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46 years of Baja Riding "The Beginning"

posted Feb 19, 2014, 8:53 AM by Baja Rider   [ updated Mar 3, 2014, 7:38 AM ]
Nicole called to ask me whether I had any Baja memories and I told her I was drawing a blank. Now, at four in the morning I can't sleep because my mind is going a mile a minute. That denoted real fast, but I guess only to us old timers I can't remember hearing it from the mouths of you young whipper snappers.

When I first moved out to California from Philadelphia in 1964 I discovered Baja, at the time it was basically only Tijuana and Ensenada. I got myself a plane and found out there was a little more down there. One of my earliest trips abroad was to Bahia de los Angeles with my wife in my Convair L-13, a plane nobody remembers. I was still a student pilot and technically it was illegal to have anyone with me, but I've been known to break a rule or two. Lucky for me she thought I could do no wrong. think of those girls who recklessly go parasailing. They faithfully allow themselves to get towed behind a speedboat because of their memories of being safe with daddy. We guys know better and stay away from the parachute rides.

At the time paved roads were obsolete, anything resembling pavement ended just south of Ensenada. Reaching a place like Bahia, which was basically inhabitated by a single family at the time, was only possible by boat. The alternative would be to attempt a death defying landing on the East to West dirt air strip. At the end of it was a small building with six doors in it, this was the motel. Or if you had less luck, and couldn't get your plane down in time to avoid crashing into the mountains on the other end, it could serve as yours brakes.

Anyway, as often happened the westerly winds came tumbling over the mountains and as I came in to land the plane was bouncing up and down about 30 feet or more, and I was expecting my first attempt would park me in the bedroom, so I decided to take the plane around again...with zero success. 

Haha, at the time I had only 5 hours of solo flying under my belt, and I felt I was ready for Baja.

Finally the third or fourth attempt got us on the ground, but WAY too fast, and despite my plane being well equipped we came to a stop with the propeller peeking in the doorway of that 6 door motel. 

Actually landing the plane was great, but the really memorable thing about this trip was the two desert sleds we encountered later. As we enjoyed our luxurious trip to Bahia two guys came in on motorcycles with two huge backpacks, everything was completely covered in dust and they looked like fugitives from the French foreign legion. The first guy rode in on a Triumph 650 and his buddy was on a BSA 750 Triple, together they were headed to La Paz. Back then finding fuel was a real challenge and getting lost was even more dangerous; they had had their trials with both and had been on the trail for about a week already.

By then was 31 and had retired from AMA racing because supposedly I was over the hill for professional racing, but when I saw these guys it rekindled my passion for riding. Those two guys are responsible for all of the fun, and the pain, that the past 46 years of Baja riding has brought me. But also for the priceless memories. All of the great guys, and girls, I've met over the years. And honestly, almost all of my friends to this day are a result, directly or indirectly, from the life I've had in Baja and riding dirt bikes.