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Old 10-06-2014, 04:40 PM   #1
Drmark350 OP
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Baja Rally 2.0

So now that I've had a week to recover from the Baja Rally I feel like I should share my experience so I can thank those that helped me along the way, and so those that have sat on the fence thinking they would like to do something like this can finally get off the fence.

Yes, this is a picture of Andy Grider giving me a High Five at the finish line on the last day of the rally. Something I will never forget....lets rewind to how I got there.




My whole adventure started about a year ago when 88NX250 (Iain) and I were out on a trail ride and he asked me if I wanted to go to Baja with him, the answer that came out of my mouth without any hesitation was "YES! when do we leave?"



My brain was still processing what the actual question was and it probly wasn't till some weeks later that I realized once again I had probly bit off more then I am accustomed to chewing. None the less, as anyone here can understand, it was too late to turn back and have my testosterone levels called into question. So onward and ever forward, I called in the big guns to my rescue...."honey, can I go to Baja next year?" Expecting a grueling series of questioning, that ended with "its going to cost how much?" and then the ultimate blow "NO!" I thought my dirty work would be done for me. Id be out of my obligations and everyone would understand that I had to make my Wife the higher priority.

Well Turns out my wife is far more supportive then I ever gave her credit, and now I was obligated to this trip more then ever! So I start trying to conquer the endless to-do list I have ahead of me to get ready. First thing is First....im not riding the KTM 200 EXC on this ride, so time to find a bike. My first advice for anyone when looking at a bike to take to Baja is...."DONT BE A CHEAP ASS". I learned this the hard way. I bought a clapped out 2001 KTM 400exc that had been blown up and started rebuilding it from the ground up. After I was into it for $3000 I realized I was going backwards not forwards.....Time to sell the bike and get something that is closer to ready to go. That's when I got my KTM 530 xc-w, that would faithfully carry me to the finish.




Now I've got the bike, all I gotta do is get everthing else, how hard can that be? Well turns out that equipping your bike for rally AND a 4 day Baja adventure gets kinda spendy. I could have probly fudged on some stuff, not everything was a pure need, some things were wants....but on a trip like this I would encourage anyone to go the extra little bit to be over prepared because it pays dividends down there and when you don't have a flat tire or you have the extra part you need...its worth every penny.



Well At this point its about 5 months till the Baja Rally and I still have ZERO on hands Rally experience. I decided I really needed to do something to get some experience. I had been playing with Rally Navigator to try to get a better understanding of road books, and since we had two other guys going with us I decided to make a roadbook that went around my hometown where I grew up. Rally Navigator is an amazing program and I would challenge anyone who is interested in rally to try it out.....it has to be one of the easiest ways to get started in rally, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, go try Rally Navigator! If rally is for you, you will be hooked!!



That being said....making roadbooks is still not easy....I had a steep learning curve and came to appreciate just how much work goes into this. The Baja Rally guys put sooooo much work into the roadbooks alone, not to mention every other detail they had to cover, for very little thanks, but many complaints I'm sure.

Well we got some time in on the bikes, and before we knew it, we were headed to Baja, ready or not. In true procrastinator style we were putting the final parts on our bikes the night before we would leave, and by we, I mean I. Every train needs a caboose!

This is where the story really takes off and we get to the meat of it all. My friend Rick. You can call him "Crazy Uncle Rick" if you like. He wanted to go to Baja with me the moment I asked. I couldn't have done it without him, he paid for hotel rooms, gas, provided a vehicle and trailer, paid for parts on the bike and any other thing you can think of, just so he could go on this once in a life time trip with me. He is an amazing person and none of us could have had the kinda trip we had without his support. That being said, we had reservations at the beginning because he is the wildest party animal you have ever tried to keep pace with. This cat can party like a rockstar, and by rockstar I mean guy who has been to jail more then once!




I also need to thank Alex, from Konflict Motorsports. Not only did he put top notch suspension on my bike, but he also supplied his van and time to come down to support us. I cannot say enough good things about him and Konflict Motorsports.



