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 fifth and sixth days of the trip.
Bahia de Los Angeles to San Ignacio
Total Rip Miles: 825
It was now officially the morning of the midway point of the ride, but only a little over 500 miles had been traveled so far. In the next four days the riders would cover close to 1,000 miles–the real heart of the ride began today. Bay of LA, as it’s known to visiting gringos, is an amazingly beautiful fishing town, but it is also stiflingly hot. Most everyone was happy to get on the road and feel a breeze on his face.
Ex-speedway champ “Rad” Brad Oxley punches it through one of the many river crossings on Day 6; photo courtesy K. Ward
Outside Bay of LA, the first leg of the day was an extremely tight singletrack tangled among a forest of high and low cactus, scrub brush, and the cartoonish Boojum Tree, native only to a 200-mile long stretch of central Baja. Sometimes called the “Dr. Seuss Tree” for its resemblance to the book author’s curling, swirling animation style, the Boojum can grow to 50 feet tall and look like inverted green carrots climbing towards the heavens.
Pro freestyle motocross racer and Metal Mulisha marketing director Ryan Hagy was the first to feel frustration on this day. While tearing through a woodsy two-track section, Hagy suffered two flat tires within a matter of miles, which can be the result of lazy riding (not avoiding rocks) or just bad luck. After fixing Hagy’s second flat tire, the group continued to head west towards the coast to meet up on the beach at Punta Rosarita, aka The Wall, situated at the southern tip of the “Seven Sisters” region, an area well-known to Baja surfers.
On the beach at The Wall, head mechanic Jeff “Lobster” Laubscher said it didn’t matter if Hagy was being lazy or unlucky, he was now out of fresh tire tubes and if Hagy got another flat they’d be “stuffing his tire full of twigs and branches to get him home for the night.” He wasn’t joking–he said he’d been desperate enough to do it before. And it works, he said.
The final section of the day passed through a pristine bio-reserve skirting just outside the salt mining town of Guerrero Negro. Situated just southwest of Guerrero Negro lies Scammon’s Lagoon, home to one of the northeastern Pacific spawning grounds and pup-rearing waters of the Gray Whale. But there would be no time for whale watching on this day.
By nightfall the group was still approximately 50 miles outside its destination for the night–the oasis town of San Ignacio. At nearly 8 p.m., with over 200 miles covered and nearly 12 exhausting hours on the bike, the group still had two hours of dangerous nighttime riding ahead of it. The end of a very long day would become the beginning of a treacherous night.
San Ignacio to Loreto
Total Rip Miles: 1,045
The previous night’s ride into San Ignacio proved to be injury free. But the late night took its toll as riders’ bodies were beginning to break down. The 6 a.m. wake up calls and 7:30 a.m. departures had become more and more difficult to answer. It wasn’t helping that today’s ride would be one of the longest of the trip as the group again traversed its way west across the peninsula towards the Pacific, with a lunch planned on the beach in San Juanico, aka “Scorpion Bay.”
In many ways, Scorpion Bay represents another example of the bittersweet feeling elicited by growth and “progress” in Baja. Until recently, a trip to this region meant a dilemma of sorts: Choice A was the northern route into “Scorps,” an 8-hour off-road journey over and through washboard-road hell, or Choice B, a 10-hour slightly smoother journey through washboard hell. But your journey through Dante’s Inferno ends upon your arrival in San Juanico, a tranquilo fishing village located on the stinger’s tip of the scorpion, home to no less than three perfect surf spots, warm water, and cold cervesas.
Today, a smooth, paved highway leads straight into town from the south, your first taste of Baja dust literally on the southernmost edge of San Juanico town. American developers lurk in town and online, ready to sell you a sub-divided slice of paradise. The line-ups are full of retro-longboard-toting surf turkeys, grumpy, entitled U.S. expats, and increasingly temperamental locals–native and transient alike. The yin and yang of life in Mexico no doubt, but also an example of a special place on a precipice, on the edge of corruption by colonial capitalism.
Participation in the Rip can often times be a fluid endeavor. Eleven-time Baja 1000 Champ Johnny Campbell exited early this year due to a recent invitation to participate in the world-famous Dakar Rally Off-Road Race (now held in Peru and Argentina), a test of endurance and will that makes the Rip seem like a milk run. He was whisked off to South America to pre-run the race with his Team Honda sponsors the morning of Day 3.
But new riders inevitably step in and fill the void. This year the group was joined in San Ignacio by three fresh riders, all of whom significantly contributed to increasing the overall talent level. Former Speedway (oval flat track racing) racer “Rad” Brad Oxley and his two sons Colton and Ian jumped in on Day 6. Colton is a recent Baja 1000 Champ, and Ian, the younger of the two brothers, is a budding desert racer looking for sponsorship.
Young buck Ian was keen to show off his skills to the group in the mud flats outside San Rafael. Cameron coaxed the radio-less youngster into a “circle” race, then radioed everyone else out of the track to watch nearby like a pack of hyenas. Little did he know he was being set up for the official Rip induction ritual known as “The Roost.” Ian inevitably made a mistake and dumped his bike. The pack pounced, spun their rear tires in his direction and proceeded to “roost” the teenager and his dirt bike with a half-inch thick coating of salty, stinky black mud.
With the exception of Sunny Garcia tackling a cactus just before sunset, the ride into Loreto was mercifully incident free. This is something that cannot be said of Day 7. Stay tuned.
Pro FMX rider Ryan Hagy (right) looking comfortable on a Baja desert two-track; photo courtesy K. Ward