed a smoke from a stranger earlier and tucked it behind his ear. Eric now offered it to Red to "grease the wheels" so to speak. Red gladly accepted the gift and proceeded to thoroughly inspect our bike. We were required to have an operating tail light as well as carry a small first aid kit. Red went as far as opening the small zippered pouch to ensure it contents were acceptable. All helmets had to be inspected and a sticker was put on each one indicating it passed inspection. This created an issue for the guys down south that did not go through tech. I learned later that if one of our riders was found to have a helmet without a sticker it would be inspected at that point and if it did not pass tech the team would be disqualified from the race. Red was assisted by another great man named Art Savaveda. Years later Art would become the technical director of the whole organization. Both of these men worked tirelessly to ensure every race machine was as safe as possible and they always had a smile on their faces at every race I attended for years to come. Red's final task was to engrave a small marking on the engine case to ensure we started and finished the race with the same engine. We were allowed to repair it if necessary, but we were not allowed to change it.

The afternoon was pretty much shot by the time we finished tech inspection. As we made our way back to the hotel we stopped by the factory Honda pit truck and spoke to a few of the factory Honda guys about the race course. While we were a competitor of theirs, they were always willing to chat and share a few of their secrets. We were not so naive to think that they told us all their secrets. We all knew we didn't have much of a chance at beating the factory team, but we planned on giving it one heck of a try.
After one last look over of the race bike we wrestled it back into the hotel room. We then began to pack up and prepare the pick ups for the trip south. I offered to leave my motorcycle there so we wouldn't need to pull the trailer. So we loaded Eric's pre-run bike into his pick up to take for spare parts. This turned out to be an extremely wise decision. I loaded my tool box and gear bag along with Eric's things into his pick up. I completed my project as my stomach began to growl.

All four of us made the trek down the street to a great Mexican food restaurant called Mariscos to get a great dinner. We all had fresh seafood while a man tried to play a keyboard and sing American songs for our entertainment. He had a microphone and amp set up to ensure the patrons at the next five restaurants could hear him. He butchered "Hey Jude" so badly I am sure John Lennon was turning over in his grave and Paul McCartney's ears were ringing where ever he was at the time! The food was great, but the music made our ears bleed. Eric finally offered the guy money to stop playing since he was set up about 6 feet from our table and his volume was rather loud. It was almost as if the musician thought that the loud volume would over power his deficiency in creating good music. The musician was slightly offended, but accepted Eric's money and we were left in peace. The rest of our dinner was spent discussing a race day strategy. We had a great plan for our part of the race course and could only hope our teammates down south would be ready for us when we handed the bike off to them.

After dinner we walked to the convention center for the driver's meeting. The large room was packed when we arrived and were forced to stand at the back. Local officials were present and the SCORE director Sal Fish led the meeting. Pomp and circumstance was prevalent at all the drivers meetings. It was opened with the Mexican national anthem and words from both the mayor of Ensenada and the tourism director of Baja. These two men spoke exclusively in Spanish and I could tell most of the racers present did not understand them. When they were finished Sal spoke about the race course. There were a few last minute changes or dangerous areas to speak about. He also advised us that we needed to obey the posted speed limits on the highway sections because the Federal Police would be patrolling and possibly ticketing speeders. Of course we scoffed at this. Who would go the speed limit while in a race? Sal also took the opportunity to thank all the race sponsors. The meeting took over an hour which seemed like much longer.

We returned to the hotel to go over everything one last time. Upon entering the courtyard the night desk clerk approached us and said he had a message for Eric to call a hotel in southern Baja. Eric followed the clerk into the office to make the call.
After a while Eric returned from the office. He had talked to both Harry and John down south. Harry was ready for us. He had completed two runs through his section and was prepared. John confirmed he had crashed pretty hard while pre-running and was beat up pretty good. He was still planning on racing but may need to let someone else ride some of his miles. Gwin also left a message with the clerk saying he was ready for us as well. Eric had not heard from Mike, but we had to forge on with the plan hoping they would be where they were supposed to be.

We finally turned in for the night after hot showers. I made a mental note then to never make another trip to Baja without bringing a towel from home. I decided that in an effort to deter bath towel theft the hotel issued horrible towels to the guests.


Baja 2000 Part 6
Race Day Part 1
A watch alarm interrupted my wonderful sleep. The noice was piercing through the dark room as someone's hand begrudgingly felt around blindly searching for the hated sound. After what seemed eternity the beeping watch was silenced. Everyone was awake, but no one moved. We all wanted a few more minutes of shut eye.

I laid there in the warm bed thinking about what lay before us and what my roll in the race was. I was extremely concerned about not doing my job correctly. We had 1734 miles of off-road to get the bike through. There were so many pieces and variables that all had to fall into place simultaneously that it seemed like a near insurmountable task.

I heard a motorcycle engine start outside in the parking lot. Down the street somewhere I heard the unmistakable note of a race bike accelerating down the street with the exhaust note reverberating off the block building walls. I looked at my watch, it was 4:45 AM. We needed to be at the starting line by 6 AM for the race start at 6:30. One by one we rose and packed up the last of our things. Dayton and Eric put all their riding gear on. Eric was the "rider of record". The rules state that he must either start or finish the race. Since he was not planning on riding the finish he was going to start the race and then pass the bike to Dayton after about half a mile.

We left the pick ups at the hotel and I walked to the start while Eric rode the race bike. Dayton and Glen walked down the street to where Dayton would mount the bike. The morning was quite cold and I shivered under my jacket.

The street in front of the Riviera Convention Center was packed with race fans and race teams. There was an over head blow up sign advertising Tecate beer the riders would start under. Stoic faced policemen lined both sides of the street keeping back fans and team members from getting too close to the start line. I felt like the policemen were taking their job much to seriously. The first half mile of race course was on the city streets. Almost the entire distance was lined with spectators braving the cold morning air to watch the bikes leave.

Numbers had been drawn to determine the starting order. The motorcycles start the race one at a time every minute. Our number was 6X. This meant we were in the Open Pro class and the sixth bike off the line. Behind us were a number of other classes of motorcycle racers. The classes differed by engine size, age of the team, and riding ability. Richard Jackson, whom I had met a few days earlier, and team were riding in the 50+ Class which meant every rider was fifty years or older. The starting order of the classes was determined by the speed of the riders in the class. Typically the sportsman classes are the slowest and start last. The quad classes started after the bikes. Then there would be a three hour window before the 800 horsepower unlimited trucks called Trophy Trucks started. The Trophy Trucks were followed by the high horsepower unlimited buggies called Class 1. These were then followed by numerous other four wheel vehicle classes of varying speeds. There was even a class for slightly modified Volkswagen Bugs. It is called Class 11 and they are the slowest and most do not complete the course in the allotted time. Remove the windows, install some race seats and seat belts, fabricate a roll cage and you can race in Baja with a Bug.

