Chasing the Dream

The most unique title in the history of man right there.  How about “Chasing Someone Else’s Dream”? It’s more accurate.  In the case of this little collection of words the ‘chasing’ is not a figure of speech but truly chasing. Chasing the Baja 1000.  Canguro Racing will have a legit write up on the race but because it took a lot of my time, energy and emotion I want to focus on just the chasing side of the Baja 1000.  Also, our crew deserves the glory. And by glory I mean the 4 people that will read this.
Let’s start at the start. Yep the start.  Let’s start there. For those who may not understand, ‘chasing’ a Baja race is essentially doing whatever it takes to support the race car and team during the race. Chasing the car down the peninsula as it were.  Where my role began in the chase plan is that I volunteered to do it.  I think my team trusts my judgment and they also know that despite the number of hours it takes to plan and write up I thoroughly enjoy it.  The process starts with knowing what cars we have, knowing what personnel we have, then printing off a large map (for the Mil it was 5 feet high) and then sitting down with pieces of paper representing each chase truck and I go from there.  I love looking at maps. I love planning routes and logistics. That part is easy. Seriously, if anyone needs a complex logistics plan with lots of map study and day to day planning call me. I’d love to do it.   Moving cars down a 1200 mile peninsula, chasing an 1121 mile race course over 2 days is easy and enjoyable for me to figure out. Where the stress comes in and what keeps me awake at night is planning for the safety of everyone involved (and the horrendous guilt that would come if something happened as well as the effect it would have on their families), ensuring personalities don’t clash, that stress is kept to a minimum and allowing each person to enjoy the beauty of Mexico and not feel like they are spending their time and money to come work for us.  Oh and did I mention safety?

A significant amount of stress was mitigated once we settled on who made up our crew.  John Thorne (aka Hampton), J Ralls, Paul May, Jason Goates, Jake Chatwin, Cody McKendrick, Dan Lockington, Ryan Nakaya, Adam Tolman (team photographer as well), Cory Fillmore and Jason Call.  Me personally, and the entire team, will be forever grateful to them for being a huge part of the race with us.  While coming from different social circles and backgrounds and varying in ages from 20 to 48 we, as a team, knew we could trust them.  My concern was conveying to each one of them the stress involved in driving Mex 1 on little sleep.  Aside from Paul and Goates there wasn’t much Baja experience in the crew and aside from me and Darren, Paul was the only guy who had been to the southern portion of the peninsula.  I can try and convey to you what it means to drive in Baja but I’ve learned, from post-race conversations, that as much as I tried to emphasize the danger and insanity (for lack of a better word) of Mex 1 I failed.  The slightest lapse in concentration can lead to disaster.  There were 2 chasers that died this year during the race. A few of us saw the carnage of the accident.  There is a race related death every year during the Baja 1000.  However, even those numbers can’t quite prepare anyone for the experience.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ll skip over what happened between home and Ensenada and get right to our team meeting the night before the race as I think this puts in all in perspective.  I was going over the plan (that  I’ll paste at the end of this ramble) and after telling Chase 1 (Ryan Davis, Ryan Nakaya, Adam Tolman and Dave Helm) “You’re going to Valle de Trinidad to monitor communications and support the car, once the car moves past you’ll head to RM795, to put in that in perspective it’s about the length of driving SLC to San Diego.”  I still remember the look on Nakaya’s face when I said that. Pure shock.  So 800 miles of driving on a notoriously deadly two lane highway with a brief stop along the way to monitor communications at the car ran through El Arco. Is what awaited them.  I would find out later that during this brief stop Adam would take what he called a ‘dirt nap’ while he could. Yep, lying down in the dirt about 6 am to take a nap having not slept for 23 hours.  I think he said he got 45mins.  After that meeting we all went our separate ways.  I would not see Goates, Dan and Cody for 36 hours. Even then it was for a 3 mins pit stop to get fuel.  I would see Goates about 8 hours later.  I would see Cody and Dan 20 hours later at the finish line.  Combined I think the 3 of us would get 5 hours of sleep over the 42 hours of racing.

