BLOOMFIELD — David and Chad Thornton are more than just business partners.

The father-son combo run C&J Equipment and Manufacturing in Bloomfield — David (Dad) is the president and CEO, while his son, Chad, is the acting vice president.

On Nov. 13, the Thornton boys took on a challenge that made compressor packaging and noise abatement, C&J's specialties, look like child's play. A team of five riders, including David and Chad, participated in the 40th Baja 1000 on the Baja peninsula in Mexico, just south of the California border.

Racers from across the world gathered to compete on the 1,000-mile course — Chad said it's closer to 1,300 miles — and tried to conquer the desert's demons.

"Since I was a kid, (the Baja) was the grandaddy of desert races," Chad said last Friday. "Anyone who has ridden motorcycles in desert has thought about the Baja."

The Mexican course is open to all age levels, and to athletes with any mode of transportation. People rode everything from trucks, motorcycles, buggies


and even Cadillacs.

The Baja is like no other course in the world. Besides the natural elements acting as obstacles — terrain, weather, fatigue — residents on the peninsula provide even more drama for riders.

"The race has a reputation of being booby-trapped. Some of the locals want us to crash," Chad said. "I saw that on the course with dead trees, rocks and even an old toilet. It's kind of become a mythical thing."

During the weeks leading up to the race, Chad focused on dodging toilets while his dad tended to business matters, including providing sponsorship for the race.

"Chad did most of the logistics work and prepared the bike," David said. "You're talking over $1,000 worth of tires, handle bars and all the spare parts."

With a team of five, the C&J team — nicknamed "Team 505" rotated every few hours. The group wore orange shirts to represent New Mexico's colors, and because it was the shade of the bike they used, the KTM 525XC.

Team 505 finished eighth out of 55 teams in their class. Their impressive time of 35 hours, 15 minutes required a physical and emotional sacrifice. Chad Thornton was happy just to be standing at the finish line.

"It was pretty special for us," said Chad, 36, a graduate of Bloomfield High School. "It had a little bit of everything. There were a lot of rocks, lot of uphill and downhill."

The ultimate payoff for Chad was watching his father cross the finish line. Team 505 asked David if he wanted to ride the final leg, a tremendous honor for an experienced biker.

"That's the leg to run. You get all the glory at the finish line," said David, who grew up in San Diego before moving to Bloomfield in 1976. "I can't tell how much it meant to me to be the one who crossed the line."

With over 120 combined years of racing between Team 505, the 1,000 ridden on Nov. 13 were by far the most grueling.

"Mentally, it's tough. You have to stay sharp mentally," Chad said. "There's things down (in Baja), if you lose your focus for a second or two, your race can be over.

"It's not like the United States. If you crash (on the Mexican course), there's no hospitals around. Care for riders is limited, and the language difference is also a barrier."

The Thornton family accomplished an uncanny feat in Baja, Mexico, a distance unfathomable to most riders. But before the C&J clan starts looking back on their glory days of racing, it better keep its eyes on the future.

Last Friday, Chad's sons brought their dad's Baja trophy into school for show-and-tell. Chad, 6, and Jacob, 4, may have to wait a few years before they hit the dusty desert on a bike, but they certainly have the right backyard for it.

And as long as the Thornton's are living in the Four Corners, that will never change.

"This is the best place to live if you're into any type of recreational activity," David said. "There's so much public land. San Diego was a pretty nice town, but I'm glad to raise my children and grandchildren here."