Homage to the more experienced of us…
In my’97 Baja report on All-OffRoad I make brief mention of a sixty some-odd year old superman. In the April issue of Dirt Rider, they also make mention of one of these older supermen. Over the years I’ve heard several other similar stories as well. So I decided to share some more details of my latest experience.
We hooked up with Richard totally by happenstance. Bryce and Brad had met Howard at Mike’s Sky Ranch the year before. Howard suggested that they call him next time we’d be in Baja. He offered to show us around some of the areas we hadn’t been to. As it turned out, Howard couldn’t get time off. He gave us Richard’s number, suggesting that he’d be available.
Sure enough, he was, and he was more than willing to show us around. We arranged to meet for breakfast at Rancho Santa Veronica (this was where we stayed the first night). When he showed up we heaved a sigh of disappointment. He was friendly, but looked a little grizzled. We figured that we’d spend the whole trip waiting for him, WRONG!
This guy knew his way around Baja. He could find trails that he hadn’t been on in twenty years. By the look of the trails, I’m guessing no one had. We wanted an adventure and this was indeed what he delivered. For the cost of his food, beer, lodging and gas (half the time he wouldn’t even let us pay) we got the trip of a lifetime. Aside from the great rides, we got some great stories.
A few years prior, Richard was pre-running the Baja 500 course. He found himself, shortly after midnight, doing 80 miles an hour down the freeway when he broadsided a cow. To make a great story real short, he ended up having his hip replaced with plastic and titanium. Oddly enough, this didn’t slow him down at all. The only time we could keep up with him was on the long straights. He had a 250, and we were riding 500s and 600s, it wasn’t that hard. After Paul and I crashed into each other on a hill climb, Richard bounded down the hill and pulled Paul’s XR500 off of him like it was nothing.
Usually when you stumble into one of these old-time heroes they have made unusual modifications to their bike. Most are fixes designed out of necessity; on occasion they born out of the need for comfort. Richard was no exception. His bike had the thickest seat foam I have ever seen. Obviously a custom job, he had at least six inches of foam on his seat. Boy was it comfortable.
Aside from his Baja savvy and his riding ability, Richard is still a man to be admired. He was somewhat a mystery. I never caught his last name, and I’m not really sure what he did for a living. He was semi-retired and apparently lived and worked out of a motorhome. He kept his bikes on a friend’s ranch in Baja. Truly a lifestyle to shoot for. Most of all he loved to ride, and he loved to share his knowledge and experience with others.
At the time, none of us considered ourselves Baja rookies, except Paul who was there for the first time. After meeting and riding with Richard, we all felt a bit like rookies. If you ever have the opportunity to ride with or talk to one of these rare resources, jump at it. Remember to reserve your judgement on their abilities — chances are they can ride circles around you. Most of all, pay attention, enjoy the experience, learn what you can, and let them know how much you appreciate their willingness to share their years of experience.