I remember the incident and will probably never forget the day I thought I killed my friend on the track. I think I was in the second flag drop, not sure but Bernie was out of the gate and gone, I think I was in 250 Junior class and Bernie had moved up to Senior but was hanging with the experts and had the skills to do so. I believe they let the seniors and experts go out on one gate so Bernie was going to be out hanging with the big dogs because well because that's what Bernie does...
I got a good start and once under way I was heading down a long dusty hill and wanting to stay ahead of the pack behind me…throwing caution to the wind and basically driving blind down the hill I was straining to see what was coming up when I saw a bike in my line, swerved to avoid it and then saw a rider on the ground laying…yes spread eagle in my new line. A couple things went through my mind in an instant but stopping wasn't one of them. I tried to unweight the bike and drive over him although being on a 75-76ish cr250 with 6" of ground clearance at the bottom of a G out hill didn't leave a lot of room for poor Bernie. I didn't fall and figured ok I got over whoever that was and got back on the gas. Unfortunately it felt like I was dragging an anchor and quickly realized I was dragging the downed rider by his jersy on my footpeg. Stopping and unhooking the riders lifeless, helmetless (open face back then) and bare ass I realized it was Bernie and I thought I killed him. The medics came over quickly and I think Bernie did too…He seemed to be in good hands and with little else for me to do I did keep racing and yes did win.
I only found out a few years ago as the story surfaced in a local pub that Bernie's life changed forever that day to which I regretted the incident even more.
As a competitor we all realize the risks, and want to enjoy our hobby get our highs make a few passes and hopefully walk away at the end of the day at worse feeling sore and stiff.
Spending time in Arizona for part winters I thought to myself I'm getting too old for motocross so wondered what was next. I searched the web and found myself a site for some single track desert riding…thinking this will be really cool. Nobody knows your age on the internet so I kept my age then at 51ish at the time to myself thinking a bunch of young guys may not like having a 50+ rider dragging them down. The answers to my questions were if you haven't ridden desert single track you may want to pass on this trip as we are going over the Bradshaw Mountains near Prescott Arizona??? This sounded like a challenge and hell ya I'm in.
As my wife looked over my shoulder while I was typing at the computer I got to thinking maybe I should take a pass on this trip…she reassured me that with all my years riding on various terrains this would be no problem for a seasoned veteran. Ok so I figured I better fess up my age to the group and found out I was the young guy of the bunch. A few guys were in their 60's and a couple in their 70's the remaining in late 50's. Once I met up with the group and got introduced to an ex baja racer, retired pro motocrossers and the rest of the group had some good experience as well.
I really think they got a kick out of watching the young guy taking off, spinning tires, rocks flying and then having to pick cactus out of my ass after helping me out of the prickly pear cactus. A very humbling experience is dropping your pants with complete strangers...
What a ride and what places we went... and oh so slowly, barely getting out of first gear and slipping the clutch everywhere other than the odd fire roads which we rarely saw. Our fearless leader as it turned out dry camped for the winter by himself and his 2 trusty dogs in an old 5 ton cube van moving truck in the middle of the desert. At one lunch or drink stop I found out it took our guide took 2 years to find a trail over the mountain with his dogs and his Rokon…
Stopped on a the side of one of the few fire roads we encountered I pulled up and asked why are we stopped to which he replied and motioned we have to go up this trail on the mountain to which I replied "what trail?" there was no evidence of trail that I could see. Single track on the side of the mountain that goes straight down you soon realize if the back tire jumps out of the groove, it doesn't come back unless you stop and lift the tire back in and if you fall.. fall uphill or a chopper will be coming to get you or whats left of you. I firmly believe that the vegetation is working with the wildlife in the desert…every tree, brush and cactus is trying to drag you off your bike so the animals can have a meal. I never experienced anything like it but they must have got a kick out of making fun of me as they did invite me on another ride which they assured me would be less technical- which it was. I realized I had the wrong tires, wrong gears, no first aid kit and probably the wrong bike. 3 days later I still couldn't open my left hand from riding the clutch all day and learned that you can ride where you can't walk. That experience left me realizing the motocross track is where I am most comfortable.
I've retired from riding twice but now at 59 this is why I still ride, I now have electric start so guess I'll only stop once I hear the Cox's have.
Gordy Martin is a legend to me and to many people that know him. He is a few years older than me and while I never did ride with him much or race him at all, my brothers Pat, Jim, and Bernie sure did. I do remember the first time seeing him ride at Charleston pits. I was tagging along with Jim or Bernie and watching them ride at the pits. At the time, I was pretty small, likely not even riding a motorcycle at all. Jim and Bernie were already quite active in the sport and there were a lot of the regular kids out there watching the action. I am trying to remember the names... Steels, Muzekas, Nattis and others. We are watching the action and I am pretty proud of my big brothers who were always cool enough to have me tag along. And then I hear someone pipe up "Look, its Flash Gordon!" All the kids were so exited and they explained to me how awesome he is. Gord showed up with his shiny and clean bike and matching gear and went out and did his laps and put on a show. We were all dazzled, he truly was Flash Gordon. It is this reaction by the crowd that perhaps spawned the moto rivalry between two Atikokan MX titans of the day. In Bernie's story he fondly refers to Gord as his arch-rival.
Back in those early days, the town hosted a couple motocross races. Gordy mentioned that it was the Lions Club that organized them. I remember a race from back in those years but I was pretty small. Jim was racing the 1974 Yamaha YZ-125 with the straps over the gas tank. This bike was a hand-me-down from Bernie who was likely racing the 1976 Suzuki RM-125. A day or two prior to the race Jim's YZ had a catastrophic failure of some sort so he was out of the running. Jim can certainly elaborate on this but here is how I recall it. Somebody who knew what kind of rider Jim was, heard that he was out of the race so he lent Jim his old clapped out Honda 125 Elsinore. This was an old bike with the down-pipe and silver tank. Jim tied on his bush boots and straddled that old beast for the first time ever and smoked everybody in his class. It wasn't even close. He could have stopped half way through and had a sandwitch and still won that race. Gord was likely also a winner that day, maybe Bernie too, I am not sure. It was Jim who was the big story for me that day.