Motonation Sierra & Surf Ride Road Trip - Feature Review - Dirt Rider Magazine

Every now and then, distributors and companies will have an "Industry Ride," inviting people out to ride together, celebrate that year's work. Usually it's something like an invite to a day rental at a track. But when Motonation puts on their industry ride, they go big. This was no day at the track; Motonation (US distributors of Sidi and Set Up boots) put on a three day, two-night 200-mile ride through Baja California, Mexico.This year's Industry Ride was called "Sierra & Surf," starting from just outside Tecate in Baja California, Mexico, and heading down to Puerto Nuevo, Baja's famous lobster village just north of Rosarito, home of some of the best langostas (that's Spanish for lobster!) in Mexico. And knowing Motonation, we knew there would be plenty of evening fun and games to go along with the great riding. So it was no surprise when our entire staff (sans Karel Kramer) jumped at the opportunity to join the Sierra & Surf ride.Jimmy Lewis, Sean Finley, Joe McKimmy, Jesse Ziegler, Chris Denison and I (Jean Turner) prepped our bikes in a frenzy Friday morning before heading south of the border, eager to begin our weekend. There were plenty of "Ai-yai-yai's" as we headed down I-5, and I gave Jesse "Fresh-out-of-Montana" Ziegler the 411 on traveling in Meheeco: "Don't drink the water, carry small bills, and the Federales don't mess around!" I further advised him to stick with Jimmy—he's very familiar with Mexico, knows all the ins and outs in Baja and speaks decent espanol. And stay away from Joe McKimmy—he's most likely of anyone in our group to get arrested, kicked out of a bar, or dishonor our country.We arrived in Tecate at the Los Chabacanos (the pineapples) Hacienda & Spa where the ride would begin. We finished prepping the bikes and got settled before joining the poolside pre-party. We got a chance to meet everyone else joining the ride - about 35 people in total - as well as check out some new products from Motonation.Red Bull KTM rider and Dakar racer Chris Blais was among the group. Other pros would include Danny Laporte and Marty Moates who, we were told, would be crawling in later that night. We got to take a first look at new high-end Sidi boots, the "Crossfire," and a lucky few would get to ride the next day in them (but then have to give them back). This is the only glimpse of the "Crossfire" boots you'll see until the Indianapolis Trade Show in February.We were primed and ready for dinner when Bill Berroth, President of Motonation, informed us of a "situation" in the restaurant. It seems they found a rattlesnake in the kitchen. They were trying to catch it and milk it for its venom to give to the Mayor of Tijuana as a gift. That wacky Mayor, as it turns out, enjoys a good shot of rattlesnake venom in his tequila... rumored to be a strong aphrodisiac.Once the "situation" was handled, dinner was underway. Los Chabacanos Hacienda is also a health spa, so they only wanted to serve healthy food. But Bill Berroth worked his magic and convinced them to dish us up some proper greasy grub.Following dinner was a rider's meeting with some briefing on the next day's ride to Puerto Nuevo. Tommy Thrailkill aka "Tommy T" marked the first 55 mile section and began to explain the trail markers."Okay, this is gonna work!" Tommy declared—not the most confidence-inspiring words to start your instructions with. He proceeded to explain the "seek and find" method of trail marking they invented. And informed us that multi-colored ribbon meant: "Something's going to happen." Either a tricky section or a change of direction. I don't think I was the only one who left the meeting more concerned than when I came.After dinner, some headed back to the bar, but I elected to go to bed early. "I'm saving it for the main!" I told everyone, promising to be more fun on Saturday night in Puerto Nuevo.We got situated in our rooms, and a hacienda—as you may know—is like a little house, not a hotel. So the six of us stayed in one two-room hacienda. Those of us in the front room were treated to the jake-braking of big rigs all night, while those in the back room were serenaded by Jimmy sawing logs.It was a bit chilly that night, and since our hacienda was equipped with a fireplace and a stash of wood, we (and when I say "we" I mean they) decided to light a fire. I was worried we were all going to asphyxiate from the smoke filling the