Those four letters bring so much excitement to my brain that it gets lost in what the place has to offer. Baja is a majestic piece of land that is at the fingertips of all Southern Californian off-road riders. It not only offers great riding adventures but amazing tourist fun as well.
So, two years ago I heard about this ride that Cameron Steele and his team puts on alongside 11-time Score Baja Champion Johnny Campbell and enduro360s Chilly White. My buddy, factory Husqrvarna rider Jacob Argubright had ranted and raved about how amazing this ride was and that I had to go. As I had just spend my first year racing in Baja with the Ox Motorsports Honda team, I knew the potential, and I was really excited to do something other than race past all of Baja’s beautiful scenery at mind-numbing speeds. It would be fun to be able to enjoy my time south of the border rather than be stuck on a set plan every day.
I knew that this adventure had to be something I checked off the bucket list. So, with the little bit of money left in my piggybank, I packed my bags, put some new Mousse bibs in my bike and got set to go head to Baja. Thursday morning rolled around and the alarm clock went off around 6 a.m. Jake and Meg Argubright, and I loaded up the van and headed south to meet the group before we headed to the Santa Maria Orphanage.
That’s what is really neat about the Baja Beach Bash: It’s not just a normal trail ride. This ride is built up for months to raise donations to support the Santa Maria Orphanage. The orphanage is roughly a 10-acre lot with homes for kids, teachers, and facility members to live, and it features a school for kids-in-need, to help build a future for them.
Crossing the border these days is like playing chess; you have to be patient and be very smart on your next move. As we rolled into secondary, we noticed that everyone that was with our group had been pulled in and there wasn’t anywhere for us to go! Pulling a check mate, we managed to “jump the queen” without having to show registration for our bikes or car and drove straight through the border. Hahaha, suckas! After getting to Santa Maria, we instantly unloaded, geared up and had lunch. Cameron Steele’s Desert Assassins crew had the place looking very professional, with canopies for shade and a buffet-style meal for all the kids and riders at the orphanage. Through the generosity of the ride’s sponsors, the DA crew managed to raise over $100,000 for the Santa Maria Orphanage! What’s that line in On Any Sunday about desert racers being good people?
At around three that afternoon we set out on a short trail ride that would lead us to Coyote Cals for the night. The first 10 miles of the ride was very fun and very demanding single track. The single track was a blast, and what made it even more fun is that we got right into it. Ducking our heads through what looked to be caves made of trees, rolling down steep graded shale rocky hills and into the virgin terrain. We were in Baja, baby!
One of the coolest things about going with a crew like the DA crew is they like to have fun on the trail. When I say “fun” I mean they have challenges on the trail. Our first challenge of the weekend would be the coasting race where you shut the bike off and coast down a hill maybe a quarter of a mile and see who can go the farthest! Two by two, everyone went off, and then by the end it was down the Jake Argubright and me! Overlooking the majestic ocean of the pacific, we both took off. The coasting race was like riding a downhill mountain bike except with a lot more weight! By the end, Jake and I were close and we both knew one of us was going down. As Jake slowed down I went to make my move. “Rubbing is racing,” Jake tried to rub me, clipped my back wheel fell down, causing both of us to come to a stop. You could say we both got smoked in that challenge. (It also didn’t help that we both had O-ring chains and mousse bibs).
Our next challenge was literally right ahead of us, the infamous “hillclimb.” If you could imagine sitting on a dirt road looking straight up at this rugged, rain rutted, rocky, silty hill with about 30 guys going one by one up this thing, you would get a little nervous. I kid you not when I say only seven of our group made it to the top. I sat watching anxiously, knowing that if I didn’t make it I was going to get crap from everyone on this trip! Preston Campbell showed us that he has some great bike control by ripping up to the top alongside his father, Johnny—gee, I wonder where Preston gets it from? Jarrett Megla another up-and-coming racer was fluid with bike control, easily making it to the top. As the smaller numbers kept crashing and turning around the terrain started to eat away going from bad to worse. Jake made the hill look stupid as his turn came around. If you ever watch Jacob Argubright ride in any type of off-road, you’ll see that he has an amazing style and absolutely manhandles a bike.
