If I’m ever given a choice of what I can take with me in the event of being stranded on a desert island, it’s Blake Baggett. Mind-bending motocross skills are useless in a survival situation, but racing dirt bikes is far from the only thing Baggett does well. On an island, I would be shuddering and sobbing beneath a coconut tree, resisting the urge to befriend a volleyball, but Baggett would be laying a foundation, erecting a shelter, and, if he can find the resources, wiring the place for electricity. Then he’d figure out how to communicate with ships passing nearby. Because building things—whether a steel structure, a dirt mound on his practice tracks, or a gap over second place—is what Blake Baggett does.
It’s early June, four days after the Thunder Valley National, where Baggett, 25, earned his first career 450 Class victory. A rainstorm has central Florida seeking shelter for a second day. Blake won’t be riding, but that’s okay with him; he has plenty to keep him busy. Wearing a camouflage baseball hat and cowboy boots, he looks more like a geographically confused construction worker than a racer. Technically, he is a construction worker—and a foreman, day laborer, electrician. . . . If you ask him, he identifies as a farmer, and he has the tractors and trucks to get any job done. The incalculable amount of sweat equity poured into his property, one hour northwest of the Orlando airport, has come entirely from Baggett, his family, and Ghis Pereira, the only employee on the ranch. Blake’s father, Tom, estimates the amount of dirt moved alone—to build the supercross and motocross tracks, the latter of which features a steep 72’ climb—is worth $1.25 million.
Blake has a smile on his face ten feet wide, and he immediately goes into tour-guide mode, showing off the most recent work he’s done on his nearly 100-acre plot of land, which was a hayfield four years ago. Before the final sale in the spring of 2013, he held the property up in escrow for nine months while he dug soil samples, did extensive sound tests, and filed a 6,000-page proposal to the city of Leesburg, Florida, to have the land rezoned. By a vote of 7-0 on March 21, 2013, the city’s planning commission voted to recommend approval. In short, Baggett isn’t on a conditional-use permit. “Personal moto-cross [sic] training track” is written in Exhibit A of his case files. He was careful to ensure he’d never have to go through the battles other riding facilities have experienced.
Over the course of three hours, the talking never stops, but not once do we discuss the previous weekend’s race—also the first major win for Team Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS. He points out details as we walk, like the steel curb caps on a building’s foundation that can withstand the pressure of a 20-ton bulldozer driving over them. He motions to the back of the building and explains why it’s facing south (most of the storms, like today’s, come from that direction). Even the layering of the steel siding is carefully calculated with protection from the elements in mind.