Talking Baja with Camp4Lo
As some of you know, I took a trip to Baja back in November of ’17. Since that trip, I have been itching to get back, but a few things hold me back. Before I get too far into it, I grew up in San Diego, just 15 minutes across the border from Tijuana, MX. So slipping across the border for a weekend is nothing new to me. But I haven’t done that in close to 15 years and I am sorry to say Mexico has changed, and so have I. But am I the one who has changed more? The more I speak with those who still go, I think so. And that’s what started my search for ways to safely go to Mexico. While I know every country has its challenges and when traveling abroad it’s good to keep your wits about you. Half of being safe is knowing your surroundings. That’s no different in Mexico. I also think it’s a lot safer than most think. One thing I am not familiar with is off-road routes that are both suitable for my rig, my goals for a trip be it surf or isolation, and safe. So when I began my search I was surprised… didn’t find many options for group trips. I found plenty of blogs and forums of folks with tips and advice but no one to say, I’ll show you! I found a few “adventure” tours. Businesses that would rent you a rig and give you the “Baja 1000 experience”. While that does sound awesome, it’s not really what I was looking for. Then I came across Camp4lo, then I found out a friend of mine works with them, Andy Holmes, AKA Big Limey. (Yeah go figure, I’ve known Andy for years! lol). Then to boot, both Andy and Matt are local, right here in Orange County and surrounding areas. So I had to reach out! I met Matt Frick, the owner, and operator of Camp4Lo, and we talked for a good while. This is what I have been looking for! Someone who knew Baja like the back of his hand and had the local experience, knew local people, had the mechanical experience, and the best part YOU BROUGHT YOUR OWN RIG! Matt knows the area so well he’s able to tailor the route for your rig and he ensures you have a blast! What better way to step into the unknown? We talked trails, food, culture, landscape, and just all-around adventure. I won’t get too much more into it. I’ll let Matt tell you in his own words. I hope you enjoy this Q&A and I hope this motivates you to push your boards a bit farther to the south.
Q & A
Q: Tell us about you. How long have you been going to Baja, what’s your experience?
A: I’m a self-employed telecom contractor in real life. Single dad with 4 grown kids. I was a teenager working in a VW shop and the guy next door was a telecom contractor that raced class 1, his name is Ron Brant. He asked me one day in 1985 if I’d like to come along to pre-run the Baja 500. I had to ask my mom for permission and I am glad she said yes! On my first trip, I was hooked. Got to ride in an old Chenowth Pre-runner. I saw Ensenada to San Felipe off-road. I was mesmerized.
I started helping Ron work on the race cars. Basically, all I was allowed to do was scrape skid plates, clean CVs, and fetch beer. I kept at it and ended up working for him and learned the telecom business and race car stuff. Started riding with Ron more and more on pre-runs and then riding in races. I joined a group of buddies in 89 and we built a class 11 and ran it for 3 seasons. I even drove it across the finish line at the 91 Baja 500. I also worked for Trackside photo for a few years in the late 80’s shooting races. Got to drive their Baja Bug through Baja scouting for photo spots.
Had a bunch of kids starting in ’92 and my race days were put on hold for the most part. I took my family to Baja on surf trips quite often and that kept my Baja needs fulfilled somewhat, but the racing and off-roading was in my blood. I couldn’t wait to get my kids a little older and to become more financially stable so I could drive off-road cars again. In 2000 I bought an old class 1 car from Ron and started taking it to Baja during the races and used it to pre-run and then I would catch a ride with Ron on occasion. Then a buddy and I rebuilt my car and started racing it in local Barstow races in the sportsman class. We had a few fun years racing that old car.
Q: How did Camp4Lo get started, why, and what was the goal?
A: About 2009 I was looking at the Wide Open guys and thought that was a great thing but it was a super expensive trip. I thought about all the trips we have done over the years and how simple and inexpensive it really is to have a blast in Baja. I thought about having guests bring their own rigs and we just cruise and enjoy the sights. My goal is to show people how wonderful the place and the people are.
Q: Do you find people have reservations about going to Baja? What’s your take on visiting Mexico with your rig?
A: It is very challenging to get people to come to Mexico. There is a lot of bad press out there. I don’t run drugs or guns and I don’t know anybody that does. I don’t spend time in shady places, I am not flashy, I travel during the day, I stay and stop at places I know and I have never had a problem. If you practice a little common sense and have situational awareness, you are fine in Baja.
Q: Baja seems to be in a lot of cases almost separate from Mexico, it has its own mythology almost.
A: Baja is different than mainland Mexico for sure, It’s almost like a forgotten land. It is almost like its own entity.
Q: What do you think the draw is, for off-roaders and adventurers alike?
A: I think the mystique and the sheer solitude is the draw for some. Good fishing, camping, and inexpensive adventure. For me, it is that there seems to be more freedom. Stuff like driving on the beach or camping just about anywhere you want. Things are more simple there. I like simple. My soul is at peace when I am there.
Q: What’s your most memorable experience in Baja?
A: Most memorable experience…… Damn, Too many times to count. Maybe 2012 when we finished the 1000 peninsula run and I got that finisher pin. Crossing the finish line in La Paz is a feeling like no other.
Q: What keeps you going back? You’ve been going there for a long time.
Q: If someone was on the fence about doing a Camp4Lo trip, whether its money, length of trip, safety, or even “Can my rig do this?” what would you tell them?
A: I would tell them to talk to some of our previous guests for their take. I get a lot of people asking tons of questions prior to going for sure. I think our track record speaks for itself. As far as rigs go, we basically require stock 4×4 with better than stock tires as the minimum. We don’t do super hard trails on most trips. We do have little challenges along the way for those that have more built rigs. This is more of a scenic tour showcasing the beauty of Baja. I try to ride along with each guest for a bit on each run. I will offer driving tips if the guest wants any help. It also gives me a little one on one time to get to know each guest.
Q: What do you need to go on a Camp4Lo trip?
A: You should bring your rig of course. Any spares and tools you need. You know your rig better than anyone else. Pack it just like you would for any trip. Sometimes we have a camp night so if your trip has a camp night then bring a tent and sleeping bag. We cover all the food, water, snacks, even beer so there’s no need to worry about all that stuff.
Q: Describe a Camp4Lo experience. What can someone expect?
A: We meet at the US side of the border (usually Tecate). We caravan to the dirt. We off road usually most of the day with stops for tacos, of course. We stay in hostels and ranches as opposed to hotels. I like this because it keeps the group together and makes for a stronger unit. Depending on the route, we almost always do a beach run. We will take you up into the mountains and traverse the peninsula, sometimes twice on a trip. We have a few super cool places we stop as well. We stop at a place that is on the beach that serves super good margaritas and the best guacamole. We stop there for a late afternoon snack on one of the days. We usually end the trip at one of our favorite places on the Pacific ocean where the last night we celebrate our trip with a huge seafood dinner and fire-pit bench racing. Oh, and we get fireworks too! Can’t go to Baja without blowing stuff up! We caravan back to the border and make sure everyone gets back to the US safe.
I want to give a huge thank you to Matt for taking the time to do this and providing all the images for this story. I expect I will be taking a Camp4Lo trip pretty soon. For me, this seems a great way to get back into Baja and learn my way from an expert. I know it’s not for everyone, but I hope this helped answer some questions that I know I had. I highly recommend you check out Camp4Lo’s website: www.camp4lo.com. I added their social info below as well. Reach out to Matt if you have questions. He’s probably one of the best people and local resources I have met in a long time! Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing you in Baja! Let me know if you do decide to head south in the comments!
@TRUCKY_MCTRUCKFACE, THE TRAIL TURTLE