OPINION – The desert dust and acrid aroma of the pits during an off-road race linger in my head.
I can still hear motors revving in my ears and the chatter generated on the radios used by the chase crews staggered along the course to make sure assistance goes out to help any race team stranded on the track by bad luck or a bad racing maneuver.
My wife, Cara, and I went racing this weekend.
Well, in reality, she went racing, and I helped push trucks and buggies off of trailers and helped out in the pits a little bit — a very little bit, as anybody who has witnessed my ineptness with anything mechanical will tell you.
But I was a pretty good cheerleader, as terrified as I was, when she hopped into a monster off-road truck (Class 18 for racing aficionados who are into details) and went charging across the Laguna Salada, a nasty piece of desert just outside of Mexicali on the Baja.
I gulped hard as they strapped her into a truck she needed help to get into because it was so high off the ground. Then I gave her a kiss and whispered a prayer as she headed to the start/finish line.
Cara was a co-driver in the annual “Racing for Boobs” fundraiser here on the Baja. The money goes to help the national cancer organization and cancer center in San Felipe, a little fishing village on the Sea of Cortes.
The 111-degree heat was punishing, as was the 25-mile course that had enough whoops and dips, boulders and silt washes and trees and washboard straightaways to put a lesser soul in traction. Hydration and good navigation were the order of the day.
There were about 100 teams involved — everything from ATVs and motorcycles to buggies of various size and dimension and, of course, the big, nasty, gnarly trucks.
Normally, I love racing, from the gliding F1s to the screaming NASCAR bullets they used to call stock cars in the old days before TV contracts and million-dollar sponsorships.
Saturday, while Cara ran the track, my heart was in my mouth.
Offroading is a big deal here on the Baja. The best of the best come down here to test themselves against Mother Nature in a series of races sponsored by organizations such as SCORE, NORRA, CODE and Record. The legendary Baja 1000 is the granddaddy of them all when it comes to this sport.
And here, on this brutal day under a blistering sun, my wife was going out there where only the coyotes and jackrabbits run around with the lizards and rattlesnakes.
Her reason for being a co-driver in the largest all-women driven race in North America was purposeful.
So it has been nothing but Girl Power the last month or so as we helped our friends on the Parrots Cracker Racing Team raise money for sisters they may never know, to have their back as they fight the good fight, to do what we can to defeat this thing called cancer.
I’m not sure how much was raised at this year’s race, but I am pretty sure that it wasn’t enough. Of course, until they find a cure, it will never be enough. Pesos don’t go very far, but they are spent wisely. But care and compassion are lovingly dispensed.
And while it may seem odd to put on an off-road race to raise money, you must realize that the locals and the expatriates who live on the Baja or spend any significant amount of time here are crazy about offroading. It was estimated that at least 20,000 people would show up this weekend to watch the race. Considering that the stadium in Mexicali, Estadio B’Air, has seating for about that many beisbol fans, that’s a pretty fair turnout.
And they saved their pesos to purchase the T-shirts, bracelets, necklaces and other items the teams created — some by hand — to sell in their fundraising efforts.
The point is, this disease knows no borders, doesn’t discriminate by gender or age or race or creed or political affiliation.
It disrespects the rich as it does the poor.
The suffering is as great in Mexico as it is in the United States.
Or Great Britain.
Or any other piece of real estate on this good, green Earth.
I would be surprised if there was one of you reading this who doesn’t know somebody fighting this disease right now. I guarantee there isn’t a person reading this who hasn’t lost a friend or family member to it.
In that sense, and many others, we see the commonalities among us.
So we need these events here, there and everywhere to pull together as a family — or if I may be so bold, as a team, at the very least — and provide the means for early testing, medicine and technology for treatment, research for a cure.
And, of equal importance, support for the soul.
For the record, the team Cara rode with won its class, which was great. But in the larger scheme of things, the winners will be those whose lives are saved — or at least extended — as a result of that race, which, because of its nature, drew a lot of attention from the public and huge response. This is why we have fundraisers built around such grand events.
And that is what is important.
There are organizations and foundations out there. Find one you are comfortable with and send money.
There are treatment centers struggling for homegrown thrift shops to purchase wigs and scarves for chemotherapy patients. Make a donation.
There is always a need for volunteers. Give your time if you can.
There are many ways to help, many things you can do.
Just as long as you do something.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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