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RIDE REPORT: LIZARD LADY EXPOSED

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My biggest point in explaining my experience with Kacey Smith and the Lizard Lady is to remind ourselves that we often misjudge things we don’t know about and especially misjudge people we don’t get a chance to know. It happens all the time especially on the Internet. Knowing is doing and doing is experience. I was wrong again to adopt a negative perception about someone with whom I had had no prior personal experience. Life is too short to place people into stigma. Everyone has something bad about them and the new media trains us to point out the bad stuff.

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LIZARD LADY: Friend Or Foe??? Either way, she needs to be exposed for what she really is...

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WARNING: There are a lot of dogs in my ride report. I like the dogs.

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It was one of those nightmares: You get shut out of one of those big riding trips because of some giant glitch.

My truck got stuck in the shop for an extra week and rendered this big trip a “no-go” for me. And it was one of those dream trips, a special one: 9 full days of riding the best single track routes in central Baja, all hosted and led by Kacey Smith, the infamous “Lizard Lady”. Like almost anyone would do, I based my perception of Kacey off what information or knowledge I had. The problem with that is that I had no knowledge of Lizard lady, only information from guess where? All I knew is that I was invited to ride with this apparently controversial figure for 9 days around BoLA and beyond and that a small framed woman on a stock XR250 would be leading 7 grown men, all Baja vets and a pair of highly accomplished racers. Seemed kind of intriguing, huh?

Didn’t matter now though because I was “silt out of luck” w/o my tow vehicle and I’m due in El Rosario by 7:00am Sat. It’s not going to happen and I dwell on all of the fun and adventure I am going to miss. Over and over I go through how crappy it was and then an idea sprung to mind:

I had a spreadsheet of the entire itinerary and, at risk of the group changing plans, I decided to do what Kenweld, Soto, Dufus or even PCell would’ve done: Get on the bike and make a solo adventure, directly from San Diego to Gonzaga. Hopefully the group would show up on Sunday night.

So I left around dawn from North County with a Petzl Headlamp rigged inside the taillight lens on the XR 650.

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Free road to Compadre trail, slabbed it to Diablo after gassing in Independencia and Valley T.

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I wanted to see if I could find Jose in the bear shack (Jose’s Corner)

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Looks like it could be chicken for lunch if the dog could muster the energy

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Had a great time talking. Dude doesn’t see so well. Soldiers came in and bought 4 cigarettes each.

I took Zoo road access into SF, fueled and looked around Reubens for a guy named Craig Wilemsen from up north. I didn’t find him.

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The hwy is paved now almost all the way to Gonzaga. Give it a few more months. Some say it spoils business for Gonzaga and Coco’s because tour customers don’t want to ride on the pavement transferring from SF. I guess they could always ride single file just off the shoulder.

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I checked my head into Alfonsina’s and they told me for sure that Kacey was just there a few days ago and just left to go back home. They seemed pretty sure that I would not be meeting her. So I buddied up with some ADV trekers from Bay Area, 3 dudes and a girl. IMG_00402.jpgIMG_00412.jpgIMG_0044.jpgIMG_0046.jpg

It was their first time and they were headed to Los Barilles so we looked at their maps and I suggested a couple of different options for down and back. We sat down to dinner and started to order when the thumping sound started in the distance. There were some bikes coming.

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I went out front and met 4 bikes pulling in, not 7. It was them, minus Larry, Mike and Ralph.

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What a nice, warm and unassuming person Kacey Smith is, and very humble about her place in the Baja. We all sat for dinner and Kacey and I got right into it. I said, “You have quite the reputation, don’t you?” She smiled and said, “Yes, but I have two of them.”

Kacey with Tim Savin

In case you don’t know, Kacey’s (aka Lizrd Lady) has been plotting routes and trails in Baja since the nineties and has published a couple of GPS guides for sale on her website. While she is seen as hero to some, she has been vilified by a relatively small group of mostly American riders. Their gripe: Because Lizard Lady sells GPS files and a guidebook of Baja’s trails, too many people will come in and ride some of the sensitive areas closer to the border, up around the Sierra Juarez. The theory states that over use will ruin the trails there, land-ownership sensitivities being the key factor. From one perspective, she sells “opportunities”. From another perspective it may seem as though she sells secrets, although she dispels that theory as merely a misconception.

