Baja California

Baja California

Baja. In the world of off-road racing and riding few words conjure the kind of reverence associated with this legendary peninsula. For almost 40 years Baja has hosted one of the greatest off-road races in the world, the Baja 1,000. Located on the western coast of Mexico, the state of Baja California is bordered on two sides by ocean, the Pacific on the west and the pristine Sea of Cortez in the Gulf of California along its eastern shoreline.

Though only a few miles from the lavish beach communities of San Diego, Baja is a world away, devoid of the prosperity in the United States and, frankly, most of the trappings of civilization. Sections of the large peninsula are extremely remote, water is often scarce, and bandits roam the outer marshes in search of touristos to plunder.

That said - the off-road riding is like none other on earth. But you never ever ride Baja alone. That's why Baja tours are so big. Of all the tour companies that roam here, Chris Haines Motorcycle Adventure Tours is the largest.

For over 14 years, Haines has introduced literally thousands of riders, of all levels, to the joys of off-roading in Baja. And those joys are many. The spectacular scenery of the wild peninsula; the thrill of sluicing, wide-open like a bobsled through miles of sand berms; the mountain climbs and descents into valleys, dodging cattle, and watching the vaqueros rope mustangs along the way. Then there's the great food, riding the Baja 1,000 course, and racing up the road to Mike's Sky Rancho in the rain. Overall, the purveyors of the Chris Haines experience aim for it to be the best time you've ever had on a motorcycle.

They offer several packages that include street or off-road rides in the USA, but the mainstays of the company are the Baja Adventures. Coming in three- or seven-day packages, the rides include the Ensenada/San Felipe/Mike's Sky Rancho trip for 95 to the seven-day, 2,000-mile trip from Ensenada to Cabo for 00. There is also a 10 percent discount for Honda Riders Club of America members.

The beauty of the adventure is that it is entirely a turnkey operation. The tour company provides everything from the bikes (fully prepped Honda XR250R, XR400R, and XR650R) to the meals, hotels, and bottled water. A support crew, including an EMT, magically appears with gas, food, and even clean goggles in the middle of nowhere. Lead and sweep riders come along to help the novices over and through any obstacles. All the client has to bring is a desire to enjoy some of the best off-road terrain in the world.

Everyone meets in San Diego, with guests driving or flying in from all over the world. Then, we drive to Ensenada down the "Scenic Highway," a surprisingly good road for Mexico. Once in Ensenada, Haines puts everyone up in a really nice hotel.

At dinner that night we met the rest of the guests. They came from all over the United States. One group from Oklahoma included Dan Brooks, Dennis Cobb, and Brian Maloney. All friends and fellow businessmen, they make this an annual trip, a "guy getaway" without the wives and kids. Eugene Neugbohr and Oren Neugbohr, a father and son from Michigan also make this junket an annual treat. Eugene was the oldest guy in the group. I'll divulge no more about that. However, his spirit for adventure is boundless. He'd just returned from a heli-skiing spree in the Himalayas before coming to Baja. The Wooton brothers, Mark and Ben, hailed from the East Coast. Ben is a CPA and Mark is a teacher. Both felt that riding Baja was the adventure of a lifetime. New Jersey businessmen, Jim Sharkey and Fred Golden, have been riding buddies since childhood and always dreamed of riding Baja.