June brings the 52nd SCORE Baja 500 this year and 35 years in Baja for me. Ever since I was a kid reading Dirt Bike magazine, I wanted to experience Baja, Mexico. When I joined then 3&4-Wheel ATV Action in late 1985, I volunteered to shoot the SCORE Baja 1000 for DB that November. I drove out past Valle Trinidad to the road leading to Mike’s Sky Ranch, unloaded a Yamaha BW200 and rode it towards Mike’s, then worked my way back out, shooting the race bikes along the way. On the way back to Ensenada, I passed a Jeep in a ditch with its hood up. The jeep had gone off Hwy 3, and the battery had taken out the distributor cap. I drove a DJ into E-Town so he could buy the parts and took him back so we could fix the Jeep.
Baja rule #1: Pay it forward, because you may be the one stranded next time.
In My 35 years in Baja I fell in love with its beauty, I returned many times to race the Rosarito Beach Race and Tecate 250 three times each. I did two Chris Haines Baja Tours, a Class-10 buggy tour from Horsepower Ranch and covered many Baja 500s and 1000s. I rode and tested dirt bikes and now UTVs. In 1990 and 1991,Team Dirt Bike Editor Ron Lawson, ad guys Robert Rex and Robb Mesecher, and I raced the Baja 1000 on XR628s with Team Honda.
35 years in Baja taught me some of the most fun in desert racing is pre-running. I rode a Suzuki DR650 from San Diego on I-8 to and through Mexicali, then joined the course at the base of The Summit. A few miles into the section, I came around a turn and encountered a ditch dug across the course. I pinned the DR650 and wheelied and bunny-hopped the booby trap.
Baja rule #2: Be careful in Baja, or it’ll hurt you. I finished that section at Tres Posos and met Ron, who had six friends with him. The whoops had faded the DR’s shock, so I hit the pavement, and they did the El Diablo Drylake/Matomi Wash loop. One of the group ran out of gas.
Baja rule #3: Never pass a Pemex without topping off. But, they pilfered some from a broken race buggy. Then another bike broke down. Ron rode into San Felipe and paid a guy with a 4×4 van to retrieve the bike.
Baja rule #4: Carry plenty of money for emergencies. We regrouped, had dinner, then had way too much fun, almost blowing up a fireworks stand.
Baja rule #5: See BR#4. Having good night vision, I also rode the night sections both years. In 1990, that was Mike’s Road to Valley-T Road and then west to Tres Hermanos, which I only got to pre-run once. The last few miles to the finish were through ranch land with many 90-degree turns and fence and tree lines on both sides. After a couple of near misses with barbed wire, I backed off. Next thing I know, the lead buggy was lighting up the trees in front of me, so I pinned it and drug both boots to make as much dust as possible so as not to get passed or run over. Turns out it was Robby Gordon’s Dad.
In 1991, I got on at Camalu and rode the beaches and cliffs through Erendira, then turned inland to Santo Thomas then Ojos Negros and the finish at E-Town. It got dark before Ojos, and I had blown a HID bulb. The Honda pit fueled me and fixed the light, and I pinned the six-honey. The front end came up, so I rode the wheelie all the way onto Hwy 3. At the after party, one Honda guy told me he said at the time, “Why did we replace the bulb if he was going to point it at the sky?” Team Dirt Bike finished 5th and 6th in Class 22 (Open Pro) those years.
My first Baja UTV experience was in a Rhino with Greg Bringle’s tour. We trailered to Santo Thomas and drove the coast to San Quintin. We did a photo shoot on the beach on the return trip, and Ketchup did one pass too many in deep ruts, high-centering the Rhino. We burnt a belt getting it out, and it failed a few miles later.
Baja rule #6: Bring spares and all the tools needed to install them.
In 2017 and 2018, Jack and I pre-ran with two-time SCORE UTV champ Marc Burnett. Those were awesome trips, all fun and no drama, because Marc has Baja dialed. I can’t wait for the next one.
I did a dirt bike ride from E-Town to San Felipe to San Quintin and back in February, 2019 when I met Gabriela. I met her again in May when I covered the Lucas Oil races at Estero Beach, and I’ve ridden my Harley down the coast to see her a few times since then. Once we rode to Santo Thomas and had dinner, and the next day there was a puddle of fuel under my bike. Stranded, I called Burnett for help, and he called his Baja guys. Then I remembered that Shock Therapy has a shop in E-Town, so I called Justin. A few minutes later, Juan Carlos from Baja Powerhouse called me and said help was on the way. They trailered my bike to the shop but couldn’t find the right O-ring for the EFI fitting. The next day, Juan sent his guy to San Diego to buy the right part, and we had my bike going by nightfall.
Baja rule #7: If you get stranded in Baja, call Baja Powerhouse at +52 (646) 160-2454. If you need a guided tour, they also run Baja Voyager Tours. Thanks, Juan!
See how to win free Obor tires here! WIN FREE OBOR TIRES | UTV Action Magazine
See UTV Action’s report on Baja racing here: https://utvactionmag.com/polaris-wins-big-at-the-52nd-score-baja-1000/
See the machine that won the Baja 1000 here: https://rzr.polaris.com