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Monday, September 23, 2019

1971 Baja 500 Pre-run


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Corky’s 1971 NORRA Baja Pre Run

My first trip to Baja was to pre-run the 1971 Baja 500: Ensenada, then back to Ensenada, 480 miles +. Sat AM daylight, we leave Ensenada, and ride to Camalu, the end of the pavement. This is before the paved hwy to La Paz. I am riding a 71 Husky 400, my partner is riding Yam 250 DT-1. This was going to be our race bike.

Everything went O.K. and we got to Papa Fernandez place at Gonzaga Bay and spent the night. We were riding with two other very good and very fast riders. Max Switzer & Gene Cannady. (They finisher 2nd overall on a 125 DKW that year.) Next morning we headed north over the three sister grade, the Yam loses 1st gear, a few miles later loses 2nd gear, finally 3rd goes.
This is very ruff terrain, and now you have to really hang it out to ride in 4th gear. If not, the bike would then bog on the up hills. Every time he stalled I had to tow him ’til he was going fast enough to ride in 4th gear. Very hairy conditions. Finally, he lost all the gears in the trans.

1972Baja500-resizeIf you know anything about early Huskys the rear was very flexy. Pulling him, the side plate on my master link would rub, wear out and come off and I would loose my chain. I had 2 extra spare master links. When we got to Puertocitos, about 45 miles, our riding partners had already left for SanFelipe. They had to get to work on Monday A.M. They left us a note “You can get out of here by Helicopter, Gene and Max”.
Now we had about 50 miles of fairly easy trail to get to San Felipe. I towed him all the way. I was using my last master link. If you wondered, my chain was 520 his was 428.

In San Felipe, we decided to take the highway back to Ensenada, adding about 200 miles to the trip. Couldn’t buy any master links in San Felipe. We started up the hwy towards Mexicali. A Mexican with a pick up stopped and offered a ride. Put both bikes in his truck and jumped in the cab. Once in the cab, we realized he was very drunk. It was a very slow, scary trip. About every 10 miles he would stop and get out and look for “RALPH”. Finally getting to Mexicali, unloaded from truck, started towing again towards Tecate. About 20 miles later, my last master link goes.
His bike has chain, motor runs, no trans. My bike motor runs, trans is good, no master links for chain. We push the bikes off the road about 100 yds and hide them in the brush, and started hitch hiking to Ensenada. Just imagine: two gringos with Sears linemen boots, dirty army field jackets, carrying helmets, with 2 days of dirt riding on us. Would you stop and pick them up???

Now its dark Sunday night, on the HWY, in the middle of nowhere, in Baja. Belive me in Baja at night is very dark. I’m sure the few vehicles that did by come didn’t see us until they past us. We keep walking down the highway, Very quite, strange noises.
As we were walking I heard this funny clicking noise. We both stopped and listened. I told Bob that’s some one jacking up a car with a jack. They have a flat tire. We both started running down the highway before they left. The vehicle was around a curve in the road and we couldn’t see it. When we got around the curve, here was this 64 chev 4dr sedan with rear partly jacked up and this Mexican staring at the two crazy figures running at him out of the darkness.

Now this guy was dressed in tux standing in the road changing a tire in the middle of nowhere. We quickly realized he was as confused, as we were in need of a ride.
Things worked out O.K. With my limited spanish I explained our situation and that we would change the tire for him if he would give us a ride.
It turns out he had just gotten married, his bride was in the car, still in her wedding dress and they were headed to Tecate for their honeymoon. After looking at the tire we took off and the one we put on , I still didn’t think we were going to make Tecate. I asked if there was a tire shop near by. He said yes and off we went to the tire shop. (A wooden shed about a mile off the road). We bought him a good used tire and two used tubes and we were on our way. When we got to Tecate he said he would take us to Ensenada for the tires and stuff we bought for him. Then he would go back to Tecate for his honeymoon. Long story, but true. We got my truck went back and got the bikes and got home to LA late Monday afternoon…
Corky

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