By Pilar Lastra
Back in 2007 Wolverine Boots ran a Mud Looks Good On Me campaign in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. The image had me riding an ATV in a bikini top covered in mud. Who would have known that years later I would still want to be covered in everything from dust to mud from off-roading in every vehicle I could manage to run through the toughest terrains. The dirtier I get, the more my adrenaline levels reach their comfort levels of high!
I recently hit the tough terrains of Baja California Sur, Mexico with Wide Open Baja, a company which does just that - give hundreds of adrenaline junkies an off-roading fix through fun and unforgettable unpaved trails throughout Baja. We traveled roughly 500 miles from Loreto to Cabo San Lucas, riding through only the backwoods and ranches of Baja in a Baja Challenge Buggy, commonly known as the BC car.
I have done my share of off-roading before, but nothing could have prepared me for the unforgettable experience I had with Wide Open Baja.
In this trip I learned what it felt like to drive on sand so soft that half the time you couldn't see through the dust and might find your car stuck in an occasional crater in the road. I went up an old waterfall that taught me never let your foot off the throttle no matter what you hit, because the slightest roll back caused by a stall can leave you inches from falling off a cliff. I learned how to keep my cool when my legs were shaking, thinking I would not be able to pull myself or my co-driver out of what felt like never-ending unpredictable terrains - dodging hundreds of cactus, holes, rocks, cliffs, jumps, and cow patties. But to come out of some of these trails and end up cruising along the side of the ocean feeling the breeze calm my tensed-up body is a feeling that words cannot possible describe.
People love to ask me what it is about my need for speed or danger that keeps me wanting to off-road or race. It really is something that until you experience at least once in your life you will never really understand. There is so much you learn in placing your life in your co-driver's hands. It teaches you communication, teamwork, self control, perseverance and trust. Not only lessons in trusting others, as one irresponsible or stupid move can seriously hurt someone, but the trust you learn to have within yourself. Learning to trust your natural instincts is what is most rewarding to me. The lessons in self control are always the ones that make the best memories, like when the guys filming an episode of Wealth on Wheels for Wealth TV, got a little comfortable with speed in a bumpy, slightly winding road and ended up running into a cactus, creating what you only think could happen in a movie, as all you could see was parts of the cacti flying into the air and causing an unexpected 1 hour stop to help them pull all the painful needles out of the body and car.
The Wide Open Baja from Loreto to Cabo San Lucas did so much more than fix my need for some off-road adrenaline. It has left me with so many memories and a whole group of new friends that when I met getting off the plane were perfect strangers with just one thing in common: a love for riding the unpaved beaten paths of Baja. So what is next for me and off-roading? I am actively training to run in an all-girl team for this year's Baja 1000.