Baja 2000 Part 5
I woke to cold sore muscles. I was laying on cold concrete still wearing my riding gear from the day before wrapped in a thin blanket. I don’t think I moved an inch while I slept and my muscles and bones ached because of the cold hard floor and the lack of movement.
I lay there reflecting on the previous two days of adventures. I hadn’t ridden my dirt bike that far in a very long time, much less two days in a row. And riding double the night before in an uncomfortable position didn’t help with my sore muscles.
Finally I could not take it any longer and I forced myself to get up. I was hungry and had to get off the hard floor. I went out to the truck and retrieved my bag. I had to change out of my smelly riding gear. I must have woken the others when I opened the door because both Glen and Eric were awake when I returned. Dayton was being stubborn and refusing to rise, but he was awake.
We packed up and finally Dayton crawled out of bed. We were all starving and walked a hundred yards or so to a primitive restaurant. It was not much more than a typical taco stand. There were only two walls under the roof. About six red plastic tables and chairs advertising Coca-Cola were set out for customers. We chose a table in the morning sun to attempt to warm ourselves. The walls surrounding the cooking area were covered with off-road racing posters. Almost everywhere you go in Baja you will find a Johnny Campbell poster adorning a wall. He is the hero to many Baja kids who dream of racing one day. And this restaurant was no different than the rest. The sun had faded the older posters over the years. It was fun to look at some of the older posters from the 80’s and see the passion the owner had for racing.
The breakfast was very tasty. This is where I learned that you can almost never go wrong in Baja ordering “machaca con huevos” for breakfast. It is a dish of shredded beef and scrambled eggs with diced peppers thrown in. It is served with tortillas, but I usually eat the machaca separately from the tortillas.
While we ate we all shared the stories from the day before. Eric had a good pre-run, except that he had to ride the last 60 miles in the dark on the highway and didn’t get to see that part of the racecourse. Dayton, Glen, and I shared what had happened with us and we all had some good laughs about our adventures.
After breakfast Eric rode back up the highway on his bike and pre-ran the last few miles of his section. While he was gone Glen and I took his truck down the road about a quarter mile to buy some gas. There was no gas station in town, but there was a gentleman selling gas out of 55 gallon barrels. The gas was more expensive than normal, but we had no choice because the big Ford v8 was thirsty. The owner had a plastic hose he used to syphon the gas out of a barrel into a plastic jug which he then poured into the pickup using a funnel. He was a pro at syphoning the gas and never spilled a drop or drank any. One time as a kid I tried to syphon some gas and ended up with a mouthful, and I never tried again!
When Eric returned we loaded his bike into the truck with the other two and piled our gear bags in around them. We got on the road shortly after because we had to get back to Ensenada to finish the prepping race bike.
We arrived in Ensenada after a 5 hour drive. None of us felt like doing anything but relaxing for the rest of the day, but we didn’t have that luxury. Eric and Dayton wrestled the race bike out of our hotel as I set up a makeshift mechanic shop behind Eric’s little trailer. I brought a small tool box full of the essential tools needed to work on my bike which was pretty much exactly what we needed for the race bike. Eric produced his check list and we attacked the bike. We still had not even started the brand new engine.
It was dark when we finally came to a stopping point in our work on the race machine. Eric gave the starter a few kicks and the engine sprang to life. After a quick spin around the block he handed the bike over to me to go put a few miles on it. I put my helmet, riding boots, gloves, and jacket on. I did not know the city so Eric pointed me toward the coast highway to Tijuana. We wanted to put 50 or so miles on the engine to “break it in”.
I headed north out of town. After paying at a toll booth I followed the Pacific coast. In places the divided highway hangs on a cliff over the ocean. While I couldn’t see the water because of the darkness I could smell the ocean air and feel the cool breeze. The farther north I rode the colder the air became. Suddenly I felt raindrops stinging my face inside my helmet. Before I could even think about finding a place to turn around I was enveloped in a full down pour. The rain was extremely painful on my nose and cheeks. My goggles did not cover my whole face, leaving my nose, cheeks, and mouth exposed to the elements.
Finally, I found a place to turn around and headed back to Ensenada. The bike was running great and I was pleased with the performance. The odometer read 64 miles when I arrived at the hotel.
After giving my analysis on the bike I changed out of my wet clothes. Dayton and Eric wrestled the bike back into the hotel room. The three of us then headed out to check out the night life of Ensenada. Everywhere we turned there were other racers and team members. We ran into a people Eric knew and received course reports. At some point we talked to someone that had been pre-running way down south and met our teammate John Albro. He said that John had crashed pretty hard but was still able to ride. This news left us with more questions than answers, but there was nothing we could do about it at that point. Dayton and I told the story of our adventure from the day before to the amazement of all.
We didn’t stay out too late because the next day was going to be a busy one. But as we walked back to the hotel we stopped at the taco stand to grab a late night snack. The owner was excited to see “Erric Brrown” again and wanted to know how our trip was going. So I told him of our adventures in Spanish so he could understand. The tacos were excellent as always.
We all slept in a little the next day. This was the last day before the race. We still had a few more things to do to the race bike.
After breakfast we wrestled the race bike back out of the room to our makeshift shop. I changed the oil and filter because we didn’t want to race on the “break in” oil. Dayton found a couple more things we needed to address so those were handled as well.
