Feature Article: The Boss of Baja
Who’s the boss of the Baja California trails? Check out Trail Boss Tours and you’ll soon find out. Chris Steward and Nancy Emde-Steward, owners of Trail Boss Tours, are partners in business and in life. When speaking with the Trail Boss duo, it’s apparent that both ventures are affairs of the heart… filled with passion, drive, determination, and plenty of experience to go the distance. We’re glad they chose our WR450s and WR250s to go along for the ride.
“It’s great exposure for the Yamaha brand to have us showcasing their off-road motorcycles and it’s a selling feature for us,” said Steward. “Our clients get to test them in real-life situations. They’re out punishing the motorcycle in the most brutal conditions—Baja California. The Yamahas shine. The reliability and quality of the Yamahas are second to none. We don’t have to do nearly the maintenance we have to on other bikes, and we’re talking trip after trip. Thousands of miles and they just keep on going. We do regular maintenance, sure, but nothing out of the ordinary. These bikes don’t break down on the trail, which is very important when you’re out in the middle of nowhere. Time is too critical. Plus, it makes you look bad. Our clients come away riding these motorcycles and they want to buy them. They do buy them. I get tons of e-mails from clients after they leave telling me they’ve bought the Yamaha.”
That’s saying a lot, since Trail Boss Tours hosts 25 rides a year, with an average of 250 guests annually. Their specialty, of course, is Baja California and clients come from all over the country to ride with “the boss.”
Trail Boss Tours officially opened its doors for business in 1993, but Steward was nicknamed “Trail Boss” long before then, and for good reason. He’s been forging his own off-road trails for more than 30 years.
Steward started riding when he was 10 years old. He rode in the foothills around his hometown of La Cañada, California, and later sharpened his off-road skills in the Mojave Desert. He eventually competed in roadracing at the club level. He was a natural and quickly began winning races and championships. In 1982, he began riding for Yamaha and won the Battle of the Twins® Championship (BOTT) in its inaugural year. During his off time from racing, Steward spent time exploring and cross training in the Southern California deserts. He soon discovered the vast beauty of Mexico’s Baja California. After he retired from racing in 1989, Steward continued to explore the Baja wilderness. He also continued guiding his friends on any given weekend.
When Steward moved to San Diego in 1993, he finally decided to turn his weekend trail-bossing hobby into a viable business. It was then that he met his partner and future wife, Nancy Emde-Steward. It was an auspicious meeting for several reasons.
If the Emde name sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Floyd Emde, Emde-Steward’s father, won the Daytona 200 back in 1948, and her brother Don Emde, publisher of Parts Magazine, won the Daytona 200 in 1972. The Emde name is steeped in racing legacy. Emde- Steward is an accomplished racer herself… with her own winning legacy. She made history in 2006 as the first female rider of a Baja 1000 winning team, as she rode the last 70-mile leg of the arduous race, securing first place in the small bore motorcycle class. Make no mistake, she knows her way around the Baja Peninsula and has earned her own “trail boss” title. She accompanies, navigates, and “co-bosses” on almost every Trail Boss tour.
Speaking of tours, just perusing the menu at Trail Boss puts you in the mood for some south of the border fun. The “Rip to the Tip” and “Bottoms Up” tours encompass the entire Baja Peninsula (to and/or from Cabo San Lucas). The “Baja Experience” includes a stay at the legendary Mike’s Sky Ranch and plenty of thrills riding on part of the legendary Baja 500 and Baja 1000 racecourses. Trail Boss has many fun packages to choose from, including one ride that starts out enjoying the Southern California Supercross and then takes off onto the Baja Peninsula for a three-day ride. It’s not all south of the border though. Other custom trips include rides from Vegas to Death Valley and back, exploring the Lost Coast amidst the California Redwoods, and riding tours in Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona.
If you’re worried about roughing it, don’t. Trail Boss knows all the best places to stay. They even have a stash of hidden spots that other tour companies haven’t discovered yet. You always head out with their 20-foot turbo diesel support truck at your disposal. The truck safely transports all your gear and carries all the essentials, including spare bikes, fluids, tools, lubricants, parts, food, water, snacks, and over 220 gallons of premium fuel. “We make it convenient and easy,” Emde-Steward explained.
They even pick up out-of-state guests and their gear curbside at the San Diego airport. It’s all about having the experience of a lifetime. That’s one of the reasons Trail Boss discourages guests from bringing their own bikes.
“We want them to have the great experience we’ve sold them on and not break down on the trail, so we want them on our Yamahas. These bikes are literally turnkey. With the advent of the electric start you just push the button and go,” said Steward.
They also offer special rates for Yamaha dealerships and their customers. This past January, they hosted trips for six different motorsport dealerships in four weeks.