Finally motorcycles began to roar to life. I walked with Eric as we moved closer to the start line. The police would not let me stay with him so I watched from the side of the street as the green flag waved for him.

Eric twisted the throttle and the 650 cc engine roared down the street. Eric being quite the showman turned the first turn and proceeded to lift the front wheel off the ground to the joy of the spectators. Down the street he went with the front wheel lofted high in the air, putting on a show. He was one of the best guys I knew when it came to riding on the back wheel.
Eric rounded another corner where Dayton and Glen were waiting. Eric jumped off the bike and Dayton jumped on. In his excitement Dayton proceeded to release the clutch lever to quickly and stall the engine. It took a few hasty kicks to re-fire the engine. Dayton promptly slammed it into gear and with a handful of throttle rocketed off down into the wide drainage wash that led out of the city.

Meanwhile, I jogged back to the hotel to meet up with Eric and Glen. We quickly removed the last of our belongings from the room and jumped in the pick ups. We had a 40 mile drive to where Dayton was to hand the bike to Eric. As we made our way out of the city I was amazed at all the chase vehicles making a mad dash south. It was almost as if the chase trucks were in a race of their own.
The buildings thinned into farm land as we headed toward a low mountain range. At the base of a hill was a military check point. This was the first of many that we would encounter on the trip. Young men with M-16s and AK-47s hung around their necks stood guard as higher ranking men decided who needed to be pulled over for inspection. Much to our chi grin we were elected to stop, as was Glen. We were ordered from the trucks as two young men in green military fatigues searched the trucks for contraband. They were looking for drugs or any sign of weapons or ammunition, which were all illegal. Upon finding no evidence to detain us any longer we were released to continue our journey. I personally felt like these military check points were a way the government attempted to keep people in line and presented an opportunity to shake down the public.

The narrow road zig zagged between the mountains. Tight narrow curves with no signage caused us to maintain a slow speed. It was not long before we were slowed even further behind a long line of chase trucks. Following a curve I was able to spot the back of a large slow moving Mexican truck up ahead. One by one the chase trucks passed the overloaded truck when there was room. Most of these passes would have been deemed illegal in the U.S., but we were in Mexico and in the middle of a race so caution and laws were thrown out the window.

We arrived at the village of Uruapan where Team Honda had set up pit number 3 at race mile 150. Dayton would be refueling here. We checked in with them to hear how the race was progressing. The pits had radio communication between them when conditions permitted and most pits had a dedicated radio person that would keep track of racers and announce over the air when riders cleared their pit. We discovered that Dayton cleared pit 1 in 3rd position. We were extremely excited about this, but we also knew there was still a long way to go.

Eric wanted to do the rider change just down the road at the top of a hill. The course joined the highway at pit 3 for about 10 miles. So we drove on down there to wait for Dayton. We were stationed at the top of a steep hill that was the location of a "legal" short cut. The highway turned to the right and made a switchback down the mountain and directly in front of us was a steep trail that dropped right off the side of the mountain. Before us was the fertile valley of Santo Tomas. A vineyard and winery could be seen off in the distance.

Sticking to the race course in those days was not completely enforced except at the check points. Creativity was the norm and while frowned upon, everyone did it. In fact, that was a big reason teams pre-ran the course. Everyone wanted to find short cuts and push the boundaries of what was deemed legal. However, this trail was noted as a legal short cut.

Waiting was always the worst part of racing in Baja, especially in those days. We had no radio or form of communication with anyone. We just stood there in limbo waiting impatiently as Eric tried to loosen up his muscles in the cool air.

Finally we heard a motorcycle coming. We could tell from the sound it was a race bike traveling at a high rate of speed. My adrenaline began to pump with anticipation. A motorcycle appeared around a corner as Eric donned his helmet. It was a cardinal sin for the waiting rider not to be completely prepared to jump on the bike when it arrived. While we doubted the first bike was Dayton, Eric knew it was better to be ready than not. As the bike approached we saw the number displayed was 1X. This was the factory Honda A team bike, the best in Baja. The rider slowed as he approached the drop off before blasting over the side of the mountain and down the steep short cut. There was a small ditch at the bottom of the steep hill and the rider effortlessly leaped the race machine over it and onto the paved highway again. A huge handful of throttle was applied and the exhaust roared as he accelerated hard down across the valley. After a couple of gentle curves the road was straight for several miles and I am sure the speed of the bike was in excess of 100 mph as the rider tucked himself down behind the handlebars for aerodynamics.

And our wait continued. Soon another bike appeared and dropped over the mountain, although not as spectacularly as the first. His speed across the valley matched the first, however. This bike was followed by several more before we began to worry about Dayton. After an hour went by we decided to return to the Honda pit to check in and see where Dayton was.

We quickly drove the few miles to the pit with fear that Dayton would pass right by us. We found he had not arrived yet and they had no word of him. So we continued to wait even more impatiently than before.

Finally Dayton rolled into the pit. He had taken a spill in a corner and cracked the clutch cover on a rock. He was forced to ride about 5 miles to the next pit where a repair was made. But not far from pit 3 the clutch started to slip. We needed to change the clutch, but there was not one to be had. The decision was made quickly to remove the clutch from Eric's pre-run bike and install it in the race bike. I ran to the pickup and frantically disassembled the bike in the bed of the truck while the pit crew did the same to the race bike. I returned to the pit about 15 minutes later with the clutch assembly in hand. Dayton was beating himself up for hindering our race, but I reminded him it was a long race and we were not going to give up.

Growing up I was not a spectacular athlete. But I found I enjoyed longer distance running and started competing in cross country races at my school. I did not exactly have the body type for long distance, but I was a terrible sprinter no matter how hard I tried. I was beat a number of times, but through perseverance I won a few races. And the times I won, it was by sheer determination and the drive to simply "not quit" when others did. I realized that morning right there in Baja that I needed to apply that same attitude to racing off-road. Over my years of racing, wins were attained, but the most memorable races tend to be the ones that we finished despite extreme adversity and against all odds by conquering what seemed impossible.

