1980 Motorcycle Club Grand Canyon Or Bust: 2300 Miles On Two Wheels

by Mike Walker

June 1980, Extracted from MGW newspaper

(printed here with permission)


This years Memorial Day Holiday was the occasion for the Valley Knights Motorcycle Club’s first long ride. Thirteen members and friends logged just over 2300 miles on nine motorcycles and a pickup truck as they took a weeklong campout trip to the Grand Canyon. Focal point of the ride was a three day campout hosted by the Phoenix based “Sons Of Apollo” motorcycle club. For a $35.00 advanced registration fee, the host club organized the food, beverages and campsites for the approximate 130 who attended from 8 states. In order that they might arrive at the campsite by Saturday noon, the Sacramento bikers set a Thursday afternoon departure with overnight stops in Fresno (at two former Valley Knight’s members home) and in Bullhead City, Arizona, where reservations had been made at a K.O.A. campground.

Although a number of area motorcyclists did not go on the trip (anticipating hot desert riding) it became immediately evident that it can also be very cold! A rest stop in Bakersfield allowed the more frozen riders to purchase warmer coats, gloves, and long johns. Since a number of the bikers were not accustomed to long, cold riding, they urged Steve (the Club President and ride leader) to stop often to warm up with hot coffee and to have the all important smoke break. At one such stop, high above the desert floor, in Flagstaff, Ariz. Someone bought a can of gold spray paint and neatly lettered the side of the pickup truck identifying it as the” Valley Knight’s Beer Truck” from” Sacramento, Calif.” After a lengthy discussion of the spelling of the word Knight’s, the ride continued into the run site at Camp Verde, Arizona. They arrived just in time to register and take part in the Saturday bike events and non-bike or people events. Mike Walker brought back first place bike event trophy.

In addition to competition events, Saturday’s activities included cocktails, roast beef dinner, and a semi-drag show. Sunday morning found the groggy eyed campers wiping a heavy coat of frost from the vehicles before they had a huge hot breakfast and a 200-mile ride into the world famous Grand Canyon. Sixty-six motorcycles and 24 4 wheel vehicles made the grand tour of the canyon and returned to camp in time for the 7 P.M. dinner followed by a awards ceremony for bike and people events. After the awards, most of the men on the run gathered around a huge bonfire at the rivers edge to talk and exchange friendships and enjoy the camaraderie.

On Monday morning it was eye openers at 8 a.m. followed by another sumptuous breakfast. To give some idea of the logistics for such a campout: the Sons Of ApolloM/C provided (among other things) 200 cases of beer, 70 cases of mix, 60 quarts of booze, 1500 lbs. of ice, 48 dozen eggs, etc.

Procedures for breaking camp began and (due to work schedules) several started their engines for their direct route back to Sacramento. The others arranged an overnight stay at Sons of Apollo member’s home (Phil and Brig) in Phoenix. The caravan from the campsite into the Desert City had great communications since Phil and Brig had a CB in their 4-wheel drive pickup and Steve, Gene and Lee all had C.B.’s on their bikes. A tall Texan with a noisy Suzuki 2 stroke and a strong Louisiana accent joined the ride at this time. He was on vacation to Phoenix and wanted to see California too. He got to know several Sacramentans quite well before he even got to California.

Departure Tuesday from Phoenix was slowed by hangovers and the need for a carburetor for the pickup truck. Dale Diggs and Rafael Benitez had been splitting gas expenses on the truck and had been complaining about the 10 miles per gallon mileage. As they left Phoenix, both said they were getting high from the gas fumes. A quick check located a major gas leak and the part was replaced while the group drank marguerites at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Then, it was Los Angeles or bust!

Indio, California was having a mild windstorm and the pollen count must have been quite high. Several hay-fever prone bikers found that repeated sneezing inside a visored helmet can be both deafening and dangerous since it fogs the visor.

Los Angeles freeways at midnight were amazingly congested. The truck got lost and then one bike ran out of gas. The spare gas was in the truck. Hank, who was the groups Los Angeles phone contact (as well as crash pad) located the truck and drove out to lead it to the disabled motorcycle, then it was off to his place for some much-needed rest. Those who had the energy tried the Hollywood bars, so the Wednesday morning departure from L.A. did not happen until afternoon when the overnight local visitors had been returned to their homes. Although the 101 route led the group through San Luis Obispo, site of an earthquake that day, the ride weary bikers were much too numb to feel anything as minor as a quake.

They spent Wednesday night in a Palo Alto bar and the nearby baths. The fairly short ride Thursday, from Palo Alto to Sacramento allowed the participants to relax in the afternoon, shake the Arizona sand out, and relive some of the fun and interesting happenings along the 2300 miles of two wheel vacationing. The experience was important to each individual motorcyclist in a slightly different way. Rafael (who tends to be a romantic) said the awe-inspiring views of the canyon renewed his faith in mankind. Dale has fond memories of a nude moonlit midnight swim in the Verde River with a pure white husky dog. Randy laughs and says that he wants to forget the difficulty of getting tent stakes to hold in sand and, of course, the very untimely collapse of his tent. Mike is planning on proudly taking his trophy to all the area bars and Steve is already looking into the possibility of next years tour ride (going perhaps to Vancouver). Several of the others felt that it was great to meet friends from other areas and exchange ideas.

While each enjoyed different things on this 2300-mile odyssey, they enjoyed them together and that is perhaps the most important part.

The riding schedule has been planned by the Valley Knights Motorcycle club Road Captain, Lou and he points out that non-members (even non-bikers) are welcome.

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Member Gerard recently preserved the first 30 years of Valley Knights club history on DVD and presented it to Lavender Library archive section.