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THE JACKASS ENDURO
Memories by Bill Brokaw
written January 2006
The Jackass Enduro was created in 1955 by Max Bubeck and Frank Chase, the famous Bubeck and Chase enduro team. It ran in conjunction with a road run with both ending at Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley. Their enduro started in Trona, crossing Searles Dry Lake and the Slate Range into Panamint Valley, then over the Panamint Range by way of Goler Wash and on to Furnace Creek Ranch. The two ran this event four years. I will write about my first time to compete in their event. All other memories will be about setting the Jackass as a club member. Riding the Jackass was memorable for me and firmed my enthusiasm for this area of California. I think Max and Frank had other worlds to conquer so handing the event off to a full club was their goal. Max asked me if the Foothill Hawks might want the event as we were not organizing any other enduro at the time. I liked the idea and when presented, the club went for the idea as well. My record keeping back then was lousy and I cannot be sure of the year but the Hawks had it in 1959 and continued through 1970 I have confirmed, maybe longer. My first 35mm slides are from 1960. The memories that will follow are not in any chronological order. Our last event to work was 1964 before moving to Colorado. I did the artwork and layout for the Jackass poster and still have three examples. The come-on printed on the poster is: “Ride the trails of the legendary ‘single blanket Jackass prospectors’. This adventurous event run through the historic and beautiful vastness of the Panamints and Searles Valley, has become an unforgettable classic to those who have ridden past events.”
First a bit of a primer about what enduros were like in those days. Very much different from those of today. We all had English Smith speedometers with no way to reset them except back to zero. All were rear wheel drive which made it all the more challenging. There was little consistency from one to the other as well. An easily read watch was on your wrist or a large pocket watch mounted impressively on the handlebars some way. Speed averages could be changed along the way but all had to be able to be divided into 60. A rider made a chart to tape to his tank with these possibles listed showing mileages at minute intervals. All figuring was from the start point with an odo check 5 miles out. There were never any mileages at turn points like there are today. So maintaining the averages was much more challenging than today with the equipment used. So normally the averages were more easily maintained than today but harder, much harder, to figure with accuracy. I rode enduros for 14 years before I realized what it would take for me to be on time with accuracy. Today, preset computers do the work for you if you can take your eyes off the trail long enough to look.
My introduction to the event came as a last minute decision. Being a Saturday event, a day we normally had the shop open, it did not quickly have my attention to get a mail entry in. At the last minute the Matchless 350cc trials was loaded into the Ford pickup and Annie and I were off to Trona, way out in the desert. Being a post entry I started in the rear. There would be no gas stop to make the 100 plus miles to Furnace Creek Ranch. I have no memory of where checkpoints were located nor any other details until arriving in Goler Wash. This wash was a canyon climbing into the Panamint Mountains from the floor of Panamint Valley. Suddenly I came upon this mass of motorcycles and a rock face bridging the canyon that resisted the rider’s efforts to scale. Then as riders tried and failed they were blocking the way for others. It turned into a giant bottleneck, as such things are called. At the time I was a well developed trials rider and was on my trials bike. This provided what I needed to scale the rocks but I also had to figure out the best line to take and take it when there was not a stalled rider in my way. I forged my way to the front of the mob and made my evaluation. Quicker than I expected the way cleared and I was plonking my way up and over the rocks. The whole process took about 15 minutes as I recall. So I was way behind schedule and faced with miles of an uphill sandwash for the little 7 - 1 compression ratio 350cc to pull. I kept it pinned as much as possible, clearing the pass at the top of Goler and down onto the floor of Death Valley; still behind when I hit the dirt road up the center of the valley. Not long, I got back on schedule and settled down to the 35mph that I believed was the average. I knew all those riders should have been ahead of me on time so I expected them to start going by at 70+ mph, but they didn’t. This puzzled me no end since I just knew they would team up and push their bikes over the rocks to get going. I finished 2nd overall and 1st 250cc-350cc, with the winner, Bud Howsman, certainly clearing the rocks before they started to jam up with bikes. My trials bike was just what I needed that day. The January 1958 issue of Cycle magazine reported the road event but included a picture of Bud holding the jackass skull trophy in his grip and myself touching it with envy. The rock face in Goler Wash would eventually be blasted out to make the road more easily traveled. I always wondered what kind of four-wheel drive vehicles got over those rocks since we were definitely following a road.
Adventures of the promoting club
The big duh
We didn’t have Jart Charts in those days where an expert would look at your numbers and identify stupid mistakes. Fat and dumb, one year we started riders at 8:00, not 8:01. This caused confusion but the riders seemed to adjust after a check point or two. Today it would be a disaster, but then, instrumentation being barely useable, riders were not so up-tight about such things. It sure was an embarrassment though.