A pit mechanic was fast at work on the race bike and soon the replacement clutch was installed. The bike was topped off with fuel and checked over for other issues before Eric fired the engine up. After a quick slap on the back and reminding him that we had a long race to go Eric turned out of the pit onto the highway. In typical Eric fashion he lofted the front wheel into the sky and kept it there as he disappeared around a curve. Everyone at the pit and the spectators along the road watched the show in amazement, some were whistling and cheering. I glanced down at my watch noting that we were more than 2 hours down to the leader.
I returned to the pickup and re-installed the clutch cover onto Eric's engine where the clutch was now missing. I didn't want any unwanted dirt to get in it. I quickly packed up my tools as Glen and Dayton waited. Our plan was to drive to the town of Colonet where we could head west off the highway for a few miles on a dirt road to the location of Honda pit 5 at approximately race mile 250. This would allow us to check Eric's progress.

I turned the little Nissan off the highway in the town of Colonet followed by Glen and Dayton. The Pacific Ocean was only a few miles away. I consulted my Honda pit book which contained directions and maps to every pit location. This book would prove invaluable through out the race. It was chock full of information that I wished I had access to just a few nights earlier. The dirt road was bumpy and I took my time even though I wanted to rush for fear of missing Eric. We finally reached the race course and turned north for about a quarter mile to reach Honda pit 5.

Upon consulting with the radio man I discovered that Eric had not passed by yet. We began to wait impatiently. I was really beginning to not like the waiting. At this point Eric was late arriving and we were wondering if the bike was having clutch problems again.

About an hour later Eric finally rounded the corner before the pit. I could immediately see something was wrong with the motorcycle by the way he was riding it. I was relieved to see him, but I was full of questions. He rolled to a stop and shut off the bike. He was disgusted with himself and apologized immediately for slowing us down again.

Shortly after pit 4 Eric was ripping right along the coast when he came into a curve that had a large water puddle in it from the rain two nights earlier. The puddle was not there when Eric pre-ran and it was right in the line he planned on using. In his attempt to avoid crashing in the water puddle he laid the bike over and slid across the hard packed dirt. He became separated from the bike and watched in horror as the bike fell over a cliff toward the ocean below. After a brief silence he heard a crunching thud as the bike landed on the rocks. Eric knew our race was over and he had just literally thrown it way, into the ocean.

He ran to the edge of the cliff to discover the bike laying on the rocks about 30 feet below. The ocean waves were lapping at the bike. Some local spectators were nearby and rushed over to have a look too. Eric and a couple of guys found a way to scramble down to the bike. To his dismay the bike was not completely destroyed. The only major issue he saw was the handlebars were snapped off and dangling by the cables. One of the locals produced a rope and they used a pickup to drag the bike back up the cliff. They then loaded the bike in the pickup and returned to pit 4. Eric knew that was his best bet to repair the bike.
The pit guys were shocked to see Eric arrive with his bike in the back of a pickup, but they jumped into action. There was one giant problem, they had no spare handlebars! Eric thought our race was over and was ashamed that he had just ruined everyone's race.
When competing in team races in Baja you must make sure that you get the bike to the next rider. I often found that I would dial my speed down a little to ensure I didn't ruin our race. You can't win the race in the first 200 miles of a 1734 mile race, but you sure can end your race there.

Eric was scrambling for a solution to his predicament, when one was discovered. An American spectator was sitting there at the pit watching the action from the seat of his quad. He had a vacation house nearby and his neighbor's house belonged to our teammate John Albro's mom. He recognized Eric and offered the handlebars on his quad so he could continue in the race. They were not exactly interchangeable, but they would be better than nothing. Eric knew he only needed to get to pit 5 where we would be waiting with two spare XR 650s that he could rob parts from. So after a few minutes of wrenching the handlebars where swapped out and Eric was back under way. How the Good Samaritan managed to get his quad home I never heard, but his help saved our race.
Eric told us the story of what happened while we were frantically wrenching on the bike. I yanked the bars off the bike in the back of the Nissan, while one of the pit guys stripped the race bike of the quad bars. The exhaust pipe was smashed and bent, but it was not bad enough to change. The radiator was bent as well, but not leaking, so it was left alone. The rest of the damage was all cosmetic that we could see. About 30 minutes later the bike was repaired. The steering stabilizer was damaged which would affect the handling for the rest of the race, but we didn't care. We were just relieved that we would be able to continue. We watched in excitement as Eric rode off. The engine still sounded great and the clutch had worked flawlessly since replaced.

I installed the quad bars on the spare bike so I could secure the bike in the bed. Glen and Dayton assisted me as I packed everything back up. We had little time to spare. The next miles of the course continued to be very fast. We wanted to get to a highway crossing south of San Quintin to check Eric because that would be the last time we saw him for a while as he turned inland before the course headed south to another road section.
 

JDDurfey

Well-Known Member
#6
Baja 2000 Part 7
Race Day Part 2

After a quick stop for gas in San Quintin and some snacks we were headed south again. It was not far till we reached where the race course joined the highway for a brief period. We found a place to park among all the other chase vehicles. By this time we had lost so much time that the huge horsepower Trophy Trucks would soon be catching up to Eric.

We didn't have to wait long for Eric to come by. He slowed as he saw us and gave us a thumbs up and continued on. I looked back to the north and could see a giant plume of dust in the distance. This could only mean one thing. The Trophy Trucks were almost here. We decided to wait around for a few minutes to watch the first one pass. As watched as the dust cloud approached. Soon we could see a chase helicopter overhead following the race course. Many of the top teams with large budgets have helicopters that follow the race vehicle in case of a major accident and then they can render immediate first aid to the occupants. We did not have to wait long before Ironman Ivan Stewart came blazing by in his factory backed Toyota. The engine was screaming as he slid into the highway and accelerated away. We then jumped back into our pickups and continued south.

We arrived where the course met the highway again with time to spare. There were many truck and car teams with pit locations set up off to the left of the highway. So I pulled in there and found a visible spot close to the road where we could flag Eric down. Our original plan was to put the large headlights on in the middle of Dayton's second section. But the sun was getting low and I knew we needed to change that plan.

It was not long before a helicopter came into view over the mountains to the east. The race course ran through a twisty canyon as it approached the highway. We could see the helicopter long before we saw the race truck. Once again Ironman was still out front. He did not even lift off the throttle as he blazed through the pit area sliding onto the highway.