room... but at least we would die warm. During the night, Joe stoked the fire with more wood (helping himself to our neighbor's stash after breaking and entering), and almost melted our gearbags with the resulting raging inferno. This is why Joe needs to be supervised at all times.The First Day's RideThe next morning we were treated to a very big breakfast—more than I care to eat before heading out on a 100 mile ride. We packed our stuff in the chase vehicles and started heading out on the trail. I had planned to ride with Sean Finley, but he was having technical difficulties that morning which required them to take apart the clutch. Instead, I headed out with Jerry Robison, a Motonation sales rep from Georgia. He was on a KTM 300, so I figured it was a plus riding with one of the only other two-strokes (with an enduro tank). I was running the stock tank on my Gas Gas 300, and wasn't entirely sure I'd make it to the lunch stop.The trail started out on roads heading East for the first few miles. I was chomping at the bit, ready to dive into some virgin baja trails. We finally saw the multi-colored ribbon, signaling the beginning of the trail. "Something's gonna happen!" I reminded myself.I'm sure you all know this feeling: you've been working all week, or even all month, looking forward to the big ride coming up. You prep your bike, pay a fortune for gas, drive for hours, spend a restless night waiting for the next morning when you'd finally be on your bike, heading out for your ride. I'd been looking forward to this ride since January, when I first heard of it, and I couldn't wait to be on the trails in the mountains of Baja early Saturday morning, heading for the Pacific. And now, here I was!We turned onto a fun little single track heading toward El Hongo. The trail was a blast; we zipped up and down hills and slalomed through bushes, leaving nice, brown tire marks in the damp ground. I had to remind myself not to push to hard in the morning; I didn't want to wear myself out or do anything stupid (at least not in the early hours). Isn't it funny that the second you start to think about doing something stupid, something stupid is exactly what follows?I followed Jerry down a quick slope and back up another one. He made it look so easy... so it puzzles me, then, how my front end was swallowed by a trench that was concealed by vines at the bottom. Before I knew it, the bar was in my lap, the rear wheel was in the air and I was kissing the front fender. No damage was done, and I couldn't help but laugh at how ridiculous the crash was. Oh well, at least now I had my crash out of the way and could just enjoy the rest of the ride.The weather was sunny and cool, and dust was low from rain the week before. The trails began to take us south and I was delighted to find ourselves on the Tecate Hare Scrambles course as we neared Rancho Santa Veronica. It was the same twisty, bouldery single track I remembered from almost a year prior."Ah, my old nemesis," I thought as I remembered the race, and how the course (and a 12-year-old girl) almost beat me. But oh, I'm going to be ready this year. The 2005 Tecate Hare Scrambles is less than a month away, and this time it is on til the breaka dawn!We reached an open area outside El Hongo where the rest stop was. Jerry and I pulled up and took a breather while we chatted with "Boozer." I'll give you one guess what he's (in)famous for... that's right: "Boozer's Wild West Tours." About 15 minutes later we started to hear other bikes drawing near. Another group started to pull in including Danny Laporte, Marty Moates and Chris Blais.Normally when you say, "Yeah, I got to ride with this big pro and that big pro," usually the "with" means they went flying by as you plodded along. But I truly got to ride with Chris Blais and Danny Laporte. They caught up to us, and rode with us, rather than blowing right past us. It's refreshing to see riders of that level simply enjoying the ride—not obsessed with who's better or who's faster. Sometimes it's just about fun and camaraderie.We stayed in a group as we made our way through mountains peppered with big, round rocks. Then we dropped into a rocky wash filled with tall reed bushes. We couldn't even see through them—our bars just pushed them over. And then they'd spring right back up after you plowed through. I accidentally face-planted into a tree branch that came out of nowhere, but somehow it didn't knock me off the bike.The path