A Baja 1000 chase truck had been my home for the last sixteen hours. It was eleven at night and we were driving on dirt roads in the desert somewhere. The air in the truck was half dust, and my ass and legs had lost feeling a couple hours before. Finally just when I was getting ready to pee in an expired water bottle we pulled to a stop in a cloud of dust and running lights.
The driver looked back at me. “We’re going to be here a while, our guy’s ride ate it in the silt so he’s being towed in”. “Ok” I replied. The inside of our truck was lit by screens of gps units, a laptop, and telemetry displays so we all glowed like pilots in a cockpit. A radio crackled intermittently, “Beagle this is Charlie One Fiver, can you give me an update? Over”.
I opened the door of the truck and stepped out into the blackness, twigs snapped under my feet. I threw the door shut behind me and Beagle was cut off mid reply. I waited a bit for my eyes to adjust, it was night in the middle of a desert and the stars became ever more spectacular.
All around us makeshift pit stops were being erected by the other teams scattered about. The collection of vehicles and lights and people had not existed the day before, and it would cease to exist in a matter or hours. It was like some weird hobo camp for the horsepower set, the sounds around us were the buzz of air wrenches, swearing, laughter, and the roar of reborn engines coming to life and launching their vehicles back into the night.
Eventually our race truck appeared, it was quite a sight. A half a million dollars of Trophy Truck being towed by $500 worth of Chevy van full of clam fishermen passing around a bottle of mescal. The only pay they would take for their efforts was a tank of gas, a group photo with the truck, and some racing stickers to give their kids. They hung out most of the night, lit a campfire to cook some clams on and were still there when we left.
The mechanics got to work on the truck which had a wrecked transmission, as they pulled a replacement off of our support truck they noticed that someone had neglected to put the dowels in. “This is going to take a while…” the driver told me.
Right then my friend Boz showed up in the pits staggering out of his chase truck with the same look that had been on my face an hour earlier. “Hows your run going?” I asked.
“I’m stuck in a truck with some psycho crew cheif guy who is hell bent on draining the fun from the universe” He replied.
I handed him a flask of good tequila I had on me. “Whiskey you’re a saint.” He said after taking a long pull.
“Boz? We’re wheels up in five minutes, don’t wander off” His crew chief barked. Boz gave me a tired look, “thanks” he said, then he wandered off into the darkness to pee or scream obscenities into the night or whatever.
I looked around me, there was only the desert and pockets of crazy activity surrounding various race trucks, buggies and bikes. Small fires burned in random places. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts and not hear radio traffic or overpowered engines for a minute.
I wandered into the blackness at the edge of the lights and just stood there taking in the night. The natural desert smells mixed with race fuel and wood smoke, the farther I walked the darker and quieter it got as I climbed a small hill to survey the land. On one side of me was the Sea of Cortez, on the other the Pacific Ocean, I stood in the middle under an amazing canopy of stars and just took it all in. I’m not sure how long I stood there, five maybe ten minutes when I sensed a presence.
“Senor, taco senor?” A small voice said.
I looked over, a seven or eight year old Mexican kid was looking up at me holding a dim flashlight. Taco, that sounded amazing. “Si…, por favor” I told him. He waved me to follow him and I did.
We walked up to a couple of folding tables where the boy’s family had set up a makeshift restaurant. Dad and mom were working the tables assembling tacos and pulling ice-cold soda and beer from a couple of coolers. Another teenage kid was cooking meat that smelled amazing on a grill fired by sticks collected by other kids. I sat on a plastic chair and ate tacos with an assortment of locals, racers and crew. We were a tiny pocket of light and warmth and hospitality in the middle of sea of black. This restaurant would only exist for a few hours, then only lizards and birds would visit this spot.
It was one of the best tacos I’ve ever eaten, I’m sure the fact that I was exhausted and the environment contributed to the flavor. That’s why you should travel and find adventure, it makes food taste better. As I got back into our truck to once again roll out as the sun crested the mountain spine, I handed the other guys some foil wrapped tacos.
“What are these?” One navigator asked.
“Tacos” I replied.
“Where did you find tacos?” He said, gratefully accepting some food that was not trail mix.
“I got them in outer space.” I answered
He looked at me for a minute. “Rad.”
The driver hit the gas and we were back in the chase.