Baja Legends Tribute Ride



Those who have been to Baja know. For those who have not, it is difficult to explain what a unique place, in the entire world, it is for motorcycling. I call it the last frontier of dirt biking. Much of this is due to the efforts of those who have pioneered routes and trails where none have gone before. While the list of those is long, we recently gathered together to celebrate the efforts of two of those trail builders; Bill Nichols and Jimmy Sones.

Credit for the idea goes to Cameron Steele. The concept was to get together to celebrate the efforts of those who have contributed so much to the Baja community. Cameron set a date and asked Grant Palenske and I to help make it all come together.

Grant took charge of organizing all of the people. As this was to be a surprise ride, the utmost care was required to keep it silent yet be able to invite all of the friends and compadres. Even now, I can hardly fathom that we managed to keep the secret. But it payed off wonderfully when Bill and Jimmy arrived at Rancho Santa Veronica to find all of their friends, including some they had not seen in years, all gathered to honor them.

My duties were simple; I just had to lay out the four day ride route for 50 riders. Okay, I guess it wasn’t quite that simple. When you are leading a group of Baja “who’s who”, you want to make sure every mile of it is as entertaining as possible. Much of the group was made up of Baja legends.

You can’t ride anywhere in Baja without hearing of Bill Nichols, The Rockman. His love for crushing rocks is both his profession (owns a quarry) and riding passion. He is best known perhaps for building the Rock Trail across the Baja peninsula 20 years ago. He has gone on to create the Window Rock Trail, 22 Day Trail and many others. Be careful of what you tell Bill is impossible. He will set out to prove you wrong.

Jimmy Sones celebrates nearly 50 years of riding in Baja. Growing up in California’s Imperial Valley he was riding his motorcycle through the desert into Baja as teenager. As with Bill, Jimmy spent many years as a top Baja racer. In 2006 he won the Ironman class in the Baja 1000. He spent many years working with Malcolm Smith on his “Six Days of Baja” charity ride. Jimmy would lay out the ride down Baja. During the ride, he would leave solo in the middle of the night to ribbon the day’s route for the riders. Imagine spending years riding through the Baja darkness alone!

In truth, I cannot even begin to do justice to the exploits of these two in Baja. Jimmy and I have spent the night together on the side of a mountain. The length of Northern Baja is bisected by an enormous mountain range that runs south nearly to Lake Chapala. There are only a few places where it is possible to cross. Jimmy and I pioneered a new route a few years ago. In truth, it required a couple of hours of bulldogging motorcycles off the side of the mountain. It proved not to be a very practical route. As we were attempting this in December, it got dark before we could finish the descent from the mountain and we ended up spending a long cold night with no water in the desert. But we came home with one of those experiences you tell your grandkids about. We traveled some spectacular country where few gringos have ever ventured.

As part of the celebration, Horsepower Ranch inducted Bill and Jimmy into their Baja Legacy Hall of Fame. Their plaques will hang on the wall along with many of the other greats of Baja racing. This is a real honor.  Horsepower Ranch owner Todd Clement was on hand for the induction and spoke of the desire to induct more legacy members.

This was the first time inductees were honored for their contributions outside of Baja racing. It speaks to the strong sense of community among Baja lovers. We had many Baja legends along to ride; Dan Ragland, Jim Beauchamp, Richard Jackson, Paul Schafer and members of the Los Ancianos club. Yet there were also many Baja newcomers who were equally welcomed into the fold.

We spent four days of fantastic riding with old and new friends. We ate tons of good food. AB Off The Grid Catering met us for lunch each day and prepared a spread of food that couldn’t be beat. One night we stayed at Coyote Cal’s and dined on lobster. It was incredible. Always ready to help out, Baja Bound Insurance contributed to the event and supplied the T-shirts. Bill Brindle of B3kreative designed the amazing artwork for the shirt and plaques.

Lots of lies and tall tales were told around the campfire. The Desert Assassins and Bike Bandit chase crews kept the bikes fueled, hauled gear and made sure we had support along the way. There were no major breakdowns other than a few flat tires. We had one twisted knee in the group on the last day and I was able to guide the rider out on an easier route. A good time was had by all and for a good cause.

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