Few have logged more miles south of the border than Haines has, and as head of Baja's leading motorcycle tour outfitter, Chris Haines Motorcycle Adventure Company (a longtime partnership with Honda Riders Club of America) his competitive spirit is as alive today as it was when he captured his first title back in 1987. So, naturally, for over 20 years he's been THE go-to guy for two-wheeled adventure seekers from around the globe. And with a client roster that includes the crowned heads of business, sports, and entertainment it's no surprise that celebrities like artists Lyle Lovett and Kid Rock, custom motorcycle builder Jesse James, and racing driver Juan-Pablo Montoya (of Indy, Formula 1, and NASCAR fame) suit up and ride. With rare exception most first timers catch Baja fever and become lifetime customers before trail's end. Even 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong gained a love for riding in Baja - one that runs deep thanks to Haines. Even now as the clock ticks down to next month's 41st Baja 1000, Haines and crew are busily prepping race bikes for nine teams and riders from as faraway as Ireland, Sweden, and Guatemala.
But a heavy diet of motorcycles does not a complete man make and Haines is no exception. For him music and art offset the daily cacophony of blaring motorcycles engines. Away from it all, Haines the motorcycle dynamo and his beautiful wife Karen enjoy solace provided by both. A lifelong audiophile, Haines possesses a large collection of vintage vinyl and his many first releases are enjoyed frequently. Surrounded by the works of Warhol and Basquiat, another Haines passion is played out in the form of one of the world's most outstanding vintage rock guitar collections.
"As a rider and tuner, I've spent a lifetime pursuing wins, titles and championships," offers Haines. "As is the case with many riders and athletes, one of my biggest motivators was rock music and the music scene."
Like his Baja 1000 trophy chest, Haines’ guitar collection is eye popping and contains the crème de la crème of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s rock era. He’s attacked this genre with the same gusto as his racing career. But here instead of screaming Honda race engines the air is alive with driving power chords coaxed from the rosewood necks and ash bodies of machines named Les Paul, Vox, Rickenbacker, Flying V, and Stratocaster. At every turn visitors are rewarded with a mint vintage ‘axe’ (rocker speak for guitar), an album cover signed by the Stones or Beatles, or an amplifier just like the one that promised “She loves you Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!” when the young lads from Liverpool came to America so many years ago. But the collection, like Haines himself, is a very private affair, and not for public consumption. Over the years a select number of guitar oriented friends and some “real” musicians including Haines’ nephew Myles Kennedy, frontman for Alter Bridge, have made the pilgrimage to play and enjoy his masterpiece assemblage. Always loud and active, the frequent “‘til the wee hours” sessions are a delight for Haines.
And speaking of Liverpool... Before Haines dons helmet and goggles for his rip through Baja, he’s off to England to join David Fishoff’s Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp in early November. Here "Haines the Master" becomes "Haines the Student" absorbing 10+ hours per day under the tutelage of pro rockers like Stones legend Bill Wyman and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd. Fulfilling his lifelong dream of visiting Liverpool, studying guitar at Abbey Road Studios, and performing at the Cavern where the Beatles made their name and the British invasion was launched.
It's not going to be easy, Haines insists, and like a Baja 1000 rookie he once was he gets butterflies thinking about it. But as he's coached so many a nerve-wracked first-timers on the starting line of a big race (a former Honda factory race technician Haines worked with the best) he's taking a page from his own play book.
“I’m not going for a trophy. I’m there for a chance to be part of something special. Something amazing.”