Conversations with Big Rich

The Grand Ol’ Dame of Off-Road Racing, Judy Smith, on Episode 154

March 16, 2023 Guest Judy Smith Season 3 Episode 154
Conversations with Big Rich
The Grand Ol’ Dame of Off-Road Racing, Judy Smith, on Episode 154
Show Notes Transcript

Judy Smith, the Grand Ol’ Dame of Off-Road Racing was honored by the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame in the Class of 2008. Having moved from Connecticut to SoCal in the 40’s, she was introduced to off-road with her husband in the 1960’s. Over the years she told many a racers stories as they competed in the desert. Her favorite column was the “Losers” where she interviewed those who didn’t make it to the finish line.

Rich got a chance to interview Judy by telephone with her nurse, Jennifer facilitating the call. In Judy’s own words, she doesn’t get out much anymore, but the spirit is willing if you’d like a companion to a race. The oral history of the ones who came before is such a treasure. Thanks for paving the road, Judy.

Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.

6:14 – back then, California teenagers were very different from Connecticut teenagers

10:59 – that’s good for women, and I wondered what I could do?

19:13 – I was always happy if there was another racer broken in the same place 

23:25 – no one was there to say, “you didn’t do that right”

30:06 – I remember one guy telling me if I ever beat him, he wouldn’t come back – I don’t know whatever happened to him. 

38:56 – how could you be that dumb on a place like the Peninsula and not know where South is?

Take a look at one of Judy’s “Loser” stories here:

Digitizing Dusty Times has been an ongoing project of the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, we are fortunate to get to access the writing of history.

Special thanks to the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame for their support of this podcast. Legends live at

Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.


Support the show

[00:00:05.400] - Big Rich Klein

Welcome to Conversations with Big Rich. This is an interview style podcast. Those interviewed are all involved in the offroad industry. Being involved, like all of my guests are, is a lifestyle, not just a job. I talk to past, present, and future legends, as well as business owners, employees, media, and land use warriors. Men and women who have found their way into this exciting and addictive lifestyle we call offroad. We discuss their personal history, struggles, successes, and reboots. We dive into what drives them to stay active in offroad. We all hope to shed some light on how to find a path into this world that we live and love and call offroad.


[00:00:45.700] - Big Rich Klein

This episode of Conversations with Big Rich is brought to you by the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. The mission of the Hall of Fame is to educate and inspire present and future generations of the offroad community by celebrating the achievements of those who came before. We invite you to help fulfill the mission of the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. Join, partner, or donate today. Legends live at Ormhoff. Org.


[00:01:14.940] - Big Rich Klein

On today's episode of Conversations with Big Rich, we have Judy Smith, the 2008 Ormhoff Inductee for Journalism.


[00:01:24.980] - Big Rich Klein

Judy has spent many years covering Baja racing and not from just the normal who won, but more importantly, I think, is who didn't. We'll get into all of that and talk to Judy about her days at Dusty Times and other publications and also her time racing cars. Hello, Judy. How are you doing today?


[00:01:50.600] - Judy Smith

And you are?


[00:01:51.780] - Big Rich Klein

My name is Rich Klein. Hi. I do a podcast about the history of offroad by those that live the lifestyle.


[00:02:03.210] - Judy Smith

Really? When?


[00:02:04.380] - Big Rich Klein

I started this just about three years ago.


[00:02:09.020] - Judy Smith



[00:02:09.780] - Big Rich Klein

Really? ORMHOF, the Offroad Motorsports Hall of Fame, has asked me to do all of the inductees.


[00:02:18.020] - Judy Smith

Oh, wow. Who have you done?


[00:02:21.120] - Big Rich Klein

I have done a couple of the new rock crawlers, Lance Clifford from Pirate 4x4, and Brad Lovell. He races short course, desert, one of the BFG Ford racers. And he rock crawled as well. I've done Frank D' Angelo. Oh, really?


[00:02:41.560] - Judy Smith

oh, really?


[00:02:42.520] - Big Rich Klein

Did Bob Bower, which ended up being two episodes. And then I just did Marty Fiolka.


[00:02:51.720] - Judy Smith



[00:02:52.420] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah. Okay. And I did Dean Bulloch.


[00:02:57.440] - Judy Smith

So then where do all these things show up? You do your own interview and you send it out yourself, right?


[00:03:06.340] - Big Rich Klein

correct. It goes out through all of the podcast hosting platforms. Apple has their own. There's one with Spotify and YouTube. And then we have our own website called Big Rich Klein. The interview is called Conversations with Big Rich.


[00:03:31.760] - Judy Smith

I'd like to be able to get to it somehow and hear what it sounds like.


[00:03:37.440] - Big Rich Klein

Oh, absolutely. I can send the link through email.


[00:03:41.630] - Judy Smith

We may have to do some horsing around to figure that out, because I haven't played around with that since I've been here. So I'll get Jennifer here to help and we'll get it figured out


[00:03:52.960] - Big Rich Klein

 yeah, I'll email the links to Jennifer, and then she can figure that out for you and get you to listen.


[00:04:01.470] - Judy Smith

Okay. So what's most on your mind?


[00:04:07.000] - Big Rich Klein

I would like to know about your life and history. So I have some questions for you, and if you'd like, we can get started on that. Okay. All right. You were born in Connecticut and then moved to Southern California, and you were still in high school. Was that a move for your parents chasing work, or what facilitated that?