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So, from what I had read about her, I assumed that she was widely hated throughout the Baja, almost like a “Mike Overcast” of sorts. This is why I am really glad that I spent 3 days alone, riding around Baja to give her a chance to speak and for me to get inside what ever had really been going on.

She enlightened me with her side of the entire story of how she discovered trail riding in Baja and how she met explored with her first partner Juan. As they delved into GPS technology they sought to solve safety and land use problems by cataloguing the trails and routes accompanied by subjective advice on each one. She made some detail of the scope of a multi-year project, the financial expense as well as the human cost of such a project.

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“The whole idea around the guidebook was to keep people safe and out of trouble. Stories were popping up of riders running out of gas or getting stuck behind a locked gate, a broken femur and some fatalities. As a way to help and protect other riders, I published the guidebook.”

She explained that she wasn’t ever a controversial figure until well after the first guidebook was published around the early 2000’s.

“We had a tremendous amount of support back then. Bruce Ogilvie got American HONDA to give us 2 bikes to use each year for 4 years just for us to complete the plotting process.”

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“I hosted GPS events out of R. Santa Veronica (not published though); I spent months tracking down land/home owners in the area to ask special permission to use there property where the single track went through. THAT was so worth the work as I got to know many locals in the area and they so very much appreciated my effort to seek and ask approval.”

From my prior perspective I wondered how someone like noted trail master Bill Nicolls would feel about someone like Lizard Lady selling the trails he made to the general public. Maybe he hated her too.

“Bill is actually one of my closest friends and we’ve spent days and weeks on end together both here on bikes and back home in the states on long road trips,” Kacey explains, “Whenever he (Bill) finishes a new trail, he calls me first so I can get it in the guidebook updates. He doesn’t think they are his trails, they belong to Baja and they are for everyone to ride. They are for sharing. Both Bill Nichols and Jimmy Sones have asked me to publish their single tracks to share.”

This could only really make sense for someone who had actually seen the trails that have been created by Nichols, Sones and a handful of others. They are marvels of the desert, reflections of imaginations of their architects. And you really don’t see that many people flocking to this part of Baja every weekend to ride trails. But Kacey Smith is actively and currently working on several projects for your enjoyment including one that bears her moniker.

It’s logical that the architects of these trails in central Baja invite more wear on the trails because it makes them more ridable and sharing is caring. Its also logical that the riders of the other trails up north would not invite the overuse of trails in Sierra Juarez where the overall environment is relatively sensitive. Fences, gates, weed farms, and ruts are the bulk of the issues up north. Virtually none of that is an issue south of El Rosario where the wilderness is open only up til the point of your imagination ends.

“I guess I'm a little sensitive about the misconception that I publish 'secrets', in particular. The only single track in the north I published was a short-lived single track everyone knows that follows the side of the main road out toward Laguna Hanson (and I got permission from the ranchers residing near there at the time; it still remains open with NO issues 11 years after publishing). I didn't publish single track in the north NOT because of my detractors, but because I respected the area as 'already sensitive' and also a place that was in heavy growth (private property land being purchased) not to mention National Forest designations around Laugna Hanson.”

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Kacey Smith would not name names of any of her detractors as hard as I tried to get her to. I really tried but she seemed dignified in our conversations over the 2.5 days I’d spent with her. She seemed much more resolved to let the prior negativity toward her just roll right off her back. She appears very “high-road’ish” and as positive as can be when describing the way she felt when “really nasty” things were being said about her on the internet. Indeed, she took some heavy lumps. She admittedly understands why some people are concerned.

“I get it you know. I can see why some people would be concerned about some trials up north. There is the biggest land grab in history going on around there, fences going up. I get that. But instead of talking about it together and finding some resolution, it’s just all of this negativity and name calling on the internet. I had to stop looking at it.”