led us to the creek bed, where we found it easier to ride. We rode through the middle of the rocky creek and climbed out of that into some rock gardens - still littered with tall reed bushes. It was like a video game trying to find our way through it. I was barely able to catch glimpses of other bikes bouncing through the rocks, and occasionally, I'd see multi-colored ribbon. "Yeah, no kidding," I thought.Shortly after that we reached the gas stop. I was pleased to find I had an entire tablespoon of gas left. And here I was thinking I wouldn't make it! There was a tent and tables set up just outside a small roadside town. We all parked and had a hot lunch. It wasn't long before the local kids were swarming us, fascinated by the bikes and our gear, and asking everyone to "do a wheelie!"After lunch as I gassed up my bike, I was immediately surrounded by a dozen large, curious eyes watching my every move. One kid tugged my jersey, "Do a wheelie," he pleaded.I laughed and shook my head, "I don't know how," I told him. "Yo soy un squid-o," I thought. Jimmy, on the other hand, was more than up to the challenge. He dazzled the kids with huge fender-dragging wheelies back and forth on the road before we left.The next half of the ride started out in some tight brush. We headed down a trail between mountains through bushes so tight, they were pushing on my front brake lever. We went under trees, through more bushes and came to some tricky rock sections. We came across one that was about the size of a washout with a convex rock-face on the other side. "Great," I thought, "Well, here goes!"I rolled down it, gassed my way up the other side... almost... to... the top, but I let it die! I came tumbling down backwards, dumping it at the bottom of the ditch. I stood up and looked behind me to see Blais and Laporte watching me."You almost had it!" said Chris. Feeling dumber than ever, I picked up my bike and looked for a way out of the washout. Meanwhile Chris and Danny cruised through it like it was a speed bump. Danny made his way down to me on foot and offered his assistance."Would you like to do the honors?" I asked him, offering him the bike."Sure," he said. He hopped on and rode it out of the ditch for me as I did the walk of shame to the top. Oh well, at least it was Danny Laporte and not just a mere mortal who had to rescue me."That's a nice little 125," he said to me."Dude, that's a 300!" I laughed.We could tell we were getting near the coast when it started getting dusty (the coast hadn't gotten any rain that week). The trail started getting faster and we were eventually on roads heading through the mountains. I hadn't realized how far east we had gone."Where the hell is the ocean?" I kept asking as we kept coming across more and more mountains. It started getting cloudy, and then foggy as we made our way west. The fog became so thick, I couldn't see more than a few feet in front of me. I couldn't see any other riders, or any ribbon. At one point I had to stop to listen and make sure I was going the right way. I could hear the other bikes as though they were right next to me, but I couldn't see anyone. To make matters worse, the dust was just as thick. You'd think such thick fog would be enough to keep the dust down, but it was just enough to make it stick to us like flypaper.We descended the mountains and finally, there it was: the Pacific! We had made it! We followed the arrows all the way to the New Port Beach Hotel where our bags and room keys were waiting for us. I parked and promptly made my way to my very own room (relieved it wasn't the "one big happy family" rooming situation again). I headed straight for the shower leaving a trail of damp, grimy gear across the room.Destination: Puerto Nuevo!Motonation pulled out all the stops for dinner that night. We dined like kings at Ortegas, one of the best restaurants in Puerto Nuevo. fresh guacamole and hot rolls filled with jalapeno cream cheese, ceviche, tortilla soup, langosta (lobster!) and carne asada. And the margaritas flowed!I sat next to the winner of Motonation's sweepstakes winner (you may remember seeing contest ads in the pages of Dirt Rider), Michael Cecconi from San Diego, CA. When I first heard of Motonation's contest (in which a lucky reader would win an invite to the Sierra & Surf ride), I remember thinking, "What if the winner turns out to be a complete idiot? What if he can't even ride, or he's just totally annoying?" We were all