It was not long before another Trophy Truck appeared. This one was the Chevy Vortec Trailblazer driven by Larry Ragland of Phoenix AZ. Larry was another legend in Baja having won many races including the Baja 1000. Larry came into the pit area at breakneck speed and slammed on the brakes. He whipped the race truck over in front of a box truck that had a pit set up not far from us. Immediately the race fans encircled the truck as the crew pounced on it. Glen, Dayton, and I jogged over to watch. They were refueling and changing the rear tires. While the wheels were off two men changed out the brake pads. One had thin gloves and operated the tools needed to release the pads and the other man removed them using thick welding gloves. He then started yelling at the crowd to move back because the pads were hot! He threw them away from himself like he was playing a game of "hot potato", when in actuality that is exactly what it was. The pads were glowing in the dusk. A cloud of smoke curled up from where they lay they were so hot. It only took about a minute to change the brakes on each side and then the new wheels with fresh tires were installed. As soon as the jack was lowered Larry hit the ignition switch and fire breathed from the exhaust and dirt flew everywhere as he blazed out of the pit.

We stood there amazed at the front row seat we just had to a Trophy Truck pit stop. We had just arrived back at our pit when we heard a bike approaching. I watched intently to see if it was Eric. The sun had set at this point but it was not quite dark. Eric came into the pit area and we began waving our arms to get his attention. Finally he spotted us and stopped right by the pickup. I had laid out what I would need on the tail gate and went to work immediately. The stock headlight was removed and the large oval light bracket containing two 8" Piaa halogen lights were installed on special mounts. I twisted on the nuts and plunged in the electrical plug. The stator on the engine had been rewired and the lights were provided by Baja Designs. One light was a "flood" light and the other was a "pencil" beam. This allowed the bike to continue at race speed in the dark.

It did not take more than 10 minutes before Eric fired the bike back up. We were only about 15 miles from the next Honda pit which was right next to the road so we agreed to meet him there.

Eric rode off and the rest of us made our way to the Honda pit. We did not arrive much before Eric. It was a smooth pit, the bike was gassed up using a quick fill gas can and Eric sped off in less than 30 seconds. We then jumped back in our trucks. We would not see Eric again until he gave the bike back to Dayton at race mile 424.

We arrived at the road crossing in the black of night. It was very difficult to find a parking spot. Finally I found a place to park and walked back to where we had agreed to make the rider change. I was joined by Dayton and Glen. Dayton had his gear on and was trying to stretch and warm up. This would be his first time to race in the dark, but not only was it dark, he had pre-run very little of this section. In some ways it is easier to race in the dark, but it can also be quite nerve racking the first time.

About 20 minutes later Eric came flying into where we were standing. He was screaming and yelling as he slid to a stop. We were completely confused as to what the problem was. All he kept yelling was, "I have to go! Cops are after me!"

Dayton took the hint and jumped on the still running bike and threw gravel all over us as he sped off. I turned around and Eric had disappeared into the darkness toward where I was parked. I quickly caught up to him and tried to calm him down and figure out what had transpired since we had last seen him.

When the race course crosses a highway or joins a highway for a stretch a Federal Police officer is usually patrolling the location. Most of the time the officer will stop traffic for the racer to cross or merge on to the road. Once the racer has crossed or is on the highway the stopped traffic is released. This makes it very interesting when you are racing down the highway because the public is using the same road. And racers being racers don't believe in obeying traffic laws while in a race and things can get pretty crazy.
Eric explained that when he joined the highway just north of Cativina there was no police officer stopping traffic. But as he sped down the road he caught up to a patrol car with his single red roof light flashing. Eric didn't understand why he had his light on so he proceeded to pass the patrol car. This upset the officers and the quickly caught up to Eric and attempted to pull him over. Eric became afraid because he was all alone and did not stop. The police then stuck guns out the window as the tried to run him off the road. Thankfully Eric saw where the race course returned to dirt and blasted off into the desert. However, he only had three miles to go until he arrived at our location. So he assumed the police would be there waiting to arrest him. But fortunately for us I believe the large crowd of people deterred them from pulling such a stunt. I began to wonder what else could possibly happen in this race and we were not even half way through. Eric quickly changed out of his gear and I drove us south followed closely by Glen.

It is not wise to travel in Baja after dark. However, we had no choice since the race continues 24 hours a day until the vehicle crosses the finish line or drops out of the race.

By a miracle we were still in the race. We had replaced the clutch, and repaired the bike after it was tossed off a cliff into the ocean. Dayton was on the bike charging down the Pacific coast while Eric, Glen, and I were driving through the center of Baja in the pitch black dark.

I pulled over when we arrived at the Bay of LA turn off. Glen was going to turn east and travel about 40 miles to the fishing town where Dayton would turn the bike over to Gwin Vaughn at race mile 650. We wished him well and parted ways. Eric started driving as we continued south to check the bike where the course joined the highway again.

It was several hours before Dayton arrived at the highway junction and race mile 593. He was not having a real good time. Just when I had hoped our luck had improved Dayton informed us that the clutch had gone out again. He managed to make it to a Honda pit where they changed the clutch for him, but it was still not functioning properly. It was not slipping, but it had way to much free play at the lever. I instructed him to keep his hand off the clutch as we determined that he was the reason we were having clutch problems. Dayton was used to riding 2stroke powered bikes, but this big bore 4stroke engine would destroy a clutch if you used it in the same manner you would on a 2stroke.

After a brief conversation Dayton rode off into the night. The course joined the highway and headed north for a few miles before turning east again toward Bay of LA. Eric and I headed south to another road crossing where we could wait for Gwin.
Dayton managed to keep the failing bike together and pass it off to Gwin. Dayton and Glen then headed back north and made their way back to Phoenix.

The first part of Gwin's section paralleled the east coast of Baja. Long fast straight gravel roads interrupted occasionally by a wash crossing or curve. Even in the dark the rider is looking for more speed and gears in the transmission. Gwin was having a great ride until a lonely cow thought he might want some company and jumped out into the course in front of him. There was little time to react and Gwin and the bike plowed into the rear of the black cow. Coincidentally, 6 years later I would have an encounter with a black cow in this same area in the dark while racing the Baja 1000.

Gwin was not injured in the collision and the cow ran off into the darkness to nurse her sore backside. However, the motorcycle suffered more damage. The large headlight bracket was bent and one was light was not functioning at all. The other light still worked, but it was not aimed properly forcing Gwin to slow his pace.

Eric and I arrived at the road crossing at race mile 806 around 2 am. It was difficult to estimate in the dark, but there must have been a thousand spectators with little camps and campfires set up watching the race go by. Race teams had pits set up as well making finding a parking spot difficult. Eric managed to squeeze the Nissan in between a couple of trucks were we could watch the race course. We tried to get a little sleep in the cramped pick up. We didn't want to miss seeing Gwin cross the highway, but I was so tired at this point I drifted off to sleep.

