Baja 1000 Trip (Expedition) Report (No Raptor Content)

MagicMtnDan

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My friends Blair & Ken went down to Meh-hee-ko to the Baja 1000 and, as usual, it was an adventure...

Blair is a Jeep Cherokee owner (it's street legal set up for offroading) but he and Ken went in Blair's old F350 pickup with pop-up camper on the back. Here's their story as told by Blair (complete with a Dugger mention):




Drove truck/camper down last Tue. Left Placerville 345AM. Truck ran good till Fresno. Stopped for gas, wouldn't start. Truck has 4 batteries in it and all were showing nearly 13v. But wouldn't crank. Hmm...remembered on the Mojave Rd Doug was getting under his F350 to whack the starter pretty much the whole trip. So I got under mine, hit starter with hammer, started up. Looked around for auto parts store nearby to get another starter, but this particular Fresno exit didn't have much other than the gas station. In the little driving around I did I saw true shanty towns basically right in downtown Fresno. I think Fresno is really down on its heels. I decided to hit the fwy and get out of there.

Didn't shut the truck off again until I arrived at Ken's shop in Burbank about 1130am. Ken drove me over to Autozone for starter. Took about 1/2 hr to install. Loaded Ken's giant pile of gear in camper. Had a bite of lunch. Headed south about 2pm. As usual, LA traffic sucked. Arrived my brother Brant's house in San Diego 5pm. Parked Ken's jeep and headed to the border. As usual, San Diego traffic sucked. Stop and go most of the distance to the border.

Got pulled out of the main line for inspection by the Mexican marines at the border. (The first of many inspections--I guess most drug runners use old Alaskan campers as transport). Then on towards Rosarito.

On the steep part of the road west of TJ the truck started missing, hesitating. Just a tiny bit, but anything remotely out of the ordinary gets my attention. Stopped at a gas station on the toll road and checked it over. There was an air line disconnected from the airbox (I accidentally knock it off sometimes when checking the oil). Is that it? I doubt it, looks pretty much like a smog thing to me. A second possibility is my new gas caps, which seem to REALLY overpressurize the tanks...maybe? Dunno. Reconnected the airline and cracked the gas caps to let them equalize and then continued south with trepidation. But it seemed ok all the way to our overnight campsite on the beach at San Antonio del Mar, which we arrived at about 10pm. Behind schedule--I typically budget 3-3.5hrs from the border for this location--but not too bad as we had exceptionally slow going south of Ensenada (the road construction has Hwy1 really torn up).

Pleasant evening on the beach, fullish moon. Not even too windy. Had some sandwiches. Turned in about midnight. To my surprise, woke up to a sunny morning (this area is almost always overcast in the morning). Continued south, got gas in San Quintin. Immediately, truck is hesitating. WTF??? It ran great from TJ south last night. It only seems to do it on full tanks? Is that airline disconnected again? Possible, since I check the oil nearly every fill up. But...nope. So that isn't it. Fuel caps? Vent the caps and it seems better. Carry on and after the first couple of gallons burn off, no more issues. Runs good. Dunno...but I'm beginning not to like this.

El Rosario is, imo, the start of the "real baja". Also the place where, southbound, there is no more gas for the better part of 150 miles. So, even though we filled up not too many miles back at San Quintin, we top everything. And the truck starts hesitating. Again. Arggh!!!! After a few miles of it glitching and missing as we climb the hills east of El Rosario it seems to settle down. I'm irritated and a little anxious, but Ken just shrugs. So again we carry on.

Stop for lunch in a canyon south of Catavina. At this point we look at the map and our destination, El Datil, is still a long way south. So we consider other options. (We are pretty much on our own program since my friend Wasser flaked and didn't go to La Paz the week before and therefore is not meeting us on his return drive north as originally planned...consequently we don't have to be anywhere at any particular time).

We decide we'll go as far south as San Rafael fish camp, approx 50 miles south of Bahia de los Angeles via the coastal dirt road, and watch the 1000 there. Going only this far south will give us extra time to, on the way home, amble back north via the dirt road along the Cortez through Coco's and Gonzaga. Thus avoiding going through all the little pacific-side towns, the construction zones, Ensenada, etc, on Sunday afternoon.