[00:04:32.620] - Judy Smith

Chasing work. My stepfather worked for Howard Hughes.


[00:04:36.980] - Big Rich Klein

Oh, for Howard Hughes?


[00:04:39.270] - Judy Smith



[00:04:39.900] - Big Rich Klein

What was he doing for Howard? Well, they.


[00:04:42.740] - Judy Smith

Were building... I don't know what they were building, some critter thing that flew or did something down by the beach. That was the original business.


[00:04:58.830] - Big Rich Klein

All righty. And that was while you were in high school. Did you already have a year in high school in Connecticut and then move?


[00:05:07.940] - Judy Smith

I was right, yeah. I came out here in the 11th grade.


[00:05:13.220] - Big Rich Klein

11th grade. And what was that like transitioning from the East Coast to the West Coast in a very important time in your life?


[00:05:23.420] - Judy Smith

It was scary. It wasn't just that the places were so different. Connecticut to Southern California, completely different part of the world. But the people were different, clothes were different. Kids wore different kinds of clothes to school. It took some doing to get reorganized.


[00:05:51.340] - Big Rich Klein

And did you feel that you were successful in?


[00:05:54.580] - Judy Smith

I was successful. I graduated from high school in a higher elevation. I was a good student and I didn't have any trouble doing that. It was just a little bit hard to understand what people were doing.


[00:06:12.780] - Big Rich Klein



[00:06:14.730] - Judy Smith

Yes. I didn't go to the beach all the time in Connecticut. And here we lived so close that I could just walk down to the beach. We had all kinds of differences like that that made things very different. Anyway, there are all kinds of differences in the way teenagers do things, maybe not now, because I think television makes everybody work together now. But back then, California teenagers were very different from Connecticut teenagers.


[00:06:55.120] - Big Rich Klein

I would imagine. And cracking that social barrier between east and west could have been fairly difficult.


[00:07:04.930] - Judy Smith

It was, A little bit, yeah. But I was a good student, so I didn't have that to worry about. I just had to go along with the flow, and it all worked out.


[00:07:17.480] - Big Rich Klein

When you were in high school, what were your aspirations to do afterwards?


[00:07:23.700] - Judy Smith

Go to college.


[00:07:25.970] - Big Rich Klein

Okay. Did you have a specific major that you were looking at?


[00:07:29.720] - Judy Smith



[00:07:30.400] - Big Rich Klein

No? Okay. So no idea of what you wanted to do for a career?


[00:07:36.100] - Judy Smith

No, not really. I always knew I was going to go to college.


[00:07:43.190] - Big Rich Klein

Excellent. When you went to college, what were your courses of study?


[00:07:48.780] - Judy Smith

Art History


[00:07:49.320] - Big Rich Klein

 art History. Okay, excellent. Same thing that I did. My college years were spent in art, but mostly photography, art 


[00:08:00.800] - Judy Smith

Oh, yeah. They didn't have photography at UCLA when I was growing there. I wanted to get into it because we had a friend who was commercial photographer back in Connecticut, and I liked what he did, but I couldn't figure out a way to learn how to do it out here. I probably might have been able to, but I couldn't drive. I hadn't learned to drive, and so I didn't have the freedom that I would have had if I had figured out how to get from one place to another.


[00:08:33.930] - Big Rich Klein

And you said that you grew up near the beach. What community was that?


[00:08:37.840] - Judy Smith

Playa del Ray.


[00:08:39.100] - Big Rich Klein

What activities did you do as a youth, high school, college, besides school? Hanging out at the beach, did you try surfing?


[00:08:53.780] - Judy Smith

Yeah, but it scared the hell out of me. I didn't do well with surfing at all. I thought I was going to drown, and I pretty much gave that one up. I wasn't a good swimmer. The waves picked me up and threw me down, and I said, No, I don't need to do this.


[00:09:15.310] - Big Rich Klein

You knew your limitations?


[00:09:17.870] - Judy Smith

Yeah, as far as the ocean was concerned. I learned to drive out here, and I liked driving, and I drove up in the hills. That's where I learned to drive. Some friends took me up there. That had something to do with some things that came later on.


[00:09:36.380] - Big Rich Klein

When you say up in the hills, was that on paved roads, Or were you driving dirt roads?


[00:09:42.140] - Judy Smith

 yeah, on paved roads, the hills. But there were some dirt roads also. They took me in a Volkswagen.


[00:09:52.440] - Big Rich Klein

Oh, very good.


[00:09:53.880] - Judy Smith

That was when Volkswagons were newly brought into the states. We hadn't had them here very long, and we were all learning how to drive them.


[00:10:04.660] - Big Rich Klein

Excellent. Has that always been a favorite car of yours, the old Volkswagons?


[00:10:10.150] - Judy Smith



[00:10:12.540] - Big Rich Klein

Me too. My first car was a 54 Volkswagen.


[00:10:16.360] - Judy Smith

Mine was something like that.


[00:10:18.620] - Big Rich Klein

That's awesome. After college, you're studying Art History, you graduate, what was the next step?


[00:10:32.680] - Judy Smith

Well, by the time I got into college, I'd been around for a while, and I was already married. So I was being a housewife for quite a while.


[00:10:48.900] - Big Rich Klein

And then at what point did that turn into an.


