Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Baja bandits Part 1

IT’S FUNNY how life can throw you a sudden twist: one moment you’re doing your everyday humdrum thing, the next you’re off on an adventure that you would never have thought possible! This is exactly what was going through my mind as I flew across the Pacific Ocean to the good ol’ US-of-A for a four-day trail ride in Baja, Mexico.You have plenty of time to think on the flight, and most of the way I was pinching myself to make sure it was all real. Three weeks earlier I had been flogging myself up to Cape York for the final trip of the season for my business +Fair Dinkum Bike Tours ; now here I was flying to the other side of the world to go riding in Mexico ... yep, I’ve just gotta love my job!

So how did this whole ride of a lifetime come about? That’s easy. Last year I had a couple of guys from San Diego visit Cairns for a two-day ride and after their tour we kept in touch. So, at the end of last year, I
received a message from one of the guys – Morgan – who told me a bunch of guys were doing a ride in Baja, Mexico, over the Christmas and New Year break. ‘Lucky guys,’ I said to myself ... but then came the
clanger: Morgan offered that if I could get a flight to California, they would have everything else organised for me to join them on the ride. Faster than you can say, ‘Dust to Glory, here I come!’ I launched into a
mad panic and got myself organised enough to book an airfare, pack a gearbag and bludge a lift to the airport. I was on my way!

As soon as you arrive in America, there are a couple of things you learn real fast. First, you will always climb into the wrong side of the car! Second, everything is still measured by the imperial system, so you buy gallons (not litres) of fuel and drive miles (not kilometres) down the freeway. Third, all the US dollar notes look exactly the same, especially when you’re packing a gutful of Budweiser after a long night at the bar!
Finally, any time you go out to eat at a restaurant, you don’t need to order an entree and a main, as both courses are absolutely huge, just like the majority of the American population! For the most part, Americans are friendly folk, especially when you share a common bond, such as dirt bike riding. Morgan was looking
after me in real style from the moment I arrived, with the first task to be achieved getting the bikes ready for the ride. Morgan was lending me his KTM 525EXC, while he was riding a Husaberg 650, which was
wrapped in bling. Yes, the Yanks love their bling, so if it’s shiny and looks cool, they’ll bolt it onto their bike.
With the bikes ready, Morgan took me to meet Bob Bell from Precision Concepts, which is the company that does all the suspension and engine work for American Honda’s off-road race team. They look
after the bikes of riders like Johnny Campbell, Steve Hengeveld, Mikey Childress and Robby Bell. Bob was a great guy, giving us a look right through the Precision Concepts facility, including the race team
workshop that housed the Honda team’s race bikes, plus the XR650Rs that have previously won the famed Baja 1000 desert race. Christmas Day was spent doing the family thing with Morgan and his
family, with a lot of time devoted to teaching them plenty of Aussie slang, which had them stuffed there for a while. But by the time I left they were all saying ‘G’ay mate’ like the best of us.

Tecate, Mexico

Our ride kicked off with a very fresh, early morning departure to meet in Tecate, Mexico, across the border from California. There were six other riders in the group, most of them on Honda XR650Rs, except for
a guy called Ken, who pilots a KTM 950 Super Enduro (he also has the only 750cc Husaberg in the world!). As you can clearly tell, big-bores are the choice of machines for a Baja run. Now, the first words of warning from Morgan at the start of the ride took a little of the wind from my sails: “If you see people on the side of the track waving you to stop, keep going – run them over if you have too, unless they are the army, who will be checking for drugs. Anyone else will be bandits trying to steal your money and your bike!” Hmm, good tip Morgan!

Baja Mexico lots of sand and Margaritas!!

To Be Continued...


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