Arriving at BofLA we pull in to the first gas station to top up. (Yes, BofLA now has TWO Pemex). The proprietress tells me they only have premium. Hmm. You mean the locals won't buy the premium, so you're trying to get gringos to buy it? Well, we don't need much gas, anyway, so we get premium. After the fill, the truck hesitates again. I've had enough, get out a screwdriver and pop the springloaded vent out of one of the caps. (Ken wisely advises that, since I might be wrong about this being the issue, I pop only ONE of the caps...if I'm right we can always switch caps each time we switch tanks and if I'm wrong we still have a pressurized cap). In the end, that "modification" seems to do it. Making the cap basically completely open seems to solve the issue and the truck doesn't miss again for the rest of the trip. I am, however, interested in anybody's thoughts on this issue. Could the caps (brand new and the ones Kragen says are right) have the wrong pressure? They certainly seem to create far more vacuum than the old caps I replaced. Could it be my fuel pump is getting tired and can't deliver sufficent volume when there is high vaccum in the tanks? Why would it happen only with completely full tanks?

Side note: I explain to Ken the big plastic drum and the bucket outside the BofLA Pemex restroom are there for a reason...you take a bucket of water out of the drum in with you and use that to flush. It takes a second, but he quickly gets the concept. Ha!

When we hit the dirt road south of BofLA we discover that 85psi in the E-range BFGs doesn't run so smooth. The truck is heavy, and I'm nervous about airing down. We have a cruising speed on the rough dirt road of about 10mph. 15mph tops. At that rate, its going to take us 5+ hrs to get to San Rafael. And the sun is going down. Again we modify the plan...we'll stay right here in BofLA for the race. After driving 5 miles or so south of town to get back into the open desert we find a place to camp on an abandoned dirt airstrip. Its a warm night, clear, full moon, no wind. Ken whips up some scrumptious ribs and corn on the cob. With a nice red to wash it down.

So...the next day...what day is this again? Seem to be losing track. Always do in Baja, ha! But I think today is Thursday, race day, so we decide to move camp down the road a piece to a better vantage point. We find a good spot at the top of a gentle hill with a distant view of the Cortez. We pick the bay-side of the road because the breeze is onshore and we'll appreciate that later, when the racers come through, since it'll blow the dust away from our camp. The spot is small, but Ken chops some of the closer-in cactus branches so we don't get scratched up.

The sun is bright and the day heats up. We rig up a tarp, have a hearty breakfast / brunch, and basically while away the three or so hours until 1pm (approx) when we see the first bikes. The first two Honda factory riders are, as is typical, way out in front. Later we see more of the amateur motorcylists go by...we are at race mile 390, less than 1/2 way to La Paz, but already many of them seem tired.

The first trophy trucks arrive just minutes before sundown, perhaps 445pm. We are drinking wine and are caught unawares since, presumably due to the imminent darkness, the trucks are not preceded by the usual helicopters.

For dinner we have chicken and corn on the cob. Watch race action until late, perhaps midnight. I did not see Bob Green's team go by. By my calculation it would have been about 330-4AM and I wasn't up. Two notes: after dark the wind changed to offshore so every car smothers our camp in dust, doh! And, two, my idea of connecting an external antenna to my handheld HAM for better Weatherman reception proves marginally successful at best. And that's even with the antenna placed way up on top of the camper.

The race cars going by are loud. And have bright lights. And they pass by all night. I'd have said I didn't sleep much but, it seems, a short time later its morning. So I must have slept some.

The next day is Friday. Although slower cars won't reach the finish in La Paz until well into Friday night, at our location at racemile 390 the race is essentially over. We pack up camp and head back north through BofLA, up the hill to Hwy 1 and then Hwy 1 north to the turn off onto the dirt road at La Chapala. The dirt road is heavily washboarded. Figuring that one way or another I eventually have to figure out what to do re: airing down the truck's tires, I decide to take off 15psi as an experiment. Go down to approx 65. The resulting ride seems smoother, but it still ain't like my jeep with 12psi in its 35s.

We stop at Coco's and have a beer (Coke for me). Coco is recovering from the big party the night before, so he's not about (this info according to his friend, Professora Pablo Ibarra, who is manning the cantina). We chat with Pablo, finish our drinks and continue on down to the Cortez and Bahia de San Luis Gonzaga. The road is rough.

At Gonzaga get some gas. There is a big dirt ramp in the middle of "town" that the locals must have built to get the 1000 racers to jump. The race long passed by at this point, a couple of ten yr old kids are using the ramp for launching their quads. It occurs to me someone should get the kids some helmets.

We drive out to the beach near Alfonsinas for some late-lunch sandwiches. There is a gutted early '70s F700 dump truck on the beach. Its a Ford, but no parts of any use to me, though Ken does look carefully.

A few dabbles with the deep sand at the end of the road prove that my truck is not capable of beach driving. So we're limited to staying on the hard pan but that's ok, its no more than 50 yds to the water. After sandwiches we drive north across the mudflats looking for a place to camp. The wind is pretty fresh, so we're looking for something a little protected. No luck. Eventually we decide to head north and drive a few miles along the coast, taking some side roads here and there near Punta Willard. Still nothing suits, so we get back on the "main" road and head yet further north.