As my turn came around I lined up took a great run and held her pinned over the top, avoiding ridicule—at least for the moment. The hill was deceiving, but sometimes you just have to say screw it, hold it wide and keep it pinned. The view at the top of the hill was incredible and overlooking the Pacific Ocean with some of your best buds is pretty rad. We got a slight breeze off the ocean as the sun started to set in the distance. It’s something I’ll always remember. I mean, I’m riding my bike in Baja, overlooking the ocean on top of this gnarly hill we just climbed with the sun settling over the riders. It doesn’t get any better than that! It should be illegal!
After a great first day, it nice to get back, take a shower, be a human and grab a few beers before hitting the hay. I’ve personally never stayed at Coyote Cal’s but let me tell you, wow! The staff is an amazing group of people and it’s a beautiful place that all riders or even tourists need to go and stay. They can accompany over 100 people easily and feed a fleet of racers.
We had a great breakfast before saddling up and rolling out to start day two. There is something special about riding right next to the ocean in the cool brisk morning—it’s peaceful, really, and you don’t ever get to experience anything like this in the states. As the morning rolled on, we got into some seriously cool single track, riding over these awesome foothills that overlook the ocean in the distance. So amazing! Flowing and jumping through the rugged terrain I couldn’t keep the smile off my face.
Eventually our group came to a stop known as “Spiderman Canyon.” Basically it’s a canyon that weaves through these tight, rugged, rocky and sandy turns and ends at a dirt road. But it wasn’t just a trail to go ride, no, no, no. In typical Baja Beach Fashion, this was a race, lining up some of the best on the trip in a bomb-run style start. We had maybe five yards before the single track would start. All revved up and ready to roll, Argubrights, Campbells, Meglas, Hagy, and few other fresh fish were on the starting line. As the banner dropped, typical Garvin move, I missed the kickstarter and everyone took off! After the dust settled and everyone was gone I followed in for an amazing, tight canyon of pure fun. Rolling through the dust and managing to pass a few guys I made it to the finish. Like I said earlier, The DA crew really knows how to have fun, and putting games like this in makes everyone stay on their toes for some great excitement.
As lunch time rolled around we all came off the foothills and down onto the beach. This was our first little taste of riding on the beach and we “kids” (Meglas, Preston Campbell, Jake, and I) went bonkers. I’m talking corner tracks, figure 8s, sand berms, wheelies down the beach and basically anything you could think of on a dirtbike! We were racing, roosting each other, taking each other out, I mean anything! You’re on a beach! And how many people can say that they had lunch on a beach that they rode to on their dirtbike? If you participate in the Baja Beach Bash, you can.
The trip just kept getting more fun, as after lunch we headed south to another beach. And here is where the true glory of Baja sunk-in for me: We rode on the beach for, I kid you not, 20 miles. That’s right, 20 miles on the ocean floor, just ripping on a dirtbike. That would be like riding from Newport Beach down to San Clemente. It was so surreal; 50+ guys, the ocean, and beach sand. Incredible is an understatement.
After a long 100+ mile day we all settled in again. A very unique thing the DA crew has us all do is introductions, you say your name, age, where you are from, your history with riding and a few accomplishments. You get great stories of where everyone is from and some awesome riding history, and you realize that in the end we are just a group of guys and girls bonded by our love of riding dirtbikes.
I was a little tuckered as we mounted up once again on day three and headed back north to Coyote Cals for our last night stay. The day started off on a Chilly White specialty, a rocky, two-track, 10+ mile loop. After we got the blood flowing, fixed a few flat tires from some riders (by the way, whoever gets a flat has to buy a round for everyone when we hit the bar at the end of the day, so multiple flats are actually a good thing as long as you aren’t the one getting them!) we pulled into lunch, once again on the sand of the beach with the waves crashing 20 yards in front of us. And when I say we pulled into lunch, I’m not talking about sandwiches and a bag of chips. I’m talking about a straight gourmet-style lunch here. The DA crew doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the grub. Every lunch was something different. One day it was chicken and steak teriyaki bowls with multiple sides, another night was Penne with sausage, Alfredo sauce or red sauce. Let’s put it this way, I ate better than I would at home. These guys killed it every time we ate!
