This isn't really a racing story. It's more of a Baja story, but it involves the Baja 1000 so I have to put it somewhere. I've been following the teams 'Wounded Warriors' and 'Frog' here on ADV so I though.....
..........that the Baja 1000 was coming up. I needed a Baja fix as I hadn't been south of the border since last year's race.
Mike D just got new tires on his '06 Frontier Nismo 4X4 pu. There would be no better way to take the shine off 'em than making a lap through Baja during the race. Mike was locked in.
Here's me acting like that's my truck
Here's Mike, the real owner
The 2012 race would go to La Paz this year....an 1125 mile challenge. According to smart talk from pre-runners, not only was the race longer, but it would also be tougher than usual, as well.
The race would start at first light on Thursday and use Friday to finish in La Paz (Nov 14 & 15). The organizers have allowed 45 hrs to finish. After that it a DNF. We'd go down on Wed and take in the Registration and tech inspection scene. That would still give us time to get out on the course at a preferred location to watch the contestants go by.
I'd Google earthed the race course, and found a Location (8 miles south of Ojos Negros) with an escape route. Often if your on the course watching, and decide to leave, it not a good idea to go backwards on the course while the cars are still racing on it.
Ideally is finding a good bump to watch the race where there is an escape road out of where you are. I found such a place where there's about a 25 mile dirt road that goes to Uruapan (accent on the ru) some 20 miles south of Ensenada.
There had always been a route to Uruapan that I've been over 3 times, but it goes over at least a 3000 ft mtn range, and it was washed out badly 5 years ago when I went over it last. It would probably be a lot worse now.
Since then they had a race on a new road across the river that I'd never been on, but that was our intended exit route. It also goes over the 3000 ft range. I figured it would be the road that the locals would maintain good enough that 2 wheel drive PUs could make it easily. Should be a piece of cake for us.
Mike picked me up at 11am on Wed. We have enough camp gear to last a month. I've got an ok to be gone till Sunday, but the race will be past us on Thursday. It's up in the air after the racers go by......
We crossed the border at noon. The border crossing has been changed. It takes a bit to conquer that. Now were cruising along the border on the Mexican side when I remember that the passport, that I thought about several times during the packing process, never made it on board our truck. Oh, Shit....and Mike didn't have his either. Camping gear for a month may not be near long enough. :(
South of the Border
We put the passport issue behind us and concentrated on getting through traffic to the coastal freeway to Ensenada. It's been a couple years since I've been south on the coast route. The new growth is mind blowing. When I was a young man ('60) we all wondered where Baja would get the water to support a population boom along the coast there near the border.....I'm still wondering.
We made it to La Mision. That's where the view of a beautiful beach opens up to your view. A few miles after that we enjoyed the ride along the rocky coast with a view from 500 feet above. Just spectacular, I never get used to it.
BTW, off the coast along those High cliffs at Salsipuedes (leave if you can) are 15 or so large man made circles (pens). A search tells me that the Japanese are raising pre-caught Tuna in those pens. Seems as though Tuna prices in Japan are as much as $30 a kilo.
We arrived in Ensenada and went to the circus known as Tech inspection. I haven't been there for 5 years. There was no street parking near by so we pulled into an impromptu parking lot. Nert! $10 was the fee. That's known as progress.
We paid and then parked. It was 1:30. We wanted to walk passed the vendor booths, and look at the race cars. It was a sea of people, but we still were able to see what we wanted to see. We rubbed on some race cars, and got the race hype into our souls.
King Shocks, nearly a thou each
Exciting vender booth...see any tire?
Look at the LEDs on this entre...scheesh Those lights cost more than my entire car back when I was racing
Back in the day....1972
There were the usual Hondas, KTMs and Kawasakis as well as all manner of quads and side-by-sides. We were keeping track of a couple of race bikes that had blogs on Adventure Rider Dot com. One was a group of vets riding for the cause of 'Wounded Warriors' and another was 'Frog' doing an Iron Man ride (solo 1125 miler). BTW, they both got to the finish line. The Wounded Warrior group finished with a hour to spare (43 hrs), and Frog finished in 40 hrs or so. Very respectable for both teams.