Getting late in the afternoon when we see the homemade sign for Campo Bufeo. Looks like a nice spot and its actually in my Baja guidebook so we go check it out. Nice beach, airstrip, a few ****** houses and a little its-open-if-you-walk-in-to-eat restaurant. But the beach is exposed to the wind so we decide to go back inshore a little and camp behind the dunes. Find a decent spot that, while still windy, is much better. Having eaten lunch late we have snacks for dinner.

The next day (is this Saturday?) we decide to head north to the limit of the new pavement and camp there so that Sunday, the last day, we can just get up and roll on the pavement home.

The road is being paved from north to south. But...slowly. Total progress since I was down here in Nov '09 and Feb '10 is about 5 additional miles. The present situation is that the pavement ends at El Huerfanito, which is 25 miles north of Gonzaga. At Campo Bufeo, we've already transitted eight miles of that 25, so on Saturday we only had about 15 miles more to go. At our ten mph cruise, perhaps an hour or two to get to the pavement. We took a few side roads down to various beaches en route, but we still arrived near Huerfanito early Sat afternoon.

Problem was, the wind was howling. The open beach was out of the question for camping. We checked a few different spots, and found one little cove where it was less windy, but not by much. We had a nice fire thanks to an enormous windbreak someone else had built and we cooked up tri tip and corn. But the wind never really died down, so we ate in the camper. Ken even decided to sleep in the camper that night.

Sunday we left camp 830AM. Couple hours north to San Felipe, gassed up. North of San Felipe it got very windy. Turned west onto Hwy 2-D towards Tecate and the wind was really strong with stronger gusts. Climbing La Rumarosa grade was a 3rd gear / 40mph exercise. Once up on top it was windy AND rainy. Crossed at Tecate, 30 minutes total. Was sent to secondary where (allegedly) they x-rayed the truck.

Slow going on 94 West towards San Diego, arrived at Brant's house in Pt Loma 430pm. Transferred all Ken's gear back into his XJ and he departed about 5pm to visit a friend in San Marcos. I presume he made it back to LA today.

After Ken left I sat around Brant's deciding what to do. I could catch a flight to Sacto later that evening but it looked like it would be a flight after 10pm before I could get on as a standby. And that would mean Cristy would have to come down to get me late. At something like 11pm arrival, that would mean we wouldn't be back home until after midnight, best case. Alternatively I could crash at Brant's and fly Mon morning and go straight to work, and that's what I was leaning towards. In both cases I'd drive the truck home next Sunday (I'm going back to San Diego on Wed for Thanksgiving). But given that it was only 5pm, and I really just wanted to get the truck home, I decided to just drive it.

Left SD about 6pm and initially it was uneventful. Amazingly, not even a slow-down going through LA. At the bottom of the grapevine I got gas. Getting back on the hwy I shifted from 4th to 5th and...boom...the clutch pedal goes right to the floor. Just like it did before, when I had those troubles with it pre-trip. At this moment I don't know, but I just KNOW it fell against the exhaust and melted (plastic hydraulic line). What to do? Pull over and check it out? Why? Its dark and I probably can't fix it and once stopped I'd have limited or no ability to shift through the gears to get going again. So...just drive it, right? Get as far as I can without having to shift. Flooring it on the flats and cruising up around 80mph I was able to crest Tejon Pass in 5th. From there its all flat or downhill all the way to Folsom, 20 miles from my house. So just roll along in fifth and don't stop. Except...at some point I'll have to stop for gas. Be nice, though, if I only have to do that once. So I wring out maximum MPG from the present tanks then 1 fill up then all the way home.

The one gas stop was interesting. I know you can shift without the clutch but I still don't have a feeling as to how that works. I was able, after fueling, to start the truck in gear, get up to 10mph or so, force the shift lever into third (with some grinding it went) then onto 5th (lugging like hell) roll down the on-ramp gathering speed and back up to 65mph in fifth for the rest of the way home. So it worked but it felt abusive on the gearbox and I was also pretty anxious since recent experience has proven that hammering the gearshift lever CAN make it break off at the floor. Then I'd really have been hosed.

Arrived Placerville 235AM. Long drive. But, still, an excellent trip. At least SOME of you guys should try to make the next Baja run. :)
 

AndyR

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Here's one from another Jeep Buddy:

Bob Green wrote:

Nineteen of your best buddies…

Two thousand two hundred forty miles…

Fifty four hours in the truck…

That’s the short version of what it takes to beat the Baja Peninsula into submission and get back home safely, and that’s exactly what we did.

