I had no idea what I was getting my self into when I said I would lead the Baja introduction for the team now affectionately known as Baja Boot Camp. I got off work at around 4 and drove 500 miles south to the link up point. I was the last one to arrive but was bearing gifts in the form of a sorely needed petcock for a sick KTM and some Maxima oil.
The boys were outside drinking beers and saving me the very last parking spot in the smallish lot. I knew I was already on strike one because on the ride down John called me to complain about the hotel location and lack of parking. I literally picked the hotel by looking at Google Maps and putting my finger on the hotel with the least turns to Tecate. I knew we were going to have a 5 truck convoy in the morning to Mexico and I wanted to keep it simple. I was going to be doing enough navigation once we hit the dirt.
Everyone seemed nice enough, we made our introductions, Brett and Scott affixed the new petcock and everyone was off to bed with Baja dreams in their head.
So the morning went well and we found a place to dump off the trucks in a semi-secure lot north of the border. After exchanging money at the Bancomer(bank) I led the boys to el Mejor de pan de Tecate. My fave little bakery on the way to Rancho Ojai where we all got heavenly chocolate muffins to eat before we hit the trail.
I like to use Rancho Ojai to stage from because it is secure and also offers hot showers as well as good changing facilities and a motorcycle ramp. For 5 dollars a day and the peace of mind I get it is a good deal.
After off loading the bikes we had to change the oil in the KTM since John noticed the night before the oil was a little thin and had some gas smell to it. In hindsight this was a great catch because it probably would not have made it through the stuff we went through. that little bike had the piss revved out of it for five days straight rowing through all six gears. And it doesn't hold much oil to begin with.
The ranch hand at Rancho Ojai found us a suitable container so we didn't make too much of a mess in the sand.
Now to be fully candid here I had no idea this was Scott's second time on a dirt bike. I was told he had been riding 11 months and just assumed it meant dirt (like in prep for this race!). If I had known that I would never have taken him on the route I chose through the pine forest to and through Laguna Hansen. It was only like 50-60 miles but I included any and all single and doubletrack I knew about in a winding path towards our goal.
50+ miles of rough
Our route included sand road, a few water crossings, a little rocky road, some silty-sandy uphills, some sand whoops, deep sand at the bottom of three foot gullies and a bit of trailblazing thrown in for good measure. Normally I don't stop more than once going through there and we are eating tacos in ValleT by lunch. Well, this was not a normal trip.
Baja Tested and Failed
When I was looking over the bikes at Rancho Ojai I noticed and remarked on the fact that everyone had a Moose or MSR tail and fender bag attached. I also remarked that invariably those things are lost or destroyed in Baja but to make sure they were secure and put any heavy items in the backpacks. Thus giving them the best possible chance at survival. I also introduced them to the words "Baja Tested - and Failed", this would become a recurring refrain throughout the first day as piece after piece failed. In fact, I seem to remember Scott's fender bag as well as Randy's having a duct tape reinforcement even before we kicked off the sand road onto the rocky trail.....
Crashes and heat casualties
We ended up stopping a lot more than anyone wanted to fix equipment, re-attach fender bags, pick up Scott's bike from his myriad crashes. I didn't get to see any but I heard quite a few were epic. He did say he learned something from every one of them. We were slowly winding our way through the park when Brett told me at one of the stops he was "smoked" and shortly thereafter on a long rocky uphill they couldn't quite surmount they stopped for a long rest. I got on the radio after about 5 minutes and was reassured that they were fine but were stripping their gear in the heat and taking long pulls of water. This is about the time everyone started to run their 100 oz Camelbaks dry. I wasn't really worried as I still had a bit left but that was soon given over to Randy when he informed me he was a little dizzy and had stopped sweating.
I plotted the quickest course for Rancho Rodeo del Rey knowing the caretaker there would at least have water and sodas. When the boys came upon us and were ready to roll they asked how far to water and I replied "8 miles!". Brett let me know I told him "8 miles" 5 miles ago and also informed me he wanted to punch me in the face! But also that this trip already was one for the memories. Running out of water was not good but it was still recoverable. There was only a mile or three of rough terrain before we were back on the sand road.
We arrived at Rancho Rodeo del Rey and I scared up the caretaker who sadly informed me he had only one 1.5 liter bottle of water and six cokes for sale. At this point I wasn't gonna argue and I handed over the 180 pesos he wanted for them....
After a short rest we motored on through the park eventually arriving in Ojos Negros where we got gas. in fact I ran out of gas twice near Ojos... once just short of town and the second time in line at the military checkpoint. At the fuel stop it was noted that my Yamaha Wr was extremely thirsty and took almost twice the gas as a few of the other bikes. This continued for the rest of the trip. Bot sure why but it was running a little rough in the mid range especially after I ran out of gas making it necessary for me to wring the right hand a bit to keep it smooth.
Valle de la Trinidad
Once we got to Valle T I wanted to make up for dragging the team through the extreme heat all day so i made a bee line for the Tecate store and trudged back in my boots and knee guards with a frosty 12 pack. I didn't get punched in the face so I guess the beer worked.