I want to talk about Dan, Cody and Goates just a bit more since I asked them to take on the greatest burden of the chase and they did so enthusiastically and without a hiccup.  What exactly was that burden?  We had two options: Backtrack from San Felipe through Ensenada and down Mex 1 or drive down the race course, in the dark to Mex 1.  First option is approx. 470 miles.  Second option is 80.  After consulting with Baja veteran Ted Moncure I proposed to these 3 that they take Chase 3 (Kurt’s 100) down the course. The gleefully accepted.  So 5 hours to go 80 miles was the route they took. Once back on pavement and somewhere on Friday morning.  (I’m not really sure as I was in the race car at the time) Kurt climbed back in his 100 and Goates climbed into my 100 with Hampton and Paul.  But I’ll get back to them. Dan, Cody and Kurt then drove from San Ignacio all the way through San Insurgentes and then looped back north to La Purisma.  I think their route was close to 150 miles longer than the rest of ours and in much harsher conditions.   To illustrate exactly how exhausting, and thus confusing, the entire endeavor was I’ll give you a brief explanation of what just happened to me while sitting on my couch.

Darren and I got out of my 100 and into the race car.  Marc and Kurt did the opposite.  Goates was in Kurt’s 100.  I next saw Goates, however briefly about 4 hours into my leg of driving, still in Kurt’s cruiser with Cody and Dan. The next time I saw him was when Darren and I got out of the race car 8 hours after that. When I tried to find out how he got there I couldn’t get ahold of him so but I did talk to J, Hampton and Kurt. All 3 gave me a different story of what happened. Keep in mind all 3 were in my Cruiser when I got out of it. Less than a month later none of them could remember who went where.  I managed to piece together the truth from each of them before talking to Jason but clearly shows how much is involved in chasing.

I woke up on Thursday morning in Ensenada about 9am. I climbed into my sleeping bag in San Ignacio Saturday night about 10 o’clock.  Between my cruiser and the race car I drove almost 1800 miles and slept a grand total 45 mins in that entire time.  14 other people had a similar experience to mine over those 2.5 days.  Just so 6 friends could drive fast(ish) through the desert for 1100 miles.  Quite impressive. But that that point we were only 1/3 of the way back to Salt Lake.  2 full days of driving and we would be home not all would be incident free. Let’s get back to Mex 1.

It’s scary. It’s frightening. It’s high stress. There are portions that are strikingly gorgeous and beautifully desolate but even those require focus and concentration. The driving is not relaxing, it is not pleasant. It is high stress and very sketchy. On the way south during the race Adam experienced just that. He dropped a tire off the edge of the road and instantly lights began flashing the traction control took over Ryan’s tundra. It scared him. It panicked him but the worst was ahead of us. On the way home Marc , while towing the race car. Got sideswiped by a local at 60mph. Okay that’s hyperbole.  It was side mirrors slapping high five. As word was coming over the radio my truck passed the other car in the incident, a mid-90s maroon Explorer.  Mirror gone and driver’s window shattered and the driver was knocking out the broken pieces of glass. When we finally got to Marc his mirror was also gone and he was in the process of taping the race car mirror into the void.    Sometime the next day (it’s all a blur) I hopped in Chase 1 with the Ryans and Helm to swap stories about the previous 2 days and get details on their portion of the race.  I was gawking out the window listening to Dave tell me about the tunnel vision he got from the race car lights when I look off the side of the road in some small village and see my Cruiser, with Darren behind the wheel, with all 4 tires in the air!!! What the hell was going on? I grab the radio and congratulate D for launching her.  Apparently they had a drunk driver in front of them wandering both lanes and narrowly miss a head on collision.  I gathered later from Darren’s passengers at the time that they were all scared for their lives and were actually relieved when Darren left the highway at 50mph down the steam embankment and passed the drunk in the desert.  I totally trust Darren with my truck. Kind of goes without saying since I trust him as my race co-driver as well, but I think J, Hampton and Adam had a new appreciation for his skill and his well-earned trust in a moment like that.  I was laughing watching him bomb my truck. The mood inside it was far different.  It’s the mood you get while driving Mex 1.

The rambling is getting bad so let’s wrap this up with some more talk about trust. That is what the 1000 comes down to.  15 people who trust each other (sometimes total strangers) to be safe and smart in a foreign country during a stressful situation.  The race is a blast, both in the car and chasing it down the peninsula but, the true joy sets in when we hit American roads, dial up cruise control and relax back into sub-conscious driving. Once the stress was removed we could truly savor the experience.  Plenty of time to savor it too as we were still 12 hours from home. As I mentioned above, Ryan, Marc, Kurt, Helm, Darren and I have the proud honor of finishing the Baja 1000 in our first attempt.  However, each of us know full well we never could have done it without a fantastic group of friends.