The Dust Junkies and Fat City crews pulled off an almost flawless run. It all started months ago when plans were made, and preparations began for the race car, chase trucks, and crew. It all came together early in the morning of November 16, 2010. My truck was packed with tools, spares, food, water and everything else that we might need to get the job done. We met up with the rest of the crew and headed south.

Crossing into Baja at Tijuana was uneventful, travel documents were obtained, and our adventure began.

We had a pleasant journey to Ensenada, checked in to our hotel at Estero Beach Resort. One of our first things to do was to get to the Big Burro taco shop just outside of the Estero Beach Resort compound for the first of many meals at the best taco shop in all of Baja. Irena and her family did a fine job of keeping us nourished with her fish, shrimp, and carne taco’s.

Ralf Kuller had flown in from Germany to help with our effort. He’d never driven the PRP Wrangler, so some of the crew headed to the beginning of the race course for some pre running and to get Ralf familiar with the car. The rest of us relaxed back at the hotel.

Wednesday morning we made the obligatory stop at the Big Burro for breakfast burritos, and took the race car to the carwash next door to get it looking spiffy for contingency.

Contingency was it’s usual spectacle with all of the racers, fans and vendors crammed into the main street of Ensenada. The car sailed through tech with no problems.

Soon enough the car was loaded back on the trailer and we headed back to the hotel. On the way back, we decided that we should find a Mexican flag to fly from the car for the race. Every advantage you can get is needed to beat the Baja Peninsula. If flying a Mexican flag would get us the slightest assistance from locals along the way, then so be it. After several stops we still had not found a flag. We had just about given up on finding one on such short notice. We decided to stop at the Big Burro for some taco’s and ask them if they knew where we could get a flag. It turns out, they had a flag at the taco shop they would give us…perfect.

After a good nights sleep, it was finally race day. The culmination of all of our hard work and prep was finally upon us…all that remained was the racing and chasing.

Our team owner Scott Hartman was driving the first leg with Larry McRae of Poison Spyder navigating. We strapped them into the car, fastened the window nets, and we were off.

The crew wouldn’t see the car for three hundred miles. We knew we had help if we needed it from Laird Nelson’s crew at BFG Pit 1, our first scheduled stop. We had made last minute arrangements with some friends of Scott Parker that were going to be near San Felipe if we needed help further south.

We sent two chase trucks east to Ojos Negros. They would monitor the car for the first 50 miles or so until it was out of radio range, then they would double back and head south. My truck with my wife Machelle, second leg driver Ralf Kuller, his brother Josef and myself, and the Hartman’s truck with Scott Parker, the second leg navigator, and Tandi and Robby Hartman all headed south to Coco’s Corner, where we would make our first driver change.

We knew we had a seven hour drive ahead of us. Along the way we heard on the radio that Mike Shaffers Pirate 4x4 entry had blown a tranmission and was out of the race. The news was unfortunate for Shaffer’s crew, but it’s part of the Baja test. We had also heard that the Coan Racing entry was approximately five miles ahead of us early on.

Hwy 1 down the Baja Peninsula can be a treacherous road. It is the only paved road down the peninsula, very narrow, and desolate. Tractor trailers generally have 3-6 inches of lane left on their side. There is no shoulder , and usally a six inch or better drop off from the edge of the road to the dirt. In addition the Mexican’s plant concrete pylons on the edge of the road maybe 6-12 inches off of the road surface, so running off the road to escape oncoming traffic in your lane is not an option either. I swear the roads get six inches narrower as soon as the sun goes down. We saw evidence that catastrophe could be around the next corner soon enough. A recovered tractor trailer that had rolled was parked along the highway, not long after that we saw a rig upside down in a wash. The driver had missed a turn, crossed over the road and ended up in the wash. We would see two more rolled big rigs before our adventure was complete. Needless to say, oncoming
trucks were somewhat nerve wracking, I had two hands on the wheel with white knuckles and was prepared to take whatever evasive action that might be possible.

Finally we got to the turn off for Coco’s Corner. We knew Coco’s Corner was roughly 20 miles down a dirt road. What we didn’t know was the road was all cross grain. Essentially a 20 mile long speed bump. Our trucks were loaded heavy, Hartman’s truck was pulling the car hauler trailer. There was no way we could go fast down the road. After an hour and fifteen minutes of pounding we were finally there.

We got some good news for us almost immediately. The Coan Racing entry was broken at Race Mile 185, seems they had lost their oil pump. With Shaffer’s car also out, we were the only remaining Jeepspeed car in the race. The bad news, we still had 761 miles to go.

