The Baja 1000
16 November 2013
Crazy! I have never been to a car race of any kind and probably would never have been had it not been set up right down the street. But here we are in Ensenada for an extended period of time. The signs, Welcome Baja 1000, are all over town and the start lies just blocks from our boat. Teams of men (and a few women) walk through the streets wearing matching tee shirts advertising their sponsors. Slowly, the roar of their engines gets louder as one by one, they arrive. Finally, my curiosity piqued, I get Jay and Don to come with me to investigate.
The festivities began with an off-road race party Wednesday night sponsored by MONSTER and held at PAPAS AND BEER. It turned out to be a block party as they closed off all the corners surrounding the bar. They erected lights, a small stage with two video screens on either side, and a large sound system complete with the pounding rhythm called dance music. We watch as they bring in a few of the race vehicles for show while their owners hover proudly about offering up a smile and a shot of their truck. Spectators are just beginning to arrive and we sit back to enjoy the pre-show of people watching.
Interesting lot of characters.
Lots of Americans. Lots of money. Mexican families with their children. Little boys, wide-eyed and tickled to be in a photo with their favorite racer. Big boys, also wide-eyed and tickled to be in a photo with their favorite racer. Autographs being signed while two young ladies in very tight clothing walk by swinging their hips and pretend not to notice all eyes have left the cars to follow them. Arm in arm, they share a secret conversation. I start to wonder what the night might bring for these racer chasers when I am interrupted by an old women, stooped over, holding a cane in one hand and a wire clothes hanger in the other. From the hanger drapes long necklaces made with beads. She holds the hanger up to my face and looks at me with (those now familiar) pleading eyes as she leans into her cane which is seemingly holding her upright. It is a sad scene, this dichotomy between the rich and the poor and still I say, "No, gracious."
No gracious has become my mantra and I swear I'm going to have a tee shirt designed with those words imprinted on the front and the back.
Thursday morning we head out to the starting line to see what the commotion is all about. Now, not just one block, but several streets have been cordoned off. There is a line of off-road vehicles at least a mile long, wrapping around corners, waiting to check-in. Vendors line the streets, too, selling everything from the local cuisine to tee shirts to off-road equipment. It is a car show not unlike our car shows at home. Only this time it will finish with a race.
Crowds of people swarm the trucks and their occupants, hoping to get an autograph and a photo of their favorite race car driver. Beautiful, scantily clad ladies (so young) willingly pose with strange men for photos. Who are these girls and why are they here?
Soon, the crowd becomes so thick we cannot move. Claustrophobic, I move to an open space as quickly as I can. I wait for Jay and Don. We retreat to the other side of the street and watch for a few minutes from afar.
I understand there are motorcycles and ATVs that also race. Their race is 800 (miles or kilometers, I am not sure), not 1000 and their start begins at 11pm Thursday night while the trucks begin at 9am Friday morning.
We decline to attend the 11pm race but can hear the roar of their engines and the man on the PA system announce the race, all night while we try to sleep.
Morning arrives and we venture over for the start of the 1000. We are surprised and delighted to find there are far less people milling about as there were the day before. We walk through easily this time and now, we too, are taking photos. The men in their race suits and helmets are hooked up to oxygen equipment and squeezed tightly in their cabs. They wait anxiously for their turn. A woman takes the hand of one of the drivers and kisses it, wishing him good luck.
We continue to walk through and find the best viewing spot is not at the start but just beyond as they turn the corner. Obviously, since this is a race, they turn this corner at very high speeds. Spectators stand precariously close to the yellow tape designed to hold them back. Some even stand in the street waiting for that perfect picture. Whoa to those who move too slowly.
It is Saturday morning at dawn and we are sitting in the cockpit of our boat enjoying a cup of coffee. We hear the loud speaker again. It is twenty-four hours later and they are welcoming back the racers. I hear a woman interviewing one of the participants and I strain to hear what they are saying. I think she asks if there were any problems and he replies that at one point they took a wrong turn, but quickly found their way back on track. I am curious to hear more, but too lazy to get off the boat and over to the finish line.
Besides, today is laundry day and we must gather it into our red wagon and walk six blocks to the lavanderia.
It is another day. Another journey.