At the end of last summer we were talking with one of the clients we work with about setting big goals. Chris had been watching some videos of Baja Racing and suggested that we set some BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) with a goal of taking a Team trip with Wide Open Baja. Well, we set some goals… and in complete honesty… I didn’t think we would meet them. We set 5 goals with guidelines that meeting 3 of them would get us there. We met 2 of them pretty quickly, and right as the deadline approached we met the 3rd. We were going Baja Racing!
I really had no major desire to go, but I knew it would be one of those things I would be glad I did. It really is a once in a lifetime trip! There was one little snag. Those awesome (expensive) Baja Cars had manual transmissions. I didn’t know how to drive a manual and nothing to learn on! My mom tried to teach me once and we got around the block and she told me never again. Ha. Regardless, I was going to give it my best shot!
We flew into San Diego and stayed the night at the U.S. Grant Hotel. Holy smokes, that place was beautiful.
They have a restaurant on site called the Grant Grill where we had breakfast. It was marvelous. They grow a lot of their vegetables on a rooftop garden onsite and use as much in house and locally sourced produce and meat as they can. I loved it.
Around 11:30 our ride arrived and we were off to Mexico! Crossing the border to get into Mexico was super easy, maybe 15-20 minutes for our group of 12. We stopped for lunch after driving a little ways into Mexico. The place was called La Fonda. Seriously. They had some legit food though! Guacamole and awesome Chicken Tacos.
After lunch and a little more driving we arrived at the hotel we were going to stay for the night and checked in. We then headed out to the test track… It was go time! We saw the cars for the first time, holy intimidating batman!
After a little instruction I was told I was going to be going first in the cars since I was one of 2 people who didn’t know how to drive a manual at all. So I climbed in, got all strapped in, helmet on, radio check… I got a little explanation of how it all works and then just told to try it. aannnnnd…. I killed it. like 6 times. Once I got going I couldn’t believe it! I was actually doing it! Since I was the first one around the track I was going to be the first one to attempt the jump! This is actually Chris doing it, but just to give you an idea of what it was like:
The guide in the car with me told me they wanted a show…. so I put the pedal to the metal and gave them one! I had an awesome jump and felt like a rock star! I went around a few more times getting more comfortable with the car. The course was muddy and I hit some of the puddles pretty good. Whoops. haha. It was a blast! It was fun watching everyone else practice too.
After we all finished trying out the cars for the first time we had a great dinner at the resort and headed back to our rooms to get some rest before taking off on our driving adventures the next day. When we got out to the parking lot the next morning our cars were lined up. We were the first out so we got first pick of the cars. We picked “The Flamer”
We all started getting into our cars and getting ready to go…. that meant strapping yourself into the 5 point harness, helmet, air hook up, radio hookup… it was more of a process than I normally use getting ready for date night!
Ready to ride!
After getting everyone ready and doing radio checks (I so LOVED getting to be the radio girl. I think it’s my calling) we were heading out. We got put in Car 1 position, meaning we were directly behind the lead car. Our first several miles were on pavement through the city. I didn’t experience this, but apparently those Baja Cars are Much harder to drive on the pavement than the dirt? Who woulda thunk it.
I know it looks beautiful, but it was actually pretty cold. And those are open air cars! Brrrr! I was wishing I had a heavier jacket! We drove through the town and once we turned onto the dirt stopped for a quick pit stop. A few of us girls went in search for a place to go to the bathroom. We found some bushes. ha. Let’s just say I got really good at my “outdoor skills” over those 2 days!
It was really beautiful. It wasn’t the stereotypical Mexico you think of. We got into some back roads and mountains that were just gorgeous. We went on a few small stretches of highway between the different trails. It was still pretty early in Driving Day 1 and we went through some ranches and got to a dirt road when we heard the lead car in front of us call out for us (Car 1) to hold up for a minute. As we came up on them we saw they were “almost” stuck in a mud pit. According to our guide, James, being stuck means you need the help of someone else to get you out. They literally were not moving, the wheels were turning up mud. They eventually were able to rock their way out of the mud pile and told us to hit the mud pit at speed and go through the middle, not the side they went on. So, Chris hit the mud at speed. There was another less mucky, more watery mud pit directly after that one. Which he also hit at speed. Apparently we didn’t need to do that. I think we cleared all the water out of the second mud puddle for the other cars, because none of them looked half as bad as we did after that.
The only part that was clean was where the 5 point harness was. That guy over on the side is James, our guide. He was awesome! He was cleaning the mud off my visor for me, what a guy!
We kept on driving through twists and turns and got to speed up on some straight aways. It was really a blast. At one point we went through some more narrow road… Let’s just say the Mexican Desert may have one less tree than it did before we got there, ha!
At one point James decided to have us switch drivers. I was SO nervous. It took me a few times to get the car going… but I felt pretty good once we got started. Chris was a great (patient) coach. I was still getting used to knowing when to switch gears. There was just SO much going on at once. Knowing when to shift, watching the trails for which way to go, avoiding water, etc… So much pressure! I actually was REALLY proud of what I did out there. It may have only been like 20 minutes, but I had a blast. When we stopped for a quick regroup James suggested all drivers stay the same and then mentioned something about a “not really steep hill” and some “decent sized rocks” I tapped out. I told Chris he could drive. And boy was I thankful for that when I saw the not really steep hill!! Plus, I missed being the radio girl.
We eventually stopped for lunch. Wide Open had a group of people there already cooking and setting up lunch to the side of one of the trails! It was probably one of the best meals we had, for real. We stretched out there for awhile before continuing on. We ended up decided to drive like 20 miles out of our way to go to these dry lake beds.
It was beautiful when we got there, the sun was starting to set. We were going to drive along there for a bit before heading up to the ranch we were staying at for the night. It was a nice flat place to drive so I thought I’d try again. Well, I had a hard time getting going… and then it got SO dusty that I just couldn’t see. That dust dried out my contacts and I couldn’t see like for real… Cue Mini Melt down. Good thing I wasn’t the only one having one – right, Leslie? So I ended up stopping after like 2 minutes to make Chris drive again.
We didn’t stay long and headed up towards where we were going to stay for the night. It got dark quickly though. We had to drive up this mountain in the dark. The lights on the car made the flying dust look like a sandstorm and it got cold. It wasn’t the most fun part of the trip, but we eventually made it up to Mike’s Sky Ranch! Time for dinner and some rest before heading out on Day 2 of our adventures!
Can you drive a Manual Transmission vehicle? How’d you learn? Would you go Baja Racing?