[00:10:55.720] - Judy Smith

Off road racer?


[00:10:57.830] - Big Rich Klein



[00:10:59.030] - Judy Smith

You remember there was a lady that swam the English channel? Remember that? Way back when. Right. Okay. So I read about this lady who did that and I thought, boy, that's neat. That's good that women are beginning to do things like that. And I wondered what I could do. So I got to horsing around and reading things and looking at things and trying to figure out. And we sort of lived near the desert, and I did kind of like to drive in the desert, but I hadn't learned to do much. But I knew some people who did do it because my first husband used to race bikes. And so I met people like Bud Ekins. You know who he is? Yes. Okay. So Bud was somebody that I knew and knew fairly well. And I asked him if he thought it would be okay for a female to go racing. He said, sure, why not? He took me out and showed me how to drive.


[00:11:59.490] - Big Rich Klein

Excellent. and that was a four wheel vehicle?


[00:12:02.850] - Judy Smith

Yeah, Volkswagen Citroën.


[00:12:05.240] - Big Rich Klein

Okay. And then from Bud showing you how to drive a Volkswagen in a desert type situation, I would imagine driving faster, too, than what you would normally do.


[00:12:17.540] - Judy Smith

We went down the El Mirage dry Lake. Okay.


[00:12:21.060] - Big Rich Klein

And do you remember how fast you were able to get that Volkswagen going?


[00:12:24.400] - Judy Smith

I have no idea. Okay. I didn't look at the speedometer, I was looking at the road.


[00:12:29.800] - Big Rich Klein

That's smart. Very good. And without GPS, it wasn't easy for your copilot to be paying attention to speed either.


[00:12:42.030] - Judy Smith

No, right. It's waving hands around and all that sort of thing.


[00:12:46.720] - Big Rich Klein

When did you first get a chance to go beyond just driving in the desert?


[00:12:54.550] - Judy Smith

Well, I had been watching Dakar the motorcycle race. My first husband raced the bikes, but we had been going to the motorcycle races, and he belonged to the same organization that Bud Ekins belonged to. So I had met Bud and all kinds of racers. I knew a lot of them. So when I heard about something, I don't remember which one it was right now, but I called Bud and asked him if he thought I could drive it and would enjoy it and all that. He said, Sure, why not? So I did.


[00:13:34.400] - Big Rich Klein

And that was.


[00:13:35.740] - Judy Smith

Back in the... I don't remember the year. I don't even remember which race it was. Probably something out there in the desert by El Mirage, but I'm not real sure.


[00:13:51.000] - Big Rich Klein

And how long after you went out and did that did you get into being a journalist? Was there quite a bit of span there? More racing done?


[00:14:02.520] - Judy Smith

Yeah, there was more racing done. I told somebody that I could write the stories. I think it might have been Hoppy W's magazine.


[00:14:13.940] - Big Rich Klein



[00:14:15.220] - Judy Smith

Then Jean Kelvin came out and made the Dusty Times publication. And then I wanted to do the Losers column. So I did that for her, as well as writing all the racing stories. And then I wrote various things for other people off and on.


[00:14:33.120] - Big Rich Klein

About Dusty Times, is that where you started writing the Losers column, or was that with...


[00:14:41.880] - Judy Smith

Jean was a racer, too. So she understood what I was talking about when I told her, said, The losers are the best part of the stories. But normally you don't talk about them in a regular story because it just isn't enough time to do all that. And so I said, I think we ought to have a column on the losers. She thought it was wonderful. I didn't have to convince her. She just knew right away that it would be great. As long as I was willing to write it, she was happy to print it.


[00:15:13.980] - Big Rich Klein

Most definitely. That's excellent. What attracted you to... Besides, I guess I'm answering my own question by asking the question, but besides the story that the Loser has, focusing on... Not the winner, I should say, because even a second place or a non podium top the fourth or fifth place would probably have some good stories on why they weren't number one.


[00:15:47.960] - Judy Smith

In offroad racing, they do. I guess Jean had this offroad magazine publication that she put out every month. I told her I could write stories for it. I did something for Hot VWs. I don't remember how I started that. They called me and asked me if I could write a story. I can't remember exactly what it was. I think I went up to Alaska and got involved in something anyway, and they wanted a story on it. It seemed fun to be writing the story. Then Jean started her magazine and she decided I could write. So she asked me to write the stories about... She didn't want to do them. She just wanted to publish the magazine.


[00:16:49.470] - Big Rich Klein

Right. I understand that one, having a magazine myself. With asking all those questions of those drivers that may not have finished the race or didn't finish on top, is there any one story that just really stood out?


[00:17:10.780] - Judy Smith

No, I don't really think there is. I thought some of them... Well, I can remember Jim Johnson and he had to spend the night out down there, and he was scared to death of it and things like that. But I really don't... I would have to give it some serious thought because I haven't given it any attention for a while. Every now and then, something happens. I hear somebody talk about something, and I remember one racer who said, I never want to do that again. I don't want to spend the night by myself all alone in the desert. Male racer.


[00:17:53.700] - Big Rich Klein



[00:17:59.270] - Judy Smith

Was it was so not pleasant. It helped you to learn about people talking to all these people because I wasn't just talking to people that did well because I wrote the losers column. I was writing to people that had awful things happen. So I thought that was way more interesting than the ones who just got in and started and then finished first. That wasn't near as interesting as the ones that had all these struggles and they spent the night sleeping here and there, and they had to put things back together, and they drove so many miles with only three wheels. I thought those are much more interesting stories.


