THE JACKASS ENDURO
compiled by Bill Brokaw
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.
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.
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 "Goose" Cooke remembers the Jackass
In November I came up to work a check on the Jackass Enduro. I still have a poster that I inherited from 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 Adams. I was so impressed that I listen to stories about riding and can not wait to relate that to anyone who will listen. That was my first Jackass.
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.
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