We set up our pit at Coco’s and waited to hear from the race car. At one point, through the magic of radio waves bouncing around, we heard Larry call out Race Mile 240, the car was 60 miles out. An hour or so later things started looking not so good for us. When Larry knew they were getting close to the pit, he started calling out the repairs needed over the radio. We had lost the rear sway bar, the u-joint retaining tab of the rear pinion yoke was broken, and we had lost something in the front differential, it still worked but made bad noises if we left the front hubs engaged.

The crews that had gone to Ojos at the beginning were just getting to Coco’s when the car arrived. We checked the rear sway bar, the arms wouldn’t tighten up, the splines were stripped. The tab on the pinion yoke was indeed broken, but the u-joint had not moved and was still secure. Scott Hartman thought we had spider gears going out in the front differential. After considering welding the sway bar, we decided to just take it off the car, we left the rear yoke as it was, nothing could be done about the front differential. We dumped five gallons of fuel in the car, Ralf and Scott Parker climbed in and the car was off again.

The pit crews collected our tools and parts, loaded up and headed out. Soon enough we heard Scott Parker call out that the car had been stuck in a muddy wash but they were moving again. The radio in the race car seemed to be transmitting OK, but they could not hear responses from the chase crews unless it was within a few miles. We later found out that in addition to the muddy wash, the race car encountered dense fog. Ralf and Scott both wear glasses, not only were their helmet face shields fogging up, but their glasses were as well.

All four chase rigs took the pounding down the dirt road from Coco’s back out to the highway. I never thought I would be so glad to see the pot holed asphalt of Baja Hwy 1. My shoulders were aching from white knuckling the steering wheel .

The chase crews freight trained down the highway to the point where the race course came near the highway just north of San Ignacio. We split up again at that point. Two trucks headed in to BFG Pit 4 where we were scheduled for our next driver change, the other two trucks waited for the car for to splash 10 gallons of fuel, and look the car over to determine if any repairs would be needed at the BFG pit.
Soon enough the crews that had stayed back to splash fuel were at the BFG pit. LJ, our crew chief reported that the car was in good shape, the only real complaint was the steering was very loose, and the rear end was very loose since there was no sway bar. the steering issue wasn’t so bad in the dirt, but the paved sections of the course were treacherous. Death wobble, and over a half turn of slop in the steering made the car steer as if the driver was herding cats down the asphalt sections of the course. Keep in mind, the asphalt sections were on the same highway that the chase crews white knuckled when oncoming traffic appeared.

The car rolled in to the BFG pit just as dawn was approaching. We were way ahead of schedule, our competition was out of the race, so we took our time and did a complete look over of the car. We strapped Jeff Lessley into the drivers seat and Clem Grieco into the navigators seat and sent the car.

We were half way there, the sun was coming up, everyone had made it safely to this point, things were looking good for the 1701 entry in the 2010 Baja 1000.

We added the two trucks that had been in Baja Sur ahead of the rest of us to our chase crew train, saddled up and headed for Baja Sur.

We had some time before we were to see the car again. There were hot showers, a restaurant, cell service and Wi-Fi at Rice and Beans in San Ignacio. The whole crew stopped there and we regrouped, relaxed for a bit, ate, made phone calls, checked the race status on computers and the crews that had been in the race car for the first two legs took showers.

Somewhat refreshed, we were on the road again. North of Loreto we picked up the car on the radio again. They had been stuck in silt beds a time or two, the floor jack on the race car was broken/useless, but they were still moving. Just outside of Loreto there was a miles long silt bed. SCORE had attempted to blade the silt bed a couple of days before the race to no avail. Instead the course was rerouted out to the highway to get around the silt beds. Unfortunately, the reroute was not on the GPS and the signs to direct the cars on the re-route had long since been mowed over. The car was stuck in the silt, the jack didn’t work, and the front differential was questionable at best. The chase crews all rallied at a turn off, consulted our BFG race notes, and fanned out along the various course access roads to try to find the car and lead it out to the highway.

Scott Hartman (pulling the trailer) and I headed down a dirt access road to where we thought we’d find the car. Clem reported that they had the car moving, but the silt was bad. Scott and I headed down the access road that we felt sure would intersect the course in front of the car. Within a quarter of a mile we ran into some locals coming the other way. Despite the fact that the road was on the BFG GPS download, the locals told us it was a private road, and they did not want us on it. Scott backed the trailer down the road, I turned around and we headed to where we thought the next intersection with the course would be. Then we heard that the car had made it out to the highway, so we tried turning around again. Scott’s truck is only 2wd, add the trailer and soft sand and it was soon stuck. Some more locals that had been working in a field came over to see if they could help. We managed to get my truck around Scott’s, hooked a strap to the back of
the trailer, and got Scott unstuck. We offered the locals some stickers, a couple of hats, a few beers and some Nitro2Go energy drinks for their assistance. In return they gave us four fresh picked honey dew melons from their fields.

