Reader Ride: Baja, Mexico

Reader Ride: Baja, Mexico
The year was 1972 … the last time my old man sat on a vinyl seat, pulled on a helmet, and rode off into the sunset. So, when I approached him about riding bikes in Baja for a month long journey down Mexico’s infamous peninsula, I was surprised he agreed to go. However, my father is not one to say no. He’s accompanied me to Monza to document the Italian Grand Prix, to Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix, and to France for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The idea of riding dirt bikes into Baja wasn’t just an excuse to escape the States; it was also an opportunity to witness the 47th annual Tecate Score Baja 1000 off-road race, what some consider the ultimate test of both man and machine.

Preparing Our Motorcycles and Our Minds

Soon after the idea was born, I started searching the Internet for a pair of dual sports. Although I’ve owned a handful of motorcycles over the years, I was without one at the moment. My ever-reliable TTR250 had been stolen from my father’s parking garage—a darn shame.

I looked for bikes that my girlfriend, Kyra, and I could ride and found a pair of nearly new Yamaha XT 225s sitting on a showroom floor just north of Seattle. Following a quick phone call (and a credit card), we were one step closer to embarking on our adventure. Kyra and I began upgrading them with necessary items: skid plates, hand guards, 4.1-gallon fuel tanks, tail racks, soft luggage, a GPS unit, and fresh rubber.

But what about my old man? Not one to be outdone, my father purchased a brand new Suzuki DR650. He began buying all the bits for his bike—a similar list of accessories. We spent the next few months riding, adjusting, adding, and subtracting until we felt that both ourselves and the bikes were Baja ready. Kyra had never ridden off-road, and since we were anticipating riding on an assortment of terrain south of the border, we dedicated a great deal of time getting her comfortable. My father, on the other hand, had ridden off-road quite a bit … forty years ago. To say I was concerned about his abilities would be an understatement. Running low on time, I encouraged him to get out of the city to find something sketchy to ride on in preparation for the trip.

Things Aren’t Always as They Appear

The plan was to trailer our bikes from Seattle to San Diego, then cross the border into Baja at Tecate. With the bikes loaded, we departed three days before Halloween. Now, I’ve been riding motorcycles for the last five years, and while I’m not an expert, I’m certainly not an amateur. Kyra, although new to off-road riding, had her own bike for two years and was quite comfortable. My father (to my surprise) hopped on his new dual sport—the tallest bike he’d ever owned or ridden—and followed us effortlessly across the border, dodging semi-trucks and soccer moms.

We have an interesting relationship, my father and I. Always encouraging me to test my limits, my old man was the catalyst for many ‘bad’ as well as many ‘good’ decisions in my life. He’s the reason I ride, the reason I surf, shoot guns, read religiously, write, and think critically. Strong willed, smart, stubborn, and successful … that’s how I’d describe him. During my formative years, I rebelled like most teenage boys would who were raised by a single father. Looking back, I wish I’d spent more time doing the things he encouraged me to do. Fast-forward a decade. I was working as the Creative Director for a motorsport website and spending most of my weekends at race tracks documenting auto sports. A fan of Formula One, my father used my new profession as an excuse to see these races. Baja, however, was a different ordeal.