After filling up on lunch and feeling “Umpa Lumpa-ish,” the infamous circle sand race was on. Basically there aren’t any rules, and you’re doing circles in a very tight course that makes it really hard to pass people! In your heats you have six riders on course and the last two standing move on. Watching everyone race was awesome, and it brought excitement not only to the riders but to the people watching. It was every man for himself out there! Lining up in the semi heat was like lining up at a National-caliber race—Argubright, Campbell, Steele, myself and a few others were ready to go. As the gate dropped everyone pinned it around the circle. I was getting buried in sand from the rider in front of me I popped put of the main rut in the deeper sand and let Cameron Steele pass me! You know I’ll never hear the end of that! He not only managed to pass me but took Jacob Argubright out with him. Thus taking both of us out and giving us no shot at the championship.
As the final came around, we watched as the reining champ Hapa make his appearance for the second year in a row with DA’s own Hagy, Johnny Campbell and two other fresh fish do battle. After Campbell went out, and two other riders went down, it came down to the champ and Hagy. It was all about to settle in when the champ stalled his bike and gave the win away! To tell you the truth this challenge was one of the coolest most exciting on the trip. It brought everyone together to enjoy some slow speed racing action.
The day headed toward dusk as we hammered out one last gnarly, fun single track. When I say gnarly, it wasn’t like get-off-your-bike gnarly, but it was off camber, rocky, and real sharp rock trail. It was nice to end the day with such flow on a hardly ridden track! My day came to a slow end after the trail ended when my bike just shut off randomly. Another reason why DA crew is so rad is that if a bike does break they have a chase crew in two Raptors always on hand to provide assistance. In no time flat, a chase truck picked me up, and we followed the group back to camp. I should also point out that safety is critically important in Baja, and the DA crew takes it very seriously, with radios on hand, and about 10 crew members radioing back to each making sure if something does go wrong they are the scene help out as quickly as possible.
Coming back into Coyote Cals, the group did something very, very, deep for one of their fallen riders that recently passed away due to a non-riding incident. Phil Amos had been on the DA crew for a few years now and although he recently passed away, he was with us for this whole trip. His ashes were with the Raptor crew the whole time so that Phil got to experience Baja one last time. In accordance with the wishes of Phil’s family, Cameron Steele and the DA crew spread his ashes in the oceans of Baja with the whole group sending him off. It’s times like these that make me realize how life is so incredibly short. Personally, I never did I get to know Phil, but the crew made him feel very attached to everyone, and that left me with a very peaceful feeling. Life is short, and you have to make it count. The whole crew did an amazing job of sending off Phil in Baja where he will lie peacefully forever.
Then the trip came to an end, four days in Baja gone in the blink of an eye. The Desert Assassins did an incredible job with the trip. They did not disappoint and were very professional about everything. Cameron’s crew, made up of some of the best guys, are some of the coolest people that you will ever get to encounter. Having a positive and energized crew makes rides like this all the more fun and entertaining. Another thing is they make everyone feel welcome and like a part of the group. Every night, they gather everyone up and basically host a burn show. If you were a donkey that day you got burned in front of everyone! They keep everyone involved, handing out awards and talking some mad crap! It’s all in fun, and it’s a great way to end awesome rides.
If you ever get the opportunity to participate in the Baja Beach Bash, Surf and Turf, Baja Bonanza, or even the mega bomb Rip to Cabo do not…I repeat… do not pass on it. You will come home happy, and you will come home wanting to get back to Baja with this group again.
As for me, I’ve ridden and raced dirtbikes my whole life and have never experienced anything like this before. It was by far the best dirtbike trip I have ever been on, and having my best friends go with me made it that much more fun. I also got to meet and interact with new people, which made it even better. I personally want to thank Moss for allowing me to go on this trip, a few days prior I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to pull it off, but he pulled through for me and I can’t thank him enough. To Chilly White and Johnny Campbell, thank you guys for leading us and making the trip awesome as well. I’m hoping to get on a few more of these trips in the future, and I’m really hoping to pull off the Rip to Cabo someday.
Until next time, Baja! Garvin out!