Below is our pre-race logistics plan and it even changed from this just days before the race but I never posted it up

updated version. someone please read this closely and see if i missed anything. changing personnel and chase truck numbers was trickier than i thought and I may have confused myself in the process.
okay. here it is. I used the BFG 2010 map to plan but it will probably be a slightly different course. This is my ideal scenario and I realize there is no way it will happen but need a starting point to work from until we know cars and personnel…0Web%20map.pdf
Baja Mil 2012 v1

1. Canguro Race: Mathilda

2. Canguro Chase 1: Ryan’s Tundra

3. Canguro Chase 2: Dave’s 100

4. Canguro Chase 3: Kurt’s 100

5. Canguro Chase 4: Marc’s Duramax

6. Canguro Chase 5: Adam’s Taco

Canguro Race: basic tools, spare parts, first aid, emergency kit (water/food/ sat phone, cell phone, spot) water and food for course, tp/baby wipes
Chase 1: RCD, Helm, Jake, Paul. Master communications, spare tires, personal supplies, documents
Chase 2: Connors, Darren, Hampton, J. Personal supplies, documents
Chase 3: Kurt, Goates, Cody and Dan. Personal supplies, documents
Chase 4: Marc, Nathan and spare tires and parts, Mathilda-specific tools, trailer, extra chase fuel, sat phone, personal supplies, documents, cell phone
Chase 5: Matt, Nakaya, Brandon, Adam. Personal supplies, documents
Web Racers: Jason and Cory. (Ryan will handle all of this)
ALL trucks need to have a radio, minimum set of tools, extra fuel, maps, food/water and ability to tow (either on strap or trailer) the car, recovery gear and GPS and cell phone with international plan.
November 11th Sunday: We all leave. It will probably be best if people move around in cars to add some diversity to the group and conversation. Once the race starts each truck will have plenty of time to get to know each other. Crash at Matt’s and swap trailer from Chase 2 to Chase 1.
November 12th Monday: Wake early, bust to Mexicali, cross border, bust to san Felipe and camp where we did this year.
November 13th Tuesday: Head to Ensenada early enough for driver’s meeting /registration, check in to El Cortez, driver’s meeting and registration, chase crew free to wander the city, Tacos El Pablano #2
November 14th Weds: Contingency, all day affair, team dinner, load up chase trucks with food/drinks and fuel
November 15th Thurs/Race Day: Check out, eat breakfast, check radios and phones, confirm with Web racers. Exact logistics will have to be figured out but the way I see it, all go watch trophy trucks bomb down the wash. Hustle back to El Cortez and get Mathilda down to the start line for the race. We’ll probably go out close to an hour after the start of the race and I doubt we’ll need to be in line when they go out. If so we can leave 2 people (probably me and Darren since we have been to the race the most times) with Kurt and Marc. 1. Marc and Kurt in Mathilda 2. Nathan and Paul in Chase 4 3. Connors, Darren, Hampton and J in Chase 2 a. Chase 2 and Chase 4 leave after the start and head south. Chase 2 to Bay of LA. Chase 4 parks near the turn off/hwy 1, within radio range of Coco’s 4. Chase 1 with RCD, Helm and Jake climb to Ojos and do radio work. After Mathilda passes and is in communication with Chase 5 Ryan, Helm and Jake proceed to Catavina for central radio work OR park where they have cell coverage and can assure updates from Web Racer and communicate that to Chase 4 and possible relay to Chase 2 5. Chase 3 Goates, Dan, and Cody proceed to BFG Pit 1, to observe fuel and talk, via radio, with Canguro Race then proceed to San Felipe to assist in driver change and check over car. They will then parallel them down the coast until pavement runs out or they can’t keep up with the car once it turns to dirt. They then backtrack to Ensenada and proceed down the long ass drive to RM 726. They could in theory stay on the gulf coast and take dirt down to hwy 1. It’s a decent road and fairly fast but not sure we want to take that risk. Maybe ask Ted? 6. Chase 5 Adam, Matt, Nakaya, Brandon head east on HWY 3, find a place (if the route is the same as 2010 I know a place) to watch the race somewhere between Ojos and Trinidad, take pics of the race and Mathilda in action. Communication relay with Chase 4, Chase 3 and Mathilda. Once the car is in communication with Chase 3 they backtrack down HWY 1. They’ll meet up with Chase 1. Ryan and Helm hop in with Adam and Matt and proceed to La Purisma/BFG 5. 7. Brandon and Nakaya hop in with Goates/Chase 1 and caravan with Chase 5 to Guerrero Negro where they’ll head east on dirt to the course to pick up the car and ideally communicate with Chase 4 at San Ignacio. Maybe even put up an external antenna to increase range.
