This year was the 45th anniversary of the Score Baja 1000. For those who have been living under a rock, it is considered by many to be the most grueling off road race in history. This year it ran point to point from San Felipe to La Paz. Guys enter everything from 1/2 million dollar trophy trucks to stock VW buggies.
Since we were in Baja, it was on the must do list! We had spent the last week waiting for our shocks in Playa Santispac, and the call finally came in. They were in Ensenada with one of the guys chasing for the Wide Open/BF Goodrich car. We were told to meet in Loreto and we could pick them up there. We packed up camp and headed the 85 miles south with our one front shock holding us steady.
We pulled into town mid-day to grab a bite to eat and to check our phone and email. We got a message from Parker saying his route had changed so he would just leave them in Mulege for us. Crap, we just came from Mulege! A series of events over the next 48 hours would allow us to meet some of the coolest people we have ever met, see some things we could have lived without seeing, and get our truck back up and running.
I gave Parker a call on his cell phone, he now has to change course out into the desert to go fix one of the cars. I told him Mulege wouldn’t really be an option for us that day but we could head back tomorrow. A quick call on the radio and bam, the shocks would be in another chase truck headed for Loreto that day. He said I could meet them at the Wide Open driver change at Race Mile 835.7. Awesome! Now where the hell is race mile 835.7!?
Cruising around town we happened to spot a couple of guys pulling some BC cars on a trailer that said Wide Open on them. In Mexican fashion, we pulled a quick U-Turn and sped up to chase them down at the gas station. Between our Spanglish and their Spanglish we were able to figure out where the course was in Loreto and where Mile 853.7 was.
After stocking up on junk food for the race, we headed back to the course. We spotted mile 853 and clicked the trip odometer. At mile 853.2 I got this feeling I should stop and ask what the exact mile was. I walked over to a crowd of crusty race guys and asked, no one knew. Next question, where is the Wide Open pit? One of the guys spoke up, “Go park with us.” I guess this is the spot then. It turns out we were at the Wide Open pit, but only two of the guys were here so far.
The Wide Open guys were awesome to us. They took us in like we were part of their team, offering to feed us, letting us hang out in their spot and Steve one of the co-drivers, heard our story about the broken shock and camera (oh yeah, forgot to mention we broke our camera while taking a picture of our broken shock) and he forced us to take his camera. We owe you big time, Steve!
The first bike came through at about 9:30 PM, hauling some serious rear end! I still can’t figure out how these guys can go so fast at night and not go flying off a cliff. After four or five of the bikes came through, the trophy trucks started coming. These things sound like a pissed off Nascar on steroids with 40” tires and suspension that could soak up a Prius like a speed bump!
We were camped out right next to a fuel stop for one of the trucks. To watch their pit crew in action is a thing of beauty. They can refuel, change all four tires, clean lights, do an inspection, and get the driver some food/water in less than a minute. All while off camber in the dirt!
Around 4:30am it was time to crash. Sarah and I slept like babies in the back of the truck while what sounded like hell on earth passed by about 25 yards away. Once the sun came up, we crawled out of our silt encrusted truck and ate some breakfast while watching the race. The funny part about some of the people we were hanging out with this whole time is they are world class athletes, all sponsored by Monster. We were all joking around like we had known each other for years. At about 9am, I figured we might as well get the bad shock changed out while we had the time.
Tools out, blanket on the ground, shock tower disconnected, shock pulled. No sweat. Meanwhile the trucks had still been raging by this whole time, the sound was almost soothing after a while. The pit next to us had their second truck coming in to refuel. Sarah, Brady and I are near our truck then all of a sudden…”OH MY GOD!” Someone screamed. Woooosh! One hundred foot tall flames were in the air and hundreds of people were running. There were two guys on fire rolling on the ground and a pickup truck loaded with race fuel was now on fire. Tires were exploding one by one. People were instantly in panic mode, some running away and some running in to help. We grabbed the dog and stood at a safe distance until a guy came running over, still smoldering. He had extreme burns on his hands and head but his fire suit saved the rest of him. A couple of guys plopped him down into a chair, and we ran to grab the scissors. We managed to cut him out of his still hot to the touch suit. His hands looked like cooked hamburger, and his forehead was a massive peeling blister. Another guy was seated on the trailer while they put damp rags on his back and head to cool him off. Everyone was yelling about the driver, the driver! The driver’s net was still up, and no one saw him.
Over at the pit there was now a Mexican man with a front end loader dumping dirt into the fire. He picked up and pushed a fully loaded chase truck out of the way to get the remaining fuel away from the fire. The race was still under way with buggies flying through. There was smoke so thick and nasty you couldn’t breath. And to top it off, Brady was taking full advantage of the situation and eating a chicken carcass he found in all of the commotion.
There were now ambulances, and fire trucks on site taking care of the rest. It turns out that the guy refueling the truck spilled fuel all over himself, the tire changer and the hot engine while refueling, causing the explosion. The co-driver and driver both got out of the passenger side, and the driver was over with us. We had no idea we had been taking care of the driver the whole time. The fire department got the fire out and anyone who was injured was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Although they will all suffer from serious burns and be hospitalized for a very long time, everyone is going to live.
The amazing thing during and after this event was that business continued as usual. The race didn’t not stop, or even slow down for that matter. Shortly after Parker showed up in his sexy Dodge, he and his crew mates gave us a hand getting the shocks in and getting us back underway. We owe a huge thanks to Parker for getting our shocks to us, Wide Open Racing for their hospitality, assistance and entertainment and Strapt Performance/ Carli Suspension for making us a priority in getting the shocks valved and out the door on short order. We are now back on the move!
Author: The Long Way South
Nate and Sarah were born and raised in the small town Saco, Maine, USA. We attended college in Boston, MA where we caught the traveling bug and have been addicted ever since. After our brief stint with the corporate world we decided, never again! The Long Way South is our website for our Pan-American journey, and the porthole for a life full of travel.