[00:18:48.130] - Big Rich Klein

I'd agree with that. How about yourself when you were racing? Did you ever have one of those races where you spent the night out there?


[00:19:01.160] - Judy Smith

Yes. I did


[00:19:03.280] - Big Rich Klein

 did that happen in Baja?


[00:19:06.900] - Judy Smith

Yes, it did.


[00:19:08.680] - Big Rich Klein

Did you see a lot of eyes that night? Only one time.


[00:19:13.500] - Judy Smith

Only once? That one time was one that was so close to the end that I knew there were a lot of eyes because we were so close to a town that the people from the town come out to watch the race. I thought that was a little bit scary, and I probably shouldn't say that. But basically, yeah, I was always happy if there was another racer broken in the same place.


[00:19:44.160] - Big Rich Klein

I can understand that. I did a race where we were down in San Felipe area, and it was getting late at night, and we were waiting for cars to come through. And cars would come through and couldn't find their pits, even though we were in an area with 50 or 60 other pits. And so we radioed our team and said, Okay, we're going to light a big bush on fire so that you know where we're at.


[00:20:17.720] - Judy Smith

I've seen them do that in San Felipe.


[00:20:19.780] - Big Rich Klein

And we lit this big bush on fire, and the bush came alive because all the snakes and scorpions and tarantulas and everything else that lived in that bush decided it was getting too warm for them. And then we had all the teams show up wanting gas from us because they couldn't find their own pits.


[00:20:39.970] - Judy Smith

They couldn't find their own. They said, Well, there's one with it that's got a fire, maybe it's ours.


[00:20:45.160] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah, exactly.


[00:20:46.220] - Judy Smith

When did that happen?


[00:20:48.840] - Big Rich Klein

It was probably 2009 or 2010.


[00:20:55.640] - Judy Smith

I might have been there for that one.


[00:20:58.040] - Big Rich Klein

We were working with Pistol Pete Soren.


[00:21:03.050] - Judy Smith

Oh, really? Yeah, I probably was there.


[00:21:06.180] - Big Rich Klein

He broke out and we were waiting on a full stock Ford Raptor. It was the first year the Ford Raptors had run. So it must have been 2009 or 2010.


[00:21:19.200] - Judy Smith

Maybe I went there. I can't remember when the last time was I went, but I can remember that stuff happening. All kinds of weird things like that.


[00:21:32.080] - Big Rich Klein

What was your most favorite class to talk about or report about?


[00:21:39.520] - Judy Smith

To report about? The Baja Races.


[00:21:41.460] - Big Rich Klein

The Baja Races. And any particular car class?


[00:21:46.900] - Judy Smith

Class 1.


[00:21:48.100] - Big Rich Klein

Class 1, okay.


[00:21:50.720] - Judy Smith

But I enjoyed Class 5 and I enjoyed the Volkswagen, the little ones at the back. I waited around for them to get to the finish.


[00:22:04.720] - Big Rich Klein

That's awesome, because they were always the last ones to leave the line.


[00:22:09.720] - Judy Smith

But they had such good stories. All kinds of wonderful things happened to them. So I wanted to get their stories to put them in the magazine. Sometimes a new class would start up, or somebody who hadn't raced before, or somebody who used to race on a class, would switch to another, then I wanted to catch those two. But we had a couple of racers. Once in a while, you get some racer who didn't usually race off road. It was always fun to get them at the finish and see what they thought about it. I tried to talk to everybody, but if there was somebody who was a little different, you got somebody's brother or somebody's father or something like that racing, I wanted to be sure and get them, too. I'm just interested in people. So it just was it was easy to do.


[00:23:19.270] - Big Rich Klein

What's the biggest attraction to you personally about desert racing?


[00:23:25.710] - Judy Smith

I think for me, it was the feeling of being out there on my own. Nobody was there to say, You didn't do that right. You should have put it in a different gear. You didn't turn the car at the right place. I was by myself. If I screwed up, I screwed up, but if I did it right, I did it right.


[00:23:52.840] - Big Rich Klein

It was overcoming doing it on your own, overcoming by yourself?


[00:24:01.440] - Judy Smith

If you were, pardon me, a female growing up when I grew up, you would understand more about that because when you got into a car, you got eight or seven males around telling you all the things you were doing wrong. And that went on. It didn't matter what male was in the car with me, just a regular something. There was always somebody that wanted to tell you you were doing it wrong. Why did you change gears? Why did you do this? Why did you do that? So it was so nice to be in a single seat car, and nobody would know if I did miss a shift. Nobody would know if I did the wrong thing, and I could learn to do the right thing and have a good time.


[00:24:51.810] - Big Rich Klein

Good. Excellent. I can imagine, especially back then, that men were... Well, yeah, I understand exactly what.


[00:24:59.030] - Judy Smith

You're saying. It was one of the reasons I started because women were beginning to do things like the lady that swim, the English channel and all of that. And I thought, we need more women out there showing people that women can do these things. And so it was part of the reason that I got into the offroad. I can't remember exactly why, except that I had, we lived out near the desert and I had a little car that I could ride around in the desert, and I thought maybe that would do. I knew that Bud Ekins, I knew Bud Ekins, and so I knew I could get information from him about how to do it, where to do it, who to go with, and all that thing. I figured it was a good way to start


[00:25:47.120] - Big Rich Klein

Was he a pretty good mentor?


