Hi, my name is Rick Diaz and I’m a writer/photographer working in the motorcycle industry. When I first moved to California from Florida in 1979 I had the good fortune to find a job working for a guy named Richard Watson. Richard was an avid rider and a proud member of SoCal MC. Although I was previously involved in motocross, Richard introduced me to desert riding and racing. Through Richard I developed a passion for off-road riding that is still with me today. I raced a few California City and Indian Dunes events back then on an old Yamaha DT-1E that Richard loaned me. I later went on to get more involved and better equipped, but those rides and races I did with Richard on that old Yamaha have remained fondly in my memories. I still have the belt buckle I got for my first SoCal MC race finish. It was Richard that introduced me to places like Indian Dunes, Cal City, Red Mountain, Jawbone and Dove Springs. Oh yeah, and SoCal Hill.
Many years and many circumstances conspired to put distance between me and those early days with Richard and the many riding friends I met through him, but I never forgot him. I don’t know if he’s still active in the club or if he’s even alive, but if you have any way of contacting him and passing along my many thanks, I would be most appreciative. I’ll never forget the kindness he showed me, a punk kid from Florida, and the passion for a sport and lifestyle that he helped become a lifelong pursuit for me. If you knew Richard you knew that what mattered most to him was riding and the people he did it with. From his beat up old (mostly) white Chevy pickup that ran like a top, to his helmet painted in SoCal MC’s blue and white concentric circles, he was never happier than when he was in the desert with a motorcycle and friends. Because of guys like Richard, guys like me have found a lifelong passion in dirt riding. Even now, at 47, I have no desire to hang up my leathers just yet. I’ve been fortunate to be able to emulate Richard by passing on this same passion to my nephew and some of his friends. I hope they will keep the cycle alive. Thank you, Richard.
Rick A. Diaz
Thanks for the nice story Rick!
Ran Hooper Jr.
Nope, havn’t heard from Captain Kangaroo in years. He had an unfortunate accident and quit riding. I wish I could hear from him, too.
Bootlegger (Ran Hooper Sr.)
Here’s my story:
I think this happened at a Barstow to Beatty race in the early 80′s. I was running a pit somewhere near a dry lake, and my dad (pilot, non-racer) decided to come to his first desert race. He flew his little airplane out and landed in the dry lake. After picking him up and quickly setting up the pit, the first SoCal rider came flying in, and threw his bike at my dad, yelling “Keep it runnin!” He jumped off to pee in the bushes. I gassed him up while my dad’s mouth was just hanging open, making sure he kept twisting the throttle. As Art Knapp raced off, my dad finally sputtered, “Who was that old guy?”
– Kelly Mielke
In the mountains near Dove Springs there is a down-hill called “SoCal Hill”… Back in the days, SoCal would use that hill and it attracted a lot of riders to their races. Some of us would kill the engine, put our tires in the right rut, grab the brakes (both of them), and drag the left boot in the left rut. It didn’t matter what you dragged; there was no slowing down. The other interesting thing is they would run us under Hwy 14 through galvanized ducting that was ten feet in diameter. No big deal you say. It was dark inside and we’d run up one side, down and up the other side. Staying in the middle was a joke; you couldn’t even tell where it was. I have an old early-seventies So Cal jacket I received as a trophy from one of their races. Writing this reminds me of the good old days!
– Brad King (Brad was in 4-Aces for a while. Father was president of the Checkers at one point)
In about 1971 I brought an altimeter from work out to the desert (I am a geologist). I was helping to mark a So. Cal. race course which included “The Hill”. I measured the elevation difference between the top and bottom at 1700 feet. No wonder that looking down from the top people and vehicles at the bottom look like ants.
I still remember my first ride down the hill. I had both wheels of my Bultaco locked up and I was pushing a ton of sand with my front wheel. Years later I rode down the hill again and it was by then a rut one motorcycle deep and one handlebar wide.
I am a So Cal life member, and now reside in Sonoma County in Northern California. I was active in So. Cal from 1969-92. Although never a front runner, I earned single digit numbers in the 250 Ex, 250 Vet, and 250 Sr. classes. My sons raced successfully in the Mini, 125, and 250 classes and I continued on in the Magnum class.
I still have some dear old friends in So. Cal. and fond memories of the days when Triumphs, Nortons, Bultacos, Rickmans, CZs, DKWs, and Puchs regularly took the checkered. I’d like the old time So Cal members (Kline, Knapp, Slim, Holmes, Hall, Thompson, Meter, and all the rest) to know that there is a guesthouse cabin in the redwoods waiting for them if they ever pass through coastal Northern California.
I have some great memories of So Cal. At one time in the early 70′s there were 3 So Cal riders who were capable of an overall win on any race day, and they each had their share of wins, Art Knapp, Jack Kneble, and Tom Smith.
I was still learning then, and Art and Tom were always generous with advice and help. It was a simpler time then too. Hi tech was a pair of Curnutt shocks on a Husky, CZ, or Bultaco and an upscale camping rig was a van. Entry fees were $3.25 for a Hare Scrambles/Euro Scrambles and $4.25 for a Hare ‘N Hound.
I used to ask myself “What will this equipment evolve into?”. Back then I used to envision a desert race bike equipped with radar like a bat’s to read the terrain and prepare the suspension for whatever was coming.
– Ray Waldbaum
Hello My name is Charlie Dragna. My Father Tom Dragna and step brother Mike Arbogast used to ride back in the 70′s with Art Knapp, Allan May, Steve Kasinski, Gino and Tracy, from Tracy’s Husqvarna. Does anybody remember us?? I was only between the age of 5 & 10 so I have a hard time remembering everybody. Anybody out there??
– Charles Umberto Dragna
I was a member from 1973-1992, leaving the club because of my move to Washington State. I still race bikes (MX) along with my 17yr old son Devin in our current state of Alabama. I am now 50 yrs old and have no plans of quitting riding. I see some familiar names and faces on your web. Say hello to everyone for me!
– Frank DeMarco