We were not very good about figuring out how to identify check locations so those manning the checks would know where to set up the morning of the event. I was setting the mileage and check location as I would do most years. I got the bright idea to take pictures, color slides from the check location. The theory was the checkers would know closely where their check was and the picture could be matched with land features for precise location. That year I was riding ahead of the riders checking markers and check point set-ups. I found out what a dumb idea the slides were as everywhere they were needed it hadn’t worked. When questioned, they would hold up the slide and say it looks the same to me. I could not see what they were seeing but there was no question they were trying to be conscientious. Fortunately there was enough time to straighten it all out.
One year the route was set too far south and got into the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. When they set those boundaries they made sure they touched on as many available roads as possible to mess up as much civilian enjoyment as possible. Prejudice opinion. This was learned at the last minute and we were in big trouble. Annie, Dick Vick, and I loaded motorcycles, typewriter, and mimeograph printer in the truck and headed to Trona and a motel. The next day, the Friday before the Saturday Jackass, we had to reroute the course and establish new mileages and checkpoints. Then that night it all had to be typed onto a stencil, then run off on the mimeograph printer, ready for the next morning. Since the days of the Jackass, both the military and the National Park have further encroached on the routes used. The Jackass can never be relived.
As we only took two bikes for Dick and I, Annie was left in Trona rather than sitting in the pickup in the middle of the desert.
The details of the full reroute are no longer clear. This event was before the years we went into the heights of the Panamint Mountains. With the course having to be shortened for the morning routing, our plan was to lengthen the course by running over into Death Valley. So our chosen route was to use Wingate Wash to the floor of Death Valley, then north to the road that feeds back over the lower Panamints into Goler Wash. So we had to run a reroute that connected to Wingate, get back to the truck in Trona, load up and drive around to the foot of Goler Wash. There we unloaded in what was by then midafternoon. This was November with short days. We had already ridden several hours.
At this time Dick was still a green desert rider and, as I was to learn, riding far too tense. He would later become one of the fast guys on the desert. So we gassed our no-headlight bikes and headed south to pick up Wingate. Then up we went up to crest the Panamints near their south and fairly low end. Still a lot of climbing on a jeep road. Going down into Death Valley, the Wingate Pass road was nothing more than a sand wash. Our shadows reached out well ahead of us and we were going away from the truck. About then Dick pulled up. I rolled up alongside as he, being a newer rider, was setting the pace. “What’s wrong Dick?” “I gotta rest my hands. They’re tired.” “You can’t! We are going to run out of daylight!” “OK.” We took off and before we reached the road at the valley floor Dick pulled up again. “What’s wrong Dick?” “My hands are really hurting!” “I’m sorry but we have to keep moving or we will be in big trouble.” We took off again hitting the valley road which gave some relief. But soon it was back up the two-track jeep road to the top of the range. Dick stopped again and the same scenario was repeated. This time the sun was parked on top of the mountains ahead and we were well aware of the many miles left to go. Dick gritted his teeth and took off. This time there was no more stopping. By the time we were getting into the narrowness of Goler Wash canyon the two tracks of the jeep road were but two faintly lighter lines playing out ahead into the darkness. We gingerly let ourselves down over the infamous rock outcrop of Goler and groped our way out of the canyon. The white pickup came into view on that moonless night when we were no more than 50 feet from it. If we had been 15 minutes later I have no idea how we could have dealt with the canyon.
It was back to Trona and the motel where we assembled the information acquired and redeveloped the route and checkpoint information. This, then Annie had to reproduce on a stencil, mimeographed, and ready for distribution as riders and checkpoint workers were checking in around seven in the morning. I don’t think we ever figured that a bike problem or crash could have completely destroyed this event, such was our confidence. As I recall the event came off without problems.
A new way over the Slate Range
One year we speculated about moving the start location from the south part of Searles Dry Lake, south of Trona, to a spot north of Trona near the airport. Getting over the Slate Range, while staying well away from where the highway goes over the range, was the unknown. Several from the club were there on that planning day. We rode the wash paralleling the highway for a good ways then worked our way on a maybe logical route to the backbone of the range. From there we peered down the very long way to the Panamint Valley floor. Many unknowns lay in that distance and we knew we were looking down a hill that none of us could get back up. With all the confidence of youth we agreed to go for it. After aways down, deeper straight sided washes carved up the relative soft slopes we were descending. It became obvious that we had to drop into one of these to complete the decent. We dropped down a sharp bank to the floor of a wash and headed down. Soon the sides of the wash grew straight and tall pinching in on us. But so far our handlebars were clearing and we kept going, as though there were a choice. Eventually we rode out onto a large alluvial fan and picked an easy route from there. Wow, what a neat ride. We had found our course without having to backtrack. Next was getting across the valley floor and missing the mud sinks waiting to swallow our bikes. Not at first successful, for another rider and me. A dry-looking dip was actually axle deep mud. I have the picture for proof.
