Baja Stories‎ > ‎

Baja riding tour with famous racers

posted Nov 21, 2014, 1:44 PM by Marketing Media   [ updated Nov 25, 2014, 2:05 PM ]
I remember that ride well. I was with a bunch of racing people on a riding tour starting in Rancho Las Juntas or "el condor", and going to Bahia de Los Angeles. There were car guys and bike guys. We were about twenty, including some well-known names of the time like Jim Hunter, Danny Macias, and Bill Bell (Mike Bell's dad). Gerry Grant, who was second at Indy, Dan Gurney and A. K. Miller from the car world were also with us. 

A.K. was from an earlier era and had raced the pan-American road race series. This race in the early fifties covered Mexico from south to north, starting at Tapachula on the Guatemalan border and running in segments over several days to the finish in Juarez.   

bike riding tour Baja

It was a big race in the old days, but it only lasted three or four years, because so many were killed, both spectators and racers, and the government canceled it. Imagine the Mexican government, especially back then, worrying about a little roadkill on the highways. There were all classes in the race - from home built cars to the factory racing Mercedes 300sl open top (the one from the famous picture of the condor hitting the windshield of the Mercedes seriously, injuring the co-pilot) and the factory Lincolns, which dominated the factory sedan class.

A.K. tells the story of racing through the southern mountains on the first day with the sheer drop-offs in their open special and being passed by a Mexican team at a switchback going much too fast and watching them go off the cliff hearing them yell "ki yi yi ole", all the way down. 

A.K. was quite the raconteur. On that same trip, we were at Mike's sky ranch and A.K. was rooming with Dan Gurney.   There was a really cute gal at Mike's hundred mile an hour bar, which was packed and Dan was really working on her. 

Those of us at the tables were watching this interplay and envying Dan, wondering if he was going to score. When the lights out warning was given we all expected to see Dan leave with the cute chick, but at that point some guy walked up to her and said "c'mon honey, it's time to go to bed". Dan ended up spending the night with A.K. Miller, a poor second best. Shortly after the lights out warning, there came the most mournful howl from one of the rooms. In the morning, at breakfast, A.K. asked if we heard that howl last night, which we all had.

He said that was gurney, it was the cry of the horny, gurney bird.

In those days, we would take multi-day riding trips, because of flats, fouled plugs, broken bikes,  gas problems, etc. You always told your wife or girlfriend that you weren't sure what day you would be back, but it was never as soon as you expected.   

Baja riding trip

On the first day of this ride I've been talking about, everybody had their race face on and we were all flying separated in clumps of four or five, depending on the speed and the degree of macho at the moment, but not paying attention to where we were going. Everyone was just following the bike in front, then stop at some branch and wait to consolidate again, maybe.