We spent an hour there, and then decided to go find the spot that we had selected to watch the race. It was about 9 miles due south of Osos Negros. A wash ran across the course and the map told us it would be a good location away from big crowds. We camped on top the hill marked with an 'A'. http://goo.gl/maps/Cyv9U
We retrieved our truck and took off to the east of town on hwy 3 toward San Felipe. At 25 miles we went into Ojos Negros for an early dinner at the cafe that was northwest of the town park. La Rositas, or something. I've been eating there for at least 25 years. This is the first time that they have had a indoor bathroom. ....more progress.
The food was great as usually, although the waitress couldn't speak any English, and I got 3 small tostadas when I wanted 3 enchiladas. Oh well, that's the charm of Baja. Mike had an order of Tacos.
We made good time on the dirt road south from town,
and about 5 miles out we ran into more progress. A rancher and his wife had a ribbon and a rope blocking a gate where they were charging $5 a vehicle to go spectate. Who knows what ties they had to the land? I told them we were just on our way to Uruapan, and they let us go free as the road was a through route. Did I mention that I'm a little bit cheap.
Soon we got to the wash that we'd selected. There were 3 or 4 other groups there already. We laid dibs to the top of a nearby hill for our campsite.
We'd be able to see forever....to the south
....and see them coming from the north
We'b bought 3 bundles of firewood in Ojos N for 5 bucks. We put that to use and settled in for the night.
It was going to be cold, but with the uses of Mike's battery powered blower the air mats were easily inflated, we certainly weren't going to be uncomfortable. Mike slept in his tent, but I wasn't going to waste a starlit night by looking at the top of my tent....no siree......and the stars were beautiful.
We had told all the lies that we'd stored up by 8pm. There was no reason not to go to bed. The Mexican campers were at least a hundred yards away so the partying and music was just the last key needed to get in the Baja mood as we fell into dreamland.
Race Day and the Escape
We slept good. I won't say that I didn't have a dream about being dragged by my ankles back into Mexico during a botched border crossing. 8pm to 6:30am provided plenty of rest for race day. We would need it.
There was just enough wood left for a morning fire to take the chill off. I nestled the coffee pot onto the coals for coffee with my breakfast bars.
The first bikes had already left the starting line. They tend to start them at first light. That was probably at 6:30am. The morning temps have been running 45°. That's was going to be mighty cold for the bike riders. We were only 50 miles into the race. The first bikes would get to us at around 7:45.
They would start the bikes and quads, quickly then give the the Cars and trucks till 11am before they would unleash them. The fast Trophy Trucks and unlimited buggies coming from behind are a motorcycles worst nightmare. In fact, 'Frog', who I mentioned before got hit by a TT about 500 miles down the course. It knocked him off the bike and bent the subframe in to where it was rubbing on the shock. Anyway, that's why they give such a big gap between bikes and cars.
Sure enough, the first bike came at 7:40. As he came into view, he had to pass a spectator vehicle that was late to set up at his view site. That is a super hazard for the first vehicle. All spectators think they have time to move on the race course until the first contestant shows up.
....click to show video...
We watched from our hilltop. The fast riders were announced by the helicopters that were filming them. Soon the bikes were past and the wait for the TTs began. Restless fans began driving their 4X4s around. There were 5 Suzuki Samurais in a group down below. Two of them began trying to out do each other climbing the banks of the wash down below.
When they got bored with that they began to race up the hill that we were on. It was all a lot of fun. All the folks down below were Mexican out for a holiday. Their music was loud, and they were having a good time. A Toyota Tacoma with 4 Young Mexicans in it came up the hill.
They were nice guys from San Diego, they said, using words like sir when they talked to me. The Tacoma had $10000 worth of suspension under it. They were likable boys. I sure hoped that they didn't hurt themselves before the day was done.
Here's a Video of the scene.
We watched all the fast cars and trucks come buy till about 2pm. That left us 3 hours till dark. We decided to run down to Uruapan and maybe camp on the beach west of Santo Tomas....or summat....we'd be there by 4pm or so.
We took the road west form the wash. http://goo.gl/maps/Cyv9U
It's 25 or 30 miles to Hwy 1 at Uruapan. The road exists because it's a long way around to Ojos Negros if you go up through Ensenada.....but it's not maintained by the government. That means that it gets sketchy attention by the ranchers of the area.