[00:25:51.300] - Judy Smith

Oh, wonderful. Do you know who he was?


[00:25:54.860] - Big Rich Klein

I know of him, yes.


[00:25:57.020] - Judy Smith

I knew him when he was racing just bikes. I hadn't met him back then when he was just racing just the bikes. But then he moved up and got down into Baja'a where he was doing the whole thing. He ran the 1,000 and drove it all by himself in one. I can't remember what year that was.


[00:26:21.120] - Big Rich Klein

Do you consider yourself first a driver or a journalist?


[00:26:25.780] - Judy Smith

A driver


[00:26:26.680] - Big Rich Klein

driver first. Excellent.


[00:26:30.420] - Big Rich Klein

and Then tell the story of the drive afterwards?


[00:26:33.690] - Judy Smith



[00:26:34.420] - Big Rich Klein

Nice. And did you ever write about your own story in the car? Yes. Excellent. I haven't had a chance to go through a lot of the dusty times. I know that when I had Vora, I talked to Jean, I may have even talked to you on the phone about some of our races. I don't remember I remember talking to a lady, and I don't remember if it was you or Jean, about what was happening with Vora. And that was probably 2003 or 4.


[00:27:13.130] - Judy Smith

Yeah, it's probably me. Jean got her husband was sick and stuff was getting difficult for her. So I was doing most of the interviewing, most of that stuff.


[00:27:29.500] - Big Rich Klein

Okay. In your first attempt at Baja, you were in a Volkswagen bug, what I would think was probably class 11, and you had another... Was that your first race or was that your first race in Mexico?


[00:27:47.580] - Judy Smith

First race in Mexico. I drove one race and started at El Mirage Dry Lake, a quick little race. I didn't do very well or anything, but I wanted to see if I really enjoyed doing it. And then Bud said it would be a good way to figure out if I really wanted to do it. And I decided that was fun. It started at El Mirage and went up into the mountains and then came down again. It was a lot of fun. I didn't do well, but I had fun. I enjoyed it. And that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something that not too many women had done because I thought more women needed to do more things like that, anything like that. And I decided yeah, that was a good one.


[00:28:32.100] - Big Rich Klein

Did you get a lot of support from the men around, besides telling you.That you were doing things wrong?


[00:28:36.400] - Judy Smith

 yeah. Most of the men were helpful. Some were really terrible. Some were just awful. I member wouldn't tell him he did. If I ever beat him, he would do this or that or something.


[00:28:50.720] - Big Rich Klein

Was that your goal then to beat him? It would have been mine.


[00:28:53.400] - Judy Smith

Yeah, it was mine.


[00:28:56.820] - Judy Smith

Excellent. Beat as many men as I could.


[00:28:59.290] - Big Rich Klein

Yes, that's the whole idea.


[00:29:01.600] - Judy Smith

I just wanted to show people that women could do the same things that men could do as well.


[00:29:08.590] - Big Rich Klein

And driving a car is one of those.


[00:29:12.080] - Judy Smith

Yes. When I learned to drive, I knew some of these guys, they were bikers then. They had not gotten into off road. So they took me up into the Hollywood Hills, and we drove right up there. And that's how I learned to drive a Volkswagen. I already knew how to drive a five speed and all of that stuff. I knew how to drive in the Hills. So I had a little bit of an edge because I didn't just learn to drive on a plain old street. But they had said I was okay. I did all right. I drove just fine. I thought, Well, then why can't I go and race with him?


[00:30:00.980] - Big Rich Klein

And that was well accepted in your family?


[00:30:06.040] - Judy Smith

Yes, with a lot of people. But I can remember one guy telling me if I ever beat him, he wouldn't come back and race again. I don't know whatever happened to him.


[00:30:18.320] - Big Rich Klein

Because he didn't come back and race again.


[00:30:20.640] - Judy Smith

He maybe didn't. There were guys that were awful about it, really terrible.


[00:30:29.180] - Big Rich Klein

And I hate to say this, but I think there's still guys like that out.


[00:30:33.080] - Judy Smith

Here doing that. Oh, I think so.


[00:30:34.860] - Big Rich Klein

And it's a shame.


[00:30:36.540] - Judy Smith

It is a shame. And I wish there were more women that could do it, but you still have this problem. They grow up with this thing that says that men are in charge of all that stuff, and men are in charge of finances. And what man is going to give a woman all the money to go do that if it means she's going to go out and beat him at something? It's too bad.


[00:31:04.690] - Big Rich Klein

It is too bad.


[00:31:07.960] - Judy Smith

But there were a few women and we had a good time.


[00:31:12.180] - Big Rich Klein

Was there a lot of competition between the women.


[00:31:17.300] - Judy Smith



[00:31:18.580] - Big Rich Klein

Was it more of a sisterhood?


[00:31:22.380] - Judy Smith

I don't think it was either, particularly. I think we were all individually set on doing as well as we could do. I think we were all anxious to beat the men, but there really weren't very many of us, maybe seven or eight or something. Once in a while, I wrote a little story where I tried to catch the ones, but some of them were just doing it as a one time thing that they were never going to do again because their boyfriend or husband or somebody said you want to try to race him. I don't understand it. I couldn't figure out why more didn't.