Seldom Seen Slim
Ballarat ghost town in Panamint Valley was our favorite finish location and a place to park for a number of our exploratory rides. Not yet dead, the ghost of Ballarat was Seldom Seen Slim, a famous single blanket jackass prospector, recognized as the last of the breed. Slim lived in a trailer, a small one at that, which sat immovable in the center of what was left of the town. Slim’s only water was what people stopping by were good enough to leave him. Therefore he drank it but avoided washing. He was friendly enough, otherwise he would have been out his source of water. Slim would come out to talk as we gathered there. You could say his days of prospecting had dwindled to prospecting for water. Certainly at times water came out of the Panamints but not all year. But we were able to learn how living in the desert and not washing could protect us from the sun. Slim had this strange complexion. A mottling that was very coarse and of a great variety of browns and pinks. Stepping closer, the cause became clear. Dirt would accumulate on his sweaty face until it was so thick that a section would simply drop off, exposing a very healthy pink skin color without the least bit sunburned. There were variations of this color as the dirt would be in various thicknesses depending on how long it had been since a chip had left his face. We always left Slim a good supply of water, for drinking of course. Slim eventually died and it made papers throughout California and maybe Nevada. At least a reported 400 people were present at his funeral.
On a layout ride with several club members, we made our way from Ballarat up Pleasant Canyon to Clair Camp, an old mining operation about half way to the 7,000 foot saddle on top of the range. We pulled up and this old couple came out all smiles to greet us. Don’t think they saw a lot of people in those days and for sure a bunch of motorcyclists were not going to haul off souvenirs. We chatted and they invited us in for coffee and some dessert. As I recall they had built the house, or cabin, whatever, into the side of the canyon to some extent. In any case it was a very unique abode and quite snug. We all gathered around a good size table and enjoyed this most unexpected pleasure. These were genuine folks, living off what they could scrape out of the mountain. We felt in touch with the past for real. Mrs. Clair was a good looking grandmother that you would have wanted to hug. Mr. Clair was just the salt of the earth. We always looked forward to going back and always hoping they would be there. It was a sad day when we received a letter from Mrs. Clair telling that Mr. had gone up to the camp after a snow storm and started shoveling. His heart was not ready for that and he went to meet his maker right there. She, of course, would not be able to continue living at the camp. So it was with sad knowledge that not only had we seen the last of the Clairs, but we could expect the ravaging of the camp, by time, people, or both.
The really big down hill
Continuing on from Clair Camp the jeep road attained the top of the Panamints at a saddle. The group surveyed the view into Death Valley with Bad Water in sight, the lowest point in the 48 states. We walked out to where we could look down the slope toward what we recognized as the Striped Butte road climbing out of the valley toward the summit of Goler Wash. Hmmm! Could it be possible to ride down this thing? It was well over a mile of really steep descent. The broken shale hillside seemed rideable OK. We talked about it then for some reason, with silly persuasion I guess, got two volunteers to drop over the edge. The smallest guy in the club, Louie, and Humphry, the largest guy at about three hundred pounds went for it. We all stood there like bumps as they headed down. They were doing OK as they grew seriously smaller being swallowed by the distance. Soon only occasional flashes off a bit of chrome told of their location. By the time the steepness gave way somewhat toward where we knew the road was they were simply too far to see. Then we stood there realizing that our two friends had ridden off into the unknown and beyond our knowledge or help, if needed. No other choice but to go that way ourselves. It was breathtaking, that first ride down the biggest hill any California rider had descended. At places the shale would push up in front of our tires under full braking, requiring the brake to be released so we could roll over the mound. So braking was no problem but no one was ready to try for more speed than a good walking pace. All went OK and we found the guys waiting at the bottom to see if we would follow. Back to Ballarat we hightailed, spirits high. We had found the mother of all downhills for the Jackass. A 4mph schedule was set for that section of the course, which was slow but we wanted the riders to savor that section rather than be under pressure.
