If you’ve ridden KLR’s for very long or own a copy of Clemente Salvadori’s book,
Motorcycle Journeys Through the Baja, you may know the name of Clem’s research and
riding companion Kurt Grife. Many of Kurt’s 6 figure miles on KL’s and other two wheelers
have been recorded in Baja, especially Southern Baja, which is why I call him Mr. Baja
Mr. “G” and I have a few things in common including taking early eighties Baja dirt rides
on Suzuki 4 cylinder, shaft drive GS850-G street bikes. In fact, Pauline Read’s first two-up
Baja dirt ride was in Baja Norte on the back of a GS850-G. I didn’t know then that we were
riding an Adventure Tourer.
Recently Kurt and I have had a similar experience that is astounding to say the least (like
one in a zillion). Back in 2011 Kurt Grife and his wonderful lady Kathy Richardson were
650 miles south of the border at Equipales Restaurant in Mulege. There at a nearby table
also enjoying a great meal was none other than prize winning (National Geographic
Magazine) photographer, long distance bicycle and motorcycle rider, and all around good
guy, Leonicio “Cuco” Villarias of Mexico City.
Now fast forward to election day November 2012 and with Pauline’s blessing I headed
south in an effort to escape all the last minute political B.S. Once south of the border I
heard and saw nothing political –it was great. I spent a nice evening in Ensenada, which
included a wonderful meal at Mariscos Bahia de Ensenada, my favorite restaurant in the
whole world. The following morning a guy came up to my open motel door as I prepared
to head north on my trusty KL650-ATG motorcycle. The big guy in the doorway turned
out to be none other than Cuco Villarias on a 1000 mile bicycle ride from Tijuana to La
Paz. I followed Cuco’s support van carrying him and his three friends, and bicycles to the
best breakfast place in Ensenada, Las Casuelas de Kiki. After a nice visit I headed north
on my KL and Cuco headed south “con sus amigos”.
About a hundred miles south of Ensenada in the town of San Quintin, Cuco was the duty
van driver when it became necessary to make a stop and get out of the van. As Cuco
stepped from the van it began to roll forward. Alas, a distracted Cuco had forgotten to set
the brake or shift into park. In a vain attempt to stop the van from rolling forward, Cuco
slipped and fell under the rear left wheel which rolled over the lower part of his body
severely injuring him. With a giant hematoma developing on his side, Cuco was
transported 180 miles north to Tijuana followed by an airline flight to a hospital near his
home in Mexico City.
Somehow Cuco survived his injuries and is on the mend at home with a drain in his side.
With Martha’s loving care and the good thoughts and prayers of his many friends on
both sides of the border we feel confident Cuco will fully recover and soon rejoin the two
wheeled world. In fact, he told me to continue building his special Top Gun DR644 so he
can join Pauline’s 86th Baja birthday ride in April 2013. Guess I’d better complete the
rolling chassis before the great Vey de la Cruz delivers the best DR650 (644cc) engine
Get well soon Cuco, and make room next to your “one and only” Top Gun KL650AB. And
be sure to keep us posted on your recovery progress. (Todd’s Note – We’ve had several
communications with Cuco since then and he appears to be on track for April!)