Mid-Ohio Vintage Days

Visiting with the Greats and a Challenge of Sorts

Oct. 15, 2007 By Rick Sieman

Well, I went and did it.  Ken Smith (the mustachioed editor of VMX Magazine) told me that I had to go to the Mid-Ohio for the big vintage bike days celebration.  He’d gone last year and told me that in three long days, he had only seen a fraction of the stuff that was there.
I figured that he’d spent most of his time drinking American beer (and complaining about it!) and not enough time checking out the area.  I mean, just how big could it be?

The greats lined up for a parade lap.

Sir, I stand corrected. When I got my first glimpse of the Mid-Ohio facility, cresting over a road, I muttered something like, “Jeezus on a pogo stick!  That place is huge!”  My old buddy Tom who was at the wheel, just had his jaw drop all the way to the floor.

Former riding greats were everywhere.  From left to right - Donnie Hansen, John DeSoto, Jammin' Jimmy Weinert and Mike Runyard.

We got our passes and checked in, trying to figure out where to go in the sea of humanity.  The motocross track seemed to be a good place as any, and there we ran into many of the great riders of the sport, including Brad Lackey, Jimmy Weinert, John DeSoto, Gary Jones, Ricky Johnson, Marty Tripes, Donnie Hansen, Marty Smith, Gary Semics, Mike Runyard, Dave Aldana, Tommy Croft and many others.

World famous Old Buddy Tom and somebody named Malcolm Smith.

Man, the stories flowed!  Weinert started talking 60 miles an hour and some of the tall tales were actually true.  John DeSoto would butt in and correct him and Jimmy would get a hurt look on his face and tell John that he had Alzheimers.  All of us would stand around and howl at the interchange.

Bad Brad Lackey before the start of the Legends race.

We walked around the enormous place and checked out the bikes.  It was like stepping back into time.  Everywhere you looked there were Huskies, CZs, Maicos, YZs, Elsinores and even Harley Bajas.  If this wasn’t enough, there were big British twins and honorable old singles.  And then there were the bikes that maybe you read about, but never saw before:  Sears Allstates, Gileras, Cottons, Francis-Barnetts, Esos, Harley MXers, CCMs, American Eagles, Jawas, Guzzis, Birds, Steens, Panthers, Villiers, Rokons, Coopers, Mojaves and even a Simplex or two … one of them running.

Jeff Smith, well into his 70s, rode a BSA in the legends race.

Adding to the almost endless variety of dirt bikes, was the feel of the whole event.  People were laid back and easy going.  If you stopped and talked with someone about their Jawa 90, they’d tell you how they got it, how they restored it and the pros and cons of owning one.  Folks just loved to share their enthusiasm.  It was the way it was decades ago.  Riders worked on their own bikes, traded tips and took a certain pride in knowing what they were doing.
Those were the days when you made modifications to your bike with your own hands, not because it was cool, but because you had to.  You wanted it to work right, so you got your hands dirty.

Dave Aldana showed up in his famous skeleton riding outfit.

Today, a rider goes to a shop and gets the forks worked on, or a $700 pipe installed, or a $1000 hop-up on the motor.  He doesn’t know how to change his tire, can’t shorten his chain and can’t tell his main jet from his pilot jet.  I just wanna ride, like the obnoxious commercial goes, with the whiny little kid.
With all the people there, you’d think there be some friction and incidents.  Not so.  Unlike the X-games, there was no need.  A friendly atmosphere was the norm for the entire weekend. 
It’s fantastic to see such high interest in old dirt bikes again. I guess for most, it's like capturing a piece of time that will never be repeated. An easier time when things were new and fresh. When riding gear was an open face Bell, a t-shirt, a pair of Levis and linesman boots. When you got to your riding place in an over-heated Ford Econoline. Like a dream short lived, buried in the back of your brain, waiting to be played out again.
You can close your eyes and be back in time for a while.  Listening for familiar sounds, like the primary chain whine on a Bultaco, the CZs straight cut gears, and the crackle of an old Husky with an open chamber.  They all made a different sound that we could easily identify, and still can 30 years down the road.
For most, the years between 1965 and 1980 will be remembered as the best years for being a dirt biker, when the land was open and there were plenty of places to ride.  When every rider had some new trick item to try out, in an effort to make his bike better. That was the very same feeling we experienced; a loose family of dirt riders. All brought together with the dream still intact, and ready to ride.

Weinert took an innovative line during his race.  When asked about it, Jimmy said it was expected of him.

Later that afternoon, the AHRMA folks had a special tribute to Tony DiStefano, and all of the Legends of Motocross were seated at a long table.

There were:  Tony DiStefano, Brad Lackey, Rick Johnson, Gary Jones, Billy Liles, Andy Stacy, Gary Semics, Mickey Kessler, Marty Smith, Tommy Croft, Ron Lechien,  Marty Tripes, Jeff Smith, John DeSoto, Jimmy Weinert, Donnie Hansen, Mike Runyard, Steve Wise and Ron Pomeroy.
And me.

Tony D was honored for his many years in the sport.

Tony D was the man of the hour, as AHRMA threw a roast for him.  Larry Myers was the announcer and went from legend to legend, getting embarrassing  stories, half-truths and outright lies tossed at Tony, who took it all in stride.  When Larry came to me, I asked Tony who was the single dirtiest, nastiest, filthiest rider he had ever raced against.  Without a moments hesitation, he turned and gave a big hug to Jammin’ Jimmy Weinert.  The place broke out into a huge roar and both guys got a standing O.

Jimmy Weinert had the crowd in stitches on the night that honored Tony D.

I felt funny being up there with all these former champion riders and turned to my old buddy Tom and said, “Do you realize that I’m the slowest guy up here?”

At that point, Larry Myers introduced Mike Runyard’s dad to the crowd.  Mike’s Dad had been a motocross referee for many years and was highly respected.  Even more impressive was the fact that he was 102 years old!
He got a fantastic reception and gave a short speech to the crowd.
Right after that, Larry stuck to microphone in my face and I blurted out, “I bet I can beat that guy!  Give me a few years training and I’ll smoke him.”
The way I figured it was Mike’s dad would be a 104 or so when I was ready, and in spite of him having all those years of experience on me, I stood a good chance.
So far, I haven’t heard back from him.  But the challenge is out there.  Jeez, there must be somebody I can beat from Mid-Ohio.

Ricky Johnson was the fastest during this weekend.

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