One year we studied maps and decided to explore Happy Canyon, just north of Pleasant Canyon. It was easy to access the top of the canyon from the saddle at the top of Pleasant. We poked around and discovered a burrow trail leading over that way which started dropping into the canyon. With the trials bike I was riding I speculated that I could probably climb back out on that trail if I had to. The burrows seemed to have found a good route. I can’t recall who was along but it wasn’t many. So down we went with this trail never letting us down. Nothing we could not expect the riders to deal with. As we sunk well into the canyon we were greeted by a jeep road. Out of the canyon we rode happy as the canyon name promised. Another year we decided to use Happy again. Steve Hurd and I headed up Pleasant on our Matchless Scramblers to run mileage on the loop, leaving Annie waiting in Ballarat. We had an hour and a half in mind for the loop. We dropped into Happy from the top on that delightful burrow trail, spirits high. What fun! When we picked up the jeep road as anticipated we took off like a couple kids skipping school. Suddenly the jeep road vanished! We pulled up. Looking to our right at a side wash we saw where a flood from a cloudburst had burst out of there, gouged out the floor of the canyon. Boulders were moved like ten pins at a bowling alley. What we had to ride on was a good six feet below what had been a really neat jeep road. We’re not talking dirt, we’re talking rocks of all sizes. The challenge began. The only thing good was we were descending; gravity was on our side. Slowly we picked our way down protecting bike and body. We came to a ledge of rock spanning the canyon with an eight feet or maybe more near vertical drop. No riding down that sucker. Some days you have more good fortune than good sense. I whipped out a tow rope from where a tow rope normally would never be. We dug our heels in and one at a time lowered the bikes as gently as possible, successfully avoiding damage. By the time we cleared the canyon four and a half hours had gone by. Annie did not seem alarmed. She was the perfect desert racer’s wife. Back to plan B for the Jackass.
Broken toe gulch
On the day we were course marking for the route down the big hill, I was wearing a paperboy’s bag over my head with a brass hammer in it. By the time we had reached the top of Goler, and were heading down toward the deep part of the canyon, my bag was empty of stakes and signs. So I was romping on that pretty fast section of jeep road and having my usual good time. I remember being in the right hand track and seeing this big bush that the wheel tracks went right up against. I missed seeing the, at least, barrel sized rock tucked behind it. Suddenly I was going through the air like a pinwheel with the paperboy bag swinging around, even faster, with the momentum of the brass hammer. My foot hurt terrible. I landed in a pile knowing immediately that the very strong and rigid footpeg of my bike had connected with a rock, kicking the back of the bike suddenly to the left, sending me spinning. As so often happens, good luck accompanies bad luck. I always rode with my toes high so that when I hit the rock my foot folded up rather than wrapping around the peg. Probably most important, the strength of those rigid pegs kept me from crushing my foot, as would have probably happened with folding pegs. Someone started my bike for me and we set off down the road again with me in fear of having to put my right foot on the ground, particularly when getting over the big rocks of Goler. The Lord must have helped as my foot stayed off the ground. The boot stayed on until we got back to Trona where we had a motel. I was of little use the next day. After the weekend I was x-rayed to find three toe bones across the top of my foot broken but in place. Cast time again. Well I was not the first victim of that section of road, but rather the third among club members. That stretch had certainly earned the title of “Broken Toe Gulch.”
From the previous mentioned saddle at the top of Pleasant the jeep road heads south along the spine of the Panamints. An interesting and very scenic route. After awhile we would come on a great long and almost flat valley. It would be a valley except it was the very top of the mountain. More surprising, there was an aircraft landing strip graded the long length of it. It was that flat. The road wended its way around the strip and eventually turned right to the west and headed to the edge of the mountain. From there the road simply fell off the sheer mountain in switchbacks and near cliff hanging fashion, descending the thousands of feet to the valley floor. There was no room for error on that ride down. The road had a give or take thousand foot, roughly 60 degree slope of considerable rock ,waiting for any rider who went wide of a turn. You simply would have no chance of not crashing fully to the bottom.
We routed the Jackass down this road after climbing Pleasant Canyon one year. A check point was put in at the top and another at the bottom. I remember it to be about twelve miles on the valley road back to Ballarat and the finish. Could be less. This was the year the event had started near the Trona airport. Pit crews had driven their trucks to the finish for the most part. So the event was ending and a couple guys were hanging around waiting for their buddy to finish. The last riders came in and he wasn’t there. The sweep riders came in and he wasn’t along the route broken down. The check crews came in and we quickly found he had checked in at the top of the mountain but not at the bottom. “Oh shit”, was the most common expletive heard. We all knew that road and quickly feared the worse. The November daylight was nearing an end.