I woke to Eric slamming the door of the pickup as he climbed back in. I had slept so hard I never even heard him get out. Gwin had been by around 4 am and Eric told me of the cow collision. Since the headlight was still functioning Gwin continued on. And other than the clutch free play, the bike was hanging in there.

Eric and I continued south to a Honda pit at race mile 900 just outside the town of San Ignacio. Harry Nevel was to take over the bike there and we met up with him and his chase truck driver around 5:30 am. We stood around in the cold pre-dawn darkness telling Harry of all that had happened. He had been waiting for us since the night before. We were approximately 8 hours later than we had planned. Around daylight Gwin's wife Angele pulled into the pit area in his pickup and joined us. Eric proceeded to update her on Gwin hitting the cow.

Harry also told us of his pre-running adventures. His pickup was smashed in the front from hitting a cow in the dark. One headlight was smashed in and not functioning. The other was being held in with duct tape.

The sun was a welcome sight, but warmth did not come with it. Finally, Gwin rolled into the pit just after sunrise. He looked beat. He was dusty and tired. He had given it his all, but the crash with the cow had taken the wind out of his sail. The back tire on the bike was almost completely smooth and needed to be replaced. 900 race miles was more than we ever expected to get out of that tire. Honda pits had extra wheels and tires, but they would only replace them if the tire was flat. A worn out tire was the responsibility of the team. After some negotiation we managed to get our hands on a new wheel and tire. As they were changing it I began to remove the bent up headlights. The bracket was bent so badly and wrapped around the front of the bike that I could not remove it simply. After much wrestling it was removed and the stock headlight and plastic number plate was reinstalled.

It took about half an hour to whip the bike back into shape and Harry mounted. He was concerned with the clutch issue, but Gwin reassured him that it worked great. We wished Harry well as he sped off into the morning sun. Harry's chase truck driver followed immediately. The highway was much longer than the race course through this section and Harry would easily beat his chase truck. We were a little concerned because Harry would be on his own for more than 200 miles without our help. We all let out a sigh of relief because we were more than half way through the race.

Gwin and Angele were going to head north and back to Phoenix. Eric and I made our way into San Ignacio where Harry had a hotel room. He had offered it to us to shower and even nap a little. Eric and I both grabbed a quick shower, but napping was not in the cards for us. We had many more miles to drive and we did not want to get too far behind the bike.

Baja 2000 Part 8
Race Day Part 3

It took Eric and I about 4 hours of driving to arrive in the town of Insurgentes. We needed gas and some food. The inside of the little pickup was filthy and the windshield dirty. A little boy at the station asked to wash the windshield. We gladly agreed, but quickly realized that the inside of the windshield had just as much dirt on it as the outside. So Eric instructed him to wash it as well. The boy was very perplexed by this, and proceeded to use his squeegee on the inside of the windshield. It worked great and we had clear vision again.

Harry was getting off the bike north of town a little ways and Mike Dellar was to take over as the course headed west again and south along the Pacific coast. Eric and I made our way north when we passed Harry's pickup heading south. We whipped a u-turn and caught up with Harry in Insurgentes. Harry had a good ride and made great time. The bike was holding together and the clutch was still not slipping. The lever had too much free play no matter how it was adjusted, but as long as he shifted without it, it never bothered him.

We continued to make our way south through the town of Constitución where the course would cross the highway at approximately race mile 1300. Mike was to get off the bike at the road crossing and John Albro would take over. The plan was for John to ride south through the La Paz area and Mike would then ride the rest of the way to Cabo San Lucas.

We turned off the highway and found John and his chase truck driver along with Mike's driver. They had made friends with some fans with a pop up tent set up and were waiting in the shade. The afternoon sun was warm and there was not a cloud in the sky. After discussing the condition of the race bike we decided that we needed to change the clutch again. We considered having a Honda pit do it while John was on the bike, but we feared that it might go out before a pit ending our race. John's pre-runner was an identical bike so he donated his clutch to the cause.

As John moved his bike into the shade I grabbed my tools. The spectators were more than willing to let us use their shade for our pit and we graciously accepted. I quickly removed the clutch and noticed that a thin spacer ring was stuck to the inner clutch disk. I knew this spacer didn't come with the clutch because we had not needed it the day before and I had put it back into Eric's bike before reinstalling the cover. I made a mental note about this and reinstalled John's clutch cover with his spacer ring.

Around 2:30 PM Mike came down the road toward us. We flagged him over and he leapt from the bike as it was still moving. He was utterly disgusted with the condition of the bike and made us all aware of it. He had nothing good to say and proceeded to badger us all about it. I managed to grab the bike from him before it hit the ground. I quickly wheeled it under the shade and tore into the hot engine. I whipped off the clutch cover and began removing the spring loaded pressure plate bolts. I could feel the heat coming out of the engine. I jammed my fingers into the hot engine burning them on the clutch plates as I pulled them out. I had some rags laid out to place them on and dropped them like a hot potato. I peered into the clutch basket to see that the spacer ring that should be there was missing. In the dark the night before at the Honda pit the ring must have stayed with the burnt clutch upon removal and the mechanic did not see it. I ran to John's bike and removed the cover once again and fished out the spacer. As I installed the clutch properly Harry attacked the broken exhaust. It was falling off and he used some wire to tie it onto the trashed bike. I completed the clutch change in record time and felt the lever. It was perfect again. We sent John back onto the race course with instruction to get the oil changed at the next Honda pit. He was headed east and would then turn south before crossing the highway again after 115 race miles.

We packed up our tools and thanked our wonderful hosts, who wished us luck, and headed south. We did not have far to drive to the next road crossing. Eric and I knew that we would not finish the race before dark. The headlight on the race bike would not allow for much speed or visibility. In fact it made night riding dangerous, and in Baja it made night riding treacherous. While we waited for John to arrive at the road crossing Mike offered up the headlight from his pre-run bike. I took one look at it and saw that it mounted the same as our light. His light was a single 8" Piaa and our bike was set up for dual lights. Upon further inspection I determined that the plugs on the two lights were different. So I laid the two lights on the tailgate and started to operate. Harry assisted as we transplanted half of the wiring harness from our dual light to the single. Harry gave his approval and I laid out the tools needed to install the light. We also decided to change out the battered exhaust pipe. So I cannibalized the exhaust from Eric's pre-run bike. His poor bike was in sad shape at this point with all the missing parts.