[00:32:09.980] - Big Rich Klein

Well, you were a ground breaker because there's a lot more women competing nowadays than ever before.


[00:32:16.980] - Judy Smith

Good. There should be. There's no reason that they shouldn't be. They can learn to drive as well as any guy. The only thing they can't do is lift it up and move it over something that something has to be lifted up, that gets a little difficult if you're a 105 pound woman instead of 170 pound man.


[00:32:38.160] - Big Rich Klein



[00:32:39.800] - Judy Smith



[00:32:42.780] - Big Rich Klein

First race that you did in Baja, was that the 500 that you finished?


[00:32:48.850] - Judy Smith

I think it was 1,000.


[00:32:51.290] - Big Rich Klein

1,000, okay. And that was in a Baja bug?


[00:32:56.120] - Judy Smith

Yeah. I drove I drove a two seater with a female riding with me, but we spent the night sleeping in the desert, so we didn't finish that one. But then I think the first one that I got to the finish was the thousand. All by myself.


[00:33:18.230] - Big Rich Klein

That's great. That's pretty cool.


[00:33:21.720] - Judy Smith

It was cool. One of the things that was really neat about it, but I didn't find out until later is there was a team of Mexican men who knew that I was racing. Where the hell they found that out? I don't know. They all lived down around La Paz. This was, I guess, my third race or something like that. Anyway, they thought it was wonderful that a woman was racing, and they were out to cheer me on. When I got down to roughly where they were, which was not very far above the finish, I had a flat tire. All of a sudden, those sons-of-bitches came out of the desert and came out, fixed my tire and put the car together and told me to get on the way. A whole family full of Mexican guys because they were so glad to see a woman coming down and doing it. It was so much fun.


[00:34:15.380] - Big Rich Klein

That's awesome. That's a great story.


[00:34:18.020] - Judy Smith

It was a great story.


[00:34:19.940] - Big Rich Klein

Did you ever get a chance to meet them later?


[00:34:22.760] - Judy Smith

I finished third. I saw some of them later. They were around. I thought it was neat because I finished third in the class, which I thought was class 1, was pretty neat, even with the Mexicans fixing the tire. It was fun. That's great. I always carry the $20 bill in case I had to stop and get somebody to fix something on my car. I had it with me and I could not get those guys to fix the car. I couldn't get them to take the $20 bill, but they had a teenager there and he wasn't paying attention and I stuck it into a pocket.


[00:35:09.260] - Big Rich Klein

That's awesome. That's all right. You paid your Baja toll. That's good.


[00:35:17.260] - Judy Smith

Well, you spend that much money to get into a race. Somebody comes out and spends a long time. What I didn't realize until years later when I met one of them, they had been at some other point along the road and somebody had radioed that they saw me and I had a flat tire. So they left where they were and came down to where they could intercept where I was. So I thought they were just there arbitrarily, but they came on purpose because they knew it was me and they wanted to help me. I always get this feeling when I'm in Mexico that the Mexican or used to that the Mexicans had a different opinion of women than men as far as doing things. But let me tell you, those guys were definitely there to see me do well, and they were there to help me and they told me later on that was why they were there. I never could understand that. I thought it was wonderful.


[00:36:23.350] - Big Rich Klein

Absolutely. That's great. Especially for them to pack up where they're at and to try to intercept you to help you with your tire.


[00:36:31.260] - Judy Smith

Right. So they knew they could get to where I was. And then some of them years later, they were still around. They all lived down at the bottom. So I would meet them. This racing in Baja. I haven't done it in any other places just up here and down there, but it's got to be nicer and friendlier than any place else because the spectators are wonderful.


[00:37:08.900] - Big Rich Klein

I would agree with that completely. That's the allure to me of racing in Baja is the people.


[00:37:16.980] - Judy Smith

They are. The people are just tremendous. Well, they told me that they said, Up in the United States, baseball is the big thing. Everybody loves baseball. They said in Baja, it's off road racing. They said, We don't care about baseball. It's off road racing is our sport down here.


[00:37:38.540] - Big Rich Klein

That's excellent. What advice would you give somebody that was looking to get involved in off road racing or desert racing?


[00:37:56.360] - Judy Smith

Get a lot of money. It doesn't look like a lot of money, but it does take a lot of money. A lot to make the vehicle and a lot to go to all the places where the races are. You don't just go to the racetrack. You're traveling off to different parts of the space, I guess, and down there, too. So you have to go and pre run and then come back and then go back down again. There's a lot of horsing around.


[00:38:34.860] - Big Rich Klein



[00:38:36.880] - Judy Smith

I just think just get in the car and go drive around a lot and see if you really like doing that. See if you like being out in the middle of some place. You've never been before. You're all by yourself.


[00:38:49.280] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah, you need to be able to experience that beforehand because it's going to get you there.


[00:38:56.280] - Judy Smith

Some people can't find their way. My husband never knew which was left, right, in or out or anything. He just couldn't. But I always know where east, west, north, and south are. So I couldn't really get lost in Baja. I could maybe miss a trail, but I still knew if I was going in the right direction and all of that. But some people could be... I met some guys from Ford that were so lost, they couldn't believe they had no idea where they were standing around in the middle of the course going, Duh. But they were on the course, and the course was south, and they didn't know which was south. How could you be that dumb and be on a place like the Peninsula and not know where South is?