As I said earlier the road was an unknown quantity, but I figured it would be a 15mph road....and it started out that way. The road wasn't 2 lane, but you could carefully pass an oncoming vehicle almost anywhere. Within the first mile we came upon a '99 F150 with a missing right front wheel and spindle. The good news was that a 1 ton tow truck could get to him. Ten miles further along our route that wouldn't be the case.
Soon we came to a 'Y' in the road. There are lots of reasons for a 'Y' in the road. Often you just take the most traveled road. The left 'Y' went up and the right 'Y' went along the wash that we were in. I figured the roads went to the same place, but one was dry weather and the other was a wet weather road....but sometimes the roads go to completely different places. It's always a crapshoot, and it's good to have plenty of gas in case you have to double back and take the other road.
Here's our route over to the coast....Google wouldn't follow the route we took so I added some waypoint letters on our actual route. http://goo.gl/maps/BGaML
"C's where the broke Pu was, 'D' was the right hand road, and 'F' was were we went right because the left fork didn't look traveled at all.
We took the right hand fork, and looked for the left road to come back into our route. We never saw it, which induced doubt into our route decision. No big deal. Our road went east and was a good one....for the next 8 miles. At that point we went through an open gate. There was a kinda official sign that I didn't understand. Mike thought a word resembled 'Preserve'. Maybe we had entered a Preserve....who knows?
The significance of that gate was that there hadn't been any road work there for years, but we were on a plateau area where little rain damage occurs. That wouldn't always be the case.
The road began to be a bumpy and narrow 2 track. The only recent tracks were 4 dirt bikes tracks. We began to have doubts about the first right hand fork that we took. We hoped that the 4 dirt bikes weren't really 2 dirt bikes that had to turn around. We continued on through some nice tree areas.
After those tree we began to drop down the mountains toward the coast, and the road became a real high clearance road often eeking over ruts and rock steps in the road. The Race cars from a few years ago had destroyed the road. It was whooped out in the climbs and acceleration area. We bottomed out often on boulders, and were really thankful that we had taken Mike's receiver hitch out this morning as we also scraped front and rear ends going through many washouts.
The road deteriorated to the point that rescue from any sort of tow vehicle would be a joke. But as long as The truck (with 230000 miles on it) ran good and the 4 wheel drive worked it wasn't too bad. Only one time on a steep rutted climb did we hit a combination of ruts in opposing tracks where the left front and right rear almost lost traction at the same time. That one almost stopped us.
A man walking would have been faster than us for much of that 10 miles after the trees area. I tried to take a picture of the roughness. Roughness and steepness never come out in pictures.
Along the way we found a remnant from the last race....
Here's why the tire was jettisoned....$400 shot to hell.
We had been on the road for nearly 3 hours and could see the Uruapan valley a couple miles to the left, but we couldn't get there. I recalled from the google mapping that I'd done that there were several roads that crossed the river on the map, but we could find any of them.
Our route went up and down over a road that wasn't traveled by anyone except an occasional idiot now and then....oh, and those 4 bikes. That's our road way over there near the horizen.
We had run out of light, and had visions of setting up camp in the dark out there somewhere. Finally we came onto a road, that was used, that went toward the river at Uruapan. 15 minutes later we were through the town and connected to Hwy 1 headed toward Ensenada.
It was only 6:30. Hell, we could get home tonight if we could get through the border. We decided a clean warm bed at home would be the ticket.
I figured they wouldn't try to eat us at the border, but I could imagine a couple hour in a room at the border while they checked us out. Well, whatever, we had nobody to blame but ourselves......
We went straight to the Tijuana border crossing (Not the Otay crossing) and got in line by 8PM. Much to my surprise, it was less than a 1/4 mile long. We were in front of the guard by 8:30. Mike handed him our drivers licenses and said that we both forgotten our passports.......
The guard's steely eyeballs never flinched. He keyed our DL numbers into his keyboard while another guard looked in our cooler, and said, "Ok, go ahead".
Scheesh, and to think that I lost 5 minutes worth of sleep over those Passports. Just in case, I think I'll get one of those passport cards that they are issuing for land or water entries back to the states.
Mike had me in home in Oceanside by at 9:30, and he was home by 11 in LA. That Nismo is the 'Bomb'.
It had been a good trip with another narrow escape from the 'Jaws of Death'.