So Rick Picks me up at my place in Bellingham, Wa at 5am Sept 21st and we load up and head for Iain's house (88nx250). Iain is a fairly prepared kinda guy, so you can imagine his reservations when we show up at his house with this and we have to make it from basically the Canadian border all the way down to Coco's Corner and Back.



For all you Top gear fans.....this was dubbed "the sports Lorry" for the remainder of the trip. She worked flawlessly, and by the look of it I think this truck was right at home in Mexico.

The trip down was rather uneventful, we just tried to cover as many miles as we could and got to san diego in about a day and a half. We met up with the rest of our crew and proceded across the border the next day.

This was my first time to Baja/Mexico, so it was an eye opener. Tijuana for those that have never been there is this special place where the air smells of Dead rotting animals mixed with raw sewage and a few other scents mixed in that I just couldn't put my finger on. My problems at home immediately became smaller.

Eventually we had made our way to the San Nicolas Hotel in Ensenada where we were greeted by other smiling faces of fellow riders all excited to embark on the same Journey. Ensenada was much nicer then the border town we were initially greeted by, and put my mind at ease. Many of these guys I would get to know much better along the way and get the privilege of calling friends before the trip was over.



Day one was pretty simple....we had tech inspection, welcome meeting, support crew meeting and of course the "riders meeting". This is where I first got to meet Scotty. Scotty is a high energy guy, you can tell his brain is running a mile a minute, and a lot of the time so Is his mouth (all in fun jest of course scotty ;) The meeting was a little scatter-brained to say the least and I don't blame him a bit with the amount of things he had hanging over his head with this event. I would not have wanted to wear his shoes. That said, Scotty got us all though it and we eventually were off and running trying to get ready for the next morning.



This was how things would be the rest of the trip for me....staying up till midnight getting ready for the next day that would start about 4:30 ish each morning. I ran on pure adrenaline for 4 days straight.

Day 2 was when the actual riding began. We were escorted out of Ensenada by the police with all our support guys there at the Ceremonial Start to cheer us on. My whole body was a ball of nerves and apprehension that I tried my best to keep from showing on the outside. This is when I got to meet Brian Pierce from "Seat time" for the first time. He is hilarious and a heck of a good guy. He is very entertaining and you all should check out "seat time" if you never have before.



Well the great thing about Rally is a lot of the time the days would start out with a liason stage to the start of the special....this was on average about 50- 100 Km. The reason I say this is great, is because it gave me time to get the jitters out and get comfortable on the bike, by the time I got to the start of the special, my head was in the right place and I was actually ready to ride. This format worked really well for me and I liked it a lot. Well I pull up to the start for the special and Im starting right behind Andy Grider. As you can imagine, I feel the pressure of a really fast dude setting the pace in front of me, and a whole lot of fast dudes behind me that will be looking to pass me at some point during the day. So I settle into my pace allowing myself to be ok with getting passed a lot.



The day went off without a hitch for the most part.... didn't get passed as much as I expected to, got lost a couple times but over all felt pretty good, I seemed to be picking up on the navigation. Day one taught me the harshness of penaltys, I got a speeding penalty in a speed zone that added an hour to my time putting me in 17th. That was a mistake I promised I wouldn't allow myself to do again the rest of the event.

We ended the day at the Iconic "Horse Power Ranch" which was an awesome place to end the day. After a warm sweaty day of riding, the Pool was very inviting and I took full advantage of it.





We had an amazing diner and got to hear the first days results, and then it was off to bed to get some much needed rest.

4:30am came early as it always does, and we geared up to do battle a second day. Muscles were sore but overall I felt pretty good, and ready to put in another long day. I knew today was going to be exceptionally long as we had to make our way all the way down to COCO's, so I started preparing mentally that today had to be about survival...the bike had to hold togeather to Coco's or todays ride would be pointless. Im glad I did, because the 2nd day of riding proved to be one of the hardest on the machines. By the End of the day, Andy Grider's bike had blown, Brian Pierce's KTM had Seized and our own Team mate Whitney Koeberly had a complete Transmission/engine failure. I was greatful to have a bike that was still running when I got to Coco's, but it too was scary low on oil, and it would be something that The guys and I would have to keep a sharp eye on for the rest of the event.



Now you remember me talking about "Crazy Uncle Rick" well Coco's corner is where he really started to come into his own.