[00:39:49.940] - Big Rich Klein

That's because they were men and had helmet on.


[00:39:53.700] - Judy Smith

They were from Ford. But how did they build our cars for crying outloud? I couldn't believe it. They were nice, honest, pleasant gentlemen. If you met them at a bar or someplace like that, you'd say they're nice guys. But they were so lost, I couldn't believe it. And they thought it was amazing that a female... We were pre running. They thought it was just absolutely amazing that a female was down there by herself and knew where she was going. Will you just go down there? How do we know? I said, South down there. You're going South. They were terrible. They were all...


[00:40:40.720] - Big Rich Klein

Hopefully they made it. I haven't heard that anybody...


[00:40:43.150] - Judy Smith

Yes, I never saw them again.


[00:40:44.470] - Big Rich Klein

Never heard that they were still.


[00:40:47.900] - Judy Smith

Out there. They keep building Ford. Right.


[00:40:51.480] - Big Rich Klein

Your last race that you raced was in 2002 in a, I guess it was a 5/1600 Baja bug? Is that correct?


[00:41:05.240] - Judy Smith

Yeah, probably, yes.


[00:41:08.330] - Big Rich Klein

Did you know that was going to be your last race?


[00:41:12.370] - Judy Smith

Probably, yeah. Okay. i was getting pretty old and my husband wasn't able to get down and help things much. Also, the racing was a little bit different. Just not quite as... Different people were doing different things. I still really like it. I still know a lot of the racers. I'm still happy to talk to them. But I was running out of money. As you start retiring and all that, you begin to count the dollars pretty carefully.


[00:41:59.820] - Big Rich Klein

I realized that myself. I turned 65 here in just two weeks. And we've been, this last year and a half, really been concentrating on not spending money on things that I would normally spend money on.


[00:42:18.790] - Judy Smith

Exactly. That's the same thing that I was running into. And you get all kinds of stuff like that that come up that you got to make sure you can do it. I would enjoy being able to go down and go to the races, and I did do that once in a while. But I don't have a car. I can't drive. My eyes are bad, so I can't even drive myself down the sand. Husband died, so I have nobody to say, Let's go to the race.


[00:42:58.260] - Big Rich Klein

Well, maybe after this podcast gets released, somebody will give you a call and say, Hey, let's go down to Baja.


[00:43:06.360] - Judy Smith

No, okay. I took you to Barstow. Oh, yeah, she took me.


[00:43:11.760] - Big Rich Klein

To Barstow. Oh, great. Excellent.


[00:43:13.300] - Judy Smith

We went to Barstow a couple of years ago. She got out there with the checkered flags. Darn near got us rocks in her eyes. We stood so close to the racetrack. Then at the end of the races, they didn't know why this crazy old lady was running up to the car. I'm like, That's Judy Smith. She's famous. She's a racer. Sticking her head in the Baja bug. People are looking at her like, Who the heck are you, lady? We had a front row seat, thanks to MORE racing. Yeah, we did.


[00:43:42.720] - Big Rich Klein

That was awesome. That's awesome.


[00:43:45.280] - Judy Smith

That was fun. But I can't drive. I can't drive on the street or something, so I don't have a car. I can't just hop in the car and go to a race. I'm stuck.


[00:43:59.560] - Big Rich Klein

Well, hopefully somebody will drag you out with them. Even if you don't want to go, hopefully you go.


[00:44:08.860] - Judy Smith

Oh, I would go. Yeah. If somebody showed up and said, Hey, there's a pretty good race at such and such a point, I would go. It's just a matter of figuring out how to get to somebody that has a vehicle and all of that stuff. Then in the meantime, Rich, we put her in Tony Manila's car, and she was one of the entrants in the Hicksbury Day Parade in September. That was fun. We had a lot of cheer. People on the side line recognized her.


[00:44:39.940] - Big Rich Klein

Excellent. I'm glad Tony did that. That's great. That was.


[00:44:44.460] - Judy Smith

Very cool. I liked that. You got.


[00:44:48.390] - Big Rich Klein

Inducted in 2008 into Ormhoff, the offroad motorsports hall of fame. What was your impression? How did you feel when that happened?


[00:45:01.380] - Judy Smith

I was excited and I was very pleased because I knew who some of the others were, and I thought it was nice to be put on the same level as like Bud Ekins and people like that. It was weird because then later on, I worked for them, and I was on the committee that put other people onto the offroad hall of fame thing. I thought it was nice. I'm glad that they... Are they still doing it?


[00:45:39.080] - Big Rich Klein

Yes, absolutely. Every year, they still have the induction ceremonies down in Vegas. And the last year, I think there was seven that got inducted this last time.


[00:45:54.290] - Big Rich Klein



[00:45:55.540] - Judy Smith

They all old people or are they all new people?


[00:45:58.760] - Big Rich Klein

No, they're trying to... I think the hall is trying to make sure that people get recognized while they're still able to enjoy the notoriety and to be able to take that honor personally.


[00:46:19.360] - Judy Smith

Excuse me. I think that makes sense. I enjoyed it. I thought it was wonderful. A nice award, a nice thing, and I'm really pleased. I'm sure they must. I wonder how many people collect trophies and stuff like that. They probably do that, too.


