Why I Love Baja!

Why I Love Baja!

Baja with Ryan Millen - FJC MagazineI’ve been asked many times why I go down to Baja. I’ll be honest, it’s really hard for me to put into words why I love crossing the border so much.  We’ve all heard how dangerous is it is in Mexico, but Baja has a special allure that keeps drawing me back. It’s simple freedoms, strong pull of history, and mixture of terrains create a love for Baja that only those who have seen can truly understand. 

My love for Baja began with trips as a kid to chase Ivan Stewart with my dad in the Baja 1000.  Then, ten years ago, I strapped myself into a race car.  The first three years I drove a Wide Open Buggy with Centrix Financial.  Then early in 2006, Toyota approached my Dad and I and proposed racing, the then new, FJ Cruiser. We went on to finish second in our first outing with the FJ. Speed Channel made a documentary about our experience called “Two Roads to Baja”. I raced that FJ in Baja for a total of three years. I never quite got a chance to taste victory, but I learned a lot!  I think one of the things that I enjoyed the most, was how challenging racing Baja is. It’s not the type of place that you can show up and win straight away. It takes years of experience and preparation.

Much of my experience up until recently in Baja, had been racing. Over the years, this developed into a love of Baja and a joy of pre running and exploring.  Although I enjoyed going down to race, my fondest memories were of those weekend trips with great friends and no agenda.  With all the off-road appeal, I get to pack up and get dirty, discover seemingly never before driven trails then find out they've been driven for decades, just not often. Whether on 4 wheels or 2, motorized or not, there is a spot for you somewhere in Baja.  Filled with miles of open space and even a single track you will never run out of new dirt roads to cover.  There is a sense that you are blazing trail just like the pioneers did.  It's like 3 days of isolation and relaxation, only without the rangers bothering you about registration, spark arrestors or campfire permits.

There is a feeling that you get as soon as you cross the border.  It can only be described as freedom.  The sense of being cut off from the rest of the world with no TV, cell phone, and traffic give you a sense of adventure.  It allows you to completely let go and relax.  A mini vacation that forces you to forget about the everyday life you left at home.  Close enough for a weekend trip with the feel of traveling across the world and the history to explore old ruins, cave paintings, and trails that have worn only from hundreds of years of use gives you a confidence to explore and find new and interesting places to visit.

Its untouched landscapes, ranging from mountains, deserts, washes, and beaches, are only occupied by small local towns and scattered ruins. The images of beautiful landscapes, that can no longer be found in California, remain untouched.  With washes that stretch for miles and beaches so beautiful you will never want to leave, you can find yourself going farther and farther south into more and more diverse and majestic places.  In a day you can pass through deserts with cactus twice your size, mountains with cliffs that drop hundreds of feet and still make it to that little fishing village on the water.  If you're lucky, you may pass a rancher on horseback or a few cars on the highway, but the vast emptiness give you that freedom you were really looking for.  

The locals south of the border towns show their support for the off-road industry with taco stands covered in team stickers and posters.  Their welcoming and friendly attitudes make stopping for some authentic tacos and homemade tortillas an absolute must.

The most enjoyable memories of Baja are taking down a group of off-roaders, looking to explore, use their vehicles to the max, and have a good time.  The friends and camaraderie developed from one trip will create memories that beg you to come back again and again. 

Ryan Millen’s passion for off roading began young as he watched his father Rod Millen compete world-wide and become a racing legend. His older brother Rhys is also a professional driver that competes globally in rally-cross, drifting, and hill-climbs. With racing in his blood, Ryan pursues the difficulties of long-distance endurance races. His desire to share his love for dirt is evident in the time he dedicates to learning as well as teaching the trying craft of being an off road expert. You can find him spending countless hours personally working on projects and friends vehicles, or spending way too much time on his mountain bike with his machine of a dog, Benson.See what Ryan is up to over at Millen Adventures.

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