Several of us got on our bikes and headed back to that road as fast as we could, ahead of darkness. Up the road we went, stopping to search the edge at any likely spot, looking for a scuff where a bike had gone over. We feared what we would find. Finally we had to give it up as the big headlight in the sky went out. Defeated, puzzled, and scared, we made our way back to Ballarat in the near darkness. Before we got organized to leave after discussing what tomorrow would be like, a pickup was coming to Ballarat. We were soon to learn the unbelievable. The two guys had no headlights and no pit crew so they had to beat the darkness back to where the start and their truck was. They did not go back up the mountain with us. When they arrived at their truck here was their buddy curled up in the front seat asleep! Seems he got moody about how he was doing in the event, so he just blew by the check at the bottom, plus the finish, riding back to the truck without saying boo to anyone. His two buddies wanted to kill him on the spot. We were so relieved that we couldn’t be mad. It sure gave us an understanding of what it would feel like to lose a rider on one of these runs.
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P.S. I hope these memoirs get into the hands of some who have their own memories of the Jackass. I would love for them to be added here.
JACKASS ENDURO STORY ADDITIONS
From other riders
Compiled by Bill Brokaw, additions welcome
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THE START OF THE JACKASS ENDURO
by Max Bubeck
In the spring of 1955, my friend Dick Hutchins who worked for Rich Budelier (the Harley agent for Los Angeles) called, telling about a road run they were putting on to Death Valley in October. Dick asked me to put on a dirt enduro to end at Furnace Creek Ranch in conjunction with his run.Since 1945, I spent a lot of time with my partner Frank Chase, riding in Death Valley and surrounding areas, hardly any of it was unknown to us.Checking the maps, I laid out a course of about 120 miles starting at Trona by Searles Lake. I spent a lot of time and miles checking the course and covered much of the Panamint Mtns. and Wingate Wash in the southern part of the valley. At that time we could ride anywhere we wanted: sand dunes, washes, dry lakes, etc. and we did.One year after coming out of Butte Valley, I decided to ride through the Devil's Golf Course over to Artist's Drive. It consisted of salt pinnacles about a foot high, almost impossible to ride. In fact, Frank Chase burned up the clutch on his BSA and it wouldn't pull him up any hills, so I had to ride it because I was lighter. Gordon Smiley was along that time, too. We finally made it back to our pick-ups. We varied each route a bit, for each year.There were hundreds of burros, descendants of the prospector's burros they had turned loose. I came across many 30 foot circles 5" or 6"s deep of burro shit. They must have had community shits in those days. They have all been rounded up and sent out of the park because they spooked the Bighorn sheep and fouled their water holes.On one of my scouting trips, I found a burro skull, tied it on the back of my seat, and took it home with me. I had a cabinet shop worker cut out of rough wood a full sized head with ears. I then fastened the skull to this and made a horseshoe plaque of copper and hung it below the mouth. This became the Jackass trophy after which the run was named. Each year the winner's name was etched on the plaque and he got to keep it until the next run. Bud Howseman won it the first time and I can't remember the other three. After 4 years, we turned the enduro over to the Foothill Hawks, when they put it on. mine was from '55, '56, '57, '58, a lot of fun and I rode a lot of the Hawks' Jackass Enduros in later years.Max Bubeck
Rick Gallo remembers the Jackass Enduro
When I first went into the Death Valley area I was as green as they come to cross country races, and to make matters worse, I had just bought a 1958 AJS 650 from Brokaw Motors. The bike used to belong to Steve Hurd. I saw it in the back of Bill’s store and it was love at first crash. Should have bought a smaller bike, but I would spend the next couple years letting it beat me up before I went for something I could better handle.
I caught a ride with Bill Brokaw for my first trip into the area. Several other guys from our club, the Foothill Hawks, also made the trip. It seems to me it was in October. It was still plenty warm, never mind, it was hot. On the way up we stopped at a mom/pop winery in Adelanto. It was quite early in the AM and we got him out of bed, but he seemed glad to see us. As I remember bota bags were standard riding gear for a few members, as I guess it had become a club thing to bring up some wine and beer to a gentleman, who lived in the ghost town of Ballarat, by the name of Seldom Seen Slim.
It was still early and dark when Bill’s truck started down into this huge valley. Damn what a smell. It was Trona and the smell was that of the hundreds of minerals they harvest from Searles dry lake. I have read that all the minerals that are found on our planet are all found in that lake bed. Daylight showed up and the beauty and vastness of the area overwhelmed the senses.
I think we had breakfast and got motel rooms in Trona, and then headed to Ballarat, which was named after an Australian mining town. We unloaded the bikes and headed down a road skirting a lake bed and headed across the lake. I am not sure where the guys were headed but it must have been too tough for me. We did have to finalize the course so I was left to the “safety of the lake.” Well the lake was a blast; it was dry on top and sticky moist below the surface. I could lay the bike over to the pegs and the tail would not slide out, such traction.