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I knew she was the real deal and VERY GOOD AMBASSADOR for Baja when I watched her interacting with the locals. She was better than any gringo I have ever seen. Cameron, SNR, Johnny C and Teem are great with the Baja locals, but Kacey Smith gets my first prize. Sorry Rudy, but you still are on the podium and you’re only kind of gringo. Like you, she is truly loved in Baja and, in Gonzaga Bay, at Alfonsina’s she is member of the family. I bet she’s pulled into Coco’s as many times, if not more, than almost anyone on a bike.

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Who else has helped him bathe his sores? At the gas stations, markets and hotels we stopped at, everyone was so happy to see Kacey.

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Dinner at the nice place in BoLA

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My biggest point in explaining my experience with Kacey Smith and the Lizard Lady is to remind ourselves that we often misjudge things we don’t know about and especially misjudge people we don’t get a chance to know. It happens all the time especially on the Internet. Knowing is doing and doing is experience. I was wrong again to adopt a negative perception about someone with whom I had had no prior personal experience. Life is too short to place people into stigma. Everyone has something bad about them and the media trains us to point out the bad stuff.

I was bummed to have to leave the group but said goodbye and went on my way from BoLA junction…Stay tuned for some cool report items at the end of these next few posts. IMG_00182.jpg

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In the end Kacey, Will, Tim and Doug survived the Occupy Valle de Los Curios ride and Ironically, in the end, the only three bikes that were running were all XR’s (2 400’s and her 250-which I hear is no more)

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L-R Will, Tim Kacey and Doug IMG_00142.jpg

Ramon at BoLA junction IMG_00163.jpg

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Wanna See Something Gnarley?

Cruising north on HWY 1 between Catvina and El Rosario, I came accros this scene on the side of the road. Bikers down. Triage. It looked bad, like someone was dying.

I had passed the scene before I could stop so I turned around to offer some assistance. Then I realized it was a family picnic…Unbelievable: This French family is riding from Edmonton to Buenos Aries and the kids aren’t even 9 yet.

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Alas- I really enjoyed my time with Kacey and her crew: Tim Savin, Will and Doug. A big extra special thanks to my very good bro Larry at Baja Trail Rides for getting me on the roster for this ride. I owe you one buddy!

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Boy, carrying that Camera thing looks like a lot of work, Nice Story Scotty.

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Scotty

I've been riding with Kacey for probably 15 years now and there is no one else I'd rather be stuck with after dark, low on gas, out of water, stock headlight, in a boulder pile that doesn't qualify as a trail! She is a super solid human being who spreads smiles everywhere she goes! Anyone who has anything bad to say about her I don't want to know. Thanks for posting.

Kevin Ward

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Scotty, it may be time to step out from beneath the shadow of Thumpertalk. You have "penned" a very interesting piece with pictures to boot. I was stunned to read a Something between ADVrider and a periodical like RacerX. Great work.

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Riding in Baja with your friends is great! Most find something to give back to Baja and the riding community along the way. Those great trails don't just appear out of nowhere. Lots of thought and hard work go into it. It should be shared, but I don't support a profit center based on someonelses work. The "Stairway to Heaven" and awesome "Look Out Trail" were given away to promote her book. Call me a hater. Elruko

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Riding in Baja with your friends is great! Most find something to give back to Baja and the riding community along the way. Those great trails don't just appear out of nowhere. Lots of thought and hard work go into it. It should be shared, but I don't support a profit center based on someonelses work. The "Stairway to Heaven" and awesome "Look Out Trail" were given away to promote her book. Call me a hater. Elruko

JAJAJAJAJAJAJA-

2 trails??? 2 Stinkin trails on a 1000 mile dogleg with unlimited potential?

"she has been vilified by a relatively small group of mostly American riders."

There you have it folks. One of Kacey's detractors outing himself on behalf of The "Aggrieved" Ones . The arrogance of you few, so bewildering its comical. You "gringos" actually think you control the Juarez. Absolute mindlessness:thumbsup:

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