John rolled into the road crossing at race mile 1415 just as the sun was setting. He was struggling. His back hurt and he had some very sore muscles from his crash earlier in the week. He did get a little break while the oil was getting changed at the Honda pit. I quickly installed the light as the guys talked about the plan for the rest of the race. There were several road crossings after La Paz and John asked Eric if he would take over at the first of them. Eric agreed as Harry and I swapped out the exhaust.

John headed back onto the race course just before dark. The borrowed headlight looked like it would work well, but it was definitely not as bright as the destroyed set up. Eric and I headed south to the east side of La Paz to race mile 1560. Harry and Mike headed south of La Paz on highway 19 to a road crossing where Mike was to remount the race bike for the last 90 miles of the race.

La Paz is the largest city in Baja Sur and somehow we managed to find the correct road on the southeast side of town. A few miles out we came to a large crowd on both sides of the road. Many campfires lit the night sky. Only a handful of chase vehicles were waiting here. Most teams chase vehicles were headed south toward the finish. Eric and I became instant celebrities when we stepped out of the truck. Kids and adults alike wanted autographs and "esteekers". Most race teams had stickers to hand out and the kids snatched them up like they were gold. We unfortunately did not have any and the spectators had to settle for autographs. Eric and I were welcomed to a campfire to hang out as we waited for John. These fans were die hards, they would sit out there all night watching the racers go by. They would only see each one for a few seconds but they didn't care. Whistles and cheers went up and we knew someone was coming. We watched intently as a bike approached and it turned out to be John.

Eric took over the bike and John gave him a good report about its condition. I reminded Eric that Mike would be waiting at the second road crossing as he rode off. A few spectators asked for John's autograph as we were jumping in the pickup and he gladly signed a few t-shirts. They didn't care that we were doing so poorly, we were their heroes nonetheless.

John and I made our way back into La Paz, stopping at a street side taco stand for some food. We were both exhausted and John was in quite a bit of pain. He had been riding in survival mode and that was fine, because we had been racing the whole race in survival mode.

After getting our bellies full of some delicious tacos we headed south on highway 1. Eric would be crossing this road and we wanted to check the bike over. We were so close to the finish that I didn't want to leave anything to chance. And since Eric didn't pre-run this part of the course and now he was riding it in the dark I had some concerns which would prove to be valid.

We arrived at the road crossing location at race mile 1610. The scene was pretty much the same as the rest. Many spectators milling about. Campfires on both sides of the race course and highway. There was very little traffic control and at this point many of the fans were quite inebriated. John and I were treated celebrities as soon as we stepped out of the pickup just like the other road crossings. Kids were begging for "esteekers" and wanting autographs. It was fun being the center of attention for a while.

Eric arrived after some time and we waved him down. A crowd of fans immediately surrounded us. He told us about more issues. Someone had booby trapped the race course with a large chunk of concrete. Eric, of course, plowed into it in the dark severely bending the front wheel and ruining the tire. In fact the wheel was bent so bad that the tire was rubbing on the fork tubes. Eric was extremely lucky to have not crashed from the concrete block. He limped the bike along very slowly to the next Honda pit where he was able to procure a replacement wheel and tire. Everything else looked good on the bike so we sent him on. Earlier I had not planned on coming to this road crossing so I told Eric that he was giving the bike back to Mike at the second road crossing. I reminded him of this very thing as he pulled away from us.

We made our way back north on highway 1 and then south on highway 19 and met up with the others at the road crossing at race mile 1650. As we waited for Eric, I noticed that Mike had changed out of his riding gear. I inquired as to why, and he told me that he was not going to get back on the bike because it was in such bad shape. I became furious with him. I had just met him earlier that day, but I was not going to give up on this race less than 100 miles from the finish. And I gave him a piece of my mind about it. Harry, John, and I realized that at this point we might as well let Eric ride the bike all the way to the finish.

I had been paying attention to what other race vehicles were running about our speed. So when a few came by I recognized I began to watch for Eric. Harry, John, their chase drivers and I chatted to pass the time. We were all so tired but determine to push on to the finish. I heard a bike coming so I moved to the middle of the race course so I could flag Eric down. He approached rapidly and when he got to me he rode around me like I was an obstacle and crossed the road and continued on without stopping. I stood there in disbelief at what had just happened. I was purposely standing directly in his path and he simply dodged me and kept going. Then I realized what the problem was. I had told him that we would be at the second road crossing and this was the first one he had come to. Mike then informed me that if I was going to catch up to him I had better hurry because the next road crossing took longer on the highway than on the race course.

I jumped into the little Nissan and lit a fire under it. That little four cylinder engine didn't know what to think. I headed south in the darkness at breakneck speed. The two lane road twisted and turned through the hills. On the straight sections I was driving much faster than my headlights would light up. I didn't look at the speedometer because I didn't want to look away from the road. I passed several other chase vehicles that must of thought I was crazy.

I arrived in the beautiful town of Todos Santos like my tail was on fire. The residents appeared to be peacefully sleeping, but with all the race vehicles blasting through their town I don't see how they could be. I was shocked to not find any spectators. I knew Eric would be looking for us so I pulled over where he could see me in front of a gas station.

It was not long before Eric showed up. He was thoroughly confused at this point. He had ridden farther than he thought he should have, and now the rest of the team wasn't here. I explained my mistake and what was going on with Mike. We only had about 50 miles to go to the finish and he just needed to take it on in. Eric was exhausted. His "second wind" had come and gone. He sat there on the bike telling me of the last 100 miles of course. Many of the course markers were missing or pointing in the wrong direction. Spectators were everywhere. At one point a spectator shone a powerful spotlight in his eyes blinding him while he climbed a steep hill, somehow he didn't crash. He was operating on sheer determination.

I don't know what was keeping us going at this point, but I know I had a feeling of accomplishment welling up inside of me. We were almost there. We had almost conquered the longest race in Baja history. 40 more miles, that's all that was left. One more Honda pit. I patted Eric on the back and gave him some words of encouragement. He fired the big Honda back up for the last time and rode off down the street. The loud exhaust note reverberating off the walls of the houses as he disappeared. There was no celebratory wheelie this time and for good reason, every ounce of energy he had left was needed to push to the finish.

I jumped back in the green Nissan for my last push to the finish line. I too was beyond exhausted. Other than a short nap, I had been awake and working on the bike or driving for nearly 48 hours. I had done all I could to help my friends stay in the race. I was an encourager, I was a motivator, and I was one heck of a chase truck driver.

