On Oct. 4 a group of 24 determined dirt bikers and their 20-person strong support crew embarked on what, for many of them, was the adventure of a lifetime. Over the course of eight grueling days they zigzagged across the Baja California peninsula in an attempt to ride from the U.S.-Mexican border all the way to Land’s End in Cabo San Lucas in what is dubbed the Rip to Cabo. Here’s a play by play of what happened on the final days of the trip.
Loreto to La Paz
Total Rip Miles: 1,305
Broken, bloodied and bleary eyed, the group trudged towards their bikes at dawn with stunning alacrity, ready to face down the longest day of the entire Rip. The Loreto to La Paz leg is traditionally the longest day of the trip, mainly because the terrain on the Sea of Cortez between the two cities–called the “hidden coast”– is home to some of the most remote and isolated areas along the entire peninsula, Pacific side or Gulf side. There is no passage through it, as the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range stands in the way. It meant another grueling day piled on top of those that came before.
And it didn’t take long for the first casualty of the day to emerge. Barely one hour out of Loreto, Chad Thompson, a talented rider who runs car dealerships and off-road shops in Indiana, inadvertently kicked a granite rock with his foot. One minor mistake on a freshly graded road and his trip looked to be over. He was loaded into a chase vehicle with his bike for the rest of the day.
The recent monsoon rains meant that every river, stream, and creek was at its highest level in years; photo courtesy K. Ward
Fatigue was beginning to become a factor. Small missteps get amplified late in the Rip, meaning minor mishaps turn into major injuries. Before lunch another experienced rider became The Baja’s next victim. Off-road veteran Chris Mathes buried his front tire in some powdery, knee-deep silt and went down. During the fall he took a blow from his handle bars to his lower abdomen, just above his hipbone. It’s a common dirt biking injury. But, after being examined by two of the three EMTs who ride as part of the group, he too was loaded onto a chase vehicle.
Thompson’s injury was serious, but there was significant swelling, and it was unclear whether or not his foot was broken, so he was given a bucket of ice and a handful of ibuprofen. Mathes wasn’t so lucky. His gut was swollen, his juevos ached and he was already pissing blood. The entire crew reconvened at Ciudad Constitucion, where his situation was reassessed by the EMTs. Mathes was loaded into the fastest chase vehicle–a customized Ford F-150 Raptor–and delivered to a hospital in La Paz.
He had suffered a serious kidney hematoma and a swollen scrotum.
By nightfall the remaining riders were still hours out of base camp in La Paz. They had encountered a group of locals while descending the remote mountains outside of town. The recent monsoonal rains had washed out their already rugged two-track road, and their large SUV was stuck. Their town hadn’t been re-supplied with food and water in nearly a week due to the road conditions. They were desperate. It very realistically could’ve been days before anyone found them. When our crew of 25 dirt bikers made the scene they must have looked like the Marines landing at Iwo Jima. Their SUV got stuck, and pushed out by the riders, twice more before they finally hit pavement.
It was nearly 9 p.m. before the first bike’s headlights were spotted on the road heading into La Paz.
La Paz to Cabo San Lucas
Total Rip Miles: 1,450
There are times on the Rip when things can feel very autocratic. The machinations needed to keep this traveling carnival moving forward require this. However, on this day revolution was in the air.
Just outside Todos Santos the desert was in full bloom; photo courtesy K. Ward
Rip tradition holds that on the final day of the ride–a day when Cabo is so close you can almost taste the salt and lime from your first tequila shot–a mutiny may be in the works. Rumor had spread that a mutinous clan of riders (specifically some of the San Clemente boys) decided that it would be so much simpler to just hit the pavement for the 1.5-hour ride into Cabo. In years past, a breakaway band of riders did in fact split from the group and take the easy way into Cabo.
But not this year–although sources say it was very close to coming to fruition.
After nearly eight days on the trail, the Rip can become even more precarious. Riders are more cautious, the end game is to make it to Cabo without wrecking. This year, the ride turned southeast at Todos Santos and cut through the mountains north of town, culminating in a ride down a large arroyo that leads directly to the ocean and Cabo’s main thoroughfare.
Outside of The Office–a bar on the beach that is the Rip’s final destination–riders take one final left-hand turn and are greeted by the cheers of family and friends, chase crew, and media. The crew would spend the next 48 hours relaxing in the sun, posting up poolside, rock jumping at Los Arcos, and reminiscing about their fallen Rip brother Jeff “Ox” Kargola. After close to 1,500 miles covered in just over a week, with many highs and lows in between, it’s tough to sum up an experience that becomes so deeply emotional.
In the end, the most telling conclusion might be that nearly every rider had one final thought on the adventure: “Can’t wait to do it again next year!”
Chad Thompson’s foot was in fact broken. He’d get a cast and some crutches back in Indiana. Chris Mathes prognosis looked positive–he was still walking around holding a plastic bag full of ice on his crotch, but he said he was no longer pissing blood and his man bits were no longer the size of grapefruit.