I wonder sometimes about genetics. It’s the stuff in our genes that makes us who we are in many respects – that’s most likely why I’m bald and built like a fireplug. It’s in my genes. And I suspect that it’s partially genetics that influences our personality too – which is maybe what got us into riding in the first place. Last weekend I stumbled upon a local riding class just finishing up their afternoon on the range riding in circles and such. I was watching a father about my age who was taking the class along with his roughly 20 something son. I spoke to them and I learned it was a Father’s Day present from the son to his Dad. How cool is that! I flashed back to my own father teaching me to ride way back when on an old Yamaha 125 dirt bike in the national forests of Utah and Wyoming.
It was an old yellow-gold late 1960s Yamaha 125cc dirt bike. I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. We’d go fishing up along the Henry’s Fork river that runs from Utah into Wyoming, often going with family friends who had scores of dirt bikes and mini-bikes for us kids to ride around the campgrounds and forest service roads. This was one of those bikes. I’d ride behind Dad holding on to our fishing poles, and eventually he taught me to ride with him sitting behind me. After I got the hang of it we even rode 40 miles into the town of Green River, Wyoming for some “supplies” (as I recall most likely a case of beer). Wyoming cops back in the early 1970s were probably a bit more lenient – allowing 12-year old kids to drive dirt bikes down paved roads with their Dad’s on back holding a case of beer. Later on, Dad bought an old ‘62 Yamaha road bike for $25 bucks and we’d ride that.
I would be willing to bet that it was from our father’s that nearly all of us got the “bug” to ride. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, my hunch is that for many of us our first rides were behind Dad or an uncle (but in a few cases Mom), holding on as they roared out of the driveway on a bike. From that moment on, we were hooked. Whether that led to learning to ride ourselves, or just being content with riding behind someone, that first spark most likely came from Dad. I’m proud that I seem to have encouraged at least one niece and nephew who first rode behind me on Angus. Both have now gone on to get licenses.
I never got a chance to ask my Father before he passed away in 2007 where he had learned to ride, or where that spark came for him. I do know that my Grandfather, his Dad, didn’t ride. But over on my Mother’s side of the family, apparently my Great-Grandfather rode.
I was cleaning out some files in the office a while back when I came across an old picture and a note from my maternal Grandmother. She had just turned 95 when she sent it. She had found somewhere in her papers and photos an old photograph of her mother shortly after she had married her father (they would my Great-Grandmother and Grandfather). It probably explains a lot – at least for the riding gene, and I know I've loved riding since riding behind my Dad when I was a kid.
The photo was taken in about 1910 in the town of Farmington, Utah. Grandma didn’t remember the motorcycle at all, so it must have been long gone by the time she was old enough to remember such things. According to my Great Grandmother’s letters, he used it to motor about Davis County Utah reading meters for the utility company. Grandma she said she even thought the bike might have been a Harley, but she doesn't know. I asked her why she thought that it was a Harley, and she told me that when she was younger she remembered her youngest brother Larry coming home on his motorcycle to visit at the old family farm. His motorcycle had stalled in the yard and Great-Grandmother came out onto the front porch at their home in Clifton, Idaho and yelled at him to "Get a Harley!" Apparently from what Grandma says, that was a common thing to say to your friends if their motorcycle broke down and had trouble back in those days.
So I guess even back 110 years ago there were two kinds of riders -- those who rode a Harley and those who wished they did. I imagine this is where I got it from as well. It’s a nice sunny weekend now -- I think I'll head out and ride a bit, and silently thank my Great Grandmother and Grandfather for somehow giving me this desire to hit the road on two wheels nearly 110 years later, and to my Father for teaching me to ride on that old dirt bike along the dusty roads of the Uinta National Forrest. It’s in the genes.