lucky to have Michael win the contest, because he's the coolest guy ever, and a great rider, too.I sat across from Chris Blais, and after a few margaritas, made a confession: "When we were leaving the gas stop and going really slow, I just wanted to stuff you and roost you! Just to say, 'I once stuffed Chris Blais. That's how cool I am.'"He laughed and said, "That's okay. Danny and I were laughing at you when you crashed in that ditch, so I guess that makes us even."Touche, Chris Blais... touche.After dinner we were stuffed. A lot of the guys were headed out to a bar, but I was ready to toss in the towel."Must. Party. Like. Rock star," I told myself. But I just didn't have it in me. I was too tired and beaten, and already worrying about doing it all over again in the morning. Now with a full belly, all I could think about was my comfy bed.Word is they had a good time that night. No one had many details to share—in the name of protecting the not-so-innocent. But we were all surprised at how well-behaved Joe was.Back to the SierrasSunday's ride was much faster and easier (thank goodness) than Saturday's ride. We were just heading straight back to Los Chabacanos. I headed out with the last group and we headed up the mountains. Rather than just take the road, Bill (Berroth) wanted to take Laporte, Blais, Joe, Sean and Jesse on a hard loop."Yeaaaaah... no thanks," I said. I headed down the road solo as they took a detour. A few miles later I began to realize it might not be a good idea to be riding alone in Mexico. Just then I came across Jimmy and Chris (Denison) performing some trail-side brake maintenance. Jimmy waved me on, and from there we leap frogged all the way to the gas stop. They'd get ahead of me, stop to open a gate, I'd ride through, they'd close the gate behind me and pass me again. It worked out pretty well.At the gas stop we heard that Bill and the guys I had split off from broke down shortly after that when Bill cracked the case on his KTM. They were performing some JBweld magic on the newly dubbed S.S. Minnow. Now I was even more relieved I didn't decide to go with them.From the gas stop I took off with the Italians: Renzo Botter of Setup boots, and Daniele Signori, the guy who basically runs the Sidi show over in Italy. We headed north on the highway for a few miles before hitting trail again. Much different from Saturday's ride, this was fast, sandy and sweeping, much like the terrain I'm accustomed to in my native Mojave desert. We had a blast, weaving in and out of bushes, bouncing off of big sandy berms.We pulled up to a big oak tree where Renzo and Daniele dismounted their bikes and took off their helmets."What's going on?" I thought. And then out came the cigarettes. I shoulda guessed... those crazy Euros.The last 10 miles was on a paved highway. We cruised the final distance, and I reflected on the weekend ride, amazed that I made it all the way through without any major incidences. Sure there were stalls on hills and tip-overs in tricky rock sections, but I never really wadded it. Besides thoroughly-flattening the bottom of my pipe with rock dents, my bike didn't have any damage. I was sore and tired, but didn't sustain any damage either... pretty lucky for 200 miles of Baja.A big thanks goes out to Bill Berroth and all the guys at Motonation for an awesome weekend and a great ride. We'll see you soon at the Tecate Hare Scrambles!

That's a nice blender!
Factory KTM Dakar racer Chris Blais with the new Sidi Crossfire boot.
The Crossfire insert, modeled by one of the lucky few who got to test the new boot.
Chow time!
Joe McKimmy enjoying the poolside happy hour.
The Dirt Rider swim team
Jesse Ziegler pilots the Husky 450 through bushes and boulders.
One of the tighter parts of the trail: through a barbed wire fence.
Me bush-whacking my way through on the trusty Gas Gas 300.
Setup's Renzo Botter and Daniele Signori, son of Sidi founder Dino Signori.
One of the tricky rock sections near Tecate.
We all stopped for a breather after the plentiful rock gardens.
Jimmy practices some Endurocross moves
The New Port Beach Hotel is right on the water in Puerto Nuevo.
The group slowly trickled into Puerto Nuevo after coming out of the foggy mountians.
Me and my riding buddy Jerry, equally relieved that we'd finally made it.
The group broke down when the case cracked on Bill Berroth's KTM.
Using JB weld and rather primative tools, Bill got the newly dubbed "S.S. Minnow" running again.