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Desert Assassins Rip to the Tip – 1488.3 miles, 7 days, 20 riders

1488.3 miles, seven days of riding, the Baja Peninsula, 20 riders, dehydration, epic trails, angry Gringos, beautiful locations, a couple cracked cases and one dead goat……the short blast that is the 2009 Rip to the Tip brought to you by Monster Energy Drink, Lucas Oil Products and Pro Moto Billet.

Since 2006 Cameron Steele and Larry Badgwell have been hosting a band of brothers the length of the Baja Peninsula each year on their dirt bikes. “It’s an adventure we do as an individual but have to count on the entire group as a whole to conquer Baja” said Steele about the trip that has become a happening each year in early May. The trip became a reality when Cameron wanted to share his love for Baja with his group of close riding buddies in 2006. Those riders have come to be known as the dirty dozen, the OG’s of the Rip, and with one ill equipped chase truck they tackled the Baja. This year there were 20 banditos and 6 chase drivers in 3 pretty tricked out chase trucks and trailers as they looked to tame the Baja as best they could.

This is a ride that requires an invite; this is not a tour ride and should not be treated as one. The Desert Assassins Rip to the Tip has goals and they are to always try and ride the most fun and challenging trails we can find, “and we don’t change your oil or wipe your nose” said Larry, even though Lucas Oil as a trip supporter provided all the oil for the riders. The 2008 group had said the route was too easy as it was based on a “Beach Rip” and asked for something a little tougher for 2009 so Cameron along with Rip Brother Jeff Laubscher would spend the next year plotting trails and ideas to give the Rip Brothers what they wanted. Little did they know that 3 of the “OGs” (original gangsters, pioneers of the trip) would be down by the middle of Day Two.

P.A.B. as Cameron is known cruises Baja on average 3 full months a year and logs about 8,000 Baja moto miles per year. His full time job is as a driver in the SCORE desert racing series for Yokohama Tire, Lucas Oil, ATX and Monster Energy Drink in his #16 Desert Assassins Trophy Truck. He also continues his job as a television host on broadcasts around the world and has worked at such at events as Supercross, the Indy 500, Running of the Bulls and today he is in his 11th year announcing for the ESPN X Games.

Cameron wants to share his love of Baja to all and in 2009 he and Larry decided to make the trip a “full” Peninsula “pull” starting by riding their bikes across the border from Tecate USA to Tecate, Mexico. What is normally a wasted travel day became a 221 mile ride to San Felipe where day one would end. Factory Honda/JCR Racing icon and 11 time Baja 1000 winner Johnny Campbell would join the first day and bring along Colton Udall who is quickly becoming Johnny’s protégé. They would roost with an eclectic group for sure, 20 riders in all, which included; 3 rip rookies from Colorado, 6 returning “O.G.’s”, Bruce Hendel from VP Fuels and his party of four that included Baja first timers from Massachusetts and Indiana, and Factory JCR rider OX who is a new addition to the 2009 team among others.

Dirt sample taken near Jamul! “Rider Down” was the call over the radio as the flat light and the dust off other riders ahead would claim Rip co-founder Larry Badgwell and test both his Leatt Brace and his new Mulisha Helmet. Larry unloaded in 4th gear and did the “Nestea Plunge”, a reverse launch making contact with the ground head first on the backside of his helmet. For sure a scary moment as the Rip Brothers came to his aid. Chase three, Trey Piersall, was nearby with our film crew that is building both TV and web-episodes for the 2009 Rip and he was able to meet us and haul Larry to San Felipe for inspection. A “Full Pull” is the coveted accomplishment that each rider shoots for on the Rip to the Tip where they achieve every mile offered on the ride. For Larry to agree to get in the truck and lose his Full Pull was statement to how hard he wadded, no one is tougher than Larry.

San Felipe’s sun rise always rocks and the first 50 miles of Day Two down the beach were epic but a bit of a late start put the riders in a dangerous position as they were headed for the infamous Bill Nichol Rock Trail. Not to mention there was a six rider detour that led to a couple bikes being buried in the muck to the engine cases and beyond that cost the crew even more time. “The rock trail is the real deal” said PAB who had ran it a couple times already in 2009. “There is no shade and it will be 15-20 degrees warmer when we get on the rocks than it is here on the beach” he continued as the crew filled up on fuel and ate at the chase truck “you have to carry enough water to spend a couple days and you have to understand no chase truck can come get you or your bike, there is a way around with the chase truck for anyone not up for this battle, this is a double black diamond” said PAB as the brothers listened just south of the beach town of Puertocitos.

20 riders on the trip and 20 decided to take-on the rocks. First you must battle ten miles of soft, hot and rocky wash to get to the first hill climb into the rocks. By the time we climbed the first trail we could see a couple riders struggle but this was a tough trail. Conner Gilmer and Rusty Espinoza are in excellent physical shape but were starting to waver. It should be pointed out that they spent a couple hours pulling Rusty’s bike out of the muck in a lagoon after a wrong turn sent them off track at the beginning of Day Two. They were already taxed and these OG’s were showing signs of wearing down.


Larry cleans the start of the Rock Trail

The rock trail would see temperatures around 90 degrees this day and although it was not “that hot” the heat for sure played into the problems ahead. “This is a tough trail and those that didn’t mentally and physically prepare will have issues” said Jeff Laubscher who scouted all of the 2009 single track with Cameron over the past 6 months. The crew stopped and Cameron who had an umbrella Velcro’d to his light offered the shade to cinematographer Michael Graber who at 57 was the oldest of the Rip pack, although extremely fit he was melting but it was a fort made of motorcycles, jackets and tow ropes that provided shade for Rusty who needed a break. It was getting late and it was obvious that some riders had not brought enough water for this segment.


Moss and PAB do the rock dance

“I never thought this trail would zap some of the guys that it did and when I saw that Conner who is one of our toughest and most prepared brothers starting to really crumble I knew we had an issue” said Steele. Luckily Conner could man it to the last junction and the crew could start out for water and other supplies at the road where Chase One was waiting in Guayaquil. Rip OG’s Shawn Dolmage and Larry would spend two hours with Conner resting as the crew of Moss, OX and PAB would shuttle supplies back to Conner and get the chase truck coming in as far as it could. Conner was 32 miles from the pavement and the 4×4 F350 fitted with 35 inch Yokohama Tires could come in 29 of those miles before it was single track which the brothers would either have to carry Conner through or he would have to ride……

Check out this web-episode sponsored by Monster/Lucas Oil/Pro Moto Billet…..
YouTube – Monster Energy’s 2009 Desert Assasssins…

There will be a couple more episodes and the story will continue soon but I have to work a little to get ready for tomorrow, thanks to all that enjoy the stories and helped to write all of this. Rip Brothers post your stories and pictures, others comment as you wish

More videos and photos soon at Monster Energy, Lucas Oil and Pro Moto Billet web sites. Thanks to those sponsors and the additional support from Alpinestars, Dunlop and VP Race Fuels