I made my way into Cabo San Lucas. I pulled out the Honda pit book to get some directions to the finish line at the Bullring. I arrived at the Bullring and searched for a place to park. Chase vehicles were scattered every which way with no thought to organization. Loud music blared out from several large stacks of speakers. Drunk spectators were walking all over the place. I saw the finish line and a race truck I had seen many times over the last 24 hours was there with the drivers celebrating from the roof. Fans were whistling and cheering. The music would get interrupted by an announcer when another race vehicle came into the finish line.

I found a place to park and proceeded to cram all the stuff from the bed of the truck into the cab for safe keeping. Everything seemed to grow legs in Baja, especially in the dark. The only thing remaining in the bed was a poor XR650 that had been picked clean of many parts.

I walked toward the finish line when I heard my name being called. David Gronland came walking up. He had seen me pulling in as I was looking for a parking spot. He, his wife and sister-in-law had been waiting for hours for us to arrive. He realized that we must have had problems, but had no idea what we had been through to get there. I began to tell him the story as several more race trucks, buggies, and a quad came across the finish line.

We waited impatiently until we saw a motorcycle come around the curve and head into the Bullring. Eric was finally at the finish. I glanced down at my watch to see that it was a little after 2:30 AM.

We were elated! We did it! We had just completed a 1726 mile continuous off-road race. We had been racing down the Baja peninsula for 44 hours and 43 minutes. Despite all the odds and despite all the challenges we managed to finish in 7th place for our class. We finished 32nd out of 71 motorcycles that completed the race.

I had never felt such a feeling of accomplishment. I did not know at the time that five years later I would have this feeling again as I rode into the finish line of the Baja 1000 myself. But right then I had a well of emotions building up inside. I was so happy for the guys that rode the bike. I knew that I was also a huge part of successfully finishing the race. Eric sat on the bike for a few minutes as we were bombarded by fans wanting autographs and pictures. No one had phones in those days, but disposable cameras were all the rave in Mexico at the time. We hung out shaking hands, signing autographs, and taking pictures.

We were in no hurry to leave the finish line. While we hung out several more vehicles rolled in. Everyone was celebrating. Champagne bottles were being popped, spewing their contents over race cars, racers, and fans alike. The fans whistled and cheered in excitement. I wished our other teammates could have been there.

Finally we made our way to the unsung hero of the trip, the little green Nissan. We loaded up the race bike and then crammed all of our gear in and around the two bikes. I drove, following David out of town to the house he had rented for us. Eric and I needed showers and sleep.

The morning sun was beginning to overpower the darkness as we finally laid down to some much needed sleep. It was not long until everyone was sleeping deeply.
 

JDDurfey

Well-Known Member
#7
Baja 2000 Part 9

I woke to a room filled with sunlight. My body was sore. I was hungry and thirsty. The couch I had crashed on was not the most comfortable, but I had been so tired I didn't care.

After a few minutes I sat up to take in my surroundings. The house David had rented was located on a golf course about a mile from the beach. It sat up on a hill with a beautiful view. There was a pool and hot tub in the back yard with a spiral stair case leading to an observation deck on the roof.

Slowly everyone began to wake up. No one was in a hurry to expend any energy. Coffee was made and we sat around talking about the race.

That afternoon the five of us piled into the rented VW bug and made the trek into town to do some exploring. Eric was always good at finding the best restaurants to eat at and he worked his magic that afternoon in Cabo. We had stopped along the way and Eric asked a local where he likes to go eat when he goes to a restaurant. The man referred us to a restaurant off the main drag on a side street that served typical Mexican food. The food was excellent and the prices were much cheaper than the tourist traps. I made a mental note and use his trick to this day, find where the locals eat out and you will find the best food and prices in town.
We spent the afternoon driving around looking at the sights. We ran into racers everywhere we turned. The time limit on the race had still not expired and there were still some straggling race cars finishing the race. We met up with John and Harry for a bit and made plans to see them later, but we never reconnected.

That evening we returned to the house and the ladies whipped up some food for us to eat at the house. We all relaxed and hung out for the evening. We were still "hung over" from the race and all retired early.

The next day was more of the same. We didn't have anything in particular planned. So we all hung out enjoying the view and relaxing most of the morning. For lunch we returned to the same restaurant we had eaten at the day before. Since the food was so great and we were on a budget we all agreed this would be a great idea.

That night we decided to go enjoy the night life of Cabo. We all got cleaned up at the house and thankfully Eric and I had packed a couple of nicer changes of clothes.

We had passed by a steak restaurant on the edge of town so we decided to give it a try. It was delicious! For $10, I filled my belly with steak and lobster. After dinner we headed on into town.

Our first stop of the night was at the rock and roll musician Sammy Hagar's bar called Cabo Wabo. It was actually pretty dead and we didn't stay long. We walked on down the street to a place called the Giggling Marlin. There were a number of racers inside and we joined in on the fun. We quickly made friends with a few and a great time was had by all. Everyone had amazing stories to tell of their adventure to cross the finish line.

Next we walked to a nightclub called Squid Row. We hung out here for the rest of the night. We met more racers and hung out with a few that had followed us there. When we all decided to leave we were walking out the door as a very inebriated local man knocked Lori down.

Lori hit the ground hard. Eric was standing within arm’s length of the drunk and gave him a good push out of the way toward the street. The man tripped and fell into the street right in front of a car which had to skid to a stop to avoid running him over. David helped Lori up and was about to pounce on the drunk when I decided that we had better make tracks out of there. None of us really wanted to get into a confrontation with the locals, especially since David only had one arm with his left hand still in a cast. And besides that, a Mexican jail is no place for a gringo!

We began to make our way back to the car, but the drunk decided he couldn't let the gringos get the upper hand and began to pursue us at a distance. He rounded up someone to join him as he yelled obscenities I don't care to repeat. His first compadre decided that he didn't want to tangle with us and faded away so he managed to talk someone one else into joining him in his quest to confront us. We continued walking, but David, not being one to back down while protecting his wife was egging on the drunk man. Lori was being the voice of reason and the designated driver did her best to diffuse the situation while I translated what the man was yelling. We all continued to walk the several blocks to where we had parked. We were almost to the car when the drunk's second recruit decided he needed to go give his car a flee bath and abandoned the mission. Upon realizing he was in a "no win" situation the drunk man stood at a safe distance and hurled insults at us as we climbed into the Bug and drove off.

We returned to the house and hung out for a while longer, but one by one everyone made their way to bed. I was sleeping on the couch because of the bed count meant that the only other option was to share a bed with Eric. I had been doing that for most of a week and had no desire to continue.