The car stopped where our crew chief had pulled off the highway. LJ and crew looked the car over, swapped the ******** of LJ’s truck for the broken one on the car and sent them on their way. Scott and I got our trucks back out to the highway, waited a few minutes to see the race car coming down the road, jumped on the highway and followed it to the turn back on to the course. Everything was good again and we continued the chase to victory.

The chase crews got to our next scheduled stop in Loreto an hour or so ahead of the race car. Eric Filar and Ron Lessley suited up and prepared themselves for the final push to the finish. Our driver change and pit stop went off smoothly. We started this race with the intention of a first place finish, we were three quarters of the way there. Eric and Ron had pre run their section three times, so they were familiar with what was ahead of them. Victory was in our reach.

The race radio had gone from bad to worse. It would still transmit, but reception was all but gone. We shadowed the car down the course along the highway. South of Ciudad Insurgentes the chase crews split up. Each truck went to a different access road then pounded down dirt roads to the intersection with the race course. A chase crew would see the car every 15-35 miles for the next one hundred miles. The car was working as well as it had been with no new issues.

The last time we would see the car before the finish was at BFG Pit 7. The final load of fuel was dumped in, everything was looked over, and the boys were sent on their way to La Paz.

The chase crews rallied at the highway. It was now well after dark again. We had all been going for over 36 hours with nothing more than cat naps here and there.

The final adrenaline rush from seeing the car had worn off. I was against the wall, not sure if I could push on, but knowing that I had to. Quitting the chase now was not an option. Stupidity or just plain being stubborn kept me from letting a relief driver take over the driver seat of my truck. The roads were treacherous, I’m a crappy passenger, and it was my truck. If something were to go wrong, I wanted it to be my fault. I hate all of the energy drinks, rarely drink them. We’d made coffee in my camper along the way, I was coffee’d out, it wasn’t doing anything for me. Reluctantly, I resorted to one of the concentrated versions of Nitro2Go, I slammed down a double dose and hoped that it would kick in.

I wasn’t the only one that was in bad shape. We tried telling stories on the radio as we freight trained down the highway to La Paz. We had to pull off the road several times to jump up and down to get blood circulating and try to get some life back in to our bodies. We were all seeing things on the road at some point. This was bad, disaster was always lurking around the next corner. We had no choice but to push on and hope for the best.

My stomach was in knots and on fire from the coffee, Cokes and energy drink. I’d taken acid reflux meds, and was eating antacid like I had stock in the company, all to no avail. Machelle had been a trooper in the right seat of the truck the whole trip. She may have cat napped a time or two, but had been a second set of eyes on the road the whole trip. I finally realized something was wrong with her. She had been hiding the pain she was in for hours. She finally told me that her whole left side was hurting, and she thought she had some blood in her *****. She’s a tough girl and insisted that we had to push on and she would be OK. We had some pain meds with us, she took one of them. It seemed to knock the edge off, but she was still in significant pain.

I was fighting sleep deprivation, my eyes felt like they had rocks in them, my heart felt like it was racing from caffeine and energy drinks, my wife was in moderate to severe pain, and we were a minimum of two days of hard driving from getting home. At times I worked myself into a near panic to the point that I thought I was going to just shut down.

Just as I thought I really had to give up, the lights of La Paz came into view…I get chills just from writing that…the final adrenaline surge I had in me kicked in. We were there…almost.

The chase crews got to the finish line and began the wait. We got word from SCORE that our car had cleared the last Check Point…we were going to beat the Baja….we were going to do this…an idea that I had four and a half years ago, that others took and ran with, was going to become reality. We were going to win the Baja 1000, and not just any 1000, but a Peninsula Run, the toughest of the Baja races.

Machelle was in bad shape, she could hardly walk, standing or sitting offered no relief, yet she insisted on being at the finish line to see the car cross and drive up on the podium. Finally we saw the distinctive yellow lights on the front of our car in the distance.

We’d done it, the Dust Junkies/Fat City Racing crew had won the Baja 1000! We were Baja Champions!

Baja stories don’t end with the checkered flag. We’d won, yet we were still 1200 miles from home, and exhausted.

We’d made arrangements for a hotel in La Paz, the problem was we finished the race eight hours ahead of our projected finish time, our hotel rooms were not available. We finally stumbled upon a large field next to the Hotel Marina in La Paz. There were numerous race and chase vehicles parked in the field. We pulled in, went to the office to see if they had any rooms, they didn’t.