Up till this point most everyone we had run into was all business, but after a long day with a high attrition rate on the riders, some loosening up was in order. We wont go into details, but SOMEHOW, Some MOONSHINE made its way into COCO's Corner and judging from the grins I saw an hour or two later, it was a welcome guest. Everyone proceeded to have a good time that night as we watched Andy Grider and Half the camp, try to put new tires on Coco's 4wheeler. It was an awesome evening and a once in a lifetime experience.



The next morning started with us getting the green flag from Coco to start our liason stage to the next special. So I had a really hard get off on the first stage of the previous day, and my tailbone had taken the brunt of it, I knew today was going to be a long day and I was not looking forward to the suffering that I knew was going to be required of me to finish. None the less Finishing had to be my goal above all else. The road in and out of Coco's is pretty unpleasant on a bike, I cant imagine how the vehicles handled it, needless to say....I DID NOT SIT DOWN. When I got to the pavement I was happy to get a little relief....but it was only temporary. As I rode down the road I saw a group of birds ahead....my previous experience with this here in Washington has always be crows and I didn't think to much about it. It was when I was right on top of them and saw them start to fly that I realized I was dealing with a much larger kind of bird. If you have ever had a Vulture hit you while your riding 70mph down the highway then you know my experience well.....it was as if someone threw a 15lb turkey at me from the side of the road! I don't know how I stayed on the bike, but I have the bruise to prove I made life ending contact with the most smelly of all feathered creatures. I was almost more upset about the fact that my jersey smelt of rotten animal carcass and I was going to have to ride in it all day, then I was about the bruise and the near brush with death. That would be worst of my day and everything was uphill from there.

Now for those that hadn't heard....there was a bit of a hiccup on the 3rd days special. Some might call it more then that, but after my brush with the carrion eater of Death earlier in the day, my spirits were hard to be dampened. To get to the bass tacks of it if you will, it was a last minute change to the road book the night before, it wasn't very clear, and the intended route was impassible. I understand the frustration people felt, but I think nobody felt it more then Steve Hengeveld. (picture credit to chilly white)



We helped steve get his bike out and that's where the whole race got turned upside down. In the end I don't think anyone was happy with it, some suffered the brunt of it worse then others, I feel like the organizers did their very best to be fair but there was no fix all situation that could have made everyone happy.....in the end its rally, and had it been DAKAR, I belive the French would call it "force majeure". I still had a fun day and I wasn't about to let one day ruin the great time I was having. Eventually we made our way to MAMA ESPINOZA's. A must stop for anyone going to see Baja. The food is good and the company we kept there was even better. Great people and times were had by most. The hotel rooms were nicer then expected and probly the only complaint I had was the highway right next to us. It sounded like we were watching the Diesel Super trucks race circle track all night, but even with that I was tired enough to sleep through most of it.

Well the next morning came and it was the final day. Im here! Ive made it this far! all I have to do is buckle down, keep the bike togeather and I could finish this thing. Im excited as I push my bike over towards the start out of Mama's. I decide to go ahead and start my bike....and I kick, and I kick and I kick. Nothing is happening! My heart sinks to the pit of my stomach as I start to realize that finishing may not be a possibility now. The great crew of helpers that came along in the Konflict Motorsports van jump into action.



As they work on my bike I see all the other riders pulling out. Even Brian Pierce on the Super Pimp 200 (im pretty sure that's what the SP stands for on that bike). Well 40 min goes by and just about when I have lost all hope, the guys got my bike going and I throw my helmet on and rip out of Mama's to applause, it was an amazing feeling. I had crashed on the Mama's loop stage though about half way through and filled my road book holder with sand. I actually tore my road book in half at one point when one of the rollers locked up, so I had to stop and tape it back up and disengage the electric motors and roll by hand the 2nd half of the loop. At this point im feeling a little bummed about my situation, but still happy that im on my way to finishing. Eventually I pass a few guys and roll back into mama's with the end of the pack. I start to realize my day has turned around. My awesome support team clears the dirt out of my road book holder and gets the electric motors working again and I take off to the Penultimate stage. Day 4 had the most awesome riding, scotty and the crew did a great job of rewarding us on day 4 with some of the best riding Baja has to offer, I loved every minute of it.



