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  • 1986 Baja 1000, Ensenada to Lapaz (Mike Hallett)

    1986 Baja 1000, Ensenada to Lapaz
    1050 miles

    During the summer of that year Allen Fox convinced me we only needed 2 riders to pull this off. 500 miles each doesn’t sound too bad, while you’re sitting around drinking a cold one. Then you think about prerunning and the race; that’s 1000 miles each! We were young and stupid. That was our plan. If I recall correctly, John Tomson, our sponsor with California Communication, registered as a 3rd rider in case Al or I were injured and couldn’t ride. We would ride the Turanchula, a 250R with CR 500 suspension built by Al.

    Conditioning was everything. I rode a 60 pound Jack at work, by choice! Around 6 weeks prior to my race, I would ride my rutted out one mile practice track, 10 laps 3 times a week. A couple weeks prior to the race, my brother Tom and I got off work on Friday. We grabbed our gear, drove most of the night to Catavina, slept 2 or 3 hours, got up, and preran. I preran solo which wasn’t that smart. That also left Tom solo chasing me. Not the brightest thing to do; I guess we were just lucky in that regard. During that prerun on a section called El Arco, I came upon 50 army soldiers on the same trail I was on coming towards me. I couldn’t turn around due to the lack of fuel, so I decided to stop and idle while they marched past me. I’d never been so mad dogged in my life. All these guys looked like they were 15 years old carrying assault weapons. Nothing happened and I got the hell out of there. Later I found out El Arco was a military camp. The only other problem with that prerun was the damn dogs. The course went through fish camps on the Pacific Coast chock full of mangy aggressive dogs. I swear the fishermen would turn them loose just to see if one could get a leg bite in. They would stop to watch the dogs chase you.

    The weekend prior to the race, the team went down to prerun for 5 days. That all went well until Allen and John were prerunning the last 200 miles to Lapaz. We were all unfamiliar with that section. Al and John were supposed to stop at a dirt road crossing for fuel. They got there on the trikes before we could in the truck. I found where they crossed the road. So I proceeded to follow them on the course. I knew they only had 10 to 15 miles worth of fuel left. About 10 miles in, I found them under a tree. I thought they were out of fuel, and just chilling until I found them. Al and John were passing a Rancho when an angry local came out with something in his hands and an angry dog. John, in a panic, wadded it up half a mile from the Ranch house, rendering himself unconscious. Al said he knew he was alive because John was face down in the silt, and puffs of dust were coming up around his helmet with every breath. When I get there, all was okay except John had no idea that we were even in Mexico. He was dazed and confused the rest of the day. He got over it. After our prerun to Lapaz, we returned the 1000 miles to Ensenada on Wednesday. Al and I headed back to San Diego to pick up his wife and my girlfriend. Going throughTijuana, a local cop made eye contact with me traveling opposite directions. I told Al this guy would turn around and shake us down. Sure enough, he flipped a beotch and was after us. Lucky for us, there was 4 or 5 cars between us. I hauled butt for the border. I made the inspection line as he caught us. He wouldn’t extort money in front of American customs. He just glared at us and drove off. Saved us 40 bucks. We got the girls and made it back to Ensenada Thursday morning for contingency. Late Thursday afternoon, Al made one last test ride on the race back on the streets in Ensenada. Bad idea. In traffic, he hit a curb and bent the axle. You could ride on city streets as long as you obeyed traffic laws. We replaced the bent axle, went through tech inspection, then left it at impound. Now that our spare axle was bent, it was usable if we got in a pinch. Friday morning the race was on.