It was now 3am Saturday morning, the crew had been going for 40+ hours, we were done. We made the call to crash in/under/on the chase trucks in the field and hope for the best. I had my camper, so Machelle and I were able to climb in to a real bed to get some sleep. Machelle was still in some pain, we were technically trespassing/squatting on private property in a foreign country. Machelle couldn’t sleep from worry that we were going to wake up to the sounds of the local Policia’s handcuffs.

At first light we all got up. Shortly after other race crews came out of the hotel and began coming into the field. We now felt somewhat secure that we weren’t going to get thrown out or arrested as there was no way for hotel staff to know who was who. We went to the hotel office to try and secure some rooms for Saturday night. The desk man said we’d have to check back around noon.

One of the teams getting their rigs ready for the trip home was Cameron Steele’s. Scott struck up a conversation with a couple of the crew. They told Scott they were done with their room, the door was still open, and we could at least go take showers. Our crew started cycling through that room getting some what refreshed. After a bit, Cameron Steele came out to the field, Scott started talking to him about our predicament.

Cameron didn’t hesitate to offer a fix for us. He had three rooms that were already paid for that his crew wasn’t going to use for Saturday. He gave them to Scott with out asking for a single thing in return! He assured Scott that we deserved it for our accomplishment.

Holy Crap! I’ve never heard anything but good things about Cameron Steele and the Desert Assassin’s crew, here was evidence of that right in front of me. We took him up on the rooms. We owe Cameron and the DA in a big way, thanks again!

The crew was famished, there was a breakfast buffet in the hotel restaurant. I’m sure they lost money after serving our group.

Larry McRae needed to head home. After breakfast we reluctantly said our good byes to Larry and his co-dog Don.

Around 1PM, LJ is beating on the door to the room yelling at us to get up…I just knew the place was on fire or some other calamity. Turns out, he just wanted everyone to get up so we could try to get our bodies back on some sort of schedule. I still felt like crap, tired, stomach boiling, and rocks in my eyes, but got up none the less. Machelle was still in some discomfort but felt a bit better. We went down to the pool, enjoyed a cocktail or two then hopped a cab down to the awards ceremony location.

When it was finally our turn, the whole team went up on the podium, what a moment, Baja Champions!

We ate some dinner, went back to our rooms and passed out with smiles on our faces.

The Fat City guys really needed to be back for work on Monday, so they planned on rolling out early and fast for home.

Ralf and Josef were flying out from La Paz, Josef to Miami, and Ralf to Los Angeles, so they made their own arrangements for early morning cab rides to the airport.

The Dust Junkies crew decided that we would get up at 4AM to head out of La Paz for the long drive home. We actually pulled that one off. We were fueled up and out of town by 5AM. Our early intention had been to iron man the drive home, ten hours and less than half way there we determined that plan was not going to work. We looked at the maps to find a lay over spot. The only reasonable spot was Bahia de Los Angeles. We’d all heard about the Bay of LA being the jewel of Baja. It was the one place that truly had to be seen to be appreciated. The only problem was it is 40 miles out of the way. We decided it would be worth the extra travel and headed that way.

As we pulled into the Bay of LA around 9PM with no real plan, I saw a sign that indicated the Bahia Villa had rooms, kitchenette’s and was on the beach. It sounded like our kind of place. A few miles down a dark desolate road I saw another sign for the turn off. Now we are going down a dirt road through the desert, no significant lights were seen in the distance.

After a mile or so we pull into what looks like a locals house/driveway. Just as I’m thinking this can’t possibly be right, two young American dudes come walking out from a building asking me where we’d been, they’d been waiting for us all night. I was a little dumbfounded (OK a LOT dumbfounded) but asked if they had rooms, they said sure come on in. It turns out there were four or five buildings in various states of disrepair, with beds, bathrooms, and kitchenettes. This was our kind of place. We made arrangements for the rooms. I parked my truck on the beach and put the camper up.

The crew had a beer or two together and then we all turned in for the night knowing that we still had a long day ahead of us the following day.

Monday morning a rooster announced that dawn was upon us…repeatedly. I did my best to wake up with the intention of watching the sunrise over Bahia de Los Angeles…I lost that deal. I missed the sunrise as did Machelle. We were up with plenty of time for an early morning walk along the beach. What a beautiful place. Paradise on the Sea of Cortez. Plans will be made to return when we have several days to spend doing absolutely nothing but relax.

All to soon we were in our trucks and on the road home. We had one more planned stop…the Big Burro Taco Shop in Ensenada. We had a flag to return. We asked some locals if it was disrespectful if we signed the flag, they assured us it would be OK considering the circumstances. The whole team signed it.

