Posted by: lianadevine | 29 November 2007

Plan, What Plan?

The only things I can say about our leaving Zacatecas on Saturday, November 24 is that we did it, and we did go South. The rest of the weekend was pure serendipity, of the finest kind.

About an hour south of the city, we reached the small town of Ojocaliente. This was where Pascual, our friendly guide in Zacatecas, had mentioned their next offroad race would be. As we passed through this typical Mexican town, we looked around as curiously as the locals were looking at us. We were looking for signs of the racetrack, so we could at least check out the facility, but Calvin spotted something even better: a old Ford truck painted flat black with handlettering “Offoad” among other Spanish words. We followed the truck through town, but he disappeared from view into an Auto-Lata, a drive through beer and liquor store. Calvin pulled over, I hopped out and ran over to ask the driver about the racing.

Within minutes, we were in Jorge’s Ford bouncing down a dusty road on the way to the track. We got out and walked the track while the graders continued to push dirt into berms and jumps. Checking out the track I’m not sure at what point the decision was made, or even who made it, but yes, we were staying for the race the next day. Jorge took us to a taco place for the best tacos ever, The Best Tacos Everthen back to the bus, which we ended up parking on the road in front of Jorge’s Radiator and muffler shop, conveniently in front of the Auto-Lata which was run by his sister.

Once the bus was safely parked and set up, we drove the Thing to El Centro to do some shopping and emailing. From the looks we got from some of the customers and staff, we guessed they didn’t get too many foreign visitors. We had a shy but helpful clerk – encouraged with a push by the rest of the grocery store staff – ask us in perfect English if she could help us find anything. In the internet cafe, Calvin voice chatted with a friend, his brother and his parents all at the same time on a Skype conference call, while I read and wrote emails. His animated conversation, in English, drew stares from the other patrons. Then on the drive home through town, I took advantage of the notice we were getting and pretended to announce the racing the next day: Manana misma, a la pista, una carrera espectacular. Nos vemos!

That evening, we’d already had a light supper when Jorge knocked on the bus door and invited us over to the Auto-Lata, where they were setting up a barbecue beside a Coca Cola tent. Shortly, two huge pots appeared, one filled with hot frijoles charros (our absolutely favourite bean dish) and the other brimmed with steaming ponche, a tamarind and fruit-based punch. Beer from the Auto-Lata was also flowing freely as a party suddenly broke out: the offroad race club along with family and friends. We were introduced around and quickly welcomed into the group, especially when Calvin showed his wallet photo of his race car. I had suspected we might have some visitors to the bus, so I had baked a pumpkin loaf and contributed that to the party. It was Full Moon Saturday night in small-town Mexico, and who would have guessed we’d be joining a street party as a prelude to a championship series offroad race?Full Moon Saturday night

Surprisingly enough, the party broke up relatively early since most had race responsibilities the next day. We’d agreed with Jorge that he would take us out to the track in the bus at 9, then we’d come back in the Thing to see the 10 AM desfile (parade) of race cars filled with the special needs kids that the race proceeds were supporting.

Of course, nothing was on time, so once enough race cars had straggled over to the Auto-Lata, where the kids and families were already waiting, a desfile quickly formed and I barely had time to snap a few photos after helping load Julia and her mom into the topless Thing with Calvin. I noticed Pascual’s car had arrived from Zacatecas.
Kids in cars
We’re often not sure if it’s the language barrier or a cultural thing that these plans don’t go as we understand they will. Is it us not “getting it” or them not “getting it together”?

Calvin returned to the bus from El Centro, where he reported the streets were lined with people cheering the racers. Each car was sprinkled with Holy Water as it passed the Templo. He’d seen Pascual and crew too. Calvin’s little passenger Julia laughed and giggled a lot, obviously enjoying the ride and the attention.

I followed the bus out to the track, and we parked behind a beer tent to serve as a windbreak.The Bus at the Racetrack A huge wind had kicked up and though the water truck was pressed into service on the track, the rest of us were at the mercy of the dust and wind for the entire day. But the show went on!
Now for the rest of the race report as told by Calvin, and a special serendipitous story, read on.