Nov 16th Fri (midnight): 1. Chase 4, Paul and Nathan, communicates with Mathilda until Chase 2 in Bay of La pick them up. Chase 4 then proceeds to San Ignacio/BFG4. 2. I think we should either set up along the hwy or at the Pemex right as you enter Bay of LA. Should be closed but their lights will be on. Find a spot previous to BFG 3 as after the pit the course starts pretty quick and hard to backtrack on it. Darren and Connors take over Mathilda. Thorough check of the car. Make sure everything is working perfectly as the next leg is easier driving but isolated. Chase 2 with Hampton, J and now Marc and Kurt monitor radio as long as possible then proceed to San Ignacio/BFG4 3. Chase 1 will stay in communication with Mathilda as long as possible then either backtrack to G Negro or down to Vizcaino then haul ass to La Purisma. 4. At BFG 4 or somewhere near it, a driver swap takes place. Chase drivers can also move around. Marc can hop in with Nathan and Paul can climb in Chase 2. Chase 4 Then proceeds to Loreto/BFG6. 5. Depending on the exact route Chase 2 can parallel the race course out to the pacific coast pretty easily (I drove this route in 07 and the road paralleling the course is like pony express all the way to the beach) and maintain communication for a while until they can’t keep up. They then backtrack to hwy 1 and head to BFG 7 6. At La Pursima/BFG5 Helm and Ryan get in the car. Connors and Darren hop in Chase 5 with Matt and Adam. Thorough check of the car. I drove this section of the course in 07 and it was brutal. We should be able to communicate with the car from La Purisma to the summit then Chase 3 should be able to pick them up from RM 726. 7. Chase 5 and 1 will proceed the short distance to BFG6 or shortly after to facilitate the driver swap and check over car. 8. When Mathilda has passed RM726 Chase 3 will proceed down to HWY Between Loreto and Insurgentes to communicate with the car. After car is picked up by Chase 5 or 4 they proceed to Cuidad Constituion and join Chase 4 9. After Mathilda has passed Loreto Chase 4 will proceed to Ciudad Constitution and wait. 10. Mathilda arrives at BFG6 or shortly after. Driver swap. Thorough check of car and drivers. 11. Chase 1 heads to BFG7 while monitoring communications to join Chase 2. 12. Chase 5 joins chase 4 and 3 in Constitution. Do some personnel swaps back into the right cars if they want. Would be good to change things up. A new start and conversations to wake people up and avoid too much stress. 13. Chase 5, 4 and 3 head to La Paz check into hotel and head to finish line 14. At BFG 7 last fuel stop. Another check of the car. Chase 4 and Chase 2 parallel Mathilda down the coast until about 15 miles out then proceed to town and the finish. (Ideally we’ll be able to communicate via handheld at this point.) 15. Celebrate a 1st in Class finish. Go get food and sleep very well at the hotel that night.
Saturday Nov, 17th Head toward home at a safe but quick pace. Obviously stopping to get tacos along the way. I’d be ecstatic if we could make it to Ensenada but that would be a really long day. If so we can maybe we go back to El Cortez. If not we can find a place to stop and crash on the side of the road I personally don’t want to get much closer to the border than Ensenada that night.
Sunday Nov, 18th Head to Tecate and cross the border. Hopefully much quicker than last year. If people need to get home that night we arrange cars so they can just bail and go. The rest who can get home Monday go to vegas and crash.
Monday Nov, 19th, wake up and head home.
Friday Nov, 23rd. Day after thanksgiving. Get together for a nosh and rehash and sort through gear.