I flew across the lake on the AJ, hit mounds at hi speed and got well into The air. I was having way too much fun. Then all of a sudden the bike disappeared from between my legs, I was flying! I was in the air so long I made plans for my landing. I was fresh out of high school and was on the gymnastic tumbling team. So I tucked my head in, extended my arms, hit the lake and rolled forever. I got up unhurt for a change, turned to see my bike still standing in the distance looking like it was on the center stand. When I got to it I found my front wheel buried in the lake past the hub. I had hit a spot that was a little wetter than where I had been riding. The best I could explain, the lake was like taffy.
I could not budge that 400 lb. monster, so I waited for some help. It seemed like forever and I was hoping I had not gone too far off course from where they left me. It is amazing how noisy the silence of the desert is when you try to hear motorcycle engines. Well, they finally found me and brave Bill grabbed my front wheel, told me to get on and gas it, while the other guys pushed and tugged. We finally got her out.
Well, the bike was OK, I was OK, and we finished most of the things we came for...I’ll stop here. I have a couple of more stories I would like to share at another time.
Rick Gallo, Jan 26, 2006
Ray Rieger remembers the Jackass Enduro
Bill has a much better memory than mine. I go back to about 1967 or 68 until the club disbanded. I have great memories of the Jackass Enduro and have several frying pan finisher pins from various years.
During my time the Jackass started at “Alice and Charlie’s” on Trona Road, and later, after Alice died the name was changed to ???? Later the Jackass started at the intersection of Hwy 395 and Trona Road in Red Mountain (the night before was Halloween)
Have memories of motorcycles getting stuck in the mud of Searles Dry Lake. Riding the Slate Range, Ballarat, Christmas Canyon, negotiating with the US Navy to cross “Navy Road”. Daylight savings time confusing everyone, etc. etc. More will come to mind as I think about it. Have lots of old photographs stuck in a box somewhere.
Sitting around the camp fire at night with Steve Hurd, Paul LaBeau, Woody Carruth (LA County Sheriff ?), Stan Udell, Chuck and Carol Alexander (Mike “Downhill” Alexander was an infant the same time my son Bob was) (Bob Rieger, Ken Rieger, and Roger Hurd were to later unite and ride a Kawasaki KX500 in the Baja 500), Lloyd and Carol Cox, Terry Nichols, Allan Schultz, Linda and Norbert Monohan, Nick Pomo (and sons Johnny and Richard), Bob Jones (and his brother ? who was a sign painter and pin striper), Wayne Powell (LA County Sheriff), and many others that may come to mind later. Club meetings on the second floor of a building on Whittier Blvd. in Montebello almost across the street from Steve Hurd’s dad’s business. Steve owned the Kawasaki dealership in Whittier. The last time I saw Steve was at the Kawasaki Headquarters in Irvine where he was working, while my son Bob was signed with Team Green and rode KX125 for Kawasaki until he died in a non-racing motorcycle accident in 1991.
Greeves was predominant in the club. Steve Hurd had just won the #1 Heavyweight plate over Mike Patrick riding 750 Norton P11was just starting to get into Kawasaki riding the “Big Horn”, I owned a 500 Triumph T100SC (bought parts etc. from Eddie Mulder at Triumph of Burbank) and later switched to Bultaco (3 times) and a string of Kawasaki, Yamaha, Honda. Still own and ride a 95 Honda XR600 today. This was back in the day of a mixture of big four stroke Triumphs, Matchless, BSA, Norton, along with Greeves, Bultaco, Husqvarna, Montesa, DKW, later Hodaka, etc. JN Roberts was “King of the Desert”. Mike Patrick raced one of the first Yamaha DT1’s at a Foothill Hawks Hare Scrambles.
Jim Cooke remembers the Jackass Enduro
In November I came up to work a check on the Jackass Enduro. I still have a poster that I inherited from Paul. Note: Paul LeBeau.
The check we worked was in the Rand Range. They rode the ridges to a downhill and we were at the top of the next hill.
It was one of those days in the desert that are brutal, cold wind and no shelter. The down hill was severe, with a step in two places. From our check we could see how tough it was for some guys. This one person struggle down the hill and then up to our check point on a Triumph Twin, with throttle wide open, slammed on the brakes, jammed a stump on to the clutch lever, that was turned up and said. "who the hell put that in there, Steve Hurd?" I think the man’s name was Bill Day. I was so impressed that I listen to stories about riding and can not wait to relate that to anyone who will listen. Note: Bill “Day” = Bill Adams
That was my first Jackass.
Jim (GOOSE) Cooke
Wayne Powell remembers the Jackass Enduro
written to Jim Cooke
Jim, I don't know if you remember but I was the referee for the 1969 Jackass Enduro. With the club’s OK, I contacted the AMA and secured the sanction for the 1969 National Championship 150 mile enduro. We started at Charlie's Wagonwheel and ran out to "9 mile wash” over through Trona, up to Ballarat and back to Charlie’s. We had 600 riders and had to cut off entries. We started at crack of dawn had no major incidents and had them all back in just before dark. I have no pictures or other information but you and Steve Hurd helped lay out the course and may remember something.
