2012 FMF Baja Bonanza

Story and Photos by Brendan Lutes

Lets face it; no one started riding a dirt bike on a perfectly prepped motocross track. As virgins to motocross, we all loaded up and headed to the desert or local trails to learn a thing or two on a dirt bike. It's those infant years aboard a motocross bike that many riders regard so fondly. And for the past three years now, FMF, DC Shoes, Spy, Toyota, Troy Lee Designs, and The Desert Assassins have put together a ride of epic proportions south of the border in Baja, Mexico, harking back to those early years of riding when it was all about fun with your buddies.

Affectionately named the Baja Bonanza, this three-day trip brings racers, motocross industry peeps, and friends from all backgrounds together for the time of their lives. This year, the trip began at Horsepower Ranch just outside of Ensenada, climbed into the mountains to the infamous Mike's Sky Ranch, then headed out to the coast for a night at Coyote Cal's before wrapping up at Horsepower Ranch again on the final day. For this year's ride, numerous current and former racers showed up for some fun. Included in the 40-plus man riding train were Jeremy McGrath, Kurt Caselli, Michael LaPaglia, Kyle Redmond, Geoff Aaron, Colton Udall, Kendall Norman, Danny LaPorte, and Matt Eddy.

What you'll find in the pages of the following post is a breakdown of each day and a humongous photo gallery at the end. We're already looking forward to next year's ride…

Horsepower Ranch is tucked away in the hills just outside Ensenada, Mexico, and has tons of memorabilia from the Baja races found all throughout the bar area and sitting room. The ranch also boasts a motocross track, which according to ride leader Cameron Steele you probably shouldn't ride. People tend to get hurt when they ride it.

Spy's Victor Sheldon was one of the first to discovery exactly what the M-I-N-E game is all about. When asked who the shiny new green machine in the background belong to, Victor promptly answered, "Oh, that's mine! I love that thing." If you say "mine" down in Baja, you have to drop and pound out 10 push-ups.

The night before the ride, everyone got together for dinner and introduced themselves. Cameron Steele, Donny "Lil' D" Emler, and Travis Clarke also let everyone know what they were to expect.

PAGE TWO: Day One | PAGE THREE: Day Two | PAGE FOUR: Day Three and Photo Gallery

DAY ONE:

After spending the first night at Horsepower Ranch, the crew geared up and hit the trails for the next destination—Mike's Sky Ranch. The day consisted mostly of desert roads and some of the Baja racecourse, but nonetheless, everyone still had a blast transferring up to the next stop. Once up at Mike's, those who didn't want to immediately hit the tequila and beer went for another ride on some virgin single track up a nearby river. MC himself even took his brand new CRF450R and climbed a nearly impossible hill full of rocks, cactus, and more rocks. You'll have to check out the photos, though, to get a full feel for what went on once everyone hit the bar after dinner.

FMF's Donny "Lil' D" Emler was the first to say the secret word, meaning he had to drop and do 10 push-ups.

This was the motley crew before heading out for the first day of riding from Horsepower Ranch. Troy Lee Designs provided some very cool custom jerseys for everyone in attendance.

There were multiple stops along the route that were tended to by the Desert Assassins crew who provided gas, food, and water for everyone on the ride. Here, multi-time off-road champion Kurt Caselli takes a few gallons before current Baja Champion Colton Udall does the same.

Cameron Steele was the leader of the pack for the entire trip and kept constant radio communication with the chase crew. For this ride, the Desert Assassins brought out a buggy for added chase support in case of an emergency. In this photo, Sheldon, DC Shoes' Nate Hawley, and Spy's Kyle Krause follow close behind.

Even amongst the rocks and desert shrubs, McGrath looks right at home.

Always the nice guy, Caselli helped another rider change a flat tire out on the trail. As one of the top International Six Day Enduro competitors, Caselli has to be able to do this in less than 10 minutes.

During breaks in the ride, many of the riders went off on their own and goofed around. Here, Udall cuts a perfect circle track into the moist soil.

At lunch, the group stopped at this very tasty taco stand in a small town in the middle of Mexico. Taco stands like this are everywhere in Mexico, and provide some of the best food out there.

Ah, made-to-order street tacos. Is there really anything better?

Once at Mike's Sky Ranch, the crew let loose and had a good time.

Everyone was doing push ups for saying "mine", even The King himself. There is no "I" in team.