We got in to Ensenada in the late afternoon after a long days travel and went straight to the Big Burro. Irena and her daughters saw us roll up and their faces lit up, glad to see us again. In no time at all fresh fish was frying, shrimp and carne were on the grill, the girls were making tortillas from fresh dough, fresh trimmings were being chopped and diced and all was right with the world! The look on the families face when the Hartman’s gave the flag back was priceless. One of the girls went a few blocks up to get their dad from his hot dog stand to come see us. The old man was so proud of that flag. Immediately a hammer and nails were out, and the flag was proudly displayed on the wall of the Big Burro Taco Shop.

We’ll be back to borrow that flag for a day or two again next year!

We left Ensenada with our bellies full of the best cooking in Baja, smiles on our faces, and a little swelling in our hearts knowing that we had set out on a mission, and completed it, letting nothing get in the way of our goal. Sure, we had some squabbles among the crew here and there along the way, but we all had a common goal and worked together to get there.

There’s not another team in Baja that Machelle and I would rather be a part of.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Viva Dust Junkies Racing! Viva Fat City Racing!

Viva Baja!

P.S. Machelle went to the doctor…apparently she’s been battling a kidney stone through all of this.
 
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MagicMtnDan

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Hotel?! HOTEL?!

Thanks for posting that Andy. I hope folks will take the time to read these adventure stories about the 2010 Baja 1000.


More from Blair:


A couple other notes of interest.

Gus Vildosola won the race in a trophy truck. This is historic because the Vildosolas are the first mexican team ever to win overall. They had a nearly perfect run, finishing the 1060 miles in a little over 19 hrs, beating Robby Gordon by 22 minutes. They were faster than the top motorcycle...which hasn't happened on a peninsula course since '73.

At BofLA 1x motorcycle (Honda A Team) was first, very fast, followed in a few minutes by 8x (Honda B Team). Unfortunately an 8x rider went down hard, down south later in the race and is still in a coma.

Bob Greens team, the dust junkies, won their class in a jeepspeed-spec wrangler. The only car in their class to finish.

From our Friday night camp in the dunes at Bufeo we saw what looked like a rocket or missile. High on the western horizon just moments before sundown. Burned a hole in the cloud cover. Checking the race dezert forum, others saw it too. Consensus is it was a satellite-launching rocket sent up from a base in Kodiak, AK.
 
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MagicMtnDan

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I sent this to Blair:

Sounds like that was the rocket that launched 7 satellites
http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com/?pid=19&id=9340


More from Blair - note: we need to get a group of Raptors and run down south of the border for the next race (Baja 500 first weekend in June 2011):


BofLA campsite was a couple miles down the road from where you and Will and I watched the race in '04. BTW, Geckos is now privately owned and closed to the public.

I know, in theory, you can match revs to vehicle speed in a given gear and shift with no clutch. But in practice it wasn't really working out too well. Maybe the problem was trying to learn how to do this late at night on the grapevine in a heavily loaded 1-ton pickup. Ha!

On the gas cap /hesitation issue: I'm perplexed. The truck of course came with gas caps, some old Fram locking ones (so not the original Ford OEM caps). They appeared to have a vent (spring / plunger/ o-ring dealy) in the caps. I dropped one cap on the ground while filling up and the spring was a little out of line and wouldn't close the plunger against the o-ring. I probably coulda pushed it back in line with a screwdriver but decided instead to pick up some new caps. I went to Kragen and asked for a gas cap for an '88 460 and he handed me a couple caps, $3 each. Installed them and...hey the thread matches!...ha ha...so I went with 'em.

First time refueling after installing the new caps the amount of air sucked into the gas tank when the cap was cracked was significant. Same thing every time since. Sucks air for the better part of 10 seconds while you can hear the tank make noise (small thumps) as it decompresses. Both caps, both tanks.

The original Fram caps made, at most, a quick Pfft when the cap was opened.

So...anyway...I thought that long rush of air didn't seem right but Kragen insisted the caps they sold me were the ones spec'ed. And the truck did run well around here (although I don't drive far around town) before I left and then all the way down until we got to TJ.

After I icepicked the one cap at BofLA the truck never hesitated all the way back to San Diego and then all the way back north to up here.

So...dunno. And I can't find much relevant info on the internet.

I guess I'll reinstall the old caps.

PS: I'm sick of your "I can't go to Baja" excuses. Some folks around here watch too much Fox News and think there are shootouts morning noon and night on the streets of Mexico. But when did YOU become afraid of Mexicans? Sheesh!! First weekend in June for the 500...if you don't show I'm literally going to your house and throw you in the truck. I am not kidding.
 
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