[00:46:42.560] - Big Rich Klein

Right. With Ormhoff, one of the things that is going on right now is everybody is trying to get as much of the history put together as possible to make sure that it's secure and accurate. Every single one of the dusty times at least one issue, and they're being recorded and digitized so that they'll be not just in paper form, but in electronic form forever.


[00:47:15.640] - Judy Smith

That's good. Do they do the losers as well as the regular race reports?


[00:47:22.510] - Big Rich Klein

Absolutely. They do the whole magazine is being digitized so people can go back and read each one of the magazines on their computer.


[00:47:33.400] - Judy Smith

I used to think that we needed the losers because they had a lot to do with who the winners were, actually. I always think that their stories were more interesting than the ones who actually won. Of course, Jean wouldn't let me write anything I wanted to write, so that worked out very well. But that's good because people will remember because there's some really amazing stories about guys that had all kinds of problems when they were racing off road.


[00:48:08.200] - Big Rich Klein

And those are the greatest stories.


[00:48:10.920] - Judy Smith

I thought so. I guess, but it's okay. I like writing about a race and the people that won it and all of that, but I thought the ones that screwed up and didn't get there had the better stories.


[00:48:23.820] - Judy Smith



[00:48:25.910] - Big Rich Klein

It's always about the challenge and overcoming those challenges.


[00:48:30.560] - Judy Smith

I think that's what makes it best. I think part of the reason that I knew about that was because I was racing, and so I knew what stupid things that I would do and how I would get into trouble. I knew these other guys were doing the same kinds of things. They were turning left when they should have turned right. They were all kinds of dumb things, and nobody wrote about that. They always tell them to finish first. I just thought you needed to get to the ones that screwed up. A lot of people enjoyed reading it, I think.


[00:49:05.740] - Big Rich Klein

Absolutely. I agree 100 %.


[00:49:08.540] - Judy Smith

Yeah. It was fun. Writing about them was fun because I got to call them and talk to them and interview them and find out what terrible things happened. That was neat.


[00:49:26.720] - Big Rich Klein

Are you there? Yes, I'm here. I'm here. I just wanted to make sure I didn't step on what you were saying.


[00:49:33.940] - Judy Smith

No, it's okay.


[00:49:35.500] - Big Rich Klein

Is there anything, any story that stands out in your mind from any of the racing or the interviews that you did that really tugs at your heart all the time? Not all the time, but it's one of those things that just keeps flashing back?


[00:49:57.520] - Judy Smith

No, I don't think so. I think different things hit at different points in time. Like if I'm out in the desert and I see something in the desert that looks like something I've seen. It wasn't like you were on a race course and going around and around and around where you would see the same point time after time after time. There were new things coming up all along. And I had a hard time when I was driving because I was saying, Oh, I got to remember this to put it in the story. But you're not writing it down while you're driving. And it's really hard. But there's just so many things that I can't think of any one thing. Once in a while, if I'm talking to somebody, like talking to you, somebody will say something that will make me think of one thing that was funny. But it's only one thing and there was hundreds of them.


[00:51:03.720] - Big Rich Klein

So we just got to find the right triggers for you.


[00:51:06.980] - Judy Smith

It's a little bit like getting somebody's life story. They don't know where to start and where to finish. Right. yeah, it was just so much fun. I just really enjoyed it. I don't think I ever got to the point where I said, Why in the hell am I doing this? A couple of times I said, I wonder why I started this. I can remember going down a big hill, and I didn't like big hills much, and thinking, Well, if I really knew about this, would I have started this thing? But I enjoyed the being by myself and having to figure it out by myself. I thought that part of it was part of the deal.


[00:52:01.000] - Big Rich Klein

I think you're correct. I think that that is a great motivation as well.


[00:52:07.260] - Judy Smith

Yeah, definitely. Then it's probably something we ought to send teenagers out to do if they wouldn't kill themselves trying to learn it.


[00:52:19.860] - Big Rich Klein

We got to get them to quit eating tide pods and doing some of the dumb things that they're doing.


[00:52:25.640] - Judy Smith

Yeah, exactly.


[00:52:31.100] - Big Rich Klein

Well, Judy, I'd like to say thank you very much for spending some time and talking to me. It was wonderful. And I'm going to see about if I can come visit at some point. I would really love a chance to sit and talk in person and just a relaxing talk and see what other stories that...


[00:52:55.750] - Judy Smith

Sure. It'd be wonderful to have a chance to chat some more.


[00:52:59.780] - Big Rich Klein

Excellent. I really appreciate your time. Thank you.


[00:53:03.540] - Judy Smith

You're very welcome.


[00:53:05.220] - Big Rich Klein

Thanks for calling. And have a great day. Okay. Bye bye.


[00:53:08.140] - Judy Smith

Thank you. Thank you.


[00:53:11.020] - Big Rich Klein

All righty. Bye bye. Well, that's another episode of Conversations with Big Rich. I'd like to thank you all for listening. If you could do us a favor and leave us a review on any podcast service that you happen to be listening on, or send us an email or text message or Facebook message, and let me know any ideas that you have, or if there's anybody that you have that you would think would be a great guest, please forward the contact information to me so that we can try to get them on. And always remember, live life to the fullest. Enjoying life is a must. Follow your dreams and live life with all the Gusto you can. Thank you.