Pioneer woman, Mary McGee, on Episode 199


Mary McGee is a legend in off-road racing; solo’d the Baja 500 on a bike as the first person to do so; a woman who never learned to quit and always said yes to everything offered. She thinks she’s the luckiest woman ever, her history is a great story. Mary was inducted in the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2023. Mary is why we say; legends live at Be sure to tune in on your favorite podcast app.


3:31 – My 9-year-old brother and myself (age 5), by ourselves went on the steamship from Juneau to Seattle
19:29 – Vashak said to Dan, Mary, she should road race the motorcycles, make even smoother than the car.
24:45 – Women couldn’t have credit cards in their name, they couldn’t have anything in their own name.
29:41 – “Are you motorcycle people?” yes, “You have to leave”
34:24 – my friend, Steve McQueen, said, “Mary, you have got to get off that pansy road racing bike and come out to the desert.” Will I have to get dirty?
55:48 – We only made it to El Arco and it was freezing; I went around and around that fire and got myself nice and hot and went right over to those two guys sleeping on cardboard and slithered right in between them
1:10:34 – Once you start something, you should see it through to the end, however it goes.
Special thanks to for support and sponsorship of this podcast.

[00:01:15.450] – Big Rich Klein
My guest this week is the epitome of the word pioneer. From racing sports cars with the SCCA and being the first woman to compete in motorcycle, road racing, and motocross, then started desert racing and being the only woman to solo and finish the Baja 500.

[00:01:36.060] – Big Rich Klein
And then to finish the Baja 1,000 as well. We’re going to get into all that and more with my guest, Mary McGee. Mary Thank you so much for being willing to share your life story with us.

[00:01:51.110] – Mary McGee
Well, I appreciate you’re asking me. Thank you. It’s quite exciting.

[00:01:56.090] – Big Rich Klein
Absolutely. And I know there’s a lot of people out there that are that are waiting for this interview, so let’s get right to it. And where were you born and raised?

[00:02:08.360] – Mary McGee
I was born in Juneau, Alaska.

[00:02:12.360] – Big Rich Klein
Well, that’s a little bit different.

[00:02:14.590] – Mary McGee
It is a little bit different. And I got to live there with my… I lived there with my mother. My parents got divorced shortly after I was born, and I did meet my father when I was 50 and I got to thank my mother. I know that’s a little weird, but that’s the way it went.

[00:02:37.970] – Big Rich Klein
I can understand that. I have some friends that would probably say the same thing. That’s the way life is.

[00:02:47.480] – Mary McGee
I have a nine-year-old brother, and we lived in Juneau with my mother. Then the Navy came along. It seems that the Japanese were up in the Aletiun Islands. The Navy came along and said, Women and children should get out of these coastal cities because the Japanese are right up there. My mother heard this, and she said, Oh, good.

[00:03:16.680] – Big Rich Klein
She wanted out.

[00:03:19.530] – Mary McGee
Oh, because my father, who had been friends with the judge, Drinking Buddies, had him put in the decree that she couldn’t take us out of Alaska.

[00:03:30.010] – Big Rich Klein
Oh, wow.

[00:03:31.750] – Mary McGee
She got this notice, and she ran to her lawyer who ran to the judge, everybody running around, went and got two tickets on the steamship, first steamship out of Juneau. Of course, they all go to Seattle. My nine-year-old brother and myself, by ourselves, went to Seattle. Now, my mother had two friends on that ship We sat at their table and we ate when they ate. So we definitely got the food. Excellent. Yes. But that’s actually how we got right out of Juneau. Friends met us in Seattle, took us to their house for a night or two, then took us, put us on the train to Iowa. My brother was nine, I was five. We’re on the train by ourselves. Every time a conductor changed, they changed conductors. One conductor would say to the other, There’s two kids. Watch them. I heard them say that.

[00:04:51.970] – Big Rich Klein
Well, that’s better than it seems like they do nowadays.

[00:04:55.580] – Mary McGee
Oh, it wouldn’t happen now. Right. Remember, the second-world war was on, so the blackout curtains were up. But anyway, the train went to… We went all the way to Harpers Ferry, Iowa. It’s on the Mississippi River. We got there. There were no people on… It’s just a little platform and a mailbag for the train, right? This is a long time ago. I remember the conductor, he’s pulling up his stool and he’s saying, Are you sure somebody’s meeting you here? Finally, the headlights came on in the parking lot. My grandfather and my aunt had been there for hours waiting for us because the farm was still 20, 30 miles away. Then we lived on the farm with my grandparents for a while, a year, actually, before my mother could get to the States. Before the Navy She wouldn’t let her leave because she was medical personnel. She was a nurse. I’m sorry, I forgot to say that. She had to stay until they would let her go. They were convinced that they had control of whatever the Japanese thought they had control of up in the Allusions. Then my mother finally got there a year later, and my mother and my aunt and my grandmother My mother decided…


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