    Al was to ride the 1st leg 375 miles. I got on for 475 miles at night. Al would get on for the last 200 miles to Lapaz. Al had a good ride going until what else, he bends our only straight axle 340 miles in. When I got on he said it wasn’t bent as badly as our spare axle, so we left it on. That turned out to be our undoing eventually. I left Catavina at 4:30 in the afternoon with lights on. In the dirt, I couldn’t even notice the axle. 80 miles into my ride, the course went down highway 1 for 40 miles of asphalt. Now the axle was shaking, my teeth loose. Wide open 80 mph and I could barely focus-not good. Back on dirt south of San Ignasio, the course was fast, mostly graded roads. At the 3rd or 4th pit stop into my ride, we went 50 miles between pits. 1 mile or so from the pit, a large fire could be seen. I figured they had a party going at the pit, turned out a motorcycle being fueled caught fire along with one leg of the rider. They got the rider put out quick. While I was being fueled, Walker Evans flies by in his class 8 Dodge. I knew someone was behind me. For 20 miles, I could see lights flickering around me on the hillsides. The bike was still on fire when I left the pits. Shortly after, we went through a little village. Still in Walker’s dust, I narrowly avoided hitting a cow laying in the road that Walker had just hit. Approximately 300 miles into my ride, things deteriorated. Running 70+ mph, I crested a rise in the road. I noticed a campfire to my right. In Mexico, that means possible booby trap and it was! They had dug a ditch all the way across and mounded the dirt on the far side making a 16-20 inch curb to hit and I did, ¾ cracked in 6th gear.

    The next thing I saw was looking right into my own twin 50 watt oscars, feet straight up. Slow motion set in and I thought how bad my broken back would be. I consciously kept the throttle twisted hoping the rear would come down, shoot the bike back under me, and it did. I came down with both feet on the seat standing up. 70 mph, dropped back down on the pegs. Life was good. Mental fatigue set in at 400 miles. Physically, I wasn’t too bad except bouts of leg numbness. About 50 miles past the booby trap, near La Parisma, I overshot a turn, trying to save the bike. As I started over the edge of the road, I bailed off into the darkness. A 5 foot deep ditch? 50 foot deep ditch? I would soon find out. It turned out to be 10 feet deep. As I lay at the bottom face down, I thought how I’d have to find the trike. Then I heard it coming down the bank. It rolled right onto me. It never flipped over. The skid pan had me pinned down. I got out from under it, rode it side hill back up to the road and off I went. The last 40 miles of my section was W.F.O. 25’ wide smooth graded road, piece of cake.

    Now I was 10 miles from my destination. I could see the lights of Villa Insurgentes. At this speed, the grueling ride was over in 8 minutes. It felt like I was getting a right flat, . The bike veered hard right, my right hand hit the ground. That’s all I remember. My next memory is getting up in the middle of a pasture, no broken body parts (that’s good) my helmet was stuffed with weeds and dirt. I get out my flashlight to search for my bike. I had no idea what had just happened when I found it, it was bad. The steering head broke off the frame, leaving only cables holding the forks on. Apparently my right hand hitting the ground was when the forks went horizontal. The throttle side handlebar dug in running wide open, must have been quite a crash. So I stood the forks upright, started the bike, and walked it back up to the road. I thought “Hey, maybe I can wheelie the 10 miles in.” NOT. I would use my towstrap to tie the forks upright; that seemed more feasable. Didn’t work , too much leverage. That time I went over the bars in 1st gear. Okay so wheelie it was. Multiple crashes later, maybe ½ mile further, I’m frigging exhausted. I heard a 4 stroke coming. It was an XR. He stopped I asked if he would get word to our pit of my dilemma. He said he would. Off he went, so I waited. How long I don’t know, 45 minutes maybe.