Bob Johnston remembers the Jackass Enduro
How well I remember the Jackass Enduro!
I was working at China Lake Naval Station when I traded my 350 DKW street bike to you (Bill Brokaw) for a Matchless 650 Hurricane twin and rode the Jackass in 1960, my first event. I rode with Bill Frazine on his 350 AJS Trials bike. The first loop was fun until when coming down a dirt road, I looked back to see if Bill was with me and hit a big pot hole! Up in the air I went, landing on my balls on the way down, and still remember the pain! It lasted for a couple of hours. Did fine until the big down hill where I must have dropped that big twin a dozen times. Never forget looking down that hill and hearing Roger Myrick say, "That English guy went down on his BSA with the engine running!” That is the first I saw Myrick who I now correspond with over the internet. I also remember struggling that big bike through the sand and over the rocks in Golar Wash. I think that was the name. If I remember right, I was 26 minutes late and Bill was over an hour. It was Bill's only competition ride. At least I got my finisher pin. Joined the Foothill Hawks the next year, so I couldn't ride the Jackass again until 1971 when I was no longer in the Foothill Hawks. Only got a finisher pin, but the two pins are stuck to a board of finisher pins that is nailed to my living room wall. I think that was the last year of the frying pan pins.
Many years later, probably around 1970, I took two friends down the big hill. I was on my 250 Can Am, I don't remember what he was riding, but she was on a 175 Cam Am, and coming down on those bikes was so easy. Even a girl did it with ease. Since the hill was closed to bikes in 1962, I suspect that we were the only ones who have ever done it since.
Roger Myrick remembers the Jackass Enduro
One of my most vivid recollections of the Jackass Enduro was the year we first used the long downhill into Striped Butte Valley. Jimmy Dysert and I were on the side hack and we were marking the course. The chair was full of lime bags, sticks, signs, a hammer, staple gun, and packed carefully in a box with the lime bags was a gallon of Zinfindel from the Adelanto Winery. Jimmy had somehow found room for himself in this mess and was still able to perform his antics as the passenger. We pointed the rig down the hill and picked our way through the shale and rocks. I know we both felt a rush as we were being closely watched by the lowly solo riders back at the top. About halfway down we got moving rather swiftly, might have been putting on a show so to speak, suddenly the front wheel was forced to the left and sank up to the axle in the shale. We were both catapulted straight out into space. I remember looking to see where Jimmy was and he was right beside me, in a sitting position no less! He was poised in space with all the junk in the hack in space around him. Low and behold, tightly hooked in his trigger finger was the gallon of zinfandel!! I could actually see the sun shinning through the rose colored contents. In time, we finally landed, no injuries except for our false pride being smashed. Jimmy uncorked the jug and took a long pull on it and handed it to me. All was well.
Do any of you remember the lime bagging parties??!! Another time.
David Buchman remembers the Jackass Enduro
Would you like my vague memories of the (only) time I rode that event; it was back in November of 1969 at age 22. I'm 59 now. Fond memories, that day is a highlight of a Sunday to this day. It was the year "they" started from Charlie's Place.
Ironically, the first MC I ever saw was at age 3 at family's new home in Echo Park. It was Max's street Indian; he lived a block away and used to visit parents, but he doesn't remember. I remember Max's Indian leaving a dent from the kickstand in the asphalt drive.
I could add some stuff, like how dumb I was, but having fun, in that I used a well-used Bultaco 250 Pursang for the Jackass. Geared it down one countershaft tooth and went for it. What did I know as a poor college kid? One guy on our team, Jim, from the Shamrocks, crashed hard 'cause he thought the area looking like the Devil's Golf Course was soft...near the Pinnacles. I remember a huge hill a few miles after the start, soft, with bikes everywhere, and so much dust that it was dark. I remember thinking, as I pushed the running 'taco up that hill, that this would be the end of it; the bike would seize from the heat. My Bultaco was a cheap used and worn out example; all I could afford. It had been raced hard before I bought it.
I also remember a sign: "How'd you like those Slates" and I remember going up the Panamint Valley, in a beautiful wash, and then my expansion chamber fell off. I spent the rest of the time running along holding the chamber in place with my thighs until the lunch break when I was given some wire and clippers to hold the thing together. I also remember how many bikes were on the course, in the last 1/3 of the run, with riders sleeping next to them. I didn't understand that, how could those guys get back? It was neat to see big Triumphs running; got tangled up in one sled's control cables with my bars at the Pinnacles coming in and got away with that, rider and I both laughed. We didn't crash.
