It was late May, 2013 and we’d just busted our asses moving to our new shop (now old shop) in Corona, CA. Given our efforts, Sage wanted to treat the crew to a weekend down south of the border. It actually couldn’t have worked out any better; a well-needed break for the exhausted staff accompanied by a legion of heavy-duty trucks stacked with some parts that still needed a good thrashing to prove their worth in the stable.
First up, lined up at the shop where we had to leave promptly at 8am. As is usual at these types of events, one thing leads to another and after fixing an exhaust hanger and changing oil, we were on the road by 9:30am. Got to the border effortlessly, grabbed our Mexican insurance, met up with our customer in Mexico and went to Tech in Ensenada. After tech was Big Burro; this is an awesome little taco place that we’ve been going to for years. We rolled up and the cook was repping a Carli shirt without even knowing we were coming. Always nice to get a warm welcome:
We bailed from there and took back roads to get into the hills and get to the fun part. There’s a cutoff road that leads through some gnarly terrain to get to the race course over some guy’s ranch. Normally you jam through without a second glance but it was a race weekend and he charged us 40 pesos to go through. For that ride, it was a small price to pay. We landed next to his ranch with horses, cows and the race track while we waited for the group to catch up:
Once everyone rolled up we took the course down to a small city where we were bombarded by kids looking for stickers from all the racers. We tossed out hand-fulls of Carli and Bilstein Stickers to the kids and we were off again headed south. Passing through wine country at 100mph on isolated roads was a blast but we decided to jump back on the race course with varying terrain from 4 foot whoops to nearly grated roads until we hit a cutoff to a dry lake bed. This was an awesome experience. We lined up all ten trucks side by side in the lake bed and lit it up.
We then headed out door to door exceeding 90mph (others going faster than me) over the dry lakebed which was wide open for MILES. After some drifting in the moonlight, we decided to find a spot to camp and BBQ’d some wicked Carne and crashed for the night.
We woke up to the BLAZING Mexican sun at 6:30 sharp and it wasn’t long before we were messing around in the dry lake bed again; this time, with awesome visibility.
We had to cross the mountain range separating the inlands from the coast. We loaded up on local tacos, fueled up at the only Pemex for miles and went in search of the cutoff road. About three miles from the stop, we found the unmarked road on our GPS and jumped on it. No fences, no grating, no guarantee of the road continuing around the corner. Luckily, this led to a military checkpoint at its junction with Highway 1.
We headed down on Highway 1 to San Quintin to play around a bit, fueled up again and headed back North to thereabout of mile marker 350 on the race course. Our leader (guy with the GPS) found a chase road signified by a chain link fence in a tiny town so we took it. It was an awesome little road with a small kicker that everyone hit, then it lead us to the race course which we took for just over a mile to get to our spot on the beach.
This was our camp site for the remainder of the day. Let’s just say, 15 ft. from the beach and 500 ft. from the racecourse; well, we could’ve done worse! We then dropped the cameras for the night, unloaded our gear, setup tents threw some coals in the BBQ and unloaded our coolers and chairs in our pickup beds to watch the trophy trucks come through.
The rest of the night was, well, a bit of a blur…. We woke up to the sound of crashing waves, watched the fisherman launch their boats, loaded up camp and took off for our third day in Baja.
After resting for a solid hour we decided to take the race course North to Santo Tomas. First up was some deep silt, ripped through it and jammed up a hill where the race course traversed several ranches before getting back to the beach terrain.
Once the race course took a turn back toward the beach, we eased into some whooped sections of hard-pack with cacti everywhere scattered with rocks of all sizes. Timing the terrain was everything and no one with less than 30” of wheel travel would enjoy the next sections of narrow, hard-packed whoops. After 5 miles of straight hell, we faced a nearly vertical hill with a gradually leveling toward the top and an off-camber right hand turn where we would rest at the top.
After a couple beers to calm the nerves and a few photo ops, we were prepare for another 20 miles of hell until Santo Tomas. Much to our surprise, the terrain turned predictable and we had a blast once we descended from our rest spot down toward the beaches. The course turned to light-packed clay and we started hauling yet again. Not many photos take through this part as we were too busy driving but the views were spectacular!
We ascended the final climb before reaching the cutoff road and the lead group waited after getting the call that one truck lost a brake line and they were repairing it. Once the repair completed, another truck wouldn’t start as a huge hit had grenade the battery box. About 30 minutes later, we were back up and running.
This was the end of the dirt driving. We descended into Santo Tomas, had a beer and a couple tacos and headed back North for Ensenada. One last stop at the Burro for our final taste of Mexico and we were off to refuel, air up the tires, re-engage out ABS and make the trek back through the boarder. We went inland about 10 minutes and hit the Ote Mesa boarder check-point to avoid the traffic through TJ. The line was painless; 50 minutes and 2-bags of life-changing, fresh churros later and we were back on American soil. The hardest part of the trip was turning off the “baja” driving style.
The cost of R&D:
Overall, this was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken. No serious damage to any rig, nobody got hurt, nobody got harassed by the municipal police and no one did anything stupid.