Spy hosted the dinner for the night the crew spent at Mike's Sky Ranch. Victor Sheldon could be found tagging anything and everyone with Spy stickers throughout the night.

This is what happens when you have too many "Triple Threats" and pass out at 7:00. Your bike gets stripped of all it's dignity and put on the diving board for everyone to see.

The late Jeff "Ox" Kargola participated in last year's Baja Bonanza and Mike's Sky Ranch was where he had many good memories. As a special tribute to Jeff, everyone signed a Bonanza jersey that was then hung inside Mike's. We all miss you, Ox!

PAGE TWO: Day One | PAGE THREE: Day Two | PAGE FOUR: Day Three and Photo Gallery

DAY TWO:

Everyone was greeted with snow falling outside for the start of the second day of riding. The beginning of this day was a little cold, but it quickly warmed up as the crew headed down to the coast.

After a few stops to goof around and get some gas, everyone made their way down to the coast where McGrath, Kendall Norman, and Colton Udall found a very fun step-up jump. After hitting it a few times and cutting some fresh lines into the beach, the group rode some single track before hitting Coyote Cal's where they spent the night. Be sure to check out the photo gallery to see some shots of MC, Norman, Caselli, and Redmond freeriding.

Caselli found a cool little jump out of a hole while the crew was gassing up in the background. The rain and snow provided some excellent traction, making it a blast to cut in lines off the beaten down roads of Baja.

The rain made it difficult to keep goggles clean and stopping for gas and water made for a perfect time to clean goggles. Here, MC takes care of his pink Breast Cancer Awareness Spy goggles.

You never know what you're going to come across down in Mexico, which is why it makes it that much more important to be well prepared while heading south of the border. It's also important to take it easy on the roads. Herds of cows are a regular occurrence, and this particular cow didn't want to get out of the way.

Once down on the beach, everyone let loose. Here, Dan McGranahan and Steele pull some high-speed wheelies through the wet sand.

Having to change tires is part of the experience down in Baja. MC even got his hands dirty changing a tire for his buddy. Shortly after this was taken, Jeremy got a flat on his own bike, forcing him to change yet another tire. He did it all with a huge smile.

Multi-time Baja 1000 winner Kendall Norman gets the award for the biggest balls of the trip. While this photo doesn't do this step-down justice, it allowed for no amount of error and Kendall pulled it off like a boss. MC himself wouldn't even attempt the leap down; he did, however, jump up the step-up.

Leave it to MC to find something to style off of in the middle of nowhere. This is another view of the step-up that Norman jumped down.

On a borrowed bike, trials and Endurocross competitor Geoff Aaron pulled off some impressive feats. Hoping over huge rocks and nose wheelies like the one pictured here, only scratched the surface of what he is capable of.

Built right on the coast of Baja, Coyote Cale's is a small hostel where travelers can stop for a few nights. The Bonanza crew made it home for the final night of the trip, and it would be an understatement to say that the group didn't take over the place. Everyone had a great time.

Talk about full service. The staff at Coyote Cale's washed all the bikes, cleaning them of the corrosive sand and salt water from the beach run. Lil' D didn't know what to do with himself…

With 60 dudes taking over the hostel, warm water ran out quickly. Cameron Steele decided to not wait and manned up at the outside shower. Needless to say, it was a cold one.

The bar at Cale's was awesome and provided a great time for everyone to blow off some steam and celebrate the final night of the Baja tour.

Awards were given out at Cale's and Norman was awarded the "Silencer" award for passing out early on the first evening, thereby silencing his first night of fun.

"Lobster", as everyone knows him, accepted an award on behalf of the Desert Assassins crew. They were instrumental in making sure everyone had a safe and fun trip.

PAGE TWO: Day One | PAGE THREE: Day Two | PAGE FOUR: Day Three and Photo Gallery

DAY THREE:

The third and final day was very abbreviated and mainly used to get back to Horsepower Ranch where everyone was to load up and head back across the border. After goofing around on the beach again, a quick jaunt up the coast and a few miles of highway was all it took before the crew was back at the trucks.

Like we said, there was some goofing off on the beach before heading back to the border. In his second attempt to make it up this technical section, Jesse Nomad made it look easy.

Here's the group at the end of the final day. It goes without saying that everyone is already looking forward to next year!

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