The rest of the day was kind of a blur, I stopped once to zip ty my speedo back on cause the bracket it was bolted to broke, but the focus the entire time was just finish, just finish. Eventually I rolled into the finish for the stage and that was where I had half the support crew waiting for me cheering and Andy Grider waving the Checkered flag and giving me a pat on the back. It felt amazing. I had done it!





Then to my amazement less then an hour behind me, here comes Brian on the SP 200. My hat is off to him...day 4 was a long day with a lot of off road miles and he made it look easy on that bike. Since I was about ready to leave I stuck around and followed Brian back to Ensenada. I wanted to see him cross the final finish line at the Hotel.



When we got back to the hotel in Ensenada, Brian did a meaty burn out across the front of the hot tubs and we were greeted in rockstar style by our support guys and the whole event crew.



I had an amazing time, period. This event isn't for everyone. But if your looking for a challenge and you love Rally, and you think you got what it takes. You should think really hard about it. I promise that if you allow yourself to have a good time and just enjoy it, you will walk away with more memories and good times then you know what to do with. I wish I could share all the pictures and every single moment on here, but it would never end if I did. Thanks guys.
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Old 10-07-2014, 04:29 AM   #2
GalacticGS
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Thanks for sharing...so bummed about missing it I need to live vicariously through others!
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Old 10-07-2014, 05:44 AM   #3
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Great report! Good to see rally is developing on that side of the globe
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Old 10-07-2014, 08:50 AM   #4
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Great write up and really cool to get your perspective. I would have really liked to have seen the Ensenada start and finish (instead of a computer screen ). It was great to see your bike finally fire up at Mama's.

I've sent Scotty a few suggestions for consideration in next years Baja Rally 3.

Cheers,

Mark
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Old 10-07-2014, 12:55 PM   #5
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Great report, thanks!
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Old 10-07-2014, 02:35 PM   #6
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Good stuff. ~ Nice write-up.

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Old 10-07-2014, 03:30 PM   #7
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Nice!
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Old 10-07-2014, 09:37 PM   #8
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nice R.R. Mark,it was good to see you get through to the finish!
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Old 10-13-2014, 06:30 AM   #9
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Mark, thanks for taking the time to do a RR.
Easily the most fun I've had on a bike, (until my transmission expired). I LOVE RALLY!
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Old 10-13-2014, 08:03 PM   #10
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Awesome to see a guy from bellingham rally it down there! I'm in Anacortes and i'm heading down that way next year. Anacortes to Patagonia. I would love to hear more about your trip.
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Old 10-13-2014, 09:11 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mogley View Post
Awesome to see a guy from bellingham rally it down there! I'm in Anacortes and i'm heading down that way next year. Anacortes to Patagonia. I would love to hear more about your trip.
Mogley,
Thanks for chiming in. The more we talk and share stories, we realize that even if we're from Small Town, USA (I grew up in Anacortes) and we dream big, big things can happen.

I have to give credit to my buddy Iain who was a major motivator, telling me that Mark was the first rider to register for the Baja Rally and that he was number two! I had only ridden with Mark once, well over a year ago, but with that amount of conviction from the both of them I knew I had to be apart of the fun.

For me, Rally is the natural progression in riding and racing. After college I got into trail riding and Dualsport. It didn't take long to figure out that if you wanted to stay out of the dust, you better learn how to navigate! I'd see a pack of guys roll up to an intersection and stop, look down at the roll chart and then go. I'd look ahead on the roll chart, memorize the next turn or two and blow by them into clean air.

It wasn't until my late 30's that I started to dabble with hare scrambles. And by 40, I had fallen in love with Timekeeper Enduros. Unfortunately many of them are converting to an ISDE format, or Sprint format. This is due to dwindling land availability and shrinking clubs.

Adventure riding helped with navigation and orienteering; again, if you don't like dust, you better know how to navigate. :)

Rally combines all of this into one epic multi day, navigation, adventure race in a far off land. Ride safe, ride smart, and preserve your equipment. I learned my lesson this year!

Whitney
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