I was startled from a deep sleep to extremely loud banging followed by loud voices speaking in Spanish. It took me a minute to realize the banging was someone pounding on the front door. I jumped up from the couch and opened the front door in nothing more than a pair of boxer shorts and a t-shirt. Standing there was a man in an official looking shirt with two other men digging around in the flower bed in front of the house. Immediately I was accused of stealing electricity and a heated argument commenced in Spanish with elevated voices. I explained that we were renting the house for a couple of days and I was not the owner, but this had no effect on the man. He informed me that he was shutting off the electricity and when the bill was paid they would come turn it back on. Barefooted and barely clothed, I stepped out of the house and continued to argue with the boss man as I watched one of the other men fetch a pair of thick leather welding gloves and a large pair of wire cutters from the pickup they were driving. The man returned to the house where the other man had used a shovel to expose some electric cables buried about 6 inches underground. He donned the gloves and proceeded to cut the power cables one at a time. Then he separated them and taped them up with black electrical tape. The boss leaned over and inspected his work and with an air of approval turned and walked to the truck. The other two men followed quickly leaving me standing there yelling at them in Spanish while wearing very little clothing. By this time one of the neighbors was standing in front of their house watching out of curiosity because I had made such a scene.
I reentered the house to find my roommates had woken because of the ruckus. I quickly explained what had happened, which I could hardly believe myself, and in fact, if I hadn't witnessed it I probably wouldn't believe it. Lori retrieved the rental paperwork and made a phone call to the rental agency. We all needed to clean up because the awards ceremony was later that afternoon and we all planned to attend.

The rental agency managed to get us a bungaló in a resort down the road for us to use for the day and we temporarily moved there. They promised that the electricity would be back on by dark. It only had one bedroom and one bath, so showering and getting ready was a little crazy.

We made our way into town once again in the VW. The awards ceremony was being held at a beach side hotel in the pool area. The place was packed with racers when we arrived and we struggled to find seats. Sal Fish led the occasion and after a speech he began to bring the trophy winners from each class up front to present them with their awards. The ceremony lasted a few hours and afterwards we ate dinner before returning to the house.

We didn't stay out late because Eric and I decided to head home the next morning. We returned to the house to find the owner and a helper running new power cables from the electrical junction box by the street. He was not authorized to do so by the power company and would be guilty of stealing electricity again. We had to wait a few minutes so I told the owner what had happened that morning. He apologized profusely and explained that he had waited for several months for the electric company to connect the electricity, and when they had not, he connected it himself so he could rent out the house. This had been almost a year earlier and the electric company had just figured it out.

Finally the cables were connected and we could see inside the house. Eric and I packed up what we could and loaded the Nissan up for our return trip. We all hung out again for a while before retiring for the night.

Eric and I woke early. We had a long drive ahead and planned on doing the unthinkable. We were going to make the 950 mile drive from Cabo to Ensenada in one day. We quickly loaded the last of our belongings and thankfully said goodbye to David and Lori. After a quick stop for gas and some coffee we pointed the little green Nissan north.

We must have been quite a sight to see. The pickup was over loaded with 600 pounds of motorcycles plus all our gear piled on top and around the bikes.

We traveled fast with short stops for gas. Each of us took turns driving and we stopped for a late lunch around 3 pm in the mining town of Santa Rosalia on the Sea of Cortez. After a brief stop we continued on. From here the road turns west and climbs up a mountain and crosses the peninsula.

At the town of Guerrero Negro we came to the check point where the highway crosses from Baja California Sur (South) to Baja California Norte (North). We were supposed to be carrying tourist visas since we had crossed into Baja Sur. Neither of us had bothered getting the proper documents before the trip. During the race we were not questioned when we crossed heading south in the dark, but now we were pulled over and asked for our papers. I was driving and was told to step out of the truck by the officer. He asked for our tourist cards, which we didn't have. I told him to hang on while I looked for them. I leaned back in the pickup and said, "I know WE have them, let me look". I winked at Eric and nodded with my eyes wide open. I needed him to keep his mouth shut while I pulled out the best Spanish and the dumbest Gringo act I could muster. After acting like I was searching in the cab of the pickup I returned to the back where the officer was beginning to become impatient with me. I pulled my riding gear bag out of the bed and started pulling stuff out and tossing it over my shoulder in a show of desperation, frantically searching for our tourist cards. All the while I have been explaining to the officer that SCORE had required us to purchase the tourist cards, and I just needed to find them. While I was putting on my show the officer noticed a couple of posters rolled up in my gear bag. He inquired about them so I quickly offered them to him. One of them was my autographed Ironman Ivan Stewart poster. He asked if he could have them and I gladly agreed. He then told me that we were free to go. That was all I needed to hear. I quickly threw my gear bag in the back of the pickup without even zipping it or securing it. I jumped in the cab and we took off. Eric had been sitting in the pickup the whole time not understanding everything I had said because his Spanish was limited.

About a mile up the road I pulled over to repack my gear bag and secure it properly. Eric took over driving duties at this point as the sun was setting. We still had at least a 7 hour drive to go.

We rolled back into the Hotel Colon in Ensenada just after 2:30 am. We had made a mad dash up the entire peninsula with more than 7 hours of the drive in the dark. It was not wise to do what we did, but we didn't think about that. We checked into a room and crashed hard with exhaustion.

Eric and I both slept in the next morning. We were feeling the effects of pushing hard all day yesterday. I rose first and made my way outside to organize our load for the rest of the trip home. I unloaded all our gear out of the back of the pickup, followed by the two motorcycles. I attached the trailer containing my motorcycle to the back of the pickup. I was about to load the bikes on the trailer when Eric came outside to assist me. Once the bikes were loaded we walked down the street to the San Nicholas hotel for brunch.

After brunch we finished packing up and headed out of town toward the border crossing at Tecate. The border crossing was uneventful. At times there can be a couple hour wait to make it across, but we did not have but a few cars ahead of us this time.
Finally that evening after more than a week in Baja California we arrived in Phoenix. It was good to be home. While we were in Mexico I often wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into. All the things that went wrong and were not enjoyable at the time did not matter anymore. I looked back and all I could think of was how great of a time it was. I had been bit by a bug while I was in Baja, the "Baja Bug". It gave me a disease that could not be cured, but must be appeased by returning to Baja as often as possible.

I made many more trips to Baja over the coming years. I spent about a month a year the last several years of my racing days down there and loved every minute of it.
 
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