Speeds on the course vary anywhere from zero to a hundred mph, which considering the nearly impassable rough and rocky terrain through the mountains, seems impossible. But, the racers are so jacked up on energy bars and adrenalin they could probably do the course just as fast without their cars.
Last year my son Mike and three of his buddies built a raced-up SUV for the 1,000 Run. They were still working on the truck at the Start Line. But, much to their surprise, they were forth in their class two hours after leaving Ensenada. Only ten miles later they rolled the truck. Fans along the course helped them get it back on its wheels and they sped on to race mile 210 without a windshield, top lights and other assorted parts.
At three the next morning they rounded a soft turn on top of a mountain, hooked a wheel in the sand, rolled over an abandoned truck that was teetering on the edge and fell into the abyss. About fifteen or twenty end over end flips later, they came to rest some eight hundred feet down in the bottom of a ravine. According to Mike, "It was the best E Ticket ride I've ever been on." He wasn't scratched, but the driver suffered bruised ribs, a mild concussion and was Medivaced home at first light. The SUV could not be recovered and was left for the local vultures to fight over.
This year, our pit for the 500 was just sixty miles from the start line along the coast on a scenic point of land just opposite Bird Shit Rock near the town of Erendira. We were fully exposed to the gale force winds off the ocean that were enough to take the food off your plate and blow you across the camp yard. Every once in a while, I would take cover in Blue's crew cab, but even lead-butt Blue was rocked by the gusts.
As usual, the kids in every town asked for Race Stickers as souvenirs, but vandals went further, stealing Race Markers from the course, sending many drivers in circles trying to find their way. Wise guys up the course took our arrows and signs that pointed down the course and switched them to a hard right "Short Cut" up and over a hill, causing drivers to miss their fuel stop at our Pit. Some driver's ran out of gas a few miles farther along or were forced to beg for it at the next pit.
At the end of the race, we had gallons of fuel left over and had I known gas would hit four bucks, I would have snuck some back across the border. I know Hal filled Blues' extra tanks with some racing 110 leaded and he ran like a rocket fired from Vandenberg.
Every year there are serious injuries. And it's not just people who get hurt. As tough as Blue is, he suffers too. You remember the broken motor mount and ripped fan shroud? Well eventually they conspired to unleash an errant bolt, which somehow bounced into the fan blade and then was shot through the radiator. Luckily it happened in downtown Ensenada. Unluckily, it was on Sunday.
But things have a way of sorting themselves out. We broke down in front of a restaurant. The owner had a friend with a radiator shop. The guy lived above his shop and was home when we called. It didn't matter that his floors were dirt and he smelled of coolant, burritos and burned grease. He had a great old-school nudie calendar to keep us entertained while he and his even dirtier assistant made the necessary repairs. We were back on the road in less than two hours.
Considering the thousands of racers and spectators that are in harm's way, it's amazing that most folks return home from Mexico unscratched with only a touch of Montezuma's revenge and some mighty tales to tell.
Big Blue has witnessed it all. He is a Baja proven sexy beast--solid as Sears and a testament to brawn over beauty. Between trips, he waits patiently around Coronado, trying to blend with the clean-living hybrids and careful not to run afoul of the twenty-five foot vehicle parking restrictions.