Oh yeah, what an adventure. I finished, was not keeping time, was like about 300 out of 320 finishers, kicked myself for not at least trying, but then found that about 1200 had entered, so didn't feel all that bad. Lost about five pounds, went to school the next day in L.A. Hadn't ridden for two months before that event. Oh to be young again!!! Young and dumb....
From today's perspective, wish I had a map of the run from that year. I also remember Charlie Manson et. al. were caught about a month later living in the Panamint Valley!!! Creepy thought; I heard from a teacher friend who taught in Trona that the "Manson Gang" used to shoot at Navy planes!
The only upset of the day was: My little '65 Ranchero was parked near the pit road. My friend's wife stayed there all day with the windows DOWN. It took a big Saturday to get all the dust, or as much dust as I could, out of that pickup. I coulda' died over that one.
Dwight Brown remembers the Jackass
Hi There Bill and Annie it's been a long time since we have been in contact hasn't it. Recently I got reacquainted with Roger and was he ever surprised to hear from me after pretty close to 30 years. Anyway I really liked your writing of memories as it was rather invigorating. I so well remember the weekends that we layed out the course and one weekend I believe was the second year that the Hawks controlled the event and Bob Ward brought Dan Gurney up to help layout the run. Dan always had to be out in front just as he did when he was auto racing. It was fun. I believe I ran the last run when Max and Frank controlled the Enduro. If my memory serves me correct I finished the event but on a front flat tire going into Furnace Creek. There are more thoughts however I'll have to think harder about it.
Take Care and Nice communicating with you
Unfortunately Dwight died less than a week after he wrote this. Reconnecting with old friends was a big event according to his wife. It was good there was a special happening during his last week. God speed Dwight.
Howard Wicks remembers Jackass Enduro
My first experience with the Jackass was before I became a member of the Foothill Hawks. I went with Woody Caruth and Roger Myrick to scout a new trail thru the Panamint mountains. Prior to that the course had gone over the top and down a big downhill into Death Valley but this was no longer legal. We tent camped near the Trona airport after eating and drinking in Trona. In the morning we hauled the bikes to Ballarat and rode up Pleasant Canyon to Clair Camp an old mining camp which I have even found on 1917 topo maps. Old Mrs. and Mr. Clair met us and invited us in and even offered to feed us. Mrs. Clair asked if it was my first time there and I told her it was so she said I should see her pet rattle snake to which I reluctantly agreed. She walked over to an old dusty piano and pulled a wooden box from the top which had screen wire on top with straw inside. I wanted no part of it but she continued to urge me to come closer so I could see better. Then she and everyone else had a big laugh because she had found another sucker. Then their daughter showed up and I couldn’t take my eyes off of such a pretty girl in such a remote place. When we asked Mr. Claire if he knew of any trails to the north he said there may be a trail down the next canyon which was Happy canyon because Indians used to use that route to bring him fruit and he would show us the way.
We followed him up a steep rough road to one of his digs at the upper rim of Happy Canyon. He was taking a cat and compressor back to camp for the winter and the road was so steep he had to hook it to the front of the cat so it wouldn’t fall over. We sat on the road and Roger shared a can of stinky kippers while we contemplated a sheer drop-off with trees and boulders far below. Woody remembered a saddle back down the road which looked better than this sure death drop. When we found it there was a trail of borrow droppings going toward Happy Can. so off we went. The trail cut across a loose slide area and I was at the rear. It was hardly wide enough to walk much less ride so I tried using what little trials riding skills I had learned from Bill Brokaw and it worked for a while until a rock rolled down and kicked my front wheel off the trail. When I finally stopped rolling in a cloud dust and dirt I heard Roger calling to see if I was OK and did I need help. The answer was yes. I loved my 500 single AJS but dragging it back up to the trail about killed Roger and me especially in that loose gravel and dirt. Woody suspiciously couldn’t help because it would mess up the mileage he was tracking for the course. Pretty good excuse if you ask me. In the rest of the upper canyon the only way to find our way thru trees, brush, and boulders was to follow the burrow droppings. It was so bad it took three hours to go three miles. The rest of the canyon went better especially when we met some miners who shared cold beers with us.
The day of the enduro I helped run a check point up past Clair camp so I couldn’t resist riding follow-up down Happy Canyon. I swear there were boulders moved on that trail and I never saw so many bike parts and paint on any other enduro. One rider later asked “ Who the hell laid out that course? I never saw so many rocks in my life.” Of course I couldn’t admit being a part of it. When people complain like that you know it was a good enduro. The next year a flash flood washed out Happy Canyon so we were never able to use it again.