Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I'm grateful to Bill Greene for allowing me to publish these amazing family photos. Bill's father and friends seemed to have a pretty grand time riding around desert and dunes in California during the 1960s and 70s, competing in races, spectating at races, or just having fun with the family in the outback. I think these b/w photos were taken with a Kodak Instamatic camera, given their square format; zero megapixels!

The location is Kelso Dunes, in December 1963, and the slanting midwinter light makes for particularly dramatic shots. Kelso dunes is one of three places in the US which has 'singing sands', or more appropriately, 'booming dunes'. When large masses of sand are shifted down a slope (as from a motorcycle wheel, or a kick from the peak), the movement produces a loud rumble which sounds like a turboprop plane or low-flying B29. This phenomenon has been described for over a thousand years in Arabian and Chinese literature.

The dunes in this area rise to over 200m (620'), with the tallest reaching 700', and are part of the Mojave National Preserve, a 1.5 million acre area straddling CA and Nevada; the dunes area was closed to motor vehicles in 1973, so these photos can never be repeated.

The motorcycles are mostly Triumph unit-construction 500cc TR5 models, with little or no modifications from stock. Riding gear consists of light leather jackets, Levi's blue jeans, work boots, and work gloves (0r no gloves), and open face Bell or Buco helmets - classic stuff. Enjoy!

This photo is family friend Phil Brasher on his TR5.

(All photos copyright Bill Greene 2008)


Anonymous said...

I got an email from my son regarding your request to use some of my shots that Phil and I did at the dunes, with Carol and Bill. He seemed confident that you would put them to good use.
After seeing your site, I am very pleased with the outcome.You have done a great job, and I thank you for doing them justice. Phil and Dick Eaton are gone now, Dick and I went to college together, and worked with Phil, so it was natural for the three of us to ride together. One of the shots shows Ronn Blumke cresting a dune on his TR6. I did the same with Ronn, as I did with Phil, and that was to get both of them into motorcycles. Dick had the Matchless Trialer, and we did a lot of Enduros in the desert and the Sierras. Here is Dick cleaning his contacts during the Jackass Enduro, in the late 1960's near Ridgecrest, to Panamint Valley, where this was taken. Jack Milne, laughing at Dick, also was a Master Trialer, like Dick. This event went into the Panamint Mountains above Ballarat. Jack broke the frame on his Matchless, as the rocky area was too much for the light duty frame.
Also, here is a picture of me taken a few weeks ago, at Ballinger Canyon, between New Cuyama and Ojai, with my current bike, not as classic as the Triumph though.

George Steward said...

As a teenager I rode trials with Jack Mine and Dick Eaton at the SCTA (Southern California Trials Assoc.) events and can credit them both with introducing my father Francis and I to enduros in the Mojave desert in the '60s. My mother was against the idea of us "racing" so we just started attending these timed trail rides as it were and Jack and Dick were always there. They were wonderful teachers of the joys of all types of motorcycle competition, I even recall Jack racing in some muddy motocross event in the Saugus area on his Matchless once before the "european invasion" of the sport. Dick Eaton once invited us to stay at his place when he conducted a Trials event near his newly adopted home near Yosemite. True Vintagents!
George Steward