2001 Baja 500
I woke to a completely silent house. The only sound I heard was my growling stomach. I laid in my bed too tired to even do anything about it. We had all stayed out late the night before celebrating our successful race. Our 3rd place finish was a win in our book.
As we walked around downtown late the night before we could still see and hear race vehicles completing the race. The finish line didn’t close until the wee hours of the morning and for many teams every minute allowed was needed to complete the grueling race course.
A common theme among most people racing in Baja is “perseverance”. The goal of every racer is to beat what Baja throws at you. Sometimes that isn’t possible, but no one quits without a fight. While we were waking up after a successful race there were teams out on the course trying to rescue their broken race car or motorcycle. They were looking for their broken-hearted teammates who spent the night in the desert. Then the long, dejected ride home would commence. Some would vow to never return only to change their minds a few days later. To some the agony of defeat was too great and they would never return. And to yet others, they would pick up their race vehicle and head home with a lesson learned and immediately begin planning how they would return and conquer the mystic and formidable terrain called Baja.
I heard the shower turn on in the next room. And someone started making some noise in the kitchen. So I decided I had better get up. We needed to get loaded up for the drive home, and we also needed to attend the award ceremony at the San Nicholas Hotel in Ensenada.
Soon everyone was up and recounting their adventures from the day before. Most of the stories had been told the night before, but they were recounted again with more details added. Racing stories are often like fishing stories, the more time that elapses between the race and the story telling the more dramatic the story becomes. But unlike most fishing stories, racing stories often revolve around adrenaline filled life and death situations.
We began the process of loading up our motorcycles and gear. Several were complaining of headaches from the adult beverages and sore muscles from the riding. I was just plain tired and drained. Finally, we were all loaded up and we convoyed into town.
Finding a parking spot near the San Nicholas Hotel proved to be difficult for my truck and trailer. After a few minutes I secured a spot and we all made our way inside.
The awards ceremony had just begun when we walked in. Chairs were set up all around the pool and we found some seats near some other bike racers. One of the guys we sat by was named Jimbo Fergesson. Little did I know that Jimbo would become a friend and sponsor of our Baja racing adventures in the future. Sal Fish, the owner of SCORE was standing at the podium talking about the race and thanking the race sponsors. Soon the official results were announced. We were elated when we found out that not only did we finish in 3rd place in our class, we were also the 3rd fastest vehicle overall in the whole race.
This is normally not the case. Usually only one or possibly the first two motorcycles will be faster than the unlimited trucks or cars. Our official time was 11:04:34. We beat Mark McMillin the first unlimited 4 wheel vehicle who finished in 11:06:15. And we were ahead of the 4th place bike, the 5X ridden by Phillip Zeiger, Ron Wilson, and Aron Tuck by about 4 minutes. After 478 miles we were less than 4 minutes apart!
Every rider on our team contributed exactly what was needed to the race. They all rode fast, but kept the bike together and didn’t crash. They kept digging and pushing even when we were behind and it didn’t look like we would be able to make up the time. The split second decision by me to postpone the tire change and Dayton riding extremely smart when we had the lead toward the end sealed the deal for us. One mistake by any of the riders could have easily cost us more than the 4 minute lead we had at the finish line.
Eric was given the opportunity to thank our sponsors from the podium. This was a proud moment for all of us on the team. We needed to get on the road so we didn’t stay for the whole ceremony.
As we left we saw Bruce Ogilvie by the Honda box van. We stopped by and spoke to him for a few minutes. He congratulated us on our good finish and said he looked forward to seeing us at the next race. After a brief conversation we headed back to our vehicles.
The trip back to Phoenix was uneventful. But after almost a week in Baja I really didn’t want to go home. I had fallen in love with the Baja desert and the people that lived there. Unfortunately life had to go on in the real world.
On the way home Dayton and Eric started talking to me about doing some of the Arizona desert races. I didn’t think I was fast enough, but Dayton reassured me that I was plenty fast enough to be competitive. I had only raced motocross up until that point. I wasn’t real good at it, so I agreed to race on Labor Day weekend near the town of Snowflake. I was hooked on desert racing and I never raced another motocross race again.