Weekend Warrior: A Lot Of Dust, A Little Glory The Baja 1000 - Feature Review - Dirt Rider Magazine

We're frequently asked, "What do you do down there? Why do you drive 1500 miles one way? What do you get out of it?" Our answer is always the same. We are a volunteer pit support crew for Honda's Baja race effort. We do it because running a Baja pit is an adventure like no other.This year was our seventh Baja 1000 (our 5th with Honda) and it had all of the elements that we have come to know and look forward to. It started with myself, dad (Chuck), uncle (Jim), and three good friends (Curtis, Brent, and Roger) loading up in the Portland/ Vancouver area. We drove 1,000 miles for 20 hours straight to Torrance, California where we met with Bruce Ogilvie to pick up our pit supplies. We crammed the pit stuff around the three motorcycles that were already in our enclosed trailer. Our pit stuff included spare parts boxes, several sets of wheels, a complete XR 650 sub frame (fender side panels and all) and 120 gallons of VP race fuel! Sometimes Bruce has us practice things in Torrance, like wheel changes. One year we showcased our highly-tuned mechanical skills by accidentally jamming a CRF450 brake caliper with the rear wheel. To make things worse, Bruce had to get it apart for us. He didn't say anything, but I don't think he was real impressed.This year we were assigned Honda pit number seven which was 386 miles from the start of the race, located just South of the beautiful Bahia de los Angeles. After we picked up our parts we made our way to the border where we always get run through a secondary inspection. This means we get to open up the trailer and explain to Mexican customs what we are up to (sometimes a poster or a shirt is needed to speed up the process). Then it is through Ensenada to somewhere south of San Quintin: This is where the fun starts.We unloaded a few of the bikes and started riding, while the RV made it's way down Highway 1, dicing it out with semis and tour buses. On a tip from Bruce, we headed our bikes up into the mountains southeast of San Quintin. Brent navigated with a map, and although we had GPS, we resisted using it in the spirit of a true Baja adventure. It had rained a few days earlier and conditions were perfect. We all quickly fell into a groove and smoothly swapped places with each other while working the Baja terrain. This ride was so good that we finished grinning ear-to-ear, wondering, "Does it get any better?"Next we caught up with the RV and started what we call surfing—which is to ride the abandoned old dirt two-track road that parallels most of the paved Mexican highway. You have to be ready to jump off of it because it can end very quickly or there could be a pile of junk blocking the way. The trick is to surf for as long as possible before being forced back on to the highway. This year Curtis and I were racing each other, and the RV which was on the highway, when all of a sudden there was a huge hole in the road that someone dug. Thank goodness for disk brakes! After that we quit surfing for a while.Outside the Bahia de los Angeles we encountered a military check point (there's not much for the military to check when you're on a dirt bike). Disappointed and slightly frustrated, the young Mexican soldier asked me to do a wheelie. I felt obliged, so as I left the checkpoint I floated the front wheel up and carried it down the road impressing everyone, including myself. We headed into Camp Gecko and checked into our luxury palapa where over the next few days we relaxed by the bay and did some more riding.Race day set-up was fairly tense because we had an important job to do with lots of people depending on us. Failure to perform is not an option. We started by conducting a pit crew meeting and then heading out to the pit location. A team rider for bike 302x dropped off lights and a wheel to be installed when he came through. With the pit 50 feet away from the course, we attempted to position ourselves to minimize the dust fallout from the hundreds of vehicles that would be passing by. Next we raised a 40-foot-high radio antenna. Being able to communicate with other pits during the race is a big advantage. We bring powerful radio equipment so that we can be in contact with as many other Honda pits as possible. For something fun to do, we broke out the generator and set up an 8-foot high inflatable Shrek. Next we waited and wondered if we would have to do any work under pressure on Hondas main entry, 1x.We then speculated about what strange things would approach us at our pit this year. It always happens and we are often amazed at what can roll in from out of nowhere. Over the years we've had a drunk person lay down and sleep on the course, and we've had a Spanish-speaking sand rail driver try to explain to us that he can't find his rail by drawing pictures in the sand. One year Jimmy Vasser's rail broke down about a mile from our pit. He appeared out of complete darkness and surprised us. He was a cool guy, so we set him up with Kahlua and coffee and fired up the heater. He sat down in our pit as if he now had accommodations fit for an Indy Racer. We have learned that if you hold two fingers up, everyone—regardless of what language they speak—understands that they are about to be push started and to grab second gear.This year, minutes before 1x was due in, a homemade Baja bug approached us. It was pushed through the sand by three guys. This classic low-dollar Baja rig had been converted to Baja specs via blowtorch. Of course they wanted a little help from us; that's the problem with running a Baja pit. Once someone with a problem finds you, they either can't or won't leave until you help them. So their problems quite often become your problems.New Honda rider Kendall Norman arrived on 1x in a typical super-fast style and we dropped about two gallons of fuel in his bike and sent him on his way. This took a total of about 6 seconds. The Honda helicopter followed and a pleasant female voice radioed down, "nice job," and continued on. It was an instant relief to have him taken care of. It was now easier to concentrate on the 39 other bikes and quads that had signed up for Honda pit support. For a while things were very busy, and at one point we were using all three of our quick-fill dump cans at once. Jim was pulled away from his normal duties and was using a quick-fill for the first time, and Roger and dad were saddled down with trouble-shooting a quad with lighting problems.We were so busy that when Malcolm Smith came through we didn't realize it was him until he left. A clue was when he thanked us for our work before he rode off. The 302x rider came back in a SUV and said that his bike was out of the race. He wasn't sure what happened but it never cleared the first pit near the start of the race. We all felt bad for him. Mouse McCoy came through fairly late and with a pretty bent XR 650. We changed his rear wheel and added some duct tape to his bike. He said he just wanted to catch up with Malcolm and ride to finish, not to race. At dusk, Robby Gordon flew by at about a 100 mph. His truck literally sucked the gravel up off the racecourse and put it back down. It was an impressive sight.On the trip back to Ensenada we handed out small toys and some stickers to the local children along the way. As we approached Ensenada, we thought our adventures were over. But to our surprise we found out it there was a Revolutionary celebration day in Mexico. We came up on three parades in a row, in different towns. The first one took us on a dirt-road detour behind San Quintin—which could have been mistaken for the racecourse. It was pretty much chaos because there was thick dust and no one really knew which way to go. Impatient local drivers would pullout to pass the RV and trailer and get a big surprise when they realized that there was a semi coming right at them. By the time we hit the third parade, we had a stroke of genius. We duct taped a Mexican flag to the RV mirror and simply joined in. That's the key to Baja improvisation!After working so many races and seeing how others do it, we think it's about time we take a shot at the Baja 1000 ourselves. We already reserved a spot on the 2005 Honda pit support list.

Do you have a good Weekend Warrior story?
Tell us about your weekend adventure. Did you enter your first race? Make it to the top of the mountain for the first time? Tell us about your favorite riding spot, or least favorite. Be sure to include pictures for a chance to get published on Dirtrider.com. If your story is selected for our Weekend Warrior column, we'll send you a free Dirt Rider t-shirt .

Send emails to DRnews@primedia.com.

Remember, the better written your story is, the better your chances are!

Beautiful Bahia de los Angeles