People who don’t know call it the Baja 1000. People who have been there and done it just call it “The One Thousand.” Last Saturday night we made the trek to San Diego to celebrate the 50th birthday of a dear friend of Alex’s: Pete Tenereillo, creator of Trapster - the Iphone app that tells you where cops are hiding. He had an interesting group of people over for Mai Tai's whilst their kids splashed themselves silly in the pool. We got talking to ******* (redacted -ED) who has a lot of 1000 experience, having won his class on bikes eight times and run in a variety of other classes, including “16” - our class.
For a while ******* also made a living as a motorcycle tour guide for Baja off-roaders . ******* spent three hours educating me in a slightly condescending way about how we had bitten off more than we could chew and how every decision made up until this point was wrong. If I'm honest, I have never had the ear for tour guides as they seem to be a breed of their own, but this time my life is at stake, so I decided to bite my tongue and soldier on through the test of patience this conversation had become.
Mexico is dangerous. Actually too dangerous, according to the monologue now being delivered from a man who'd spent his life going there to race and earn a living. To be clear, in 2008 a Baja rider was shot in the chest by a rancher that either 1) a problem with the race or 2) was protecting his highly valued smokable crops. More stories told of booby trap victims with broken ribs being thrown onto the back of a bike for an excruciating 40 mile ride to the next checkpoint.
Booby traps are so common an occurrence during the race that the pre-programmed PCI Radio GPS race maps come with skull & crossbone symbols in the spots where man-made dangers can be expected, but accuracy can't be guaranteed. As one can imagine, opening a race to an entire peninsula of impoverished beer lovers will eventually lead to some tomfoolery...which is why locals bored with seeing shiny Americans blast by in machines worth more than their villages' GDP occasionally decide spectating will be more interesting by having dug strategically placed holes on the course. Adding a cardboard cover and dirt only means more entertainment. Some even dig huge holes to rerout local rivers so Baja drivers - keen to blast through the “river” - get a poke from ye ol' sabotage stick. I guess as a motorcyclist one has the most to fear, as people sometimes think it's a good idea to string a wire across the course at chest level. Good thing I'll be in our "16."
I cannot say I have been frightened away. Some of my greatest memories from past rallies have been moments like the one spent on a dark, freezing Latvian road...then getting reports of competitors being car-jacked. Instead of turning back we selected an appropriate sound track - in this case Greek wedding music, with a rhythm that slowly became manic - and just drove toward the the local leather clad Mafiosos.
I cannot let a few stupid people ruin my ambition, and in some way I do understand why they do it. I know we must be vigilant during the race, but I cannot let it effect any other part of the experience.