    I heard another thumper coming. I stopped him and he offered me a ride in. So I kicked the trike over the edge of the road into the pasture so no one could see it or steal it. I stacked a couple of rocks so I could find it. I hopped on the back of the bike and took off. Halfway to insurgentes, we saw a light coming backwards on the course. I asked the guy to slow down. I said it might be Al, but he didn’t understand me. Both of us were wearing helmets. Al went flying by in the Toyota. Oh no! I stopped the guy and explained that the truck that just went by was coming for me. Al had 200 miles of road ahead of him. I begged this guy to turn around and stop him. He agreed. He was in the race and went backwards to help me. That’s Baja. So he left me in the road in full gear. He took of backwards on the course after Al. As his lights disappeared, I heard dogs growling. That’s just great. I survived all that, just to get attacked by dogs. Both were German shephard size and pissed. Now that my eyes were getting adjusted to the dark again, I could see a ranch house 400’ out in the field. I talked calmly to the dogs. I think they only spoke Spanish… 5 minutes of dog whispering and lots of backpedaling. The only thing I had going for my was full riding gear. Now two sets of lights were coming towards me. I might live! The XR waves and goes by. The dogs stayed right in front of me. Al pulled up, his lights on the dogs. He ran them off and picked me up. Back up the road to the stacked rocks. I jumped out and went straight to the bike and stood it upright before Al gets there. He shines his flashlight on it and says “Looks okay.” He sat on it like he was going to start it and it folded up. When he got up he smiled and said, “This can’t be good.” We loaded it into the truck, hauled it to the pits, and some lighting. Upon inspection, almost every weld on the frame was broken. From that bent axle, we threw in the towel at 3:00 am 200 miles short. Baja wins this one.

    We make it to the hotel in Lapaz, rest for a day, and decide we’re only 150 miles from Cabo. We decided to go fishing and skip the awards ceremony we wouldn’t be part of anyways. On to Cabo we went. We caught two sailfish, both 80-100 pounds. At least we salvaged a good fishing trip out of the deal.

    Al with one of the fish

    On our way home, we stopped for fuel at Catavina. While fueling, two Mexican guys pulled up in a Ranger that looked like it belonged in a junk yard. They asked if we wanted to buy some marijuana. We told them no thanks. They turned around in the gas station. One of them was showing us a gun on their dash. “Oh, this is bad.” They headed the same direction we were going. We waited around 10 minutes to let them get a good head start. A few miles up the road, they were waiting. They got in front of us and tried to stop us. Yeah right! We cat and moused with them for a awhile. I’d had enough. I was driving a ¾ ton 4x4 Chevy. He was in Ranger. I forced my way past him and left Al in his Toyota to fend for himself. He got by a few miles later. The Mexican guy couldn’t catch up. We all got home safe. That race was a true ass kicking, I supplied the ass.

    When you win, things usually go good and you get a trophy. When you lose, things go bad but you have a good story.

    This article was originally published in forum thread: 1986 Baja 1000, Ensenada to Lapaz (Mike Hallett) started by huntinpecker View original post
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. fabiodriven's Avatar
      fabiodriven -
      Wow! Great story man!
    1. muddog's Avatar
      muddog -
      that does make a great story indeed
    1. Dowdy's Avatar
      Dowdy -
      amazing story...... good times
    1. jessearends's Avatar
      jessearends -
      My favorite part was the fisherman wathcing their dogs chase you guys, that one got me rolling!
    1. three_wheelin45's Avatar
      three_wheelin45 -
      Awesome story!
    1. Atc GuY's Avatar
      Atc GuY -
      AWESOME story, AMAZING adventure.
    1. thetrikeisright's Avatar
      thetrikeisright -
      Well that was an amazing story. I wish someday ill have one to tell like that.
    1. johns'85 250sx's Avatar
      johns'85 250sx -
    1. Pantsly's Avatar
      Pantsly -
      What an inspiring story to start the day. Pity im not going riding.
    1. TractorFan1407's Avatar
      TractorFan1407 -
      Wow, a really touching story
    1. dirtjunkie85's Avatar
      dirtjunkie85 -
      Awesome story! baja is truly epic and is the genesis of many stories of this sort thanks for sharing yours!
    1. JasonB's Avatar
      JasonB -
      moar stories!!! that was amazing!!! more pics if you got em!!
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