I was sorting through some old files on my computer and came across this article. It was written shortly after my Baja racing experience with my friend and business partner Tim Marks. What a blast! I encourage you to pursue your dreams and dare you to live an adventurous life!
I had never seen snow in the desert before, and can’t really say I was entirely prepared for defending myself against incoming snow balls while relaxing alongside a cactus. But these things can happen to a fellow when he travels with Tim Marks.
So can wounded elbows.
It had been a dream of mine since boyhood, first birthed, I believe, in the mid-motocross years. There I was, all one-hundred-twenty-five pounds of me, long hair and sweat, romping around Michigan’s motocross tracks with amateur ability and professional determination. In the midst of it all, I had the faint notion to drive Baja buggies through the Californian desert (which is in Mexico, we found out). I figured it would be a good diversion for later when I was much older and unable to manhandle a dangerous but colorful instrument of teenage affection known as a motorcycle.
Terri and I had settled in to watch a movie someone had recommended. It was late, and Terri lasted about five minutes. I, however, sat enthralled. There on the silver screen was my boyhood dream in full bloom. Trucks and buggies and motorcycles and quads and even unmodified VW Bugs raced their way across the 1000 mile dry expanse known as the Baja peninsula in perhaps the most infamous and misunderstood race in North America. My dream was reborn!
By the next evening, I was announcing from some stage somewhere to everyone in attendance that I would some day soon be racing the Baja 1000. Everyone cheered. Apparently desert racing is in high favor among people in audiences: a curious fact of which I had previously been ignorant. As the words made their way through the microphone, I realized the desert racing experience was a two-person event. In other words, one would need a co-driver. Such a person does not simply sit in the passenger seat and navigate, although that is among the list of duties. Oh no. Such a person must also handle the enormous responsibilities of trash-talking the driver. Also, for at least some of the time, such a person is needed to drive the vehicle, too. Realizing in a real-time sort of way that I would need such a partner for my resurrected caper, I immediately scanned my database for rich guys that would have the money, crazy guys that would have the guts, and free guys that would have the schedule availability to accompany me in such a venture. Oh yeah, the person would have to be good at motor sports and such, also. So there in front of the world, with absolutely no approval from his person, I told the crowd that Tim Marks would be my partner.
I knew almost immediately, of course, that I had chosen the right mate. This seemed vindicated the next morning when he called me to accept his recently-learned-of appointment (crowds are notoriously bad at keeping secrets), and then finished by saying, “By the way, what is it, again?” Yep. Tim was the man for the job. I decided to give him his extensive formal training by telling him the name of the movie and demanding that he go rent it to prove himself qualified.
That’s how we found ourselves in fancy red and black racing suits and dorky looking elf shoes (“Hey, buddy, they’re driving shoes. And they cost more than your watch!”), standing around in the desert in the snow with a guy named “Sto” and several others who were extremely accomplished at swearing. One of the other cars had blown a clutch and we were awaiting the chase vehicle with a bunch of mechanic-fellas that spoke a language we didn’t understand (a mixture of Spanish, swearing, and shop talk). The snow was a little bit of a surprise, because, after all, we were in a desert. The swearing was no surprise because, after all, we were with guys who liked to talk about gears and oil and smash bear cans against their foreheads.
Two days later, though, we were fully acclimated. We had both agreed that by the third day our driving was “expert” level and probably worthy of the national news. We had also grown accustomed to just about anything being in the desert, from trash to upside-down-burned-out-car-carcasses, to wild horses, to whoop-de-dos ten feet deep, to pine forests, to silt trails, to rock-strewn goat trails, to freezing cold rain, to children on mules, to guys on quads, to station wagons full of the entire family apparently heading to church located nobody-knows-where, to sewage rivers coming from a drug rehab center, to trail-side beer stands, to cows and more cows, and yes, to snow. And also one very large washout less than ten miles from camp on the last day.
It was Tim’s fault.
I saw it first-hand.
Something happened to him, knowing that our time in the desert was almost over. In freezing cold desert rain, between dirty-t-shirt wipes of our racing helmet shields, Tim Marks went over the edge. Literally. And my elbow paid the price.
The rain had muddied up the trail significantly, to the point where the car would no longer track well (meaning, it slid around like a snake). This was especially interesting since the trail was along the side of a mountain and one possible alternative was a deadly plunge to the canyon hundreds of feet below (okay, maybe fifty feet below). Also, the brakes had gone out. Again. When it had happened on the previous day, we thought it was a big deal, too. But we weren’t such good drivers way back then. Now we were third day experts, and fully capable of handling a little thing like nonexistent brakes on a switchback mountain trail. Seriously, what were transmissions for, if not for moments like this? I wasn’t worried, even though I was in the co-driver seat. Tim had proven himself more than capable behind the wheel. Only I hadn’t seen the “end of adventure fever” coming. It struck Tim like Cupid’s dart plowing into a love-sick adolescent at the county picnic.
Suddenly Tim’s face became animated. His laugh became sinister. His eyes were immediately bloodshot. His speech became slurred. And the car went faster and faster. First it slammed nose-first into puddles we had learned to avoid so deftly before. Several of these doused us in a shower of muddy rain (and other substances. Please refer back to earlier comments about the drug rehab place). Next it slid off the road sideways where its open wheels chopped desert tree limbs like a saw blade and courteously delivered them into our windshield-free cockpit. When I complained a little about the forest we had collected amongst our seats, Tim’s only replay was something about it being “potpourri.” Then we almost slid off the canyon’s side into a really good story, but Tim saved us by slamming the car’s front end directly into the cliff wall and trying to climb it like a small puppy stuck in a tall bath tub. And then, without warning, it happened. Tim showed no mercy and drove our Baja buggy (affectionately named “Debbie”) directly through a big, enormous, mind-blowing washout. There was no warning. One minute we were fine, the next minute we were experiencing at least twelve G’s, our helmets rebounding off the top roll bar cage. It is still a marvel of desert racing engineering that the entire back of our car didn’t eject itself from the chassis. That must be because most of the force from the blow was actually absorbed by my elbow.
Three days of driving like maniacs and I sustain an injury ten miles from the end. It’s okay, though. Experienced adventurers know how to treat wounds out in the wild. We must be capable of first-aid in order to live the life we live. I began healing my wound almost immediately. By applying layer upon layer of shame on Tim for his driving mishap, the pain seemed to deaden a little bit. And by writing this article, I really must admit I can no longer feel a thing. See? I know what I’m doing. The pen is truly mightier than the bandage.
Besides. A desert elbow injury is still better than a day at work!
Thanks Tim, for the reminder.