While I addressed the last of the items on the bike Eric and Dayton headed over to registration to pick up their wrist bands and complete any paperwork needed.
Meanwhile about a block away a huge party was getting under way. The day before most off-road races an event called “Contingency” takes place. A vacant lot about the size of a city block was transformed into a vendor area. All the competitors slowly drive or push their race vehicles down between the rows of vendors and fans. If you find a vendor whose product you use you can sign up with them and possibly win free product or even cash from them if you do well in the race. Most of the vendors are geared toward the trucks and buggies so we skipped much of it with the motorcycle. However, there were so many fans crammed into the small area that it was a slow and tedious process. We were often stopped by kids and adults wanting autographs and stickers. They didn’t care that I was not racing, they still wanted an autograph.
Contingency row ended at the entrance to the tech inspection area. We had a list of items we had to address on the motorcycle for safety reasons and the bike had to be inspected and approved by the race officials before it could race. A man they called Red greeted Eric by name. He had a giant red beard, I never asked, but assumed that was why he was called “Red”. I noticed Eric bummed a smoke from a stranger earlier and tucked it behind his ear. Eric now offered it to Red to “grease the wheels” so to speak. Red gladly accepted the gift and proceeded to thoroughly inspect our bike. We were required to have an operating tail light as well as carry a small first aid kit. Red went as far as opening the small zippered pouch to ensure the contents were acceptable. All helmets had to be inspected and a sticker was put on each one indicating it passed inspection. This created an issue for the guys down south that did not go through tech. I learned later that if one of our riders was found to have a helmet without a sticker it would be inspected at that point and if it did not pass tech the team would be disqualified from the race. Red was assisted by another great man named Art Savaveda. Years later Art would become the technical director of the whole organization. Both of these men worked tirelessly to ensure every race machine was as safe as possible and they always had a smile on their faces at every race I attended for years to come. Red’s final task was to engrave a small marking on the engine case to ensure we started and finished the race with the same engine. We were allowed to repair it if necessary, but we were not allowed to change it.
The afternoon was pretty much shot by the time we finished tech inspection. As we made our way back to the hotel we stopped by the factory Honda pit truck and spoke to a few of the factory Honda guys about the race course. While we were a competitor of theirs, they were always willing to chat and share a few of their secrets. We were not so naive to think that they told us all their secrets. We all knew we didn’t have much of a chance at beating the factory team, but we planned on giving it one heck of a try.
After one last look over of the race bike we wrestled it back into the hotel room. We then began to pack up and prepare the pick-ups for the trip south. I offered to leave my motorcycle there so we wouldn’t need to pull the trailer. So we loaded Eric’s pre-run bike into his pick-up to take for spare parts. This turned out to be an extremely wise decision. I loaded my tool box and gear bag along with Eric’s things into his pick-up. I completed my project as my stomach began to growl.
All four of us made the trek down the street to a great Mexican food restaurant called Mariscos to get a great dinner. We all had fresh seafood while a man tried to play a keyboard and sing American songs for our entertainment. He had a microphone and amp set up to ensure the patrons at the next five restaurants could hear him. He butchered “Hey Jude” so badly I am sure John Lennon was turning over in his grave and Paul McCartney’s ears were ringing where ever he was at the time! The food was great, but the music made our ears bleed. Eric finally offered the guy money to stop playing since he was set up about 6 feet from our table and his volume was rather loud. It was almost as if the musician thought that the loud volume would over power his deficiency in creating good music. The musician was slightly offended, but accepted Eric’s money and we were left in peace. The rest of our dinner was spent discussing a race day strategy. We had a great plan for our part of the race course and could only hope our teammates down south would be ready for us when we handed the bike off to them.
After dinner we walked to the convention center for the driver’s meeting. The large room was packed when we arrived and were forced to stand at the back. Local officials were present and the SCORE director Sal Fish led the meeting. Pomp and circumstance was prevalent at all the drivers meetings. It was opened with the Mexican national anthem and words from both the mayor of Ensenada and the tourism director of Baja. These two men spoke exclusively in Spanish and I could tell most of the racers present did not understand them. When they were finished Sal spoke about the race course. There were a few last minute changes or dangerous areas to speak about. He also advised us that we needed to obey the posted speed limits on the highway sections because the Federal Police would be patrolling and possibly ticketing speeders. Of course we scoffed at this. Who would go the speed limit while in a race? Sal also took the opportunity to thank all the race sponsors. The meeting took over an hour, but it seemed like much longer.
We returned to the hotel to go over everything one last time. Upon entering the courtyard the night clerk approached us and said he had a message for Eric to call a hotel in southern Baja. Eric followed the clerk into the office to make the call.
After a while Eric returned from the office. He had talked to both Harry and John down south. Harry was ready for us. He had completed two runs through his section and was prepared. John confirmed he had crashed pretty hard while pre-running and was beat up pretty good. He was still planning on racing but may need to let someone else ride some of his miles. Gwin also left a message with the clerk saying he was ready for us as well. Eric had not heard from Mike, but we had to forge on with the plan hoping he would be where he was supposed to be.
We finally turned in for the night after hot showers. I made a mental note then to never make another trip to Baja without bringing a towel from home. I decided that in an effort to deter bath towel theft the hotel issued horrible towels to the guests.