As many of my friends would agree, you cannot pass up a race.
I was going in open minded as to what to expect. The only car we saw so far was the one we saw in Zacatecas. It looked pretty fast but lacked a bit in the suspension department. It had ball joint front end and about 4” longer homemade arms on the rear, good fox shocks all the way around and a 2300cc with two 40mm Webbers. The tube seemed to be small and sparse so I think it did not weigh much. The track was groomed fairly smooth with some kickers and a table top in the back straight away, so I thought this type of car would do well.


After getting the bus and all to the track we went to find our new friends in the pits. Pascual and Jesus’s race carAll the other cars had arrived and if I had to guess there were about 25 to 30 cars. There were five different classes and some cars could run in more than one. It was the same as at home with the less expensive classes having a better turn out. Some of these guys have great ingenuity; one of the beetles even had the roll cage on the outside of the car to protect the body. Outdoor Roll CageUnfortunately this was not the beetle that rolled over that day. Also the same as at home, the slower lower-powered classes went out first. I was pleased to see it was very competitive and not many cars dropped out due to breakage. I was also impressed on how they all sounded good and seemed to run well all day. Evenly matched race carsThey were all VW type1 engines, some even with after market cases.


Listo!When the big boys came out to play it was indeed fast and a good race. Our friend Jesus and another car from Zacatecas pulled out first and seemed to be the fast ones. They had a good battle going until Jesus had trouble with one of the corners that seemed to plague many others.

Good racing!The winner




All in all I give them two thumbs up for the track prep, the food and beer tents, beer company-supplied trophy girls and not to forget that the proceeds go to the school for children with special needs. They’re all winners

After presentation of the homemade trophies, while helping pack up the beer tent by the bus, I was talking with one of the promoters that I had not met yet. He dialed a number on his cell phone and handed it to me. To my surprise it was a girl on the other end speaking very good English. She had been living in Canada and wanted to meet us. We made arrangements to meet at the bus parked in front of Jorge’s shop later that evening.

After getting back to our parking spot by the auto lata we removed our extremely dusty clothes right into a plastic bag for lavado (washing) later, had a much needed hot shower and while putting leftovers together for supper we heard a knock on the door. It was Geraldo (Jorge’s nephew) asking us to come across the street to the Auto Lata. Jorge wanted to see us. We put supper on hold and went straight over. It turned out they were getting the frijoles and ponche hot for an after race dinner and we were expected to join them once more. After eating and drinking the guys gave us a photo of them in their race club shirts and they all signed it on the back. While going back to the bus to safely store our new photo we met Erika (the English speaking lady on the phone) and her two sons Eric and Allen. We had a tour of the bus, went back to the party for a while and then got in the Thing and went into town for a walk around the centro and a nice visit with her mother and sister at their home.Erika and family




Then it was back to the bus by 11:00 for a good sleep and back on the road in the AM after saying good bye and thank you for everything to all.




  1. Gary Miller, here from Vanc Wa. OK, we’re going to get snow this weekend and you guys are down there HAVING FUN. No fair.

    Keep it up, Gary

  2. Another adventure! 🙂

  3. Sounds like you guys are having a great adventure. Meeting people and living a life. Meanwhile here in Northern Alberta it is -20 some with a wind, not much snow yet (only 6-8 “) but it could come any time.

    I will continue to follow your adventure and wish I was part of it as more than a observer.

    Don Z

  4. Hey, Leanne and Calvin (and Spike)!

    What a fascinating odyssey this is becoming! The kind of travel the two of you are doing is what many of us dream of but never accomplish, so reading about your aventuritas y aventurones is very heady stuff indeed!

    My vision of the race and all the trappings that went with it—beer, food, friends, adrenalin, noise, trophies, and on and on and on—has me on sensory overload.

    Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!

    Dennis in Phoenix

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